Did you know that many military veterans are eligible to receive unemployment benefits when they separate from the military?
Transitioning from a military career to a civilian career is a big step. Not all jobs transfer over from the military and it can be difficult for civilians to understand how much military members bring to the table in terms of experience, leadership and many other attributes. It is not uncommon for military members to struggle when seeking civilian employment.
Thankfully, there are benefits that can help you bridge the gap between military and civilian careers. Service members who are no longer active in the military have the same unemployment benefit options available to them as other Americans. I applied for unemployment benefits when I separated from the military, and I encourage you to do the same if you are eligible.
Unemployment benefits for military veterans
Unemployment compensation may be available to ex-military personnel. If eligible, military members will receive compensation from the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-service members (UCX). This program is run by the federal government, but each state has their own agents representing the UCX. Whether or not you are eligible and how much compensation you will receive depends on several factors. If you receive other compensation (separation pay, retirement pay) the amount of compensation for which you may be eligible will be reduced. Here we look at how you can go about signing up for unemployment compensation and what you can do before separation to get your finances in order.
Signing up for unemployment benefits
Since each state is in charge of unemployment benefits paid out to residents of the state, this is the starting point for signing up for compensation. The state unemployment office will be able to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits, how long you can receive benefits and how much compensation you will receive. You must apply through the state employment office which will also help you in your search for new employment. When visiting the state employment office to inquire about benefits be sure to have the following documents on hand; job history or resume, Social Security Card and DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty).
A couple quick notes about military unemployment benefits:
- Federal law requires that you are physically in the state in which you file your first claim based on military wages. You can file in the state in which you separate from the military, but you may need to transfer your unemployment benefits if you move to another state (be sure to check with the employment bureau in the state where you move).
- Unemployment benefits for former military members is usually based on military service wages, however, separation pay or military retirement pay may affect your benefits.
- In most cases, you must have been separated under honorable conditions to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Each state may have unique rules or provisions. Check with your state employment office for specific information.
New GI Bill Program for Unemployed Military Veterans
If you are an unemployed veteran, you may be eligible for a new GI Bill program specifically designed for unemployed veterans age 35-60. The good news is this program is open to eligible veterans regardless of whether or not they still have remaining GI Bill eligibility (MGIB benefits typically expire 10 years after a veteran’s separation date).
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was recently passed, which offers up to 12 months of education and training at the full-time active duty Montgomery GI Bill rate. Training is available to eligible veterans for VA Approved education and training programs at a community college or technical school. Benefits must be used toward an Associate’s Degree, qualified certification, or a non-college degree in a high demand field (examples include, information technology, trucking, certain medical occupations, and more).
Visit the GI Bill for unemployed veterans page on our site to learn more about eligibility, and how to apply.
Prepare your finances before separation from the military
A well padded emergency fund can provide the financial security necessary during a time of transition from one job to another. Service members who are planning to transition from military to civilian status should plan on saving as much money as they can to help bridge any gaps in employment. It took me about 4 months to find a job when I made the transition from the military to civilian workforce, but your results may vary depending on the economy where you separate, your skills, and other factors. Unemployment benefits helped, but I was also single and had few expenses. If you have a family and more expenses, then you will need a larger nest egg to help you through this transition.
Having enough money to cover several months worth of living expenses will offer some peace of mind until you are able to secure your next job. Consider saving your money in a high interest savings account which will offer a decent interest rate while still providing access to your money.