You did it! Your active-duty service is ending. You are nearing that fork in the road that leads you off-base or off-post to veteran life. Military separation can be like an epic road trip filled with turnpikes, rest stops and detours. A new home, new job and who knows what else may be on the horizon? This transition is an exciting time!
And like you’d prepare a vehicle to be roadworthy and comfortable for a trip, you need to prepare for your military separation to avoid an unexpected breakdown in benefits, finances or family affairs.
This article offers a starting point with basic, straightforward information as you get started on your next chapter! Know what you’re looking for? Click the link to jump right to the section.
1. Military Separation Orders
2. Types of Discharge
3. Transition Assistance Program
4. Temporary Health Care Insurance
5. Military Separation Pay
6. Where Should I Live After Leaving the Military?
7. MyBaseGuide Employment Resources
We’ve also created a PDF guide that you can print and refer to at any time. Click here to download it for free!
Military Separation Orders
Maybe it seems like it was only yesterday that you enlisted. Or perhaps it seems like decades since then. Be sure you know your obligated last day on active duty (found in your official military personnel file).
- ETS military is the expiration of term of service for Army/Air Force enlisted.
- EAOS is the end of active-duty obligated service for Navy/Marine Corps enlisted.
- ADSO is the active-duty service obligation for officers and warrant officers.
Once this service commitment is complete, you may choose to re-enlist or continue in a commissioned career. Or decide not to go down either of those roads and begin the military separation process instead. During separation from the military, you move from active duty to Individual Ready Reserve.
1. Make Your Plan
Take control of your military separation by planning early — at least one year before the transition. The keys to success include early and ongoing planning, celebrating milestones to build on your success, and embracing the knowledgeable, professional guidance available.
2. Pre Separation
Know which road to take and when to exit to get to your destination. Outlining common transition mileposts will give you confidence in the route you choose. According to the DOD’s Transition Assistance Program expert tips, a well-tuned transition timeline includes these mileposts.
- Define your job search and write targeted resumes.
- Schedule household-goods-transportation counseling.
- Schedule physical and dental checkups.
- Consider VA health benefits decisions.
- Sign up for LinkedIn Premium free for one year.
- 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.
- Submit 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).
- 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.
90 Days To Go
- If seeking employment, begin applying and interviewing for positions.
- Finalize relocation appointments and review your household goods benefits.
- Prepare your disability claim with a local VSO.
- Contact Military OneSource for free resources available during the first year after your transition.
3. Evaluating Options
The type of discharge you receive determines which services you qualify for during military separation and transition. Use your statement of benefits to be sure you are heading in the right direction. It 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.
Department of Defense benefits you may be eligible for include pay, health care, Space-A travel plus commissary, exchange, MWR, recreational and space-A lodging.
4. Employment Prep
Your DD 2586 assesses your knowledge, experience and skills as they relate to civilian jobs.
The form includes:
- Military experience and training
- Recommended college-credit information
- Civilian-equivalent job titles
5. Check Your Records
Access your records online through the VA’s eBenefits or the DOD’s milConnect. Military medical records are available through the VA’s Blue Button. Download VA benefit letters required for some benefits.
6. Clearing The Installation
If you have unused leave, you should be able to use some or all of it as part of your terminal leave. This time can be used for job interviews, house hunting or moving to your new home.
7. Leave Benefits at Military Separation
Like a rest stop on a busy highway, leave benefits can provide a bit of comfort by helping free up time for the many tasks at hand during military separation.
Permissive Temporary Duty
For service members who are involuntary separation under honorable conditions, up to 10 days permissive temporary duty may be available to prepare for relocating and job hunting. Military spouses may fly space-available on military aircraft for housing or employment opportunities. Service members and spouses voluntarily separating are not eligible for PTD.
When nearing separation servicemembers with leave available may request up to 30 days of regular leave.
Selling Back Leave
If you are separating with an honorable discharge, you may request cash payment for any leave you have available. Selling back leave can be helpful with transition costs!
Terminal leave is not much different from regular leave except you won’t have to return to your duty station, allowing you to move while on terminal leave.
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. It is needed 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. Mistakes could lead to lapses in your medical coverage or eligibility for benefits. You can correct mistakes via DD Form 149.
Types of Discharge
Everyone’s situation is different. You want to review your records before transitioning so that mistakes get fixed by the time you hit the road. The types of military discharge affect your eligibility for benefits.
