MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The Transition Assistance Program received new curriculum and a slight makeover as of Oct. 1, 2019.
Before, TAP could be accomplished no-later-than 89 days before a military member’s separation date. Now, individuals can take advantage of the program 12-15 months before their final out - nearly a year difference.
"A new federal law came out: the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019," said David Burger, 341st Force Support Squadron TAP manager. "This caused TAP to completely change. Anyone who went through TAP before will see significant changes.
"Whether you were enlisted or an officer, everyone got the same information," said Burger. "Now it’s a case-by-case management style."
New additions to TAP
"The new program allows us to reach out to members 15 months prior to their separation or retirement date," said Michael Primo, 341st FSS transitions counselor. "The transition process starts by conducting a one-on-one, face-to-face initial counseling session."
Military members who are within a 12-15 month range will first receive a questionnaire via email to help identify what they need to do before they separate.
Then, a face-to-face interview will be conducted to fine-tune the severity of assistance the member needs before they transition to a civilian lifestyle.
"The questionnaire is a template for us," said Primo. "Once we talk to you, we can verify what you actually need. This takes out the 'everyone gets the same information' aspect the old program had and makes it much more individualized because we truly get to those small details."
After the questionnaire and interview have been completed, individuals are designated a tier level depending on the amount of assistance needed and the characterization of the military member's discharge:
- Tier 1: Member is transition ready and does not have to attend all five days of TAP. They are only required to do the first three days.
- Tier 2: Member is near transition ready but needs assistance. They are only required to do the first three days of TAP and are recommended to attend one or more of the additional courses.
- Tier 3: Member is not transition ready, must attend the three-day TAP course and is mandated to attend additional courses.
As TAP is now a three-day workshop, changes in the curriculum have been made to accommodate the refresh.
First day of TAP is Department of Defense day, which includes the military occupational code crosswalk, financial counseling and resiliency discussions.
The second day of TAP is now Veterans Affairs day to discuss veteran benefits, which previously was the fifth day.
The third day is now a Department of Labor session to learn how to write a resume and search for a job.
The extra time with this new program also allow separating or retiring members to attend TAP and the corresponding tracks as often as needed, according to Primo.
Remaining features from previous program
After the first three days of TAP, multiple two-day tracks are still offered, but slightly updated to coincide with trends in the civilian sector, according to Primo.
One of the tracks is Career Technical Training and Exploration, where members explore careers with the DOL and are informed of what is needed and how the DOD can be used to be successful.
Another one is the entrepreneur track, called Boots to Business, where small business administration works with members on what benefits are out there in order to start a business as a veteran.
"Upon completion of this track, members are enrolled in an eight-week, free of charge online business class on how to start a business," said Burger.
The third track, Assessing Higher Education, has education services to inform members of what schools are available in and outside of the local area, if they accept GI bills, which GI bill is ideal and contact the veteran's representative in the area.
"Any of the workshops we offer are open to dependents," said Primo. "If they need assistance, as far as education, employment, resume writing and such, they can receive similar benefits and can attend these workshops."
Other components that remain include pre-separation counseling, capstone, and military members with less than eight years of service still need to contact the in-service recruiter before separation.
"With this change, the entire DOD is now on the same page in regards to transitioning out of the military," said Primo.
"One of the most beneficial parts of this refresh is how soon we make contact with military members," he continued. "This is to help them make a more defined, informed decision, as it's an eye-opener for people and you have to be prepared for that transition."