The Guide to Coming Home

The Guide to Coming Home Category Archive: Accessing benefits

Get signed up with a Veteran Service Officer ASAP

Posted at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education, Family & relationships, Mental Health, Substance Abuse

From Jerry Kyser, Roseville, MN
Sgt E-5 Army, Vietnam-Huey Helicopter Crew Chief and Gunner;1st Inf 1968-69; 1st Avn Brigade 1969-70

Be involved with the reintegration as soon as you can. The military knows what happens to families with multiple deployments. There are many programs to help you and your loved ones. Get help quickly and do not be shy about it. We love you folks.Take it from an Old Vietnam warrior. It is not just about you, it is about you and your family even if you are single. As veterans, we want to be your back. We want to help you get the GI Bill going or make sure you can get your job back if you had one when you were deployed. If not, press on and do something to get a new one. Things are tough but you are a survivor. You are our heroes. You are all winners.

I came back to College in 1970 with undiagnosed PTSD and became stubborn, bitter and angry. I never went to the VA for 37 years for diagnosis, therapy and compensation for my combat injuries. DO NOT DO THAT, IT CAN KILL YOU. Get registered with your State and Veteran Service Officer. Find out about your earned benefits, job placement and stay away from the booze and drugs.

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TriCare health benefits for retired military veterans

Posted at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits

From Sharon Simpson, Walker, MN
Husband retired from the Navy as a Master Chief Machinist Mate (E-9). During his military career he served aboard five ships, was attached to Base Police in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, served as a Navy Recruiter in Duluth, and managed recruit barracks in the Great Lakes.

Please ask for information on 'TriCare' health benefits. My husband is a 20 year Navy vet. He then worked for Cass County before retiring at 65.

We were frantic trying to find money in our budget to purchase supplemental health insurance (to go with Medicare).

A friend just happened to mention TriCare. We checked into it and were able to enroll (thankfully!).

When we were filling out paper work at the nearest military base (Camp Ripley) I told the clerk that we found out about it by accident. She replied, "People tell me that. Apparently it's the best kept secret in the military!"

This 'secret' has saved us!!!

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Additional college benefits with ROTC

Posted at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education

From Cpt. Benjamin Nicholls, Fargo ND:
Part of the 1/34th BCT Deployment to Iraq from 2005-2007 and currently assists soldiers and students interested in becoming officers in obtaining scholarships and contracting with ROTC.

Those vets interested in going back to college for their bachelor or master's degrees and interested in becoming leaders and officers in the National Guard can take advantage of a great deal of additional benefits on top of all the benefits they will already qualify for by talking to Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs. There are several programs across the state including University of Minnesota, Saint Cloud State University, University of North Dakota, Mankato State University, and North Dakota State University.

Benefits that can be expected with ROTC National Guard scholarships and benefits through the National Guard include:
- Paid tuition
- GI Bill and Kicker
- E5 Pay or greater pay for drill weekends
- $1,200/yr for books
- $350 - $500 monthly stipend
- Scholarship paying for full tuition or room and board
- Loan repayment
- Possible assessions and other bonuses

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Things I wish I did when I returned

Posted at 1:45 PM on February 19, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Employment, Family & relationships, Mental Health

From Daniel Price, Minneapolis, MN
Captain, Infantry, Minnesota Army National Guard, Company Commander, served in Iraq from March 2006 to June 2007.

Suggestions that I have that I wish that I had known when I returned:

1. Seek counseling with a mental health professional immediately upon arrival home. Even if you don't think that you have any issues, it will be good for returning soldiers to talk things out with a mental health professional instead of having things carry over to home life. This destroys marriages. I know from experience.

2. Seek marriage counseling immediately as well. Being away from spouses is very difficult. Seeking a marriage counselor is a great way to open up the lines of communication. One may think that the lines are open and everything is fine, but MAKE SURE that this is the case. Once the "honeymoon" is over, things can come crashing back to reality.

3. Get enrolled in the VA system. It can be a discouraging process but take advantage of them when you can. I have enrolled in the VA but maintain civilian providers because appointments are difficult to attain at the VA, especially for emergency or urgent situations.

4. Find a hobby that feeds your adrenaline rush...and learn how to mitigate the risks. Riding motorcyles, playing paintball, skydiving are different ways. All can be dangerous, but if you do them responsibly all can feed your appetite for adrenaline.

5. Do NOT sit idle and feel sorry for yourself, especially if you are unemployed. There are organizations out there that are waiting to help veterans find jobs. Use them. That's what they get paid for.

