The transitioning out of the military is something that should be planned and begun two years out if you desire to obtain the greatest benefit of your time in service. Saving your leave and not spending them is the first thing I would suggest if you plan on ETSing within two years. Remember you can officially begin one year from your ETS date. The reason I say two years, is to begin getting all of your medical records in order. This means setting appointments to get all of those aches and pains you have been sucking up while being a good Soldier. What this also means is making sure any mental or emotional issues you have been dealing with is properly diagnosed. Lastly this also means making sure every injury you may have received is properly documents.
Don’t let senior members intimidate you from getting things documented and proper treatment. Once you are out of the military you will have to take care of yourself, because of this I highly suggest you begin taking care of yourself preparing for when you enter the civilian life again. After getting this process initiated I would take a look at your ORB or ERB to make sure all of your awards, duty stations, and deployments are properly listed. If you are missing anything from your records, take documents to your S1 and have them added. Also check your OMPF and verify all your awards, orders, and other military training documents are in your OMPF. If you are missing anything again take it to your S1 and have them up load it. Remember to check your records within a week and verify that your documents have been properly updated.
Before you know it you will be at your one year mark and it is at this point you can initiate transition ACAP. Go to all the classes and benefit from everything available to you in the workshops. The military has upgraded and changed the system for ACAP and it is worth every moment spent in the program. If possible take the resume class a few times.
Look at how much leave you have saved up and put in your transitional leave DA form 31. The date it begins is your last day in your unit, now count back three months and begin getting your final physical scheduled and with that order a copy of your medical records and shot records separately. (Medical records system is not combined with shot records system so you must request them separately) Sit down with your medical records and the VA forms you learned about in ACAP. Now copy and paste from your records the list of issues and permanent injuries the military doctors say you have. Trivial things as a deviated septum (broken nose) should be listed on this form. With these form, a copy of your Medical records (digital), ERB, DA form 31, and your DD214 submit the completed packet to the VA office. By processing the claim early you will have results within six months of your ETS date.
Now there you are on an airplane home, the military is soon going to be something of the past. It is here were I give you the greatest piece of advice I was ever given. “Take a few months and just do nothing”. It is time to let your mind just unwind from the constant movement you are used to doing. After this time of relaxing is over go to school and use your GI benefits.
Welcome home to all my family who is preparing to join the civilian population again. Know that you are not alone and your family is all around you. If you have not joined the VFW, or American Legion yet, I highly recommend it. We need others to talk to because our families do not understand. Part of transition out is learning how to cope with reality, and talking about what we have lived through. Reach out and find us, we are out here waiting to hear your story. Know that you are not alone in what you are about to deal with. Again welcome home.