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This book provides a framework for career transition for military service members and their families. While other books similar in scope address just one or two aspects of the job search process, this one addresses the actual entire transition process and includes the family perspective with it.Key Features:* Considers the family's perspective and needs during the transition process.* Includes charts, checklists, and worksheets.* Provides resume and cover letter advice and sample resumes and cover letters for transitioning military personnel.* Helps with making the decision to leave the military.* Helps with surviving the first month on the job and beyond.
Year:
2005
Publisher:
JIST Works
Language:
english
Pages:
210
ISBN 10:
1593570910
ISBN 13:
9781593570910
File:
PDF, 1.47 MB
Download (pdf, 1.47 MB)

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The only militar y transition book that considers your
family’s perspective and needs!

Military - to Civilian
CAREER TRANSITION GUIDE

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Digitally signed by TeAm YYePG
DN: cn=TeAm YYePG, c=US,
o=TeAm YYePG, ou=TeAm YYePG,
email=yyepg@msn.com
Reason: I attest to the accuracy and
integrity of this document
Date: 2005.05.14 20:54:23 +08'00'

THE ESSENTIAL JOB SEARCH HANDBOOK FOR SERVICE MEMBERS
• Exit strategies for gracefully leaving the military
• Important highlights of potential benefits and entitlements
• Planning and implementing an effective job search campaign
• Sample resumes that translate your experience into civilian terms
• Proven interviewing and salary negotiation strategies
• Tips for surviving the first month on the new job and beyond

Janet I. Farley

Military - to Civilian
CAREER TRANSITION GUIDE

The Essential Job Search Handbook for Service Members

Janet I. Farley

Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide
© 2005 by Janet I. Farley
Published by JIST Works, an imprint of JIST Publishing, Inc.
8902 Otis Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46216-1033
Phone: 1-800-648-JIST
Fax: 1-800-JIST-FAX
E-mail: info@jist.com
Visit our Web site at www.jist.com for information on JIST, free job search tips, book chapters,
and ordering instructions for our many products! For free information on 14,000 job titles, visit
www.careeroink.com.
See the back of this book for additional JIST titles and ordering information. Quantity discounts are available for JIST books. Please call our Sales Department at 1-800-648-5478 for
a free catalog and more information.
Acquisitions Editor: Lori Cates Hand
Development Editor: Michael Thomas
Interior Designers: designLab, Seattle
Page Layout: Deb Kincaid
Cover Designer: Nick Anderson
Proofreader: Linda Quigley
Indexer: Tina Trettin
Printed in Canada.
08 07 06 05 04
987654321
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Farley, Janet I.
Military-to-civilian career transition guide : the essential
job search handbook for service members / Janet I. Farley.
p. cm.
I; ncludes index.
ISBN 1-59357-091-0
1. Career changes—United States. 2. Job hunting—United States. 3.
Retired military personnel—Employment—United States. 4.
Veterans—Employment—United States. I. Title.
HF5384.F37 2005
650.14—dc22
2004015097
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, or
stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews. Making copies of any part of
this book for any purpose other than your own personal use is a violation of United States
copyright laws. For permission requests, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at
www.copyright.com or (978) 750-8400.
We have been careful to provide accurate information in this book, but it is possible that errors
and omissions have been introduced. Please consider this in making any career plans or other
important decisions. Trust your own judgment above all else and in all things.
Trademarks: All brand names and product names used in this book are trade names, service marks,
trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective owners.
ISBN 1-59357-091-0

CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

1

Considering All Your Options

2

When You Don’t Have a Choice
in the Matter

2

What to Know Before You Make It Public
Knowledge

3

The Hardest Thing About Leaving
the Military

4

Anticipating the Culture Shock

6

Chapter 2: Creating Your Overall Transition
Strategy
Your End Game and Transition Timeline
The Ever-Burning Question Remains:
What Do You Do When in the
Transition Process?
Military Transition Assistance
Visiting the Transition Assistance Office

9
9

10
27
27

Your Preseparation Counseling Checklist 29
Stress

32

Employment Assistance

33

Relocation Assistance

34

Education and Training

37

iii

CONTENTS

Health and Life Insurance

39

Finances

41

Reserve Affiliation

45

Disabled Veterans

45

Individualized Transition Plan (ITP)

46

Retiree Benefits

47

Leaving the Service: Important Points
to Remember

47

At Your Final Out-Processing

Chapter 3: VA Benefits and Other Opportunities
Veterans Benefits: A Closer Look

51
51

Education and Training Benefits

52

Life Insurance Benefits

53

Home Loan Benefits

54

Disability Compensation and Pension
Benefits

55

Vocational Rehabilitation and
Employment Benefits

57

Health Care Benefits

57

Family and Survivor Benefits

58

Burial Benefits

59

Other Benefits

59

Job Training Opportunities

60

Workforce Investment Act

60

Licensing and Certification Information

60

Entrepreneurship: When You Want to Be
Your Own Boss

iv

49

61

CONTENTS

Chapter 4: Job Search Necessities

63

Job Search Myths and Realities

64

Establishing a Starting Point

65

Effective Job Search Strategies

66

Think like an employer.

67

Organize your job search campaign.

67

Tap into available job assistance
resources.

70

Identify your work history, marketable
skills, abilities, and experiences.

71

Identify sources of employment
opportunities.

81

Activate your network.

83

Select your references with care.

84

Pitch yourself.

86

Be realistic and reasonable.

86

Chapter 5: Building an Adaptable Resume

89

Why You Need a Resume

89

Five Easy Steps for Designing Your Resume

90

Step One: Identify the focus for your
resume.

91

Step Two: Identify the content and
language for your resume.

96

Step Three: Select the best format to
use.

104

Step Four: Identify additional
experience and include as appropriate.

121

Step Five: Review, edit, and revise your
resume as necessary.

122

v

CONTENTS

What to Do with Your Resume
After You’re Hired

123

Resume Writing Tips Worth Reviewing

123

Chapter 6: Creating Effective Job Search
Letters
The Parts of a Cover Letter

126

The Heading

126

The Dateline

127

The Addressee

127

The Salutation

127

The Introduction

128

The Main Body

128

The Conclusion

128

The Signature Block

130

Thank-You Letters

130

Networking Letters

133

The Letter Resume

135

Get It in Writing

135

The Mechanics of Letter Construction

135

Letter Size

137

Typeface Recommendations and
Enhancements

137

Chapter 7: Winning Interview Skills

vi

125

139

Understanding the Interview Process

139

The Informational Interview

139

The Screening Interview

140

The Employment Interview

140

Tips, Techniques, and Tricks of
the Trade

140

CONTENTS

Before the Interview

141

Get your facts straight.

141

Dress for the occasion.

142

Put on a good attitude.

143

Consider the interviewer’s perspective.

144

Expand your knowledge of the
company.

145

Practice answering common interview
questions.

146

Know how to handle potentially
illegal questions.

149

Show yourself the money—and the
benefits.

150

Prepare your own list of questions.

150

Make up your mind to be yourself.

151

The Day of and During the Interview

152

Arrive on time.

152

Be a spy.

152

Be cognizant of your body language.

153

Listen.

154

If you want the job, ask for it.

154

Look into the future.

154

After the Interview

154

Send a thank-you note.

155

Follow up.

155

Continue your job search efforts.

156

Chapter 8: Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers 157
Evaluating the Offer
Do you really want the job?

158
158

vii

CONTENTS

Can you and the employer come to an
acceptable compensation package?
Making the Decision: Using Your Gut

Chapter 9: You’re Hired! Now What?
Wise Words of Advice for Adjusting to
Life on the Job as a Civilian

170

173
173

Stop. Look. Listen. Learn.

173

Don’t try to change the company
your first week on the job.

174

Don’t participate in office gossip—yet.

175

Be considerate of your new colleagues.

175

Don’t feel like a task is beneath
your level of expertise.

175

Make yourself indispensable.

176

Keep your eyes open for your next job.

176

Keep your skills current.

177

Be willing to admit to a mistake.

177

Keep your resume updated.

177

In Conclusion…

viii

161

178

Appendix: Career Transition Resources

181

Index

187

INTRODUCTION
I

f there’s one thing people in the military and those married to it understand, it’s the concept of change. We
can always count on the fact that things just won’t stay the same
regardless of our efforts to either resist it or encourage it.
Perhaps the biggest change of all comes when we decide to leave
behind the service and its ever-so-eventful lifestyle once and for
all. Enter stress, uncertainty, and a general discontent concerning
the imminent future that suddenly seems to loom before us in the
shape of a huge question mark. To some degree, these feelings
are similar to those we have whenever we’re handed a new set of
orders. A million questions start to form in our minds. Where
will I live? Where will I work? How do I find a job?
Those questions only scratch the surface. Clichéd as it may
sound, these unsettled feelings are normal to have, regardless of
how long you’ve been in the military or been associated with it
as a family member. You may be a “lifer” with an impressive set
of rank on your shoulders, and you’re getting ready to retire in a
year or so. You may think you know it all and have everything
under control. After all, you’ve enjoyed a successful career in the
armed forces. You may be a bold, audacious, risk-taking warrior
capable of conquering anything, but…do you really know what
you have to do in order to actually leave the military?
You thought you had to sign a lot of papers to get in. Just wait
and see how much you have to sign to get out! Are you aware of
your potential benefits and entitlements as a soon-to-be veteran?

ix

INTRODUCTION

Do you know when you should apply to retire or when you can
start a new job? Have you even begun to draft a resume using
the English language as opposed to jargon? Or does your resume
require the language to which you’ve become accustomed? Have
you begun to transition your professional wardrobe from desert
beige to corporate blue?
Maybe you’re not the quintessential soldier, sailor, airman, or
marine. Maybe you’ve only been in the military for a short time,
and for whatever reason, have been told to leave as soon as possible and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You wouldn’t
be in a small minority if this is you. Many individuals find that
the military is not the right avenue for them. Likewise, the military finds that many individuals aren’t right for it, either. This
is a recurrent reality, and you just have to decide at some point
to get on with your life. Talk about your short-term planning
challenges.
Maybe you’re content with your career in the armed forces, but
an unexpected medical or family hardship situation has surfaced
and is the cause for your imminent departure from active duty
service. Again, you wouldn’t be the first to walk down that road.
Regardless of your situation, you can get a grip on what needs
to be done and how to do it. That’s where the Military-toCivilian Career Transition Guide can help you and your loved
ones. This book can help you

x

■

Analyze the choices regarding whether you should stay in
the military.

