Don't be "Tapped Out," GPS Your Future

November marks the beginning of a new era. The former Transition Assistance Program (TAP) has been revised to better serve the needs of Service members and their families in need of additional education, skills and credentials necessary to fill the more than three million jobs in the current the labor market. The new program is called Transition GPS (Goals Planning Success). The revision is a joint effort between the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Labor (DoL), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Homeland Security.

The effort was based on the mandate from President Obama to establish a "reverse boot camp" for Service members to assist with transitioning to civilian life. He signed Executive Order 13518 Nov. 9, 2009, the "Employment on Veteran Hiring Initiative" which has influenced many other programs. The policy begins, "Veterans have served and sacrificed in defense of our Nation. When they complete their service, we must do everything in our power to assist them in re-entering civilian life and finding employment." The Order established the Interagency Council on Veteran Employment co-chaired by the Secretaries of DoL and VA. Additionally, a Veteran Employment Initiative (VEI) was established to reduce Veteran unemployment, recognizing both the contributions of Veterans and the need for skills and training Veterans can provide in the workforce, particularly the federal government.

An inter-service team met over the course of a week in Denver, Colo., last spring to strategize the new transition program. I served as a member of the first-ever Service and joint partner review and modification of TAP, ensuring critical educational elements were included to meet the needs of today's warfighters and their families. Participants commented that it was an excellent opportunity to see many divergent programs pooling resources and working together. They built upon one another's strengths to determine what would best meet the needs of today's Service member and their families. I represented the Office of the Secretary of Defense – Reserve Affairs Education Office and presented programs and services offered by DANTES.

The "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" is a combination of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) and the Hiring Heroes Act, described as a bipartisan, comprehensive legislation that would lower the rate of unemployment among our nation's veterans. Among other initiatives, the act mandates the necessity for transition assistance and outlines program implementation.

Pre-separation is the first component of Transition GPS and must be completed prior to attending the workshop. The pre-separation counseling will assist the active duty Service member in establishing an Initial Transition Plan (ITP), which will be a critical resource after completion of the training program.

The focus on veterans is timely, with unemployment figures reaching 30.4 percent for veterans aged 18-24, according to the October 2011 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report. It is estimated that 300,000 Troops transitioning from the military will attend TAP GPS annually. Pilot sessions have been conducted at bases across the country, and the new program must be delivered by Nov. 21, 2012. Additional tracks will be rolled out by October 2013 to include technical certification, entrepreneurship, or pursuing higher education. Lifecycles will be available by 2014.

Service members — transition can be a hectic time. Get a jump start by visiting the DANTES Web site today and find out what programs are available to help you get ready. Be sure to use your ITP created during Transition GPS to navigate your way through your military transition and your new civilian career. The only constant is change – even for the DoD transition program – so take advantage of the change. Best of luck to you, and remember, as with anything else, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it!

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