In our series addressing the challenges of leaving the military, it is important to take it one step at a time.
by Ed Mattson
There has been a lot of talk about “developing a seamless transition to civilian life for military personnel”. Since 1990, with the development of the Total Assistance Program (TAP), which was suppose to meet the needs of military personnel and their families by providing the skills, tools, knowledge, and self-confidence necessary for a successful re-entry to the civilian world, things have moved slowly. The original goal was to help our warriors move into the job market or enroll in an educational environment to prepare for life beyond the warrior’s specific MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) skills.
It looked as if TAP had all the necessary ingredients as a collaborative effort involving DOL, the Military, Veterans Administration, Department of Education (ED), Small Business Administration (SBA), the National Veterans Business Development Corporation, and even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and other federal, state, local and non-profit organizations, but the process itself was a learning curve., and had to meet the needs of military “Regulars”, Reservists, and Guardsmen, all which may have different needs.
Much has been absorbed and implemented, but as I have been writing, the decision making process is a multi-phased series of events. The implementation by the TAP program for all military personnel, retiring, or separating, as well as National Guard and Reserves demobilizing, to go through “pre-separation counseling”, was the best move that could have been made. In past generations of those who have served, most would agree it was simply “thanks and bye, see-ya”.
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis
During this counseling period those seeking to enter the job market, additional workshops are available through the Department of Labor, to teach how to go about finding a job in one of the most difficult job markets our nation has ever seen. With graduating students competing for many of the same employment opportunities, and with unemployment rates estimated to be closer to 22% than the reported 9.5%, finding a job is no “picnic in the park”.
The National Guard and Reserve members are given a special briefing on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which are scheduled at installation demobilization sites. They also receive information about the Department of Labor, One-Stop Career Centers, during their pre-separation counseling. Most of the Guard and Reservists have jobs they will return to, but many may want to look for a new job or career. For those in this category, they can register with the One-Stop Career Center once they return home.
The pre-separation program is an important first step for Guardsmen and Reservists, because they will also be provided a number of services for up to 180 days after they are demobilized. This part of the program provides assistance covering resume writing, electronic job banks and Internet access to make job search much easier (resume writer, cover letter and job assistance tutorials). They are also given tips on salary negotiations; how to find job fairs and federal employment workshops and seminars; relocation assistance; information about government partnerships for employment; how to network; benefits for members who are involuntarily separated, and information about Veterans benefits (including disability benefits).
Starting Wednesday we’ll go through the TAP program step by step and then look at programs designed to help those with disabilities, and those facing the many readjustment problems many have just dealing with the horrors of war as they work their way back into the mainstream.
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism
Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina.
Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.