Military Separation: What to Expect When Your Service Member Transitions to Civilian Life

Your service member’s military career is winding down and civilian life awaits. As with all endings and new beginnings, this next stage may bring a mix of sadness, optimism, unease and excitement.

Learning what to expect during military separation and planning for what comes next can help ease anxiety, clarify goals and set your service member up for success.

How your service member may be feeling

Separating from the military isn’t merely trading one career for another; it’s a significant change that may affect nearly every aspect of life. It’s helpful to be aware of some of the ways your service member may be feeling before, during and after the transition. Your service member may be:

  • Excited about new possibilities outside of the military.
  • Overwhelmed by the number of choices ahead, including where to live and how to earn an income.
  • Mourning the loss of community, a reliable support system and the deep sense of purpose and camaraderie that comes with being in the military.

You can support your service member just by being available to listen as they sort through their feelings and work their way through the transition.

Supporting your service member during the transition to civilian life

Your service member may have clear goals for civilian life and a plan to meet each one. Or, your loved one may have little idea what to do next. There’s a lot to think about when separating from the service, so the earlier your service member begins planning, the smoother the transition will be. Some considerations include:

  • Where to live. For the first time since entering the military, your service member has unlimited choices of where to live. Will your service member return home to family? Settle in another part of the country? Rent or buy a home?You might help your service member think through the pros and cons of different areas, including employment opportunities and housing costs. Veterans may qualify for a home loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may influence the decision about whether to rent or buy.
  • Whether to continue their education or enter the workforce. Some separating service members enroll in college full time, while others start their careers, launch a business or enter a training program or apprenticeship. Your service member may qualify for benefits to help with the cost of education, as well as services to help with the decision.
  • Which career field to enter. You can help your service member with this choice by talking about ways their military training, skills and experiences translate to the civilian workforce. You might ask about long-term goals, the education or training required to achieve them and which education and training benefits are available to help with the cost. With goals set, your service member can then research education or training programs and begin the application process.Or, if the plan is going directly into the workforce, the discussion points might include beginning to network, preparing a resume and identifying potential employers.

The Transition Assistance Program, or DODTAP

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs offer many resources to help transitioning service members clarify their goals and understand which benefits they qualify for. Among these is the Transition Assistance Program, which is mandatory for separating service members who have served 180 continuous days or more on active duty. DODTAP offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to equip service members with the tools and resources to succeed in their civilian lives. It includes:

  • Individualized initial counseling during which your service member will complete a self-assessment and begin developing a transition plan.
  • Pre-separation counseling to learn about benefits, entitlements and resources.
  • A series of briefings focusing on managing the transition, translating military skills to the civilian world, financial planning, benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and finding a career.
  • Instruction on finding employment, vocational training, higher education or entrepreneurship.

Service members must complete TAP no later than a year before leaving the military. Retiring service members should begin the process at least two years before retirement.

Transitioning to Civilian Life

View this webinar, which discusses steps to make the shift easier.

Other resources to help with the transition

  • The Transitioning Veterans Specialty Consultation from Military OneSource is tailored to your service member’s unique needs. The series of 45-minute consultations cover goal setting, benefits review, VA assistance, exploring education opportunities, workforce preparation and becoming familiar with online resources.
  • The Military Spouse Transition Program helps military spouses throughout their military journey, including the transition to civilian life.
  • Military OneSource is available to veterans and their families for 365 days post separation from the military. Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling, as well as help with career planning, relocation and housing, personal finances, tax filing and accessing benefits for veterans.
  • The Credential Opportunities On-Line program is offered by each service branch to help service members translate their training into civilian credentials.
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration website lists VA benefits available to veterans.

The military equips service members with skills, abilities and experiences that serve them well in the civilian world. These inner resources, along with the support of loved ones like you and the benefits and services available, will help your service member transition smoothly into this exciting next phase of life.

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.

Finally:

  • 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.

Re-enlist, Reserves, or Transition? 4 Things to Consider

Soldier testing new technology

Maybe you’re just ending your first tour of duty. Maybe you’ve fulfilled your obligation to your country. Now, you’re at a crossroads – re-enlist, reserves, transition out? How do you know you’re making the right call?

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.

This is going to affect your future, so think it through. Take stock, review your options. Here are four things you need to assess to make your best decision:

What benefits will you have available?

