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Deciding Where to Live When You Leave the Military

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The day will come when you’re preparing to transition out of the military. You might have spent time thinking about where you want to live when this day arrives. As you decide where to live after your military separation, it’s helpful to consider:

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

Talk with your family.

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

  • Career and educational opportunities — Do you want to start a new career? Does your spouse want to continue a current career or start a new one? Do your children want to start a new school in a new area? Where are the best schools? Base your decisions on what will be good for the whole family.

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  • Extended family — How close do you want to be to your extended family? “See you tomorrow” close or “See you on holidays” close? Take a careful look at your hometown and evaluate the job market, schools and cost of living.
  • Career goals — The Defense Department’s mandatory Transition Assistance Program will help you prepare for life after active duty. Whether you plan to pursue a civilian job, continue your education or start your own business, TAP will help you develop a plan and make sure you are ready to pursue your goals. For more information, contact your installation TAP. In addition, the Military Spouse Transition Program provides guidance to help MilSpouses transition to civilian life, including starting or continuing a career. Transitioning service members can learn more about your career path and finding the right job. MilSpouses can reach out to spouse relocation and transition consultants for help with a variety of moving and relocation services.

Consider your options.

Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you, like job opportunities, schools, climate or cost of living. Then, do your research to find the best match.

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

  • Take advantage of resources like the CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center, sponsored by the Department of Labor. The CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center website allows you to access free interest and skills assessments, explore civilian careers and education options, search for jobs, learn about benefits and much more.
  • Search websites — Many websites can help you find the best places to live by letting you order the importance of categories like education, crime rates, climate and housing costs. You can narrow your search by preferences or compare your favorite cities.
  • Find local information — Eligible users can search for local community information on the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website. On the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS homepage, under “Looking for state resources?” choose the option “View State Resources.” This brings up a list of all 50 states. Click on any state, then look for the box titled “Alabama State and Federal Resources.” Click on the box, and you will find resources and information that are available to military families and veterans in the state.
  • Identify unique, personal preferences — Some preferences can’t be factored into a test on a website. You may want to live close to a military installation so you and your family can take advantage of military benefits or a military medical treatment facility. Or you may want to move near family or a prior duty station.
  • Weigh your options — Write down the available choices and assess the pros and cons of each. Use your list to help you look objectively at options.
  • Prepare for mixed emotions — Be prepared for different kinds of feelings as you transition from active duty. It’s normal to be nervous about big life changes like this, but the better you prepare, the more likely you are to set up yourself and your family for success.

Access military support.

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

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

Once you have made your decision on where to move, contact your installation transportation office about scheduling your move. The earlier you start to plan, the more likely you are to get the move dates you want. Be sure to tap into separation and transition resources and tools like Plan My Move to help ensure your transition is a smooth one.

If you or another veteran is without a home or facing eviction or foreclosure while transitioning out of military service, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to help. For more information, call 877-4AID-VET or visit the VA Veterans Experiencing Homelessness webpage.

Finding a place to call home after you separate from the military is one of the first big steps in civilian life. Fortunately, you have access to a number of benefits and resources that can help you with this transition. Educate yourself with the right information, and you’ll be enjoying home sweet home very soon. For additional questions, reach out to a Military OneSource consultant today. Call 800-342-9647, view international calling options or schedule a live chat.

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