Checklist For New Military SpousesChecklist for New Military Spouses Overview
Important information for new military spouses.
- The basics
- Health benefits
- Financial and housing
- Installation services
- Other resources
Welcome to the military family. As the husband or wife of a service member, you are an active participant in the military lifestyle. You are also eligible for many benefits, including health care, shopping privileges, and access to installation recreation facilities and programs. You'll find it helpful to attend orientations and briefings for military spouses, and to read information that comes to you. Once you arrive at the military installation, be sure to visit the Family Support Center as soon as possible to get up-to-date information on benefits and services as well as to enroll in a spouse orientation program. In the meantime, here is a quick checklist to get you started. Return to the Top The basics
Your spouse, also known as your sponsor, is required to fill out all paperwork that will allow you to receive military benefits. Taking care of the details below will help make the process move faster.
- Obtain an original copy of your marriage certificate from the city, town, or county clerk's office where the wedding took place. You'll need this before you and your spouse can get started on any paperwork.
- Ask your spouse to enroll you in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). All service members and their family members must be enrolled in DEERS to receive medical benefits. This system is what allows the military to verify that only authorized people are treated in its facilities. It is up to your spouse to enroll you. He or she can do that at the uniformed services personnel office. To find the office nearest you, go to www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil. To enroll, you will need certain documentation, such as a copy of your marriage license and the birth certificates or Social Security cards of all family members, including children. More information about DEERS is available on the TRICARE site at www.tricare.mil/deers/.
- Get a military identification card from the ID card facility. To receive benefits as a military spouse, you will need an identification card. All family members, including children ages 10 and older, will need their own ID cards. Your card will provide you with access to military installations, exchanges, and commissaries, and will allow you to receive medical care. Check with the ID card facility on your installation to confirm which documents you need in order to receive a card. Typically, you will need your marriage license, birth certificate, photo identification, and Department of Defense Form 1172 (application form) to apply for an ID card.
- Establish power of attorney. This will allow you to conduct business on your spouse's behalf, which is particularly important if you spouse will be deploying soon. The installation Legal Assistance Office will help you establish power of attorney. More information, along with an office locator, is available at the Armed Forces Legal Assistance site at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil.
- Register your vehicle. You will need a military sticker on your vehicle to drive on military installations. You can register your vehicle and get a sticker through the Provost Marshal or Military Police. Check with them to see what documents you'll need, but expect to bring your driver's license, Department of Motor Vehicles registration, and proof of car insurance.
- Ask your spouse to list you as a beneficiary on his or her Serviceman's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. This is also the time for your service member to update his or her record of emergency data sheet (DD Form 93).
- Determine whether you should change your state and federal income tax status to reflect your marital status. Check with the Legal Assistance Office or Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) on your installation to make sure you are doing what is right for your situation.
- Memorize your spouse's Social Security number. You will need it for all sorts of paperwork and forms. Until you memorize the number, you can always get it from the ID card.
Return to the Top Health benefits
TRICARE serves military families with several different health benefit options, including the following:
- TRICARE Prime. Similar to a health maintenance organization (HMO), TRICARE Prime is available to beneficiaries who live in a Prime service area. Patients sign on with a primary care manager and receive medical care from a list of authorized health care providers, often at a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). There is no deductible and co-payments are kept to a minimum when using the Prime network. Active-duty service members are automatically enrolled, but other eligible beneficiaries must complete an enrollment application.
- TRICARE Prime Remote. This plan provides active-duty service members and their families with TRICARE Prime services when the sponsor lives and works at least 50 miles from an MTF. Family members of Reservists called to active duty may be eligible if the sponsor was living in a Prime Remote area on the effective date of his or her orders.
- TRICARE Standard. Patients can see health care providers of their choosing. The plan offers the most flexibility of any TRICARE option, but the costs -- in the form of deductibles and cost shares -- are higher.
- TRICARE Extra. This plan is essentially an option for TRICARE Standard beneficiaries who want to save money by using a TRICARE Prime network provider.
- TRICARE Dental. United Concordia manages TRICARE's dental program for family members of service members. (Because active-duty service members receive dental care through their service branches, they are not eligible.) For details, visit the TRICARE Dental site at www.tricaredentalprogram.com.
Detailed information on these and other TRICARE programs can be found at the TRICARE Web site at www.tricare.mil.
