LEGAL

Self-Help Guides

We have developed a series of Self-Help Guides to help veterans and advocates navigate the VA benefits and discharge upgrade process on their own. We know the process can be complex and overwhelming. Our staff and pro bono attorneys take on the most complex cases and prioritize the needs of homeless San Francisco veterans. We are pleased to offer these Guides to help veterans anywhere in the country.

Requesting Copies of Military Records

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You can order your records online or by mail. Here’s how.
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VA Character of Service Determinations: An Alternative to Discharge Review

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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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Upgrading Your Discharge and Changing the Reason for Your Discharge

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We offer a how-to guide that explains the process of applying for a military discharge upgrade or a change in the reason for your military discharge.
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Compensation and Pension Examinations

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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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Dealing with Government Agencies

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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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Guidelines for a PTSD Mental Health Evaluation

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We offer an outline for a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional.
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Writing Your PTSD Stressor Statement

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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

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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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Overpayments of VA Benefits

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of re-enlisting.
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Back-to-Back and Conditional Discharges

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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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DD214 Corrections for Veterans Discharged Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Prior Policies

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This guide is intended to set forth a step-by-step process to upgrading a less than fully Honorable discharge characterization, changing the narrative reason for discharge, and upgrading the reenlistment code (RE-Code) for veterans discharged under DADT and prior policies.
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DD214 Name Corrections for Transgender Veterans

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Although the Department of Defense has yet to issue official guidance to veterans seeking to change their name on military separation documents, this guide seeks to provide a step-by-step process to requesting these records corrections.
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