FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

Transitioning Out of the Military -
One Wife's Story

in Iraq. He sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and chest wounds from an anti-tank
grenade thrown at his Humvee.  He also developed
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
from the event.  So here we are two and half years later finding ourselves no longer part of
the Big Green and it’s eye opening and downright shocking.  Now we have to worry about
so many different things and they all seem so complicated, especially issues related to
retirement pay, VA disability ratings and pay and so forth.  Also there’s the big question of
what are we going to do now? This is an especially huge question for my husband as his
injuries have severely limited his future choices.  He was a career infantryman and had
always wanted to be a police officer, but with his injuries, he’s probably not going to be able
to do that, and trust me, that has been devastating for him.  He’s really struggled with it and
to this day needs some serious counseling.  At the same time though, I can’t imagine being
able to do something one moment and then be told in one fell swoop that I could no longer
do it - ever.  

So, what is he going to do now?  

Honestly, I have no idea.  I do not even think my husband knows what he’s going to do
now.  He has applied for one job and he did not get it.  He made it past the first round of
the process.  However, the process was grueling for him because the first step was a
phone interview.  And after that he had to turn in a writing sample within 2 hours.  He really
thought he bombed the phone interview.   He needed help with the writing sample because
the pressure to produce it put him under an immense amount of stress and he was having
trouble gathering his thoughts.  I basically had to write it for him.  I know he’s stressed to
the max.  He worries about supporting me and our two kids.  Those are huge stressors on
a man.   However, he stresses me out sometimes to be honest!  It seems like he changes
his mind about career choices almost every day of the week.  Just when I think he’s getting
it that he may not be able to be a cop, he goes right back to obsessing over it.  Then he’ll
tell me he wants to be a teacher.  Or better yet, he’s looking into becoming a Harley
mechanic (yes he still rides his bike despite his TBI, which is a whole other issue) and he’s
not the most mechanically inclined guy even before his brain injury.  His idea of working on
stuff usually involved a hammer!  Ha!  I swear sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with multiple
personalities, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast, in this case, TBI.  That said, getting
medically retired was the best thing for us.  

I for one (and I believe our kids) are glad he is now out of the Army, but at the same time it
is nerve wracking and scary just because of the unknown.  We’ll no longer have the Army
telling us where to go and when to be there - which is something all of us military families
are used to having.  We can go do what we want now, which is downright strange to be
honest.  Also, there’s the issue of pay; when they are discharged or retired, they no longer
receive BAH.  So income definitely changes when you transition out and that is something
you have to plan for.  And trust me, the government uses the craziest mathematical
formulas to figure it all.  I’ve scratched my head on numerous occasions!  However, there is
always good news amidst the confusion and uncertainty.  

And what about me?

I did find out recently that I was accepted into law school.  It was the law school of my
choice and more in line with my personal values, but it’s in south Florida.  Fortunately, my
husband is totally cool with making the move.  The kids are thrilled.  He feels we need the
change after everything we’ve been through.  I will admit, I am so excited because I have
always wanted to be a lawyer.  

We just got back from a visit down to south Florida to see the school and we all fell in love,
so I think  it will be a good thing to make this move.  The kids seemed so happy and I finally
saw my husband very relaxed for the first time in a couple of years.  Classes for me start in
August and the kids would go back to school then as well.  So, we have a short timeline
and most importantly we have a house to sell.  So first thing today we had to call a realtor
and get that all set up.  Our house needs some minor cosmetic repairs like painting and as
I mentioned above, hubby is not really a handyman, so we’re asking around to find out who
can do the job quickly and inexpensively.  We should be used to having to do things in a
short amount of time, given how our husbands would receive PCS orders and then we’d
have to move in 30-60 days, you’d think.  However, even as a retiree family, it doesn’t
make it easier.  Also, please know that when your spouse is discharged, they can receive
one last move from the branch of service.  On every other PCS move, we did the DITY
move.  Since we are moving 800 miles from our current location, we are going to have the
Army do it for us this time.  So trust me, we are worried about selling our house and trying
to find housing in Florida.  There’s a lot of good deals to be had in Florida as far as buying
a house, but we’re still trying to decide between renting and buying down there, so that’s
an additional stressor.  However, I believe it will all work itself out in the long run and I’m
excited to finally be able to attend law school (even as expensive as it is).  

