12 Situations Where You Can Get Free Legal Help

Service members reviewing documents

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

As a service member or eligible family member, you have access to free legal benefits. Through your legal assistance office, you can receive free legal services such as a lease agreement review, estate planning or advice if you get sued.

Get Free Legal Help

Specific legal services may vary by installation, but your legal assistance office can generally help with the following:

  1. Powers of attorney. A power of attorney allows one person to legally act on your behalf on legal and money matters. For example, a power of attorney document can appoint someone to release your household goods shipment if you’re leaving before your furniture will ship or bank on your behalf while you are deployed.
  2. Lease and rental contract reviews. A lawyer can review your lease or rental contract before you sign it to be sure the terms are acceptable, and that the agreement includes any military rental protection clauses for your state.
  3. Living will. With a living will, you can declare what medical treatment or life-sustaining measures you want or don’t want if you become seriously ill or injured.
  4. Estate planning. This is an important part of retirement planning and can include:
    • Drafting of a will, a legally binding document describing how you want your property and belongings distributed after your death
    • Designating your beneficiaries
    • Planning ahead should you become mentally or physically disabled
  5. Family care plan. This serves as a blueprint, for military purposes, for how you want your family cared for while you’re deployed. A plan is required for single parents, dual-military couples with children, or if you care for a disabled or elderly family member. Legal assistance offices can review and advise on this matter.
  6. Notary services. Notaries can administer oaths, witness signatures, take acknowledgments, sworn statements and affidavits, and more.
  7. Consumer issues. If you’re having credit problems, believe you’re the victim of a scam or have a dispute over a consumer issue, legal assistance attorneys may help you communicate and negotiate with collection agencies, lawyers or other parties.
  8. Tax assistance. Many legal assistance offices operate tax centers or provide income tax return preparation to help with filing federal, state or local taxes.
  9. Family law. Get legal advice for a range of issues, including adoption, child support, marriage, divorce, separation, child custody, alimony, property division, name changes, paternity or legal benefits under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act.
  10. Service member rights and responsibilities. Legal assistance offices can help you understand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides specific protections for service members.
  11. Civil lawsuits. In limited cases, you can get help with the preparation of legal correspondence, documents and pleadings.
  12. Immigration and naturalization. You can get support and referrals for immigration, citizenship and naturalization matters, including alien registration, reentry permits, passports, naturalization of a surviving spouse and citizenship of military children born abroad.

Pay for Legal Advice on These Matters

The legal assistance office is restricted from providing help and advice in some circumstances, including the following:

  • Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue
  • Claims against the government
  • Serious criminal matters
  • Citations for driving under the influence
  • Legal matters concerning your privately owned business
  • In-court representation

While Military OneSource does not offer legal assistance, you can call or visit your legal assistance office to find out more about the services offered at your installation.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

TRICARE 101: Military Health Benefits Basics in Five Minutes or Less

Family enjoys healthy exercise outside

TRICARE is the health care program for almost 9.4 million service members, retirees and their families around the world that provides military health benefits and health care support to ensure mission readiness. Whether you already have TRICARE or are just starting the enrollment process, take the next five minutes to learn the basics, including how to navigate recent changes.

TRICARE enrollment: Important information before getting started

TRICARE Changes in 2020

The biggest changes to TRICARE in 2020 affect your pharmacy benefits.

There is a lot to know about the military health care program before you decide which plan is best for you and your family. TRICARE has implemented an open season for enrolling in its healthcare plans. Here are important items to know.

Available TRICARE plans

There are many different TRICARE plans, but TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select are the two primary options for active-duty service members and their families. TRICARE Prime Remote works like TRICARE Prime for active-duty service members and their families assigned to geographical regions where there is no military hospital or clinic nearby. In fact, all active-duty service members must enroll in TRICARE Prime – and will never pay out-of-pocket for any type of care within the network. Their family members and other beneficiaries, though, may choose other TRICARE plans and may incur out-of-pocket fees depending on the plan they choose.

