Larry Dandridge

How the VA can help you while getting out of the military


Last week’s veterans’ benefits article was Part 1 of a two-part article on how the VA can help a veteran while he or she is getting out of the military.

The first article explained the difference between the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). It also reminded veterans to go to their joint DOD and VA exit briefings and read their welcome kit, which describes transitioning to VA health care, enrolling in VA health care, continuing education, obtaining educational and career counseling.

This article will cover veterans preparing to find a job, becoming a homeowner, applying for a disability rating, planning for the veteran’s financial future, applying for supplemental income, and requesting a veteran’s military service records.

Prepare to find a good job

Veterans need to plan for a new career before getting out of the military. Veterans with service-connected disabilities receive individualized support from the VA for education, training, or credentialing needs for employment. Read about this assistance at https://www.va.gov/careers-employment. Call the VA Benefits line at 800-827-1000 if you have questions or need more information.

For help applying for Veterans Readiness and Employment assistance contact your VA Regional Office. VR&E is a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) program. Read the basic information on VR&E at https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/index.asp.

Veterans can also re-read the Oct. 6, 2021 The Island News article What are veterans’ and military service members’ VR&E benefits at https://bit.ly/3iJ22DE.

Read about the VR&E Program and how to apply online, by mail, or in-person, at the VR&E Process Page at https://www.va.gov/careers-employment/vocational-rehabilitation/.

Veterans and their spouses can also review The Island News articles What veterans and spouses need to know about federal jobs, which are dated Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, 2021, at

https://bit.ly/3iGZENB and https://bit.ly/3DiBG4F.

Become a homeowner

The VA can help veterans obtain a VA guaranteed home loan. Learn about VA guaranteed home loans at https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans. The VA helps military service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. The VA provides a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help veterans buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for their own personal occupancy.

VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.

The main benefits of using a VA home loan include:

No down payment required. However, lenders may require down payments for some borrowers using the VA home loan guaranty, but the VA does not require a down payment.

Competitively low interest rates.

Limited closing costs.

No need for private mortgage insurance.

The VA home loan is a lifetime benefit. You can use the guarantee multiple times.

Veterans should download and read the VA Home Loan Guaranty Buyer’s Guide at https://bit.ly/388sxQP. Veterans can also call the VA Regional Loan Center at 877-827-3702 or visit their VA Regional Loan Center to get answers to questions on VA home loans.

Apply for a military service-connected disability rating from the VA

Veterans may be eligible to apply for monthly disability compensation for service-connected disabilities. Learn online about applying for Disability Compensation at https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file.

Veterans can also get answers to their questions on how to file for disability compensation by calling the VA Benefits line at 800-827-1000 or by visiting their local VA Regional Office.

Veterans should make certain they prepare for and take maximum advantage of the Separation Health Assessment, which is a single exam that supports the VA disability compensation program and Department of Defense (DoD) mandatory separation, history, and physical exam. The VA conducts the exam when the service member is applying for disability compensation and has at least 90 days remaining on active duty.

DoD conducts the exam for service members who aren’t filing a disability compensation claim or have fewer than 90 days remaining on active duty. The assessment provides a complete medical evaluation at separation, which documents any medical concerns identified during the service member’s military career.

Most importantly, veterans should read the information at the VA website www.va.gov and https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/ before they separate from military service. They should also read The Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, Survivors Pamphlet 80-19-01 at https://bit.ly/3qFWTRc.

You can file a claim with the help of a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) or another certified adviser. S.C. County Veteran Affairs Offices’ addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses can be found at https://scdva.sc.gov/county-veterans-affairs-offices. Filing a claim can be complicated and confusing, therefore using a VSO is always wise.

Veterans may want to read the past veteran’s benefits articles from The Island News to help them understand disability compensation and how to apply.

Dec. 16, 2020: Are you eligible for VA Disability Benefits? – https://bit.ly/3IIC7X5. The Eligibility for VA disability benefits page is found at https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility.

Nov. 18, 2020: Why military members should keep good records of injuries and illnesses – https://bit.ly/3uxwJkG.

Dec. 22, 2020: How do I file a claim for Service-Connected Disability with the VA? – https://bit.ly/3NptsMJ.

Dec. 30, 2020: Are you eligible for VA Disability Compensation and other benefits for illnesses, conditions caused by hazardous materials (HAZMAT)? – https://bit.ly/3LkbFVl.

Dec. 1, 2021: Are you eligible for veterans’ benefits based on presumptive conditions? – https://bit.ly/3tINzO8.

Feb. 16, 2022: Who can help me determine what my veterans’ benefits are and help me file a claim? – https://bit.ly/3DfxVx1.

Plan for your family’s financial future (VA Life Insurance)

The VA provides valuable life insurance benefits to give service members, veterans, and their families the peace of mind that comes with knowing their family is protected. Veterans should carefully read the information at https://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/ before leaving military service.

