ARMY TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM IS EXTENDING ITS TIMELINE FOR SOLDIERS
By Buddy Blouin
Our military is the greatest show of force in the world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas that are lacking. One recent example was the Army Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Reports showed that the process for Soldiers had not been the best, and considering the well-documented issues that transitioning can bring for service members, this is an important area of concern. But now, steps are being taken to rectify these errors in the hopes of improving the process for Soldiers while in the service and setting them up for success once they reenter civilian life.
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The Army Transition Assistance Program Is Improving Its MethodsWhen Soldiers retire, there's a process to it, which includes classes and assistance through the Army Transition Assistance Program. However, there have been concerns that the timeline of the process only adds more stress due to the time crunch on top of serving one’s nation. Beginning on January 1, 2023, a pilot program will begin that allows Soldiers in the U.S. Army to submit their retirement packets up to two years in advance. While submissions must be made at least a year in advance, this expansion is an effort to help make transitions smoother. "We're looking at ways to help provide stability and predictability for Soldiers ready to retire after a long, successful career," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston. The Transition Assistance Program Army mandates are going to involve service members that have served 20 or more years of active duty, but there are Soldiers who may also qualify if they have to retire due to medical concerns. It’s important to note that the U.S. Army Transition Assistance Program has yet to set guidelines for Soldiers who retire in other fashions. But that’s not to say additional guidelines won’t be provided as Army TAP continues to use 2023 as a year to work on itself.
Improving Past Weak SpotsWatchdog group Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that the Army Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program had issues creating stressful separations for Soldiers. This included the fact that Soldiers were beginning classes later than they should have. What GAO found was, “Over 90 percent of transitioning servicemembers participated in the TAP counseling pathways, according to GAO's analysis of TAP data from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. In addition, participation in 2-day classes on employment, higher education, vocational training, and entrepreneurship increased. Nonetheless, the service branches waived many servicemembers from attending them.” The report continued, “Per service branch policies, servicemembers who need maximum transition support must attend a 2-day class, but GAO found that nearly a quarter of them did not. GAO also found that most servicemembers (70 percent) did not start TAP more than 1 year in advance, as generally required.” But now, efforts are in place to prevent this issue. The Army TAPs program is working to help reduce the impact of transitioning from the military into civilian life by providing a better timeline to complete these courses. While it’s not 100% clear if the GAO report is what led to these changes, the important thing here is that Soldiers will receive the necessary added time, and the Army is addressing the very areas of concern highlighted by the report.
How To Use the Army Transition Assistance ProgramBy going online, you can see which workshops you're eligible for and attend accordingly. This initiative is provided by government agencies, including the VA, the U.S. Department of Labor, the DoD, and many other organizations. Around 200,000 service members return to civilian life each year. These transitions can be difficult, but with the right steps, they can be easier for everyone. We all know that the mental side of leaving the military is its own battle for some, and this is where the Army Transition Assistance Program can help Soldiers overcome such hurdles with grace.
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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. Photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Parrish U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs Office
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