See below for brief descriptions of the most common TRICARE plans available for service members, families and retirees. You can also visit the Plans & Eligibility section on TRICARE’s website to find information on all TRICARE plans and to compare plans.

TRICARE Prime add
TRICARE Select add

TRICARE Young Adult add
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TRICARE beneficiaries eligible for Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program add
TRICARE Reserve Select add

For a comprehensive list of plan details and changes to the TRICARE program, visit the main TRICARE website and see how your health care may be impacted.

While Military OneSource does not directly manage or facilitate any part of the TRICARE health benefits program, we want to make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family to live your best MilLife.

Employment and Education – The Essentials

Hiring Our Hero poster.

Re-entering the civilian world is often the perfect time to get your degree or find that great civilian job. As a service member, you’ve proven your commitment, discipline and resourcefulness. Now the task is making sure those military accomplishments look their best on a civilian resume or transcript.

Consider taking these steps as you explore your options:

Explore tools for self-assessment.

Finding a career that matches your skills and interests is key to job satisfaction. A satisfying job gives you a sense of accomplishment and makes good use of your skills. If you’re not sure about your career path after the military, take advantage of our career-related articles or some of the self-assessment tools available to you. These strategies can help you find a meaningful career, not just a job.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Credential your military experience.

You have skills that employers value: discipline, work ethic and teamwork. Your military experience has also given you training that you can put to work in the civilian world. But sometimes, it can be a challenge to explain military training in terms civilian employers can understand. That’s where “Credentialing Opportunities On-Line,” or COOL, comes in. The COOL program helps you translate your training into civilian credentials and align your experience with what employers want.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Write a winning resume.

Your resume is likely to be the first information about you that an employer will see. With your background of military service, you already have impressive skills and knowledge. However, you might need some help marketing your experience on one sheet of paper to stand out. The following articles and resources provide tips on what to highlight, along with helpful resume-building tools.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Review tips for finding the right job.

Ready to trade in your experience for a great job? Just like everything, it’s all about readiness and attitude. Start early. Be prepared. Go for it.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Learn about your benefits and resources.

As you prepare for civilian employment, you’ll discover a world of services and programs committed to helping you transition from the military to a meaningful career. We’ve got your back. Here are resources you’ll need to go back to school or start a new job. You can tap into employment resources to connect with employers looking for veterans, employment benefits and assistance programs, and more tools to find success before and after you leave the military.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Information is power when it comes to a successful separation or transition from the military. Military OneSource provides an array of services to help you conclude your life as an active-duty service member and advance to the next step. Call 800-342-9647 for specialty consultations or to connect to a variety of other resources. OCONUS/Overseas? Click here for calling options.

Plan Your Trip With Space-A Travel

Plane taking off on runway

Note: Effective March 21, 2020, Air Mobility Command temporarily suspended most Space-A travel due to COVID-19.

Service members and their families can use Space-Available flights – formally known as Military Airlift Command or MAC flights – to travel around the country and world at little to no cost. Though sometimes unpredictable, military flights are perfect for families with flexible plans and limited travel budgets. With the right planning and documentation, Space-A travel can be the best way to take a trip with your family.

Space-A Tips and Tricks

Learn how to take Space-A flights like a seasoned pro with these seven tips.

Space-A travel basics

These flights are not commercial, but rather military flights with a mission. That means there are certain restrictions to travel, including:

  • Only service members, retirees and their families are eligible. Only with certain qualifications are reservists, National Guardsmen and family members without an accompanying active-duty sponsor permitted.
  • Flights are typically free of charge, but you should contact your closest Air Mobility Command, or AMC, passenger terminal or the terminal at the location you intend to depart from for specific information.
  • Most terminals have a Facebook page where they post flight information, including their 72-hour flight schedule.

