Service member hugs his family

Deciding Where to Live When You Leave the Military

The day will come when you're preparing to get out of the military. You might have spent many an hour already thinking about where you want to live when you get out. Now it's time to get practical. When deciding where to live after your military separation, it’s helpful to consider:

  • Your family's wishes
  • Career opportunities
  • Education
  • Cost of living

Talk With Your Family

The decision about your next home will affect the entire family, so include them in every step of the process. Here are some things you might want to think about:

  • Career and educational opportunities – Does your spouse want to pursue a career? Now's the time to provide that chance. What about the kids? Where are the best schools? Base your decisions on what will be good for the whole family.
  • Extended family – How close do you want to be to your extended family – "See you tomorrow" close, or "See you on holidays" close? As you think about this, take a careful look at your hometown and evaluate the job market, schools and cost of living.
  • Career Goals – A new job might determine where you live after military separation. Connect with the Transition Assistance Program and get tips and information to help you with your job search. (You have six months to a year to take advantage of your final relocation benefits, so don't feel rushed into moving before you find a job.)

Find the Best Places to Live

After you've narrowed your search to a handful of cities or states, you can dive a little deeper. Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you, like job opportunities, schools, climate or cost of living. Then, do your research to find the best match.

The following can help you make the military to civilian transition a little easier:

  • Take advantage of resources like the Relocation Assistance Program and the Transition Assistance Program – Contact program representatives early on to discuss potential places to live. Staff and volunteers can give you information on real estate and rentals in the area and provide chamber of commerce material.
  • Search websites – Many websites can help you find the best places to live by letting you order the importance of categories like education, crime rates, climate and housing costs. You can narrow your search by preferences or compare your favorite cities.
  • Find local information – Search for an area's information by visiting community or chamber of commerce websites, talking to real estate agents and reading the local newspaper.
  • Identify unique, personal preferences – Some preferences can't be factored into a test on a website. You may want to live close to a military installation so you and your family can take advantage of military benefits. Or you may want to move near a particular reserve unit where you can train in a specialized area.

Make the Decision

You've done the background work. Now's the time to make your decision. No outcome is guaranteed, but careful evaluation will help you choose the best option for you and your family. At this point, you might want to:

  • Weigh your options – Write down the available choices and assess the pros and cons of each. Use your list to help you look objectively at options.
  • Prepare for mixed emotions – Be prepared for different kinds of feelings as you make the change from military to civilian life.
  • Visit the transportation management office – As soon as you've made your decision, visit the transportation management office. Your installation office will schedule your final move. The earlier you visit, the more likely you can get the move dates you want.

Access Military Support

Your relocation benefits include one final move from your last duty station within the time and geographic limits listed below. If you live in installation housing, you may be allowed one move out of housing into the local community and another final move within these limits. Check with your installation's transportation management office for details on benefits specific to your final move.

  • Retirement – You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your retirement date. (This is called a home of selection.)
  • Involuntary separation (honorable discharge) – You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your separation date.
  • Voluntary separation (honorable discharge) – You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation date. If you choose a destination of greater distance, you will be obligated to pay the additional costs.
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions) – You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation.

If you or another veteran is without a home or facing eviction or foreclosure while transitioning out of military service, the Department of Veterans Affairs can help. Make the call to 877-4AID-VET (424-3838), or chat with them online to be connected to the homelessness prevention resources department.

Finding a place to call home after you separate from the military is one of the first big steps to civilian life. Fortunately, you have access to a number of benefits and resources that can help you with this transition. Educate yourself with the right information and you’ll be enjoying home sweet home very soon.