A Smart Thing to Do BEFORE You Separate from the Military
When my husband Pat was transitioning out of the Army this past winter there seemed to be an endless amount of paperwork and a wide array of people to meet with. Pat, having suffered a severe traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, needed a little help in this department so I cleared post along side him. Mind you, in this stage of the game, as many of you know, you’ve spent months or maybe even years in rehabilitation as a Warrior in Transition. In addition to that, you’ve most likely endured 6 months, or if you’re really lucky like us, 2 years in the medical board system. The current Wounded Warrior re-cooperation and transition process takes an enormous amount of stamina on the part of the service members and their families.
Let’s face it. At this point we had “retirement fever”, we wanted nothing more than to grab the DD214 and run. Where to, you ask? Who knows! Just anywhere we could get a good long break. Away from hospitals, paperwork, military regulations and this unrelenting war.
So by the time Pat and I reached the finish line, the last crucial few months of out-processing, I had nothing left. I had little to no drive to dot the Is and cross the Ts in order to collect and receive the benefits Pat had painstakingly been awarded. But, after much procrastination and denial I mustered up the energy to make the final push. Getting the DD214 right was top on my lists.
Pat’s infantry commander told me very early on to get his ERB/ORB (Enlisted Record Brief/ Officer Record Brief) in order. I quickly learned that the military pulls from these two documents to create the final DD214. The DD214 is your military resume, it validates your military experience, it includes awards, time in services, tours of duty, MOS and rank. It is a veteran’s ticket to access additional resources and programs once they’ve separated. In my eyes this document is just as valuable as Pat’s birth certificate and/or social security card.
Over the years, Pat kept his “I love me book” fairly up to date. Thankfully, his 1st Sergeant at the Walter Reed WTU was willing to help us update his records. We brought the binder in, which was filled with certificates and awards dating back as far as 1997. We looked over his ORB and his iPerms file within his AKO account. Wow! I was shocked at what we found: missing awards, Pat’s CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) had been awarded and then rejected, his MOS was incorrect and a whole deployment was unaccounted for.
To rectify this quickly, since we only had weeks left before separation the 1st Sergeant scanned every document in the binder and sent them off to Human Resource Command to be input into iPerms. Luckily we were still in contact with Pat’s old commander who was able to light a fire under the S1 out at Fort Lewis, who reinstated his CIB. The 1st Sergeant hounded the Infantry Branch for weeks to pull Pat back through the system.
With only a week to spare we took all of our records down to Building 17 at Walter Reed to the office across from DEERS. This office is where service members do their final out-processing. The staff was committed to help Pat update and correct his ORB and DD214. After many weeks of pulling our hair out, help from the WTU, Pat’s old unit, Infantry Branch and Building 17 his DD214 was good to go. What a mess!
The moral to this story is:
- Review your iPerms account often. Make sure all your awards are documented here.
- Review your ERB/ORB… nobody is going to do it for you.
- Do it early during the dull drums of rehab don’t wait to the bitter end like we did. Save yourself from a huge headache.
- Find an active duty service member in your chain of command who can help you.
- Check, re-check and triple check your DD214 before you sign. Make especially sure your combat tours are listed as wells as your purple heart.
- Once you are out it is very hard to go back and correct these documents, do it now while you still have time.