Retiring or Separating From Military Overseas

Updated: November 2, 2022

If you are retiring or separating from military service while assigned to an overseas location, there are several issues you should consider before making the jump from your military career to the civilian job market.

Some of the information you need will be given to you during out-processing and transition assistance (TAP) briefings, but other details may not be as evident or talked about until you are in the middle of your transition. Here are some important questions to ask as you plan your next move in your life after the military.

Retiring Or Separating from Military Service Overseas: What’s Your Final Destination?

If you are planning to return to the United States as part of your separation or military retirement, there are important issues to consider such as the delivery of household goods and personal items shipped from your last military base, finding a home to live in, employment issues and Veterans Affairs compensation.

There are just as many important things to consider if you get out of the military and stay overseas. How will you use your terminal leave, also known as transitional leave, overseas to find housing and employment?

Do you know where you will be able to take advantage of health care options provided to you if you are a military retiree?

Using GI Bill Benefits Overseas

Are you separating from the military and want to use your military education benefits from an overseas location? Do you know how to apply?

Believe it or not, there are ways to use military education benefits at approved foreign colleges including the GI Bill. It will be necessary to contact the school at the overseas location to see if they are approved for GI Bill benefits or have other options.

Getting VA Help With The GI Bill As A Veteran Living Abroad

If you plan to retire or separate overseas and stay there, you may need to contact the VA for assistance with your GI Bill. You can get help from the VA Regional Office in Buffalo, New York:

VA Regional Office

PO Box 4616

Buffalo, New York 14240-4616

Telephone/fax: 716-857-3196 or 716-857-3197

Learn more on the VA’s Education Questions and Answers webpage.

Taking Terminal Leave And/Or Permissive TDY Overseas for House Hunting

If you are separating overseas and staying there, it’s still important to consider the advice given to those who are doing the same thing in the U.S. Use any terminal leave, permissive temporary duty station (TDY) or accrued leave to find a new home before you are required to vacate your military housing or housing paid for with basic allowance for housing (BAH).

It is possible that some service members living off base overseas may be able to negotiate an arrangement with their current landlord to remain in the off-base housing they used for their last military assignment, but that may depend on whether that landlord has an agreement with the base to provide that property only to Department of Defense personnel.

Selling Accrued Leave: A Way To Put Extra Money In Your Pocket

Some service members planning to retire or separate choose not to use their accrued leave but sell all or a portion of it, depending on circumstances. This can be a way to put extra money in your pocket as you leave military service, but you will be paid only your basic compensation for this leave and it will not include BAH, basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) or other allowances or special pay.

Choose wisely when deciding whether to sell back unused leave. You may need this extra time to find housing or employment or travel in ways you might not be able to do once stateside.

Retiring or Separating from Overseas: Taking Permissive TDY, Terminal Leave / Transitional Leave for House Hunting Back in the United States

Each branch of the service provides a specific set of procedures to help people who are getting ready to retire or separate from the military. You may or may not be offered permissive TDY to go back to the U.S. to start house-hunting. Permission to do this will depend on the needs of the mission and other factors, but you can still use any accrued personal leave to do this as a last resort.

The most important thing to consider when deciding whether to use a TDY or terminal leave is to know where you want to start looking for housing.

Start House Hunting Early

Begin your search using local internet listings and other online resources long before you board a plane to return to the U.S. to find a home and be mindful of possible scams.

Wire fraud is a potentially major issue with certain real estate transactions. Beware of third parties asking you to wire money to them without discussing the situation specifically with a landlord, real estate agent, lender or title company.

Ask your first individual, orderly room or Transition Assistance Program office about the options available to you for terminal leave, permissive TDY or accrued leave for the purpose of house hunting.

Depending on the branch of service, mission requirements and other factors, a retiring or separating service member may be permitted to take transitional leave and terminal leave together with permissive TDY for a longer amount of time to hunt for a house hunt and/or job. Consider this option when discussing your plans with your supervisor or first individual.

VA Claims For Service-Connected Injuries, Disabilities And Medical Issues

It is best to consider making a VA disability claim as soon as possible, and if you are able to begin the VA claims process as part of your out-processing appointments from the overseas location, you may be much better off than trying to arrange this stateside. The VA has a specific term for VA compensation claims made 90 days prior to discharge from the military: pre-discharge claims.