6. Know the phone numbers for the National Suicide helpline. 1-800-273-TALK.There is a disturbing trend of OIF/OEF veterans committing suicide. Do not become a statistic. There are people out there willing to help you, who know what you are going through, and will not let you spiral out of control until you reach the point of desperation.

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Text message insights on reintegration

Posted at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Community, Education, Employment, Family & relationships, Housing, Legal, Mental Health, Other, Personal Finance, Substance Abuse

As part of our online and radio series on reintegration, We're asking veterans, their families and those who work with veterans to send us a text message with the answer to this question:

"What's the key to a soldier's successful return home?"

We'll be posting responses throughout the afternoon here. To share your experience with reintegration, text the word "advice" to 30644. Or click here.

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GI Bill benefits are slow

Posted at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education

From Ross Holtan, Minneapolis, MN
Left the army as a Specialist (E-4). Was stationed in Germany with the First Infantry Division. Deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq.

If you're going back to school, when it comes to the VA, have patience and plan ahead. I started school again this September, but did not receive my GI Bill benefits until November. I know. Crazy.

Despite applying for the GI Bill back in June, registering for classes in July and officially certifying my enrollment in August, I attended school without benefits for almost four months.

I called the VA almost every single day, but was only able to contact a real person twice. We were disconnected once, and it took me five weeks to get back through.

Plan ahead. Save a little money just in case. The payments eventually came, but I was in pretty rough shape towards the end.

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Resources for reintegration

Posted at 2:10 PM on January 27, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Community, Education, Employment, Family & relationships, Housing, Legal, Mental Health, Other, Personal Finance, Substance Abuse

MPR News will be building and maintaining a list of resources for returning veterans and their families. If you see something missing or want to add information to an existing listing, click here.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
"To empower leadership, service members and families by providing relevant training, services, and resources throughout the deployment cycle."
Click here for a list of contacts
**BTYR also has a comprehensive resource list here:**

Link Vet Line
"The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a new hotline to provide comprehensive assistance and crisis intervention for veterans."
Contact: 888.LINK.VET (546.5838)

United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
"A consortium of Veterans, Military, and Auxiliary Organizations to exchange information and support issues relating to entitlements for Veterans, Military Retirees, the National Guard and Military Reservists, their dependents and survivors."
Contact: Ralph Donais, 763-441-2630

Benefit Navigation and Referrals
Disabled American Veterans Dept. of Minnesota
"Providing free, professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service"
Click here for chapter locations and contact information

Minnesota County Veterans Service Officers
"Assist veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services accrued through military service."
Click here for contacts listed by county

Brain Injuries
Brain Injury Association of Minnesota
"The Brain Injury Association of Minnesota's goal is to provide answers and avenues of support for all Minnesotans living with brain injury."
Contact: 800-669-6442 or 612-378-2742

Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
Minneapolis, MN
"We provide inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services to veterans and active duty service members who have sustained polytrauma injuries, including traumatic brain injury."
Contact: Stacy Tepper, Admissions and Referral Officer, 612-467-3235 or 866-414-5058 ext. 3235

DCoE Outreach Center
"The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) runs a resource center that provides information and resources about psychological health, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury."
Contact: 866-966-1020

Walk-In Counseling Center
Minneapolis, MN
"Provides free, confidential, no appointment professional counseling."
Contact: 612-870-0565

Military OneSource
"Education, relocation, parenting, stress - you name it - Military OneSource is here to help you with just about any need. Available by phone or online, our free service is provided by the Department of Defense for active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members and their families."
Contact: 1-800-342-9647

Calvary Lutheran Church
Golden Valley, MN
"Active-duty soldiers, veterans, military families--count on us to support you through prayer, correspondence and other resources geared just for you as you protect our country's freedom."
Contact: Pastor Skip Reeves,, 763-231-2965

NAMI Vet Connection
Metro and Detroit Lakes
"Vet Connection groups are free and open to all veterans interested in learning more about coping tools or approaches to reintegration issues."
Metro contact (for men): Molly Black, 651-645-2948 x106
Metro contact (for women): Rachel, 952-818-7343
Detroit Lakes contact: Mary, 218-841-4863

Vet Centers
"Provide individual, group and family counseling to all Veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for their family members."
Duluth contact: 218-722-8654
Minneapolis contact: 763-503-2220
St. Paul contact: 651-644-4022

Troop and Family Counseling Services for National Guard and Reserves
"A free, 24/7 service for military families."
Contact: 1-888-755-9355

Not Alone
A website where, "warriors and families share their experiences in fixing their lives. Here you will find others that deal with the war after the war every day. Here you will get real help."

