How Military Spouses Can Use the Transition Assistance Program

Military transition program participants.

The Defense Department's transition assistance program (TAP) is designed to help service members get out of the military and back to civilian life. But what about their spouses? What's in the transition program for them?

Before 2019, the most spouses knew about the transition program was that they could attend on a space-available basis. In October 2019, however, a new, congressionally mandated program rolled out and, with it, specific guidance for how and when some military spouses can get involved in the transition process with their military member.

While the DoD is also developing a spouse-specific set of transition programming available online through Military OneSource, this policy addresses spouses and TAP as it's designed for the service member.

What is TAP?

TAP is presented to troops in five distinct parts, starting in most cases no later than 365 days from their final-out date.

The process starts with a one-on-one initial counseling session during which the service member creates and walks through a self assessment and individualized plan. Next, troops attend a pre-separation briefing where they get a broad overview of the transition. The third step focuses on three different briefings from the Defense Department, the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Next, they'll pick a focused track that walks through education or job resources. Finally, a capstone session makes sure all of the boxes on the transition paperwork have been checked -- literally.

Virtual TAP Training

The in-person sessions represent a lot of time in transition training. If you have a day job or child care needs, you probably can't or don't want to commit that much time to sitting in sessions with your service member spouse.

That's part of the reason the TAP policy requires a virtual curriculum, which officials plan to roll out in early 2020. Check back for updates.

Military Spouses Can Attend TAP

If you do want to physically attend, the policy allows all spouses to go to the classes on a space-available basis. "Spouses of eligible service members are encouraged to participate in transition assistance, as resources and capacity allow," the policy states. That means the Pentagon wants you there, but isn't willing to boot service members from the classes to make it happen.

So what, specifically, can a spouse get out of the transition classes? Here's what the policy says:

"Spouses ... are eligible to attend the DOL One-Day and the DOL Employment Track ... [and] are eligible for ... job placement counseling; DoD and VA-administered survivor benefits information; DoD financial education and counseling, including information on budgeting, saving, credit, loans, and taxes; transition plan assistance to enable achievement of educational, training, employment and financial objectives; VA benefits orientation, such as education, employment, home loan services, housing assistance benefit information; and responsible borrowing practices counseling."

Military Caregivers and TAP

Some injured service members might identify their spouse, other family member or even a friend as their "caregiver" while doing their initial counseling appointment. In those cases, the caregiver is able to attend all of the transition classes with priority seating, instead of only when space is available.

"Service members who identified an individual to provide caregiver services after separation may permit their caregiver to participate in the member's pre-separation/transition counseling session to inform the caregiver of the assistance and support services available to caregivers of members after separation [and] the manner in which the member's transition to civilian life after separation may impact the caregiver," the policy states.

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