Space-Available travel eligibility

Once you sign up for a Space-A journey, you’ll be put into a category that determines your priority for a flight. A complete listing of eligible passengers by category is contained in DoD Instruction 4515.13. For the most recent instruction, search the DoD Directives Division website for “Air Transportation Eligibility.” Categories include:

  • Category I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel.
  • Category II: Accompanied Environmental and Morale Leave, or EML.
  • Category III: Ordinary Leave, Relatives, House Hunting Permissive Temporary Duty, Medal of Honor Holders and Foreign Military.
  • Category IV: Unaccompanied EML.
  • Category V: Permissive Temporary Duty (Non-House Hunting), Students, Dependents, Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence and Others.
  • Category VI: Retired, Dependents, Reserve, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program and Civil Engineer Corps members.

Prepare for your Space-A flight

AMC has a travel page that includes the following important information about Space-A travel. You should review this travel page for up-to-date information, including what type of identification is required for you and your family, baggage allowance for checked and hand carried baggage, and prohibited items.

  • Travel instructions: travel eligibility; locations; required travel documents; registration, flight schedule and checking-in information.
  • AMC Form 140, Space Available Travel Request (fill out a form online and email it to your desired AMC passenger terminal)
  • Listing of Facebook pages for stateside and overseas locations.
  • AMC passenger terminal contact information.
  • Various travel information links.
  • Legal information for Space-A travel.
  • Operations security for social media and travelers.

Fly commercial with TSA Precheck

If Space-A travel isn’t right for your plans, take advantage of TSA Precheck to expedite your time at the airport when flying commercial. Use your Department of Defense ID as your known traveler number.

You’ll bypass long security lines without removing your shoes or jacket or taking your laptop from your bag. Family members under the age of 12 can pass through expedited screening with you.

Seven Signs You May Need Extra Help Transitioning to Civilian Life – And Where to Get It

Man with his dog admiring the sunset

Are you separating or retiring from the service in the near future? Are you actively transitioning to civilian life? With so many components of transition, you may feel like you could use some extra help. Maybe you’re looking for support to manage stress or logistics. Or perhaps you just need someone to give you that extra encouragement to set goals to get through your to-do list.

Whatever the case may be, Military OneSource is here to help – and is your anchor to Department of Defense resources for up to 365 days after your last day of service. If you’re not sure if you could benefit from extra support navigating your transition, check out the following signs:

  1. Do you know where to start? When you prepare for the transition process, you may not know where to begin. It’s common to have trouble setting goals for this next life stage. After getting some of your questions answered by a trained consultant, you may have the tools to make a game plan and execute.
  2. Do you want to know more about the benefits you’re eligible for during and after your transition? There are many benefits available to veterans, but how do you know which ones apply to you? Veteran benefits include disability, education, health care, housing, life insurance and more. It’s a lot to consider, and sometimes these benefits have specific timeframes and deadlines you need to know.
  3. Are you trying to navigate civilian work life? Adjusting to the civilian workforce can be a big challenge when transitioning from the military. There are resources and experts available to help you translate your military skills into civilian terms, apply for jobs, learn how to write a resume, practice your interview skills and more.
  4. Ease Transition Stress With Personalized Support

    Call Military OneSource 24/7 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a Transitioning Veterans consultant.

    Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

    Prefer to live chat? Start now.

  5. Do you want to go back to school? Pursuing higher education may be a goal of yours in this next stage of life, but maybe you have a roadblock you want to overcome. There are certain things to consider, like identifying what type of school you’re interested in, how to finance your degree and whether you should attend online or in-person classes.
  6. You don’t know what to do with your Thrift Savings Plan. If you invested in a TSP, do you know what to do with it once you’re out of the military? Depending on your situation, there are several options regarding your TSP.
  7. You are looking for specific information on VA health care. Health care is a benefit for all service members. Now that you’re transitioning to civilian life, you may be looking for information on coverage for you and your family. Your separation or retirement status – among other factors – determines your eligibility for VA health care benefits.
  8. You’re a military spouse who is looking for access to tailored transition information. Transitioning from military to civilian life impacts the entire family. Now that your partner is leaving the military, what does that mean for you? There are resources for military spouses. By exploring, learning and preparing, you can take charge of your family’s new chapter in civilian life.

