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Returning to the classroom

  • Throughout my blog I have promoted advocacy for veterans being educated on the benefits they have earned, and supporting recreation of ones identity after the military. While serving you are always taught to have the back of the man/woman next to you, and do what ever it took to ensure they were safe and able to return home after any mission or assignment. We are taught camaraderie, and team work, and always serving the people around us which is the true definition of serving. This is true when a service member exits the military as well, it is important that they know where they can go to still receive that sense of belonging and camaraderie they once felt while serving.

    This is why it is so important to give back to your veterans, and providing safe havens for them to be fully supported in their transition and know they belong. I have personally taken this upon myself as a challenge to continue to support and be a part of organization that foster this type of environment for our veterans, below I will share some of the organizations whose entire mission is to continue to support the veteran after their service is over.

    Non-Profit Organizations That Veterans can join:

    Disabled American Veterans

    DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year.

    Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

    The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces.

    Our Mission: To foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans. 

    Our Vision: Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.

    American Legion

    The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth. 

    AMVETS

    American Veterans is a non-partisan, volunteer-led organization formed by World War II veterans of the United States military. It advocates for its members as well as for causes that its members deem helpful to the nation at large. 

    Paralyzed Veterans of America

    The Paralyzed Veterans of America is a veterans’ service organization in the United States of America, founded in 1946. 

    This is just a few of the veterans organizations that provide a place for transitioning service members to join, and become a part of that brotherhood again they once were a part of. Most states also have local veteran services offices, as well as most universities or colleges have clubs and organizations that offer membership to veterans only and provide that support. If you ever find yourself in need of this please do not hesitate to reach out and I can get you in contact with the appropriate organizations.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Many people who utilize VA educational benefits now are probably using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for their tuition. Before the Post 9/11 GI Bill many service members were eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. The biggest difference in this benefit and the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that you have to pay into it. To be eligible, service members had to pay $1200 or have your military pay reduced by $100 for the first 12 months of service. Another big difference is that you could be eligible for this benefit with serving at minimum 2 years of active duty time.

    A service member also has to sign up to participate in this benefit. Unlike the Post 9/11 where you automatically qualify based on what years you served. You may be able to get a maximum of 48 months of VA education benefits—not including Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) benefits. But many applicants are eligible for only 36 months. Many service members swapped to the Post 9/11 once it became available, but still some chose to utilize this benefit while pursuing their education. Below is the eligibility criteria for the Montgomery GI Bill-AD (active duty).

    Eligibility Criteria

    Category I

    All of these are true: 

    • You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • You entered active duty for the first time after June 30, 1985, and
    • You had your military pay reduced by $100 a month for the first 12 months of service

    And you’ve served continuously (without a break) for at least one of these time periods:

    • 3 years, or
    • 2 years if that was your agreement when you enlisted, or
    • 4 years if you entered the Selected Reserve within a year of leaving active duty (called the 2 by 4 program)

    Category II

    All of these are true:

    • You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • You entered active duty before January 1, 1977 (or before January 2, 1978, under a delayed enlistment program contracted before January 1, 1977), and
    • You served at least 1 day between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987, if you entered the Selected Reserve within 1 year of leaving active duty and served 4 years), and
    • You had at least 1 day of entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (Chapter 34) as of December 31, 1989

    Category III

    All of these are true:

    • You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • You don’t qualify for MGIB under categories I or II, and
    • You had your military pay reduced by $1,200 before separation

    And one of these is true:

    • You were on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated (not by your choice) after February 2, 1991, or
    • You involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993, or
    • You chose to voluntarily separate under either the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program or the Special Separation Benefit (SSB) program

    Category IV

    Both of these are true:

    • You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • You had military pay reduced by $100 a month for 12 months or made a $1,200 lump-sum contribution (meaning you paid it all at once)

    And one of these is true:

    • You were on active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997, or
    • You entered full-time National Guard duty under title 32, USC, between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997

    If you have any questions about this benefit please call 1800-827-1000, or visit VA.gov.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • In the previous blog post, I discussed the different education benefits that exist for National Guard and Reserve service members who serve in the state of Nevada. Now I will review the education benefits that are provided by the VA that are tailored to reservists. Being a reservist can be tricky when it comes to VA benefits because some service members have only served time in the reserves and don’t have any active duty time or deployment time that would allow them to be eligible for more VA education benefits. Keeping this in mind, the VA created the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve benefit, also known as Chapter 1606.

