Transitioning back into the civilian world after spending four years or more (or a career) serving in the military is a change that many military families dread making. And for good reason – figuring out where you will live, where you will work, what kind of work you will you be doing, where the kids will to school – all are life-changing decisions when compared to moving from post-to-post or base-to-base. But the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) helps make the process easier. Ironically, many military families are reluctant to take advantage of the TAP program. Why is that?

Much of the apprehension comes from the rumors they have heard about TAP in the past (and we all know about rumors in the military right? Rumors that you want to spread go nowhere; rumors you don’t spread thrive and spread like wildfire.). But in the last few years TAP has evolved into a resource that prides itself with keeping up to date as things in the civilian world change. The program consists of two major parts: mandatory and non-mandatory sessions.

Mandatory TAP Sessions

This portion of the program is broken down into three different parts: pre-separation counseling, the TAP curriculum and Capstone. In the first part, ideally done 12 to 24 months before separation, a counselor discusses education, training, employment, career goals, financial management, health, wellbeing, housing and relocation with the service member and spouse.

Next comes the TAP curriculum which is a week-long classroom course designed to help service members create plan of success. For individuals requiring more information on transitioning, there are three optional 2-day programs called tracks that are included as part of the non-mandatory portion of the program.

The basic TAP curriculum is broken down into three main parts: DoD, VA and Department of Labor (DoL).

During the DoD part, service members go through three different classes – Resilient Transition, Military Crosswalk and Financial Planning.

Resilient Transition – The first class discusses the differences that can be expected when going from the military to the civilian world and how to deal with these differences.

Military Crosswalk – Designed to look at both the soft and hard skills acquired from military service, it shows how these skills can translate to the civilian workplace and how they can be used in applying for jobs, resumes and interviewing.

Financial Planning – The discussion in this portion talks about how civilian salaries compare to military pay, change in taxes and how transitioning can impact finances, if not prepared. That is one reason why going through TAP 12 to 24 months in advance to getting out gives a military family more time to save up money for the transition phase.

The VA, the DOL and TAP

In these two briefings, a VA representative discusses the benefits available through the VA and how to apply for them. When finished with these classes, each service member knows the VA services available to them depending on each one’s unique situation.

The DoL portion is an employment workshop that uses a military operational approach to planning employment. Things discussed include mission, gathering intelligence, identifying resources, plan development – both primary and alternate – timelines and rehearsals and are used to come up with a step-by-step plan that the service member will need to do to accomplish their new “mission” after getting out.

Finally, at about the 90-day mark from separation, service members are evaluated as part of the Capstone portion to see if they are ready to transition or if they feel they need more assistance. If so, then they are recommended to the appropriate agency best suited to help them for follow-on assistance as they transition to the civilian world.

For servicemembers who might not be able to attend TAP in person, the program is accessible online at the Joint Knowledge Online website.  In a future article, we’ll look at the non-mandatory side of TAP.  TAP really is a valuable resource that should be exploited to its fullest as part of an overall transition plan.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.