Transitioning Out of the Military

Transitioning out of the military can be a stressful time, but may be especially difficult for survivors of sexual assault who are overwhelmed byBriefcase icon the process or unsure about how to access care after they transition out. 

Anyone affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support through Safe Helpline. You can call 877-995-5247 or connect via confidential online chat to receive support from trained Safe Helpline staff members.

Connect with resources to support you in your transition out of the military using Safe Helpline’s comprehensive, searchable database of Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and civilian resources.

Below is some additional information that may be helpful as you go through this process.

Where can I find more information for Transitioning Service Members?

How do I know if I can be classified as a TSM?

You are a Transitioning Service Member (TSM) if you are a Service member separating from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Reserve Component or the Coast Guard for the following reasons:

  • Voluntary or involuntary retirement
  • Service obligation is ending
  • Medical discharge
  • Voluntary or involuntary discharge

How long am I considered a TSM?

You are considered a TSM if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have 12 months or fewer until you separate from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Reserve Component or the Coast Guard
  • You have 24 months or fewer left before retirement

How might surviving a sexual assault affect my transition?

The transition process is full of physical changes, like relocating, and emotional changes, such as saying goodbye to your fellow Service members. Transitioning can be a process that is full of highs and lows, which can be similar to the recovery and healing process for survivors of sexual assault.

Regardless of when or where the sexual assault took place, the transition experience may trigger or increase stress responses for some Service members. Sexual assault survivors may find the transition process overwhelming as they may be coping with depression, substance abuse, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Survivors may also doubt themselves and their ability to be self-reliant or strong as they struggle with the idea that they should have already “gotten over it.” Some TSMs may also be worried about starting over with new care providers and knowing how to find ones that will fit their needs.

Read more about the effects of sexual assault and stress responses

What services and resources can I access?

Safe Helpline has a searchable database of Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and civilian resources available to you as you go through your transition. Resources are available in the following categories:

  • Accessing Benefits
  • Disability Assistance
  • Education and Training Assistance
  • Employment Assistance
  • Basic Needs
  • Housing Assistance
  • Medical Health Care
  • Veterans Support
  • Transition Assistance Programs

Some Service members also may find it helpful to connect with support in their personal life, including:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Colleagues
  • Religious leader
  • Social worker or psychologist
  • Teachers or Professors
  • Local civilian sexual assault service providers

TSMs and veterans may choose to access support through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Within the VA, sexual assault and sexual harassment experiences fall under the term “Military Sexual Trauma” or MST. 

What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the veteran was in the military. 

If you choose to receive support through the VA, you may be introduced to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) MST coordinators and Veterans Benefits Affairs (VBA) MST Coordinators. VHA MST coordinators will help with treatment and care related to your experience of MST, and VBA MST coordinators can help with disability compensation related to MST.

For more information on MST, visit the Veteran’s Affairs Mental Health page. To find your local VBA MST Coordinator, go here.

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