Career Help & Military Transition Assistance

Veterans returning to the workforce after military service face a variety of challenges. Translating military experience to a civilian resume is one of the most obvious of these, but even this is too easily taken for granted in terms of how easy it may or may not be to do so and what current trends in job hunting (and resume writing) might be at the time of separation from the U.S. military.

Fortunately there is help available for transitioning service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers career and employment help through a variety of programs including job counseling and transition advice, to support and training for self-employed veterans.

At the time of this writing, many of these services were previously linked with the government website called Vets.gov, but the pages of that website now redirect to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, VA.gov. If you have previously researched your career counseling and transition assistance options, you may find your Vets.gov resources redirected to the VA.

CareerScope: A Helpful Tool To Use Before You Start Your Transition

Long before you accept your final military orders and begin outprocessing, you should review your job skills and think about how you want to transfer your abilities to the civilian workplace. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a helpful tool to start your transition out of a life in uniform and into civilian life.

This tool is known as CareerScope and is offered only to qualified military members and qualified family members. What makes you eligible to use CareerScope?

The VA official site states those allowed access to this tool include:

  • Dependents who qualify for VA education benefits
  • Veterans
  • Currently serving military members
  • Dependents who are already using VA education benefits

How CareerScope Can Help You

CareerScope is an assessment tool. The VA official site states that using CareerScope will provide the user with an assessment of how interests, aptitude, and experience can translate into job or learning opportunities.

Once the assessment is complete you are provided with recommendations about post-military careers, education, and training that may help pursue the career options discussed in the assessment.

CareerScope breaks things down into a dozen “interest areas” that include a set of “work activity statements” from these areas. The assessment covers general learning abilities, manual dexterity, verbal and numerical skills, and more.

Once the assessment is completed you can apply for VA Education And Career Counseling (see below).

Technical Requirements To Use CareerScope

Use of the VA CareerScope tool requires the user to create an account. New users may register on the VA official site so they can begin using the assessment tool.

Chapter 36 Educational And Career Counseling

Those leaving military service may need help finding ways to transition into a civilian career. Some military career fields translate directly into the civilian job market, but others may not be so easily matched with jobs in the private sector. VA Chapter 36 Educational and Career Counseling is a free program for veterans with any discharge other than Dishonorable, offering the following services:

  • Educational and career counseling to locate training programs or job opportunities
  • Counseling to help veterans choose new jobs
  • Academic and adjustment counseling

Eligibility For VA Educational And Career Counseling

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site publishes a list of those who are eligible for VA Educational and Career Counseling. They include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Any veteran currently eligible for a VA education benefit
  • Transitioning service members with six months or less remaining before discharge from active duty
  • Veterans within one year after discharge from active duty
  • Any service member currently eligible for a VA education benefit
  • All other current VA education beneficiaries

Services offered by the VA include:

  • Benefits Coaching – learn how to make the most of your VA benefits and resources
  • Career Choice – VA counseling designed to help you understand civilian career options based on the user’s interests, experience, etc.
  • Personalized Support – Counseling and personalized support for both academic and military transition issues

How To Apply For VA Educational and Career Counseling

  • Log in to your eBenefits account
    Select “Apply”
  • Select “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits”
  • Apply for Educational and Career Counseling
  • After your eligibility is confirmed you will receive an invitation to an orientation session at the VA Regional Office nearest you

How To Apply Without Access To eBenefits 

  • Print and complete VA Form 28-8832
  • Mail VA Form 28-8832 to the nearest VA Regional Office, addressed attention to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
  • After your eligibility is confirmed you will receive an invitation to an orientation session at the VA Regional Office nearest you

The VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation And Employment Program (VR&E)

Veterans and currently serving military members with disabilities can find assistance from the VA under the Chapter 31 VR&E program. This is for those with service-connected disabilities that affects the ability to work. There are a group of five “tracks” designed to help, including:

  • Self-Employment Track – made to help veterans with a service-connected disability start and maintain a business, freelance career, etc.
  • Reemployment Track – created to help service members and veterans know their rights when returning to civilian employment after military service.
  • Rapid Access to Employment Track – made to assist veterans in finding jobs that match their military skills.
  • Independent Living Track – created to match veterans with resources to help them live “as independently as possible if you can’t return to work right away” according to the official site.
  • Employment Through Long-Term Services Track – This track is intended to help those eligible for vocational training to help you develop new job skills.

Eligibility Requirements For VA Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits

Veterans may be eligible for VR&E benefits and services if all of the following apply:

  • The veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and;
  • Has a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% from VA, and;
  • Applies for VR&E services.

