How to Apply to a Military Service Academy

The service academies are federal institutions that provide an undergraduate education and train future commissioned officers for service in the United States Armed Forces. Applying to a Military Service Academy is a rigorous, highly-competitive, and lengthy process only for the most determined and qualified candidates. Service academies routinely rank amongst the top universities in the nation. Students pay no tuition while at a service academy, but they are required to serve in the military upon graduation. Cadets and midshipmen will receive a small stipend while attending an academy as well as free room and board.

US Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Koch

Listed below are the five federal United States service academies:
The United States Military Academy (USMA) located in West Point, NY
The United States Naval Academy (USNA) located in Annapolis, MD
The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) located in New London, CT
The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) located in Kings Point, NY
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) located in Colorado Springs, CO

To be eligible to apply, you must meet the following initial requirements:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be unmarried with no dependents
  • Be at least the age of 17, but less than 23 years of age by July 1st of the year you would enter the academy.

Along with these points, you will need to meet standards of academics, physical wellness, tattoo placement, and more. Check the specifics of the academy you want to apply for to find the most up to date list of standards.

The biggest questions one must ask himself or herself is: “Do I really want to attend a service academy? Am I ready and willing to serve my country?” Don’t go to an academy if you’re doing it under pressure from family and cohorts; go to an academy because it’s something you truly want and desire.These schools are not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to be challenged academically, physically, and mentally.

When applying for an academy, it is best to start applying early during your junior year in high school. If you are outside of the junior year timeframe, it is still possible to apply so long as you meet the designated age eligibility requirements. Enlisted service men and women in the military are also encouraged to apply. To do so, open a Candidate Profile through the respective school’s website (opening a profile is the only way to initiate the application process).

The next and most critical step is to obtain a congressional nomination from your local congressman or congresswoman, your two State Senators, or the Vice President of the United States. All candidates are eligible to apply for nominations from these four sources. To apply for a congressional nomination, contact your local congressional representative and both of your senators’ offices for information on their application process. The Vice President can nominate candidates without geographical restriction within the United States. To apply for a nomination from the Vice President, you can find information on the White House webpage.

The President of the United States is the source for service-connected nominations (i.e., Junior/Reserve Officers Training Corps for cadets enrolled within an eligible JROTC/ROTC program, children of career military personnel, soldiers in the armed forces, children of Deceased or 100% Disabled Veterans, or children of Medal of Honor awardees).

Ensure you apply through all applicable sources. You only need one nomination from any of these sources to be included in a pool of candidates before a service academy will even look at a potential candidate’s application file.

If applying to USMA, USNA, or USAFA, for example: There are 15,000 applicants interested in attending a particular service academy. Of the 15,000 applicants, about 4,000 of them will receive either a congressional or service-connected nomination. The service academy’s admissions office will then look at those 4,000 nominees and narrow down the list to identify nominees who meet the school’s qualifications. In the end, approximately 1,000 qualified nominees will receive appointments to that service academy. (These rounded numbers were based off a recent academy’s admissions statistics and are not exact numbers.)

Candidates are required to have letters of recommendations, strong transcripts, strong SAT or ACT scores, pass a Department of Defense Military Examination Review Board (DODMERB) physical examination, and pass a fitness test. Candidates are expected to be scholars, leaders, and athletes within their schools or communities. If you are in high school, ensure you are serving in a leadership position, whether it’s as a sports team captain, a class or club officer, or community leader.

For those who dream about attending a service academy, don’t give up if you don’t get accepted the first time. There have been numerous applicants who have applied more than once and eventually received an appointment into an academy. The academies look favorably upon individuals with grit, character, and determination.

If applying to a service academy is your goal, we wish you the best of luck!

About The Author Viv is a West Point graduate, an Army Officer, and an Army wife. She has served on Active Duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in the Army Reserves. She is enjoying life in Texas with her Army Ranger husband (also a West Point graduate).


How to Choose a Military or Veteran Charity

Nonprofit organizations change the lives of those who need the support of others, making it a necessary effort for both those in need, and those with the humility and ability to give. Many Veterans and military families rely on the charity of non-profit organizations that rely on donations to help others. However, when donating to help Veterans and servicemembers, it is important to support the most responsible charities. Add Alt here

The most deserving are charities who focus donations on serving those in need, and focus less on their own paycheck or overspending on fundraisers. With the many non-profit organizations available, it can be difficult to judge which to donate to. With this in mind, we have created a guide on how to choose a non-profit to donate to, as well as a list of some of the most responsible charities that donate to support Veterans and service members in the US.

Before donating:

1.Read the nonprofit’s about page or mission statement. This will help you understand the organization’s goals and who they offer support for. The charity may offer more than one program so browsing the website should provide information on exactly what the charity does.