    This benefit is only offered to eligible service members that have served in the national guard or reserve component of the armed forces. This benefit provides 36 months of education benefit, if at anytime a service member meets the qualifications that is needed to obtain the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they are eligible to convert their benefit from 1606 to 33. Below you will find the basic eligibility requirements for MGIB-SR:

    One of these must be true:

    • You have a 6-year service obligation (you agreed to serve 6 years) in the Selected Reserve, or
    • You’re an officer in the Selected Reserve and you agreed to serve 6 years in addition to your initial service obligation
    • Note: Your obligation must have started after June 30, 1985, or for some types of training after September 30, 1990.

    And all of these must also be true:

    • You complete your initial active duty for training (IADT), and
    • You get a high school diploma or certificate of equal value, like a High School Equivalency Diploma or GED, before finishing IADT (Note: You can’t use 12 hours toward a college degree to meet this requirement), and
    • You stay in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit
    • (Note: You’ll still be eligible if you’re discharged from Selected Reserve service due to a disability that was not caused by misconduct)

    If you have any other questions regarding VA education benefits please visit, VA.GOV or call 1-800-827-1000.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Some service members decide to end their active duty careers, but still want the option of serving their country with less time demand. The best option for these individuals is to join their respective branch’s local National Guard or Reserve Forces. Being in the reserves is less of a time commitment for most people, and it allows the service member to lead successful civilian careers and still fulfill their duty to their country. Both the Reserve Forces and the National Guard have a lot of benefits that entice service members to continue their commitment, we will discuss them below.

    Tuition Assistance Programs:

    Nevada National Guard Tuition Waiver Program:

    The University of Nevada System provides 100% tuition waiver, excluding some laboratory and university fees, to all current and newly recruited members of the Nevada National Guard at all state universities and community colleges. There is no limit on number of credits taken.

    Eligibility: Available for traditional classroom education only and students/National Guard member must maintain a 2.0 GPA per semester.

    Nevada Military College Tuition Fees:

    Those active duty service members and their families will be exempt from university fees while permanently stationed on a military facility within Nevada.

    Eligibility: Member of the Armed Forces of the United States, on active duty, stationed in Nevada as a result of a permanent change of duty station pursuant to military orders, or a person whose spouse, family or legal guardian is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States stationed in Nevada as a result of a permanent change of duty station pursuant to military orders.

    Nevada Veterans Tuition Assistance:

    50 percent of all fees paid at state universities or community colleges.

    Eligibility: Army Reserves and National Guard service member.

    Nevada National Guard Educational Encouragement Fund:

    Reimbursement may be made for up to 50% of the tuition paid by the member and will be based on classes completed with a “ C” or better at selected accredited Nevada institutions for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs.

    Eligibility: National Guard service member.

    These are a few perks the state of Nevada provide to eligible National Guard and Reserve members to continue their education. In my next blog post, I will cover what incentives the VA offers reserve student veterans who return to the classroom as well as fulfill their reserve obligation.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Many veterans are unaware of all the resources available to them to assist them in navigating the VA and applying for the benefits that they deserve. One of the best-kept secrets is veteran service organizations that exist free of charge to assist veterans in receiving their benefits through the VA. Many VSO’s exist as partnership agencies with the VA, to assist service members with claims and benefits, scholarships, training, counseling, and other related programs. Many VSO’s are recognized and approved by the VA Secretary for purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    VSO’s can help the veteran with many things but many of the most common things they do are offer claims assistance, education, home loans, medical claims, career and transition assistance, job training, and even substance abuse counseling or referrals to the appropriate counselor needed. The reasons VSO’s are highly recommended is that they can help a transitioning service member maximize their VA benefits, or be able to answer questions that may arise. VSO’s can also serve as power of attorney for veterans who allow, and file disability claims on the veteran’s behalf. This service is crucial, because the VA requires certain forms to be filled out for certain benefits, the VSO has this knowledge and can save the veteran time when completing their claims.

