Read This: Must-Dos for Separating

Soldier saluting

You’ve made the decision. Now it’s time to make the most of it. There’s a list of tasks to accomplish, and most of them come with a due date:

A Full Year of Support

As you transition into civilian life, you and your family have full access to Military OneSource for 365 days after separation or retirement.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options. Prefer to live chat? Start now.

  • DO get your plans in place. Think about your post-military goals and the income you’ll need. Start researching how your military experience could translate to a civilian career. Learn about your installation’s Transition Assistance Program available to help you and your family prepare for a successful transition.
  • DO start your Transition Assistance Program early. You must complete a mandatory initial counseling session with a transition counselor and complete pre-separation counseling no less than 365 days prior to your separation or retirement date. During TAP, you’ll also receive briefings from the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor. For extra assistance in your transition, check out Military OneSource’s specialty consultation for transitioning veterans. And remember, you can attend TAP more than once!
  • DO schedule a final medical and dental exam. You’ll need a mandatory, final medical and dental exam with your installation’s medical clinic 90 days before you separate.
  • DO schedule the move of your household goods. The earlier, the better. You’ll have one year after leaving active duty to complete your final move. The sooner you can schedule, the better your chances of getting the dates you want.
  • DO talk to your spouse about participating in the Military Spouse Transition Program. This program is designed to guide military spouses through the military to civilian transition.


  • DON’T wait until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to complete all the tasks required. Many have to be completed 365 days before you separate.

Military Retirement: Do You Have This Covered?

Soldier with flag

Transitioning to civilian life is just like everything else in military life. Doing it successfully takes preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to complete all the required tasks before you officially retire. There are four basic steps to take:

1. Separation requirements: Must-dos before your retirement date

Do you have questions about saving for retirement?

Contact Military OneSource to speak with a financial counselor.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Start with the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program website. You’ll find detailed information about transition assistance and how to connect with your service branch’s program. You can also contact your installation’s TAP office.

Initial Counseling and Pre-separation counseling: You need to complete an Individualized Initial Counseling session and Pre-Separation counseling at least 365 days prior to your separation or retirement date, but you can schedule it up to 24 months before your retirement date.

Core Transition Curriculum: As part of the Transition Assistance Program, you will have the opportunity to attend mandatory briefings on transition preparation, employment preparation, and the benefits offered from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about the core requirements on the DOD TAP website.

Final medical exam: Schedule your mandatory, final medical and dental exam with your installation’s medical clinic 90 days before you separate.

Scheduling final move: You will have one year after leaving active duty to complete your final move. But the sooner you can schedule, the greater the chance of getting the dates you want. Learn more under the benefits section in number 3 below.

2. Plan your post-retirement budget: Know what you’ll have to work with

Review your military retirement pay, benefits and expenses to plan your budget and calculate what you’ll have each month.

Income: You’ll receive one of three types of non-disability retirement pay:

  • Final basic pay – for service members with an entry date prior to Sept. 8, 1980.
  • High 36 – for service members with an entry date between Sept. 8, 1980 and Jul. 31, 1986, or for those with dates after Aug. 1, 1986 and before Jan. 1, 2018 who didn’t elect REDUX or opt in to the Blended Retirement System.
  • CBS/REDUX – for service members with an entry date after Jul. 31, 1986 who accepted a mid-career bonus at the 15-year mark and agreed to remain active duty for at least 20 years.

Note: Service members enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System will have slightly different retirement payments than the three outlined above, including a different monthly retired pay formula, a possible lump sum payment taken at time of departure, and a Thrift Savings Plan. Learn more in these frequently asked questions regarding the Blended Retirement System.

Payouts: Federal and state taxes will be withheld from your retirement check. Also remember medical and dental premiums, and Survivor Benefit Plan premiums.

Annual adjustments: Just like your active-duty pay, your retirement pay adjusts annually based on the cost of living to protect your income against inflation.

3. Benefits you’ve earned as a retiring service member

As an active-duty service member, you receive a number of benefits. What happens to them when you retire?

TRICARE: Retiring service members must enroll themselves and eligible family members or risk losing TRICARE benefits. This includes family members with Medicare Part A and B. For more information on health care plan options for retiring service members and families, visit the TRICARE website.

Dental and/or Vision: You may choose to enroll in to dental and/or vision insurance through the FEDVIP benefits program You can enroll during the annual open season each fall, or whenever you have a qualifying life event. Dental and vision plans have a monthly premium based on the plan you choose. Find more details at the Benefeds website.

