You may have gotten to the point where you are considering leaving the military, or at least you are close to that point. While it may seem that the grass is greener on the other side, there are a lot of things to take into consideration before you take that final plunge into civilian life.
It is recommended that you start your separation process 12 months prior to separation; unless you are retiring, then they suggest 24 months. All branches have some form of transition assistance program that you can utilize prior to and during your transition. While they provide vital information when it comes to your military records, DD Form 214, leave, and items pertaining to the actual physical move, not all the necessary information is provided. After ensuring that all your records are correct and obtaining a copy of them for your files (military records and medical records), the biggest decision still needs to be made and that is where you are transitioning too. While many soldiers separate and stay near their last duty station, many do decide to relocate.
There are many things that need to be considered when trying to decide where to move to after separation. If you have a family, you want to look at the crime rate, the schools, and the different opportunities available to both you and the other members of your family. One opportunity to really look at is the job market in the area you are considering. It is best to start watching the area you are interested in relocating too for job announcements a year in advance to get an idea of what types of jobs may be available for you. For government jobs, it is recommended that you start applying about 6 months before you plan on transitioning to that area. A good site to start with is USAJOBS.GOV. There you can set up weekly emails showing the new jobs posted in the area.
This seems to be the one area that most veterans have the hardest time with – transitioning into another job right away or when they are ready. Make sure that you have a good amount of savings to cover you and your family while job hunting just in case. It is recommended that you have at least 6 months’ worth of pay in savings in case you don’t obtain a new position right away. The government is always slow in their hiring process so the extra funding can be helping.
Once you have decided on a specific area, then you can look at more specific details about the city. For example, if you are taking vehicles and motorcycles with you, you want to make sure that you know what steps need to be taken to register them. Other areas to consider include schools (for you and/or your children), is there a VA hospital nearby that you can use or an alternate medical facility, if you have weapons – what are the laws in carrying and having them in your home, the rental/home buying costs, and many more things that many do not consider.
A good place to look for more detailed information on separation can be found online at vetsfirst.org. On their website you can find a complete “Military Separation Guide” that gives you an overview of what you should know before you consider separating from the military.