Prepare for your transition from the National Guard or reserves to full-time civilian life with benefits, resources and information from the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor Program
The Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor Program was established in 2005 when the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Transition assistance advisors provide direction to members of the reserve component so that they can secure all benefits, entitlements and services earned through their military service.
This support empowers members of the reserve component with the critical knowledge needed to take advantage of the programs and resources, effects of a career change, employment assistance, relocation assistance, education/training, physical and mental health well-being, health and life insurance, finances, disabled veteran benefits, legal assistance, and state and federal benefits available to them.
Your Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor can direct you through the maze of programs available to veterans. They can also connect you to earned benefits with the compassion of someone who knows what it’s like to transition from active duty.
Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisors are in every state, territory and the District of Columbia to help you receive the benefits you have earned as a result of your service in the military.
Veterans Affairs health care benefits
As a National Guard member, you may qualify for VA health care benefits if you were called to active duty (other than for training only) and completed the full period you were ordered to active duty.
Who should enroll:
- Veterans with a service-connected disability of 50% or more.
- Veterans seeking care for a disability the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which VA has not yet rated, within 12 months of discharge.
- Veterans seeking care for a service-connected disability only.
- Veterans seeking registry examinations (Ionizing Radiation, Agent Orange, Gulf War/Operation Iraqi Freedom and Depleted Uranium).
During enrollment, each veteran is assigned to a priority group. VA uses priority groups to balance the demand for VA health care enrollment with resources. Changes in available resources may reduce the number of priority groups VA can enroll. If this occurs, VA will publicize the changes and notify affected enrollees. You can find out about these priority groups and how the classification affects payment at the Veterans Affairs website.Medical services and medication
VA health benefits account for the following medical services:
- Inpatient care
- Extended care
- Outpatient care
- Preventive screening (such as mammograms and vaccinations)
Copays for your care may depend on your priority group classification. VA is also required to bill your private health insurance providers for medical care, supplies and prescriptions provided for treatment of veterans’ non-service-connected conditions. Generally, VA cannot bill Medicare but can bill Medicare supplemental health insurance for covered services. VA is not authorized to bill a high-deductible health plan (which is usually linked to a health savings account).VA medical programs
Certain veterans can participate in a VA health registry and receive free medical examinations, including laboratory and other diagnostic tests deemed necessary by an examining clinician. VA maintains health registries to provide special health examinations and health-related information.
To participate, contact the environmental health coordinator at the nearest VA health care facility or visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures to access the directory of EH coordinators.
- Gulf War Registry: This registry is available to veterans who served on active military duty in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War, which began in 1990 and continues to the present, including Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Gulf War examination registry was established after the first Gulf War to identify possible diseases resulting from U.S. military personnel service in certain areas of Southwest Asia. These diseases were endemic to the area or may have been due to hazardous exposures, including heavy metals. Furthermore, air pollutants such as carbon monoxide sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, singly or in combination, could have caused chronic health problems.
- Depleted Uranium Registries: Veterans who are identified by the Defense Department or have concerns about possible depleted uranium exposure are eligible for a DU evaluation. Depleted uranium is natural uranium left over after most of the U-235 isotope has been removed, such as that used as fuel in nuclear power plants. DU possesses about 60% of the radioactivity of natural uranium. It is a radiation hazard primarily if internalized, such as in shrapnel, contaminated wounds and inhalation. In addition to its radioactivity, DU has some chemical toxicity related to being a heavy metal (similar to lead). Note: VA maintains two registries for veterans possibly exposed to depleted uranium. The first is for veterans who served in the Gulf War, including Operation Iraqi Freedom. The second is for veterans who served elsewhere, including Bosnia and Afghanistan.
- Agent Orange Registry: This registry is available for veterans possibly exposed to dioxin or other toxic substances in herbicides used during the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1975, regardless of length of service, or while serving in Korea in 1968 or 1969, or as a result of testing, transporting or spraying herbicides for military purposes. DOD has provided a list of locations and dates where herbicides, including Agent Orange, were used. For those sites not listed, a Vietnam veteran should provide some proof of exposure to obtain a registry examination.
- Ionizing Radiation Registry: For veterans possibly exposed to, and who are concerned about, possible adverse effects of their atomic exposure during the following activities: on-site participation in an atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device, whether or not the testing nation was the United States; occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki from Aug. 6, 1945 through July 1, 1946; or internment as a POW in Japan during World War II, which the secretary of Veterans Affairs determines resulted in an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of veterans involved in the occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
VA provides outreach and readjustment counseling services through 232 community-based Vet Centers located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Veterans are eligible if they served on active duty in a combat theater during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, or the campaigns in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Global War on Terror. Veterans who served in the active military during the Vietnam era but not in the Republic of Vietnam, must have requested services at a Vet Center before Jan. 1, 2004. Vet Centers don’t require enrollment in the VHA health care system.