Personalized Transition Support Is Available

Military OneSource provides support during this transition phase, whether you are a service member or military spouse.

  • Transitioning Veterans is a specialty consultation for service members looking to get answers about their own transition. A professional consultant will provide personalized sessions to help you navigate your transition to your next chapter. Service members can get this extra help 12 months out from retirement or separation or within 365 days of your last day of service.
  • The Military Spouse Transition Program supports military spouses through the military spouse experience as you step into military life until you step out of it. MySTeP empowers spouses with resources, benefits, programs and more to take command of the family’s transition.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to speak to a consultant about your military transition. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Blended Retirement System

Group discussion of service members
Q: Why did the military retirement system change? add
Q: How did the military retirement system change? add
Q: What do I need to know about the Blended Retirement System? add
Q: How does the Thrift Savings Plan figure into the system? add
Q: I’m in the Blended Retirement System. Will the Department of Defense match my contributions? add
Q: What is the second part of the system – continuation pay? add
Q: What about the third part – the annuity? add
Q: If I’m in the blended system and retire after 20 years, will I still get an annuity? add
Q: Where can I learn more about the Blended Retirement System? add
Q: What should service members who enlisted after 2006 but before Jan. 1, 2018 know about the Blended Retirement System? add
Q: How do changes in the retirement system benefit the Department of Defense? add

Do you have questions about retirement? Contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a financial counselor. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

The Military’s A+ Financial Benefits to Protect Your Future

F-16 falcons fly in a row over mountains

As a service member, you’ve earned financial benefits to help protect your future. Take advantage of military benefits to shore up your personal finances – for both the short term and long term.

Benefits that can help set you up financially

Basic pay is the fundamental component of military pay. All members receive basic pay, and typically, it is the largest component of a service member’s pay. A member’s grade (usually the same as rank) and years of service determines the amount of basic pay received.

Pay Raise for 2020

Military personnel are receiving a 3.1% increase in their basic pay in 2020. This raise is for both active-duty and reserve service members.

Allowances are the second-most-important element of military pay. Allowances are moneys provided for specific needs, such as food or housing. Monetary allowances are provided when the government does not provide for a specific need. For example, the quantity of government housing is not sufficient to house all military members and their families, so those who are not able to live in government housing receive allowances to assist them in obtaining commercial housing. Those who live in government housing do not receive full housing allowances.

Special and incentive pays provide the services with flexible additional pays that can be used to address specific manning needs and other force management issues that cannot be efficiently addressed through basic pay increases. Unlike basic pay and allowances, which vary by pay grade and years of service, S&I pays can be used to improve recruiting and retention by increasing compensation in key occupation specialties or critical skill areas. These pays are also used to compensate for onerous or hazardous duty assignments or conditions. In addition, S&I pays can be used to provide incentives for service members to develop certain skills that are important to national security objectives.

Savings Deposit Program. Service members deployed to a combat zone get guaranteed 10% interest on money put into a savings account, up to $10,000 for each deployment. That’s unheard of outside the military. Bonus: You keep earning 10% interest up to three months after you return.

Thrift Savings Plan. Sure, retirement seems a long way off. But your future self will thank your present self if you earmark a portion of each paycheck to retirement via the Thrift Savings Plan. It’s the easiest money you’ll likely make, thanks to compound interest. If you stash $100 in a retirement account (earning 2% interest) twice a month for the next 30 years, you’ll be looking at a balance of $102,500. You have several plans to choose from. Bonus: It’s one of the lowest cost retirement savings plans out there, charging just 40 cents per $1,000 of investment each year.

