As you near your date of deployment, life can get awfully complicated. Between preparation, training and the loving goodbyes, it’s easy to let small but crucial details slip through the cracks. But you can’t afford to let that happen. Pioneer Services created this collection of tips to help service members and their families organize and manage essential matters and resolve key issues before you deploy. Not only will it help make what is a time of great anxiety and uncertainty much easier — it will also help you avoid unnecessary difficulties during post-deployment.
For more information on how the military can help during deployments, visit this DOD website.
From policies to pay to obligations, you’ll want to address and complete the following tasks before you deploy.
Policies and Benefits
First things first: Locate your policy documents. Then, spend a couple of hours going over insurance, investments, benefits and beneficiaries with your spouse. Be very clear about what is expected, explain the details and make sure you and your spouse write down your desires for future reference.
Tax-Free and Hazardous-Duty Pay
Service members may receive several hundred dollars more each month due to hazardous-duty pay or a tax exemption on wages earned while in a war zone. This is a good opportunity to build up savings or pay off outstanding debt. Decide as a family where you are willing to commit these funds to before deployment — then create a plan and follow through with it.
Review your monthly budget and contact creditors to ask about paying bills by allotment or Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It may also be easier to pay bills online rather than by mail. You may also choose to consider a debt management loan that can consolidate many bills into a single payment to be managed during deployment.
The Service Members' Civil Relief Act
If a service member's military obligation has affected his or her ability to pay financial obligations such as credit cards, loans, mortgages and more, the service member can have his or her interest rate capped at six percent for the duration of the service member's active-duty obligation. NOTE: The interest rate reduction only applies to debts incurred prior to active duty service AND the service member must prove that he or she has been materially affected by coming on active duty.
If you are keeping the same bank or credit union, your direct deposit will not be affected. If you are switching institutions, make sure that the new direct deposit is working correctly before canceling your old bank account. As a rule of thumb, wait at least one month to ensure that everything is working properly.
Make sure that all bills are organized and that you have a payment plan ready, with a power of attorney in place, if needed. Also be sure to inform creditors, banks and any investment representatives of your deployment.
If a service member is deployed when taxes are due, decide in advance how your income taxes will be filed. Extensions can be filed through the Internal Revenue Service by filing Form 2350: Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Income Tax Return, available at deploymentlink.osd.mil.
There are many simple and straightforward administrative tasks that must be completed before you deploy. Here’s a list to make sure they aren’t overlooked.
Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
Verify DEERS enrollment prior to deployment to ensure that your family at home can receive medical care. To confirm enrollment contact DEERS at 1-800-538-9552.
Check the expiration date of all ID cards. If they expire prior to the end of your deployment, contact the appropriate personnel office to initiate the paperwork.
Ensure contact information is correct in case of emergency.
Compile a precise list of agencies, businesses and units that offer assistance in case of an emergency. This will help both the family staying stateside and the family member headed overseas.
Staying in Touch with Home
For the service member being deployed, include a voice recorder (tape or digital), stationery, stamps, an address book and email addresses, depending on what is allowed.
Red Cross Notifications
The Red Cross is often the most efficient, fastest way to contact service members overseas. Write down your local Red Cross contact information, including phone number, address and hours. The Red Cross also has an entire section dedicated to helping military families on their website: www.redcross.org.
It is imperative that you notify command of new contact numbers and addresses if the service member's family will be moving to a new location (back to a hometown, closer to family, etc.). If moving off post, you need to notify housing authorities in advance of the move.
From Power of Attorney to wills and insurance, here’s how to make sure you and your family are covered.
Power of Attorney
Make sure you complete a Power of Attorney before you deploy so that others can legally act on your behalf. There are several different types of Powers of Attorney.
- General Durable Power of Attorney: A general grant of authority that authorizes one spouse to act on behalf of the other in financial affairs. It can be revoked at any time and usually takes effect immediately unless otherwise stated in the document.
- Health Care Power of Attorney: Necessary when one spouse becomes incapacitated and is unable to make medical decisions on his or her own, as determined by one or more physicians.
- Limited Power of Attorney: Intended to grant a spouse a limited amount of authority with regard to one or more matters. For example, it can grant the authority to make withdrawals from a specific bank account in order to pay bills, but nothing else.
The military will assist with a General Will and Testament. However, both a Living Will and Ethical Will are also options.
- Living Will: Either spouse can state wishes regarding future health care in case one or both become incapacitated and are unable to share their wishes. This includes how to handle such issues as having a feeding tube inserted or removed or if "extraordinary" measures should be used.
- Ethical Will: A letter that expresses feelings on common themes such as personal and spiritual beliefs, values, life's lessons, forgiving or asking for forgiveness and love. This information is shared with family and friends in case of death.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
Each active duty service member is eligible for life insurance, which is available in increments of $10,000 up to a maximum of $400,000. Before deployment, verify beneficiaries and make changes as necessary.