Checklist for a Happy Military Marriage
Tips for a smooth transition.
June 5, 2013 by Heidi Alger
My friend Holly called last night. Usually we catch up over text, double tap our favorite Instagram shots or comment on each other’s crazy daily Facebook posts. So when my ringtone sang in my ear at midnight, I knew something was up. And it was better than good. She’s engaged – and he’s in the Air Force!
Life is about to change in so many ways for Holly. She has a wedding to plan with the love of her life—who just happens to be in the military. So while her plans include choosing cake flavors and floral arrangements, she has a whole new lifestyle to embrace. She is entering a new way of life that will shape her future, and her future family, from her career to where she lives to how she will adapt with every move they make.
Resources—and benefits—made available to military spouses are many. With a little research and follow through, Holly and I found that a new spouse can make a smooth transition into the military community. Here’s the short list of what’s available once you have your military marriage license…
the first steps toward receiving military benefits include:
- Enrolling in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System [DEERS]
- Obtaining a military ID card
- Establishing power of attorney
- Registering your vehicle on base
- Determining tax status
- Committing your spouse’s social security number to memory—you’re going to need it!
- Choosing a Tricare healthcare program – these military health benefits plans include Tricare Prime [which is similar to an HMO], Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra
Then there are money matters:
- Have your spouse update their pay status [double dip when you enroll in DEERS]
- Get familiar with your spouse’s Leave and Earnings [LES] statement
- Apply for government housing [or ask for a list of off-base housing]
And once you get on base explore:
- Family centers—They are a one-stop shop offering relocation info, employment opportunities, financial education, local resources and service info
- The Exchange—This is where tax-free goods and competitive prices make for successful shopping trips
- The Commissary—These grocery stores are operated as a benefit to service members and their families, offering staples for cost plus a 5% surcharge
- Legal aid—Most installations have an office that offers free advice and services
- Child care—Military centers are tax-subsidized and fees are based on income
- Recreation—Social clubs, bowling alleys, fitness centers, movie theatres…there’s always something to do
- Aid societies—Emergency financial assistance can be obtained through this organization
For new spouses, each branch of the Armed Forces offers a form of orientation, that includes an introduction to the military lifestyle: customs, tradition, mission and branch-specific resources. Talking with your Community Service or Family Support Centers will keep you in the know, too. And Pioneer Services "Military Spouse Finance Guide: Financial Advice for the Homefront" is full of information that you’ll want to deposit in your mil spouse arsenal.