■

Prepare for what to expect from those around you as you
transition.

■

Identify your available military and civilian resources.

■

Clarify your potential benefits and entitlements as a soonto-be veteran.

■

Create your overall transition strategy.

■

Identify your skills, strengths, weaknesses, and desires.

INTRODUCTION

■

Write powerful resumes and cover letters.

■

Interview successfully for jobs.

■

Effectively evaluate and negotiate job offers.

■

Begin your new job with a clear understanding of the civilian side of things.

When it comes to the transition process, it doesn’t matter
whether you’re in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, or
Marine Corps. To be sure, each service has its own unique name
for different offices or programs. (Ask anyone who has ever been
stationed in a joint-service environment how confusing that can
be at times.) The basic transition function, however, is the same,
and this book can help you wade through the process. Everyone
who leaves the military must complete a DD 2648,
Preseparation Counseling Checklist, and everyone must be made
aware of potential benefits and entitlements. Everyone, at some
point, will wake up to see a civilian looking back at him- or herself in the mirror.
The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide was written by
someone who understands the gritty details of the transition
process as well as the range of emotions that are often involved.
As a career transition specialist and career center manager for
the Army Career and Alumni Program (the Army’s transition
assistance program, known as ACAP) for nearly eight years, I
had the opportunity to assist countless individuals, from all
branches of the service and in diverse career fields, move from
their life with the military into a new civilian existence.
I witnessed many success stories over the years. Success was
experienced by those who embraced the transition process and
who kept their minds open to new ideas. They were the ones
who knew they didn’t have all the answers, but they knew which
office to visit, which Web site to access, or who to call to get
those answers. They were truly empowered and they succeeded.
They knew it might not be an easy process, but they held steadfast regardless and found themselves rewarded in the end (or in
the beginning, if you will).

xi

INTRODUCTION

The ones who failed did so because they chose to deny the reality of their situations either out of fear, anger, or ignorance. They
refused to fully consider their alternatives and they didn’t fully
utilize the services afforded them. They let obstacles flourish
rather than seek solutions to work around them. The old saying
that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink
is alive and well.
In addition to my professional background, I can also write
about this experience from a personal point of view. Throughout
the course of preparing this manuscript for you, my active duty
Soldier and I experienced our own retirement transition from the
military to civilian life, after 21 years and 8 days of PCS’ing all
over the world. As I drafted Chapter 1, he drafted his resume. As
he interviewed for new jobs, I wrote Chapter 7 about the same
subject. As my fearless warrior bravely negotiated the salary for
his new job, I crafted Chapter 8 about job evaluation and salary
negotiation. We genuinely helped each other out with our individual and joint goals as a result. And yes, he landed a great job
with a terrific company, and you can too.
From the personal and the professional perspectives, I can assure
you that the transition process can be gut-wrenching, despite
how knowledgeable or how prepared you may be for it to happen. There will be high moments and low ones. Just when you
feel comfortable with a new set of realities, another offer or circumstance will pop up to make you second-guess yourself.
Accept it. It’s going to happen, and you may find yourself going
over and over the same thoughts until you just want to scream.
If you have a spouse and family members, they will want to
scream too. Everyone has to remember that this isn’t just another
move. It’s the big move and it’s important to get it right the first
time. (That’s why stress management and open communication
between family members is especially important during this time
of your life!)
It’s my sincere hope that you take full advantage of all the
resources and services available to you as you chart these new
waters, including the use of this book. You and your family are

xii

INTRODUCTION

about to embark upon a new chapter in your lives. How exciting is that?
I wish you only the best as you and yours make that transition
from the military into civilian life. May your next adventure in
life be a grand and successful one!
Janet I. Farley
February 2004

Acknowledgements
The process of writing a book requires motivation, knowledge,
dedication, and support. The first three requirements are
admirable and well intentioned. Without the support, however,
the fruits of one’s labor may never find the right audience and
that is a tragic thing indeed.
Fortunately, I had support from many individuals, and the idea
for this book didn’t have to stay swirling around inside my head.
I was able to finally get the words down on paper and into your
hands, where it is my sincerest hope that you benefit greatly
from it. This could not have happened, however, without the
interest and commitment from JIST Publishing, Inc. Thanks
must go to Mr. Michael Farr for his approval and to Lori Cates
Hand, Michael Thomas, Acacia Martinez, and the rest of the
staff for their kind assistance along the way.
As I drafted this manuscript, I was also fortunate to hear from a
number of individuals (active duty, retired, and separated) who
openly shared their feelings, opinions, and experiences with me
for the purpose of writing this book. The members of that crowd
include Chris Babich, Michael and Patty Holley, Eddie and Judy
Wheelock, Eric Binger, Sherry and Steve Martin, Tom
Wiederstein and Patty and John Burgin, and Chris and Kevin
Hamilton and Susan and Thomas Loden. Thanks to Kathie
Hightower, Holly Scherer, T. Walker, Alvin Crawford, Dr. Liz
Skinner, and Laurie Davis are also in order.
I am also grateful to Mr. Ramon Vargasortiz of the Mannheim,
Germany Transition Center, who kindly reviewed my facts in

xiii

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 2 to ensure that they were honest and accurate to the
date of his review.
To honestly give credit where credit is due, I must extend my
deepest thanks to the Army Career and Alumni Program
(ACAP), where I worked for many years as a transition specialist and later as a contract installation manager. During that time,
I was afforded the invaluable opportunity to learn everything I
ever wanted to know about this topic. More importantly, I was
able to pass that knowledge on to others, from all branches of
the military wearing varying ranks, who were able to make better decisions in their lives because of it. Nothing is more professionally fulfilling to me than that.
Thanks must also go to Frances and Theresa Farley, whose
patience is far greater than their tender ages. A deep debt of gratitude for his support and input is owed to my husband, Therman
Farley. As I wrote this book, he and I experienced our own personal military-to-civilian career transition together after 21 years
of his service in the U.S. Army. It forced me to really look beyond
the professional advice side of my experience and to embrace the
genuine feeling side of it as well. I’ve come full circle on the
whole transition issue and I have Farley to thank for that.
Last, but far from least, I thank you. I envy your place in life
right now because you are on the verge of a new adventure and
nothing can be more exciting than that. It is my deepest hope
that you walk away from this book better prepared to handle
your own transition. I welcome your comments and/or suggestions at janetfarley@hotmail.com. Godspeed…and get a job.

Dedication
Dedicated with the greatest of love and thanks to
T. A. Farley, Jr., MAJ, U.S. Army, Retired
Frances Taylor Irene Farley
Theresa Anne Farley

xiv

CHAPTER 1

Should You Stay or
Should You Go?

T

he sleek multimillion-dollar
Madison Avenue advertising
campaigns worked just fine on
you. Perhaps you were swayed by the “Aim High” Air Force
fighter jets bolting across the bright blue morning sky. Or maybe
Uncle Sam convinced you that you too might be “one of the few,
the proud, the Marines.” You might even have been hypnotized
by the Navy’s state-of-the-art nuclear submarine diving far into
the ocean’s depths, where no one has ever gone before. Or maybe
you decided that you too could be “an Army of one,” following
in your father’s or mother’s honorable footsteps. Maybe you
were enticed by the promise of paid college tuition and the lure
of adventurous travel. Perhaps, like many others, you were influenced by two toppled towers, a smoldering Pentagon, a burnedout field in the middle of nowhere, and a stunned nation one
unforgettable September morning in 2001.
For whatever reason, recent or distant past, you joined the
United States military. Maybe you put on your uniform over 20
years ago or perhaps you’ve only worn it for a short while.
Regardless of the amount of wear and tear on your BDUs, if
you’re reading this book, you’re probably contemplating the
next phase of your life. Before you leap wholeheartedly or reluctantly into that new dimension, make sure you clearly understand what it is you are about to do by fully considering all of
your options.

1

CHAPTER 1

Considering All Your Options
Everyone has his or her own story in the military, and you’re no
exception. Maybe you are an activated reservist who doesn’t
want to go back to the same old job. Maybe you’re at that magical 10-year point where you just know in your gut you have
come to a crossroad and must choose one path or the other.
Maybe you’re a lifer within a few weeks of being able to drop
your retirement paperwork, and the lure of the “other side” is
starting to do more than just get your attention. Perhaps your
contracted tour of duty in the desert, on a rock, or on some
remote mountaintop, is nearing an end. You could be on the
other end of that scale, without the luxury of choice. Perhaps
you were passed over for rank that last time, or a medical condition prevents you from continuing your military service.
Perhaps you did something incredibly stupid or sorely misunderstood. Maybe you and Uncle Sam just aren’t compatible. All
these situations, while different in nature and scope, result in the
same outcome: life after the military.
If you have a choice and the luxury of time, don’t automatically
make a decision one way or the other. Take time to think about
the pros and cons involved with a career in the military. Fully
explore your options. Seek the advice of subject matter experts
around you and make an educated decision that is right for you
personally and professionally.

When You Don’t Have a Choice
in the Matter
Are you absolutely sure that you don’t have a choice regarding
your stay in the military? Sometimes circumstances can be
cloudy, to say the least. If there is any doubt whatsoever in your
mind, talk to someone with authority and current knowledge in
your food chain at the personnel, legal affairs, chaplain’s, or
Transition Assistance Office. Don’t hesitate to get a second or
third opinion on the matter. This is your life and your career.
Don’t worry about stepping on someone’s ego to get the answers

2

S H O U L D Y O U S T AY O R S H O U L D Y O U G O ?

you need to make the right decisions for you and your family
regarding your future.
After thoroughly investigating your unique situation, if you find
that you truly don’t have a choice regarding whether you stay in
the military, then the decision to leave is an easy one, isn’t it? It
may not be a pleasant one. It may not be one that you want to
have happen in your life or it may be just the ticket you were
seeking. In any event, you can truly influence your future success
by how you handle this moment in time. As a military outplacement specialist, I’ve seen people compromise their future possibilities because they were so bitter about being forced to leave
the military. They radiated anger and, believe me, potential
employers and others that they networked with could sense that
negativity. It didn’t do them any favors, and it won’t help you
out, either.
If you are leaving the military under less than pleasant circumstances, choose the high road in your exit. Forget about trying to
get back at anyone for ill you may have received. Focus on what
you can control and what you can achieve going forward.

