Deciding Where to Live When You Leave the Military

As you separate from the military, you’ll face many tough decisions, including where you and your family will live. You’ll want to consider your family’s wishes as well as career opportunities and cost of living. Do you want to live near a military installation or near your reserve unit? Many factors will go into your decision, and thinking carefully about the options will help you make the best choice.

Talking with your family

Because your relocation plans will significantly affect them, it’s important to include your family early on as you explore your options.

  • Career and educational opportunities for your family. More than likely, your family has made sacrifices for your military career. Your spouse may have put a career on hold or moved far from family members. Now, he or she might want to pursue that career or reconnect with family. Your move will also have an impact on your children, who may have to change schools.
  • Extended family. Now may be a good opportunity to move home and renew relationships with your extended family. But before you make that decision, it’s important to take a careful look at your hometown and evaluate the job market, the schools and the cost of living to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your family.

Finding the best places to live

In searching for the right place to live, be sure to consider job opportunities, schools, climate, crime rates and cost of living, among other important factors. To narrow your options, do a little research into the areas that are most important to you. Even if you already have a location in mind, your research will help determine if it really is the best place. The following resources can help:

  • Your installation Relocation Assistance Program office. Depending on your service branch, this program may have another name or be located in your Family Support Center. Visit early on to discuss potential locations. Staff and volunteers can give you information on real estate and rentals in the area and provide a Chamber of Commerce packet.
  • Websites. There are many websites that can help you find the best places to live based on your preferences. A quick search online will help you identify the sites that will work best for you. These sites can help you define the ideal place to live by letting you choose the importance of such categories as education, crime rates, climate and housing costs. You can narrow your search by preferences or compare your favorite cities.
  • Local information. Search for local information by visiting community or Chamber of Commerce websites, talking to real estate agents and reading the local newspaper.
  • Personal preferences. There are some preferences that can’t be factored into a test on a website. You may want to live close to a military installation so you and your family can take advantage of military benefits. Or you may want to move near a particular reserve unit, where you can train in a specialized area. Whatever your personal preferences, you’ll want to consider their importance in your decision.

Searching for a job

For you, as for many separating service members, a new job may determine where you live after leaving the military. Searching for a job may begin months before you actually separate from the military, but you may not find your dream job right away. Because you have as much as six months to a year to take advantage of your final relocation benefits, don’t feel rushed into moving before you’ve found a job. Taking the following steps can help:

  • Attend a Transition Assistance Program employment workshop. Offered by the installation transition office or, depending on your service branch, by the Family Support Center, this workshop will help you find a job by providing information on job-search strategies, resume writing, interviewing skills, job offers and salary negotiation. You can also check out the TurboTAP website for resources, need-to-know information and toolkits to help you with your new future.
  • Research job markets. Read trade journals in your field and visit job search websites to help you find available positions in your area of expertise.
  • Network. Talk with former service members or civilians in your line of work to get an idea of the job market. Military service organizations can also offer great networking opportunities. For example, military organizations like the Military Officers Association of America offer job search resources and opportunities to connect with other former service members in your area.

Making the decision

No decision is guaranteed, but careful evaluation will help you choose the best option for you and your family. Be sure to:

  • Weigh your options. Write down the choices available, and weigh the pros and cons of each. This is especially important if your decision is being guided by emotions. Are you thinking of moving home because your parents want you to, even though the best job opportunities are in another state? Writing down the pros and cons will also help you prioritize the things that are most important to you — maybe moving back home is more important than a high-paying job.
  • Prepare for mixed emotions. Even though you’re excited about starting your new life outside the military, moving can be stressful for both you and your family. Be prepared for conflicting emotions as you say goodbye to friends and your military life.
  • Visit the Transportation Management Office. As soon as you’ve made your decision, visit the Transition Management Office. Your installation office will schedule your final move, and the earlier you visit their office, the more likely you are to get the move dates you request.

Relocation assistance

Your relocation benefits include one final move from your last duty station within the time and geographic limits listed below. If you live in installation housing, you may be allowed one move out of housing into the local community and another final move within these limits. Check with your installation’s TMO for details on benefits specific to your final move.

  • Retirement. You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your retirement date. (This is called a home of selection.)
  • Involuntary separation (honorable discharge). You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your separation date.
  • Voluntary separation (honorable discharge). You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation date. If you choose a destination of greater distance, you will be obligated to pay the additional costs.
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions). You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation.

Homelessness Prevention Programs

Homelessness can take many forms. If you or a veteran you know are sleeping in a car, crashing on a friend’s couch, staying at a family member’s house, or facing eviction or foreclosure while transitioning out of military service, the VA can help. Make the call to 877-4AID-VET, or chat online to be connected to the homelessness prevention resources the VA offers. Learn about all the programs that can help you or a veteran you know overcome or prevent homelessness at