Final moving expense: You have one calendar year from your retirement date to use your last government-paid move anywhere within the U.S. or to your home of record outside the country. Check with your installation’s Personnel Support Office for information.

Life insurance: Your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance plan continues uninterrupted for 120 days after separation. During that time, you can convert your life insurance to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance. You can still convert after 120 days, but you will have to prove that you’re in good health. Visit the VA life insurance webpage for more information.

Commissary and exchange privileges: You and your family have the same access to both facilities after retirement. The only exception – overseas privileges may be subject to a Status of Forces Agreement.

GI Bill/Education and Training: Depending on which GI Bill you have, and when you leave the service, your GI Bill may be good for 10 years, 15 years or indefinitely. Get the details at your installation’s education office or visit the VA education webpage for more information.

Home loans: Find out about a VA loan to purchase or build your dream retirement home. To qualify, you must have served at least 24 months and have an honorable or general discharge. Call 800-827-1000 or visit the VA housing assistance webpage.

The Survivor Benefit Plan: The plan provides a portion of your retirement pay to your spouse or other eligible person after your death. As long as you have an eligible spouse or child, you’ll automatically be enrolled, and at the maximum level unless you elect otherwise. Contact your installation TAP office or the Defense Finance and Accounting Service with any questions.

4. Finally, prepare for civilian life.

You’ve got military life down cold. What’s it like being a civilian? Time will tell. The best way to prepare is to know what to expect and have some strategies for success.

Saying goodbye: You’ve been through enough moves to know what it’s like to leave friends who feel more like family. But these days, social media makes it easy to keep in touch.

Job searching: Ace that interview. Get a head start. You can attend a Transition Assistance Program employment workshop on your installation as early as two years before retirement.

Miss the lifestyle? It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. You’ve been in a tight, exclusive community with its own unique lifestyle. Look into joining a military organization that can keep you connected and in the loop on retirement issues.

Retirement is the first step to your next successful life and career. Know what’s ahead, be prepared, and enjoy.

Increase Your Skills and Education From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Soldier using a computer

Current as of Sept 29, 2020

Make the most of the unexpected time you have at home because of coronavirus disease 2019. Explore the wide range of education resources the Department of Defense offers for service members and their families. They include:

If you need help navigating opportunities that are available to you, Military OneSource education consultants can help. They can answer questions about financial aid, scholarships, tutoring and college information. Call 800-342-9647. You can also use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Start Your Career With Military Kids – Come Grow With Us

Children sing a song in a Child Development Center

The Department of Defense is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored child care system and one of the largest youth development programs in the country. Through the Department of Defense’s career opportunities initiative, Come Grow With Us, you can apply for both entry and management-level positions in many child development programs and youth programs world-wide.

Department of Defense child and youth development careers

Watch this video of the career opportunities available within military child development and youth programs.

Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks.


As a Department of Defense child development and youth program employee, you’ll enjoy competitive pay and benefits, including:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Paid leave
  • Retirement and 401K benefits
  • Tuition assistance
  • Training, mentoring and professional development
  • Career advancement opportunities

Plus, many of the Department of Defense’s 850+ high-quality child development and youth programs are located on or near military installations worldwide. And, for military spouses seeking employment, spousal preference is offered as well.

If you are interested in a career that offers flexibility and advancement, while providing a vital service to our military families around the world, this employment opportunity is for you.

Some available jobs that may be open in your area include:

  • Child development directors and assistant directors
  • Training and curriculum specialists
  • Before and after school directors
  • Youth program directors
  • Direct care staff

Both entry and career-level positions with Department of Defense programs can be found at:

Ask an Installation Employment Readiness Specialist

Both military spouses and recent college grads from military families can talk to their installation’s employment readiness specialist.

Skills you need to succeed as a child and youth development staff member

If you’re considering a career field in early care and education or youth development, ask yourself these questions to see if you’d fit the qualifications for many entry and management-level positions.

  • Do you have experience with children? Previous experience working with children and youth may give you an advantage when seeking employment. Don’t just count formal student teaching or training, though – an employment history of babysitting or camp counseling will look great to potential employers.
  • Do you have formal early childhood education or youth development training or certifications? Most employers request candidates have at least a GED/high school diploma. Having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in child development, education, psychology, social work, youth development, or physical education can set your application apart from others. Child care-related certifications like the Child Development Associate, or CDA, or the Child Care Professional, or CCP, credentials may also increase your employability, as do basic first aid and CPR certifications.
  • Are you looking for a rewarding, meaningful career? Few careers offer the chance to directly support military children and youth, offering them the foundation they need to succeed as adults. If you enjoy a challenge and are passionate about working with children and youth, this job opportunity is for you.