What to Know Before You Make It
Public Knowledge
If you have come to the definitive decision that you are getting
out of the military, then you have reached the internal point of
no return. It is now up to you to make your transition as smooth
and as profitable for you and your family as possible. You can
accomplish this by doing the following:
■

Get a grip on your new reality. Accept the fact that you and
your family will be stressed about this transition regardless
of how well you execute the whole process. Change is
stressful. Develop a plan for keeping blood pressure levels
low. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan. It just has to
work. Walk the dog, work out, go for a jog, engage yourself in a self-absorbing hobby or anything that will help you
keep things in perspective.

3

CHAPTER 1

■

Create an overall transition plan that works for you. Your
Transition Assistance Office will provide you with a standard framework for this, but it’s up to you to customize it.
Moreover, it’s up to you to actually work that plan. No one
is going to hold your hand throughout this process, so
don’t expect that for one minute.

■

Study up on your job-hunting skills. Even if you have previous experience in the job search process, take advantage
of the free services offered you by the military as you leave
it. Taking advantage of these services will allow you to network with others who are going through the same experience. Additionally, it will connect you to professionals who
are likewise connected to employers seeking qualified candidates for positions. It’s a win-win opportunity. Don’t let
it slip by just because you think you know everything about
job hunting already.

■

Learn the skills necessary to help you manage your new
career. Your next job won’t be the result of “another PCS
move.” It will be your new job, maybe your first job, in a
totally new work culture. Step gently until you have a real
feel for the environment.

The Hardest Thing About Leaving
the Military
Paperwork? Sure, there’s no shortage of it when you decide to
get out. Everything you sign will have some major importance
to it and need to be filed away for some future reason.
Organizational skills are a definite must for the transitioner!
Paperwork is not, however, the hardest thing about leaving the
military. Sentimentality? You wouldn’t be the first person to get
a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach when it finally hits you
that you’re leaving behind the comfort of a strangely selfcontained world. Writing what may be your first resume ever?
(No, you don’t have to label it “Unclassified” at the top of the
page.) Updating your wardrobe? (Shockingly, green, black,
brown, and blue are not the only shades on the color wheel.)

4

S H O U L D Y O U S T AY O R S H O U L D Y O U G O ?

Finding your next source of income? That’s a hard one, but not
the hardest.
All of these things represent real challenges when you decide to
leave behind your camouflaged lifestyle, but the hardest thing
about leaving the military might surprise you. You will, however, recognize it in an instant when you experience it. It involves
the people you work with or report to every day. What you will
most likely discover is that your chain of command and your
peers or co-workers don’t want you to leave.

Family Voices
We are planning on making our transition shortly after he returns
from his one-year deployment to Iraq. Our concerns at this point
in our lives are the unknowns of what is ahead. At this point, we
are saving all we can for retirement. We own our own home and
have less than 10 years to pay it off. Our only child just turned
nine years old, so stability and roots are becoming important to
us right now also.
—Patty Burgin, Military Spouse Extraordinaire

Now, that may sound touching, but it’s not. They know that the
workload goes on even when you leave, and they will be left to
bear it. Warm bodies, as you know, are a real commodity in the
military. There just aren’t as many of them as there used to be.
Those living, breathing human resources will be forced to take
up the workload from those who move on (that would be you),
at least until new blood is assigned to the unit or until your
replacement hits the same competency level that you are taking
with you. Maybe you have even experienced this yourself when
others have left the military. Those who you work with will
either provide you with the emotional and real-world support
you need to get your transition together, or they will rather
unpoetically dump every last dirty job on you to complete before
your exit.
It’s not always just those you work with, either. Your best friend,
your spouse, or even your kids can quickly let you know in

5

CHAPTER 1

subtle ways (or not) that your change in direction is not necessarily a welcome one for their personal security levels.
So where does this get you? One step ahead of the process if you
realize that others may not share in your enthusiasm for a future
sans uniform. You can try to reason with the offended parties
and hope that they understand your situation. Don’t count on it
working out smoothly with everyone. Just know that you will
have to find some way to deal with this resistance when it hits
you square in the face.

Anticipating the Culture Shock
You are leaving a completely self-contained environment for one
that is not quite so clear cut. Will it be different? Oh, yes. Even
if you work for the government after you get out, things will be
different.
When you wear your uniform, you possess an automatic status
within the culture. In a sense, you wear your resume. Someone
can look at the patch on your sleeve and see which unit you
belong to. The rank you wear on your shoulder or on your lapel
tells someone (theoretically, at least) what level of responsibility
you carry. Everyone in uniform generally has a well-kept haircut
and enjoys a certain level of physical fitness.
As a civilian, you can let your hair grow, get an earring in your
nose, and gain those extra 10 pounds if you want to. No first
sergeant or commander is going to tell you to remove them. No
civilian is going to salute you as you walk down the street. And
forget about showing your ID card at the local grocery store.
You’ll discover that, unlike in post or base housing, you can keep
your yard any way your heart desires. Your neighbors probably
won’t care unless you bring down the property values around
you. Things will also be different on the job.
When you leave the service, don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling a little at odds over your new lifestyle. Chances are
that you may even find yourself in mourning over your new

6

S H O U L D Y O U S T AY O R S H O U L D Y O U G O ?

civilian status, even if you wanted to get out of uniform more
than anything in the world. That may sound odd, but it’s not
uncommon. You may experience some or all of the typically recognized stages of grief such as denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finally, hope. To effectively
manage these stages, it’s critical that you establish attainable
goals, communicate clearly and often with those around you,
and diligently work your transition plan.
Perhaps the best strategy for dealing with any of these stages is
to confront head-on any obstacles that come your way. Don’t
ignore potential problems that could fester and morph into nasty
monsters. Remember that you have a support network available.
You might find comfort and solace from any number of sources
when tough times hit by turning to your spouse, your children,
your golfing buddies, your chaplain, or a trusted friend. The
Family Service Centers and the Transition Assistance Offices
near you also offer concrete advice for turning dismal situations
around with the assistance of positive action.

Focus on the Family
As the person in uniform, it’s easy to focus on yourself during
the transition. If you are blessed with a spouse and/or a family,
it’s crucial that you include them in the whole process from start
to finish.
Perhaps your family has been by your side for years and has
endured countless transfers and untold heartache along with the
good. It’s not easy being married to the military, as anyone in
that position can tell you. Be sure you keep those lines of communication open between you and the family during this critical
juncture in your lives. It may not be easy on everyone, and you
need to be able to see that storm coming before it happens.
Honestly and openly share your feelings with one another and
fully consider the needs and wants of each member of your family. You’re in this together, just as you have always been.

7

CHAPTER 2

Creating Your Overall
Transition Strategy

T

ransition. Think about it. When
was the last time you weren’t
already living some type of transition as a member of the armed forces family? In all reality, you
probably can’t remember when you weren’t experiencing change.
That’s the very nature of the military beast. The saving grace here
is that you can use the skills you’ve always called upon to adapt
and to succeed with this particular transition despite it having a
vastly different destination.
In your military career, you never embarked on any mission
without prior planning. This mission is certainly no different.
You’re at a critical point where you need to do two things. First,
you need to know your end game. In other words, where do you
see yourself after this transition? This involves more than just
knowing where; it involves developing a detailed timeline outlining your plan to get there. Second, you need to work that timeline by gathering as much information as possible so you can
make educated decisions along the way. Picture this framework
in your mind and set it up on a piece of paper, in your handheld,
or on your computer. Refer to it daily. Make sure your progress
is just that, and not idle waiting and wishing.

Your End Game and Transition
Timeline
Where do you see yourself when you get out of the military? In
a similar job with a civilian employer? In a totally different

9

CHAPTER 2

career field? Being your own boss? Asking the customer if they’d
like fries with that order? If you haven’t already done so, you
certainly need to give this topic some thought. You need to have
an idea of where you want to be in the end. That’s not to say that
you will achieve that end result with the first job interview or
even within the first year. It is a goal that you will plan for and
work towards.
In addition to having that goal, you must mix in a healthy dose
of reality. For example, what are your immediate employment
needs? Do you have a family that has to be taken care of and a
mortgage that has to be paid on time? Do you have a sufficient
financial cushion to allow you the luxury of time in your job
search, or do you need to get hired as soon as possible to keep
the money flowing comfortably?
There aren’t any right or wrong answers here. Everyone will
have their own take on the subject. Only you can determine
what you need to initially focus on for your unique situation.
The ideal situation is that you can take your time looking for
that perfect job and not accept anything less. The reality is that
you sometimes need to take a decent job, get used to being a
civilian again, and discreetly continue your job search. This
doesn’t mean that you abandon your goal. In fact, it means that
you work even harder to see it materialize.

The Ever-Burning Question Remains: What Do
You Do When in the Transition Process?
It would be easy if you were issued a crystal ball and could simply predict the future; however, there’s no fun in that, is there?
Because everyone has his or her own situation, timelines for
transition will likewise differ.
■

10

If you plan to retire from the military, you should start
preparing at the two- or three-years-out mark. At that
point, retirement may still seem a long way off, but it’s not.
It will hit you in the face before you know it. The longer
you have to contemplate and set up your post-uniform
move, the better for you and your family.

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

■

If you are retiring or voluntarily separating from service,
your actual transition should begin at the one-year-out
mark. Again, you may find that this notion is not always
wholly supported within the military food chain, but it’s
still the ideal. If you’re contemplating retirement, it’s a
necessity. If you’re voluntarily separating, the next best
plan is the six-months-out time frame; however, a year is
still ideal.

■

If you are being involuntarily separated from the military,
your timeline gets a bit complicated. You might find yourself out of the service within one year, one month, one
week, or 48 hours, depending upon your circumstances.
You don’t always know how much time you’re going to
have to process your transition and begin your job search.
Your future is in someone else’s hands, and it’s disturbing
to say the least.