Benefits differ, depending on whether you’re separating, transitioning to the reserves, or retiring. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers benefits briefings as part of your transition assistance. Here are some of the benefits you may be able to receive:

  • Transition assistance for active duty, Guard and reserve, wounded service members and more.
  • A steady paycheck, if you decide to continue your service in the reserves
  • Education and training opportunities
  • Home loans and housing assistance
  • Life insurance
  • Medical services can be accessed for up to two years after discharge for some service members.
  • Commissary and exchange privileges are available for retirees, National Guardsmen and reservists.

If you’ve been injured during service, you may receive extra care and support. Learn about wounded warrior specialty consultations, health care, benefits and more.

Living costs outside the military

Civilian life has its expenses and its tradeoffs. No more basic allowance for housing, but you can move anywhere you want without orders. You won’t have that steady military paycheck and job security, but you can go for that civilian job you’ve always wanted. Here are some of most important costs of civilian life to prepare for:

  • Housing will probably be your biggest monthly expense, but you may be entitled to VA home loans as well as benefits to help you make your final move.
  • Health care. Veterans who aren’t enrolled in VA health care will need health insurance. That can mean monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. TRICARE Reserve Select is available worldwide for qualified Selected Reserve and their families.
  • Saving for retirement. Setting aside some money every month for retirement is vital. Got a job on the horizon? Compare the employer’s plan with the military’s retirement plan. Use this military compensation calculator to see what your military retirement would look like.

A job and income after service

A good civilian job makes all the difference in a successful transition out of the military. You’ll find lots of assistance and resources available – including some on this site – to help you line up a good job.

  • When you’re making the decision to separate, start planning for employment as soon as possible, ideally about a year out.
  • A big part of pre-separation planning is Career and Employment Readiness.
  • Check out these tips for 12 Ways to Land a Civilian Job, and remember you have access to Military OneSource assistance for 365 days after separation or retirement.

Civilian living versus military life

You’re not just changing jobs or making a move – you’re changing the way you and your family live. Sure you’re used to change, but this can be different. Be prepared.

  • You’ll be leaving behind close friends. Workplace camaraderie will probably be different. Job security may be different too. But on the other hand, no more orders.
  • Some people choose to combine military and civilian life and transition to the reserves.
  • Talk to your family before you make your decision. Don’t underestimate the impact transitioning will have on them. Listen to their concerns and opinions. List the positive and negative aspects of the changes and consider which are most important for your family.

The takeaway? Don’t rush a decision to avoid less-than-ideal orders. At the same time, don’t re-enlist just to avoid the uncertainty of leaving. If you’re still undecided, contact your installation’s Transition Assistance Program office for more guidance on the transition process and next steps.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve made your decision, be all in. You’ve done your homework and can move ahead with confidence.

Your Career Path: Finding the Right Job

Service member firefighter

What kind of job are you looking for when you leave the military? Many people look for jobs in certain locations, or jobs that offer a certain salary or stability, but there is so much more to finding a great job as a veteran! Finding a career that matches your skills and interests is key to job satisfaction.

What should my career be?

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, CareerOneStop is a great way to get started.

CareerOneStop is a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s a rich resource with lots of tools for job searching, training, and information about careers and industries. At CareerOneStop, you can:

  • Take self-assessments at no charge — including an interest assessment, a skills assessment and more
  • Learn about careers — view career profiles and videos, compare occupations and research industries
  • Find training – including information on basic adult education, apprenticeships, certifications, scholarships and much more
  • Plan your career — set career goals, learn about salary expectations, occupation licenses and professional development

CareerOneStop also offers resources specifically for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses. Visit their Veteran and Military Transition Center website for more information.

If you are not quite sure whether transitioning out of the military is the right choice for you, and your family if you have one, the following questions might help you make a decision. Take time to discuss all the options and consider how the changes might affect you and your family.

  1. What appeals to me most about the change is:
  2. What I would gain most from the change is:
  3. What is frightening about the change is:
  4. What keeps me from making the change is:
  5. The worst thing that could happen if I make the change is:
  6. If the worst thing happened, then I could do:
  7. If I were really serious about making a career change,
    1. My first step would be:
    2. My second step would be:
    3. My third step would be

It’s never too early to start to think about what’s right for you and your family, especially if you think you’ll need more experience, credentialing or licensing for your new civilian career.

