When a servicemember prepares to retire or separate from the military, a number of steps must be taken as part of the soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, or Coast Guard members’ journey toward their “final out” or final outprocessing appointment.
Part of that journey is required by law thanks to changes required by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019–legislation that included changes for the DoD Transition Assistance Program.
One of those changes? The requirement that the servicemember be more fully informed about the nature and availability of benefits at retirement or separation time.
All U.S. military services must provide a summary of all benefits available for retiring/separating active duty, Guard, and Reserve troops. The law requires this summary be administered for applicable benefits associated with the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs and it must happen no later than 30 days prior to retirement or separation.
And for that reason, the Transition to Veterans Program Office, in collaboration with the Transition Assistance Program Interagency Partnership plus all branches of service partnered to create a Statement of Benefits for Military Members Guide for just this purpose.
Contents Of The Statement of Benefits at Separation Guide
This 67-page document begins by addressing some of the most basic transition issues–stress when changing careers–and ends discussing VA benefits. The opening pages of the guide acknowledge the life-changing nature of military transitions.
“As you transition back to civilian life, you should identify your own indicators of stress and implement coping techniques that work best for you. Stress indicators can include the following symptoms: fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, stomach problems, feeling nervous, and a desire to be alone. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you may want to seek assistance.”
The guide goes on to list sources for help and support in the transition from military to civilian life.
Resources: Military OneSource
Some of the resources mentioned in the guide are one-stop-shopping type clearinghouses of support and assistance. MilitaryOneSource.mil is one such operation listed in the statement of benefits–this DoD-funded operation provides a large number of resources, information, contact numbers, and programs for transitioning servicemembers including:
- Financial Counseling
- Tax Filing
- Non-medical Counseling
- Spouse Education and Career Opportunities
- Health and Wellness Coaching
- Adult Disability and Elder Care
- Peer-to-Peer Support
- Special Needs
- Document Translation
- Language Interpretation Services
- Wounded Warrior and Caregivers
- Building Healthy Relationships
Military OneSource resources are open to transitioning service members for up to a year after retiring or separating.
What You Should Know About VMET
Other important resources are referenced in the same section of the guide that Military OneSource is listed in. One of those is called VMET, or the Verification of Military Experience and Training (DD Form 2586)
This is a form you can use to document military training and experience that may come in hand when applying for school, jobs, etc. The Statement of Benefits says this form is “useful in discussing civilian occupations related to your military service, as well as, in translating military terminology and training into civilian terms.” This document is available via milConnect and you must use a Common Access Card or DS Logon to access the platform to view your VMET documents.
Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL)
One thing you will learn in the guide is that every branch of military service maintains a COOL website that can help in the following areas:
- Background information about civilian licensure and certification.
- Identify licenses and certifications relevant to your military career.
- Learning how to fill gaps between military training/experience and civilian credentialing requirements.
- Learning about resources available to help you land a civilian job.
Another resource you’ll find in the guide is the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP), intended to help active duty servicemembers, “improve your job skills and complete different civilian apprenticeship requirements while on active duty”.
The Department of Labor “provides a nationally recognized certificate upon completion of the program and is widely acknowledged and accepted by many companies and organizations”.
Resources For Higher Education
One important aspect of the guide is the many resources listed for education benefits including VA options as well as details about how to test out of college programs using DANTES, CLEP, and others. VA options are listed separately from the following you should know about in addition to your GI Bill options:
- College Preparation
- Career & Education Planning
- Kuder Journey
- Distance Learning Readiness Self-Assessment
- College Comparison Support Tool
- College Entrance Exams
- Military Training and Experience Evaluation
- Transcript Services
- College Credit-by-Examination
- Teacher Credentialing and Transition Support
- Voluntary Education (VolEd) Community Support
- Academic Institution Partnerships
- OCONUS Education Center Contact and Support
- DoDTAP Web Portal
- Troops To Teachers and similar programs
VA resources including information on the GI Bill are listed in a separate section from the above information, presumably to keep confusion about which agencies administer which educational benefits for veterans to a minimum.
Your Statement of Benefits At Separation guide will briefly cover what you need to know about federal hiring, claiming veteran or disabled veteran preference points, where you should keep a resume on file for federal hiring, etc.
Veterans preference in Federal hiring means qualifying applicants can apply for jobs with “preference in appointment over many other applicants”. This preference, as the guide explains, “applies to all new appointments in the competitive service and many in the excepted service”.
While such preference does NOT constitute a promise or guarantee to hire you, it is a definite advantage in the screening process. Only those who leave military service under honorable conditions are eligible for Veterans Preference.
There is a lot of information provided in this area–if you started reading the guide knowing very little about your options for federal job opportunities, you will finish that section of the guide much better informed about your options and resources that can help you get started on the federal job hunt.
Military Transition Information
Once getting past the sections about federal job opportunities, roughly halfway through the 67 pages you’ll find information about travel per diem and other options for those transitioning out of military service. Did you know that those retiring or separating can request certain types of TDY and leave for house hunting purposes?
You may be eligible to have certain transportation costs reimbursed for travel to your home of record. Other options include allowing eligible retirees and “certain involuntary separatees” who draw separation pay and at least 8 years continuous active duty are eligible to be reimbursed for “storage and shipment of household goods for up to full year.” Other such benefits may be available depending on circumstances.
Counseling On VA Benefits
The guide includes a lot of information about VA benefits including home loans, GI Bill, grants for disabled servicemembers with qualifying conditions, and a very important section about the medical benefits available post-separation or retirement which may include:
- Transitional healthcare benefits
- TRICARE for retirees
- Suicide prevention resources
- Dental care during the transition
- Survivor Benefit Plans
- Life insurance options (SGLI, VGLI, etc.)
- Separation pay
- VA medical resources–availability, location, etc.
Financial Counseling Options
The Statement of Benefits At Separation Guide also includes resources about financial planning for retired and separated military people. Much of this section is general advice, but there is repeated mention of the Military OneSource resource for issues related to your money.
From here the guide goes on to provide some good information about state-level VA benefits and other transition assistance you will need to claim benefits, get hired, or attend school in a local area. There is general information about transitional healthcare issues, benefits delivery after military discharge, and other general details.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
|Transition Assistance Program – TAP Overview||Military Transition Assistance and Career Help|
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|Military OneSource||Military Transition to Civilian Life|