Transition into Civilian Life

Checklist for Planning to Leave the Service

Many wounded, ill, or injured servicemembers and their caregivers will have months to plan leaving the service if the servicemember is in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process. While this checklist will not cover all decisions and the timeframe may vary by servicemember, it is a place to start. Understand servicemembers will need to make these decisions at some point in their retirement/separation and transition processes. If they do not make the decisions, someone else will make them, and the decisions might not be reversible. As difficult as the process is, and as many decisions there are to be made, you must prepare yourself to make them. Life does not come to a stop because the servicemember for whom you care was injured. Research the decisions you will have to make so that you can make the best decisions possible.

Once the injury occurs and is stabilized and the IDES process is a possibility:

  • Ask for a briefing on the IDES process.
  • Begin thinking about potentially necessary short and long-term medical care.
  • Research whether a location where you might want to relocate offers the medical care the servicemember/veteran needs.
  • Investigate other important issues, such as schools for children, colleges, crime rates, military/veteran state and local benefits, whether you want to be close to family members, etc.
  • Ask to attend a Transition Assistance Program workshop or a Disability Transition Assistance Workshop.
  • Think about your life goals beyond the recovery process. Do you — or does your servicemember — want to return to school? What training will be needed?
  • Determine your post-retirement income needs. Project your servicemember’s retirement pay. (It will be no more than 75 percent of the his or her active duty base pay.
  • Evaluate your family finances. Are your finances stable, and will they sustain you in an extended wait for your servicemember’s finalized VA rating?

Twelve months prior to separation/retirement:

  • Continue in the IDES process.
  • Begin investigating possible benefit decisions (military spouse benefit programs, life insurance, long term care options, etc.)
  • Continue looking into retirement locations.
  • Schedule final family dental and vision checkups.
  • Update your and your servicemember’s legal documents to make sure they comply with all federal and state facilities. Legal documents you might have are general power of attorney (POA), durable general POA, medical POA, durable medical POA, living will/advanced medical directive, will, guardianship papers for the veteran for whom you care, fiduciary papers, guardianship papers for your children, etc. Make sure the POAs for the veteran for whom you care meet state and VA requirements.
  • Continue working on your financial plan and savings. If you need financial counseling, you can contact MOAA to be directed to one of our certified USAA Financial Planners at: 1-888-503-1168.
  • Look into your servicemember’s Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit and whether it will be transferred to a spouse or child. This must be complete before the servicemember leaves service.
  • Update veteran and caregiver résumés if you plan to continue working, return to work, and investigate employment options.


Six months prior to separation:

  • Continue with all of the steps above.
  • Re-evaluate finances to make sure you are on a financial path that can sustain your family through a transition period with no or limited pay for several months.
  • If you are seeking re-employment, begin looking for jobs around the location where you plan to settle.
  • Begin looking for housing that will suit your family’s medical requirements in the location where you plan to settle.
  • Begin studying TRICARE options for retirement and TRICARE options for separation.

Two months prior to separation (once you have received final orders):

  • Contact transportation for household shipment.
  • Complete your retirement briefing, at which time you will make your Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) election. (Spouses must sign the SBP document.)
  • Make sure the Defense Finance and Accounting Service has the correct information for final pay.
  • Make ID card appointments to get retired ID cards (if applicable).

One month prior to separation:

  • Go to TRICARE and make retired TRICARE elections (to avoid a break in coverage).
  • If the servicemember is on Social Security for Wounded Warriors and is eligible for Medicare (or has a dependent eligible for Medicare because of a disability), contact Medicare to begin paying the required Medicare Part B premiums in order to keep TRICARE.

One week prior to separation:

  • Obtain retired ID cards.
  • Make elections for the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (to avoid a break in coverage).
  • If the servicemember is being medically retired, make sure the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System shows the veteran is a Chapter 61 retiree to avoid future TRICARE fee increases.
  • Inquire about making an appointment to enroll the veteran for whom you care in the VA’s Veterans Health Administration and find a VA medical center. Your veteran will need his or her DD Form 214 for enrollment.

Once separated:

  • Attend the enrollment appointment for Veterans Health Administration. Take a copy of the veteran’s DD Form 214.
  • Convert Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance within 120 days of leaving service or elect a commercial life insurance policy.
  • Once the VA IDES rating has the provisional language removed, apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation, if applicable.
  • Follow up to make additional claims to the VA within a year of discharge so the payments will be retroactive to the date of discharge.
  • If the veteran for whom you care receives a 100-percent permanent and total disability rating from the Veterans Benefits Administration or a 100-percent disability rating because of individual unemployability, he or she may apply for the discharge of federal student loans he or she may have incurred.
  • Contact a VA regional office in your state of residence to obtain any state benefits to which the veteran for whom you care might be entitled. Ask for a list of paperwork necessary to obtain each benefit.
  • Visit your local tax collector’s office to find out whether there are any local tax breaks or programs for retired veterans.
  • Store the original certified copies of the DD Form 214/DD Form 215, Medical Evaluation Board/Physical Evaluation Board/IDES findings, active duty medical records, line-of-duty paperwork (Guard/Reserve), and VA disability rating, in a safe place. Keep at least one copy of each easily accessible.


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