Free college. Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can get the full cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges covered for up to four academic years, or contributions for a private college education. You’ll also get a housing stipend and up to $1,000 a year for books and tutoring. Benefits cover the cost of education and training programs, including undergraduate and graduate studies, vocational schools and technical training. Learn the ins and outs of different GI Bill programs. Bonus: Benefits may be transferable to a spouse or children. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire.

Affordable housing. Service members get a tax-free housing allowance when government quarters are not provided. The size of the monthly subsidy is based on your rank, location and family size. It is intended to cover part of your rent or mortgage payment so you can live off base comparably to civilians.

Low-cost life insurance. Service members have access to some of the lowest-cost life insurance available anywhere. You can provide your family with financial security at just 6 cents per $1,000 of insurance. That means for up to $400,000 of life insurance, you pay only $24 a month, regardless of age or health. You also get traumatic injury coverage for just $1 per month.

Other ways to build wealth

Low-cost loans. As a service member, you can get a low-cost home loan via the Veterans Administration – without having to put down a down payment or pay pricy private mortgage insurance.

Different ways to save. When joining the Thrift Savings Plan, you can choose from two tax options: either make contributions to retirement on a pre-tax case and then pay taxes on the amounts at retirement, or contribute after-tax dollars, letting the amount grow over time and never paying taxes on that savings. Bonus: if you receive tax-free combat pay, you don’t have to pay any tax on Roth TSP or Roth IRA contributions.

Tax deductions. You or your spouse are eligible for numerous tax deductions, some extended to all citizens in certain situations and others exclusive to service members and their families.

Contacting Military OneSource can put you on the path to making the most of your financial benefits. Our free resources, information and personalized specialty services can help you make the most of your benefits. Call 800-342-9647 or connect via Live Chat 24/7/365. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Military Retirement: Do You Have This Covered?

Service member holding folded up flag during retirement ceremony.

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 Transition Assistance Program. You’ll find detailed information here about what’s included and how to connect with the program for your service branch.

Pre-separation counseling: You need pre-separation counseling at least 90 days before separation, but you can schedule it up to 24 months before your retirement date. Pre-separation covers the basics about medical insurance, relocation assistance, life insurance, Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and more.

Employment workshop: Attend a Transition Assistance Program employment workshop. It can be extremely useful, with information on job-search strategies, resume writing, interview skills, salary negotiation and more.

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. See below under benefits for more.

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 July 31, 1986, or for those with dates after Aug. 1, 1986 and before 1 January 2018 who didn’t elect REDUX or opt in to the Blended Retirement System.
  • CBS/REDUX – for service members with an entry date after July 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.

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.

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 have to prove that you’re in good health. Check out ExploreVA.gov for more.

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 at Explore VA.gov.

Home loans: Find out about a Department of Veterans Affairs 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 Home Loans page.

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 Transition Assistance Program 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? Don’t stress, just 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 ready and go ahead. Enjoy.

How to Write a Civilian Resume

A service member fills out résumé information during an employment and education workshop.

Your civilian resume is a summary of your background and experience, and it’s likely to be the first information about you that an employer will see. With your background of military service, you already have impressive skills and knowledge. These tips will help you make a resume that will stand out. Also, see below for links to resume building tools.

With a background of military service, you already have impressive skills and knowledge. These tips will show you how to write a resume that will stand out.

Collect your assets.

  • Get a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training through the Department of Defense.
    • Your VMET will give an overview of the skills you’ve gained in the military.
  • Make a list of your technical skills.
    • Computer technicians, mechanics and engineers have skills that can be easily converted to civilian jobs.
    • Convert your military job training into civilian terms. For example, “budgeting” is a critical skill in civilian companies.
  • Make a list of your intangible skills.
    • Include leadership, discipline and a strong work ethic.

Select your resume style.

There are different ways to organize your resume. Pick a style that highlights your strengths. Your resume should highlight your unique qualifications.

