Veteran service organizations, or VSOs, are more than cheap beer and pieces of flair on a hat. They're the transitioning veteran's greatest resources.
Benefits of membership are extensive, with vets helping each other with family issues, health care issues and -- most importantly for those getting out of the service -- employment and education issues.
While the groups may seem kind of antiquated by today's standards, each one is worth your investment in time and money. These are the people who banded together to lobby for improved veterans benefits -- and to keep them.
And because they helped create and maintain the laws that provide separating veterans with job training, education, home loans and other valuable resources, they are also the ones best-equipped to navigate you through getting those benefits.
Veterans in transition or planning on separation have a lot on their plates, and the biggest problem is usually finding that all-important first job or deciding how to pay for school.
Among the many, many other legacies the veterans who came before us left behind, the VSOs should be what we all know and trust. One of the oldest and most effective is the American Legion, which has been at the veterans benefits game for more than a century.
The Legion boasts many legislative achievements for vets. Chief among them: It is the reason there's a Department of Veterans Affairs in the federal government in the first place. Aside from Military.com's Veteran Jobs website, it's probably one of the first stops any separating veteran should make.
Not only will the Legion help you navigate filing a VA disability claim, its 55 departments -- one in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines -- regularly hold job fairs and career opportunities open to all veterans and military members. Events for spouses are also posted often, and you can find it all on the Legion's education portal.
For those not going right into the civilian workforce but opting to further their education, the American Legion is still a good starting point.
On the Legion's education portal, separating vets can find benefits at both the federal and state level for veteran education, along with third-party nonprofits that can help ease the transition into school life.
For those who know where they're going and what they want to study, the Legion also offers help navigating Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, finding the schools that best serve veterans and more.
If all of this seems overwhelming to someone getting out of the military, the Legion even offers direct, personal help from a service officer whose sole job is getting veterans out of the military and into a classroom.
In many cases, you don't even need to be a member of the American Legion; it's just something the Legion does. But separating veterans who get help might show their appreciation by joining -- it was strength in numbers that secured these benefits in the first place.
On top of all that, you get cheap beer and a cool hat at your local Legion post.
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