Many veterans have the financial resources for higher education with benefits ranging from Tuition Assistance to the variations of the GI Bill. Where they need assistance is finding the right colleges and universities that truly deliver successful outcomes for their students. 

 

#1 – Is College for You Right Now?  A basic step that is often underappreciated is making sure that the student is ready to complete college. This must be an open and thoughtful discussion because young people often feel pressure to get higher education even if they do not feel a strong desire or interest in going to college right now. An important fact to know is that college students who leave school with debt, but no college degree, are actually worse off financially than most high school graduates. College is a great step in almost any career, but only if you complete it, and even better, with a low level of debt. 

 

#2 – Select Higher Education Institutions That Are Local, Physical, and Have A Large Student Body. Value colleges are usually large, public universities with a physical campus in major cities. The reason that these colleges deliver good value is that public schools have large student bodies which translates to many available major fields of study, a large alumni network for hiring and mentoring opportunities, and very reasonable tuition and fee requirements. In addition, value colleges are used to serving both traditional and non-traditional student bods so they likely have on-line and traditional classroom options. 

 

#3 – Evaluate Schools Based on Educational Outcomes & Not on Marketing Material.  It is very, very easy to get drawn into the glamorous marketing material that colleges produce.  Scenic ivy covered campuses, the ease of on-line classes, and nationally recognized faculty members all make the brochures and websites irresistible. Military veteran students need to choose a college based on outcomes and not on advertising. 

 

These eight criteria can help you evaluate whether or not an institution delivers on results:

 

1.  Undergraduate Enrollment – Higher is better, especially if there are more alumni in your related career fields.

2.  Retention Rate of Undergraduate Students – This percentage indicates how many students continue their education at the college.

3.  Graduation Rate of All Students – The percentage of students who graduate.

4.  Average Salary All Students – Salary following graduation.      

5.  Student Loan Repayment Rate of All Students – The percentage of students who successfully pay back their college debts.

6.  Average Student Loan Debt – The average amount of student loan debt upon graduation.

7.  In State Tuition Levels – The average amount of in-state tuition.

8.  Educational Complaint Count – The number of educational complaints against the school, which may be a signal of poor financial standing, lack of compliance for accreditation, or deceptive financial/recruiting practices.

 

Once you have the information for these eight criteria, you should be able to compare the results against other academic institutions. This information is only valuable when you compare like measures against other institutions. The goal is to get the best outcome in all possible variables.

 

# 4 – Apply to 5 to 6 Schools That Meet Your Criteria with a Focus on Educational Outcomes. A focus on higher education is the only way to cut through the school’s marketing and advertising information to determine what your expected financial outcome will be from your degree. The goal is to find the school that costs the lowest amount, graduates their students on time, gets them employed, and has graduates that leave school with a low amount of debt.

 

#5 – Be Focused on Total “Net” Costs of Education. Just because a school has a low tuition level does not mean that the school will be the lowest in net cost. To determine the total or net education cost, a student must use the following calculation:

 

Net College Expense = (Tuition + Expenses + Living Expenses) – Non-Loan Educational Assistance (Calculated Over a 4 Year Period).

 

#6 – Stay the Course & Graduate on Time. College is hard, graduate school is hard, and so are other professional programs. When you make the choice to start your degree, make that commitment in blood so that no matter what happens, you will finish. Degree completion is the secret to post college success.

Summary

Planning for college is best done by looking at the educational outcomes that a school has delivered over time to their graduates. Marketing materials do not provide the discerning information one needs to choose an educational institution. Pick your college with a high graduation rate, high average post college income, a low tuition level, and a low level of student debt. Finally, once you have made the commitment to college, make the commitment to complete your degree as fast as possible.

 

APPENDIX: The Top 4 Schools for Military Veterans in Each State by Educational Outcome Criteria.  Listed Alphabetically by State.

