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Law Allows Pre-separation Counseling Up to 2 Years Before Retirement

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2002 – Retiring service members are entitled to pre-separation counseling and job-search assistance up to two years before their retirement date.

Separating members are entitled to such benefits up to one year before they leave.

Charles Abell, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, sent a memorandum to the service secretaries April 30 explaining the policy. The rules were part of Public Law 107-103, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, which was signed into law in December.

Pre-separation counseling is intended "to ensure all active duty separating service members have the opportunity to be made aware of the transition services and benefits available to assist them and their spouse in adjusting to civilian life," Abell said in the policy memorandum.

Since 1997, roughly 200,000 military members have gone through transition counseling in a number of different DoD programs, Abell said July 30 at the DoD Transition Assistance Program Training Conference in New Orleans.

The rules state that separation counseling may begin up to 24 months before retirement or up to 12 months before separation, but must be conducted at least 90 days prior to either event. Retirement or separation dates need not be firm to begin counseling, merely anticipated.

"In the event that a retirement or separation is unanticipated until there are 90 or fewer days remaining, pre-separation counseling shall begin as soon as possible within the remaining period of service," Abell's memorandum states.

To reduce the burden on transition staffs on military bases around the world, the law provides that individuals with less than 180 days on active duty are ineligible for pre-separation counseling. An exception to this rule is members who are medically retired, the memorandum explains.

The longer eligibility period is as good for the services as it is for service members. Speaking in New Orleans, Abell described Army and Navy studies that indicate the sooner individuals begin pre-separation counseling, the more likely they are to re-enlist. DoD has asked the other services to begin keeping similar statistics.

For more information on the DoD Transition Assistance Program, visit www.dodtransportal.org/.

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