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, but the pages of that website now redirect to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, If you have previously researched your career counseling and transition assistance options, you may find your 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.

Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life

Transitioning military can find general information and advice about transitioning from military life back to life among civilians. When transitioning, there are a number of things to prepare for, places veterans can look to for support, and even help finding jobs. The information below is meant to inform transitioning military and spouses about the most important steps to take and resources available when preparing for life as a civilian.

Ok, returning to the civilian world is a little scarier than it sounds. But don’t worry! The best thing you can do for you and your family is to gather as much information as possible prior to actually transitioning out of the military. The “transition” period is usually during terminal leave, however, the actual transition can take a little longer than the short length of terminal leave. Here are some ways to get organized and to ensure the smoothest transition possible. The most important thing is simple: stay positive.

First, face the change.

Make a Plan: This is a given and you’ve probably heard it more than once. Try to start planning about a year out from your known end of service date, and be sure to incorporate terminal leave if that is the route you choose. If you know you want to go back to school, try to apply a year early so that you can start almost as soon as you’re out. Don’t be afraid to start applying to jobs – but before you do that, spend time on your resume and learn how to write a proper cover letter because these are the contemporary forms of “first impressions.”

You are here: You receive any combination of the following: base pay, BAH, BAS, COLA, FLPP, and maybe another specialized pay or two. You receive an annual uniform allowance. You have a stable job. You have health insurance. You have dental insurance. Plus a few more perks.

When transitioning: You will be in a little place called limbo: Mostly, you will be confronted with question, after question. Where will I live? What will I do? Should I go back to school? What about my family? And the list goes on…but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time.

Save: If you haven’t been saving for your transition out of the military, start now, and here’s how. Although the military pays for your move, the costs are only covered for travel to your home of record and anything further will be out-of-pocket. Don’t let this discourage you from choosing a different state – you can plan for this. Also, the military will only pay for one car to be shipped (if need be). Keep this potential financial strain in mind as you may want to sell any additional vehicles or find an alternative way of shipping. The car will go to the port closest to your home of record and will need to retrieved from there. If you plan to send someone other than yourself to retrieve the POV (privately owned vehicle) then be sure to specify this person when you drop off the car for shipment. Also, the military will not pay to ship your pets.

When the movers come to pack your home goods: Be there, and pay attention. If you’ve already moved a few times, then you know this. These movers go fast so sometimes they miss an item or two in a bathroom cabinet, but sometimes they miss entire kitchen cabinets. It would be better to have an extra set of eyes or two to ensure that everything is getting packed.

There will be unexpected expenses: You will have to wait for your home goods. If you are shipping from overseas, you will have to wait longer. Try to pack things that you will need while waiting for your home goods to arrive. Certainly, you can’t just fold up your mattress into a suitcase, but consider stuffing a duffle with some pillows and blankets. Kitchen items will be packed away too, so you may have to buy a pan or two to make do until your items arrive, and it’s a good idea to keep important documents with you in case of emergencies.

Next: stay positive. Do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow colleagues who are also transitioning, or have already done so. Take the transitioning process one day at a time and stay active in whatever you have chosen to pursue. Try to keep your same workout routine if you can. Wake up in the morning, have your coffee, and get busy.

When job searching, set goals: Today, I will apply to 3 jobs. There are great resources to help find jobs for transitioning military, including Veteran-specific Re-Employment Resources,  transitioning job assistance programs offered by the military, and military friendly employers who want to help.

If you are applying to schools, set goals: This week I will research 3 schools. Look at the programs they offer, do any of them interest you? Look at their credibility and be sure they are regionally accredited.

If you are looking for homes, take it slow: Be sure you have researched the area, visited the area, and maybe even spoken with a few locals in passing. And definitely find out if you are eligible for a VA Home Loan if you are looking to buy.

If you are starting a business, be a go-getter.

Benefits of Being a Veteran

Being a veteran offers a lot more than you might think (just be sure you move to a military friendly state). The very day after your terminal leave ends, you are no longer a service member, but a veteran. Welcome, and thank you for your service. Although most military contracts, with a few exceptions, include the remaining 2-4 years of IRR (Individual Ready Reserve), all of your regular active service benefits end, and your veterans benefits begin. The IRR will require you to keep your information updated, such as address and phone number just in case the need arises to recall all troops back to service, but otherwise it does not pose too many obligations.

Resources During Transition

Utilize the resources offered to you during transition. Each branch of service, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, offers a variety of seminars and materials, some of which are mandatory and some that are not, to aid you in your transition. They offer resume and cover letter writing classes, interview preparations, career counseling, educational counseling, job search, etc. Take advantage of the resume and cover letter writing classes because civilians will not know what you mean when you say ETS, PCS, or any other military acronym.

Here are some things to look forward to:

Store discounts: Always ask if a store has a military discount, many businesses extend their discounts to veterans. Although the discount is not usually not more than 10%, it can still take a bit off the bill.

Life Insurance: Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is available to continue for most veterans and is much less expensive than other civilian options for Life Insurance. Many will receive information in the mail, or you can enroll online. Apply before during the first 120 days after your departure date to avoid extra unnecessary health questions. The process is similar to that of the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI).

Post 9/11 GI Bill®: Depending on the percentage of benefits you are eligible to receive, based on your years of service, you can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, which not only covers school tuition, fees, and books, but it also provides Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) based on the school’s zip code. Veterans can even receive MHA when enrolled full time for an online degree.

Disability: File claims for injuries received during your time in service, physical or psychological. These claims are assessed after a few visits to the doctor, and you are then notified of your eligibility.

