WASHINGTON -- The first significant alterations to the Defense Department's Transition Assistance Program since 2011 are taking effect with the new fiscal year.

The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act mandated the changes, which took effect yesterday.

The purpose of DOD's TAP remains the same, officials said, but the new requirements will reflect a different process of execution.

"It is our hope that these changes will provide ample time for transitioning service members to begin thinking about their transition and begin planning accordingly," said Tamre H. Newton, director of DOD's Transition to Veterans Program Office.

DOD TAP is an outcome-based program that bolsters opportunities, services and training for transitioning service members in their preparation to meet post-military goals, and should not be confused with TAPS, an acronym for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, officials noted.

The mandatory components of TAP are applicable for all service members who have at least 180 continuous days or more on active duty; including members of the National Guard and reserves.

WHAT TAP WILL LOOK LIKE:

1) TAP now starts no later than 365 days prior to transition for those who are separating or retiring. Officials recommend that retirees begin the transition process at least two years prior to retirement. In the event of an unanticipated separation or retirement, or if a member of a reserve component is demobilized with less than 365 days, TAP must begin as soon as possible within the remaining period of service.

2) Individualized initial counseling between the service member and a TAP counselor is now the official start to the transition process. During the IC session, service members complete their personal self-assessment and begin the development of their Individual Transition Plan to identify their unique needs of the transition process and post-transition goals.

3) Once the individualized IC is complete, pre-separation counseling commences. Pre-separation counseling, just like IC, must start no later than 365 days prior to transition. Pre-separation counseling covers by-law information to include benefits, entitlements and resources for eligible transitioning service members. Caregivers and spouses are especially encouraged to attend pre-separation counseling with their service member.

4) The DOD Transition Day follows pre-separation counseling, and is mandatory for transitioning service members. This portion of TAP includes curriculum modules on building resilience by service members managing their own transition via MyTransition, a military occupational code crosswalk to help define and translate military skills and the financial plan for transition module, which fulfils the mandated financial literacy requirement.

5) The Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to provide the VA benefits and services briefing, formerly known as VA Benefits I and II, on the VA benefits and services available to service members and veterans.

6) The Labor Department will provide a required one-day briefing on preparation for employment, which is a change from the current three-day DOL employment workshop.

The new changes with TAP also include a service member election of two days of instruction; these include the: DOL Employment Track, DOL Vocational Track, DOD Education Track and the Small Business Administration Entrepreneurship Track. Transitioning service members must elect at least one track, but may attend more than one based on their ITP and post-transition goals.

The capstone event, which is the culminating event in which commanders verify achievement of career readiness standards and a viable ITP, must happen no later than 90 days before separation or released from active duty. Capstone remains the culminating event for TAP.

While certain changes to DOD TAP are standard across the military departments, each military service may execute the mandatory portions of TAP based on their service culture, as long as they are within the required timeframes, officials said. This may result in a distributive model in which TAP is encouraged to be completed over the course of the 365 days following IC and pre-separation counseling, or in a consecutive model, in which TAP is completed in a five-day consecutive period, allowing service members to use the knowledge gained right upfront to explore additional tracks, extensively network, complete a marketable certification, attend a DOD SkillBridge program, or use a mentor to ease their transition.

The changes to TAP will not immediately be reflected on the www.DODTAP.mil website. However, officials anticipate that the site will be updated soon. For more information on the updates to TAP, service members should contact their installation transition office.

ABOUT THE TRANSITION TO VETERANS PROGRAM OFFICE:

• TVPO is responsible for designing, overseeing and evaluating the Transition Assistance Program.
• TAP is a result of an interagency partnership that includes DOD; the departments of Labor, Education, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security; the Small Business Administration; and the Office of Personnel Management.