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 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 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.