Return to the Top Financial and housing
It can be important to understand your service member's paycheck, especially if you are trying to maintain a budget while he or she is deployed. In addition to basic pay, your spouse may be entitled to additional pay depending on the branch of service, deployments, duty locations, and whether or not you live on installation.
- Ask your spouse to update his or her pay status. This can be done when your service member changes his or her records and enrolls you in DEERS.
- Familiarize yourself with your spouse's Leave and Earnings Statement (LES). The LES tells you how much pay, allowances, and leave (vacation) time your spouse has. Visit the Military Compensation Web site to learn about basic pay and additional compensation (www.dod.mil/militarypay).
- Apply for government housing. You can do this by putting your name on the waiting list at the housing office on your installation. If you prefer to live off the installation, ask the housing office for a list of available off-installation housing. If you live in installation housing, all your housing costs and utilities (except phone, Internet connection, etc.) will be provided, but your spouse will not receive an additional housing allowance in his or her pay.
Return to the Top Installation services
A number of services are available on the installation to service members and their families. Depending on the size of your installation, you may have access to:
- Family Support Centers. This is your first stop for learning about living in the military or about a new installation when you relocate. The Family Support Center can help with relocation information, employment opportunities in the local area, personal financial education, information about local resources and services, personal skills-building classes, deployment-planning assistance, volunteer opportunities, outplacement assistance when your service member leaves the military, and assistance with crisis situations. These services are provided at no cost to you. Each service branch has a different name for its Family Support Center:
- Airman and Family Readiness Center
- Army Community Service Center
- Navy Fleet and Family Support Center
- Marine Corps Community Services Center
- The exchange. The exchange is a retail store that offers tax-free goods at competitive prices. Its mission is to provide quality goods to service members and their families while using the profits to fund quality-of-life programs. For more information, or to shop online, visit one of the following Web sites:
- The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (www.aafes.com)
- The Navy Exchange (www.navy-nex.com)
- The Marine Corps Exchange (www.usmc-mccs.org/shopping/index.cfm)
- The commissary. Commissaries are grocery stores operated on military installations by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA). Unlike commercial grocery stores, which are operated to make a profit for their owners, commissaries are operated as a benefit to active-duty service members, retirees, Guard and Reserve members, and their families. Commissaries sell groceries "at cost" plus a 5 percent surcharge that covers the construction of new commissaries and the modernization of existing stores. For more information, visit the DeCA site at www.commissaries.com.
- Legal Assistance Office. Most installations have a Legal Assistance Office where you can get free legal advice and services. For more information and a locator, visit the Armed Forces Legal Assistance site at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil.
- Child care. Military child care centers are tax-subsidized and therefore less expensive than private child care. Fees are based on income.
- Recreation. Depending on your installation, these programs may include social clubs, fitness centers, bowling alleys, movie theaters, recreation equipment rentals, discount ticket offices for local attractions, and more.
- Aid societies. Each branch of the military has a special assistance organization that provides emergency financial assistance. Your Family Support Center can help you with this process.
Return to the Top Other resources
Your military support services
Each service branch offers orientations and information for new spouses. These programs introduce participants to the military lifestyle while offering specific information about customs, traditions, mission, and resources. You can call or visit your installation's Army Community Service Center, Marine Corps Community Services Center, Fleet and Family Support Center, or Airman and Family Readiness Center to see if one of the following new spouse orientation programs is available:
- Air Force Heartlink
- Army Family Team Building
- Marine Corps L.I.N.K.S. (Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills)
- Navy COMPASS
There are many more support services available for service members and their families. You can learn what's available to you and your spouse by visiting your service branch's family support Web site:
- Air Force Crossroads (www.afcrossroads.com)
- Marine Corps Community Services (www.usmc-mccs.org)
- Army Community Service (www.myarmylifetoo.com)
- Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers (www.nffsp.org)
If you aren't near an installation, National Guard Family Assistance Centers are available in every state. The Local Community Resource Finder on the National Guard Family Program at www.guardfamily.org will identify your closest center.
This free 24-hour service is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members (regardless of activation status) and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues, including adjusting to life as a military spouse, parenting, dealing with deployment, relationships, and education. Free face-to-face counseling sessions (and their equivalent by phone or online) are also available. Call 1-800-342-9647 or go to www.MilitaryOneSource.com to learn more.
This article was written with the help of Lorraine M. Neuser, Family Policy Analyst, HQ Air Combat Command Family Matters; and Mary Craig, former Marine Corps Family Team Building Program Section Head.
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