Name of College Or University CITY STATE ZIP
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks AK 99775-7500
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage AK 99508
Alaska Pacific University Anchorage AK 99508
University of Alaska Southeast Juneau AK 99801-8697
Auburn University Auburn AL 36849
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham AL 35294-0110
Samford University Birmingham AL 35229-2240
University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville AL 35899
University of Arkansas Fayetteville AR 72701
Harding University Searcy AR 72143
John Brown University Siloam Springs AR 72761
University of Central Arkansas Conway AR 72035-0001
University of Arizona Tucson AZ 85721-0066
Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe AZ 85287
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff AZ 86011-4092
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott Prescott AZ 86301-3720
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo CA 93407
University of California-Berkeley Berkeley CA 94720
California State University-Long Beach Long Beach CA 90840-0115
University of California-San Diego La Jolla CA 92093
University of Colorado Boulder Boulder CO 80309-0017
Colorado School of Mines Golden CO 80401
Regis University Denver CO 80221-1099
University of Denver Denver CO 80208
University of Connecticut Storrs CT 6269
Wesleyan University Middletown CT 6459
Central Connecticut State University New Britain CT 6050
Quinnipiac University Hamden CT 6518
Georgetown University Washington DC 20057-0001
Catholic University of America Washington DC 20064
George Washington University Washington DC 20052
American University Washington DC 20016-8001
University of Delaware Newark DE 19716
Wilmington University New Castle DE 19720
Delaware Technical Community College-Owens Georgetown DE 19947
Delaware Technical Community College-Terry Dover DE 19901
Florida State University Tallahassee FL 32306-1037
University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa FL 33620-9951
University of Central Florida Orlando FL 32816
Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers FL 33965-6565
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus Atlanta GA 30332-0530
University of Georgia Athens GA 30602
Georgia College and State University Milledgeville GA 31061
Emory University Atlanta GA 30322
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu HI 96822-2217
Brigham Young University-Hawaii Laie HI 96762-1294
University of Hawaii-West Oahu Kapolei HI 96707-4507
University of Hawaii at Hilo Hilo HI 96720-4091
University of Iowa Iowa City IA 52242-1316
University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls IA 50614-0005
Drake University Des Moines IA 50311-4505
Grinnell College Grinnell IA

Transition is defined as a process or period of changing from one state or condition to another. There may be no greater challenge than transitioning from a life in the military to a life in corporate America. While many of us relish the opportunity and look forward to the change in lifestyle, there are many challenges. There are multiple avenues to take in your transition aside from utilizing a recruiting firm. A solid, simple, and structured strategy will help a Junior Military Officer navigate the complicated and stressful path to a new career. I have read numerous helpful plans on LinkedIn and other publications that have helped me in my transition. Using the knowledge I have obtained from my experiences. I think that these five steps of self discovery, building your corporate knowledge, connecting your knowledge to your unique skills, networking, and targeted job hunting are a blueprint for a successful transition. I hope this article helps simplify the approach a Junior Military Officer (JMO) takes to transitioning and enable veterans to have a smooth, efficient, and enjoyable transition to a new life in corporate America.

 

1. Know Yourself – Self Discovery: Now is the time to take a pause in your life and reflect on your experiences to determine who you are. Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Career Leader Career Assessment help identify your personal characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. Reach out to trusted peers to solicit honest feedback as to your strengths and weaknesses. You can even sit back with a beer in hand and talk to friends, family, or your significant other to discuss who you really are and where you want to be. No matter what avenue you choose, it is important to invest some serious time in getting to know yourself before you begin to navigate the competitive corporate landscape. The more time and effort you put into this beginning phase of your transition, the better prepared you will be in interviews and accurately determine where your fit is in corporate America. Take some time to not only recognize what your strengths/weaknesses are, but also think about what makes you happy, what you’re passionate about, and what will provide you with personal satisfaction on a daily basis in your next career. Before you begin to look at the industries and companies that best fit your interests and goals, fully understand who you are and what you are passionate about.

 

POSSIBLE RESOURCES:

  • Myers-Briggs Personality Test
  • Deloitte Core Leadership Program
  • Leveraging Military Leadership Program
  • Career Leader Career Assessment
  • Four Block

 

I also recommend having deep conversations with those who know you best to discuss who you are, where you might want to go, and how best to get there.

