7-day Option: How to Separate From the Air Force

Intro: 7-day Option: How to Separate From the Air Force

This tutorial shows step-by-step in pictures how an Air Force officer can apply to leave the Air Force under the 7-day option. "Exercising the 7-day option" or "7-day opting" means to apply for separation from the Air Force within the allowed 7-day window rather than accepting the next assignment.

Officer who receive the notification of their next assignment have 7 days to turn this assignment down before the assignment is accepted automatically. Accepting the next assignment incurs the officer an additional active duty service commitment (usually 2 years). When I made my decision to separate from the Air Force, there was little to no documentation on how to physically apply to separate. This instructable is to relieve some the stress from those who have made their decision and want to know how to complete the process before their time runs out.

This instructable is applicable to the following:

  • Officers considering separation under the 7-day option
    • Many steps will be applicable to officers applying for separation under any condition, but the commentary is geared towards those who have received their assignment notification
  • Supervisors and commanders helping their subordinates through the process
  • This is potentially helpful to the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) for ideas on how to improve their process

Step 1: Getting Started

It's best to be prepared prior to starting the form, as you'll be dealing with a long, multi-step form that times out frequently.

What you need

  • Have your latest Single Unit Retrieval Format (SURF) accessible. This is available on the Assignment Management System (AMS)
  • Decide on your separation date
    • The AFIs governing separation under the 7-day option are AFI 36-2110 "Assignments" and AFI 36-3207 "Separating Commissioned Officers." The latest versions of these AFIs can be found in ePubs: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/
      • The language is a bit dense, so I recommend contacting the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) via myPERS if you have questions. The phones are normally quite busy after assignments have been issued, but my experience is that they get back to questions asked through the myPERS message boards fairly quickly.
      • Some factors that govern which dates you can select are:
        • Whether you've completed your Active Duty Service Commitment (ADSC)
        • Whether you've received an assignment notification
        • Whether or not you're stationed overseas
        • I had completed my ADSC, had received my assignment notification, and was not overseas. My range of dates to pick from were between the 6th and 7th months from when I exercised my 7-day option
        • It's important to note that even if you do have service commitment remaining, you can still 7-day opt. Just file for separation like everybody else, with your desired date of separation after your active duty service commitment. The Air Force will need to decide if they want to move you with your little commitment left (moving is expensive), or to just keep you in your current assignment until separation.
      • Again, read the AFIs and become an expert. It is possible (perhaps even likely) that your commander has not had experience with many people choosing to separate from the Air Force, so they might not have all the right answers. It's possible that AFPC may be wrong about some things as well (although I'd expect them to have more experience). Commanders and AFPC rotate in and out of their positions just like everybody else, so it's important that you become smart on the process
  • Talk with your immediate supervisor or commander.
    • This is a required step in the application process. Your supervisor and/or commander needs to be aware of the timing of your separation and your reasons for separating. They are to provide counsel about the benefits of an Air Force career and the opportunities to participate with the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve. If you're a good troop, I'm sure your leadership will be sad to see you go. I'm assuming you've done your research--that you know how much an Air Force officer makes, and you know how great the retirement is, and what you can realistically expect to make in industry. If not, you have lots of research to do, and not much time to do it if you're in your 7-day window.
    • You can see how much you're making on Air Force Portal > myPay > "Personal Statement of Military Compensation." If you've never looked at this, you may be surprised how much you make. If you're O-3 or higher, you may be approaching $100k per year, when you consider Base Pay, BAH, BAS, and a federal tax break for not paying taxes on your BAH (which is frequently ~1/3 of your pay). This isn't even talking about your health care or retirement. If you think you're going to make much more in industry, you may be mistaken. Just a personal caution--make sure you're getting out for the right reasons, and do your research. Talk with lots of people in the industry you're looking to get into, and job sites like LinkedIn (Premium is free for military members) or GlassDoor could have some insight into the salaries you could be making. I would encourage all who are considering getting out to research their alternatives extensively before coming to this point. If you're already in your window, you may be having to make a decision based on your gut (Ouch! Prepare early! Take control of your career, whether you're staying in the Air Force or getting out!)
  • Decide on your terminal leave dates
    • The form will ask you to enter your terminal leave. Several out-processing dates will be generated based on your "final out-processing date"
    • For those of you unfamiliar with terminal leave, this is leave that you take after your final out-processing date with the Air Force, but before your separation date. Assuming you get permission from your supervisor and the Air Force ethics office, you can begin employment with your next job while on terminal leave
    • Terminal leave can be changed after you submit the form. I would suggest getting it as accurate as possible, though. Remember to budget some time for the job hunt

I'll be somewhat light on the commentary for all of the remaining steps. It will be an illustrated guide of what you can expect. This was my experience when I separated in Fall 2017. I can't vouch for any changes that happen after that time.

Step 2: VMPF Home

Go to "vMPF" home page, and click on "Self-Service Actions."

Step 3: Self-Service Actions

From "Self-Service Actions," click on "Separations."

Step 4: Separations

In "Separations," click on "Voluntary Separation."

Step 5: Voluntary Separation

This page will have some information to read. Then, click on "Apply for Voluntary Separation."

Step 6: Initiate Voluntary Separation

"Next."