If you find yourself in this situation, then you must exercise extra
diligence in planning your transition and implementing it.
Suppose, for example, you are going to be separated from the
military because of a medical condition. You have a period of
time when you are waiting to see what the medical board is
going to determine about your case. The end result could be that
you have to exit the military within 90 days from the date of the
approved medical message. On the other hand, the end result
could demand that you remain on active duty despite your situation. You don’t know and you won’t know until the findings
are presented to you. In this case, if you wait for the results from
the medical board to plan your transition, write your resume,
and research the job market, you will find that you are way
behind the power curve if you are forced to leave the service. For
your own benefit, you have to move forward with the process as
if you were leaving the service. If it turns out that you don’t go,
then you’ve lost nothing. You’ve completed a dry run for that
time when you do transition.
This is critical. Don’t let your emotions hinder your clear judgment. You wouldn’t do so while on duty; don’t do so while planning your future.

11

CHAPTER 2

Having said that, it’s time now to look at exactly what needs to
be taken care of during your transition and when you should
take care of it. We’re going to assume, for the purpose of this
proposed timeline, that you have at least six months to aggressively implement the tasks in this plan. If you have more or less
time available, then you must adjust the timeline to fit your
schedule.

12

If applicable, make
the decision whether
to retire or not. If
you do, make sure
your voluntary retirement is accepted
by your branch of
service within service guidelines.
Include your family
in the decision.

If retiring, provide
the Transition Assistance Office with an
approved copy of your
retirement.

365–300

Activity

730–365

Days
Before
Separation

Transition
Assistance
Office

Personnel
Office,
Transition
Assistance
Office

Resources
to Assist
You

Preseparation Timeline Activities Checklist

■

■

■

■

(continued)

Completed

Scheduled

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

13

14
Transition
Assistance
Office

Transition
Assistance
Office

Transition
Assistance
Office

Transition
Assistance
Office

Schedule and attend
mandatory Preseparation
Counseling with your
spouse, if you have
one.

Complete your DD 2648,
Preseparation Counseling
Checklist, with the
assistance of a career
counselor.

Attend a Transition
Assistance Workshop.
Your spouse can also
benefit from this
workshop.

Develop your unique
job search strategy and
begin researching the
job market.

180

180

180

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

180

Days
Before
Separation

(continued)

Completed

■

■

■

■

Scheduled

■

■

■

■

CHAPTER 2

Education
Center

Personnel
Office
You and
your
immediate
family
Personnel
Office

Objectively assess your
skills and interests by
taking a vocational
interest inventory.

Review and make a copy
of your personnel
records.

Have a family meeting
and jointly discuss
potential job and
living locations.

If you are stationed
overseas and wish to
remain there after
separation, obtain
approval to do so.

180

180

180

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

180

Days
Before
Separation

■

■
■

■

■

■
■

■

(continued)

Completed

Scheduled

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

15

16
Transition
Assistance
Office,
personal
shoppers at
reputable
stores
Personnel
Office
Friends,
family,
colleagues,
and new contacts
Transition
Assistance
Office

Begin assembling a
civilian wardrobe
suitable for employment purposes.

Determine your permissive TDY and transition leave options.

Begin networking with
everyone.

Attend job fairs to
meet contacts and
gather job leads and
employer information.

180

150

150

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

180

Days
Before
Separation

(continued)

Completed

■

■
■

■

Scheduled

■

■
■

■

CHAPTER 2

Job search
and relocation Web
1
sites, networking contacts,
newspapers
Family
Center,
Chaplain’s
Office,
family and/or
friends
You, your
immediate
family, and/
or your financial
planner or advisor

Continue researching
the job market,
targeting specific
locations and opportunities.

Stress check: Are you
doing okay? If not,
seek the assistance of
available resources.

Establish and/or review
your financial plan to
see you through this
transition.

150

150

150

See the Appendix for an extensive listing of helpful Web sites.

1

You and your
immediate
family

Develop alternate plans
of action as a backup.

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

150

Days
Before
Separation

■
■

■

■

■
■

■

■

(continued)

Completed

Scheduled

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

17

18
Order online
at www.dmdc.
osd.mil/vmet

Transition
Assistance
Office and/
or Family
Service Center
Civilian Personnel
Office, Transition
Assistance
Office

If you are under obligation to do so, join
the Reserves.2

Request Your Verification of Military Experience and Training
(DD Form 2586) to
assist you in preparing your resume.

Draft your resume and
have a career counselor
review it and offer
suggestions/comments.

Pull together your federal
employment packet if you
are considering this avenue
of employment.

150

120

120

120

Completed

■
■

■

■

Scheduled

■
■

■

■

If you have not completed eight years of active-duty service in the military, you should schedule an appointment with the Reserve Component
Career Counselor to clarify your remaining obligation to the military and potential options available to you.

2

Reserve
Component
Career Counselor

Activity

Days
Before
Separation

Resources
to Assist
You

(continued)

CHAPTER 2

Friends, family,
colleagues, and new
contacts
Housing
Office

Education
Office

Continue with your
networking campaign.

If living in government quarters, inquire
about clearing
procedures.3

Clarify your educational benefits and
entitlements.4

120

120

120

Completed

■

■
■

■

Scheduled

■

■
■

■

(continued)

See Chapter 3, “VA Benefits and Other Opportunities,” for more information about your potential educational benefits and entitlements.

4

In rare circumstances only, separating service members may have the option to stay in housing for a limited time at their own expense. Talk to
your housing office for more information.

3

Relocation
Assistance
Office and
online at
www.dmdc.osd.
mil/sites

Explore your relocation
options and entitlements.

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

120

Days
Before
Separation

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

19

20
Transition
Assistance
Office

If you plan to attend
college after your
separation, find out
what admittance exams
may be required by the
school you wish to attend.5

Clarify your transitional health care
entitlements.6

120

120

Completed

■

■

Scheduled

■

■

The Transition Office actually clarifies your eligibility for this benefit. The Health Care Advisor at the military medical treatment facility can give
you details about the actual programs.

6

Don’t forget that some required exams (i.e., GMAT, GRE) as well as optional exams such as CLEP are usually available at the Education Center
and do not cost you anything as an active-duty service member. Test before you take off your uniform!

5

Education
Office,
Student
Affairs Office
at the school
of your choice

Activity

Days
Before
Separation

Resources
to Assist
You

(continued)

CHAPTER 2

Career and
employer Web
sites, newspapers,
firms

Transition
Assistance
Office,
your own sound
judgment
(or your spouse’s!)

Begin applying for jobs
using the final version of
your resume targeted to
specific opportunities
and conduct follow-up
calls/visits.8

Pull together your
interview outfit.

90

90

Completed

■

■

■

Scheduled

■

■

■

See chapters 4 through 8 for specific job search strategies and guidance.

8

(continued)

If you are retiring or separating because of a medical condition, a physical exam is required. It is free health care. Take advantage of it!

7

Medical
Treatment
Facility

Schedule a separation
physical even if it is
not a requirement for
your transition.7

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

120

Days
Before
Separation

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

21

22
Order online
at www.dmdc.
osd.mil/vmet.
Friends, family,
colleagues,
and new contacts
Retirement
Services
Office or
Transition
Assistance
Office if you are
stationed overseas
Transportation
Office

Activity

Request your Verification of Military
Experience.

Continue with your
networking campaign.

If retiring, schedule
and attend an SBP
briefing. Your spouse,
if you have one, is
required to attend.

Schedule an appointment to clarify your
shipment and storage
of household goods
potential benefits and
entitlements.

90

90

90

90

Days
Before
Separation

Resources
to Assist
You

(continued)

■
■

■

■

■

■

■

■

Completed

Scheduled

CHAPTER 2

Dental
Facility
Transition
Assistance
Office
Legal
Office
Friends,
family,
colleagues,
and new contacts

Activity

Schedule a final
dental exam.9

Find out if you are
eligible for separation pay.

Prepare or update your
will if necessary.10

Aggressively continue
your networking and job
search activities.

90

90

90

60

Completed

■
■
■
■

Scheduled

■
■
■
■

(continued)

This service is free while you are in on active-duty status. If you are retiring, you should still be eligible to use the services of the Legal Office free
of charge even after you separate. If you are not retiring, you would need to pay for such services. Again, use them before you lose them!

10

If time doesn’t permit you to do this, make sure that the dental facility notes so on your final clearance. The VA will allow for a one-time cleaning
and exam up to 90 days after your separation, if you did not do so within the 90 days before your separation.

9

Resources
to Assist
You

Days
Before
Separation

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

23

24
Transition
Assistance
Office,
VA Representatives, or
online at
www.va.gov
Chamber of
Commerce,
Relocation
Assistance
Office, online
at www.dmdc.
osd.mil/sites
Friends,
family,
colleagues,
and new
contacts

Inquire about your
potential Veterans
Benefits.

Visit the area where
you plan to live after
separation.

Continue to aggressively
network and apply for
jobs.

30

30

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

60

Days
Before
Separation

(continued)

Completed

■

■

■

Scheduled

■

■

■

CHAPTER 2

Transition
Assistance
Office

Department
of Labor
Medical/
Dental
Facilities
Plan to
your own
taste and
budget

Review your allimportant Certificate
of Release or Discharge
from Active Duty (DD
Form 214) for accuracy
as well as any other
required documents.

If unemployed, inquire
about unemployment
compensation benefits.

Copy and review your
medical and dental
records.

If retiring, plan
your retirement
ceremony.

30

30

30

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

30

Days
Before
Separation

■

■
■
■

■

■
■
■

(continued)

Completed

Scheduled

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

25

26
Obtain form
online at
www.va.gov
or visit the
Transition
Assistance
Office or
a VA office.
VA representative,
Transition
Assistance
Office
Personnel
Office,
Retirement
Services

Complete your Veterans
Affairs Disability
Application (VA Form
21-526).

Investigate the pros
and cons of converting
your SGLI to VGLI.

If retiring, begin the
process of obtaining
your new ID cards.