2. Is the charity exclusive to who they support? Then ask yourself: how important is it to you that the charities you support are or are not exclusively helping military and veterans. Many great military-supporting programs are not exclusive to the military.

3. Research the financial responsibility of the non-profit organization you are choosing by a quick search on, which rates programs based on their financial responsibility. There is a section specifically for nonprofits affiliated with the military, but some are museums and programs that include military as a part of their institution. It’s not bad to support programs such as these, but it’s necessary to be mindful of what you are passionate about, and how you would like to impact the community you’ve chosen to donate to. Two other sites that you can use to research the integrity of a non-profit are and

4. Research to see if your contribution is tax deductible. If it is, keep records, receipts, and communication about your donation so you can fill out Form 1040, where you will itemize deductions in section A come tax season. For more information on tax deductible donations, the IRS provides guidelines and Charity Navigator shares more great advice on the matter.

5. Find the charity that is meaningful to you and give! You’ve done the research and completed the steps above so you can feel good about your decision and even better about giving to the charity of your choice.

If you are not sure about the charity for Veterans or military that you were originally going to donate to, shop around and see if there is another that you are more comfortable with. Researching these non-profit organizations is easy with the steps above, and your money is valuable so make sure you are comfortable with where it goes. When you donate to help Veterans and servicemembers enhance their lives, your contribution is appreciated by many, no matter the size. For a list of Charities supporting Military and Veterans, visit our article.

Father’s Day 2018

For most Fathers, Father’s Day is a celebration where they receive cards, gifts, and showers of admiration and thanks from their loved ones. For Dads serving in the Armed Forces on Father’s Day, the appreciation often travels a great distance to reach them. If you have a Father serving in the Military and he is TDY or deployed over Father’s Day Weekend, you can still share your appreciation and send him a care package to show that though he is far from home, he is not forgotten.

If your Military Dad is home and by your side this Father’s Day, you certainly know how special it is that you can show him your thanks and appreciation in person! Consider taking him out to eat a nice meal. Many restaurants are offering free meals and discounts for Dads.

Father’s Day will be on Sunday, June 17th, 2018.

USMC Photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira
USMC Photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira

History of Father’s Day

Father’s Day was first introduced in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd. Ms. Dodd first proposed the idea of Father’s Day when her pastor gave a passionate speech about Mother’s Day and the importance of mothers.

Ms. Dodd went to her pastor and explained that her father, who was a Civil War Veteran, had raised 6 children as a single parent and that fathers deserved a holiday just as much as mothers did. Father’s Day was proposed by Ms. Dodd to be on the Fifth of June, the birthday of her father; but the pastor had not prepared their sermons in time and thus Father’s Day was postponed until the third Sunday of June.

The holiday did not stick right away and the citizens of Spokane forgot about Father’s Day until Ms. Dodd graduated from college in the 1930’s and began promoting Father’s Day on a national level. She enlisted the help of manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any industry that would benefit the most from the adoption of Father’s Day.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration, and wanted to make Father’s Day a national holiday. Congress resisted, and it was not until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. It was not until 1972 that President Richard Nixon actually signed Father’s Day into Law.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Military Fathers

If he’s deployed, a care package from the family back home is always an amazing gift. Dad will be reminded of his family’s appreciation for his role as a father, even though he’s far away. Things you could include in a Father’s Day care package might be his favorite candies, a picture of the family together, a good book, and a few personal care items like new socks and shampoo. Don’t forget to add a hand crafted item to the care package to make it extra special.

Other gift ideas and options for Military Dads include:

Military Discount – While you’re shopping for the perfect Father’s Day gift, you can also take advantage of the many Military Discounts that are available year round.

Favorite Stores –  Keep in mind that some of dad’s favorite stores may offer a military discount at participating locations. Check out Bass Pro ShopsCabela’s, and other popular retailers. If you’re really not sure what would make dad the happiest, consider giving him a gift card to these places so he can pick out what he wants. He can still use his military discount at any time, instead of just for the holiday.

Dinner – Take your dad out to eat for some Father’s Day Free Meals, Freebies & Discounts. These special offers and discounts are available at participating restaurants like Firehouse Subs, Hooters, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Your dad will surely enjoy a nice meal with his family.

Request a Gift Box – If your father happens to be deployed, you can also request a free Father’s Day care package, sent on your behalf from Full Circle Home.

Call Home for Free – Deployed servicemembers can call home for free, thanks to Google and Gmail.

JibJab – You can also create a funny Father’s Day eCard featuring Dad, with JibJab. Use their website to insert pictures of your favorite people, and create funny videos and eCards . It costs $12 per year and there are humorous videos for every holiday, birthday and much more… so this gift can keep on giving.

#HappyFathersDay – Reach out to your dad through social media to thank him for all he has done.