Vet Center counselors provide:
- Individual, group and family readjustment counseling to combat veterans to help them make a successful transition from military to civilian life
- Counseling services for post-traumatic stress disorder and help with any other military-related problems that affect functioning within the family, work, school or other areas of everyday life
- Outreach, education, medical referral, homeless veteran services, employment, VA benefit referral and the brokering of non-VA services
- Military sexual trauma counseling to veterans of both genders and of any era of military service
Bereavement counseling is also available through Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Centers to all immediate family members (including spouses, children, parents and siblings) of service members who die in the line of duty while on active service. This includes federally activated members of the National Guard and reserve components.Vocational services
VA provides vocational assistance and therapeutic work opportunities through several programs for veterans receiving VA health care. Each program offers treatment and rehabilitation services to help veterans live and work in their communities.
- Incentive Therapy provides a diversified work experience at VA medical centers for veterans who exhibit severe mental illness and/or physical impairments. IT services may consist of full- or part-time work with nominal remuneration limited to the maximum of one half of the federal minimum wage.
- Compensated Work Therapy/Sheltered Workshop operates sheltered workshops at approximately 35 VA medical centers. CWT sheltered workshop is a pre-employment vocational activity that provides an opportunity for work hardening and assessment in a simulated work environment. Participating veterans are paid on a piece rate basis.
- CWT/Transitional Work is a vocational assessment program that operates in VA medical centers and/or local community business and industry. CWT/TW participants are matched to real-life work assignments for a time-limited basis. Veterans are supervised by personnel of the sponsoring site under the same job expectations experienced by non-CWT workers. CWT/TW participants are not considered employees and receive no traditional employee benefits.
- CWT/Supported Employment consists of full-time or part-time competitive employment with extensive clinical support. The focus of CWT/SE is to assist veterans with psychosis and other serious mental illness to gain access to meaningful competitive employment. CWT/SE follow-up support services are generally phased out after the veteran is able to maintain employment independently.
More information about health benefits through Veterans Affairs is available on the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Benefits webpage.
Veterans Affairs benefits available after deployment
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a variety of benefits for veterans, dependents and survivors based on active military service. For National Guard members, that means being federally activated to serve and being discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.Compensation and pensions
VA provides monetary support based on a variety of conditions. Veterans with low incomes who are either permanently and totally disabled, or age 65 and older, may be eligible for compensation if they have 90 days or more of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war. The disability must be for reasons other than the veteran’s own willful misconduct.
- Protected pension: Pension beneficiaries, who were receiving a VA pension on Dec. 31, 1978, and do not wish to elect the Improved Pension, will continue to receive the pension rate received on that date. This rate generally continues as long as the beneficiary’s income remains within established limits, or net worth does not bar payment, and the beneficiary does not lose any dependents. Beneficiaries must continue to meet basic eligibility factors, such as permanent and total disability for veterans. VA must adjust rates for other reasons, such as a veteran’s hospitalization in a VA facility.
- Medal of Honor pension: VA administers pensions to recipients of the Medal of Honor. Congress set the monthly pension at $1,329.
- Improved disability pension: Congress establishes the maximum annual improved disability pension rates. Payments are reduced by the amount of countable income of the veteran, spouse and dependent children. When a veteran without a spouse or a child is furnished nursing home or domiciliary care by VA, the pension is reduced to an amount not to exceed $90 per month after three calendar months of care. The reduction may be delayed if nursing-home care is being continued to provide the veteran with rehabilitation services.
More information about Compensation Benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.Education/GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit program for service members and veterans who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Benefits are payable for training pursued on or after Aug. 1, 2009. No payments can be made under this program for training pursued before that date. To be eligible, the service member or veteran must serve at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, and remain on active duty or be honorably:
- Discharged from active-duty status.
- Released from active duty and placed on the retired list or temporary disability retired list.
- Released from active duty and transferred to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve.
- Released from active duty for further service in a reserve component of the armed forces (such as the National Guard).
Based on the length of active-duty service, eligible participants are entitled to receive a percentage of the following:
- Cost of tuition and fees, not to exceed the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education (paid directly to the school).
