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How to Get Out of the Military and Be Successful?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to get out of the military and be successful

Military life and civilian life, though similar in some aspects, are mostly different. So transitioning out of the military can be difficult. Understanding this, we have put together an article with information on how to get out of the military and be successful. If you are preparing to leave the military, you will surely learn a lot.

Preparing to transition out of military life and into civilian life is a long process; you will have to do many things and invest time and effort. But, trust us, it will be worth it.

Our recommendations for military transition to civilian life and veteran transition to civilian life will be covered together but broken down into different areas of consideration.

Think About Whether You Should Take or Sell Your Leave


One aspect to consider is terminal leave. you can take it when you leave or sell it back. You also have the option to take some periods of leave between when you think about getting out of the military and when you actually do.

If you take your leave, you leave like taking a regular leave but you do not need to report back. So you can just return home and get paid. This is one of the common ways to get out of the military.

You can use the time to transition into civilian life. You can draw your military pay until September 1.

If you are selling back your leave, you get 1/30 of your basic pay for each leave day. You can sell back a max of 60 days. In this case, you will have to pay 25% for federal tax and other amounts for state tax. You will remain on active duty to draw regular paychecks until September 1.

Avail of Your Transition Assistance


Attend the Military Transition Assistance Program TAP workshop; it is meant to help you with adjusting to civilian life after military. You can receive all the briefings, information, tools, and training here.

1. Meet with your separation counselor

The first step is to schedule a pre-separation appointment. To do this, you will have to visit the Transition Assistance Office at your installation. Usually, it will be inside the Family Center.

There are different programs for each service branch. They may have different names. For example, when transitioning from Army to civilian life, you will avail of the “Soldier for Life” program. For the Marines, it will be the “Transition Readiness Program,” and the Navy’s is “Transition Goals, Plans, Success.”

You need to schedule the appointment within a year before you plan to separate. However, because it can take a lot of time to prepare for the transition, it is recommended that you do this at least 180 days before you separate.

Your separation counselor will go over the “Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist” with you to guarantee that you receive the assistance and advice necessary to transition effectively.

In addition, the counselor will help you craft a needs assessment, access relocation and career resources, and other benefits.

Next, you will draft your ITP, which is short for Individual Transition Plan. It is a roadmap for acquiring objectives: education, employment, technical training, etc. The ITP will focus on three key areas: money decisions, benefits decisions, and job decisions.

During this, you will be able to assess your personal and professional preparedness and identify what you need to do to make the transition as seamless as possible.

2. Get your VMET document to proceed

Get your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) document, also known as the DD Form 2785. The process is simple:

  • Go to the DMDC website
  • Click on the “Request Document” and “Request Cover Letter” tabs
  • Download the documents
  • Print the documents out

Note: You need to have a Common Access Card (CAC) or DFAS myPay PIn to get the VMET document. If you need help, contact your transition counselor.

You can use this as proof for credits at schools or experiences and skills at potential jobs. In addition, it is possible to use it to attain certificates and licenses.

3. Decide whether you are going to school or to work

If you intend to pursue higher education after separating from the military:

  • Determine the type of degree you are pursuing
  • Begin the researching and selecting process
  • Decide on a college or institution and program

Note: If you do not know where to start, assess your academic skills with the DoD’s Online Skills Course tester here. Once you are aware of where you stand (academically) the researching and selecting process can be easier. For inspiration, you can also attend career fairs.

If you are not seeking higher education, you can consider transferring your Post 9/11 GI BILL benefits to your dependents. If you choose to do this, you MUST do it before you leave. Once you leave, transferring is no longer acceptable.

If you are seeking a job:

Step 1. Determine your career path

You can stick with your military career field and find a civilian version of it or you can seek a new, different career path.

For the latter, you can transfer your military experience and skills. Transitioning from military to civilian workforce is easier in this case.

Regardless of whether you are going to school or work, there is someone that can offer guidance. There is a military education service officer and career counselor, respectively. You can also seek assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They will direct you to services veterans need to successfully return to civilian life

Step 2. Create your resume

You will need to put together a good resume for your military career transition. There are plenty of places that can help you with your resume. For example, Hire Heroes USA. Mistakes you need to avoid include:

  • Using too much military jargon
  • Not reframing your skills to fit with civilian jobs
  • Not including quantifiable information to highlight yourself

Step 3. Begin your job search

Let the hunt begin! Use resources given to you during your TAP workshop and meetings with counselors. Reach out to your network. Check out these sites if you do not know where to start:

  • RecruitMilitary – There are 491,866 (as of writing) active jobs.
  • Hire Heroes USA – They have partnered and non-partnered opportunities and virtual career fairs.
  • VA for Vets – Various job boards for you to land an opportunity.
  • The National Resource Directory – There are employment resources across government agencies.

4. Think about your living location (Are you buying a house?)

Once you know where you will be studying or working, you can move on to researching your living location. If you are thinking about purchasing a new house, make sure you are aware of VA financing and mortgage options.

Option 1: Fixed Rate Mortgage – The interest rate stays the same over the entire loan life. Usually, it is for 15 to 30 years. This is ideal if your priority is stability or if you are not confident about your job security.

Option 2: Adjustable Rate Mortgage – The interest rate changes with market fluctuations. Most military veterans who know they will only stay in the house for up to 5 years opt for this type of mortgage.

Option 3: Hybrid Adjustable Rate Mortgage – The interest rate is fixed for 3 or 5 years, then adjusts after on an annual basis. Short-term buyers prefer this because of the early years’ low rates.

Option 4: Graduated Payment and Growing Equity – Low monthly payment at first, which then increases gradually. Graduated Payment (GPM) tends to increase in the 6th year, while the Growing Equity (GEM) increases into the principal of the loan.

5. Get a new health care plan or retain your TRICARE plan

Next, think about your health care plan. You have to move your military health coverage to a plan within 90 days. This 90-day period is offered by TRICARE for you to find a new health care plan. If you decide to retain your TRICARE plans, you must apply to keep your benefits as a retiree.

If you are moving into the workforce, your employer may have an affordable health care option that you can consider through the Employer Provided Civilian Health Care (HMO). Another option is the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a health insurance program where the VA covers a part of your health care expenses.

You can also make an in-person visit to the closest facility. Use these tools to locate one:

  • Locate Military Treatment Facility
  • Locate VA Medical Facility

6. Get a new life insurance coverage (For you and your family)

After health care, look into your life insurance coverage. You previously had the Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI), but you will lose your coverage when you part from the military.

You need to research and get a life insurance coverage that fits the needs of you and your family. In doing this, make sure you take into account the term coverage, premium price chart, and insurance provider.


Now, you are armed with information about how to get out of the military and be successful. Apply what you have read to do just that! If you have already gone through this process and have advice, please share them with us (and other readers) in the comments below. We would appreciate it so much!

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