Step 7: Initiate Voluntary Separation, 2

You should be able to get this information from your SURF. Then, click "Next."

Step 8: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 1 of 10)

Click the dropdown.

Step 9: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 1 of 10), 2

If you are "exercising the 7-day option," your reason should be "Separating rather than acquiring ADSC." This was not intuitive to me--it seemed like at least one other option would be reasonable to select. This was the option I was instructed to select when I talked with AFPC.

Step 10: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 2 of 10)

This page is why you did your homework with the AFIs to determine what date you can separate. For me, I was told this had to be after 6 months from the date I applied for separation, but before the 1st day of the 7th month. In other words, I had roughly a 30-day window from which to select my date. As previously mentioned, if you still have service commitment left, you'll need to select a date after your service commitment is completed. If you only have a year left, I'd be surprised if they move you--but that's up to the Air Force.

Note that the "Separation date" is the date that you stop receiving pay in the Air Force, after your terminal leave (it's not asking when you want to start your terminal leave). And, again, the AFIs give you a fairly small window to choose from. When people asked me when I was getting out, I would tell them, "my final out-processing day is [date 1], and my final separation date from the Air Force is [date 2]."

Step 11: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 3 of 10)

Give your reasons for getting out of the Air Force. Please note that due to errors in the web form, don't type the apostrophe (') character.

Step 12: Error Page

This is what happens if you put the apostrophe (') character in any of the text of your forms. This is bad web programming, so avoid all apostrophes in your explanation.

One other quirk about the forms you're filling out: when you "Save," the values you've input into your form are preserved, but you will also be kicked back to the beginning, requiring you to click back through all the slides to the point you were at. For this reason and due to the frequency of time-outs, it's best to be prepared with your information before you start. Being the cautious person I am, I also recommend saving copies of the text you are inputting and taking screenshots as you go.

Step 13: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 4 of 10)

They give explanations for each option in the hyperlink. This is the option that was applicable to me.

Step 14: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 5 of 10)

Here's the step that shows you counseled with your supervisor and/or commander. I would suggest talking with both of them. They're going to know eventually. Why not hear it from you?

Step 15: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 6 of 10)

Self-explanatory.

Step 16: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 7 of 10)

This is only applicable if you're applying through an incentivized early separation program.

Step 17: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 8 of 10)

For notification to the commander.

Step 18: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 9 of 10)

Self-explanatory.

Step 19: Initiate Voluntary Separation (Step 10 of 10)

I don't believe any of this applied to me. One item, I remember, was for enlisted only. I believe I uploaded a Memorandum for Record (MFR) stating why a couple of these didn't apply to me, just to cover my bases.

Check with AFPC if you have questions. You probably should! You only have 7 days to do this. Again, if you call them, you can probably expect to be on hold for 45 minutes to an hour. If you're doing this early in your 7-day window, use the message board in myPERS--it's golden! They'll probably follow up within a few hours, and you'll have a documentation trail afterwards to refer to if there are issues. Even if you talk with them on the phone, send them a message on the message board--"Thanks so much answering my question! Per our phone conversation today, I will be ..."

Step 20: Officer Voluntary Separation Application

And, the final page with all your form data.

Step 21: "Are You Sure?"

Are you sure you want to go? PS, DEROS = Date Elegible to return from OS. Only applicable if you're stationed overseas.

Step 22: Application Successfully Submitted

And, I'd save a screenshot when the process is complete.

A couple parting notes:

  • Don't wait until day 7 to do this! I've heard different explanations about special exceptions on when the 7 days start and end. However, I didn't want to test one AFPC Airman's word. I have a friend who ended up going to his next assignment because he didn't understand this process. Take a couple days to make your decision if you need to, but don't take 7 days! Don't even get close to it.
  • It wouldn't hurt you to send a note to AFPC afterwards via myPERS letting them know that you filed for separation from the Air Force with the intention to exercise your 7-day option, requesting that they inform you if there is an error that requires fixing. If your commander knows your intentions, you filled out the forms to the best of your knowledge, and AFPC knows your intentions, it's the best possible scenario in the event something was wrong and someone tries to argue that you didn't make your timetable.
  • A couple known bugs:
    • Don't enter apostrophes (') in the web form, as previously noted
    • Sometimes the Air Force Portal or vMPF is down (vMPF was down for almost a month in January 2018). If that happens to you during your window, get on the phone with AFPC! Get a way forward in writing. Make sure your commander is involved (the first person in your chain of command with G-series orders). Take screenshots--prove that it's broken, and that you did everything in your power to exercise your 7-day option. Write some MFRs, and send them to your commander and AFPC. Make sure your intentions to separate are crystal clear, in writing. This is a big motivator for not waiting until the last day.
    • A friend of mine noted that when he originally tried to exercise the 7-day option, after an extensive training, the physical "Voluntary Separation" link wasn't available to him on vMPF. Again, take screenshots, get on the phone with AFPC, and do the same actions I suggested above.
  • This is all advice meant to be helpful. Please don't rely on my word, or you might end up on an additional assignment that you didn't mean to take! Find out the latest info, and don't rely on this post!

I hope this was helpful to you. Best of luck to you in your career!

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