Welcome, new spouses, to the military family. We know this can seem like a scary time. After all, you probably had to move far away from home, you might have given up a job to do it and you likely don’t have any friends where you are now living (or headed).
But we’re here to make it a little less crazy with an easy list of what you need to know about military life. As a husband or wife of a service member, you get to be an active participant in the military family. You are also eligible for many benefits, including health care, shopping privileges on base, and access to base recreation facilities and other programs. You'll find it helpful to attend orientations and briefings for military spouse and to read information that comes to you. Once you arrive at the military installation, visit the Community Service Center or Family Support Center as soon as possible to get up-to-date information on benefits and services as well as to enroll in a spouse orientation program. In the meantime, here is a quick checklist to get you started.
Your spouse, also known as your sponsor, is required to fill out all paperwork that will allow you to receive military benefits. Obtain an original copy of your marriage certificate from the city, town, or county clerk's office where the wedding took place. Your spouse will need it.
Ask your spouse to enroll you in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). All service members and their dependents must be enrolled in DEERS to receive benefits. This system is what allows the military to verify that only authorized people are treated in its facilities. It is up to your spouse to enroll you. He or she can do that at the uniformed services personnel office. To find the office nearest you, go to go to this site. You can also make an appointment which could make the whole thing faster. To enroll, you will need certain documentation, such as a copy of your marriage license and the birth certificates or Social Security cards of all dependents, including children.
Obtain a military identification card from the ID card facility. To receive benefits as a military spouse, you will need an identification card. All family members, including children ages 10 and older, will need their own ID cards. Your card will gain you admission to military bases, exchanges and commissaries, and will allow you to receive medical care. Check with the ID card facility to confirm which documents you need to receive a card. Typically, you will need your marriage license, birth certificate, photo identification, and Department of Defense Form 1172 (application form) to apply for an ID card.
Frequently registration for DEERS and getting an ID card are done at the same time – two birds with one stone!
Want to know more about getting a military ID card? Read this Military.com story.
Establish power of attorney. This will allow you to conduct business or get a new ID card if you misplace yours on your spouse's behalf. The base legal office will help you establish power of attorney.
Ask your spouse to list you as a beneficiary on his or her Serviceman's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. This is also the time for your service member to update his or her record of emergency data sheet (DD Form 93).
Determine whether you should change your state and federal income tax status to reflect your marital status. Check with the legal office or Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) on base to ensure you are doing what is right for your situation.
Memorize your spouse's Social Security number. You will need it for all sorts of paperwork and forms. Before you know it you’ll know his better than you know your own.
Military spouse and family benefits, like free healthcare, cheap groceries and free recreation are some of the best parts about military life. Check out our military spouse and family benefits 101 for everything you need to know about them.
A number of services are available on base to service members and their families. Your base’s family services program – known by a different title in each service -- is your first stop for learning about living in the military or about a new installation when you relocate. Your family center can help with relocation information, employment opportunities in the local area, personal financial education, information about local resources and services, personal skills-building classes, deployment planning assistance, volunteer opportunities, out placement assistance when your service member leaves the military and assistance with crisis situations. These services are free.
Legal aid. Most installations have a legal office where you can get free legal advice and services.
Aid societies. Each branch of the military has special assistance organizations that provide emergency financial assistance. Your family center can help you with this process.
Each branch of the armed forces offers orientations for new spouses.These programs introduce participants to the military lifestyle while offering specific information about customs, tradition, mission, and available resources. Check with your family center to see if your base offers one of the following new-spouse orientation programs: U.S. Air Force Heartlink, U.S. Army Family Team Building, U.S. Marine Corps L.I.N.K.S. (Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills) or the U.S. Navy COMPASS program.
Military OneSource contributed to this article.