Managing Your Career as a Military Spouse During a PCS

Work group at table

You’re beginning a new chapter of your military life. As a military spouse, a successful transition may include finding meaningful work at your new duty station. By tapping into your network of support and accessing a variety of programs and resources, you can continue to advance your career while building a new nest. Here are some strategies to help manage your career during a PCS.

Maximize your resources to help land military spouse employment

Take advantage of all the tools and services available to you to advance your career through location-based, telework or other flexible arrangements. They will empower you with the information and connections you need to continue your career wherever you land.

  • The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or SECO, program provides education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering comprehensive resources and tools related to career development, education guidance and employment opportunities. The MySECO website can help you whether you are new to the workforce, advancing your education or established and looking to grow in your career. Check out the My Individual Career Plan, the SECO Scholarship Finder, specialized career coaching packages and self-assessments to help you discover your education or professional strengths.
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP, connects military spouses with hundreds of partner employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. Use the MSEP Job Search to find thousands of job postings in your current or new location, including Hot Jobs, positions that need to be filled immediately.
  • Installation spouse employment readiness specialists, accessed through the Military and Family Support Center on your installation or through your service branch, offer hands-on assistance with everything from resume writing and preparing for interviews to resources for portable careers. Most employment installation readiness programs offer workshops, host hiring fairs and partner with local community-based agencies to help spouses and family members find employment.

Update your resume and prepare a list of references

It’s never too early to update or enhance your resume. Designed specifically for military spouses, the MySECO Resume Builder helps you create a resume customized for the position you are seeking. You’ll also want to prepare a list of references who can speak to your accomplishments and skills.

Take advantage of the Military Spouse Preference Program

As a military spouse who is relocating, you get preference when you apply for a Department of Defense civilian job thanks to the Military Spouse Preference program. You can apply for spouse preference for Appropriated Fund and Non-Appropriated Fund federal jobs as early as 30 days before your spouse’s reporting date. Appropriated Fund vacancies are filled on military installations. Spouse preference is available for these positions at pay grades up to GS-15. Regulations are different for spouse preference outside the United States.

Connect with a SECO career coach

Consider connecting with a SECO career coach as you prepare for a move or after you’ve landed at your new location. Career coaches assist military spouses by providing useful resources for managing a career during a PCS, including help with finding education opportunities that fit mobile life, maximizing job search efforts, building your network and exploring portable career options.

Transfer licenses and credentials

If you’re in a job that requires a license or credential, either by state or a national accreditation, you’ll need to transfer your license or credential. Go to the Spouse Licensure Map to find out which states require which types of licenses or credentials and what office you need to contact to transfer them. The state licensing and career credentials initiative is designed to make it easier to transition your credentials to a new state.

If you move due to a permanent change of station, and you pursue the same licensure or certification in your new location, you can apply for up to $1,000 in reimbursement of relicensure or certification fees from your service branch.

Build your network to find opportunities and support your peers

Networking leads to 70 percent of all jobs and is key for managing a career during a PCS. Here are a few places to begin:

  • Join the MSEP Spouse Group on LinkedIn to connect with hiring managers and human resources professionals from the organizations in the partnership, as well as other military spouses.
  • Check out the Spouse Ambassador Network, a group of MSEP organizations that promotes military spouses in communities where they live.
  • Connect with a mentor through mentoring organizations, like the Military Spouse eMentor Program, to find an experienced professional who can offer you guidance and help establish connections.

Explore portable career and temporary work

Portable careers can be ideal for the military spouse life. Explore different portable career paths, learn about opportunities to take your job with you (streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks), read tips on telecommuting, and use the MSEP Job Search to find telework positions. Develop transferrable skills that make any job portable.

Temporary work can be great for earning some extra savings, gaining experience in your field and exploring different career opportunities. MSEP partner staffing agencies hire military spouses for a variety of jobs, from entry-level to positions requiring a license or advanced degree.

Military spouses are adaptable, resilient and flexible. Employers want to hire you no matter where you land. Use these resources to seize the adventure of your PCS while advancing your career.