30

7

Activity

Resources
to Assist
You

30

Days
Before
Separation

(continued)

Completed

■

■

■

Scheduled

■

■

■

CHAPTER 2

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

Once you have a guideline to follow, it’s critical that you do so.
Only by literally checking off the boxes will you ensure that you
have covered the important areas concerning your transition. All
of the items on the Preseparation Timeline Activities Checklist
may not apply to you. There may be others that you should add
according to your own unique situation. Photocopy and use the
guideline as is or creatively revise it so it’s tailored to you. It’s
your guideline and you should do whatever it takes to make it
work for you.

Military Transition Assistance
As you read over the timeline, note one recurring theme:
Transition Assistance Office.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you visit this office
as soon as possible. Even if you have only the vaguest notion of
leaving the military, visit the professionals who work here and
start getting answers to your questions. Visiting the office alone
does not commit you to getting out of the military. If you’re concerned that your presence there might send the wrong message
to your colleagues or to your boss, call or e-mail the office
instead of visiting it. Most counselors will be happy to answer
your questions or point you in the right direction over the phone
or by e-mail. You might also try visiting during your lunch hour
versus taking time off from work.
The point is this: You can only make an educated decision about
your future if you get the answers to your questions first. You
might discover, after thoroughly investigating the job market,
that staying in the military is a better option for you at this time.
You would never be able to come to that conclusion had you not
researched the issue. Or, quite the opposite, your findings might
reinforce your belief that it’s time to switch employers.

Visiting the Transition Assistance Office
You may know where to find your local Transition Assistance
Office already. If not, the following information may help:

27

CHAPTER 2

■

If you’re in the Army, visit the Army Career and Alumni
Program (ACAP). (They will facilitate your preseparation
counseling and refer you to the Transition Assistance
Office.)

■

If you’re in the Air Force, visit the Transition Assistance
Staff or Career Consultant at the Family Support Center.

■

If you’re in the Navy, visit your Command Career
Counselor at the Fleet and Family Support Center.

■

If you’re in the Marine Corps, visit your Career Resource
Management Center Specialist at the Personal Services
Center (formerly the Family Services Center).

■

If you’re in the Coast Guard, visit the Work-Life Staff.

For this book, the generic term “Transition Assistance Office”
will be used to indicate the above locations. To locate any
Transition Assistance Office worldwide, hop on the Internet and
access the Department of Defense Transportal Web page at
www.dodtransportal.org. This is an excellent starting point to
gain an overview of the entire transition process. Using the Web
page, you can locate any Transition Assistance Office in the
world, based on your branch of service. It also provides you with
an online version of the Preseparation Guide, a DOD handbook
providing information on various services and benefits available
to separating service members and their families. (The
Preseparation Guide is also known as DA Pam 635-4, NAVMC
2916, AFJMAN 36-2128, or NAVPERS 15616.) The most
recent edition of the guide (as of the printing of this book) is
October 2001. It is a must-read for every transitioner.
After you contact your Transition Assistance Office, then what?
The professionals who work there know that knowledge is critical to your future success, and that’s what they can provide you.
They are the ones who will usually facilitate your mandatory
preseparation counseling, which involves completing your DD
2648, Preseparation Counseling Checklist.

28

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

Your Preseparation Counseling Checklist
At first glance, you might believe DD 2648 to be just another
form that you have to fill out and sign in order to further your
trek to separation. It is not. It is a required form that becomes a
part of your permanent personnel file. By signing it, you tell
Uncle Sam that you are aware that certain potential benefits and
entitlements may be due you.
Quite likely, if you do not have your DD 2648 at your final
clearing point, you will not be cleared. You will be sent to the
Transition Assistance Office for proof that you have received
your mandatory preseparation counseling, and that proof comes
in the form of DD 2648.
The form itself (see pages 30–31) resembles a checklist loaded
with various talking points that are vital to your future. You will
be required to check YES or NO after each point to indicate
your interest in obtaining more information on a given topic. It
won’t hurt you to check YES on everything, even if something
doesn’t apply to you. Checking NO will not prevent you from
receiving an entitlement if you are honestly due it.
After you have been briefed, either by a counselor or by a computer talking head, you will be given a list of service providers
and asked to sign the form. You will be permitted a copy; the
transition office may keep a copy or two. Each transition office
may have its own procedures; just remember that you need to get
this block checked off in your exit process without fail.
It’s also important to remember that the burden of getting the
answers to your many questions lies only with you. You are
given the tools (the basic information and the service provider
contact numbers), and it is up to you, not the folks at Transition,
to get the answers to the questions you have. If you happen to
get answers that are confusing, ask someone else for clarification. It’s worth the extra effort, and it could mean the difference
between receiving a benefit due you or not.

29

CHAPTER 2

PRESEPARATION COUNSELING CHECKLIST
(Please read Privacy Act Statement below before completing this form.)
SECTION I - PRIVACY ACT STATEMENT
AUTHORITY: 10 USC 1142, E.O. 9397.
PRINCIPAL PURPOSE(S): To record preseparation services and benefits requested by and provided to Service members; to identify
preseparation counseling areas of interest as a basis for development of an Individual Transition Plan (ITP). The signed preseparation
counseling checklist will be maintained in the Service member's official personnel file. Title 10, USC 1142, requires that not later than 90 days
before the date of separation, preseparation counseling for Service members be made available.
ROUTINE USE(S): None.
DISCLOSURE: Voluntary; however, it will not be possible to initiate preseparation services or develop an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) for a
Service member if the information is not provided.
SECTION II - PERSONAL INFORMATION (To be filled out by all applicants)
1. NAME (Last, First, Middle Initial)
2. SSN

4. SERVICE

3. GRADE

6. EXPECTED SEPARATION DATE
(YYYYMMDD)

5. DUTY STATION

7. DATE CHECKLIST PREPARED
(YYYYMMDD)

SECTION III. ALL TRANSITIONING SERVICE MEMBERS MUST READ AND SIGN.
I was offered preseparation counseling on the above date (Item 7) on my transition benefits and services as appropriate. I understand that
this preseparation counseling is provided to assist my transition process as required by Title 10, USC 1142.
I
accept
decline (X appropriate block) further transition assistance counseling. (If you declined further transition assistance
counseling, sign and date.) I have checked those items where I desire further information or counseling. I have also been advised where to
obtain assistance in developing an Individual Transition Plan (ITP).
8a. SERVICE MEMBER SIGNATURE

b. DATE (YYYYMMDD)

9a. TRANSITION COUNSELOR SIGNATURE

b. DATE (YYYYMMDD)

SECTION IV. Please indicate (by checking YES or NO) whether you (or your spouse if applicable) desire counseling for the following services
and benefits. All benefits and services checked YES should be used in developing your ITP. The following services and benefits are available
to all Service members, unless otherwise specified:
SERVICE MEMBER
YES

NO

N/A

SPOUSE
YES

NO

N/A

REFERRED TO
(Input is optional)

10. EFFECTS OF A CAREER CHANGE
11. EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
a. Dept. of Labor sponsored Transition Assistance Workshops and
Service sponsored Transition Seminars/Workshops
b. Use of DD Form 2586 (Verification of Military
Experience and Training)
(1) Do you want a copy of your Verification of Military
Experience and Training (VMET) Document? If yes, go to
http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/vmet to download your VMET
document.
c. DoD Job Search Web site: dod.jobsearch.org
d. Transition Bulletin Board (TBB) and Public and Community
Service Opportunities (http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/ot/)
e. Teacher and Teacher's Aide Opportunities/Troops to Teachers
(http://voled.doded.mil/dantes/ttt)
f. Federal Employment Opportunities
g. Hiring Preference in Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) jobs
(Eligible Involuntary Separatees)
h. State Employment Agencies/America's Job Bank
12. RELOCATION ASSISTANCE

*NOTE: Status of Forces Agreement limitations apply for overseas Service members.

a. Permissive (TDY/TAD) and Excess leave
*b. Travel and transportation allowances
13. EDUCATION/TRAINING
a. Education benefits (Montgomery GI Bill, Veterans Educational
Assistance Program, Vietnam-era, etc.)
b. Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
c. Additional education or training options

DD FORM 2648, JUL 2002

PREVIOUS EDITION MAY BE USED.

Preseparation Counseling Checklist.

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C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

PRESEPARATION COUNSELING CHECKLIST

NAME (Last, First, Middle Initial)

SSN

SECTION IV (Continued)
SERVICE MEMBER
YES

NO

N/A

SPOUSE
YES

NO

N/A

REFERRED TO
(Input is optional)

13. EDUCATION/TRAINING (Continued)
d. Licensing and Certification Information
(www.umet-vets.dol.gov)
e. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support
(www.voled.doded.mil/)
14. HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE
a. 60-day or 120-day extended Military and limited Dental benefits
(Eligible Involuntary Separatees)
b. Option to purchase 18-month conversion health insurance.
Concurrent pre-existing condition coverage with purchase of
conversion health insurance.
c. Veterans' Group Life Insurance
15. FINANCES
a. Financial Management (TSP, Retirement, SBP)
b. Separation pay (Eligible Involuntary Separatees)
c. Unemployment compensation
d. Other financial assistance (VA Loans, SBA Loans, and other
government grants and loans)
16. RESERVE AFFILIATION
17. DISABLED VETERANS BENEFITS
a. Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP)
b. VA Disability Benefits
18. INDIVIDUAL TRANSITION PLAN (ITP)
a. As a separating Service member, after receiving basic preseparation counseling information and completing this checklist, you and your
spouse (if applicable) are entitled to receive assistance in developing an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) based on the areas of interest you
have identified on this checklist. The preseparation counseling checklist addresses a variety of transition services and benefits to which you
may be entitled. Each individual is strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to develop an ITP. The purpose of the ITP is to
identify educational, training and employment objectives and to develop a plan to help you achieve these objectives. It is the Military
Department's responsibility to offer Service members the opportunity and assistance to develop an ITP. It is the Service member's
responsibility to develop an ITP based on his/her specific objectives and the objectives of his or her spouse, if appropriate.
b. Based upon information received during Preseparation
Counseling, do you desire assistance in developing your ITP?
If yes, the Transition staff/Command Career Counselor is
available to assist you.
SECTION V - REMARKS

DD FORM 2648 (BACK), JUL 2002

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CHAPTER 2

Stress
As we’ve already discussed, life is different outside the military.
With any change, be it a duty station or a transition out, there
will be stress.
Stress is something you and your family can probably write your
own book on at this point. While there is no getting around
stress, you can, as you may already know, get around the effects
of it. There will be many unknowns in your transition, and you
have a choice regarding how you handle those unknowns. You
can let stress get to you or you can do something to ease the pain
of it.
Dare I say it, you can implement your own stress management
plan. One component of this plan might include using the services of your local family center, family support groups, the
chaplain’s office, or the installation’s mental health facility.
There are a number of excellent self-help books on the market
(and at your installation’s library) that can give you pointers for
dealing with tumultuous times. You can also combat stress with
activities such as
■

Working out

■

Going for a walk

■

Delving into a creative process to occupy your mind and
senses

■

Talking things over with your spouse and family members

You can beat stress by separating yourself from it for a little
while and clearing your head. At that point, you can look more
objectively and not emotionally at the issue and develop options
for solving it if possible.

