You did it! Your active-duty service is ending. You are nearing that fork in the road that leads you off-post and toward the Veteran life. Military separation is like an epic road trip filled with turnpikes, rest stops and detours.
This new adventure can lead you to a new home, a new job and who knows what else! There’s no doubt that this transition is an exciting time. As you begin to prepare for this milestone, you may be wondering about your military separation benefits and what the offboarding process will look like.
It’s a good thing that you’re beginning to research what military separation will look like for you. To ensure you know what to expect, this article offers a starting point complete with basic information delivered in a straightforward manner.
Let’s learn about your next chapter in life! Know what you’re looking for? Click the link below to jump right to that section.
1. Military Separation Branch Terms to Know
2. Military Separation Orders
3. Types of Military Discharge
4. Military Transition Assistance Program
5. Temporary Health Care Insurance
6. Military Separation Pay
7. Where to Live After Leaving the Military
We’ve also created a free printable PDF guide that you can refer to at any time.
Military Separation Branch Terms to Know
- Expiration of Term of Service (ETS): refers to the expiration of the term of service for Army and Air Force enlisted military members.
- End of Active Duty Obligated Service (EAOS): refers to the end of active-duty obligated service for Navy and Marine Corps enlisted military members.
- Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO): refers to the active-duty service obligation for officers and warrant officers.
Once your service commitment is complete, you may choose to reenlist or continue in a commissioned career. You may also decide to leave the military entirely and begin the military separation process.
During separation from the military, you move from active-duty status to Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). While in IRR status, you won’t be required to perform normal military duties. However, you may be called to the occasional muster!
Once You Receive Your Military Separation Orders
It probably seems like just yesterday that you enlisted. Or perhaps you’ve been looking forward to this day, and time has dragged on. Either way, you’ll need to locate your obligated last day on active duty, which can be found in your official military personnel file.
1. Planning Your Military Separation
Take control of your military separation by planning early. Beginning your planning at least one year before your transition into civilian life is best. The keys to success include early and ongoing planning, celebrating milestones to build on your success and embracing the professional guidance that is available to you.
Know which road to take and when to exit to get to your destination. Outlining common transition milestones will give you confidence as you begin the exit process. According to the DOD’s Transition Assistance Program expert tips, a thorough transition timeline includes these steps:
Pre-Military Separation Checklist
6-12 Months Out
- Brainstorm ideas for your future civilian career
- Define your job search and write targeted resumes
- Schedule Household Goods Transportation counseling
- Schedule physical and dental check-ups
- Consider any upcoming changes to your VA health benefits
- Schedule physical and dental check-ups
- Sign up for LinkedIn Premium free for one year
4-6 Months Out
- Complete your Separation Health Assessment
- Access copies of your medical records
- Review and update your will, legal documents, and voter registration
- Determine eligibility for terminal leave or selling back leave
- Verify qualification status for separation pay
- If needed, file a disability claim under the Benefits Delivery at Discharge or Decision Ready Claim programs
- Connect with an American Job Center
- Complete Capstone (with TAP counselor and commander)
3 Months Out
- Review your Pre-Separation Checklist (DD2648)
- Research health insurance options
- Explore life insurance choices
- Apply for VA disability compensation 90-180 days before separation
- Complete online VA Healthcare registration
- Schedule a one-on-one appointment with a VA Benefits Advisor.
- Get a Veterans’ Preference letter from eBenefits
- Apply for VA Education and Career Counseling benefits
Only 90 Days to Go!
- If seeking employment, begin applying and interviewing for positions
- Finalize relocation appointments and review your household goods benefits
- Finalize your disability claim with a local VSO
- Contact Military OneSource for free resources available during the first year after your transition
- Bask in your last days as an Active Duty Military Member!
2. Review Your Military Benefits
The type of discharge you receive will determine which services you qualify for during military separation and transition. Review your statement of benefits to be sure you are heading in the right direction and understand the coverages you will receive post-separation.
This document will list the benefits and services you are qualified for to make planning ahead easier. If qualified, the Veterans Affairs benefits available to you include disability compensation, home loan eligibility, Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility and more!
Moreover, Department of Defense benefits you may be eligible for include pay, healthcare, Space-A travel plus commissary, exchange, MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) and space-A lodging.
3. Prep for Post-Military Job Search
Your DD 2586, also known as the “Verification of Military Experience and Training” form, assesses your knowledge, experience, and skills as they relate to civilian jobs. By completing this form, you will equip yourself with an important tool in your post-separation job search!
Verification of Military Experience and Training Form Includes:
- Military experience and training
- Notable education-related accomplishments
- Recommended college-credit information
- Civilian-equivalent job titles
Not only can this form help you pinpoint jobs you qualify for, but it can also help a future employer understand how your military experience relates to their job requirements.
Now that you’re in the know about what jobs to look for, it’s time to go job hunting! Head on over to MyBaseGuide’s job portal and land your next job. You can also explore Jobs After the Military: 10 Companies That Hire Veterans.