 

2. Corporate Knowledge – Educate Yourself: Once you’ve defined who you are, it’s time to explore what opportunities exist in corporate America. There’s no better place to start than Google – much like Vince Vaughn did in the movie, The Internship. If you take an interest in an industry, Google it, and see where your curiosity takes you. As your search narrows, you will begin to realize the existing network you have with people in certain industries. This was a key revelation during my transition. I reached out to people I had not spoken to in years because I knew they were in an industry of interest to me. I learned that no group of people are more genuinely supportive of veterans than other veterans. Veterans you hardly know will be more than willing to provide you with insight and advice while having no agenda and no expectation in return. This means that you have a massive network of individuals that can provide knowledge on a variety of industries. Do not be afraid to reach out to people for informational interviews or just normal conversations to discuss the many opportunities corporate America has to offer. LinkedIn is a vital resource for finding veterans within companies or industries of interest to you. This is also a great time to expand your business knowledge through reading. Subscribe to magazines like Fortune, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal as well as monitor business-specific discussion boards on the internet. Finally, find a reading list that resonates with you to develop your corporate competence. The reading list detailed below is a great place to start. There are numerous books that provide great insight into the corporate environment as well as books that specifically guide veterans in transition. You can research as intensively as time allows but your goal during this phase is to acquire some basic corporate knowledge.

 

Lynda.com is a library of over 4,000 business classes across every major industry. Utilize the Free Job Seeker account and Lynda.com subscription at https://veterans.linkedin.com/ to gain free access for 12 months to build your business acumen. Your first stop in Lynda.com is to take the LinkedIn for Veterans course led by Greg Call to learn how to leverage LinkedIn.

 

Ultimately, I found that the more time and energy you put into this phase, the better prepared you will be in interviews and the more likely you will be to recognize a good corporate fit.

 

POSSIBLE RESOURCES:
Internet: Google, Linkedin.com, Lynda.com, Business Insider, Tech Crunch, Investopedia

Magazine: Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal

Books: PCS to Corporate A merica Roger Cameron, Chuck Alvarez, and Joel Junker; Good to Great and Bu ilt to Last by Jim Collins; The Goal by Eli Goldratt; Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; The McKinsey Way by Ethan Rasiel; Reinventing You by Dori Clark; Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni; What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan; Developing a Business Case by Harvard Business School Press; Seeing the Bi g Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company by Kevin Cope; The Challenger Sale By Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

 

3. Connect – Match your knowledge to your skills and aspirations: Now that you have a better idea of who you are and what opportunities exist, it is time to connect the dots. Take what you have learned from personality tests and discussions to develop career themes. These are action words that describe what your core strengths and interests are and match those themes to industry themes you have researched (ie. resilient, being decisive, strong work ethic, etc.). After researching what corporate America has to offer, you now have a basic understanding of what characteristics each industry typically looks for in its employees. Remember the themes you develop are not just based on what your résumé states and what skills you currently have. Use themes that represent your passion. If the industry and positions that you’ve been researching don’t match with your personal themes, there most likely isn’t a fit. Below are some examples to help formulate your connections of personal and corporate themes.

 

4. Network – Connect with those that can help: Networking is the act of interacting with people to exchange information and develop contacts, usually to further one’s career. Now that you have narrowed your scope and identified two to three specific industries that are a fit for you, it’s time to challenge your assumptions through conversations with people in those industries. As I previously mentioned in the Corporate Knowledge section, you already have access to a large network of talented, experienced, and knowledgeable veterans in various industries. Now extract that network’s value.

 

LinkedIn is a valuable tool to professionally connect with those whom you think can assist you in transition. As aforementioned in the Corporate Knowledge section, leverage the free premium job seeker membership. Simply search a company of interest to you on LinkedIn and immediately individuals associated with your network and that firm will be listed. Browse the list and connect with those that you feel can provide you with the information you’re looking for. Send an Inmail message to introduce yourself and state why you’re connecting.

