By Gary SheftickSeptember 21, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 21, 2012) -- Parts of a new transition assistance program, or TAP, were tested this summer and TAP will be ready for separating service members over the next few months, officials reported to lawmakers Thursday.
Leaders of an interagency team testified to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, subcommittee on Economic Opportunity about the revamped TAP, which includes a five-day workshop for troops leaving military service. Army Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Jason T. Evans and officials from the other military services also testified at the hearing.
The first day of the TAP workshop will be led by Defense or service officials, the next three days will be an employment workshop developed by the Department of Labor and the last day will consist primarily of Veterans Affairs briefings, according to John Moran, deputy assistant secretary for Operations and Management, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, Department of Labor.
A new interactive VA brief will be ready for rollout to all components by Nov. 21, said Danny Pummill, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration/Department of Defense Program Office. The employment workshop has been given at seven pilot installations and will be ready for all TAP sites by January, Moran said.
Troops attending TAP will be able to select a path, depending upon if they plan to pursue education after the military, search for a job or start their own business, said Susan Kelly, deputy director, Transition to Veterans Program Office, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
"We are all in agreement that one size does not fit all," Kelly said of transition assistance for an estimated 300,000 service members expected to separate annually from the military during each of the next four years.
After the initial mandatory five-day workshop, additional days of training will be available depending upon the path that service members select and their ability to meet "career readiness standards," Kelly said.
For instance, a retiring lieutenant colonel with two graduate degrees will probably be more comfortable in his pursuit of further education, she said, than a young first-term Soldier unfamiliar with university entrance requirements.
TAP can prepare departing service members for technical training or trade schools, as well as college, Kelly said. TAP can help them prepare resumes for a job search and help them determine how their military schooling could translate into career credentials. It can help them develop a financial plan, she said, and it can help them prepare to start their own business.
"Boots to Business" is a pilot program that will begin at Fort Sill, Okla., in October, said Rhett Jeppson, of the Small Business Administration.
Pilot programs have already been launched with the Navy and Marine Corps, he said.
Nearly one in 10 small businesses are veteran-owned, Jeppson said. Boots to Business will expose troops to entrepreneurship. A two-day program will help troops develop a business plan, he said.
Syracuse University was involved in helping design the program, he added.
The Army has a life-long commitment to Soldiers, said its adjutant general. Evans discussed the redesigned Army Career and Alumni Program which he said has already been tested at a number of pilot sites and stressed the new command emphasis that the program has been given.
"The United States Army is committed to ensuring a life-long success of our Soldiers, preparing our Soldiers for transition by enhancing the training and service models," Evans said, "and beginning the transition process early provides the greatest opportunity for post-military success."
Transition is no longer an end-of-service event, he said.
"Under our new military life-cycle model, all new Soldiers will receive counseling pertaining to their educational and career goals within 30 days of reporting to their new duty station," Evans said.
New Soldiers will also be required to prepare an individual development plan that he said will be used throughout their military career and then can be morphed into a transition plan.
Kelly also discussed how the military services will migrate by 2014 to an integrated life-cycle model where transition assistance will begin "not at end of career," but at the beginning.
Evans laid out the Army's six-phase plan for transitioning to that integrated life-cycle model.
The first phase was strategic planning which he said was accomplished between January and April of this year.
The second phase involved modifications to support contracts and funding, and he said that was accomplished in May and June.
The recruit, train and pilot program phase is ongoing right now, he said, and involves forward mobile support teams at installations.
Phase four will begin in November and all Soldiers will then receive pre-separation counseling a year before they leave the service, he said. They will then go on to attend the Department of Labor employment workshop and the Veterans Affairs benefits briefings. This phase will bring the Army in compliance with the VOW Act, Evans said. The Veterans Opportunity to Work, or VOW, to Hire Heroes Act was passed last year and requires transition benefits to be in place by November.
Phase five will include a number of new courses such as financial planning and individual transition planning. A pilot will begin in 2013 and conclude no later than October 2014, Evans said.
Phase six will be full conversion to the military life-cycle transition and it will also be implemented in 2014, he said.
"We're committed to ensuring Soldiers who have sacrificed so much in service of America's defense are taken care of as they begin the next chapter of their lives," Evans said.