Getting Started as a Military Spouse

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There is so much to be done once you and your service member have been legally married or enlisted newly into the military. Below are some of the basics to get you started like; health and financial benefits in which you should inquire about ASAP. Your spouse (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. If you are a National Guard or Reserve spouse, yes this information applies to you! Also, be sure to visit our Guard Guide for more information.

Basic Information

-Obtain an original copy of your marriage certificate, you will 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. Click here to find the office nearest you.

-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.

-Establish a 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. More information, along with an office locator, is available at the Armed Forces Legal Assistance site.

-Ask your spouse to list you as a beneficiary on his or her Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy.

Financial

-It is important to understand your service member’s paycheck; there will be many different categories in which they will be paid. In addition to basic pay, your spouse may receive additional pay depending on deployments, branch of service and whether or not you live on base.

-Your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) is something you should learn to comprehend. 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.

– On top of feeling a bit confused with the many financial aspects of the military, here comes tax season. Military tax preparation will be slightly different but a tax software program such as TurboTax will make it more simple.

Health benefits

-TRICARE serves military families with several different health benefit options. For more information on the different plans please visit the TRICARE Web site.

Additional Services

A number of services are available on military installations to service members and their families.

-Family Support Centers provide you with helpful information in regards to relocation information, employment, financial education, skills-building classes, deployment assistance 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 is a retail store that offers tax-free goods at competitive prices. For more information, or to shop online, visit the following Web sites:

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service

The Navy Exchange

The Marine Corps Exchange

-Commissaries are grocery stores operated on military installations. Commissaries are operated as a benefit to active-duty service members, retirees, Guard and Reserve members, and their families. Groceries are sold “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.

-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.

-Military child care centers are tax-subsidized and therefore less expensive than private child care. Fees are based on your income.

-Depending on your installation, the recreation center may include social clubs, fitness centers, bowling alleys, movie theaters, equipment rentals, discount ticket offices for local attractions, and more.

-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.

Other resources

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. To see if one of the following new spouse orientation programs is available:

Joint Services Support for National Guard Families

Air Force Heart link

Army Family Team Building

Marine Corps L.I.N.K.S. (Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills)

Navy COMPASS

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