DCoE Outreach Center
(see listing above)

"Connecting you with educational benefits and resources to help you succeed in college."
Regional coordinator contact list can be found here

Veterans Transition Center at the University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
"We exist to support the veterans of our country's Armed Forces and our main goal is to help student veterans smoothly make the transition from military to civilian life."
Contact: Aaron Ledebuhr, or 612-624-2913

MnSCU Veterans Services
Click here for regional contact list

Veterans Upward Bound at MCTC
"Veterans can receive career, personal, and financial aid counseling, enrollment assistance, GED preparation, and one-on-one tutoring. In addition, a full-time VA benefits counselor is on staff to assist veterans in applying for educational benefits."
Contact: Kent Fritz-Smead, 612-659-6582

Veterans' Initiative Center & Research Institute
Minneapolis, MN
"The VICTRI is a cutting edge, state-of-the-art center built to assist Veterans and their family members to start, build and sustain successful businesses or initiatives through education, services, support and research."
Contact: Jack Scharrett, 612-353-5600,

DEED Veterans Employment Services
"From individual employment counseling, to assistance in all stages of job search, to direct referrals for job openings, to job training for disabled veterans, to helping convert military training to civilian credentials, we offer a wide variety of specialized employment and training services to veterans."
Click here for employment reps by office location

Career OneStop
"The Key to Career Success campaign connects veterans and transitioning service members with high quality career planning, training, and job search resources"
Find a career center near you.

Resource Employment Action Center
Metro and St. Cloud
"JOBS for VETERANS, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, is designed to help veterans find the job that best utilizes their skills."
Contact: 612-752-8400

Financial support
Minnesota Military Foundation
"The Minnesota Military Family Foundation distributes money through grants and loans to Minnesota Military Families of deployed soldiers that need a little help."
Contact: Terry Palmer, 763-544-2255,

Minnesota Assistance Council for VeteransDuluth, Mankato, Metro
"MACV exists to directly help veterans and their families affected by homelessness or those in danger of becoming homeless."
Dulth contact: Durbin Keeney, 218.722.8763
Mankato contact: Sue Sorenson, 507.345.8258
Metro contact: Jimmy Collier, 612.726.1327

"Source for affordable housing-related data, information and resources."
Contact: 612-522-2500 or

Kids and Family
Operation: Military Kids
"Helping kids feel connected, active and supported that have been affected through recent troop deployment"
Contact: Kia Harries,, 507-372-390 or Amber Runke, or 612-624-8198

Operation Homefront
"Operation Homefront provides emergency and morale assistance for our troops, the families they leave behind, and for wounded warriors when they return home."
Contact: 800-722-6098

Project New Hope Retreats
"Provide Veterans and their families the education, training, and skills necessary to manage their lives after wartime service."
Contact: Jen Billington, 218-851-5839,

Family Assistance Centers
"A FAC is an information source for a variety of services for the Service Member and their family before, during and following a deployment."
Click here for contact information by office location

Legal services

Baker Williams Law Firm
"We have a personal mission to serve the members of our military family. Our life experience has inspired us to create this purpose. Our goal is to offer legal services to veterans, service-members, wounded warriors and their families at every stage of their lives."
Contact: (651) 773-4111 or (877) 434-VETS

Brock Hunter Law
"A veteran himself, Brock Hunter dedicates a portion of his practice to defending military veterans who find themselves in criminal court."
Contact: 612-874-1625

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What's normal?

Posted at 4:34 PM on February 3, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Community, Mental Health

From Jennifer Rico, St. Paul, MN
CW2, Army National Guard, Medevac pilot. Iraq (Aug 2008-2009)

There's still a stigma that trying to find help means that your relationship isn't strong or that you have "problems" that warrant professional help. Maybe all you want are some quick answers about basic everyday issues and don't know who to talk to. Or maybe some things come up that you weren't expecting and you don't know if they're normal or if you should be getting worried.

If there isn't PTSD or a substance abuse issue, then it doesn't really seem like there are any programs out there for you. However, the VA and many other veteran's organizations have been set in place to answer even the most seemingly insignificant questions, so don't be afraid to contact them.

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Take it slow--give yourself time to adjust

Posted at 4:21 PM on February 3, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education, Employment

From Bruce Holzschuh, St. Paul, MN
Coordinator of Veterans Services at Metropolitan State University. BU1 US Navy Seabees. Discharged 1994.

Acknowledge that everyone has changed somewhat over the time away. Accept the fact that changes happened, and it is not always negative. Give each other time to adjust to being back and with each other again. Try and be very patient and understanding. Be vigilant to early signs of potential or underlying problems and do not be afraid to seek professional help and advice.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Trust your gut---if you sense something is not right, it most often isn't. Don't wait for a problem to get so big that it is hard or impossible to recover from. Try and visualize where you see or want to see yourself 5 years from now. What will it take to get there?