 

Attending popular veteran programs help to expand your network – especially with those also in transition. One vital aspect of expanding your professional network is to seek out prospective mentors. Now is a tremendous time in your life to seek out mentors to advise you in making responsible and sensible decisions as you navigate your path to a new career. Step out of your comfort zone and simply ask prospective mentors you come into contact with to take you on as a mentee. As you progress through the networking process, look to refine your industry and specific career search to build the foundation of a career long network. Even if you connect with people who aren’t necessarily in the industry that you want to break into, take the opportunity to learn from their experiences as it could prove invaluable.

 

POSSIBLE RESOURCES: LinkedIn.com, Deloitte Core Leadership Program, Veterati , TopBlocked, Leveraging Military Leadership Program.

 

5. The Hunt – Seek out and Interview for desired positions: Now with career goal clarity, it is time to hunt down the opportunities and roles that are most aligned with your personality and aspirations. Attending various hiring conferences is an excellent way to get face-to-face interactions with corporate recruiters and possibly get your foot in the door with companies you desire. If this is the path you wish to take to employment, there are over a dozen recruiting firms that hold numerous hiring conferences throughout the year. Information about specific companies and industries attending these conferences is easy to find via conference-specific websites. For military academy graduates, the Association of Graduates has its own hiring conference multiple times a year known as the Service Academy Career Conference (SACC). Having a fellow alumni support network is a bonus for academy graduates. This fosters a more comfortable hiring conference environment and may enable you to better present yourself to prospective employers. Hiring conferences are extremely beneficial because you are able to have face-to-face interactions with companies and usually can utilize these events to find your employer even if you are on a short timeline. Although these conferences are very beneficial, they may not all have the specific career or company you desire.

 

Veteran programs such as Tech Qualled and Vet Force develop corporate competency that can serve as a pathway to employment. Both programs are geared towards tech sales. Tech Qualled’s mission is prepare you for a career in IT, consulting, or sales account executive. If you’ve narrowed down your search to a career in sales and have a high interest in the high tech space, these are great programs to get involved with.

 

The other option is to utilize your network to pursue initial interviews. Approximately 70% of Fortune’s top companies hire the majority of their employees through internal referrals. This gives credence to the old adage, “it’s all about who you know”. Use your resources to navigate your way to an initial phone screening and if potential is identified, move forward from there.

 

The bottom line is that it comes down to the interview, regardless if you pursue an opportunity through a conference or individual networking. Many people have different opinions on best interviewing practices and you can research all the different methods in great detail utilizing some of the resources I have previously mentioned. I also encourage you to follow Liz Ryan as an influencer on LinkedIn. She is the founder and CEO of Human Workplace as well as a Forbes contributor who continually writes about job seeking and resume writing. Most notably, her articles in Forbes about writing a “Human-Voiced Resume” and a “Pain Letter” are insightful in structuring your strategy to employment.

 

Ultimately, I have found two fundamental aspects that have helped me immensely in the interview process. First, be yourself. Most companies are able to clearly identify disingenuous individuals and will not hire someone that has canned / rehearsed interview answers. Utilize your interviewing to confirm or deny your assumptions about the culture and fit of the companies you’re interviewing with. If you are disingenuous and get the job offer, how are you sure this is the right fit for you? Lay the foundation by being the best and most professional version of yourself and confirm if this is the right opportunity for you. Secondly, practice will make you near perfect. I say “near perfect” because the pursuit of the perfect interview can drive people to rehearse canned answers. The more you practice interviewing, the more natural and comfortable you become when interviewing. I recommend finding two or three other JMOs and start an interview prep group. Meet once a week leading up to your interviews to practice, share, and help each other improve. Be mindful that interviewing is not a one-time event. We will continuously interview for other positions and promotions as we progress in our careers. Starting to improve your interview skills now not only aids you in your transition but will serve you well throughout your career. Utilize what you’ve learned about yourself and corporate America as well as your network to hunt down the opportunities you desire. This may be the most stressful phase but if you have taken the time to know who you are and what you really want, you will find the right fit.

 

Final Thought:

 

Irrespective of your timeline, transitioning can be very challenging and stressful. Spend time exploring yourself and opportunities to ensure that you are on the right track. Utilize your existing network and expand it with other JMOs and veterans in your industry of interest. Hunt down the opportunities you desire with confidence as you should already know who you want to be and have a great professional network to leverage. Finally, I believe the below spheres of influence should be decision-making criteria to rank order as you see fit. Weight the spheres that are more important to your unique situation and decipher which opportunities are best for you. Below is my personal example.