4. Check Your Military Records Online
Before you depart, you’ll want to access your records online through the VA’s eBenefits or the DOD’s milConnect. Military medical records are also available through the VA’s Blue Button, and your VA benefit letter will be required for some benefits.
5. Utilize All Unused Leave
Do you have unused leave? If so, you should be able to use some or all of it as part of your terminal leave. Utilize this time for your job search and to attend interviews. You can even use your remaining leave to house hunt, attend meetings and move into your new home.
6. Learn About Military Separation Leave Types
Depending on your circumstances and military branch, there may be one or more types of leave available to you. Especially for those going through military separation, leave is paid time off that should be used to help you transition to civilian life.
Permissive Temporary Duty (PTD)
For service members who are involuntarily separated under honorable conditions, up to 10 days of permissive temporary duty may be available to prepare for relocating and job hunting. Furthermore, military spouses may fly space-available on military aircraft for housing or employment opportunities.
It’s important to note that service members and spouses voluntarily separating are not eligible for PTD. Don’t worry, though! Those who are voluntarily separating from the military have their own set of leave benefits to help during this transitional period.
When nearing separation, service members with leave available may request up to 30 days of regular leave. This is especially beneficial to those who are moving across the country to settle in and establish a new life!
Terminal leave is not much different from regular leave, except you won’t have to return to your duty station. As such, military members use terminal leave to make their final moving arrangements without the hassle of having to return to work afterward.
Selling Back Leave
If you are separating with an honorable discharge, you may request cash payment for any leave you still have available. Selling back leave can be helpful with the cost of a new home or even a short period of time without a job.
7. Have Your DD214 Handy
Your DD Form 214 is a document issued upon a military service member’s retirement, separation or discharge from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States. You’ll need this document to verify military service for benefits, retirement, employment and membership in Veterans’ organizations. It is essential that your military service records are correct before your DD 214 is issued.
Mistakes are much easier to fix before they move over to Veteran Affairs. Unfortunately, mistakes in this documentation could lead to lapses in your medical coverage or eligibility for benefits. We don’t want that! However, if it happens, you can correct mistakes via DD Form 149.
Types of Military Discharge
There are various types of military discharge, and each comes with its own set of benefits, conditions and requirements. Knowing which type of military discharge you are categorized under will help you prepare for life outside the military. This information will help you become acquainted with the level of resources that will be available to you after separation.
Types of Discharge in the Military Include:
- Honorable Discharge
- General Under Honorable Conditions
- Dishonorable Discharge
- Other Than Honorable Discharge
- Bad Conduct Discharge
- Medical Separation
- Entry Level Separation
- Government Convenience
Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) members are completing their initial military service obligation’s eight-year commitment. These members are considered separate from active duty but are subject to recall to active duty in a national emergency.
Reenlistment Code (RE)
Just like each branch has military separation codes, they also have reenlistment codes (RE). These codes determine an individual’s eligibility to reenlist based on the character of their discharge. For example, someone who is coded as dishonorably discharged is likely not to receive an RE.
On the other hand, service members who left on good terms are likely to have a military separation code eligible for an RE.
Military Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
Thousands of service members and their families transition to civilian life every year, and the government provides a variety of resources to make it a smooth process. Notably, the TAP program provides information and resources to service members and their families to prepare for the move off of the installation for good. Service members typically begin the TAP at least a year before separation.
Take advantage of pre-separation counseling and then top off your transition experience with optional courses that go beyond the minimum requirements. Each of the branches has individual processes for mandatory transition assistance counseling for separating service members during the last year of active duty.
The TAP will provide helpful guidelines, but you’ll still want to double-check often that you are going in the right direction. It’s essential to stay focused throughout the transition and fully lean into the benefits you’ve earned.
Military Spouse Transition Program
The Military Spouse Transition Program’s Stepping Beyond is to help military spouses also prepare for the transition to civilian living. Pre-transition topics include post-military benefits, healthcare, finances and more! All of these resources are available 24/7 on Military OneSource for a full year after military separation.
Temporary Health Care Insurance
Active-duty service members usually qualify for TRICARE’s Transitional Assistance Management Program or Continued Health Care Benefit Program, but that’s not helpful to those separating from the military. While you only have 90 days from separation to find your new health plan, there is temporary healthcare support for service members transitioning out of the military.
The Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) gives former military members about 180 days of healthcare coverage. This coverage is temporary, but it gives you enough time to find a more long-term solution! The Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) is available for up to 36 months to those who are no longer eligible for the TRICARE program.
It’s important to note that eligibility for these programs will depend on your individual circumstances.
Military Separation Pay
Upon separating from the military, you can look forward to extra income in the form of moving allowance, military separation pay, unemployment pay and even VA compensation. These funds are in place to help service members seamlessly transition out of the military while also ensuring they have a successful start to their new life.
