Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and Veteran’s Assistance (VA)
By Phillip Pena Jr, Ret. Master Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, Senior Advisor and Program Manager
It has been a personal emblem of honor and a blessing to have served in the United States Marine Corps for nearly 30 years and to have had the numerous opportunities of serving in so many rewarding positions both in the military and the corporate world.
Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
Whether you serve four years or retire with more than 20 years, transitioning into the civilian sector can be nerve-racking if you have not prepared. Today, all branch services offer a Transition Assistance Program (TAP). They provide excellent information, resources, and tools to service members to help prepare for the move from military to civilian life. They provide initial counseling and pre-separation counseling workshops 12-months out and transition readiness seminars for both retirement & executive level 6-months out. I would like to expand on the resources and tools that TAP provides, i.e., financial budgeting, self-assessment/individual transition plans, resume writing, interview process, how to dress for success, and so much more. I cannot explain how essential these services are in preparing you for your transition. As a hiring manager for several years, I have reviewed and interviewed hundreds of transitioning veterans that did not take advantage of these tremendous and valuable resources.
Maintain your technical proficiencies i.e., certifications, licenses, continued professional development, security clearances, and it definitely does not hurt to develop and maintain your professional relationships and networking skills. There are dozens of job search engines, and these job search engines are tied to HR Application Tracking Systems that look for key buzz words which can become saturated. I personally recommend searching for the desired job you are interested in and go directly to the company’s website that is hiring. Review the job description and tailor your resume to meet the job description and requirements. Taking your time and preparing makes all the difference and employers will notice.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss the Veterans Affairs (VA) process. This is an area that many veterans do not take advantage of. Six to four months prior to your end of service obligation or retirement, make an appointment with your unit’s medical to have a final physical completed. Maintaining a copy of your medical and dental records are vitally important, as you will need to make an appointment with the VA several months prior to your end of service/retirement. The VA has counselors that can assist you and walk you through the claim process which every service member rates. Finally, the VA offers a program called Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) that can help with job training, education, employment accommodations, resume development, and job-seeking skills coaching.
Phillip Pena served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He deployed and served in several humanitarian and combat operations to include the Gulf War, Kosovo, both Operations Enduring Freedom and Operations Iraqi Freedom. He has served as a Program Manager for several government contracts and as the Senior Director of Program Management for TI Verbatim Consulting.