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt
I think that the husband and the wife should work through the
[transition] process together. It’s easy for me, the military member, to go over to the Transition Assistance Office and to go to

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all the related briefings. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do it right.
It should be a joint endeavor; it involves the two of you. It may
be hard when you both are working, but this is a stressful time
in both of your lives. The more you do as a couple can surely
help the transition process.
—Michael Holley, LTC, USA (Ret.)

Being stressed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows you to recognize that there are issues in your life causing you angst. By
recognizing that they exist, you can take care of them appropriately. After all, “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.” That
can’t be all bad, can it?

Employment Assistance
Are you going to want a job after you leave the military? The
answer may be “Yes, of course. There are bills to pay and
mouths to feed.” Or it may be, “Not right away.” Perhaps you
will be attending college on a full-time basis, or maybe you just
want to take a few months off to relax.
Regardless of which category you fall under, you should check
a resounding YES at the employment assistance. Knowing how
to research the job market and find a job is a skill you cannot
do without. Maybe you already have a good idea how to get a
job. Great. Take advantage of the services that are offered to
you by the military anyway. Trained outplacement professionals, in unison with Department of Labor experts, might still be
able to teach you a thing or two, and that will make it all
worthwhile.
In addition to learning how to conduct a successful job search
and all that it implies (resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills,
applications, etc.), the Transition Assistance Office is an excellent networking station for you. (See “Visiting the Transition
Assistance Office” above for more details regarding potential
services.)

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As you transition out, you should also request a Verification of
Military Training and Experience (also known as VMET or DD
Form 2586). This is an official document that verifies the military training you have had and assigns it recommended collegelevel credit. It is not to be confused with your military transcript
discussed in the “Education and Training” section below. You
will want a copy of your VMET primarily to assist you in
preparing your resume. You can obtain a copy of your transcript
at www.dmdc.osd.mil/vmet.
As you will learn in the transition office–sponsored workshops,
there are a number of places out there to seek a job. For example, the DOD Job Search Web site (http://dod.jobsearch.org)
is an excellent place to begin your job-hunting activities. The
Defense Manpower’s Data Center also posts private industry
as well as public and community service opportunities on
the Transition Bulletin Board (TBB) at www.dmdc.osd.mil/ot.
Those interested in teaching opportunities (i.e., Troops to
Teachers) should visit http://voled.doded.mil/ dantes/ttt. Federal
opportunities may be found at www.usajobs. opm.gov. A listing
of the individual federal agencies having service opportunities is
provided in this book’s appendix. Non-appropriated fund jobs
are also available on individual military installations and should
be explored as well. Finally, state employment agencies post their
jobs on America’s Job Bank at www.americasjobbank.com.

Relocation Assistance
Your transition out of the military may or may not involve a
move. If it does, then you certainly want to get all the scoops on
the subject. Even if you’re already settled somewhere and don’t
foresee a move, you never know.
If you want to get an idea about future potential locations to
live, an excellent resource to reference is the Standardized
Installation Topic Exchange System (SITES) database. You can
access it online at www.dmdc.osd.mil/SITES. This is an extensive
listing of every American military installation in the world.

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C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

What’s that? Why would you choose to look at military bases
again? If you are retiring, you might want to live within reasonable commuting distance of a military installation to take advantage of your retiree benefits. Even if you’re not retiring, military
installations represent viable sources of employment. The SITES
database gives you a broad overview of a number of topics:
■

The installation itself

■

Educational opportunities

■

Employment possibilities

■

Relocation services

■

Child care and teen activities

■

Facts at a glance list

■

The local community (off base or post)

■

Medical and dental services

■

Housing

■

Support services

■

Survival tips

SITES is definitely worth a look.
With any relocation, remember that cost of living is a big deal.
You might be thrilled to accept a job in Washington, DC, but if
the salary offered doesn’t take into consideration the astronomical cost of living in that area, you might find yourself struggling
to make ends meet. To learn more about cost-of-living fluctuations, consult such online calculators as
■

www.homefair.com

■

money.cnn.com

■

www.salary.com

Once you receive your orders to separate, you need to visit the
transportation office to inquire about household shipment
and/or storage procedures. As you well know, during peak

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travel months it can be difficult to get convenient moving dates
set up for you and your family. The military will move you and
your family back to your listed home of record free of charge. If
you want to move somewhere else, they will cover the cost up to
the amount it would have cost to move you to your home of
record. You (or perhaps your new employer?) pick up the rest of
the tab.
If you are retiring, you are authorized to move once anywhere in
the continental United States, compliments of Uncle Sam. If you
live overseas and wish to remain there, you may request an
extension of this benefit for a period of time. Consult your transition and/or transportation office for more information on relocation and storage of goods.
Maybe you are one of the brave souls who choose to do a DoIt-Yourself move (DITY). Good for you. Before you break your
grandmother’s irreplaceable china, find out how much the military will reimburse you for such damages. (At this printing, the
rate was 95 percent.)
Another relevant topic within the relocation discussion involves
such potential benefits as permissive travel (TDY/TAD) to house
hunt or job hunt. You may or may not be permitted this benefit.
If you are being involuntarily separated, you could be afforded
up to 20 days if you are stationed in the continental United
States (CONUS) or 30 days if you are stationed outside the continental United States (OCONUS) and relocating back to
CONUS or to another OCONUS location. If you are retiring,
you could be authorized travel anywhere in the United States. If
you are leaving the military because you have fulfilled the
requirements of your contract, you will not be eligible for this
benefit.
You will also want to take a look at any excess leave you may
have accumulated. You may have the option of selling it back to
the government. Bear in mind, however, you will be taxed on the
money you receive. If you are retiring or going into the reserves,
you should have future commissary and post or base exchange

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C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

benefits. (Note to future retirees wishing to live overseas and use
such services: Depending upon your employment status, you
may be required to pay additional country tax on items purchased at the commissary and exchanges through the installation’s customs office.)
Let’s not forget the kids. If you have a child who is a senior at a
Department of Defense Dependent School (DODDS) you may be
eligible to have your child graduate from that school. You may
have to pay tuition for it to actually happen. Contact the
DODDS directly for more information.

Education and Training
Before you take off your uniform, you want to know exactly what
educational and training benefits are available or due to you.
One stop you need to make is at your local Education Center. If
you have paid into the Montgomery GI Bill, you will want
to know how to take advantage of that program. If you participated in a past program (i.e., Veterans Educational Assistance
Program [VEAP]) and wish to convert your benefit to the
Montgomery GI Bill, you still may be able to do so. Benefits and
methods for getting them periodically change, but one constant
is this: You have only 10 years after you separate to use them.
Don’t lose them.
The experts at the Education Center should be able to give you the
most recent news concerning your benefits. An equally excellent
place to look is online at the Veterans Affairs Benefits page. The
Web address is www.va.gov. Chapter 3, “VA Benefits and Other
Opportunities,” can also give you more details on this topic.
The Department of Labor is also one place you will want to visit
as you transition, for a couple of reasons. One, they are the place
to find out about local and state employment opportunities.
They are highly connected to the community. For you,
that means that they can help you network your way into a job.
Two, they can point you in the direction of additional training
opportunities such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

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You can learn about various licensing and certification requirements by accessing www.umet-vets.dol.gov.
Other services provided by your Education Center include testing (CLEP, ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and other standardized
tests) free of charge while you are on active duty. Keep in mind
that test results are generally good for a decent period of time.
(For example, test scores for the GRE are available up to five
years after you take the test.) So, even if you are not planning to
go back to school for that master’s degree just now, take the
GRE or GMAT because it doesn’t cost you anything while you
wear the uniform. As a civilian, one test could easily cost you
$100. There is always the dreaded possibility that you would
need to take the test more than once. To explore this topic in
more detail, log on to the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional
Education Support Web site at www.voled.doded.mil.
If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, the
Education Center can offer you a number of vocational and
interest assessments and inventories. It never hurts to consider
alternatives.
Finally, before you transition from the military, request a copy of
your transcript (see the following table). Yes, you have one. All
those military schools and/or courses you attended will show up
on it as well as the American Council on Education’s recommendation of how many college credits it could be worth. This
might come in handy if you pursue an associate’s, a bachelor’s,
or even a master’s degree at some point. Some colleges and universities will review and accept some of your military training
for college credit. It might save you from taking a class or two
somewhere along the line.
Service Branch

Request Transcript From

U.S. Army

https://aartstranscript.leavenworth.army.mil

U.S. Navy

http://smart.cnet.navy.mil

U.S. Marine Corps http://smart.cnet.navy.mil

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U.S. Air Force

www.au.af.mil/ccaf

U.S. Coast Guard

www.uscg.mil/hq/capemay/degree.htm

Health and Life Insurance
Medical costs are an ever-increasing fact of life. If you are being
involuntarily separated under other than adverse conditions, you
may be eligible for an extension of your health benefits as you
transition from the military.
How long an extension you may receive depends upon how long
you have been in the service and upon the conditions of your
separation. For example, certain service members being involuntarily separated with other than adverse conditions and having
served less than six years of duty could receive 60 days of additional military medical coverage; those with over six years could
receive 120 days of extended health benefits. At the end of the
60- or 120-day periods, there may also be the option of purchasing extended transitional health care insurance. In this case,
you would have 60 days after your initial transitional health
care ends to purchase the Continued Health Care Benefit
Program (CHCBP).
If you are retiring, you must make it a point to meet with your
health benefits advisor to review your available options for continued care. One possible option available to all separating service members is to purchase CHCBP, a medical coverage plan for
three-month time periods, for up to 18 months. Ka-ching! We’re
talking expensive here, but one bad day that sees you in a hospital can cost even more.
Another issue to consider is your Servicemembers’ Group Life
Insurance (SGLI). The government will pay for an additional
120 days of life insurance coverage after you separate, whether
you are retiring or not. This provides you with a bumper of time
to decide whether you wish to convert all or part of your SGLI
in $10K increments to something called Veterans’ Group Life
Insurance (VGLI).