Military Separation Moving Allowance
Although you likely know your way around PCS moves by now, don’t assume your final move will be routine. Work with your installation’s personal property office to prepare for your last move. This way, no surprise steps or costs will pop up in the middle of your move.
- Service members with over eight years of active duty: You can look forward to the government covering the cost of your move to your new home as long as it is within the United States. Of course, this is dependent on your type of discharge.
- Service members with less than eight years of active duty: The government pays for moving your household to your home of record or where you were living when you entered active duty. If you plan to move anywhere else, you will be asked to pay the additional costs. Keep in mind that your move must be on the schedule within 180 days of your active-duty release date!
Are You Moving Internationally?
If you are planning to move to international lands after your military separation, you will need to plan for some added costs. There are different allowances and resources available to those moving outside of the country. Consult with your personal property officer about what resources are available to you based on your discharge type and other defining criteria.
Moving After Separating with Severance
Suppose you are separating with severance, separation or readjustment pay due to being involuntarily released from active duty. If you are separating after at least eight years of active duty, you will have one year from the date of separation from active duty to schedule your move.
This allotted time is provided to give military members who have been involuntarily discharged enough time to plan their move and secure their post-military job.
Personally Procured Move (PPM)
A personally procured move (PPM) is also known as a DITY move, meaning you pack, load, move and unload your household without a government-contracted mover’s help. Your branch determines monetary advances for a personally procured move during military separation.
- Army: No advance payment is available to separating service members in the Army
- Marine Corps: Separating service members can receive an advance of up to 50% of the 95% PPM incentive payment
- Navy: No advance payment is available to separating service members in the Navy
- Air Force: Separating service members may be eligible to receive 60% of the 95% PPM incentive payment in advance
- Coast Guard: Separating active-duty service members are permitted an advance to cover the estimate from a rental company for moving truck cost using as much as 60% of the 95% incentive payment
The amount of household goods the military will move for you is determined by your final rank when you separate from active military service. Contact your installation transportation office to schedule your move. Plan early to increase the odds of getting the dates you want.
More Like This: Thinking about a PPM or a partial PPM? Before you commit, give this article a read: Partial DITY Move—Expert Tips & In-Depth Guide!
Military Unemployment Compensation
For those who may struggle to find a job post-military, the government also provides unemployment compensation. This temporary financial assistance is in place to ensure former military members are supported as they search for a new career.
If your honorable military separation is recent, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation for Ex-service members (UCX). To determine if you qualify, bring your DD-214 form to a local American Job Center. They’ll be able to help you there! In addition, it’s worth knowing that your state’s unemployment insurance may pay temporary cash benefits if you are eligible.
Involuntary Separation Pay (ISP)
Involuntary separation pay is a lump sum given to eligible active and reserve service members who meet certain criteria. Like many aspects of military separation, whether you receive ISP will depend on your branch and discharge type, among other regulations.
VA Pension & VA Compensation
Military members who sustained a medical condition or developed a disability due to their service may be eligible for tax-free VA compensation. The amount of money you receive is based on the level of severity of the condition. In addition, wartime Veterans may be eligible for VA pension benefits upon separation. Make sure to check your eligibility if you think you may qualify.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
If you’ve contributed to your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) throughout your military career, you’ll receive retirement income. That amount is determined by how much you paid into the account. As you look into your TSP, it is advised that you consult with a financial advisor. They can help you navigate obtaining your TSP funds while avoiding penalties for early withdrawals.
Where to Live After Leaving the Military
The thought of finding your place in the world after military separation can be quite daunting. For many military members who have spent much of their young- and mid-adult lives serving, it can be quite overwhelming to traverse life without the military.
Finding the perfect new home for you is a significant first step in transitioning. The good news is there are benefits and resources you can access for help! To get started, determine if you will be renting or purchasing a new home. Then, make a list of what you prioritize in a living space. This list should help guide your search.
VA Home Loans
Suppose you are a service member, Veteran, surviving spouse, Reservist or National Guard member and want to buy, build or improve a home. Due to your service or relation to the military, you may be eligible for a VA-backed home loan.
By guaranteeing some of the loans you get through mortgage companies and banks, the VA can help you get better rates. Through a VA loan, you are also not obligated to make a down payment.
No matter where you want to move, AHRN.com has all the housing resources, moving tools and customer support needed to simplify the process. Here at AHRN.com, we are dedicated to making it faster and easier for you and your family and finding a home that fits your lifestyle and budget.
More Like this: Not sure where to live next? Discover 8 of the Best States for Military Retirees.
This country has long supported those who serve in the armed services with benefits and transition support. Although the military offers support, no single program will address all family needs. To ensure your family’s needs are met even after you separate from the military, consider where you may need the most support once you leave.
Whether you anticipate needing temporary health insurance or assistance in finding a home, there are a plethora of military programs to ensure you’re taken care of as you transition. With careful planning and strategic preparation, your military separation will be smooth and successful.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.