Military transition programs are an important part of a servicemember’s journey from a military career to civilian life. Leaving military service is complicated–vets may require new housing, definitely need new careers in many cases, and there are transition-related complications such as retiring or separating from an overseas location that can require further assistance.
What do military transition programs offer those who need them?
The Department Of Defense TAP Program
2018 was an important year for veterans. This is the year that the DoD Transition Assistance Program (DoD TAP) got its first major overhaul in nearly a decade.
Described as an “outcome-based program,” DoD TAP is a mandatory program for service members who have served at least 180 days on active duty including members of the National Guard and Reserve. The major changes came thanks to the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which required the program to include the following features:
- TAP must begin a full year (no later than 365 days) prior to retirement or separation. Retirees are actually recommended to start TWO years ahead of time. Provisions are made for “unanticipated” retirement/separation and for members of the Guard or Reserve who are demobilized with less than 365 days. In those cases, TAP “must begin as soon as possible within the remaining period of service.”
- TAP counseling is considered the official start to the transition process. This counseling includes self-assessments, creation of a transition plan, and developing post-transition goals. TAP counseling is supplemented by pre-separation counseling which also must begin no later than one year ahead of separation.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor must provide briefings on benefits and preparation for employment, respectively.
TAP includes multi-day seminars and events, and you may have the option of selecting different “tracks” for some transition events including a Department of Labor Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DoD Education Track, or a Small Business Administration Entrepreneurship Track. There is also a “capstone event” for TAP attendees, defined as an opportunity for “commanders to verify achievement of career readiness standards” which must happen no later than 90 days before release from active duty, retirement, or separation.
How To Sign Up For DoD TAP
The DoD TAP official site has a section of its main page titled, How Do I Get Started? There you will find service-specific portals leading you to your branch of service’s programs.
These portals include event calendars for TAP programs, location guides for TAP services, success stories, and collections of resources. Each branch of the service has a different approach to doing transition assistance, you’ll need to review your service’s portal to review the most current requirements, deadlines, and other details.
The Individual Military Services TAP Programs
On the DoD official site for DoD Transition Assistance Programs, each branch of service has its own portal (see above).
It is easy to assume that these different programs (if viewed on resources outside the DoD official site) are separate from DoD TAP, but these are essentially slightly different names for the same thing–assistance for those retiring and separating from the military with requirements to get counseling, make plans, avoid excessive post-separation down time, and using veteran benefits after getting out of the military.
The individual branches of service offer transition assistance programs including:
- Army Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program
- Navy TAP
- Air Force TAP
- Marine Transition Readiness Program
- Coast Guard TAP
A Warning About TAP
When exploring your DoD TAP options, it is very important to be mindful of scams and impostor websites trying to harvest your personal data. The DoD TAP official site warns of a scam involving a look-alike website called DoDTAP.com (note the dot com instead of “dot mil”) which the DoD says “that attempts to…download malicious software on individuals PCs. Please ensure that you use only the official DoDTAP.mil website.”
Those who attend TAP seminars and other events are often given lists of resources they can use to plan and execute their retirement or separation from the military. Some resource lists are job-centered, others focus on benefits, while some others are intended to help with issues related to continuing education and relocation.
Department of Labor American Job Centers with over 3,000 sites in the USA, offering help with DOL Employment Workshop Participant Guides plus Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS).
The Small Business Administration Veterans Business Outreach Program (VBOP) is offered to veterans considering a small business. Options include counseling, training, referrals, and mentoring.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides its E-Benefits portal, which includes online access to military records including VA award letters, Certificates of Eligibility for VA home loans, access to GI Bill benefit information, pension benefits, etc. This is a vital resource for anyone getting out of the military. Another VA program known as VA Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) is offered to help with post-military job needs.
Some Kinds Of Transitions Require Different Assistance
Depending on your branch of service, there may be different transition assistance programs offered for different types of military separations. A good example of this is found in the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP)which is designed to help those who must retire or separate from military duty due to reduction in force (RIF) measures.
Drawdowns, early retirements, reductions in force, and other force management tools often affect servicemembers in ways they did not anticipate.
ACAP provides “guidance, training, resources, and support” for soldiers making the jump to civilian life after being affected by a RIF. This particular program requires pre-separation counseling at least 24 months ahead of retirement and up to 12 months for those who are separating but not retiring. ACAP is described as an online program that helps with job assistance and other transition issues.
To find out about any transition program that may be offered by your branch of military service, locate your base Transition Assistance Office–most bases have them and those that do not may have a referral program for another nearby base that does. You can also contact your command support staff, First Individual, Command Master Chief, Detailer, or personnel manager about where to find transition resources for your branch of service.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News