In a recent report, we discussed the specifics of the military force reduction brought on by budget constraints.
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The biggest challenge facing anyone affected by the Reduction in Force (RIF), according to Ryan Guina, a military veteran and founder of The Military Wallet, is a lack of a support system—especially for those with a short timeline.
Those not permitted to reenlist have until the end of their current enlistment before separating, but others could have as little as 30 days and little time to prepare for life after the military. Members of the armed forces are used to moving bases or homes every few years and may not even have a home, let alone a plan for post-service years.
Here are four tips if you are one of the tens of thousands of servicemembers affected by the RIF
1. Know your options
“The first thing that I recommend people [affected] do is find out which benefits they’re eligible to receive,” advises Guina. This could include healthcare and/or separation pay, which is based on your rank and years of service.
If you have between six and twenty years of service, you could be eligible for Involuntary Separation Pay, according to Guina. Involuntary Separation Pay is a form of severance pay you may receive if you’re forced out, contrary to Voluntary Separation Pay where members can choose to separate in exchange for a separation bonus.
Former military members are also eligible for unemployment benefits, but if you are receiving pension or separation pay some states will not allow duplicated compensation. Check with your local unemployment office to see if you are eligible for benefits.
2. Take advantage of the Transition Assistance Program
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which became mandatory in 2011, is a three-day workshop designed to prepare those separating from the military for civilian life. Attendees “learn about job searches, career decision-making, current occupational and labor market conditions, and resume and cover letter preparation and interviewing techniques,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In conjunction with the TAP, you should devise a plan to determine what type of skills you have, what sort of jobs you’ll be applying for, and where to find a home.
3. Consider Joining the National Guard or Military Reserves
As an option to help ease the transition from military life to civilian life, Guina would encourage people to look into the National Guard or military reserves.
“The benefit of going into the Guard or Reserves after leaving active duty is they have the opportunity to continue their military service, can continue working towards a retirement pension [and] will have the support structure that comes [along] with being in the military,” he says.
In addition to being compensated for your service, you’ll also gain access to inexpensive healthcare, and expand your professional network by working with peers in similar situations.
4. Reach out for help
Lastly, Guina suggests that you should not be afraid to reach out for help. There are financial and career counseling services available at your station or base, and you can also reach out to veterans’ organizations for guidance. There are companies and programs that specialize in job placement/opportunities for veterans, but you won’t know unless you ask.