Military Transition to Civilian Life

Transitioning military can find general information and advice about transitioning from military life back to life among civilians. When transitioning, there are a number of things to prepare for, places veterans can look to for support, and even help finding jobs. The information below is meant to inform transitioning military and spouses about the most important steps to take and resources available when preparing for life as a civilian.

Photo by Sgt. Memory Strickland

Ok, returning to the civilian world is a little scarier than it sounds. But don’t worry! The best thing you can do for you and your family is to gather as much information as possible prior to actually transitioning out of the military. The “transition” period is usually during terminal leave, however, the actual transition can take a little longer than the short length of terminal leave. Here are some ways to get organized and to ensure the smoothest transition possible. The most important thing is simple: stay positive.

First, face the change.

You are here: You receive any combination of the following: base pay, BAH, BAS, COLA, FLPP, and maybe another specialized pay or two. You receive an annual uniform allowance. You have a stable job. You have health insurance. You have dental insurance. Plus a few more perks.

When transitioning: You will be in a little place called limbo: Mostly, you will be confronted with question, after question. Where will I live? What will I do? Should I go back to school? What about my family? And the list goes on…but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time.

Make a Plan: This is a given and you’ve probably heard it more than once. Try to start planning about a year out from your known end of service date, and be sure to incorporate terminal leave if that is the route you choose. If you know you want to go back to school, try to apply a year early so that you can start almost as soon as you’re out. Don’t be afraid to start applying to jobs – but before you do that, spend time on your resume and learn how to write a proper cover letter because these are the contemporary forms of “first impressions.”

Save: If you haven’t been saving for your transition out of the military, start now, and here’s how. Although the military pays for your move, the costs are only covered for travel to your home of record and anything further will be out-of-pocket. Don’t let this discourage you from choosing a different state – you can plan for this. Also, the military will only pay for one car to be shipped (if need be). Keep this potential financial strain in mind as you may want to sell any additional vehicles or find an alternative way of shipping. The car will go to the port closest to your home of record and will need to retrieved from there. If you plan to send someone other than yourself to retrieve the POV (privately owned vehicle) then be sure to specify this person when you drop off the car for shipment. Also, the military will not pay to ship your pets.

There will be unexpected expenses: You will have to wait for your home goods. If you are shipping from overseas, you will have to wait longer. Try to pack things that you will need while waiting for your home goods to arrive. Certainly, you can’t just fold up your mattress into a suitcase, but consider stuffing a duffle with some pillows and blankets. Kitchen items will be packed away too, so you may have to buy a pan or two to make do until your items arrive, and it’s a good idea to keep important documents with you in case of emergencies.

When the movers come to pack your home goods: Be there, and pay attention. If you’ve already moved a few times, then you know this. If not, review these tips. These movers go fast so sometimes they miss an item or two in a bathroom cabinet, but sometimes they miss entire kitchen cabinets. It would be better to have an extra set of eyes or two to ensure that everything is getting packed.

Next: stay positive. Do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow colleagues who are also transitioning, or have already done so. Take the transitioning process one day at a time and stay active in whatever you have chosen to pursue. Try to keep your same workout routine if you can. Wake up in the morning, have your coffee, and get busy.

When job searching, set goals: Today, I will apply to 3 jobs. There are great resources to help find jobs for transitioning military, including Veteran-specific Re-Employment Resources,  transitioning job assistance programs offered by the military, and military friendly employers who want to help.

If you are applying to schools, set goals: This week I will research 3 schools. Look at the programs they offer, do any of them interest you? Look at their credibility and be sure they are regionally accredited.

If you are looking for homes, take it slow: Be sure you have researched the area, visited the area, and maybe even spoken with a few locals in passing. And definitely find out if you are eligible for a VA Home Loan if you are looking to buy.

If you are starting a business, be a go-getter.

Resources During Transition

Utilize the resources offered to you during transition. Each branch of service, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, offers a variety of seminars and materials, some of which are mandatory and some that are not, to aid you in your transition. They offer resume and cover letter writing classes, interview preparations, career counseling, educational counseling, job search, etc. Take advantage of the resume and cover letter writing classes because civilians will not know what you mean when you say ETS, PCS, or any other military acronym.

Benefits of Being a Veteran

Being a veteran offers a lot more than you might think (just be sure you move to a military friendly state). The very day after your terminal leave ends, you are no longer a service member, but a veteran. Welcome, and thank you for your service. Although most military contracts, with a few exceptions, include the remaining 2-4 years of IRR (Individual Ready Reserve), all of your regular active service benefits end, and your veterans benefits begin. The IRR will require you to keep your information updated, such as address and phone number just in case the need arises to recall all troops back to service, but otherwise it does not pose too many obligations.