Career Coaching for Military Spouses

woman smiling on computer

Being a military spouse has great rewards – and a few challenges. Frequent moves are a good example of both. It’s exciting to experience other parts of the country and the world. But it can be hard to sustain a career when you have to pack up and leave every few years.

If your service member’s spouse is struggling to find a job, they may be eligible for free career coaching and other resources to help build a career that will follow them wherever they go.

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, provided by the Department of Defense, offers career coaching and a wealth of tools and resources to prepare for, and find, a great job. Encourage the military spouse in your life to check out the resources and tools on the MySECO website, including:

  • Self-assessments
  • A resume builder
  • Scholarship finder
  • A free year-long upgrade to LinkedIn Premium
  • Job listings from Military Spouse Employment Partnership employers who are committed to hiring military spouses

SECO also offers a number of personal services, such as on-demand resume and cover letter review, a job search resource that provides spouses with customized job leads with MSEP partners, and more.

Career coaching tailored to military spouses

Both new and seasoned military spouses might feel alone in their efforts to establish a career. A number of our SECO career coaches are veterans or military family members themselves and have personal experience with finding ways to overcome those hurdles. They can help military spouses identify education and career goals and tap into resources to meet them. A SECO career coach can also help military spouses:

  • Find education or training programs that fit their mobile life
  • Research ways to pay for education and training
  • Maximize their search for jobs
  • Build networks and self-market
  • Conduct video mock interviews
  • Pursue entrepreneurship

Career coaching packages for all situations

SECO career coaches offer specialty consultations for military spouses who are interested in a specific career path. Industry-specific coaching packages include:

  • Intelligence and cybersecurity
  • Science, technology, engineering and math
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health care
  • K-12 education
  • Federal employment
  • Information technology
  • Freelancing

SECO also provides career transition coaching packages to help military spouses navigate life changes. Career transition coaching package topics include:

  • New spouse
  • Career readiness
  • Career pathways
  • Re-entering the workforce
  • Permanent change of station
  • Working remotely

The military spouse you care about can take advantage of the free resources to strengthen their skills and meet their goals. Connecting with a SECO career coach can open the door to a meaningful and enriching career for the military spouse in your life.

Military spouses can contact a SECO career coach at 800-342-9647 or through the Live Chat feature in the header of the MySECO website.

Career Coaching for Military Spouses

Deciding on a career or finding a job isn’t easy when your family moves every few years. The military spouse in your life can get help through free career coaching from the Department of Defense.

Military Spouses: Let the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Help You Find a Job

Group of military spouses talking at event

If you need a job, particularly one that is flexible and portable, look no further than the Military Spouse Employment Job Search on MySECO. Through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, hundreds of companies and organizations have committed to hiring and retaining military spouses in jobs that provide meaningful and lasting employment.

What is the Military Spouse Employment Partnership?

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is an initiative of the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program that aims to help military spouses find jobs. The partnership includes more than 440 partners or military-friendly employers. Visit the MSEP Job Search on MySECO to look for your dream job or review helpful information on using the job search.

Marketing yourself for the job

Here are a couple of ways to show potential employers you are a great candidate:

  • Capitalize on your skills. Highlight your life experiences that translate into on-the-job skills. For example, as a military spouse, you’ve probably learned to be adaptable, resilient and culturally aware. Employers covet these qualities.
  • Let them know where you’ve used those specific skills. You could show how, after a move, you had to establish a new network of contacts in your community. Let this be an example of building networking and communication skills.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is here to help. If you need help finding all of the great resources available through the MSEP Job Search on MySECO, call 800-342-9647 to talk to a Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coach. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Networking and Self-Marketing Bring Job Search Success to Military Spouses

Military spouses networking at event

Networking leads to 70 percent of all jobs. While it isn’t difficult, networking does take time and effort. It requires getting to know people in your chosen field and staying in touch with them throughout your career. If you want to get hired, be your biggest fan. Here are a few ways to toot your own professional horn.

Market yourself

  • Network extensively. Attend industry and college alumni events. Reach out to friends, family, former classmates and colleagues.
  • Maximize the Internet. Use career-focused social media portals, like LinkedIn to connect with former colleagues and bosses. Be sure you have a professional, noteworthy profile on Internet sites, like LinkedIn. Join relevant industry groups.
  • Reach out to potential employers. Find out about career opportunities and current openings at companies you like. You can also connect with employers who are committed to hiring military spouses through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
  • Make a great first impression. If you’re invited to interview for a job, get there early, dress for the position and know something about the company. Be sure to bring along your business cards and a polished resume. It’s also a great idea to have a well-rehearsed elevator speech when the interviewer asks you about yourself. This is a 30-second summary of your skills, experience and goals.
  • Be confident. When you’re confident in your abilities, others will notice.
  • Write a winning resume. Make sure your resume is polished and professional.
  • Write a brief thank you note within three days of meeting a potential employer. It should include where and when you met, any follow-up items and your contact information.