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Ask questions

Posted at 1:56 PM on February 3, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Family & relationships, Mental Health

From Randal Lundborg, Duluth, MN
Retired Staff Sergeant, deployed as a medic with the Army Reserves from Dec 2003 to Feb 2005. Served at Abu Ghraib, Najaf, Baghdad and Fallujah

When you first get back, take life at your speed for a bit. It's ok to not want to accept every invitation. Ease yourself back into your old life. Get to know your family again. Remember, your family isn't in the military -- ask, don't order. If you have kids, ask open questions and let them ramble on and ask questions. Real listening is a skill that you haven't used in a long time.

randylundborg.jpegUnderstand things will be different. Not bad, just different. It takes time to get back into the role of "Dad" or "Mom," don't rush it. Decompressing takes time. Ask questions, you will react differently to different things.If that response makes you wonder, ask questions, if you don't know who to ask, call 888-LINK VET (546-5838).

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Your future is in your hands

Posted at 1:07 PM on February 3, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Employment, Family & relationships, Mental Health

From B Jones, Laurel, MD
E-5 (Sergeant), Army, 98G Arabic Linguist. Served from 1999 to 2005. Stationed with the 1st Infantry Division in Wuerzburg, Germany. Deployed to Kosovo in 2002 and to Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005, served in Tikrit, Baqubah and Samarrah.

Welcome back from a deployment, possibly getting out of the military. My first tip would be to tell you to take control for/of yourself!!! The military has many different programs to help you out but they won't do anything for you if you don't take matters into your own hands.

Second, while you were gone both you and your friends/family have had unique and individual experiences. Things are going to be different whether you want them to be or not. Realize this and give yourself, your spouse, and your friends and family each time to get reacquainted. It took my wife and I months to get back to normal. She wanted to hug me and hold me every single moment we were awake and together. I just wanted to be left alone. After all, I hadn't really had much physical contact for a year. It took a great deal of communication for us to make it through that. She felt I was rejecting her and I felt she wasn't respecting my space. We are still together and now have a baby boy.

Third, it is never too early to start looking for a job if you are planning to get out of the military. Most jobs will work with you on your availability. Your military service goes a long way with most employers, use it to your advantage. It doesn't matter what job you had while you were in. Your military service will help with just about any job you apply for.

You volunteered for the military. They used you as a resource during that time. Take advantage of all the resources the military is giving you access to and use their resources to your advantage. This could be counseling, medical, resume writing, GI Bill. It is your turn to use the military how you see fit.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. You may not want to talk about things right away but plan on doing it at some point. Share your feelings, experiences, doubts, whatever with someone you trust. If you have a spouse they may really appreciate you talking to them and explaining what you are feeling and thinking.

Take pride in your service, regardless of how you feel about the war. You did your country and other countries in this world a service. There are so many people who don't have the courage to do what you did.

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Set goals

Posted at 2:39 PM on January 29, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education

From Arthur Howard, St. Paul, MN
Sergeant, U.S. Army, Petroleum Supply Specialist, Stationed in Germany. Deployed to Iraq. Now works at the VA in Minneapolis.

Set some goals--short-term and long-term.You've already succeeded at one of the hardest jobs you'll likely ever have to do, now think about what you want to do next. Think about life after the military. Meet with your local Veterans Benefit Counselor to see what benefits are out there for you. Go to school using the Post/911 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, or the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

When I got out of the Army in 2004, I was a bit scared as I'd been taken care of the last 6 years meaning I didn't have to worry about money, not because I was making a boat load of it, but because if I ran out I knew I had a place to lay my head down (barracks) and food to eat. So for me getting out of the Army meant I had to grow up and do it all on my own. Uncle Sam was no longer there to bail me out.

What worked for me was applying the skills I gained in the Army, which didn't come from the trade (work) I did in the Army but the other stuff we all learn. Like that I can do anything attitude, dedication, respect, discipline, and of course the all famous "Suck it up and DRIVE ON." These were all things I lacked before joining the Army, but came out knowing nothing else.

As I still wanted to be challenged and knew I wanted to continue public service in some way. I set a short-term goal of getting my Bachelor degree and a long-term goal of becoming a Director/Senior Executive within the Federal Government. So I headed back to school and surpassed my short-term goal by obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Human Relations.

However, I haven't stopped there. It must be that "I can do anything" attitude, or "do it better" attitude that has motivated me to go further. I start a Doctoral Program in Organizational Leadership this March 2010.

I can say without a doubt that my service in the Army and education gave me a huge advantage when searching for a federal job. I currently work at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and I'm well on my way to obtaining my long-term goal.

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