Here are some things to look forward to:

Post 9/11 GI Bill®: Depending on the percentage of benefits you are eligible to receive, based on your years of service, you can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, which not only covers school tuition, fees, and books, but it also provides Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) based on the school’s zip code. Veterans can even receive MHA when enrolled full time for an online degree.

VA Health Care: Enroll in your free health care. You can do this in person at your local VA Medical Center, or online at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Thanks to the recent Affordable Care Act, there is no need to enroll in additional health care coverage to meet the nation’s standards, and to declare health coverage when filing your taxes. Unfortunately, VA Health Care does not extend to dependents and is only valid for the veteran. If you do have dependents, look into your state’s health care as you are most likely eligible for medicaid due to your recent status of unemployment.

Disability: File claims for injuries received during your time in service, physical or psychological. These claims are assessed after a few visits to the doctor, and you are then notified of your eligibility.

Life Insurance: Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is available to continue for most veterans and is much less expensive than other civilian options for Life Insurance. Many will receive information in the mail, or you can enroll online. Apply before during the first 120 days after your departure date to avoid extra unnecessary health questions. The process is similar to that of the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI).

Home Loan: This is a great benefit to have in your back pocket when you find yourself a civilian looking for a place to live. Before applying, be sure you are ready to be a homeowner. Research for schools in the area, job opportunities, accessibility, and even the weather. It’s easy to buy a home, but it’s not nearly as easy to sell one.

The VA does not offer small business loans, but it does recommend going through the Small Business Administration (SBA) if you are starting a business. Don’t forget you can also look to your military friendly banks for this kind of support, such as USAA and Navy Federal.

Veterans License Plates: Now this does not come with any special privileges per se, aside from the occasional parking spot dedicated to veterans in mall parking lots, but it may make you feel connected to your brothers and sisters in arms. You can also have a veterans indicator placed on your driver’s license.

Store discounts: Always ask if a store has a military discount, many businesses extend their discounts to veterans. Although the discount is not usually not more than 10%, it can still take a bit off the bill.

About The AuthorNatalie Zummo is a US Army veteran and wife of a Marine Corps veteran. She is currently living with her husband and son in New Hampshire, writing and studying in her free hours. Natalie holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and is underway to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on Military Counseling.


How to apply for VA Disability Pay

VA disability claims are an important benefit for Veterans because they have done some of the most important work in the world, not only without complaint, but with discipline and honor. However, there is a backlog in unprocessed claims for Veterans disability pay because the Veterans Affairs system is backlogged. The VA is in the process of reforming their systems to reduce the wait, but with the right preparation you can prevent your claim from being lost in the mix.

45% of America’s 1.6 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are actively seeking service-related

By Lance Cpl. Courtney White
Photo by Lance Cpl. Courtney White

disability claims. In 2013, this high demand resulted in a VA backlog of around 608,000 cases. The average wait time peaked at 282 days, causing returning soldiers to live with physical and psychological impairments for months at a time before receiving compensation.

The process is getting smoother, but the system is still making improvements. Returning veterans can expect to wait for up to six months just for a primary care visit. And those waiting to receive a disability rating could be left in the lurch for as long as two years.

Despite the VA backlog, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances at having your application processed in a timely fashion. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Prepare a Veterans Claim

  1. The key to getting a Veterans disability claim processed in a timely fashion is preparation. Take the time to gather together all medical evidence at your disposal, including any records from your visits to physicians’ offices and any records from hospital stays. If you think it might be important, it probably will be. Get organized early, and then stay that way.
  1. Make sure to assemble any documents related to dependents, since the benefits sought will apply to their needs as well. These documents might include birth certificates for children or marriage certificates if you have a spouse.
  1. The third step in preparing a veteran disability case is perhaps the most important. Veterans need a physician’s report to help establish the fact that the health condition developed while they were in the military, and that it was related to military service. This will help the VA to establish the type and severity of the veteran’s disability, and will assist them in applying the VA rating criteria to your particular case.

Hopefully the next step will be to receive VA compensation and view the VA Disability Benefits Rates. However, even with thoughtful preparation, some people fall through the cracks or have their application for benefits denied. If this happens to you, your next step is to contact a lawyer. Disability lawyers are familiar with the VA system and can be an important ally as you navigate the process.

Don’t Despair

Most importantly, if you find yourself in the VA’s backlog or if your application gets denied, know that you’re not alone. What was once swept under the rug is becoming a consequential campaign issue, with relief not far off. As of September 2015, the VA backlog had shrunk from 608,000 to around 82,000 — a turnaround that has almost certainly resulted from additional public attention being paid to this issue.

Adrienne Erin is a writer who has spent the last 3 years covering health and the healthcare industry. Her interest in the veteran disability system grew when her brother-in-law began pursuing his disability rating and hitting hurdles along the way. You can read more of her work on her blog, Miss Rx.