APRIL 18, 2019 – The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19 NDAA) became public law on August 13, 2018. The bill authorized many changes to the Department of Defense (DoD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP), to be implemented in 2019. The purpose of the program will remain the same, however the TAP process will reflect its new requirements beginning October 1, 2019.
DoD TAP, not to be confused with TAPS, is an outcome-based program that bolsters opportunities, services, and training for transitioning service members in their preparation to meet post-military goals.
The mandatory components of TAP are applicable for all service members who have served 180 continuous days or more on active duty. This includes National Guard and Reservists transitioning or being released from active duty.
Here’s a breakdown of how TAP will look in the near future:
– Transition from the military to civilian life must begin no later than 365 days prior to transition for those who are separating or retiring. It is recommended retirees begin the transition process at least two years prior to retirement.
– Individualized initial counseling (IC) between the service member and a TAP counselor begins the transition process. During the IC session, service members complete their personal self-assessment/Individual Transition Plan (ITP) to identify and discuss their unique needs of the transition process and post-transition goals.
– Once the individualized IC is complete, pre-separation counseling commences. Pre-separation counseling, just like IC, must be completed no later than 365 days prior to transition. Pre-separation counseling covers benefits, entitlements and resources for eligible transitioning service members. Caregivers are especially encouraged to attend this pre-separation counseling.
– The DoD Pre-Separation Training Day follows pre-separation counseling, and is mandatory for transitioning service members. This portion of TAP is an eight-hour day which includes curriculum modules on building resiliency by managing your own transition (MyTransition), a Military Occupational Code Crosswalk to help define and translate military skills, and the financial plan for transition module, which fulfils financial literacy requirements.
– The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue to provide the VA Benefits and Services Brief, formerly known as VA Benefits I and II, on the benefits and services available after separation or retirement.
– The Department of Labor (DOL) will provide a required DOL One-Day Brief on employment, which is an overview on employment and a change from the current 3-day DOL Employment Workshop (DOLEW).
The new changes with TAP involve a choice by the service member on two-days of instruction called tracks; these include: DOL Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DoD Higher Education Track, and SBA Entrepreneurship Track.
– The transitioning service member may elect one or more of these tracks as determined during the development of their ITP and post-transition goals.
– The Capstone event, which is the culminating event where 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.
“The changes being implemented are a direct result of feedback and input from service members, veterans, subject matter experts, and military and veteran service organizations,” said Tamre Newton, Director, Transition to Veterans Program Office (TVPO).
“Although transition preparation is embedded as part of a service member’s military life cycle, these changes will tailor TAP to meet individual needs and with a look at their unique transition experience to best prepare for civilian life,” she continued.
By beginning the transition process early, transitioning service members can start to adequately prepare for their next step in life and focus on elements involved in transition – such as building a network, applying for DoD SkillBridge opportunities, financial planning, mental and emotional well-being, higher education, employment and more. Beginning transition early also opens up doors for military spouses, family members, and caregiver’s to be involved in the transition process.
“The psychological and emotional aspects of transition are important to consider and are embedded in a variety of places in TAP. Not only are individual goals and needs addressed during the individualized counseling, but transitioning service members also receive more information on these topics during TAP,” said Newton.
There is a lot of information provided in TAP and at times it can seem overwhelming. By beginning the process early, it allows the transitioning service member to have adequate time to digest the information they have been given and develop their post-transition goals.
“TAP is a continuously evolving program to best meet the needs of those approximate 200,000 service members who transition every year,” said Newton. “These changes are certainly a step in a positive direction.”
About the Transition to Veterans Program Office:
TVPO is responsible for designing, overseeing, and evaluating the Transition Assistance Program.
TAP is a result of an interagency partnership between DoD, DOL, VA, Homeland Security (DHS), Education (ED), the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
DoD Transition Assistance Program