 

Notes:

 

Special thank you to the Deloitte CORE Leadership Program and staff in Dallas, Texas. Most of the knowledge I have attained and passed on was either presented to me when I attended the program or inspired from the program’s instructors.

 

Thank you to Scott Schreiber, a fellow JMO from my interview prep team and my editor who contributed greatly with his sales-focused insights as well as how to leverage LinkedIn and Lynda.com. I still believe that your mock interviews were more challenging than any I have experienced in corporate America. Your input greatly aided me in developing a quality product to pass onto other JMOs.

 

Finally, thank you to the now hundreds of veterans that I received advice from during my transition. Some are friends, some past acquaintances, and others current mentors, but all helped educate and inspire me on a road to what I consider a successful transition.

 

Following up with a mentor seems simple– send an email, schedule a call. But too often hear “I lost touch with my mentor, I wish I had followed up but then 2 months passed and I felt awkward reaching back out.” First, don’t feel awkward about messaging 2 months later. Your mentors are there when you need them, even if it’s been a while since you spoke. But when you find the right mentor (personality, knowledge, skills-match), don’t leave things to chance. Schedule up a follow-up in the next 2 or 4 weeks. Here are 3 hidden benefits of following-up (that you don’t get in conversation #1):

  1.  Keeping you honest:  How many times have you had a list of things to do, that you keep pushing back and pushing back as more pressing projects load on?  It is easy to do, especially when there is no accountability to a mentor who has challenged you with these things.  Whether it is updating a resume or working on your elevator pitch, polishing your LinkedIn profile or creating a Priorities checklist, if you know you won’t have to speak again to your mentor about these items, it is easy to let the required work on them slide indefinitely.  Having an established follow up call motivates you to meet or exceed the timelines agreed to during the initial call and will add to your success in landing the job you are pursuing.
  1. Builds on early successes:  Personal story – I had a call with a mentee where we explored the career he felt passionate about and worked on his resume and LinkedIn profile.  We promised to speak again the following week but he ended up needing more time due to work commitments.  We talked 6 weeks later, and he told me now that he was focused in his career choice, he wanted to pursue a job with Company X.  I looked up that company and say the General Manager is a close personal friend.  The introduction was easy to make and I am confident he will ace the interview!  Exploring options with a mentor is a systematic process/journey that requires time and introspective thought.  A follow up call may help you down paths you didn’t know you wanted to pursue on your initial mentor call.
  1. Words of encouragement:  Looking for employment is, in my humble opinion, one of the most stressful activities in the world.  It takes a toll on one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.  Talking with your mentor on regular intervals allows you to regain perspective on things, renew and rejuvenate your passion for the hunt, and provide new prospects to chase down.

Mentors are passionate about helping you find yourself and your next career.  This is not something that is accomplished overnight or in a single hour conversation.  Here are some final words of advice:

  • Talk to many mentors, and pick the few for follow up where you truly feel a connection with the mentor, like they really understand who you are and the career you are chasing.
  • Challenge your mentors to help you with specific actions – if they cannot, then move to the next mentor!
  • Provide feedback to Veterati when a mentor is or is not particularly helpful – Veterati is committed to providing exceptional mentors and can only do so with honest feedback from mentees like you!

If you would like to contact me directly, book me for a call on Veterati or LinkedIn and drop me a line!  I will always make time for a veteran or veteran’s spouse – happy hunting!

 

Daniel (DJ) Husted

35+ mentees on Veterati

My Mentoring Emphasis-Don’t Do What I Told You to Do

By: Max Dubroff

If you’re working with a mentor for the first time, you might be unsure about how to evaluate and apply all the advice that you receive. What I want to tell you here is that it is all up to you.

When I mentor someone, I say up front, “This is not about me. You should ignore anything I say or recommend that doesn’t fit your personality or focus. You should not worry about hurting my feelings.” Here are a few ways to figure out how you can use the advice that a mentor gives you.