  • Chronological resume
    • Your employment history is highlighted, starting with the most recent position, and then going back in time.
    • Include your responsibilities and accomplishments under each separate job.
  • Functional resume
    • Your skills are highlighted. Your work history and gaps are de-emphasized.
    • Skills and accomplishments should be divided into specific areas of expertise.
  • Combination resume
    • Your skills earned in a variety of jobs are highlighted, but using a job history format.
    • Your specific skills will form the main body of the resume, followed by a concise employment history.

Include these essential components:

  • Contact information: In the heading, include your name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Objective or job target: In one or two lines, say what kind of job you’re looking or applying for, and what makes you uniquely qualified.
  • Summary of qualifications: This is a bulleted section just below the objective in the visual center of the resume.
    • Include five or six lines highlighting the skills that qualify you for the job.
    • This will include your experience, certifications and related training.
    • Title this section “Highlights of Qualifications,” “Summary of Skills” or “Summary of Experience.”
  • Employment history: Will vary depending on the type of resume.
  • Education and training: List colleges, schools or military training schools you attended. You can list the name of the school and the location, but not necessarily the dates.
  • Special skills: Include foreign languages, computer skills or any other relevant skills that will set you apart.

Make your resume unique to you.

You’ve got the basics down. Now use your resume to showcase your unique abilities and accomplishments.

  • Target your resume. Change and tailor your resume for the job you’re targeting. Learn what this employer looks for and highlight those qualities.
  • Translate everything into civilian terms.
    • For example, replace “officer in charge” with “managed.”
    • Take out the acronyms and use terms civilians understand. For example, replace “SNOIC for 2d MarDiv G-3, planning and executing all logistics for operations conducted in our AOR.” with “Supervised staff of 15 people. Planned and coordinated operations conducted by various subordinate units within our division.”
  • Include your accomplishments. Use numbers to highlight, if possible. For example, “Managed budget of $100K” or “Reduced training time from 26 weeks to 24 weeks.”
  • Be concise. Limit your resume to one or two pages.
  • Include volunteer experience if it’s relevant to the job. Volunteer experience can add to credibility and character.
  • Leave off unnecessary details. Don’t include marital status, height and weight or religious affiliation. Leave off salary information unless it was specifically requested.
  • Check spelling and accuracy. Proofread your resume, ask someone else to proofread it, and read your resume backwards to catch typos.

Write a cover letter.

Always send a cover letter with your resume. Your cover letter will explain why you’re interested in the position and how your skills make you the best choice for the job.

  • Get the name of the person in charge of hiring. Send your email or cover letter to him or her. Usually you can just call the company and ask for their name.
  • Mention the job that you’re applying for in the first paragraph. Focus on describing how your skills and abilities can help the company.
  • Keep it to one page. Use a business-letter format.
  • Always follow up. Mention that you will call to follow up and don’t forget to do it.

Tap into resume-building tools.

These websites have tools to help you build your resume and translate your military credentials and experience into civilian skills. They reference veterans, but they’re also for active duty.

  • Veterans.gov from the U.S. Department of Labor has an online job exchange with access to employers, skills translator, resume builder, interest profiler and more.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an interest profiler, educational and career counseling and links to other job resources, such as support for veteran-owned small businesses.
  • Resumeengine.org through Hiring Our Heroes provides an easy-to-use resume application to service members that will translate military records into a strong resume that civilian employers can easily understand.

Prepare for your job search early.

The earlier you can start your preparation for civilian employment, the better. The Transition Assistance Program office on your installation can help you get started. Military OneSource also offers the Transitioning Veterans specialty consultation to further assist you in transitioning from the military to civilian life.

If you’re pursuing federal employment, upload your resume to the federal resume-building websites. Visit the federal government’s USAJOBS site or your installation Transition Assistance Program for more information.

Transition Assistance Programs and Resources

Service member taking notes

The military has an extensive array of services to help make your separation a success. If you’re an active-duty service member, National Guard and Reserve Component service member, or service member’s spouse, you can take advantage of these transition assistance resources and more.

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.

