Begin Here With Your VA Benefits

Begin Here With Your VA Benefits

Before Separation

Here are your first steps to consider before you initiate your separation. Completing all of the following things as beginning steps will create a lot more ease for you and your family when the time comes.

All of this information has been taken from the VA Transition Guide. It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to the benefits you’ll receive as a Veteran, so we have broken down the information into much more manageable pieces.

The sign of the Department of Veteran Affairs is seen in front of the headquarters building in Washington


Step One? Create a DS Logon

A DOD Self-Service Logon (DS Logon) Premium (Level 2) account allows you to view personal data about yourself in VA and DOD systems, apply for benefits online, check the status of your claims, update your address information and much more.
If you already have an account but forgot your DS Logon or have other issues signing in, follow the links at the sign in screen to reset your password or get help with any issues. 

Check out VA.GOV

What online resources are available? VA’s primary website (VA.Gov) offers current information, resources, tools and contact information for all VA benefits and services. This resource will be important to you going forward.
VA.Gov is the best resource to explore and apply for VA benefits. It’s your one-stop-shop for all things about VA. You can easily complete common tasks or explore the site to learn more about VA benefits, services and tools. 
The website also offers resources that can assist you and your family members, including:  
  • Home page links to common tasks, like requesting military records, applying for health care or filing a claim for disability compensation  
  • Opportunities to explore benefits using simple categories and easy navigation 
  •  Access to helpful tools like the VA Facility Locator and GI Bill® Comparison Tool 

Proof of Military Service: Separation Documents

Elvis Presley's DD Form 214Your key to most VA benefits and services is DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. 
This form is often referred to as DD Form 214. 
It is proof of your military service and shows: 
  1. The character of your discharge  
  2. Your record of service 
  3. Your current classification code 

Why is it important to validate my information?

Before you leave active duty, validate all information on your form, including important information such as:
  • Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage in service (coverage continues free for only 120 days after separation) 
  •  Lists all awards received during service 
  •  Indicates whether servicemember received all appropriate dental services and treatment within 90 days before separation 
If this information is wrong, it can affect your access to benefits. It may be difficult to make changes after separation. 

Character of Discharge

a smiling, cartoon military member holds up a paper that reads "honorable discharge". underneath the graphic are the words "Oh Boy! That's sure worth working for!"Character of discharge is one of the most important items on your DD Form 214. Generally, to receive VA benefits and services, your character of discharge or service needs to be one of the following:  
  • Honorable 
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions) 
People who receive other types of general discharge (under honorable conditions), bad conduct, dishonorable or uncharacterized (entry-level separation) may still qualify for VA benefits and services depending on VA’s determination.
You should apply no matter what and let VA determine your eligibility.

You can apply for a discharge upgrade at VA.Gov by answering a series of questions. DOD makes the decision for upgrades. Refer to How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade where you will get customized, step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for VA benefits you earned during your period of service. 

Identification Cards

After Separation, there may be times when you need to provide proof of your military service to show you are eligible for benefits or programs in your community. While you can use your DD Form 214 as proof of service, it may not be convenient to carry it around with you. 

Wouldn’t it be easier to carry an identification (ID) card for the simple things, like discounts at stores and restaurants?

There are different types of ID cards you can use as proof of your military service. You only need to have one of them handy to prove your Veteran status. If you are retiring, you’ll get a Retiree ID card from the appropriate military service. This serves as proof of your Veteran status. You don’t need any other proof. 

If you are not a Retiree, you have some other options after separation to use as proof of service. 
  • When you enroll in VA health care, you get a VHIC to check in to your appointments at VA medical centers (VAMCs). You need to be enrolled in VA health care to receive a VHIC. If you aren’t signed up for VA health care, you can apply online. 
  •  A VIC is a form of photo ID available to all Veterans, even if you are not enrolled in VA health care. To be eligible, you need to have: 
    1. Served on active duty or in the reserve components, AND 
    2.  Received an honorable or general discharge (under honorable conditions) If eligible, you can apply online after you have been discharged from military service. 
  •  At this time, all 50 states and Puerto Rico offer a Veteran designation (an identifying mark) printed on state-issued driver’s licenses or IDs. The type of Veteran designation may vary from state to state. Most states ask you to provide a copy of your discharge papers (DD Form 214 or other separation documents). Some states may require additional documents. Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.  

How can I get a VHIC?

Veterans must be enrolled in VA’s health care system to receive a VHIC. To enroll: 

1. Complete an application for enrollment in VA health care by telephone without the need for a signed paper application. Just call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. ET OR 
2. Apply for VA health care benefits online OR 
3. Apply in person at your local VA medical facility. 
4. Once your enrollment is verified, you can have your picture taken at your local VAMC, and then a VHIC will be mailed to you.

How can I get a vic?

1. Go to and sign in to the site.
2. Select Get Veteran ID cards in the Records section.
3. Under the Types of Veteran ID Cards, select the + button to expand the How do I apply for a Veteran ID Card? section.
4. Select Learn more about how to apply for a VIC.
5. Follow the prompts to apply.

Making sure you get a head start on all of these useful items will make your transition much smoother. There are many benefits available to you as a Veteran, and we’re here to help you!

**All of this information has been taken from the VA Transition Guide. We have broken down the information into much easier pieces for you to navigate.**

Be sure to read some more about things to consider before your separation HERE.

Want to read more great blogs? Click HERE for your reading pleasure.