More about transition planning

During your transition planning, you’ll explore your employment and career goals. As part of the Transition Assistance Program, DOL provides a one day core curriculum on the fundamentals of career transition. DOL also offers two additional two-day tracks as part of TAP that do a deep dive into employment and vocational training. For more information about the military Transition Assistance Program, contact your installation’s TAP office, or visit the DOD TAP website.

Learn more on Military OneSource about the Transition Assistance Program, and Transition Assistance Advisors.

When you get a head start on the career you want, you can start planning with confidence. Ask, explore, question, plan and go for it!

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.

Moving After the Death of Your Loved One

Woman sitting with moving boxes

Moving after the death of a loved one can be an important step toward creating your new normal. However, it can be emotionally exhausting. In addition to grieving, you may be faced with deciding where to relocate and worried about what to do with your loved one’s belongings.

Deciding where to move

Some things to consider when choosing your next home:

  • The best location to find support. Depending on your situation, you may find it comforting to move near family and friends, especially if you have young children. You may want to relocate near a military installation for a variety of services for yourself as well as your children.
  • Seeking new employment. You may want to consider looking into employment opportunities before you decide where to move. If you’re seeking employment through the federal government, you may be able to take advantage of special preference programs. Contact Military OneSource’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities to get a certified career counselor in your corner. Your SECO career coach can connect you with employers, education or other career resources in your current or new area.
  • The affordability of your location. Perhaps you need to relocate to a place that allows you to live comfortably with your survivor benefits.

What’s next?

Once you’ve made a decision about where to move, you may want to:

Take your time with your loved one’s possessions

You, and only you, should decide what to do with your loved one’s personal belongings. When you are ready, you can sort your loved one’s belongings at your own pace and may want to consider asking friends and family for help. Ask yourself questions about each item to help you decide what to do with it such as:

  • Could this item make a good heirloom for kids or grandkids?
  • Would a family friend find comfort in the item?
  • Can I donate it to charity to provide comfort to others?
  • Should I keep it for myself?

Resources

Moving away from the military doesn’t mean that your relationship with the military has to end. As a surviving spouse, you have access to military installations and may access your Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, commissary, exchange and medical privileges.

Military OneSource can help you through this process. Available 24 hours a day, this free service can provide you help through:

Moving isn’t a one-person job. Tap into the support that is available to you and take advantage of the resources that can help you take this important step forward to your new normal.

What Service Members Need to Know About Employment

Man repairs an airplane

Maybe you’re closing the chapter on your military life and opening a new one, or you’re in the process of making long-term plans. This means transitioning from being a service member to a civilian employee in a company, nonprofit or maybe the government. As a service member, you have many resources available to help you with this significant change. Here’s an overview of what you need to know as you seek employment.

Explore your career path

There’s a difference between a job and a career. Both pay the bills, but a career is more likely to give you a sense of meaning and accomplishment.

Finding a career that matches your skills and interests is the key to job satisfaction. Invest some time in a little soul-searching before you begin your search to make sure you’re going down the right path.

Whether you plan to continue in your current field after leaving military service or you wish to pursue a new opportunity, you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are my career goals?
  2. What steps do I need to take to position myself for success?

To help you answer those questions, a self-assessment can help you set goals and plan your way forward. Here are a few options:

  • CareerScope® is a career planning and assessment tool through the Department of Veterans Affairs that recommends career choices based on your interests and abilities.
  • My Next Move for Veterans is an assessment tool to enable you to explore careers, including those related to your military occupational specialty.
  • Career OneStop also offers a self-assessment that includes an interest assessment and skills profiler. The service, which is sponsored by the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, also offers tools to help search for jobs, identify training and learn about careers.

Credential and leverage your military experience

Your military experience has given you training that converts to skills in the civilian world. The COOL program helps you translate your training into civilian credentials and speak better to what employers are looking for. Here are links to individual service branch programs:

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program provides active-duty Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are serving.

DOD SkillBridge connects transitioning service members to career job training opportunities. Participate in training and development with industry and employers who are seeking the high-quality skills that you bring to the table.

The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program provides transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce.

