As our veterans return home, they are completing tours of duty that have completed long and hard service for their country. There are a lot of different VA benefits to apply for, so as they approach separation there are a number of things to be aware of. There are a lot of details involved and it can be frustrating to many people if they do not have all the information they need. It does not need to be the time consuming and confusing process that many people think it is. One of the most important things to do in dealing with veteran’s benefits is to take a deep breath and to relax. There is a great deal of help available for Servicemembers facing this process, and it is good to take your time and become first and foremost well informed.
Gather Your Documents- As you apply for benefits you should know that there is some minimum documents that you have to have available in order to complete the process. The documents that you should have include; birth certificates for all family members including spouse, children and the Servicemember themselves, a copy of your discharge certificate, DD 214, and social security cards for everyone in the family. You should also have copies of divorce and marriage certificates, certificates of adoption, copies of your commendations or medals that you have been awarded. Also, if you have your own copy of your military service file that is also very helpful if possible.
Build Your Own Service File- If you do not have a copy of your own service file, it is an excellent idea to get one. At first it may be a bit of a hassle, your command will not be thrilled if you request that they photocopy your entire service file, but if asked and given a large lead time they will provide you a copy, under the Freedom of Information act. Once you have a complete copy of your service file, as events in your military service career occur you can request copies of all written documents as you encounter career events.
Most of the claims for Veterans Benefits are associated with service related injuries but having a copy of your own service file could save you a lot of time and energy. As you work through separation you will benefit from different information from a variety of sources.