Veterans should call the VA Service Mans’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) phone 800-419-1473 to get answers to their questions on VA life insurance. Read about the New VA Life Insurance Program called VALI at https://bit.ly/3tTncFz.

There is too much information on VA insurance options and eligibility for this article, but veterans should read all the information at https://www.va.gov/life-insurance/options-eligibility/. At this website veterans can learn about VA Life Insurance Options including:

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI): Get group life insurance while you’re serving.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI): Add coverage for your spouse and dependent children (children who rely on you for financial support).

Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI): Get short-term financial support to help you recover from a severe injury.

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI): Get group life insurance once you’ve ended your service.

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI): If you’re disabled because of an injury or illness caused—or made worse—by your active service, continue your life insurance beyond 2 years after you leave the military.

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI): If you have a severe service-connected disability, get mortgage protection insurance for a home that’s been adapted to meet your needs.

Apply for supplemental income

The VA Veterans Pension Program provides supplemental income to eligible low-income wartime veterans. Read about this benefit at https://www.va.gov/pension. This website covers Eligibility for Veterans Pension, How to apply for a VA pension as a Veteran, Aid and Attendance benefits, housebound allowance and VA Survivors Pension. Veterans can call the VA Benefits Line at 800-827-1000 for more information on supplemental income.

Request your military service medical and personnel records and your discharge papers

Every veteran needs a copy of his or her service records and discharge papers (DD214, DD215, Report of Separation, or other forms of discharge papers). Read about how to request copies of your service records and discharge papers at https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/ and at the National Archives at https://www.archives.gov/veterans.

Veterans may also want to read the Jan. 20, 2021 The Island News article on veterans’ benefits How do I get a copy of my DD Form 214 and other service records? at https://bit.ly/37VOemS.

As always, the author of this article recommends you use a trained and certified Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to help you understand and apply for veteran and veterans’ family benefits.

You can find an accredited representative or a VSO in the following ways:

  1. S.C. County VSO Directory. Go to list of names, phone numbers, addresses and email addresses at the SC Directory of VSOs at https://bit.ly/3HNQLwt. Make sure you call them and make an appointment before going to their office. This will ensure you will know what to bring with you (for example DD214, Military Medical and Personnel Records, etc.) and prevent you from wasting a trip to the office without an appointment.
  2. eBenefits Gateway. Go to eBenefits gateway at VSO Search – VA/DoD eBenefits to find a local representative (including a recognized VSO, an attorney, or a claims agent) by state/territory, zip code, or the organization’s name. Open https://bit.ly/35ZKNur in your browser and click on Go to eBenefits.
  3. DVA General Counsel Veterans and Military Organizations Directory. Or search the VA Office of the General Counsel’s list at https://bit.ly/3gGQWht to find VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited individuals by name, city, state, or zip code. You can also download and view the VA’s Office of the Secretary Veterans and Military Organizations 2019 Directory at https://bit.ly/3HMYc7m.

Following are the phone numbers and email addresses of other S.C. and Ga. county VSOs in The Island News footprint.

Beaufort County – 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, S.C. 29906; 843-255-6880; fax no. 843-255-9445. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, by appointment only. The website is https://bit.ly/3uKeZUQ.

Colleton County – Janet D. Smith, 843-549-1412, cvao@colletoncounty.org.

Charleston County – David J. LeBlanc, Sr., 843-974-6360, vaoffice@charlestoncounty.org.

Hampton County – Sharon Johnson, 803-914-2085/2087, sjohnson@hamptoncountysc.org.

Dorchester County – Johnny K. Brown, 843-832-0050, JKBrown@dorchestercountysc.gov.

Jasper County – Alton Jenkins, 843-726-7727, ajenkins@jaspercountysc.gov.

Berkeley County – Jan Helton, 843-377-8506, jan.helton@berkeleycountysc.gov.

Chatham County, Ga. – Reggie Louis, 912-920-0214, Ext. 2194, reggie.lewis2@va.gov, 1170 Shawnee Street, Savannah, Ga. 31419.

Liberty County & Hinesville, Ga. – Charles Isaac, 912-408-2948, charles.isaac@vs.state.ga.us, 500 East Oglethorpe Highway, Hinesville, Ga. 31313.

The Veterans Service Organizations like the DAV, VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, and dozens of others also have Veterans Service Officers to help veterans and their family members. For example, the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) Chapter 12 in Beaufort has an excellent VSO, Michael Vergantino at (843) 301-2543 or mlv1030@gmail.com. He is ready to help any veteran or veteran’s family member.

There is also an American Legion VSO, Pauly Maloney located in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (843-789-7506, Paula.Maloney@va.gov).

Lastly, there is a State of S.C. VSO, Elizabeth Singleton, in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center at 843-789-7456.

You can read more than 40 articles on veterans’ benefits written by Larry Dandridge at www.yourislandnews.com.

Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing free-lance writer with the Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 843-276-7164.

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