Self Help Guides

If you are a veteran seeking VA benefits, a discharge upgrade, or just getting copies of your military records, our comprehensive self-help materials may have the information you need.


Upgrading Your Discharge and Changing the Reason for Your Discharge

We offer a how-to guide that demystifies the process of applying for a military discharge upgrade or a change in the reason for your military discharge.

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Requesting Copies of Military Records

You can order your records online or by mail. Here’s how.

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Dealing With Government Agencies

If you’re doing business with government agencies such as the VA and the Social Security Administration, follow these pointers to simplify the process and improve your chances of success.

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Compensation and Pension Examinations

What happens at a VA “C and P” examination? How should you prepare for the exam? We explain the process and offer some helpful tips.

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Guidelines For PTSD Mental Health Evaluations

We offer an outline for a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional.

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Writing Your PTSD Stressor Statement

We guide you step-by-step through the process of preparing an effective stressor statement for your PTSD claim.

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PTSD Statements From Friends and Family Members

You probably have an idea of how the veteran’s life has been affected by military service. Here’s how to tell the VA what you’ve observed.

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VA Character of Service Determinations: An Alternative to Discharge Review

You left the military with a discharge that was less than fully Honorable. The discharge hasn’t been upgraded. You may still be able to get VA benefits — if the VA makes a favorable Character of Discharge Determination.

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Overpayment of VA Benefits

What should you do when the VA claims that you’ve been overpaid? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

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Information For Incarcerated Veterans

What should happen to your VA benefits when you’re incarcerated? Nothing — unless you’ve been convicted. We explain the rules.

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California’s Alternative Sentencing for Veterans and Service Personnel

If you’re facing time in a California jail or prison, there’s a state law that could get you into a treatment program instead.

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Agent Orange: The Basics

If you believe you were exposed to Agent Orange, you need to know how the VA decides whether you’re entitled to benefits. We explain the process.

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Ordering Courts-Martial Transcripts and Military Investigative Records

We offer complete instructions for ordering transcripts and investigative records, with sample letters you can use.

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Discharge Upgrade Information for Military Prisoners

There are steps you can take while you’re incarcerated to improve your chances for a discharge upgrade after you’re released.

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Plan Ahead: Protect Your Rights Before You Leave the Military

After you’re discharged, you may want to apply for VA benefits or a discharge upgrade. You’ll need documentation and the time to get it is now — while you’re still in the military. Here’s a comprehensive list of the materials you’ll need.

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Re-Enlistment: The Basics

Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of re-enlisting.

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Back-to-Back and Conditional Discharges

You stayed in the service beyond your original ETS date, but you left the military with a discharge that was less than fully Honorable. You may still be able to get most VA benefits — without a discharge upgrade or a Character of Service Determination.

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Disclaimer:

These memoranda provide general information only. They do not constitute legal advice, nor do they substitute for the advice of an expert representative or attorney who knows the particulars of your case. Any use you make of the information in these memoranda is at your own risk. We have made every effort to provide reliable, up-to-date information, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. The information published here is current as of December 2012.

© Copyright Swords to Plowshares 2016. These materials are the property of Swords to Plowshares and are made available at no charge. For parties interested in using or distributing these materials, please note that no alterations are permitted and proper attribution must be given to Swords to Plowshares.

Because our legal staff is small and our resources are limited, Swords to Plowshares can represent only a small number of veterans who seek our assistance with VA claims. Please do not appoint Swords to Plowshares to represent you before the VA without our express consent.