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VGLI is a five-year term insurance policy. That means that as
you age, your cost to participate increases. At the end of five
years, if you decide you no longer wish to have VGLI, you may
convert it to a civilian life insurance policy. In most cases, the VA
will send you notification within 30 days after you separate that
you must make a decision regarding this benefit. If you want to
be proactive, download the form from the VA’s Web site
(www.va.gov) or call them at 1-800-827-1000.
There are several other important notes to keep in mind concerning medical and dental topics:

40

■

Get a physical before you separate. If you are retiring,
you will be required to do so within four months of your
retirement. If you are getting out as a result of a medical
condition or if you are being involuntarily separated under
certain chapter actions, you will be required to have a physical as well. If you have any questions regarding your
requirements in this area, contact your Legal Office for
clarification. All others should go ahead and get a physical
even though it is not required. It is free health care and you
and your family should take advantage of it while you can.

■

Get copies of your medical and dental records and those of
your family. Military medical records (yours and your family’s) will remain government property even when you are
no longer wearing a uniform. You will want to have a good
copy or two of your records for your next physician to
have as a medical history. If you are applying for VA disability benefits, you will also need to provide the VA with
a copy of your medical file.

■

Get your pearly whites examined and cleaned within 90
days of separating from the military. If you do not do this,
be sure the dental clinic representative notes such in your
dental records before you clear the facility. The VA will
allow for a one-time exam and cleaning up to 90 days after
your separation from the military, assuming you didn’t do
so beforehand.

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

■

Make it a point to visit the medical board liaison officer at
your servicing medical treatment facility if you believe you
have a serious medical problem or service-related handicap.

Finances
Money, money, money. This is certainly an important and
timely topic, isn’t it? There are so many things to address on this
subject that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s try, however. Several big questions to ask yourself are
■

Do I have enough money saved to transition out of the military? A careful review of your expenses and income are in
order at this point. Create a budget if you haven’t already
done so, and be frugal with your cash. Like everything else,
there will be a multitude of seen and unforeseen expenses.
If you are having problems determining where you stand in
your checkbook, consult the experts at the Family Service
Center nearest you for assistance.

■

What happens to the money in my Thrift Savings Plan
(TSP) account? Your TSP is a defined-contribution retirement and investment plan that offers savings and tax benefits. Make sure you know how to manage this account as
you change employers. You may incur penalties if it is not
correctly managed.

■

Am I eligible for any additional separation pay? Chances
are, if you are being honorably but involuntarily separated
and have served six years on active duty, you will have
something coming your way. Your transition office will be
able to answer this for you for certain. Generally speaking,
separation pay (which is taxable, by the way) is authorized
only if the following applies:
■

You have finished your first term of enlistment or
period of obligated service, and

■

You have at least six years of service, and

■

You are separating involuntarily, and

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■

You are not yet eligible for retirement, and

■

Your discharge is fully honorable

Separation pay is computed on the basis of 10 percent of
your yearly base pay when you separate, multiplied by the
number of years of active duty service you have.
■

Am I eligible for unemployment? You might also be eligible
for unemployment compensation after you separate from
the military, if you are not immediately employed. This
benefit is commonly referred to as Unemployment
Compensation for Military Personnel (UCX). Eligibility for
this benefit depends upon the state paying the claim. To
meet the requirements for UCX, you must
■

Have been discharged or released under honorable
conditions

■

Have been discharged or released after completing
your first full term of active service to which you initially agreed to service, or

■

Have been discharged or released from the government under an early release program because of a
medical disqualification, pregnancy, parenthood, or a
service-incurred injury or disability. Other qualifying
situations include personality disorder or ineptitude,
but only if the service was continuous for 365 days or
more.

Reservists who have completed 90 consecutive days of
active duty service may also have their military service and
wages assigned for the purpose of determining entitlement
of UCX, provided you were discharged under honorable
conditions.
■

42

How will my retirement pay be calculated? If you entered
the service after July 31, 1986, you will be given a choice
of retirement plans at your fifteenth year of service. Log on

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

to www.dod.mil/militarypay for further guidance in this
area. Another good Web site for guidance with retired pay
is www.dfas.mil/money/retired/index.htm. The bottom line
is this: Connect with your transition office and/or your
Retirement Services Office to determine your eligibility for
such pay and with your Finance Office to ensure that your
updated address and banking information is on file.
■

If retiring and I elect SBP, how much will it cost me? This
answer will depend on which level of coverage you choose.
Visit your installation’s Retirement Services Office or your
transition office for more information. Military-related
associations may also be able to provide you with objective
information on the topic.

■

Do I know what salary range to aim for in my job search?
This is another important reason to have a grip on your
finances. Chapter 8, “Evaluating and Negotiating Job
Offers,” will offer you more insight on this topic.

■

What other types of financial assistance (such as VA and
SBA loans) might be available to me? Accessing sites online
such as www.va.gov and www.sba.gov can give you lots of
information about various types of assistance.

■

Does the Finance Office have my forwarding address so I
can receive my W2 form next year? Simply check with your
Finance Office to ensure that they have the correct address.

■

What is my credit rating with the three major credit reporting bureaus? Get a copy of your credit report to make sure
everything is in order. Here is the contact information for
the three major agencies:
■

Experian, P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104, toll
free 1-888-397-3742 or online at www.experian.com/
product/consumer.

■

Equifax, P.O. Box 105873, Atlanta, GA 30348, toll
free 1-800-685-1111 or online at www.equifax.com.

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■

Trans Union Corp, P.O. Box 390, Springfield, PA
19064-0390, toll free at 1-800-916-8800 or online at
www.tuc.com.

If you live in specific states (such as Georgia, Maryland,
Massachusetts, and Vermont) you may be eligible for a free
credit report on a yearly basis. Check the Web site for specifics.
Also, if you want to limit who can request your personal information, contact the agencies and tell them that no one can access
it without your expressed permission. This may cut down on
junk mail and unwanted intrusions into your personal financial
information.

Protect Yourself from Identify Theft
In the military, you are often known simply by your Social Security
number. If you are married to a military service member, you
may not even remember your own number anymore as you are
always required to give your spouse’s for everything. Now more
than ever, it is important to safeguard this all too freely given
information.

44

■

Guard your Social Security number at all times. Avoid having it pre-printed on your personal checks, and always
shred documents having it listed once you no longer
need them.

■

Never give your Social Security number or any personal
information to anyone on the telephone unless you have
made the call and know where it is you are calling in the
first place.

■

Install a firewall on your personal computer if you have
Internet access.

■

Review your credit reports at least once a year to make
sure there are no discrepancies.

■

Make sure your mailbox is secure and that mail (having
your Social Security number on it) can’t be easily
removed.

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Reserve Affiliation
Retirees need not apply. Everyone else, except for certain chapter actions, must visit the reserve component career counselor. If
you have not served eight years in the military, you may be
required to do so in a reserve capacity with a reserve or National
Guard unit or with the individual ready reserves. Affiliation with
a reserve or Guard unit has its benefits. Some of them include
extra cash, benefits, and promotion. You eventually get to retire
with them if you choose to and you might get the opportunity to
continue your travel to foreign and exotic places.

Disabled Veterans
The Veterans Administration will play a vital role in your and
your family’s post military life. Chapter 3, “VA Benefits and
Other Opportunities,” will delve into this topic in more detail.
Suffice it to say here that you probably have a number of potential benefits and entitlements available to you through the VA.
You need to be sure that you attend a VA briefing before you
separate from the service. If one is not available in your area, go
online to the VA Web site (www.va.gov) and read the Benefits
section carefully. Even if you attend a briefing, everything is in
black and white on the Web site.
Of particular concern here will be your possible disability benefits. The VA believes that you entered the service in perfect
health. If you exit the service in less than perfect health, you
should be compensated for that difference. Translated, this
means that you should apply for such benefits as you transition
from the military. Even if you think you are not due any, apply
for them. If you receive a 0% disability rating, then you’ve established a baseline in the event that future illnesses or other disabilities rear their ugly heads. You can’t see into a crystal ball,
and future mishaps you experience might have origins in your
past military life.
Another plus: Disability monies are not taxed after a certain percentage. If you are retiring, your retirement pay may be offset by

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any disability compensation you receive. (The disability portion,
however, will not be taxed, whereas your retirement pay might
be affected. The exception to this at the time of this printing
involves those having a disability rating of 50 percent or higher.)
Another benefit to applying for your disability benefit as you
transition: Your medical records can go directly to the VA rather
than to the huge record storage place in St. Louis, Missouri. This
means that you don’t waste precious time in the future having
the VA request your records from St. Louis to begin your records
review. The VA will already have them.
Disability monies may or may not mean a lot to you at this point
in your life. After all, you are in your earning prime, right? You
won’t always be, however, and this source of income in later
years might be beneficial to you. If you are honestly due it, take
it. Installation procedures for applying as you transition may
certainly differ from post to base. Ask the specialists at the transition center how you should go about submitting your claim as
you transition from your own installation and branch of service.
In addition to disability compensation, there are other benefits
such as VA home loans, educational benefits, and, as previously introduced, VGLI. These, along with others, will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, “VA Benefits and Other
Opportunities.”
The VA also sponsors a unique rehabilitation program called the
Disabled Transition Assistance Program. Your local VA representative or your transition assistance office can point you in the
right direction if you’re interested in this program.