- Monthly housing allowance equal to the basic allowance for housing payable to a military E-5 with dependents, in the same ZIP code as the primary school (paid directly to the service member or veteran).
- Yearly books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 per year (paid directly to the service member or veteran).
- A one-time payment of $500 to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas.
More information about Education Benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.Home loans
VA home loan guaranties are issued to help eligible service members, veterans, reservists and unmarried surviving spouses obtain homes, condominiums, residential cooperative housing units, and manufactured homes, and to refinance loans. For additional information or to obtain VA loan forms, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
A VA guaranty helps protect lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan. It can be used to obtain a loan to:
- Buy or build a home.
- Buy a residential condominium unit.
- Buy a residential cooperative housing unit.
- Repair, alter or improve a residence owned by the veteran and occupied as a home.
- Refinance an existing home loan.
- Buy a manufactured home and/or lot.
- Install a solar heating or cooling system or other energy-efficient improvements.
In addition to the periods of eligibility and conditions of service requirements, applicants must have a good credit rating, sufficient income, a valid Certificate of Eligibility, and agree to live in the property in order to be approved by a lender for a VA home loan. Check out the Financial Management Awareness Program for more home-buying tips.Financing, interest rates and terms
Veterans obtain VA-guaranteed loans through the usual lending institutions, including banks, credit unions and mortgage brokers. VA-guaranteed loans can have either a fixed interest rate or an adjustable rate, where the interest rate may adjust up to 1% annually and up to 5% over the life of the loan. VA does not set the interest rate. Interest rates are negotiable between the lender and borrower on all loan types.
More information about home loan benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.Vocational rehabilitations
Veteran Readiness and Employment assists veterans with service-related disabilities to prepare for, find and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VR&E offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.
Who is eligible?
Active duty are eligible if they expect to receive an honorable discharge upon separation from active duty and obtain a memorandum rating of 20% or more from Veterans Affairs. If you are a National Guard member, eligibility depends on whether you were federally activated. Veterans are eligible if they have received, or will receive, a discharge that is other than dishonorable and have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%, or a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Services that may be provided by VR&E include:
- Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills and interests for employment
- Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services
- Employment services such as job training and job-seeking skills, resume development and other work readiness assistance
- Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations
- On-the-job-training, apprenticeships and non-paid work experiences
- Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical or business school
- Supportive rehabilitation services, including case management, counseling and medical referrals
- Independent-living services to help live as independently as possible
More information about vocational benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.Life insurance
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is a program of low-cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies, and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. SGLI coverage is available in $50,000 increments up to the maximum of $500,000.
Other types of life insurance
- Veterans Group Life Insurance is post-separation insurance, which allows service members to convert their SGLI coverage to renewable term insurance. Members with full-time SGLI coverage are eligible for VGLI upon release from service.
- Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance applies to active-duty members, reservists, National Guard members, funeral honors duty and one-day muster duty. This benefit is also provided retroactively for members who suffered severe losses as a result of a traumatic injury between Oct. 7, 2001, and Dec. 1, 2005, if the loss was the direct result of injuries incurred in Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom.
- Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is a program extended to the spouses and dependent children of members insured under the SGLI program.
More information about life insurance through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.Burial and funeral services
Burial benefits include a gravesite in any of the VA’s 131 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for burial allowances. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.
Free burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include:
- Burial with the veteran
- Perpetual care
- The spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried, even if they predecease the veteran.
There are no benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.
More information about burial benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Busting 12 benefit myths
Don’t know what to believe about transition assistance, Veterans Affairs benefits and entitlements? Click on a myth below to reveal the facts.Myth #1: After I return from an activation, I need to have my dental work (as part of my VA benefit) completed before the end of the 180-day period.
False. Fact: The 180-day period refers to enrolling in the VA and making the dental appointment within 180 days of the release-from-active-duty date. You are not required to have all of your dental work completed before 180 days. You cannot have completed a military dental exam on active duty within 90 days of your REFRAD.Myth #2: If I receive disability compensation from the VA, I will be discharged from the National Guard.
False. Fact: You can be a traditional National Guard member and receive VA disability compensation. However, you cannot receive VA compensation for the same time period that you receive military pay. For typical traditional Guard members, this means 63 days of military pay (48 unit training assemblies and 15 annual trainings). Any Active-Duty Operational Support Guard program, readiness management assembly, etc. counts as military pay as well. If you are active Guard reserve or mobilized, you will be receiving military pay 24/7, and must stop VA compensation immediately, or you will become indebted to the federal government.Myth #3: I am receiving 40% disability compensation from the VA and have heard that I will be discharged if I am receiving more than 30%.
