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Veterans Law

VA Benefits Immediately After Military Discharge

Alyse Phillips

May 29, 2018

Updated: November 20, 2023

US servicemembers in Sadr City va benefits immediately after discharge

Veterans returning from active duty are eligible for various benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND), and their families, are eligible for certain benefits immediately following military discharge, ranging from healthcare to life insurance.

Healthcare After Military Discharge

Veterans who served in combat after November 11, 1998 and were discharged on or after January 28, 2003 are eligible to enroll in VA healthcare for 5 years from the date of their discharge or release from service. Eligible service members can receive medical care for any condition related to military service cost-free. If veterans sign up after 5 years following their discharge, enrollment in VA healthcare will then depend on factors such as their service-connected disabilities and financial circumstances. Find out more about VA healthcare eligibility and co-pays here.

Veterans can show that they are eligible by showing one of the following:

  • Documentation that reflects service in a combat theater
  • Documentation of receipt of combat service medals
  • Documentation showing receipt of combat tax exemption, imminent danger or hostile fire pay

Every VA healthcare center has a Transition and Care Management Team to help post-9/11 veterans coordinate their healthcare after discharge. The program helps veterans navigate the VA healthcare process and coordinate patient care.

Additionally, OEF/OIF/OND combat Veterans can be eligible for one-time dental if they apply within 180 days of their separation from active duty.

Vet Centers

Veterans who served in any combat zone have access to VA Vet Centers following their discharge. Vet Centers offer help for veterans and their families through free readjustment counseling and outreach services. Services include individual and group counseling for conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alcohol and drug addiction, and suicide prevention, as well as family counseling.

Mental Health Care Recently Opened To All Veterans Regardless of Discharge

VA recently expanded access to treatment for mental health conditions for veterans with dishonorable discharges. Previously, veterans with dishonorable discharges were barred from all VA healthcare.

Disability Benefits After Military Discharge

Benefits Delivery at Discharge

This joint VA-Department of Defense (DoD) program gives service members the opportunity to file VA disability claims from 180 to 90 days prior to their separation or retirement from active duty.

Prestabilization Ratings

Prestabilization ratings apply to veterans who were discharged from service with an unstable medical condition. These ratings are designed to compensate newly separated service members for any impact their disability could have on their ability to work in the year following their military discharge. Prestabilization ratings are either 50% or 100% depending on the severity of the disability. The rating will continue for 1 year after military discharge, at which point veterans can be scheduled for a VA examination to determine a new rating for their disability based on the severity at that time.

Claims Filed Within a Year of Discharge

Certain conditions are eligible for service connection on a presumptive basis if they manifest within one year after a veteran’s discharge. For these conditions, VA presumes that the disability is related to military service even if it is not present during military service. The disability must be 10% or more disabling within 1 year from service in order to be service connected. Examples of conditions that are eligible under this type of claim include hypertension, ulcers, arthritis, and leukemia.

There are several conditions that are exempt from the requirement that the disease must appear within one year from discharge. They include:

  • Tuberculosis must appear within 3 years after discharge
  • Hansen’s Disease must appear within 3 years after discharge
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) must appear within 7 years after discharge
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, can appear any time after military discharge

Education & Career Services

The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps veterans with eligible service pay for education and housing. Benefits under the Bill can also transfer to eligible dependents. Benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill include up to 36 months of educational benefits. Veterans who meet any of the below criteria can be eligible for benefits:

  • Have been discharged honorably
  • Have at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001
  • Discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days

The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps cover:

  • Tuition and fees based on the maximum in-state tuition rate at the public institution
  • A monthly housing allowance
  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) based on the cost of living where the institution is located
  • Yearly book and supply stipend based on enrollment

How Much Of the Benefit Will I Get?

The amount of benefit a veteran receives under the Post-9/11 GI Bill depends on how much active duty they had since September 11, 2001. VA’s website provides the below rates:

  • 100% benefit if a veteran has at least 36 months of active duty
  • 100% benefit if a veteran has 30 days of service and was discharged with a service-connected disability
  • 90%: 30 to 36 months of duty
  • 80%: 24 to 30 months of duty
  • 70%: 18 to 24 months of duty
  • 60%: 12 to 18 months of duty
  • 50%: 6 to 12 months of duty
  • 40%: 90 days to 6 months of duty

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) is a VA program available to service members and veterans who have service-connected disabilities. The program helps veterans find suitable employment and maintain employment. Veterans can apply for VR&E through VA’s website.

Veterans who meet the below criteria may apply for VR&E:

  • Received, or will receive, a discharge that is other than dishonorable
  • Have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%

The basic eligibility period for when VR&E benefits may be used is 12 years from the latter of:

  • Veteran’s date of separation from active duty; or
  • The date the veteran was notified of their service-connected disability rating.

Career Services

VA has several resources for recently discharged service members who are looking to transition into a civilian career. Services include helping veterans find careers with VA, as well as careers with military-friendly companies.

VA is dedicated to hiring veterans to fill positions in the agency, and veterans can browse open positions and apply through VA’s website. Additionally, VA offers resources for veterans to find job postings and career fairs for jobs after discharge.

Other Benefits

Life Insurance

Within 1 year and 120 days after separation, veterans can convert from Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI). If the veteran converts within 120 days (4 months) after discharge, they do not need to prove good health.

For more information on the programs discussed below, visit VA’s website for Returning OEF/OIF/OND service members.

About the Author

Bio photo of Alyse Phillips

Alyse is a Supervising Attorney at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Since joining the firm in August of 2016, she has specialized in representing disabled veterans and their dependents before the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Alyse