Your chosen destination back home may not be located near a VA facility or military base that can help you, and if you file the VA claim from an overseas location, your medical records are already on hand to assist in the process.

The VA claims system has changed in recent years and has several features, including the Decision Ready Claim and Benefits Ready At Discharge programs.

The VA Decision Ready Claim

This is a fast way to get a claim decided upon (30 days or less for qualifying circumstances) and the process is open to pre-discharge claims made within 90 days of leaving military service.

For VA Decision Ready Claims, the service member is required to work with an accredited veterans service organization (VSO) “or other accredited representative” to gather all evidence needed to approve the claim and schedule a VA claim examination.

This process may be more complicated when working with a U.S.based VSO from an overseas location unless there are VSOs available to help at the duty location.

The VA has a VSO locator page to help you find the appropriate agency to help you.


Benefits Ready At Discharge

This VA claim program allows retiring or separating service members to submit claims for VA disability compensation between 180 to 90 days prior to separation, retirement or release from active duty (or demobilization). A minimum of 90 days minimum is required to complete a required examination process before you retire or separate.

You must be available for an exam up to 45 days from submitting your Benefits Ready At Discharge Claim.

This option is not for all service members. Certain restrictions may apply for certain injuries or disabilities, including those who are terminally ill, receiving care in a VA or military hospital or treatment center at the time of discharge, or if the claim was submitted with less than 90 days remaining on active duty.

If the 90-day rule applies to you, your VA claim may still be processed under a different program such as the standard process or the VA Fully Developed Claims program.

TRICARE for Those Retiring or Separating Overseas

It is very important to learn in advance how much coverage you will have under TRICARE in the overseas location regardless of how long you plan to stay there once you have retired from the military or separated.

Some people go on transition leave or terminal leave in the local overseas area and spend much time traveling while they are still in the military pending their date of retirement/separation.

It’s easy to forget that you have medical benefits once you go on your final leave before that date of separation. Make sure you know exactly how much TRICARE coverage you have remaining so you can plan accordingly while still overseas.

TRICARE Overseas, TRICARE For Life, TRICARE Dental and other options are available for those still overseas but technically in uniform until your final out-processing date.

Shipping Household Goods Back to the United States from your Overseas Duty Station

Shipping household goods back to the United States is similar to having them shipped to you at the overseas assignment. You are required to respect both inbound and outbound customs laws. If the host nation does not permit the transport of plants, animals, food items, flammables or controlled items/substances, your household goods shipment will be required to conform to those laws.

No two host nations’ customs laws are exactly the same. When in doubt, ask for clarification from the base officials responsible for arranging the shipment.

That includes the transport of endangered species or relics/artifacts made from such species. Certain endangered hardwoods, animal tusks or incisors, pelts and taxidermy may be prohibited by both your host nation and the United States.

When your household goods are packed for shipment back to the United States, customs seals will be placed on all exterior containers. You should make a record of these seals or have one provided to you with proper serial numbers and other data.

Photographing these seals in place may be a good idea to ensure you can file a proper claim if your items have been tampered with and the seals are compromised.

Be sure you have all the important paperwork for your transition on the day you pack and ship your household goods. There have been many cases of leave paperwork, final orders, discharge paperwork, passports and other items accidentally getting packed up by unsuspecting movers who don’t realize these documents need to stay with the service member.

Shipping times for household goods are not standardized, and it is best to expect several months before you see your items again. This is an important consideration not just for the time you’ll spend away from your wardrobe, entertainment center or books, but also for the purpose of packing them for shipment.

It’s best to anticipate less-than-ideal conditions for your household goods. Extreme heat or cold are possible in transit, and if you have heirlooms or objects of high sentimental or financial value, consider having them shipped separately and properly insured.

In the event of damage, your household goods shipment may not be able to compensate for anything but the actual replacement value or current market value of the goods affected. Read the terms and conditions carefully in any paperwork related to the shipping of your items so that you know exactly what your rights and responsibilities are to report damage and how to do so.

Written by Team