Home Loan: This is a great benefit to have in your back pocket when you find yourself a civilian looking for a place to live. Before applying, be sure you are ready to be a homeowner. Research for schools in the area, job opportunities, accessibility, and even the weather. It’s easy to buy a home, but it’s not nearly as easy to sell one.

The VA does not offer small business loans, but it does recommend going through the Small Business Administration (SBA) if you are starting a business. Don’t forget you can also look to your military friendly banks for this kind of support, such as USAA and Navy Federal.

Veterans License Plates: Now this does not come with any special privileges per se, aside from the occasional parking spot dedicated to veterans in mall parking lots, but it may make you feel connected to your brothers and sisters in arms. You can also have a veterans indicator placed on your driver’s license.

VA Health Care: Enroll in your free health care. You can do this in person at your local VA Medical Center, or online at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Thanks to the recent Affordable Care Act, there is no need to enroll in additional health care coverage to meet the nation’s standards, and to declare health coverage when filing your taxes. Unfortunately, VA Health Care does not extend to dependents and is only valid for the veteran. If you do have dependents, look into your state’s health care as you are most likely eligible for medicaid due to your recent status of unemployment.

Transition: 5 Mistakes You Want to Avoid

Transition: It’s harder and easier than you think. At least that’s what I’m beginning to see six months after our transition out of the Marine Corps.

And while there was a lot I did right, there was a lot I did wrong, too.

So I sat down with my husband and his buddies for a Transition After Action Report to hash out the five things you shouldn’t do that don’t make anything better.

1. Don’t act like you’re finally bring sprung from jail.

When we found out we were leaving active duty, my first thought may have been one of fear, but my second thought was something like a happy dance on steroids.

I even blurted out, within seconds of learning that we were out and my husband’s career dreams were dashed, “On the upside, we don’t have to live in this pit anymore!”

Except I used much more colorful language. Obviously, this was not my finest wife moment.

While we all know the reality — that getting to move someplace you actually want to go and can build your own, non-order-related dreams about is a lovely idea — pointing this out right away isn’t always the most sensitive approach.

In fact, in doing so, I succeeded in not only hurting my husband’s already sore feelings, but my reaction made him think I wasn’t happy with the life he had worked so hard to provide for so long.

Not only was he now potentially letting us down by facing unemployment, but he’d also failed at giving us a happy life.

That was not what I intended. That was totally what I did.

Instead, let the news sink in for a while before you vocalize where else you can go. Even if you’re overjoyed that your local pub might not double as a strip joint, let things settle down and then reframe the conversation to suit your new life.

Think about where you both want to live next. Think about the places where you can both build your careers. Take the time to dream and be excited about it — without making it worse.

2. Don’t play the “fear” track on endless repeat.

“OMG what are we going to do!” is not the most supportive refrain during a time of transition.

Apparently, I said it all the time for about six months.


The future looked pretty terrifying with unemployment on the horizon. But repeating negative statements like this is never constructive.

Save your anxiety for talks with your friends and your mom, but do not repeat your very grounded, honest and reasonable fear like a broken record to your service member.

3. Don’t point out that civilian jobs aren’t known for their job security.

Every job Bill looked at made me nervous. Have they downsized lately? Didn’t they just do layoffs? Is it always last-hired, first-fired?

He would tell me about a new job lead, and I’d lob another question at him. Every time, these questions boiled down to: “Honey, there’s no job security there. You know they can fire you, right? Like, at any time? On any Tuesday? Ever?”

I was the opposite of helpful on this count. So while honesty is always the best policy, sometimes full disclosure isn’t the best approach.

You don’t need to state the obvious. Instead, you need to relax. Getting fired is a potential reality every day in the civilian marketplace. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Even if it just did, there’s no reason to think it will again soon. Give your spouse your faith, and the benefit of the doubt.

4. Don’t pretend it’s all OK.

“It’s going to be fine,” was a fairly constant mantra of mine (with the added “even if we are living in my mom’s attic,” which was a real possibility for a while there).

Bill finally looked at me one day and said, through clenched teeth, that it might not be OK, and I need to acknowledge that. Touché, husband. Touché.

He adds: “This is really hard, and pretending it isn’t happening is good for no one. Accept it, work with it, and figure it out. If you’re not doing any work to make it that way, don’t say it’s going to be OK. But you have to do something. Don’t just say it’s fine if you’re not contributing to fixing the problem.”

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to help. No matter where you are in your transition, start with these five steps.

A little elbow grease can go a long way, especially where your family is concerned. This is why we hashtag all our transition content with #familyreadiness on social media. Because while this is all hard and new and difficult, it’s all also about the future safety of your family.

And the lessons you’ve learned and mastered as a military spouse will pull you through it — particularly when you have family readiness in mind.

5. Don’t forget how hard this is — even if you’re leaving by choice.

This is one we heard again and again from friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving because you have to, because you’re told to, or because you want to: Leaving is leaving, and leaving is hard.

Transition isn’t just about leaving a job, it’s about leaving a whole lifestyle, and with that, your spouse is leaving behind the nominative modifier that has defined his life for the last however many years.

Be sensitive to this. Of course, he or she will always be a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, but when they’re suddenly not that thing every day actively, it will feel different, and it will take some getting used to.

If your partner is anything like the ones we know, that may make him more moody or distant than usual. So know: It’s not you, it’s this. He’s redefining himself. It’s not easy. Don’t fight over it. Like anything else in life that is particularly hard, this too shall pass.