An Early Christmas Present?

Lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is an opportunity for many separating military personnel to receive a hidden benefit. Many of you will leave the military in the months of January and February and start new jobs. If however you have the ability to accelerate your start date with that new employer and go to work before the first of January, you just might be able to:

  • Put some additional money in your pocket!
  • Accelerate access to company-paid benefits!
  • Or, both!

Here’s how it works. First, are you selling back any excess leave when you get out? If so, you might be throwing away some money. When you sell back leave you receive only the base pay rate for those days, not BAQ or BAS or any type of specialty pay. If however you can elect terminal leave for those unused days, you continue to draw your entire paycheck. It gets even better if you can begin your civilian job while on terminal leave. You will receive two paychecks during that period – your military pay and your new civilian pay. Think of that as legal double-dipping!

Second, many civilian employers require a “waiting period” or a specific length of employment before you get access to certain benefits, such as tuition reimbursement, participation in 401K savings plans and vacation days. Here is a common example.

XYZ Company grants you one week of vacation during your first year of employment and two weeks during your second year. Assuming that XYZ defines a “year” as a calendar year and you start work in January of 2009, you will receive one week of vacation in 2009 and two weeks in 2010. If however you started in December 2008, even on the last day of the year, you get a full year’s credit and access to that second week of vacation in 2009 – one year sooner!

Caution #1 – many companies do not define a year as a calendar year, choosing instead to measure your time on the job in 365 day increments. In that case, there is no difference between a December and a January start.

Caution #2 – if your new employer is a defense contractor there may be a stipulation in your employment that you must be completely separated from the military before you can start work.

Regardless, if you are thinking about that January or February start date, think again! At least investigate the options of terminal leave and / or working at least one day in 2008. Who knows? That early Christmas present may come your way!