JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Transitioning out of the military, whatever the reason, can be an overwhelming process for service members and their families. To assist in making the process easier to navigate, Joint Base San Antonio has consolidated its multitude of resources into a newly activated Joint Transition Readiness Center at the Brooke Army Medical Center campus.
The JTRC, which houses the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, can currently assist separating service members virtually through the many aspects of this life-changing event and offers full Department of Defense Transition services to transitioning members of all branches assigned to JBSA.
The Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program is the Army program responsible for providing Soldiers with the counseling, employment and educational workshops, and seminars required to achieve compliance with the law and policy Career Readiness Standards mandate. The program is intended to prepare and connect Soldiers to resources to ensure they have the greatest opportunity for success in their personal and career achievement upon transition from active duty.
“What makes SFL-TAP so unique is the fact that while the name of the program is specific to the Army, the services are tailored to all service members, regardless of branch of service,” said Sally Gonzalez, community readiness consultant and acting Transition Assistance Program manager at the center.
The Joint Center at JBSA is staffed with highly-educated personnel equipped to guide service members through the many facets of the transition process, and includes a transition services manager, administrative contractor officer representative, contracting installation manager transition services assistant, five transition counselors, a financial counselor, liaison officer, and two administrative assistants, all who play an important role in the transition process, Gonzalez said.
The first step in obtaining services from at the JTRC is establishing contact with one of the two administrative specialists who are the gatekeepers to the Transition program, Gonzalez said.
“Customers will begin the process by contacting administrative staff members, who then create personnel records and schedule appointments with transition counselors,” she said. “They also schedule the service member for the required TAP classes, in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act 19 guidance. Once these appointments are set, the service member will meet with their assigned transition counselor for the first appointment, or Initial Individualized Counseling, to determine what tier of service they need to prepare for transition.”
There are also, among the staff members at the center, a number of contract employees, including the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits advisors. These specialists are trained facilitators there to help service members, Veterans, and their loved ones learn about and access benefits and services from the VA.
“Benefits advisors are available for one-on-one assistance sessions to explain benefits, answer questions and help transitioning service members connect with resources, including VA Medical Centers and vet centers,” Gonzalez said. “The VA portion of the mandatory Transition Assistance Program curriculum teaches transitioning members about VA benefits, introduces them to helpful services and tools, assists in creating an Individual Transition Plan, and demonstrates how to navigate VA web portals.”
The center’s SFL-TAP transition counselor provides transition and employment assistance services to clients.
“These counselors conduct individualized initial counseling services, self-assessments, pre-separation counseling and capstone counseling,” Gonzalez said. “Throughout the transition process, the counselors facilitate classes, answer questions and review resumes, doing their best to keep service members on track for timely program completion.
“The counselor and service member also discuss future plans and goals, and what career track best suits the member’s needs and desires,” she said. “It is the counselor who will guide separating military personnel through SFL-TAP to help them complete and obtain their Transition Checklist. DD Form 2648, for out-processing.”
Currently, the center is assigned five SFL-TAP counselors, with one assigned specifically to in the wounded warrior population, and those who are going through the Medical Evaluation Board process, Gonzalez said.
To assist separating members with their financial plans after separation from the military, the SFL-TAP has a financial counselor who is responsible for providing financial planning education and resources for transitioning service members.
“The service members must develop a post-separation budget to analyze what financial needs are necessary to thrive after military service,” Gonzalez said. “Most areas of our lives have an effect on our finances, and the financial counselor engages in thought-provoking discussions with service members in order to account for all the financial changes that can happen during transitional periods.”
The specific areas the financial counselor can help with are financial counseling issues, credit counseling, consumer fraud, using public agencies to assist with issues relating to transition, debt reduction strategies, housing, student loan debt, bankruptcy, managing taxes, budgeting and cash flow management, life insurance planning, and retirement planning.
Transitioning service members who would like to contact the JTRC may call 210-916-7322 or 210-916-6089, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss their specific needs. The center, located in building 3639, 3931 Okubo Barracks Road, at the BAMC campus, is currently closed for face-to-face appointments due to COVID-19 restrictions.