Transitioning From Active Duty During Covid-19: What You Need to Know

transitioning out of the military during pandemic

What You Need to Know About Transitioning From Active Duty During the Pandemic

For most service members, making the decision to get out of the military can be just as daunting as the choice to go in. Add to that the current state of the world due to the coronavirus, and things can seem downright terrifying. The best way to combat those fears, however, is to be informed. Getting solid information from reputable sources about your transition from active duty during Covid-19 is where to begin.  Find information regarding education opportunities, unemployment rates and the impact on jobs, and other available resources.

What Does Education Look Like During COVID?

Without the daily responsibilities that the military brings, you may find yourself with some free time. Oftentimes, if there is an employment gap on a resume, but education fills that gap, potential employers are not concerned because you were focusing on personal development. Honestly, this is probably the best time to go back to school.

Although nearly every college in the U.S. is conducting virtual classes right now, an online education is still wholly beneficial and can achieve the same end goal as attending in-person.

As a veteran, there are many ways to finance higher education, from GI Bills, to branch-specific scholarships, to needs-based grants, and more – and with a GI Bill, you can get housing assistance funds, which can help supplement any loss in income. According to the VA, during COVID, “Student veterans will not have an interruption in their BAH while they continue in school.” The VA encourages veterans to stay in touch with them and their school of choice for any changes or updated information.

For more info on schools, please visit the CollegeRecon School Finder tool.

What Does Potential Employment Look Like During Covid?

The U.S. unemployment rate for July 2020 was down to 10.2% – comparably, in July of 2019 it was only at 3.7%. Right now, the most affected ranges are men aged 16 to 19 (unemployed at a rate of 22.8%), women aged 20 to 24 (unemployed at a rate of 18.8%), and men aged 20 to 24 (unemployed at a rate of 17.8%). The most recent statistics covering the ages of separating service members is from 2017, but trends show that roughly 75% of enlisted members transitioning out of the military are aged 18-34, meaning most of those going into a life outside of the military can likely find it difficult to secure employment during the pandemic. According to the VA, “Service members who leave the military and are unemployed may be eligible for unemployment compensation.” They encourage separating veterans to look for that ability, administered through your state of record – where both federal and state benefits can be dispersed. Employers are continuing to add new jobs to the market, albeit at a declining rate, but the job site Indeed did report that more jobs were offered and filled in July over those in May. It’s not impossible to find work, but it may be an added stressor during a time where lots of things are changing already. Retiring members should utilize available base services (such as resume-writing or career searching) to find a job market that matches the skill-set you’ve spent years honing while active duty; use this transferable skills worksheet from CareerOneStop to make it a bit easier. And don’t forget to reach out to contacts you’ve acquired over your years of service, either from civilians and contractors you already worked with, or from other service members who’ve already retired and can share personal insight.

Where Can I Find Resources to Ease the Transition?

For the above-mentioned obstacles and many others, there are a number of resources available to you to ease your transition from active duty to civilian. A great place to start is the VA’s “Transition Resources You Need During COVID-19,” which has video episodes, FAQs, and contact numbers and emails for one-on-one assistance. MilitaryOneSource also has a number of “Coronavirus Updates” and important information for all levels of military and veteran life. The challenges this time can bring, both from the coronavirus and the many tasks associated with transition, shouldn’t cause additional strain on your mental health; visit here for a number of helpful avenues that can provide assistance. This last list also has a plethora of financial, employment, and various assistance sites that shed light on things that are easily overlooked during the pandemic and during the transitional phase.

Any Additional Considerations?

An important additional consideration for transitioning active duty members is securing new healthcare. Especially given the added health-risk that COVID brings, it’s critical that you’re covered for whatever the future can bring. Civilian health insurance can be quite expensive, especially if you find yourself having to make a less-than-desirable employment decision, are unemployed during this time, or aren’t yet age-eligible for federal health benefits. There are a few Tricare Retiree options, one of which is transitioning into the Reserves and having continued, low-cost coverage while a reservist.

Official Channels for More Tailored Info

And lastly, utilize the official channels to get more tailored information and advice:

 

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About the author

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Samantha Cain has 10 years of experience as a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in a variety of topics such as higher education, personal finance, event planning, DIY projects, and military life. She holds a BA in English, is working towards an MS in Higher Education, and has been a military spouse for eight years. Having lived on a number of overseas military bases, she brings a unique perspective to her writing and strives to provide quality and beneficial information to the military community.