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By Griffin Swartzell, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 10, 2019
Separating service members participate in a group activity during an Air Force Transition Assistance Program class Sept. 13, 2019 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Service members are now required to complete a pre-separation briefing and individualized initial counseling no later than 365 days out from their separation or retirement date. (U.S. Air Force photo by Heather Heiney)
Under the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, the United States military has changed its policies with regards to the Transition Assistance Program for service members who are separating or retiring from service. Service members are now required to complete a pre-separation briefing and individualized initial counseling no later than 365 days out from their separation or retirement date. This allows them more time to make crucial decisions about the next steps in their lives. It also allows organizations like the Airman and Family Readiness Center on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, to offer Airmen more individualized support.
“Often, service members don’t know if they’re going to continue serving or reenlist, especially at a year out,” says Hugo Escobar, 21st Force Support Squadron transition assistance program lead. “We understand that, but they still have to complete these two requirements. If the service member completes the individual counseling and pre-separation and they decide they want to reenlist, they’ve met the requirement, and they’re good to go.”
Service members will now receive notice 18 months ahead of their scheduled separation/retirement date. As part of their individual counseling, they will be assigned to one of three tiers based on their preparedness to transition. Tier I service members are considered fully prepared. Tiers II and III —prepared and not prepared — have additional support mandates, including post-separation financial planning, career assistance and direction towards either higher education or technical training.
“Not everybody separates and stays here, so we have access to employment agencies nationwide,” says Escobar. “All I need is your zip code where you’re going. I plug it into my database, and I’ll tell you where to go.”
TAP also encompasses securing all earned benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. If that includes VA disability compensation, Escobar also connects service members with Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit organization.
“Myself and my teammates here, we offer a lot of services,” says Escobar. “At my introduction at TAP, I say if you are uncertain, stressed about the unknown, the future, you’re in the right place. All you have to do is ask a question, and we’re going to answer it, whether it’s us here, a local agency or a national agency.”