    It is very important when looking for VSO’s in your local community, that you ensure they are VA accredited and federally chartered. This is important because these types of VSO’s services are free of charge, any organization that does not fit that requirement may be able to charge the veteran and is not recommended by the VA. Some of the more common VSO groups that you may see in your local community are Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Veterans (AMVETS), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Legion, to name a few. If you want to learn where your local VSO’s are near you, you can go online at va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000 and they will give you a list of VSO’s near you.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Understanding and navigating the very complex VA system for your veteran’s benefits can be very frustrating, and intimidating in some cases. Many veterans try and apply for benefits on their own, and are successful in getting their benefits. Others are not as lucky and really struggle with trying to navigate through the different programs and benefits that are available at the VA. One of the most common benefits outside of education benefits is VA disability compensation.

    The VA offers VA Disability Compensation to eligible veterans that meet specific criteria that is set by the VA. If eligible, VA disability compensation offers a monthly tax free to veterans who may have been severely sick or injured while serving in the military and the veterans military service made the existing condition worse. There are many other factors that must be true for the veteran to qualify for these benefits, below are some eligibility requirements:

    ou may be eligible for VA disability benefits or compensation if you meet both of these requirements.

    Eligibility for VA Disability Benefits:

    Both of these must be true:

    • You have a current illness or injury (known as a condition) that affects your mind or body, and
    • You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training

    And at least one of these must be true:

    • You got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an inservice disability claim), or
    • You had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a preservice disability claim), or
    • You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (called a postservice disability claim)

    If you feel you meet the criteria, and are eligible for these benefits you can start by filing a disability compensation claim at your local veterans benefit administration. That is the first step in the process in determining if you should be compensated for your injuries that may have happened while you were in the military. For more questions on veterans benefits, please visit your local VA or call 1-800-827-1000.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Veterans Readiness and Employment (VR&E) (Chapter 31), also previously known as Vocational Rehabilitation is a benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to eligible veterans seeking services to help with job training, education, employment accommodations, and resume development, and job-seeking skills coaching. This benefit is different from other benefits offered by the VA because you must have service-connected disabilities that may limit your ability to work or prevents you from working certain jobs. If utilized appropriately this benefit can be used as another tool to pay for college for eligible veterans, for some, it has been a way to extend college benefits if you are seeking graduate-level degrees.

    The biggest difference between this benefit compared to your Post 9/11 GI Bill is that this benefit is focused on getting the veteran employed, whereas the Post 9/11 GI Bill is focused on getting the veteran an education. Many people get confused with the primary goal of this benefit, not saying that you can not obtain school benefits from this program but this will have to be determined by a counselor after you have conducted your initial meeting. This benefit also offers career exploration services for those who may be facing difficulty getting into a career field due to their service-connected disabilities.

    VR&E can be a very confusing benefit to navigate and apply for use, it is recommended you meet with a VR&E counselor to determine your eligibility and ask questions. VR&E counselors can be found at your local Veterans Benefits Office, or you can call the VA to be redirected to your local VR&E office. Below you can find basic eligibility criteria for VR&E.

    Veterans Readiness and Employment Eligibility Criteria:

    All of these must be true:

    • You didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, and
    • You have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% from VA

    When we receive your VR&E application, we’ll schedule your initial evaluation with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC). The VRC will determine if you’re entitled to receive VR&E benefits and services.  

    If you were discharged from active duty before January 1, 2013, your basic period of eligibility ends 12 years from one of these dates, whichever comes later:

    • The date you received notice of your date of separation from active duty, or
    • The date you received your first VA service-connected disability rating

    The basic period of eligibility may be extended if a VRC finds that you have a serious employment handicap (SEH). Having an SEH means your service-connected disability significantly limits your ability to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment (a job that doesn’t make your disability worse, is stable, and matches your abilities, aptitudes, and interests).

    If you were discharged from active duty on or after January 1, 2013, the 12-year basic period of eligibility doesn’t apply to you. There’s no time limit on your eligibility.

    If I’m still on active duty, am I eligible for Veteran Readiness and Employment?

    You may be eligible for VR&E benefits and services if you’re a service member and you meet at least one of these requirements.

    At least one of these must be true:

    • You have a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating (memorandum rating) and will soon leave the military, or
    • You’re waiting to be discharged because of a severe illness or injury that occurred while you were on active duty 

    The Beginning of My transition

  • One of the biggest benefits of joining the military is the school benefits you gain for serving your country. These school benefits sometimes are the very motivating factor for people to take the oath and agree to serve their country. There are many different variations of school benefits the Department of Veterans Affairs provide to service members who meet the criteria to receive these benefits. We will discuss the Post 9/11 GI Bill, what it provides, and the basic criteria service members need to meet to be eligible.

