The transition from active duty military service to veteran’s status is filled with questions and challenges. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has created a VA Welcome Kit to help ease the process and help veterans get their benefits. It provides helpful directions and information for accessing many programs that can help with life as a veteran. For your ease of use, we’ve outlined the most commonly used quick start guides within the full welcome kit.

13 Quick Start Guides in the VA Welcome Kit

  1. Apply for VA Health Care
  2. Get Started with Mental Health Services
  3. Get Started with Health Services for Women Veterans
  4. Understanding Community Care
  5. Accessing Urgent Care
  6. Apply for a Disability Rating
  7. Apply for Education Benefits
  8. Apply for Burial in a VA National Cemetery and for Memorial Products
  9. Understanding the Modernized Decision Review Process
  10. Get Started with Services for Veterans Ages 65+
  11. Get Started with Vet Center Services
  12. Get Started with Caregiver Benefits
  13. Apply for Survivor Benefits

When you have questions about the various services and benefits you and your family have access to once you transition to veteran’s status, it’s good to know where to turn for information – especially when you need it fast. With the VA Welcome Kit, you not only have a comprehensive document that can help answer your questions, but you also have a series of quick start guides that are intended to help you navigate the transition process.

These guides were added to the welcome kit in 2020 to make it easier for veterans and their families to access the services they need. We’ve outlined for you here the general content available within each one of the quick start guides.

What Is the VA Welcome Kit?

The VA Welcome Kit is a helpful guide that walks you through all the ways the VA can continue to support you after your time of military service is complete. It explains disability ratings, outlines your eligibility for certain services (including health insurance and education), and provides training resources to help you build a post military service career. For veterans making the major transition from military to civilian life, this can be an invaluable tool for shaping what your life will look like after service. The welcome kit isn’t just helpful at the time of separation from service – it can continue to be a useful guide at other major inflection points throughout your life.

The quick start guides provided within the Welcome Kit represent an additional effort to make VA services as accessible as possible. These guides were created in collaboration with hundreds of veterans and their families to ensure they are as user-friendly as possible.

Apply for VA Health Care

This section of the Welcome Kit helps you apply for your VA health insurance benefits. You’ll find a checklist that walks you through all the documentation you’ll need to complete your application, plus an outline of all the different ways you can submit your application. You also can refer to this section for information on how to check on the status of your application and what to do once you’ve been approved. Following the checklist page in the guide, you can find additional information about how the VA supports veterans.

Get Started with Mental Health Services

The VA can help any veteran with a wide variety of mental health issues, including but not limited to PTSD, the consequences of sexual trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Even if you don’t face issues this pronounced, the VA can help you connect with someone to talk about whatever issues you may face as you transition to civilian life.

Get Started with Health Services for Women Veterans

This quick guide will help you with everything you need to get registered for Women’s Health Care – a special program that includes everything from access to specialists to prescriptions and regular checkups. The program aims to connect women veterans with services specific to them – including maternity care, primary health care, mental health care, and specialty services. This guide will walk you through everything you need to apply for the program and take the appropriate steps once you receive approval.

Understanding Community Care

This guide outlines everything you need to know to understand whether you qualify to receive care through community care. Some veterans who need a specialized type of care may need more than a VA provider can grant. In the case that you meet one of the six criteria for qualifying for community care, you typically can receive care from a provider within the VA’s network, if you have prior approval from the VA.

Accessing Urgent Care

The VA provides for U.S. veterans to receive urgent care for minor illnesses and injuries as long as the urgent care provider is a member of the VA’s network. This quick guide summarizes the high points of how the program works, along with the type of care covered and how to access urgent care. In addition, the guide will outline copayments and direct you to a full list of all urgent care services covered.

Apply for a Disability Rating

One of the most helpful benefits the VA offers is VA disability benefits for qualifying U.S. veterans with service-connected disabilities. This portion of the VA Welcome Kit explains the intricacies of how the disability rating system works, along with outlining the steps you need to take to apply for benefits. You’ll find a checklist of all materials you’ll need to submit your application, along with what to do when you receive your disability rating decision.

If you need it, this document can also guide you through the process of working with an advocate through a Veterans Service Organization to provide extra support during the disability claim process.

Apply for Education Benefits

The education section of the VA Welcome Kit outlines how to take advantage of VA education benefits, which include the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, on-the-job training, other educational assistance programs, and even career counseling. Here you’ll find resources and guidance on defining what your career and education goals will be after your military service is complete, plus detailed information on each education benefit the VA offers and how to apply.

In addition to the VA home loans program, this is one of the most beneficial VA services for shaping post-military life.

Apply for Burial in a VA National Cemetery and for Memorial Products

As a U.S. veteran, you are entitled upon your death to burial in a VA national cemetery, a government-furnished headstone, marker, or medallion for burial in a private cemetery, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and a burial flag for a loved one. This portion of the VA Welcome Kit will help you with how to apply for each of these benefits.

Understanding the Modernized Decision Review Process

It’s common for veterans to disagree with decisions about their benefit claims. Recognizing this, the VA provides a transparent and equitable appeals process that allows veterans to request a redetermination. Within this section of the VA Welcome Guide, you’ll find everything you need to make sense of the new process and take advantage of a speedier resolution – including how to begin an appeal if you need one.

Get Started with Services for Veterans Ages 65+

Veterans ages 65 and over may have specific needs that the VA can help with – including home health care, nursing home care, caregiver support, and financial benefits. By reviewing this portion of the VA Welcome Guide, you can find out everything you need to know for tapping into VA services that can help you plan for the future and get access to the support services you may need.

Get Started with Vet Center Services

Vet centers are located across the country and designed to provide services for U.S. veterans that range from referral services and professional readjustment counseling to social and psychological services and confidential counseling. This section of the VA Welcome Kit can help you understand eligibility criteria for connecting with vet center services, along with any associated costs and the documentation you need to enroll.

Get Started with Caregiver Benefits

In addition to benefits delivered directly to U.S. veterans, the VA offers benefits and support to those who find themselves in the role of providing care for a veteran. This may be a spouse, child, grandchild, other relative, or close friend. For those who provide essential caregiving support to a veteran, the VA offers services that range from caregiver education and training to mental health counseling, respite care, access to health care benefits, monetary stipends, and peer mentor support.

This section of the VA Welcome Kit outlines all the details associated with this program, including how to determine whether someone in your life fits the caregiver definition and the specific steps they should take to apply for various benefits.

Apply for Survivor Benefits

This portion of the VA Welcome Kit presents information about how a family can access VA benefits once a veteran has passed away. This document provides a checklist for preparing in advance and applying for benefits, along with helping a spouse or dependent understand eligibility criteria and the details of potential programs for which they may be eligible.

Take Advantage of the VA Welcome Kit

The VA Welcome Kit represents a tremendous effort on the part of the VA to smooth the transition from active service to life as a U.S. veteran. And the presence of the quick start guides listed here provides additional ease of use by outlining all specific steps and documentation needed to access the myriad of benefits and services available to U.S. veterans and their families. With the Welcome Kit and the quick start guides at your fingertips, you won’t miss out on anything you or your family need as you begin life as a civilian.