Departing service members will soon have access to a "reverse boot camp" that offers new veterans more robust transition services, said President Obama in a speech Monday afternoon before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev.
Traditionally known as TAP (transition assistance program), the program has long provided service members with information about benefits as well as workshops on career options and job search skills. Veterans' advocates, however, have in recent years urged substantial changes to the program as the unemployment rate for former service members exceeded that of the national rate. Last August, the president convened a task force to overhaul TAP for the first time in 20 years.
The new initiative extends TAP from a three-day workshop to five to seven days, which includes a financial planning seminar, a redesigned employment workshop and a planning session in which service members can explore career options and talk to experts.
Service members will be also be able to meet with a counselor to discuss their career goals as well as VA benefits and resources.
"We'll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business," Obama said. "And just as they've maintained their military readiness, we'll have new standards of career readiness."
That training will also include the option to take a course tailored to a service member's specific career interest, whether it be a higher education degree, credentials in certain skills or small-business ownership.
The changes to TAP will be fully implemented by the end of 2013.
The unemployment rate for all veterans in June was lower than the national average at 7.4 percent, though the rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 9.5 percent.
Heather Ansley, vice president of veterans policy for the advocacy organization VetsFirst, told NBC News that the substantial changes promise to give service members more individualized guidance on how to successfully transition from military life.
"We’ve known for some time that TAP wasn’t fulfilling its mission of preparing folks," said Ansley.
By offering service members individualized counseling and job readiness sessions, Ansley said, TAP can better prepare new veterans based on a variety of factors, including their education, career goals and physical or psychological disabilities.
Ansley is hopeful that the TAP initiative will also help service members answer logistical questions about life outside of the military, including what to do without housing benefits and how to calculate what kind of paycheck is needed. The changes, she said, will help veterans learn "how to make that transition without being surprised."