Build your resume

The goal of a resume is to effectively summarize and highlight your qualifications in a way that will make the employer want to reach out and schedule an interview with you. These tips will help you build 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. The VMET document helps you prepare resumes and job applications quickly when you separate from service.
  • Include essential components like contact information, job objective, summary of qualifications, employment history, education and training, and special skills.
  • Tailor your resume for the job. Translate everything into civilian terms and include volunteer experience.
  • Write a cover letter. Get the name of the person in charge of hiring, keep it to one page and always follow up.
  • Tap into resume-building tools. Check out Veterans.gov and VA.gov.

Find the right civilian job

Your military experience is valuable to many employers, but it’s up to you to get out there and sell it. Start with these tips:

  • Network. Get in touch with friends and fellow veterans. Organize your contacts and connections.
  • Tap into the services of your transition assistance offices. Get referrals for employment agencies and recruiters, job leads and career counseling.
  • Hit job fairs. Look for upcoming events to meet potential employers including:
  • Look for veteran-friendly companies. Many organizations are committed to helping veterans find a good job. Look for programs such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Check out organizations like Soldier for Life, Marine for Life, the Military Officers Association of American, Non-Commissioned Officers Association or Enlisted Association, and United Service Organizations. Also, see the HIRE Vets Medallion Award for a list of organizations committed to veteran hiring, retention and professional development.

Other employment benefits and assistance programs

Review some of the top services and programs offered by the military and the government, focused on jobs for veterans and helping you find your new career. Also, check out these employment benefits and assistance programs available before and after you leave the military:

  • Department of Labor Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition: This one-day workshop provides an introduction to the essential tools and resources needed to evaluate career options, gain information for civilian employment, and understand the fundamentals of the employment process.
  • Department of Labor Employment Workshop: This two-day workshop covers emerging best practices in career employment, including in-depth training to learn interview skills, build effective resumes, and use emerging technology to network and search for employment.
  • Vocational Training Track: Participants complete a career development assessment and are guided through a variety of career considerations, including labor market projections, education, apprenticeships, certifications and licensure requirements.
  • Soldier for Life engages and connects Army, government and non-governmental organizations to support soldiers, veterans and families.
  • Marine for Life connects transitioning Marines and their family members to education resources, employment opportunities, and other veterans services that aid in their career and life goals outside of military service.
  • National Guard Employment Support Program supports National Guard Service members in finding meaningful careers and job opportunities as they face the challenges of military life, whether mobilized or in a steady-state posture.
  • American Corporate Partners: Free mentoring program connects Post-9/11 veterans with corporate professionals for customized mentorships.

Match your military skills to civilian jobs, find transition resources, and start your military-to-civilian job search with the resources and information provided above. Check out all the resources for employment on Military OneSource.

Voting Becomes Easier for the Mobile Military Life

Vote button over the American Flag.

As a guardian of our nation, you protect the American way of life. The Federal Voting Assistance Program is here to ensure you and your family are able to exercise your right to vote.

About three-quarters of the 1.3 million active-duty service members are eligible to vote absentee because they’re stationed outside of their voting jurisdictions. Thanks to 2009 amendments to the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (1986), it’s easier for relocated and overseas service members and spouses to register and submit absentee ballots.

Military Absentee Voting Made Simple

No matter where you are, the Federal Post Card Application lets you make sure your vote is counted in a few simple steps.

Today, states are required to send ballots to service members and eligible family members at least 45 days before federal elections and to provide electronic options for voters to receive those ballots. The change boosted the rate of successfully counted absentee ballots sent from service members, from 30% in 2006 to 53% in 2018.

FVAP helps you vote. Wherever you are.

FVAP provides assistance for service members and eligible family members to register to vote, request an absentee ballot and check the status of a ballot for federal offices no matter where they’re located.

Now it’s easier than ever to:

  • Register to vote – whether it’s your first time, you have relocated, or you have separated from the military
  • Request your absentee ballot
  • Vote and submit your absentee ballot

Most states require you to register to vote or request an absentee ballot to start the process. The expanded use of electronic options for sending and receiving federal election materials has made it much easier to vote by absentee ballot. That’s important as two-thirds of military voters are absentee voters.

