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Benefit Questions

Ask Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Why is it when a military member retires he or she cannot change benefits to meet other members of the family even though they are in DEERS? This seems very wrong.

Retirement Woes

Dear Retirement Woes,

I'm learning this rule every day as I hear from retired servicemembers and their spouses. You know, your letter is really good to print because most people don't know about changes when a servicemember retires. I guess the thinking is: you have certain benefits on active duty and the benefits are different for retirees (obviously), even though the family member is still in DEERS. I've heard from other spouses who were not allowed to have their husband's GI bill transferred to them because it wasn't done prior to retirement. This understanding is very important. To my understanding, a lot of this is explained during the preretirement briefings. All spouses can attend. Be sure to attend the preretirement briefings because things change! I agree with you, it doesn't seem fair. Thanks so much for writing to me.

Ms. Vicki


Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband and I were divorced 4 years ago. In the decree I chose not to waive my rights to his retirement, he retired two years ago and I have received zero payment.  The first year he asked if I could hold off since he was having a hard time finding work - retired in the middle of a recession... I agreed to wait one year but now we are at two years and when I ask about it he ignores the question.  My understanding is that here in the state of California he was supposed to file some form with DFAS to start the allotment.  Since he didn't what can I do?  Do I need to get an attorney?  We filed our divorce on our own without an attorney (big mistake) I could have used the guidance. Help!

Sinking in Southern California

Dear Sinking,

Oh my goodness! Did you file your own divorce, retirement pay agreement in writing? If not, I don't think there will be much you can do about it, especially if your ex-husband does not honor his word. Either way, I think you should contact DFAS. Their website is and their number is 888-332-7411. See what DFAS says. If it's not favorable then I would contact an attorney. I hope things work out in your favor.

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have a problem: my husband is currently deployed with the National Guard and when he gets home in June or July he will come home to no job. We currently live near Ft.Hood, Texas. The problem with this town is because it is military they do not have to pay civilians a decent pay. I am scared from going to a full-time paycheck and the benefits that we are receiving to nothing. I knew this before he deployed that he was coming back to no job, but we are half way through this deployment and I am really scared how the bills are going to get paid when he returns. I am currently looking for a job as well and so far no luck I have been researching on the workforce website about military spouses and helping with employment. The other problem is my husband will have 17 years active duty time, which is too many years to apply for an AGR position, but too early to go into Sanctuary for retirement. I don't want him worrying worse than he already is about this so I am trying to figure a way to transition before he gets home. I would really like your help -- maybe somewhere I can get some information with this before he returns...

Desperate in Texas

Dear Desperate in Texas,

I can understand your concerns and your fears. The economy has not been good when it comes to viable good paying salaries. As a result, transitions can provoke a lot of anxiety. I would highly recommend you visit with your ACS, Army Community Services on base. They should be able to help you with many things. They have financial/budget counselors who can let you know if there are any resources available to assist servicemembers and their families, as well as debt reduction services, information about mortgage services etc. You can also speak to someone in the family member employment section. They could have other employment information for spouses, like working for contractors on the base, etc. The emotions you are feeling are very normal. However, if you would like to speak with a counselor off the record, you should ask to speak to a Military and Family Life Consultant (MFLC). They are also located in the ACS building and will be able to give you advice and support. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how I can help you further. Thanks for reaching out to me.

Ms. Vicki


Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm a single mom and I believe my child's father is in the military. I know he was at one time but I don't know since I last had contact with him if he has gotten out.  How can I try to make contact with him and have a DNA test done?  I would like for him to pay child support but after how our relationship ended I don't want him around my child.  I have heard that if you pay child support you have to have visitation rights.  I don't know if I should pursue my attempt to find her father or just let the past lay in the past.  I just don't want to be able to tell my daughter the truth when it comes to her asking about her father in the future.

Thank you,

Dear M.J.,

First of all, it sounds like you want to establish paternity. I think that's the most important thing if and when you find him. There's no reason to for you to have the anxiety of meeting up with him and what he will do regarding visitation if your child if he is not the biological father. I cannot say what the truth is when it comes to visitation rights and child support. Many state laws vary. However, it sounds like you may have some fear of this man, by saying you don't want to be around him. With this said, let's say you find him and you both go to court, he pays child support and he also establishes visitation rights. It's really his right to see his child, even though he has been absent in her life so far and obviously has made no contact to reach out to you and his daughter. As your daughter becomes older and more inquisitive she will want to know who her father is. For this reason, I think it's important for you to try to help establish a relationship between them. On the other hand, if he's abusive I would not contact him. Have you tried to contact his family members or friends? Do you know any of them? If you know the name of the last unit he was in you can find information online. You can call and ask if he is still in the unit, on that base and perhaps where he transferred. Again, a quicker way is to contact his family members or friends for his whereabouts. I really hope this works out for you. Please keep in touch with me and let me know what happens.

Ms. Vicki

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.

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