First, don’t just do what I tell you to do. You should approach getting advice with the following six steps:

  1. Ask – know your focus and communicate your needs. Don’t expect to get good advice without having some idea of the goals you want to achieve.
  2. Listen – actively ask questions to understand the details and intent of any advice given.
  3. Consider – think of the desired and unintended consequences of actions if you applied a mentor’s advice to your situation.
  4. Choose – focus on what is right for you.
  5. Commit – make a plan and include how you will know if you are on-track.
  6. Do – implement your plans.

The second thing to know is that you shouldn’t just take your mentor’s advice and call it a day. The ideas and recommendations I offer as a mentor should be seen as seeds that a mentee will nurture and grow. That means that any advice you receive isn’t meant to be taken at face value. Conversations with your mentor are a starting point for further evaluation. Apply what will work for you or modify recommendations to fit your vision.

Finally, as much as I can help as a mentor, I cannot do it all. I may be an expert in a narrow field, and I don’t know everything. Get many perspectives by having more than one mentor. This will broaden your thinking and expand the scope of possibilities that suit your situation.

In my time supporting veterans through Veterati, my favorite mentoring relationship is a peer-mentoring relationship with a very intelligent and insightful veteran. Beyond the fact that the learning is mutual and I benefit from his perspectives, he embodies all three aspects of this essay. He applies critical thinking, understanding that his approach must be genuine and aligned with his own style. He demonstrates initiative and drive, coming up with new ideas and actively tests them. And he has reached out to different mentors so he can learn from various perspectives and select what he will implement.

Ultimately, you need to be committed to your plan. You need to own the reason you are implementing change, not simply mimic what worked for someone else. Take each bit of advice to inform your decisions to truly forge your own path.

As a disabled veteran myself, I understand that many veterans have their reasons for not taking the time to research filing for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You’ve heard all the horror stories of backlogs and denials. And you may think, why apply for a handout when so many others have it so much worse?

Read More

Reading should be a significant component of your military transition and there are many reasons why. It’s imperative to build and sustain daily or weekly habits of improving oneself through reading and introspection. Those that stop learning will become stagnant in other areas of their lives. How do you expect to push your limits past your uncomfortable boundaries into success without persistence, discipline, and determination?

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I spent five months unemployed before I started my first civilian job and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. My plan was always to roll right into my next job, and I would have never believed that it would take me that long to start working again. I started planning my career transition a full year in advance to avoid this exact situation. How could this have happened to me?

 

No one ever told me that I should plan for this. Why would they? Up to that point, my career had been playing out perfectly. My peers who left the military before me were able to get on their feet quickly, or so I thought. The truth is, most service members experience a period of unemployment. It’s not ideal but it’s also not the end of the world. Here are a few things that surprised me about unemployment:

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As an HR Director for a growing retail grocery company, I interviewed, hired and worked with lots of people, including several veterans. Each time, I was excited about bringing our shared, time-honored and battle-tested values into my company to help accomplish my company’s mission.  When that happened, it was great. However, there were times when it didn’t always work out.

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Any major life transition causes a complexity of emotions including fear, anguish and excitement. A military transition is no different and arguably may be more complex. You’re leaving a security blanket and leaping into the unknown. With that comes an unbelievable growth experience that requires hard work, incredible tenacity and thorough self-introspection.

 

 When you came out the other side, what did you learn? What did you learn about the process of the transition? What made you successful? When asking these questions to transitioned veterans, most often you’ll get the high-level responses such as: “I networked or prepared well for my interviews.” I want to take it one step further and dive deeper to provide you with 10 “secrets” or creative approaches that you often may not hear.

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1. Take care of yourself and stay healthy. Now, this may seem like your traditional new year’s resolution, but of course there is a military twist. Yes, we all know we are more productive when we eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. But as a transitioning service member, make sure you get your health check-ups while you are still in. Remember, once you’re out, you may be paying for health care for the first time and those trips to “sick call” will not be free anymore. This is also important if you were injured while in the service, and may need health care from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. If an injury or condition is not in your medical records, you will be hard-pressed to get help from the VA.

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