As a lawyer, I would like to work for a veteran’s service organization because I have seen
firsthand how complicated the whole disability and pay system is for these guys; especially
for those with TBI and/or
PTSD.   I hate to say it, but with these issues, they don’t
remember important details or tasks.  I tried not to micromanage my husband through the
process (but I educated myself on it) and I’m realizing now he didn’t do things he should
have, like sign up for the retiree dental plan and I have an appointment in 2 weeks!!
Retiree dental is more expensive than the dental plan they have while on active duty.  It is
a little over $100 a month and is taken directly out of retirement pay.   Also, I want you all to
know that they will have to sign up for SBP, the survivor’s benefit plan.  It costs about $200
a month and is taken directly out of retirement pay.  If they do not sign up for it, the Army
signs them up for it anyway and I’m sure that is true no matter the branch of service.  

The lessons I've learned:

At the risk of being too long winded…I have a lot to say, there are some lessons I have
learned along the way:

1.  First and foremost, make sure you have copies of your spouse’s medical records…trust
me, you will need them for appeals, etc.  Also, importantly, educate yourself on the
MEB/PEB process.  A good source of information I found was

2.  Educate yourself on legislation that directly affects our wounded warriors.  For example,
medical retirees (Chapter 61 retirees) are now allowed to apply for Combat Related Special
Compensation (CRSC) to make up the difference that is lost due to the military
retirement/VA disability pay offset.  However, they cannot apply for it until they have their
DD-214, their VA rating, retirement orders , and their MEB/PEB results.

3.  Read over the VA’s schedule of ratings for disabilities, otherwise known as the VASRD
so that you are informed of how the VA will rate your spouse’s disabilities.  It can be found
at    Also, it should be noted that Congress
passed a law that requires the branches of service to follow the VASRD.  This was passed
in an effort to make sure the services were not short changing service members.  Another
good forum I found specifically related to veterans issues is the
Veterans Benefit Network.  

4. If you haven’t been told already, wounded service members can apply for social security
disability.  Do it!  It’s a tedious process.  However, not only can your spouse get benefits,
but so can your children.  

5.  Trust, but verify!  Especially if you have a spouse with TBI.  It’s not because you don’t
trust them, it’s because they forget important pertinent information.  

6.  Be on the lookout for important information and medical records not being submitted for
the VA claim.  There is this new process called the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program
that has been established so that service members about to retire can receive their VA
disability almost immediately upon discharge (retirement from the military).  His C&P exams
for the VA were all completed before his PEB was even finished, so the VA did not have his
most current neuropsychological or psychiatric evaluations, which would have afforded him
higher ratings.  My husband was rated 100% permanently disabled by the Army, but the VA
rated him at 90%.  I discovered upon reading the claim award letter, they were relying on
information from 2006.  His claim representative obviously did not submit his most current
information from his PEB even though he had turned it in, so now I’m in the process of
writing the notice of disagreement letter with the VA.  It was especially important for us
because the VA did not use the updated schedule of ratings for TBI that was made
permanent in October of 2008.  Like I said earlier, I tried to remain outside of the process
so as not to micromanage my husband, but now I almost wish I would have!

7.  Finally, take care of yourself and continue to work towards achieving your goals.  Don’t
ever give up on them.  I know it’s hard, but it’s worth it.  It will benefit your spouse in the
long run I believe.  It has really helped my husband to know that he will have to step up to
the plate now and be more involved with the kids.  In short, it will be good for him and help
him to foster a closer relationship with our kids.  If you have any questions, please contact
me at awisyanski -at-  I will be glad to help!  
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