A program being overhauled by the Defense Department aims to arm military spouses with tools to help their families' transitions out of the military and back into civilian life.
Existing transition programs focus almost entirely on the service member, with spouses allowed to attend those classes on a "space available" basis. But because the classes are held during the work day, child care is rarely provided and the ability to sit in can be unpredictable, most spouses do not attempt to attend.
Officials said that situation leaves spouses in the dark on important topics such as finding health care if they no longer qualify for Tricare after transition, the VA disability and rating process, and final military move benefits.
"The Department of Defense recognizes the integral role that the military spouse plays in the overall functioning of the family. We also know that the spouse plays a vital role before, during and after the service member transitions from the military and returns to civilian life," said Eddy Mentzer, associate director of DoD's office of military and family policy, who is leading the project. "Our goal is to provide easy-to-access resources and information that is relevant to military spouses."
Mentzer said the actual information to help spouses transition is already available. But the way it is currently delivered has made it hard for spouses to access it in a way that fits their lifestyles -- and their time and child-care constraints.
"This isn't a new program, but more a means of timely information delivery to the spouse community at a time when they most need it," he said.
The program's content, which will be available both for in-person training and online, focuses on three military spouse life stages: new spouses, spouses with mid-career service members and those already in transition, Mentzer said.
The first part, focusing on new spouses, will be ready this fall, he said.
The team chose to give rollout priority to new spouses, in an attempt to give families a head start on keys to being successful outside the military, such as financial readiness and a stable career. The concept mimics the individual services' approach to transition, such as the Army's Soldier for Life system.
"This is a lesson learned from the changes of the military services' approach to educating their youngest service members -- and that it is important to start planning from the beginning of their career," Mentzer said. "Even new spouses can begin using resources related to financial readiness, education, employment and more, to make the eventual transition a smoother experience for the whole family."
All of the material, covering about 35 topics, will be available online through Military OneSource, he said. The focus will be on presenting the material in short, easy-to-consume videos, officials said.
"We don't want to take up all their time, so we are looking at how we can disseminate the information they want in as useful amount of time as possible," Mentzer said. "So we are thinking along the lines of two- to three-minute video vignettes, in easily understood language, that provides the 'why,' the 'what,' and the 'how.' "
Rather than waiting to release the content when everything is completely ready, officials said, the release will be "rolling," with videos going live as they become available.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.