It’s best to start the absentee voting process early. Here are easy ways to demonstrate your readiness and ensure your vote is cast and counted:

Many states allow you to submit your FPCA electronically, and all states allow for at least one form of electronic transmission to send you a blank ballot. Many states accept the ballot by email or fax, while some states only accept the ballot by mail. Mail delivery times vary based on where you live. If your state requires you to mail your ballot, then you can make sure your vote is counted by mailing your ballot early to allow for extra time.

Since voting materials that are mailed can’t be forwarded, it’s important for you to provide your election office with your new address after every move. Consider sending in a new FPCA every year. Also, federal elections can come up suddenly even during nonelection years. Submitting the FPCA each year helps ensure that you will receive a ballot for all federal elections for which you are eligible.

Voting when transitioning out of the military

If you are transitioning to civilian life, you should notify your election office of your change in voter registration status and update your information, so that you can vote locally in the next election. Depending on whether you are staying in the same voting district after military separation, or if you are moving to a new state or county, there are just one or two easy steps to take, available here: https://www.fvap.gov/military-voter/transition.

More information

When you want to vote – whether you’re entering the military, casting a ballot for the first time, relocating, or transitioning or retiring from the military – and have questions about casting your ballot – your Installation Voter Assistance Office or FVAP have the answers. Go to FVAP.gov or call 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).

Federal Voting Assistance Program resources

Coronavirus disease 2019: Voters can find helpful resources on FVAP.gov, including COVID-19 information and two visual maps that depict how states accept the FPCA or ballot.

Envelopes: Voters can also download postage-paid envelope templates that will allow them to mail back their voting materials free of charge from any military post at a military installation or via diplomatic pouch at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Languages: Voters who prefer to read absentee voting information in Arabic, French or Spanish can find translations of instructions for filling out the FPCA and FWAB.

Installation Voting Assistance Office: Active-duty military and military spouses can find and get help from their IVAO.

Subscribe: Voters can also subscribe to receive voting emails.

Calendars: Voters also have access to voting alerts and calendar reminders for their state.

Ambassadors: Voters living in Rome, Tokyo and London can reach out to FVAP voting ambassadors who coordinate in-person and virtual events, including:

Social media: Voters can also follow FVAP on social media to tune in to Facebook Live events, absentee voting best practices and more.

Transition Assistance Advisor Lookup

a service member waits for a helicopter jump

A Transition Assistance Advisor serves as a point of contact to assist eligible members of the Reserve Components in accessing benefits and health care furnished under laws administered by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Our Transition Assistance Advisors are in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia to help you receive the benefits you have earned as a result of your service in the military. Use the lookup function below to type in your state and search for a Transition Assistance Advisor near you.

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About the Transition Assistance Program

Service members in helicopter

Mission statement

To provide direction through the maze of programs available to veterans and connection to earned benefits with the compassion of someone who knows what it’s like to transition from active duty.

Program vision

Transition Assistance Advisors were established in May 2005 when the Chief, National Guard Bureau, LTG H. Steven Blum signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their principal role is to provide direction to members of the Reserve Component so that they can secure all benefits, entitlements and services earned through their military service.

According to NDAA 2013, Transition Assistance Advisors, “serve as points of contact to assist eligible members of the reserve components in accessing benefits and health care furnished under laws administered by the Secretary of Defense and benefits and health care furnished under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs” (Sec. 513), VOW Act and TAP. This support empowers members of the Reserve Component with the critical knowledge needed to take advantage of the programs and resources, effects of a career change, employment assistance, relocation assistance, education/training, physical and mental health well-being, health and life insurance, finances, disabled veteran benefits, legal assistance, and state and federal benefits available to them.

Learn more about Transition Assistance Advisors »

Transition support

Have you just returned from deployment? Do you have a service-related injury or health care issue? Perhaps you’re about to retire from service and you’re looking for someone to show you how to get back into the swing of civilian life. Getting to know your local Transition Assistance Advisor means you’ll have reliable, professional support whenever you need it, whatever the circumstance.

Your benefits

Transition Assistance Advisors maintain a large number of resources to help you and your family receive services to fulfill your specific needs. Discover what services, benefits and entitlements are available to you through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

12 myths about benefits

Don’t know what to believe about Transition Assistance, VA benefits and entitlements? Let us help you sort out fact from fiction. Our Myths page busts 12 of the most common misconceptions about benefits and entitlements for the National Guard.