As you may remember from pre-deployment, the deployment cycle is a little different for National Guard and reserve service members. Shortly after returning, you will demobilize and your unit will deactivate — at which time you will no longer be serving on active duty. Once you’re home, keep the following in mind while returning to civilian life.
Your Activation Status Changes
When you demobilize, you will need to update your status and identification cards. To do this, bring copies of your discharge and release documents to the military identification card office at your demobilization station. Remember to update family members’ information within the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Learn more about revisiting personal affairs, like updating DEERS, here.
You Can Take Leave
After deployment, you will probably want to take some well-earned leave to spend time with family and loved ones. As a National Guard or reserve service member, you have three options for leave that you’ve accrued during deployment: payment for leave; pre-separation leave; or a combination of the two. Learn about your options here and discuss these options with family, loved ones and your command.
Your Finances Will Change (Again)
Just as your income changed upon activation, your finances will likely change again after deployment. This is because you will no longer receive active-duty pay, special pays or allowances. You will also no longer be eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion. You will go back to receiving monthly drill pay from the military, but your income from military sources might decrease significantly.
Remember that when you’re transitioning back to a civilian career, you might have to work a full pay period before getting your first pay check. Be prepared for a potential gap in income.
During this time, you may want to revisit your financial situation and draft a new budget to account for these changes. Read the Revisiting Personal Affairs article for more information on financial affairs or visit service-specific websites like the Army Reserve Family Programs Financial Readiness site and the National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program for help.
Certain Legal and Financial Protections Expire
After deployment, you (and in some cases, your family) may no longer qualify for legal and financial protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Legally, this might mean that your coverage stops on the date you’re released from military service — including court and administrative procedures, default judgments and evictions. Generally, financial protections will expire within 30 to 90 days following your release from active duty — including reduced interest, foreclosures and repossessions and termination of residential and automotive leases.
Read this article to learn more about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or contact a Legal Assistance Office near you using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance’s Legal Services Locator.
Your Health Care Coverage Changes
Your health care benefits will change when you deactivate. However, you have options for how you and your family will continue to receive coverage during this transition. Visit TRICARE’s website, the healthcare program for service members and families, to learn more about health plan options including: the TRICARE Transitional Assistance Management Program; TRICARE Reserve Select; the Continued Health Care Benefit Program; TRICARE Dental Care; and the TRICARE Pharmacy Program. You may also be eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. When considering these options, it is important to understand the time frame of eligibility for coverage.
Should you wish to reinstate your health care coverage through a civilian employer, TRICARE will issue you and your eligible family members a certificate of creditable coverage. This will ensure you and your family are not excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Reintegration Includes Returning to Work
Returning to your old job may be especially challenging to navigate. Try using the following tips to help ease this transition:
- Meet with your supervisor to discuss your intent to return to work as well as what’s changed since you’ve been gone — like leadership transitions, new coworkers, policy shifts and current projects. Make a plan together for returning so that you know what to expect on day one.
- Know your rights, including protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act. Visit the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for guidance or contact a Legal Assistance Office near you using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance’s Legal Services Locator.
- Focus on communicating with your coworkers who filled in while you were away. Show your appreciation and be open to others’ insights on what’s new or changed. Keep in mind that your coworkers may not totally understand your military experience or everything that you’ve gone through.
- Be patient, anticipate changes and expect that you may not pick up right where you left off. Accept decisions that were made while you were gone and know that you might experience a change of pace from duty. Even if you left work as a highly credible employee or decision maker, you might still need to re-establish yourself.
Connect with resources, like the Yellow Ribbon Program, for additional support. Ask your employer if they offer employee assistance programs or services to help you make the transition back to work a healthy one.
Reintegration Might Include Education
As a member of the National Guard or reserves, you may be entitled to certain benefits for training and education. These include the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, the GI Bill Ticker, the Reserve Educational Assistance Program and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on education benefits.
Whether you’re starting or returning to higher education, understand that this transition may not be easy emotionally, socially or academically. It can be challenging to continue coping with the effects of deployment while attempting to “live a normal life” on campus. Take advantage of available resources like your school’s veterans affairs office or student veterans organizations. Check out the Student Veterans of America website for more information.
It’s Challenging to Balance Military and Civilian Life
While active-duty service members will return to a military community, remember that you will be reintegrating in civilian life where those around may not understand the full depth of your deployment experience. Though everyone may mean well, you might find yourself feeling like your support network is thin or missing a sense of camaraderie— this is completely normal. Remember to talk openly with others, be patient with yourself and those around you, and know when and where to seek help.
You Still Have Access to Support Programs and Services
Regardless of your activation status, there are plenty of programs and services to help you and your family overcome the unique challenges of reintegration as a National Guard or reserve service member.
- The Yellow Ribbon Program: The Yellow Ribbon Program can help you and your family connect with specific resources, networks and services at all stages of deployment. They can help sort out health care, education, employment and benefits, and provide a forum for addressing behaviors related to combat stress, posttraumatic stress and transitioning to non-military environments. Get started by finding a service-specific reintegration event near you.
- Family Programs: Each branch of service has military and family support centers to help you and your loved ones adjust during reintegration, including the Army Reserve Family Program and the National Guard Family Program.
- Transition Goals, Plans, Success: Transition GPS can be particularly helpful in reentering the civilian workforce “career” ready. The program offers several modules on entrepreneurship, technical training and education.
- Military OneSource: As a National Guard or reserve service member, you and your family can still receive free, confidential, non-medical counseling and support through Military OneSource.
See the Resources page for a full list of reunion and reintegration resources.