Separating from the military can be complicated, especially for members of the National Guard or Reserve who have been called to active duty. As a member of the Guard or Reserve, you have benefits and rights that are unique to your situation. Understanding those benefits will make your transition back to civilian life a lot easier.
Your separation requirements
As you begin the separation process, give yourself plenty of time to take care of all your required tasks.
- Pre-Separation Counseling. Required by law, Pre-Separation Counseling should take place no fewer than 90 days prior to separation. You'll learn about continuing your medical insurance, relocation assistance, separation pay, life insurance, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, and unemployment insurance. For information on the class, contact your nearest installation's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) office or Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) office (transition office). You may also visit the DoD's TurboTAP site to locate a transition counselor in your area.
- TAP Workshop. The TAP employment workshop may be mandatory, depending on your branch of Service. The class includes information on job-search strategies, resumes, interviewing skills, job offers, and salary negotiation. Contact your nearest installation's transition office for more details on the TAP workshop.
- Final medical and dental exams. Schedule your mandatory final medical and dental exams with your nearest installation's medical clinic or hospital 90 days prior to your separation.
Your transitional benefits
Separating active duty members of the Guard and Reserve enjoy many of the same benefits as separating active duty military members. However, there are some differences, including your access to continuing medical insurance.
- Medical insurance. Continuing medical insurance for you and your family is available for 180 days after your separation from active duty. To qualify for these medical benefits, you must:
have been separated from active duty after being called up or ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation for a period of more than 30 days.
complete an enrollment application for TRICARE Prime (if you choose to keep TRICARE Prime). The re-enrollment process ensures you will not have a break in insurance coverage.
After 180 days, members of the Guard and Reserve may be eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select, a premium-based health plan. For more information on TRICARE for reservists, including TRICARE Reserve Select, visit the TRICARE website or call 1-800-444-5445.
- Unemployment compensation. Depending on your state and the terms of your discharge, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation. Each state has its own rules for eligibility, so contact your state's employment office for details. A state-by-state listing, as well as specific information on unemployment compensation for former service members, is available from the Department of Labor. Follow the links for unemployment insurance.
- Life insurance. Your Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) will continue for 120 days after separation. You can convert your life insurance from SGLI to Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI) within the 120 days. After 120 days you must provide proof of good health. Visit the VA or call 1-800-669-8477 for more information.
- GI Bill. The newest chapter of the GI Bill-the Post-9/11 GI Bill-has been available to service members since August 2009. Those eligible include Reservists who were called to active duty for at least ninety days after September 11, 2001. The benefits are available to service members who are still on active duty, were honorably discharged, or transferred to the Reserve component. The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the cost of tuition and fees, not more than the highest in-state tuition at a public institution of higher learning, for up to thirty-six months. Generally, benefits are available for fifteen years after your release from active duty. Specific information is available at the VA's GI Bill website.
Many members of the Guard and Reserve continue to receive benefits through one of the other GI Bill programs. For more information on those programs, visit the VA's GI Bill website. If you're eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and one of the other programs, you may choose to receive benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, you cannot receive benefits under both the Post-9/11 GI Bill and another GI Bill program at the same time.
Your return-to-work rights
For many separating members of the Reserve, returning to work after military duty can be the greatest challenge. Fortunately, there are laws and organizations that help them return to their civilian jobs after being called to active duty.
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA provides job protection and rights of reinstatement to employees who participate in the Guard and Reserve. In order to qualify for USERRA protection, you must:
have held a permanent civilian position with the company.
have given advance notice to your employer of your military service (unless precluded by military necessity).
have served in the Armed Forces (voluntarily or involuntarily) no more than five years, unless at the request of and for the convenience of the government.
have been discharged under honorable conditions.
report to your civilian employer in a timely manner.
be qualified to perform the duties of the job (members who were disabled while in the military may still qualify under certain conditions).
More information and specific requirements for USERRA can be found at the Department of Labor's website.
- The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). ESGR provides information and mediation services for employers and members of the Guard and Reserve. Its ombudsman program works in conjunction with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service and the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve employment and re-employment issues. Visit the ESGR website or call 1-800-336-4590 for more information.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development. The SBA Office of Veterans Business Development helps activated Reserve and Guard members who are small-business owners. It offers a comprehensive business-planning guide and other assistance to self-employed Reserve and Guard members before, during, and following active duty. For more information, visit the SBA's website.