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I transitioned two years ago. Now with the clarity of hindsight I’ve reflected on the best advice I received on how to transition smoothly. Here are my top four tips:

Plan early. It's a great idea to start your transition planning early. Experts briefed that retirees should begin their transition planning at least two years ahead of their retirement date. Those separating should start at least a year out. These are great benchmark dates, but really successful veterans have transition in mind throughout their careers. For some it is about goal setting. For others it is that bit of sunlight at the end of the tunnel that keeps them going when things are the worst. In either case, plan early for success.

Start your VA Claim as soon as possible. Whether you are expecting to receive a VA disability rating or not, it is a good idea to file a claim. Veterans groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars can help you with the process. When I went through the process it took four months just to get an appointment with the claims advisor, and 9 months to complete the claim! There are two programs available to help you expedite the process while you are still on active duty. If you have at least 60 days until your DOS use the Benefits Delivery at Discharge process. (http://www.benefits.va.gov/predischarge/claims-pre-discharge-benefi...). If you have less than 60 days you can still get a jumpstart on your claim though the Predischarge process. (http://benefits.va.gov/PREDISCHARGE/claims-pre-discharge-quickstart...)

Save for your transition War Chest. Transition is expensive! It’s great if you have a year’s worth of critical expenses put aside for the process. Going hand in hand with this recommendation is to be debt free. Avoid large purchases and debt just prior to transition. You never know, the dream job might be available but it might involve relocating around the world. “Stuff” will just be an obstacle to getting what you really want.

Use the 48 Days program to find or create work you love! This is obvious, but the process helped me decide what kind of work I wanted to do, and the steps to help me find it.

Transition is never easy, but many of us have been there and done that. What’s the best advice you ever got?

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