Maybe you’re just ending your first tour of duty. Maybe you’ve fulfilled your obligation to your country. Now, you’re at a crossroads – re-enlist, reserves, transition out? How do you know you’re making the right call?
This is going to affect your future, so think it through. Take stock, review your options. Here are four things you need to assess to make your best decision:
What benefits will you have available?
Benefits differ, depending on whether you’re separating, transitioning to the reserves, or retiring. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers benefits briefings as part of your transition assistance. Here are some of the benefits you may be able to receive:
- Transition assistance for active duty, Guard and reserve, wounded service members and more.
- A steady paycheck, if you decide to continue your service in the reserves
- Education and training opportunities
- Home loans and housing assistance
- Life insurance
- Medical services can be accessed for up to two years after discharge for some service members.
- Commissary and exchange privileges are available for retirees, National Guardsmen and reservists.
If you’ve been injured during service, you may receive extra care and support. Learn about wounded warrior specialty consultations, health care, benefits and more.
Living costs outside the military
Civilian life has its expenses and its tradeoffs. No more basic allowance for housing, but you can move anywhere you want without orders. You won’t have that steady military paycheck and job security, but you can go for that civilian job you’ve always wanted. Here are some of most important costs of civilian life to prepare for:
- Housing will probably be your biggest monthly expense, but you may be entitled to VA home loans as well as benefits to help you make your final move.
- Health care. Veterans who aren’t enrolled in VA health care will need health insurance. That can mean monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. TRICARE Reserve Select is available worldwide for qualified Selected Reserve and their families.
- Saving for retirement. Setting aside some money every month for retirement is vital. Got a job on the horizon? Compare the employer’s plan with the military’s retirement plan. Use this military compensation calculator to see what your military retirement would look like.
A job and income after service
A good civilian job makes all the difference in a successful transition out of the military. You’ll find lots of assistance and resources available – including some on this site – to help you line up a good job.
- When you’re making the decision to separate, start planning for employment as soon as possible, ideally about a year out.
- A big part of pre-separation planning is Career and Employment Readiness.
- Check out these tips for 12 Ways to Land a Civilian Job, and remember you have access to Military OneSource assistance for 365 days after separation or retirement.
Civilian living versus military life
You’re not just changing jobs or making a move – you’re changing the way you and your family live. Sure you’re used to change, but this can be different. Be prepared.
- You’ll be leaving behind close friends. Workplace camaraderie will probably be different. Job security may be different too. But on the other hand, no more orders.
- Some people choose to combine military and civilian life and transition to the reserves.
- Talk to your family before you make your decision. Don’t underestimate the impact transitioning will have on them. Listen to their concerns and opinions. List the positive and negative aspects of the changes and consider which are most important for your family.
The takeaway? Don’t rush a decision to avoid less-than-ideal orders. At the same time, don’t re-enlist just to avoid the uncertainty of leaving. If you’re still undecided, contact your installation’s Transition Assistance Program office for more guidance on the transition process and next steps.
Whatever you decide, once you’ve made your decision, be all in. You’ve done your homework and can move ahead with confidence.