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Are You Eligible for Unemployment After Leaving the Military?


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Transitioning from your military career to the civilian world is a big change, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are a lot of considerations to make as well as adjustments to get used to in a new civilian life. One transition that is not always easy for military members is finding secure employment in the civilian world.

Despite the fact that military members have incredible discipline, work training, and life experience, their exact career field does not always translate to the civilian world. Couple that with a difficult economy and veterans may find it difficult to find a job immediately after separating from the military. It took me six months to find a job when I separated from the military, and I know several veterans who had a more difficult time. Thankfully, I was able to file for unemployment benefits to help tide me over.

Bridging the Gap

There are options for bridging the gap between military work and find a job in the civilian world. For those no longer active in the military, the unemployment benefits available to other eligible Americans are also an option for former military members.

Military personnel are able to receive compensation from the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members (UCX). The program is run through the federal government though states each have their own agents assisting with the UCX.

Eligibility for UCX

There are several factors that determine eligibility and the amount of compensation you can receive as an ex-military member. In most cases, you must be separated from the military under honorable conditions to qualify for benefits. If you already receive compensation from other sources like retirement pay or separation pay, your compensation amount will be reduced.

To sign up for unemployment benefits, you will need to visit your state’s office where unemployment benefits are handled. The state office will help you determine eligibility, the length of time you can receive benefits, and how much in compensation you will be eligible to receive. You will need to supply your job history, Social Security card, and the DD Form 214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. When you apply for benefits at the state office, the representatives will also assist you with your employment search.

Other UCX Considerations

The federal laws require you physically reside in the state where you file your first claim for benefits based on your military wages. If you file in the state you reside when you first separate from the military and then move to another state, you may need to transfer your benefits to the new state. Check in with your state’s unemployment offices prior to moving to determine the protocol for a transfer of benefits.

In order to make the easiest transition from military to civilian life, it is best to have a plan already in place to cover finances for several months during the transition. If you are unable to get a job immediately after discharge, you can rely on your emergency fund until you unemployment benefits arrive for basic living expenses and any relocation you may have to do to find good, stable employment.

Final Thoughts

Most people have a good idea when they will separate from the military, barring a medical discharge or a discharge for bad conduct. The best thing you can do is plan for your separation and possible unemployment. A plan can go a long way in making sure you are prepared to handle this potential bump in the road.

Ryan served a tour in the US Air Force and is the primary author and editor of Cash Money Life. He also runs the military money website The Military Wallet.