Individualized Transition Plan (ITP)
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the DD 2648, is a required
form that becomes a part of your official personnel file. Public
Law 107-103 states that all exiting service members be informed
regarding their potential benefits and entitlements. Completion
of this form fulfills that legal requirement. After learning about
your potential benefits and entitlements, you and your spouse, if

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applicable, are further entitled to receive assistance in developing an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP). The purpose of an
ITP is to identify educational, training, and employment objectives. It further aims to assist you in developing a plan to achieve
those objectives.

Retiree Benefits
As you plan your eventual retirement, you should contact the
installation’s retirement services officer and/or the transition
office, depending upon where you are stationed, to schedule any
available pre-retirement briefings. A multitude of topics ranging
from how to obtain your retiree ID card, to facility and service
availability, to survivor benefit plan elections, will be discussed.
Every issue is important, and you can’t afford ignorance on any
of the topics.

Leaving the Service: Important Points
to Remember
As you plan to leave the service, don’t forget about the following:

Your DD 214
Everyone who leaves the military receives a DD 214, Certificate
of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. This is an incredibly
important document for which you must always maintain
accountability.
Before you sign your DD 214, be sure it is 100 percent accurate.
If you haven’t already done so by now, assemble, in chronological order, all your certificates of training and military orders into
one binder. When you review your draft DD 214, make sure
everything (such as your education and awards) is included on it.
Once you sign this form, it is final. It documents your entire military existence and will be an important form later for such uses
as when you try to use your VA benefits, obtain a federal job,
vote, or obtain federal financial aid. It would be to your advantage to keep your original in a safe place, such as a safe
deposit box. You may want to consider registering it at your

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local county courthouse. If you ever lose the document, you can
easily obtain a copy there.

Military Records
You’ll want to take special care of your military records.
■

Make sure all your military records are in good order. It
may be a hassle to review them and get any inconsistencies
or errors corrected now. It will, however, be easier now
than later. It may truly matter at some point in your life. If
you do find an error in your records at some point, you’ll
be required to provide a written request to correct the error
within three years of its discovery.

■

The National Personnel Records Center can assist you in
the event that you lose or misplace any medals or ribbons
you wish to keep. Also, if you feel as though you should
have received a particular medal or ribbon and did
not, they will research the matter for you. They can be contacted at The National Personnel Records Center,
Attention: Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page
Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132-5000.

Discharge Decisions
If you feel you are being discharged from the military unfairly,
you can request a review of your situation. Each of the services
has its own discharge review boards who in turn have the
authority to change or correct any discharge or dismissal from
the service. The board, however, has no authority to address
medical or general court martial discharges. You, your next of
kin, or legal representative have 15 years from the time of your
discharge to make such an inquiry using a DD Form 293,
Application for Review of Discharge or Separation from the
Armed Forces.
Miscellaneous
If your transition involves relocating…
■

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Be sure you provide change-of-address cards to your post
office.

C R E AT I N G Y O U R O V E R A L L T R A N S I T I O N S T R AT E G Y

■

Wherever you end up calling home, be sure you register to
vote by contacting the county voting clerk.

At Your Final Out-Processing
Procedures will of course vary from post to base. Usually, you
can expect to receive your military clearing papers within 10
duty days of your availability date or active separation if not taking transition leave or permissive travel (TDY/TAD). Once you
receive these, you’ll be tasked with getting the “good to go”
check mark from a number of facilities and service providers.
You have to hit the pavement now! If you don’t know the hours
of operation for the places you have to go to, call in advance.
Save yourself the headache of having to make return trips.
You will be required to present your completed clearing papers
at your final out-processing. You may have to present the following as well:
■

Your updated ID card (keep in mind that the expiration
date on your ID card must match the separation date on
your orders).

■

Your original medical and dental records (be sure you have
already made your personal copies and copies for the VA).

■

The result of your completed physical exam if you are retiring (this is usually a time-sensitive task, meaning that you
must complete the exam not earlier than four months prior
to your transition leave date but no later than one month
before your retirement).

■

DD 2648 (ITP), which proves that you received your
mandatory preseparation counseling.

■

DD Form 2656, Survivor Benefit Plan election. This is
required only if you are retiring. (Your spouse, if you have
one, will be required to have signed this form if you have
elected not to take this coverage.)

■

VA Form 21-526, the claim for a VA disability rating.

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■

If you are stationed overseas and wish to remain there after
your separation, then you will also have to show proof that
you have applied for and received command approval to do
so. Country laws regarding this topic vary. Check with
your legal services for details concerning your situation.

Focus on the Family
According to a 2001 survey (2001 Demographics Report, compiled from multiple sources by the Military Family Resource
Center), there are over 1,369,167 active duty service members.
Nearly 52 percent of these service members are married.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but leaving the military really
is a big deal that not only affects you but your family, if you are
so blessed.

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CHAPTER 3

VA Benefits and
Other Opportunities

I

f your service in the U.S. military can
be characterized as “honorable,”
then you may be eligible for a whole
host of benefits and entitlements offered by the Veterans
Administration.

Veterans Benefits: A Closer Look
In your post military life, the Veterans Administration will play
a large role in the facilitation of various benefits and entitlements
that may be due you upon your separation from the service. To
investigate or apply for these benefits, contact any VA office by
calling toll free 1-800-827-1000. You can also visit the VA Web
site at www.va.gov to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to
know about them and more. You are now able to download
most of the required forms to apply for benefits.
Please note that I’ve made every effort here, as throughout this
book, to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date
information concerning the subject at hand. As in life, however,
the rules, regulations, eligibility criteria, and availability are subject to change. Always check with the VA directly for the most
current information.
Simply put, the VA is your connection to your benefits from serving in the military after you leave active duty service. Eligibility
for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military
service under other than dishonorable conditions. Some military
personnel may even be eligible for certain VA benefits while on

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active duty when they have completed 90 days of service during
wartime or conflict periods or 2 years of military service since
1980 or 181 days during peacetime. As a veteran, you have a
myriad of potential benefits, and you owe it to yourself to examine them all.
To get into the VA system for the first time after release from
active duty, you must send a copy of your DD 214 along with
your application for benefits. You can file your application and
discharge papers with any VA regional office.
Specifically, you should investigate your benefits as they relate to
■

Education and training

■

Life insurance

■

Home loans

■

Disability compensation and pension

■

Vocational rehabilitation and employment

■

Health care

■

Family and survivors

■

Burial

Education and Training Benefits
To stay competitive in today’s job market, you must commit
yourself to continuing education and training. The VA pays
monthly benefits to eligible veterans, dependents, reservists, and
service members, which can help finance their education. You
can use your benefits for the following:
■

Undergraduate study at a college or university

■

Graduate study at a college or university

■

Technical or vocational training

■

Correspondence and flight training

You might also be able to qualify for a work-study allowance.

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Depending upon when you entered the service, you may have
already paid into an education program, be it the GI Bill, Active
Duty, Chapter 30; the Veterans Educational Assistance Program
(VEAP), Chapter 32; or the GI Bill, Selective Reserve, Chapter
1606. For the first two programs listed, you have 10 years from
your release date to use the benefits. Limited extensions may be
available. For the last program listed, you also have 10 years
from the date of eligibility for the program, or until you are
released from the Selected Reserve or National Guard. You
have 14 years to use these benefits if your eligibility began on or
after October 1, 1992. If you were activated under Title 10, your
period of eligibility is extended by your time on active duty plus
four months. You may be eligible for separate extensions for
each activation. Extensions are not available if you were activated under Title 32.

The Way It Was
She said: At that time [when he transitioned out of the military],
we had to find out for ourselves what we were entitled to for the
most part.
—Sherry Martin, Office Manager, Resource Consultants, Inc.
He said: I didn’t retire, so a lot of the benefits and entitlements
didn’t apply to me. It was nice to be the ruler of my own life
instead of at the beck and call of people that may not have had
my best interest at heart. We had a plan and money, but didn’t
realize how fast it goes.
—Steve Martin, Technical Instructor, General Dynamics

Life Insurance Benefits
There are a few options available in this area, depending upon
whether you are active duty or not. We will focus here on the
options relevant to veterans or those soon to be.
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a low-cost life
insurance available to service members and reservists upon

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active duty. When you decide to leave the military, you will have
120 days of continued SGLI coverage from the date of your
effective out. This gives you time to consider whether you want
convert your SGLI to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
VGLI is a five-year term insurance policy. At the end of five
years, you may either renew it or convert it to a civilian policy in
$10,000 increments. As with all term insurance, you will find
that the older you get, the more expensive this insurance
becomes. You must complete conversion to a commercial policy
with the “no health questions asked” benefit within 120 days of
separation from either active duty or the reserves.
Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (RH Insurance) is a policy
having a basic $10,000 coverage. You must apply within two
years from the date of notification of your service-connected disability to receive this benefit. A $20,000 supplementary policy is
available if premium payments for the basic policy are waived
due to total disability. For this benefit, you must apply within
one year of approval of waiver of your premiums.
Finally, there is Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI). This
benefit is actually a mortgage protection insurance issued to
those who are severely disabled who have also received grants
for Specially Adapted Housing from the VA. Maximum coverage
under this plan is $90,000, and veterans must apply for the plan
before the age of 70.

Home Loan Benefits
The VA will also assist you in your home ownership aspirations.
Veterans with qualifying service are eligible for VA home loan
services including guaranteed loans for the purchase of a home,
a manufactured home, a manufactured home and lot, and certain types of condominiums.
The VA also offers guaranteed loans for the building, repairing,
and improving of homes. You may also be able to use this benefit to refinance an existing home loan. Note that “guarantee”
does not mean “the VA actually loans you the money.” You are

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still responsible for finding a lender. The VA merely guarantees
the repayment of that loan up to a certain point if the borrower
fails to repay the loan.
No down payment is required for most home loans. You must
obtain a certificate of eligibility from the VA before you can
claim such a benefit. Depending upon the nature of your disability, you may also receive grants to have your home specially
adapted to your exact needs.
If you are a Native American living on Trust Land, then you may
qualify for a direct home loan. There is no time limit for taking
advantage of this benefit. If you have filed a claim for disability
compensation with the VA, they may in turn waive the funding
fee required for use of this benefit.

Disability Compensation and Pension
Benefits
As mentioned in Chapter 2, the VA believes that when you
joined the military you did so in perfect health. If you leave in
les