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Transition resources and programs

Components of the TAP curriculum

TAP starts no later than 365 days prior to transition for those who are separating or retiring. It is recommended retirees begin the transition process at least two years prior to retirement. In the event of an unanticipated separation or retirement, or a member of the Reserve Component is demobilized with less than 365 days, TAP must begin as soon as possible within the remaining period of service.

  1. Individualized initial counseling
    Individualized initial counseling between the service member and a TAP counselor is now the official start to the transition process. During the IC session, service members complete their personal self-assessment and begin the development of their Individual Transition Plan to identify their unique needs for the transition process and post-transition goals.
  2. Pre-separation counseling
    Once the individualized counseling is complete, pre-separation counseling commences. Pre-separation counseling, just like IC, must start no later than 365 days prior to transition. Pre-separation counseling covers by-law information including benefits, entitlements and resources for eligible transitioning service members. Caregivers and spouses are especially encouraged to attend pre-separation counseling with their service member.
  3. The DoD Transition Day
    The DoD Transition Day follows pre-separation counseling, and is mandatory for transitioning service members. It covers these topics:

    • Managing Your Transition gives service members an understanding of the importance of preparing for their transition from military service into the civilian sector and provides an overview of the Transition Assistance Program curriculum. The “less obvious” topics of transition – such as personal and family transition concerns, the differences in the culture of civilian and military workplaces, transition-related stressors, and the importance of effective communication during the transition process – are introduced. The course concludes with both military and civilian resources that can provide support during and after transition for military personnel and their family members.
    • Military Occupational Code Crosswalk demonstrates how to translate military skills, training and experience into civilian credentialing appropriate for civilian jobs. Service members will document their military career experience and skills, translate their military occupation experience to civilian occupations and skills, and identify any gaps in their training and/or experience that need to be filled to meet their career goals.
    • Financial Planning for Transition builds on the financial training provided during the military life cycle and helps service members understand how transition will impact their financial situation. Subjects include change in income, taxes, healthcare costs, new expenses and other financial matters. Online tools are used to calculate the military-to-civilian income equivalent and to research the cost of living for at least two geographical locations. Throughout the course, service members have the opportunity to develop or update a spending plan.
  4. VA Benefits and Services
    VA Benefits and Services is a one-day interactive briefing that teaches service members about VA benefits and programs based on their needs and where they are in their transition journey. Each module highlights real stories and examples from service members who have already transitioned from military to civilian life. Topics covered include disability benefits and compensation, memorial and burial benefits, education and economic support, housing benefits and health care options, including both physical and emotional health needs.
  5. Department of Labor Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition
    The Department of Labor Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition provides an introduction to the tools and resources service members can use to evaluate career options, gain information for civilian employment, and understand the fundamentals of the employment process.
  6. Service member elected tracks
    The TAP also includes a service member election of two days of instruction. These include the DOL Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DoD Education Track and the Small Business Administration Entrepreneurship Track. Transitioning service members must elect at least one track but may attend more than one based on their ITP and post-transition goals.
  7. Capstone
    The Capstone is the culminating event where commanders verify achievement of career readiness standards and a viable ITP. It must happen no later than 90 days before separation or released from active duty.

Make sure you get your VMET

Your service branch is required to verify your military experience and training. Your Verification of Military Experiences and Training form DD 2586 assesses your knowledge, experience and skills as they relate to civilian jobs. The form provides:

  • Military experience and training
  • Recommended college-credit information
  • Civilian-equivalent job titles

Download your VMET from the DMDC >

More transition resources

  • Installation briefings. Installations hold classes and seminars on dressing for success, goal setting, change management, and evaluating and negotiating job offers.
  • Individual assistance. Installation transition assistance offices provides personal help for you and your spouse for up to 180 days after separation or retirement, including one-on-one support, resources, needs assessments and referrals.

Your transition to civilian life is a significant event. Start planning as soon as you know you’ll be leaving the military – even if it’s a year or more away.