    Post 9/11 GI Bill, also referred to as Chapter 33, is a benefit provided by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs that helps eligible veterans pay for school or job training. If you served on active duty after September 10th, 2001, this benefit may be available for you. This education benefit will cover up to 36 months (48 with other met requirements) of public, in-state tuition and fees at a qualifying institution. The benefit also offers the veteran a stipend for a housing allowance, which is calculated based on the cost of living where your school is located and the number of credit hours you are taking per semester.

    This program will also provide money for veterans to obtain the books and supplies needed for their classes taken. There is an allowance for individuals that are moving from rural areas to attend their prospective school, they give a travel allowance to offset the cost to get to your destination. These are just the basics of what this benefit offers to veterans who are wanting to go pursue their education after getting out of the military. Many veterans who don’t have a definitive plan after they transition out, utilize this benefit to at least add some sort of income to their household. Below are the basic eligibility criteria for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

    Post 9/11 GI Bill ( Chapter 33) Benefit Eligibility Criteria:

    At least one of the following must be true:

    • You served at least 90 days on active duty (either all at once or with breaks in service) on or after September 11, 2001, or
    • You received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service, or
    • You served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break in service) on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability, or
    • You’re a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying Veteran or service member

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Even throughout all of the rigor and demanding assignments, there are some fantastic benefits that come with serving in the military. One of these excellent benefits is the VA home loan that service members earn while serving their country. There are some basic criteria that you have to meet to be eligible for this loan, but it is one of the best ways to buy a house as a service member or a veteran it is available. VA home loans are so appealing because they are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and unlike many conventional loan offer no down payments to eligible service members and their families.

    Another perk to utilizing the VA home loan is that there is no requirement to use private mortgage insurance, and with the loan being backed by the government the interest rates are much better then traditional loans. The VA home loan has a much more lenient lending policy, ensuring that more service members and their families can qualify to be home owners. To qualify for a VA home loan you must have served at minimum 90 consecutive days on active duty.

    If you received an other than honorable, dishonorable, or bad conduct discharge you may not be able to utilize your VA home loan. If you are the spouse of a fallen service member, you may be eligible for the VA home loan if you are the surviving spouse of a service member who was missing in action or a prisoner of war. The first step to ensuring you meet all the basic requirements to utilize your VA home loan, is to contact the VA and get your certificate of eligibility (COE), this is the first thing a lender will ask for when starting the process to use your loan on a home. Once you retrieve you COE, you are ready to go shopping, it is important to check on the VA website to see all of the benefits that may be available for you because if you are considered a disabled veteran there are certain fees that are waived during the home buying process. Learning all you can about the VA home loan and the process will get you one step closer to owning your forever home.

    The Beginning of My transition

  • Many transition programs cater to the service member, ensuring that they can successfully transition out of the military and be successful as a civilian. There are few programs that actually focus on the spouse, and address the issues they may have while their service member transitions, and the impact it may have on the family overall. During this transition it is essential to understand that not only will the military member have emotions and issues to process, but so will the family members that have been supporting the service members their entire time while they have served in the military. It is pivotal to now exclude the spouses in transition conversations, and assistance it will increase the chances for success for that couple.

    Many branches are starting to allow spouses to participate in the transitional assistance programs they offer service members before they depart from active duty. The Department of Veteran Affairs has also revamped its transition programs to include support for spouses who have service members who have recently exited the military as well. What many people fail to realize is that military dependents have to uproot their way of life as well, many are business professionals already in the civilian world and have to leave their jobs and find new employment wherever they end up moving permanently. They will also have to take their children out of school for the umpteen time, to find them a new school, and new housing for the entire family.

    Transitioning is hard on the entire family, and there needs to be an increase in programs that target assistance for the entire family and not just the service member. Veterans Employment and Training Services have created new programs that are targeted just for military spouses. During the workshops they hold, they offer resume writing, interviewing techniques, and partner with organizations that focus on hiring veterans and their spouses. Some government jobs also give preference to military spouses based off of the service members veteran status, this can help the spouse application be put ahead of non military individuals applying for the same jobs.

    The Beginning of My transition