There is a basic maximum eligibility time frame of 12 years from the day the veteran receives her date of separation from military service OR the date of receipt of the first VA disability rating.

Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits For Those Still Serving In The Military

Qualifying active duty service members may be eligible for VR&E benefits when the following conditions apply:

  • The service member has a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating (also known as a “memorandum rating”) and is departing military service soon OR;
  • The service member is participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process OR;
  • The service member is waiting for a military discharge due to a medical condition resulting from a condition that occurred in the line of duty.

Basic Services Available Through The VA Chapter 31 VR&E Program

  • Resume development
  • Evaluations to determine your job abilities, skills, and interests
  • Vocational counseling
  • Rehabilitation planning for employment services
  • Job training, apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • Training/learning at a college, vocational, technical, or business school
  • Counseling
  • Medical referrals
  • Independent living services for those unable to work due to disabilities
  • Case management

Applying For VA Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits

 At the time of this writing, the Department of Veterans Affairs accepts Chapter 31 applications through the eBenefits portal. Those who do not have eBenefits accounts will need to create them or contact the nearest VA office to get assistance.

Servicemembers should know that it is not required to wait until final outprocessing and discharge to apply for VR&E benefits. You can fill out VA Form 28-0588, VA Vocational Rehabilitation – Getting Ahead After You Get Out and submit it to the Department of Veterans affairs. Eligibility in such cases is possible if one of the following is true:

  • The veteran expects an other than dishonorable discharge and has a VA memorandum rating of 20% or more OR;
  • The applicant is in the process of being reviewed by a Physical Evaluation Board OR;
  • The veteran is in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).

After a veteran or service member has applied, the VA will arrange a meeting with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to determine whether there is a current or potential employment handicap and discuss eligibility for VR&E benefits and services.

The VA official site says, “You have an employment handicap if your service-connected disability limits your ability to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment (a job that doesn’t make your disability worse, is stable, and matches your abilities, aptitudes, and interests).”

The Department of Veterans Affairs will make what they call an “entitlement decision” and begin working with the veteran to develop a rehabilitation plan and schedule the use of services, etc.

Contact the nearest VA office in your area to learn more about Chapter 31 VR&E benefits and how they apply to you.

What is TAP? – The Transition Assistance Program Explained

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is a partnership with the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), Transportation and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS).  It was established to meet the needs of separating service members during their period of transition into civilian life by offering job-search assistance and related services.

TAP helps service members and their spouses in the following ways:

    • Provides comprehensive workshops at select military installations with professionally-trained workshop facilitators from the State Employment Services, military family support services, Department of Labor contractors, or VETS’ staff present the workshops.
    • Training and employment information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement.
    • Attendees learn about:
      • Job searches
      • Pre-separation counseling
      • Relocation assistance
      • Career decision-making
      • Resume and cover letter writing
      • Interviewing techniques
      • Evaluation of employability relative to the job market
      • Information on veterans benefits including education and training, health and life insurance
      • Services members separating from the military with a service-connected disability are offered the Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP).
      • Current occupational and labor market conditions
      • Attendees at DTAP learn about:
        • Address any special needs of disabled veterans
        • Everything included in TAP
        • Additional instruction to help determine job readiness

(Spouses are also encouraged to attend benefits briefings and meet with Benefits Advisors.)

Transition Assistance Program Updates

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made changes to the TAP program and are effective for all service branches on October 1, 2019.

TAP Changes:

  • Service members will need to complete their initial counseling with a TAP adviser and fill out their personal self-assessment, also known as an individual transition plan, no later than 365 days before retirement or the end of their enlistment.
  • Service members can choose on two-days of instruction called tracks; these include: DOL Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DoD Higher Education Track, and SBA Entrepreneurship Track.

Transition Assistance Program Steps

  • The Capstone event – Commanders verify achievement of career readiness standards and a viable ITP, must happen no later than 90 days before separation. Capstone remains the culminating event for TAP.
  • Transition from the military to civilian life must begin no later than 365 days prior to transition for those who are separating or retiring.
  • Pre-separation counseling commences which covers benefits, entitlements and resources for eligible transitioning service members.
  • DoD Pre-Separation Training Day – An eight-hour day which includes curriculum modules on building resiliency by managing your own transition (MyTransition), a Military Occupational Code Crosswalk.
  • Individualized initial counseling (IC) between the service member and a TAP counselor begins and includes a personal self-assessment/Individual Transition Plan (ITP).
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides VA Benefits and Services Brief, formerly known as VA Benefits I and II.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL) will provide a required DOL One-Day Brief on employment.
  • The transitioning service member may elect one or more of these tracks; DOL Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DoD Higher Education Track, and SBA Entrepreneurship Track.