Congratulations and welcome to the military family!
We understand how intimidating it can be to be thrown into the military lifestyle, especially if you have no previous experience with the military. You will soon find out that the military life comes with a lot, and I mean a lot, of paperwork!
So how can you get started now that you are officially a military spouse? To keep track of it all, we put together a list of the most urgent items to tackle immediately after you are married or your spouse joins the military!
We always tell everyone that the first thing you need to worry about is getting into DEERS. The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is a database of military-affiliated people worldwide who are entitled to Tricare and other benefits. These include uniformed servicemembers and their families. Retired and active-duty servicemembers are automatically signed up for DEERS but family members aren’t so you’ll have to ask your spouse to enroll you. This is the very first step because you need to be in DEERS to be eligible for Tricare and to get your military dependent ID (and you will use your ID for everything). Your spouse has to be the one to get this started!
You will need: a copy of your marriage license, and other personal identification like your driver's license, social security cards and/or birth certificates.
Get a military identification card as soon as possible. You will need it for everything. Even kids 10 and older, will need ID cards. It will become the way you access everything in the military, base access, exchanges and commissaries, even medical care. Most military installations have an ID card facility where you can get your ID card.
You will need: Department of Defense Form 1172 (automatically generated when you are registered in DEERS), your marriage license, and other personal identification like birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc.
I cannot stress enough how important this is, especially if your spouse is scheduled to deploy. Power of Attorney (POA) gives you authority or permission to conduct business (think legal or financial and you can even use POA to purchase a home with a VA loan) in your spouse’s place when they are unreachable or unavailable. Military Legal Services are available on most military installations and they will help you establish power of attorney for free. You will fill out a form and they’ll prepare the legal POA document.
Sample POA request form from the Fort Leonard Wood Legal Services office.
Ask your service member to update his or her record of emergency data sheet. This form lists who to contact and immediate directions in case of serious injury, illness or death. It’s always important to keep life insurance policies up to date. Have your spouse update his or her Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy beneficiaries.
More info on how to update SGLI.
Update with your spouse’s command, DD Form 93.
Decide if you need to change your state and federal income tax status to reflect your marital status. You can consult your tax professional or the installation’s Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) to make sure you receive proper tax advice.
There are several different types of Tricare coverage but military dependents do need to enroll in Tricare separately.
To explore eligibility and services you can visit Tricare’s website.
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.
If you live in housing on a military installation the rent and base utilities are free. If you choose to live in private housing your spouse will receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in their pay to help cover the costs. Check out the Defense BAH calculator.
If you would like to live on base you need to apply for government housing. The housing office on your military installation can put you on the waiting list for housing, usually with minimal initial paperwork. I have found that the base housing office is an excellent resource for finding private housing as well.
This certainly doesn’t cover all of the benefits you are eligible for or all of the logistics of living on or off base, but it does give you a solid place to start! Also don’t be afraid to ask your installation’s spouse and family support centers for help or guidance. They can usually point you in the right direction.
As a military spouse, you and your family may be eligible for financing through a VA home loan. Though you’ll have to go through a private VA lender like Veterans United Home loans, VA loans are backed by the government so they offer competitive interest rates and no down payment or PMI options. You can talk to a Veterans United specialist anytime at 855-524-7279 if you have questions about the VA loan.