Larry Dandridge

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


This week’s article is about some of the ways the VA can help military members and veterans while they are getting out of the military.

If you are a Marine, Sailor, Soldier, Airman, or Coast Guardsman and plan to get out of the military within the next year, you should contact the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and get a solid start to civilian life as a veteran.

More importantly, if you are still in the military and planning to get out soon, make sure you go to all of your exit briefings, read your exit information on VA benefits including your VA Welcome Kit, keep your welcome kit, and listen carefully to the Department of Defense (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) and VA Installation Liaison Team’s instructions.

Remember from previous articles that there are three major administrations in the Department of Veteran Affairs. They are the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration. Hopefully, if you are getting ready to exit from military service, you will not yet need to talk with the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), but you do need to know what those VCA benefits are.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)

Veterans will need to talk with the VBA to find out what their non-healthcare-related benefits are and how to apply for those benefits. Those non-healthcare benefits include, but are not limited to, education, training, Veterans Readiness and Employment (VR&E), pensions, special groups of veterans, compensation, home loans, life insurance, transition, economic development, and others. Read about veterans’ non-healthcare-related benefits at https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/.

The Veterans Health Administration

Veterans need to talk to the Veterans Health Administration’s experts about edibility and enrollment for healthcare-related benefits, including:

  1. Treatment of illnesses and injuries, prevention of future health problems, improving the ability to function, and enhancing the quality of life.
  2. Getting mental health, vision, hearing, dental, prescription, pharmacy, geriatric (elder), home health, hospice, and assisted living care.
  3. Homeless prevention, chemical and hazardous material exposure, health and wellness programs, community care, Affordable Care Act and VA health coverage, the Million Veteran Program, and much more.

Read about veterans’ healthcare-related benefits online at https://www.va.gov/health-care/.

VA Welcome Kit

Veterans should find out what their health and other veteran benefits include and take maximum advantage of those many valuable and hard-earned benefits. One-way veterans can start planning for separation from military service is by downloading and reading a copy of the 51 pages in the VA Welcome Kit, which is found at https://www.va.gov/welcome-kit/.

The VA Welcome Kit includes information on:

  1. Veterans’ benefits, eligibility for VA benefits, disability ratings, and how the VA can support a veteran throughout his or her life.
  2. A checklist to learn about ways to access benefits and services earned, mental health resources and access to immediate care, and access to a series of QuickStart Guides to get additional details on accessing key VA benefits and services.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is contacting newly separated veterans

The VBA’s Get-a-Solid Start representatives are calling every newly separated service member three times during their first year of separation. Qualified VBA representatives will be reaching out to help veterans to better understand the (non-medical) benefits and services they are eligible for. They will also refer veterans to the correct VHA office for healthcare-related questions. Newly separated veterans should read the information at https://www.benefits.va.gov/transition/solid-start.asp.

Veterans should also call the VBA with any questions they have at 800-698-2411. Veterans can locate the nearest VA facilities supporting veterans in their area at https://www.va.gov/find-location. Of course, your local county Veterans Service Office and local Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have trained and certified Veterans Service Officers on standby to help veterans.

Transition to VA Health Care

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) team members will help veterans and post-9/11 veterans navigate their way through the VA health care system. Veterans should read the transition and case management information at https://www.va.gov/post911veterans/.

Reference, https://www.va.gov/POST911VETERANS/VA_Liaison_Program.asp. Since 2003, VA Liaisons for Healthcare have assisted ill and injured Service members by facilitating their transition from the DoD to VA health care facilities. VA Liaisons are Nurses and Social Workers who are either located on-site or assigned virtually to coordinate access to VA health care from a Military Treatment Facility (MTF) or DoD installation.

Every VA Medical Center (VAMC) has an experienced Post-9/11 M2VA team that is specially trained in the unique needs of transitioning service members and Post-9/11 era Veterans. Each Post-9/11 M2VA team will assist with the coordination of veterans’ VA health care and ensure that veterans are receiving veteran-centered care and benefits. Veterans can read about this helpful program at https://bit.ly/3qlQlGT.

Veterans should be able to find a Post 9/11 Transition and Care team at the Transition and Care team Locator at https://www.oefoif.va.gov/map.asp. Veterans can also call the VA Health Care Line at 877-222-8387 and press 0 to ask questions about transitioning health care.

Apply for enrollment in VA Health Care

Veterans can read about VA Health care benefits, eligibility, how to apply, applying online (VA Form 10-10EZ), what to do, and family and caregiver health benefits at https://www.va.gov/health-care/. VA health care includes inpatient and outpatient health services at VA Medical Centers, Community Based Outpatient Clinics, and (potentially) community health services. Veterans can call the VA Health Care Line at 877-222-8387 and press 1 to ask questions about VA Health Care.

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (RHJVAMC) Eligibility and Enrollment Office at 843-789-7008 can tell veterans what medical benefits they are eligible for and enroll veterans into the VA Health Care System. Veterans can also find out if they are eligible for VA Health Care at any of the Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOCs). The RHJVA Health Care System operates the following CBOCs:

Beaufort VA Clinic – 1 Pinckney Boulevard, Beaufort, S.C. 29902-6122, Main phone: 843-770-0444, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

Savannah VA Clinic – 1170 Shawnee Street, Savannah, Ga. 31419-1618, Main phone: 912-920-0214, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

Hinesville VA Clinic – 500 East Oglethorpe Highway, Hinesville, Ga. 31313-2804, Main phone: 912-408-2900, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

Charleston VA Clinic – 2424 City Hall Lane, Community Resource & Referral Center (CRRC), Suite B, North Charleston, S.C. 29406-6538, Main phone: 843-789-6804, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

Goose Creek VA Clinic – 2418 NNPTC Circle, Goose Creek, S.C. 29445-6314, Main phone: 843-577-5011 x3100, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

North Charleston VA Clinic – 6450 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston, S.C. 29406, Main phone: 843-818-5100.

Trident 2 VA Clinic – 9229 University Boulevard, North Charleston, S.C. 29406-9150, Main phone: 843-789-6975.

Myrtle Beach VA Clinic – 1800 Airpark Drive, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577-1412, Main phone: 843-477-0177, Mental health clinic: 843-789-7311.

Continue your education

The GI Bill helps pay for education for Veterans or their dependents. Visit https://www.va.gov/education/about-gi-bill-benefits to read about these benefits. Veterans can also call the VA Education Center at 888-442-4551 and from overseas 001-918-781-5678. Veterans can also visit their local VBA Regional Office.

Obtain Educational and Career Counseling

Veterans can receive personalized, professional planning, and guidance to help them chose how to use their education benefits to support their career goals. Read more about this service at https://www.va.gov/areers-employment/education-and-counseling. Veterans can also call 800-827-1000 or visit their local VBA Regional Office for assistance.

Next week’s article (Part 2 of 2) on veterans’ benefits will cover more ways the VA can help veterans while they are getting out of the military. Next week’s article will cover things like preparing to find a job, becoming a homeowner, applying for disability, financial planning, applying for supplemental income, applying, and requesting service records. 

Please share this information with military members, veterans, and their families and survivors. You can read copies of Larry Dandridge’s past articles on veterans’ benefits 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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