Bergman, Kilmer Call for Immediate Changes to Improve Transition Assistance Program for U.S. Servicemembers
Washington, May 16, 2023
This week, U.S. Representatives Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) called for urgent reform to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a key resource aiding servicemembers transitioning to civilian life, following troubling findings in a 2022 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
“It’s past time for DoD to implement an execution timeline for the GAO recommendations on TAP improvements - we need to ensure our service members don't fall through the cracks and actually receive the support they need for a smooth transition from active-duty service into their next steps in life,” said Rep. Bergman. “Our commitment to these brave men and women extends beyond their time in uniform, and we owe it to them for their unwavering service to our country.”
“Servicemembers deserve our utmost support, not just when they're in uniform, but also when they're transitioning back to civilian life,” said Rep. Kilmer. “If we can implement these improvements to the Transition Assistance Program, we can make a real difference for folks in our region, ensuring they're not just leaving the service, but also stepping into bright futures. It's about honoring their service and ensuring they have all they need to succeed in the next chapter of their lives.”
Established more than 32 years ago, TAP offers a comprehensive curriculum tailored to each servicemember's educational, training, employment, and financial objectives. Specialized two-day training sessions on higher education, career technical training, or entrepreneurship are available, being mandatory for those needing maximum support.
However, the GAO report reveals that 25 percent of servicemembers needing maximum support didn't attend their compulsory sessions. Additionally, 70 percent started the program later than recommended, and a significant number didn't complete the curriculum due to military service waivers, despite a 90 percent overall completion rate.
The GAO made eight recommendations to improve TAP participation and timeliness, receiving general agreement from the Department of Defense (DoD). Yet, the DoD has not provided a specific implementation plan to Congress. In response, the Secretary of Defense has been formally requested to issue a detailed execution plan, reinforcing the commitment to aid servicemembers transitioning to civilian life.
In addition to Reps. Bergman and Kilmer, 20 members of Congress signed the letter, including Reps. Don Bacon (NE-02), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Ed Case (HI-01), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Robin L. Kelly (IL-02), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Susie Lee (NV-03), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Chris Pappas (NH-01), John H. Rutherford (FL-05), Patrick K. Ryan (NY-18), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Dina Titus (NV-01).
The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Austin,
Thank you for your continued service to our country both in uniform and as the Secretary of Defense. We write to you today to highlight potential improvements for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP). As you know, servicemembers often struggle translating their military experiences to their civilian lives. Fortunately, this mandatory program provides tailored assistance to separating servicemembers, so they can identify job opportunities, pursue further training or higher education, and ultimately meet their post-military goals. We know you are a strong supporter of this program and we share your commitment to assisting servicemembers’ successful transition from active duty service to civilian life.
With this in mind, we want to bring your attention to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report of October 19, 2022 titled “Servicemembers Transitioning to Civilian Life: DOD Can Better Leverage Performance Information to Improve Participation in Counseling Pathways” (GAO-23-104538). This report outlines several shortcomings with the current TAP program including finding nearly 25% of transitioning servicemembers needing greatest assistance did not attend the optional two-day classes on employment, higher education, vocational training, and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the report shows 70% of all transitioning servicemembers did not start TAP on time. Although operational commitments will always pose difficulties for servicemembers completing this important training the current rate of waivers and deferrals is far higher than should reasonably be expected. As soldiers transition from active-duty service this critical period simply cannot be overlooked.
As you are likely aware, GAO has provided eight recommendations for increasing servicemembers’ participation in and timeliness of the program which we wholeheartedly support. We were pleased to see that DoD promptly responded to GAO’s draft report with concurrence on all eight of these recommendations. However, we also respectfully request a detailed execution plan and timeline outlining DoD’s strategy for adopting these recommendations to ensure our servicemembers experience a smooth transition from active-duty service.
Thank you for your diligent service to our nation and its servicemembers, and for your attention regarding this important matter. We look forward to learning more about your department’s plan to work with the armed services and make improvements which will help the Transition Assistance Program reach more of our servicemembers to ensure they succeed in their futures outside the military. Please have the appropriate member of your staff be in touch with Ben Donovan in Representative Kilmer’s office (Ben.Donovan@mail.house.gov) to share your response.
Members of Congress