False. Fact: Although there is something in the enlistment contract about 30%, that does not apply to you because you are not enlisting. The percentage of disability compensation from the VA does not affect your membership in the National Guard. However, you must pass the physical examination for the National Guard — “fitness for duty exam or ability to perform your duty” — this is what will determine if you are retainable. And always record accurate information on the Annual Medical Certification. There is a block that asks if you are receiving disability compensation from Social Security, VA, workers compensation, etc. These are government documents and to give an untrue answer is deemed as committing fraud.Myth #4: VA does retirement physicals.
False. Fact: They do not. Guard members often confuse the Compensation and Pension Exam as being a retirement physical. However, if there is a VA/DOD sharing agreement, the VA Medical Centers may be requested by DOD medical facilities to assist with these service retirement physicals, but these instances are rare. Note: Under the Benefits Delivered at Discharge Program, DOD will accept the VA’s physical as their retirement physical at military installations where a single examination memorandum of agreement is in place.Myth #5: If I am injured in a car accident, my Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection benefits will reduce the amount of my SGLI in the event of my death at a later time.
The Truth: Payment of TSGLI has no impact on the amount of SGLI payable. For example, if a service member is insured for $500,000 of SGLI coverage and receives a TSGLI payment of $50,000 for a traumatic injury, that member is still insured for the full $500,000 of SGLI coverage, which will be paid upon the service member’s death.Myth #6: As a National Guard member, I heard that my SGLI coverage is only good while I’m at drill.
The Truth: If you are a National Guard member and have been assigned to a unit in which you are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive duty that is creditable for retirement purposes, full-time SGLI coverage is in effect 365 days of the year. You are also covered for 120 days following separation or release from duty.Myth #7: I cannot go to the VA hospital for a service-connected problem because I have private health insurance.
False. Fact: You may enroll with the Department of Veteran Affairs for health care benefits regardless of your private health insurance plan. You may, depending upon the circumstances, have to make a co-payment for treatment for non-service-connected conditions. Your private insurance may be billed for non-service conditions as well.Myth #8: If I am a service member returning from theater and do not have a job, I am not eligible for unemployment compensation.
False. Fact: Although the unemployment compensation benefit varies among states, you may be eligible in your state for unemployment insurance. Usually the states provide these temporary wage replacement benefits to qualified individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own. Check it out, and also check your state benefits, which may include employment benefits and job placement assistance, too.Myth #9: I need to pay enrollment fees to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
False. Fact: There are no enrollment fees to receive benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.Myth #10: If I file for my VA compensation, then I have automatically enrolled in the VA health care system.
False. Fact: The process to apply for VA compensation is separate from the process to enroll in the health care system. To enroll, you must complete a 10-10EZ and submit it in person, online or via the mail to your nearest VA hospital. It must be signed before you submit it. It is also wise to have a copy of your DD214 to verify your active-duty status and theater of deployment for combat vet eligibility for enhanced health care and other benefits. Additionally, if you submitted your military medical records with your disability claim, it is not available to the hospital. For VA health care enrollment, it is also necessary to bring copies of any of your medical records so that they can be scanned into the VA’s VISTA electronic record system.Myth #11: Service members and their families are not eligible for pre-activation benefits (early eligibility) TRICARE.
False. Fact: Guard and family members are eligible once the service member receives mobilization alert orders, is within 180 days of deployment and all are currently enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Special note: if you think there is a possibility that you may be found not fit for duty, you should keep your civilian health insurance until you are found fit for duty. Remember that when you return from this deployment, you are eligible for 180 days of the TRICARE Transitional Assistance Management Program for your and your family’s health care needs. (Enrollment is not automatic — see your Reserve Component Transition Assistance advisor or TRICARE representative for details.) VA health care covers only veterans for five years from the REFRAD date.Myth #12: I am enrolled in the TRICARE health care program and am automatically covered for dental care.
False. Fact: Enrollment in TRICARE does not cover your dental care. The TRICARE Dental Program is offered by the Defense Department, and you must purchase this benefit from United Concordia, which administers the program. Learn more at TRICARE dental or https://www.uccitdp.com/dtwdws/member/landing.xhtml.
If you need access to mental health care during your transition, this Defense Department program provides free and confidential specialized coaching. It is available to all active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists, veterans and retirees regardless of length of service or discharge status.
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