Take advantage of networking opportunities

  • Career fairs provide an opportunity for job seekers to meet with people from several companies in one location. Employers may be recruiting for specific job openings or giving information on future job opportunities at these events. Also, look for job fairs exclusively for military spouses.
  • Chamber of commerce groups hold regional events, like mixers, workshops and fundraisers. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation leads the Hiring Our Heroes initiative, which helps veterans and military spouses find work.
  • College career and networking events are generally for alumni and students and typically take place on campus.
  • Community service groups allow volunteers to staff fundraisers, where you might interact with hiring authorities. Don’t be afraid to work for free. Volunteering and interning are great ways to get your foot in the door, and it can be a great learning experience. The same is true for meetings, workshops and conferences for professional and trade associations.

Visit MySECO if you want to know more about marketing yourself for your career. You can also call 800-342-9647 or click here for overseas calling options to speak with a certified Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coach. You should also join the Military Spouse Employment Partnership LinkedIn page for potential contacts.

COVID-19 Surge Response Program Lets Federal Employees Fill Needs

Military man on laptop

Current as of April 20, 2020

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is creating tremendous needs across the nation and world. Current federal employees now have a new way to help meet those needs. The COVID-19 Surge Response Program provides a governmentwide platform — Open Opportunities — where federal agencies can post professional development opportunites for current federal employees. These include details, microdetails and/or temporary rotational assignments.

Here’s how you can learn more about the program and apply for or post an opportunity.

Apply as a current federal employee

Follow these steps to learn more and apply:

  • Visit the COVID-19 Surge Response Program platform on Open Opportunities.
  • Explore opportunities for details, microdetails, and/or temporary rotational assignments. Fields may include human resources, communications, epidemiology, social work and food service.
  • Apply for opportunities for details, microdetails and/or temporary rotational assignments. You will need to create a user profile account on Open Opportunities to apply. You will also need approval from your supervisor in writing, such as in an email message. Approval is being encouraged as much as possible during this time of national emergency. You do not need to work in a similar position or field to qualify for an assignment.
  • Wait as federal agencies review applications and make selections.
  • Know that if you receive approval for an opportunity, your home agency and host agency (or component, if you are rotating within your home agency) will need to complete a Memorandum of Understanding for your detail, microdetail, and/or temporary rotational assignment.

Create, post and fill an opportunity for federal employees

Follow these steps to create and post an opportunity:

  • Check with your supervisor. You will need to get approval before you create an opportunity.
  • Create a user profile account on Open Opportunities if you do not already have one.
  • Sign in to Open Opportunities and select “Create Opportunity.”
  • Choose your audience and provide as much detail about the opportunity as you can. Try these tips to help you write a great opportunity announcement. Announcements include series, title, grade level, open period, position type, duration, number of openings, location, responsibilities, qualifications, application process, security clearance requirement.
  • Preview your announcement for accuracy.
  • Choose “Submit” if you are ready for the opportunity to go live, or save it for later. Return to your drafts on your homepage, under “Created opportunities.”
  • Watch for an email confirming that your opportunity is either live or needs changes.
  • Advertise your opportunity. Use this email template and the “Share” link on Open Opportunities.
  • Review applicants. You will receive an email each time someone applies for your opportunity. Select an applicant’s name to review their profile. Call or email them if you would like to know more about their skills, interests or other details.
  • Assign participants. Select an applicant or applicants to fill your opportunity by using the green circle with a white plus symbol and then selecting “Next Step.” Open Opportunities will notify applicants you select, and your opportunity will be in progress.
  • Email assigned participants to get them started on tasks. Once someone finishes a task, select “Task complete.” Once your opportunity is complete, select “Complete opportunity.”

Consider creating or applying for an opportunity today. You can make a difference in supporting the federal response to COVID-19.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

COVID-19 Surge Response Program Lets Federal Employees Fill Needs

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is creating tremendous needs across the nation and world. Current federal employees now have a new way to help meet those needs.