Once the excitement of the wedding has worn off, a new military spouse is left with a task more daunting than planning even the biggest wedding: becoming a military spouse. To be able to take advantage of all the privileges afforded you as a military spouse, there are a few things you need to know.
The best advice someone gave me the minute after I married my husband was to know his social security number backwards and forward. Iíve gotten to the point where I will rattle his off when asked for my own. You will be asked for the social of your sponsor (the military member) more times than you can count. Youíll use this number to make doctorís appointments, set up moves, check a military LES and to do virtually anything else associated with the military.
After youíve gotten that out of the way, the most important thing your sponsor can do is to enroll you in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) as soon as possible. To do this your sponsor will need supporting documentation such as a marriage license, social security card and/or birth certificate. DEERS is used to verify that the people receiving benefits should, in fact, be receiving benefits. This should be done for every dependant. While updating DEERS, your sponsor should also update their emergency data sheet (Page 2).
Once youíre enrolled in DEERS you should get your military ID card. You canít get onto base, receive medical care or shop at the commissary without it. It is a good idea to call your baseís ID card facility to verify what information needs to be brought with you. Generally this is a birth certificate and/or marriage license, photo ID and the application form.
After getting your ID card, run over to the Pass and ID office on base and register your vehicle. Again, check with the office to find out specifically what you must bring. As a general rule, youíll need your driverís license, vehicle registration, proof of insurance and ID card.
At this same time you should contact Tricare and United Concordia to sign up for health and dental benefits. There are certain times each month when enrollments take effect, so pay special attention to this so you donít miss out on the free care when you need it. It would be a good idea to visit each website and talk with customer service representatives before the wedding to make sure you know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. Each website details the various options available.
Your sponsor should visit their prospective legal office and establish a Power of Attorney (PoA) for you. This allows you to make business decisions in their absence. Itís always a good idea to have these updated every year and avoid waiting till the last minute before a deployment (when thereís a mad rush) to get one.
Also make sure your spouse updates their Servicememberís Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. They can also sign you up for spousal life insurance as well.
Once youíve gotten all the mundane stuff out of the way, youíre ready to take advantage of your benefits. Each branch of the military has a service center on base with a wealth of information for family members. These are generally Community Support Centers or Family Support Centers. You can get relocation information, information about employment opportunities, deployment assistance, education benefit assistance and a wealth of other information. They even present classes and seminars on a wide variety of subjects; some even have new spouse courses. You also have access to the commissary for grocery shopping, the exchange for retail shopping, free legal aid, child care, recreation opportunities and aid organizations.
The most important thing to remember when becoming a military spouse is to ask for information. Seek it out. There are links provided under each branch of service for the service centers. Go check these out. Theyíll point you in the right direction for answers to any questions you may have. Your service member works hard and these benefits are a ďperkĒ of the job. Be sure to use them to your advantage.