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
IRR (Individual Ready Reserve)
IRR members are completing their initial military service obligation’s eight-year commitment. IRR members separate from active duty but are subject to recall to active duty in a national emergency.
RE (Re-Enlistment Code)
Each branch has custom RE codes. They determine eligibility to re-enlist based on your character of discharge.
Transition Assistance Program
Thousands and thousands of service members and their families transition to civilian life every year. The TAP program provides information and resources to service members and their families to prepare for the move off the installation for good. Service members begin the TAP at least a year before separation.
Take advantage of pre-separation counseling and then top off your transition tank with optional courses that go beyond the minimum requirements. The branches have custom processes for the 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 confirm you are going in the right direction often. Stay focused throughout the transition to take full advantage of the benefits you’ve earned.
Military Spouse Transition Program
The Military Spouse Transition Program’s Stepping Beyond is for spouses preparing for the transition to civilian living. Pre-transition topics include post-military benefits, healthcare, finances and more – all available 24/7 on Military OneSource for a year after military separation.
Temporary Health Care Insurance
You have 90 days from separation to find your new health plan. Active-duty service members may qualify for TRICARE’s Transitional Assistance Management Program or Continued Health Care Benefit Program.
Military Separation Pay
Fuel your transition with moving costs, military separation pay and unemployment pay plus VA compensation.
Although you likely know your way around PCS moves, don’t assume your final move will be different. Work with your installation’s personal property office to prepare for your last move. Therefore, no surprise costs popup when you are in the thick of your move.
For Service Members With Over Eight Years of Active Duty
The government may cover the cost of moving you to your home of record or home of selection anywhere within the United States, depending upon your type of discharge.
For Service Members With Less Than Eight Years of Active Duty
The government pays for moving your household to your home of record or place entering active duty. If you move anywhere else, you will pay the extra cost. Your move must be on the schedule within 180 days of your active-duty release date.
Are You Going to Move Internationally?
You will pay for added costs determined by your personal property office using the cost to transport your weight allowance to the farthest location within the 48 contiguous states from your current station to calculate the government’s expense.
Separating With Severance
Suppose you are separating with severance, separation or readjustment pay due to being involuntarily released from active duty. You separate following at least eight years active duty. In that case, you have one year from your active-duty termination date to schedule your move.
Personally Procured Move
Your branch determines monetary advances for a personally procured move during separation.
- Army: No advance payment is available to separating service members.
- 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.
- 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 the 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: Partial DITY Move: In-Depth Guide & Expert Tips
Military Separation Pay and Unemployment
Involuntary Separation Pay
ISP pays a lump-sum to eligible active and reserve Service members with six to 19 years of active service before being involuntarily discharged or denied continuation of service short of retirement eligibility.
If your honorable military separation is recent, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers. Bring your DD-214 form to a local American Job Center for help determining if you qualify. Your state’s unemployment insurance may pay temporary cash benefits if you are eligible.
Wartime veterans may be eligible for VA pension benefits upon separation. You can check your eligibility if you think you may qualify.
Thrift Savings Plan
If you’ve contributed to your TSP, you’ll receive retirement income. That amount is determined by how much you paid into the account. Be careful to avoid penalties for early withdrawals.
Finding Where to Live After Leaving the Military
You are finding your place in the world after military separation. The transition can be anchored by finding your civilian home.
Finding the perfect fit for you is a significant first step in transitioning. Still, the good news is there are benefits and resources you can access for help.
VA Home Loans
Suppose you are a service member, veteran or surviving spouse, Reservist or National Guard member, and want to buy, build or improve a home. 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 and make no down payment. Apply for a VA home loan Certificate of Eligibility.
No matter where you want to move, AHRN.com has all the housing resources, moving tools and customer support needed to simplify the process. AHRN.com is dedicated to making it faster and easier for you and your family and finding a home that fits your lifestyle.
More like this: 8 of the Best States for Military Retirees
MyBaseGuide Employment Resources
Want to find your next dream job? Explore the blog Jobs After the Military: 10 Companies That Hire Veterans.
Now that you’re in the know on what jobs to look for — it’s time to go job hunting! Head on over to our sister site MyBaseGuide’s job portal and land your next job.
This country has long supported those who serve in the armed services with benefits and transition support. But be aware that successful transitions take planning, preparation and practice. No program will address all family needs. Family involvement and patience are critical to finding the perfect fit for you.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.