Although exciting, starting a new life chapter after leaving the military isn’t always easy. Around 50% of veterans say they were well prepared for civilian life after service, while 25% say they felt unprepared, Pew Research Center reveals. Indeed, veterans leaving the military have to figure out how to navigate every aspect of life anew. By taking time to plan and prepare, you can make your transition to civilian life a success.
Military service comes with a host of benefits that can help you in civilian life like the USAA disabled veterans discount. So, it’s important to file a claim for your VA benefits as soon as possible. In turn, you’ll be given a disability rating, which includes whether any of your conditions are service-connected.
If you did sustain a disability this way, the military will take care of your medical needs for life. And, if you won’t be using your school or employment benefits, you can transfer them to your spouse or children, so they can instead benefit from them. Veterans service organizations (such as, the American Legion) can help you with the claims process.
Make use of military debt relief programs
You may find yourself leaving the military not in the best financial shape and even with debt. That’s okay; you can work to strengthen your finances with the help of military debt relief programs. The Servicemember Civil Relief Act, for example, includes an annual cap of 6% on interest rates on any debts incurred prior to military service.
By taking advantage of military debt relief programs like this, you’ll be in a better position to pay off your debts while building up your financial savings to the best of your abilities. If you don’t already have them, work on setting up savings and retirement accounts, along with a six-month emergency fund.
Consider housing options
Finding affordable housing after leaving the military is a top priority. Fortunately, VA home loans are available to help veterans purchase their own homes. These home loans are guaranteed or partially backed by the Department of Veteran Affairs, which means they come with attractive terms. For example, VA home loans require a $0 down payment, no Private Mortgage Insurance, and no prepayment penalty for repaying the loan early.
A VA loan calculator can help veterans work out their monthly payments, interest rate, and length of the loan. Additionally, veterans with disabilities may also qualify for housing help, such as housing grants from the Department of Veteran Affairs. A Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, for example, can be used to construct an accessible home and make a variety of modifications to facilitate independent living, such as ramps or wide doorways.
Ideally, you want to find a job that uses the skills and experience you gained in the military — especially if your specific expertise is already in high demand. Staying on the same or a similar career path will also likely result in you securing a higher-paying job right off the bat as a civilian. For example, if you were an intel analyst in the military and want to continue in that role while working for the defense industry, you have a good chance of starting off with a senior-level salary with minimal or no training needed. Additionally, the Veterans Employment Preference is a program that helps veterans seeking federal jobs. Honorably-discharged veterans or veterans with disabilities can use the Veterans Employment Preference to gain preference over non-veterans throughout the job application and hiring process.
Don’t forget about healthcare insurance
Securing healthcare insurance after leaving the military is essential to help keep you and your family safe and in good health. Fortunately, honorably-discharged veterans are eligible for VA healthcare benefits. Tricare, the US military’s healthcare program, is also still available for transitioning service members. Functioning as government-managed health insurance, Tricare provides coverage during the interim between leaving the military and becoming employed.
If you’re also looking for dental coverage, however, that needs to be purchased through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). Additionally, if you happen to lose your Tricare eligibility, you may be able to benefit from the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, which runs for between 18-36 months. And, don’t forget about life insurance. You can apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, for example, within 120 days of your retirement. You may also be able to keep the same life insurance coverage you had in the military as you continue to pay the premiums.
Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be an overwhelming time for veterans. By taking advantage of benefits and military debt relief programs, securing affordable housing, finding work, and taking care of your healthcare insurance, you can make your transition as smooth and successful as possible.