Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: I'm A New Spouse...and A Reservist

It's tricky when one spouse is active duty and one spouse is a reservist.

The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is an electronic database of military members, retirees, and their dependents. Accurate information in DEERS is the key to benefits including medical, dental, educational, and life insurance, and eligibility for allowances including Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moving allowances and other allowances like Family Separation Allowance.

Dear Kate, I’ve just gotten married, and I don’t know what to do about my situation with military records. I am a reservist, and my husband is an active duty soldier. I’m pretty sure we need to go into the DEERS office and update our records, but I’m afraid it will mess things up. I’ve talked to some people in my reserve unit, and they report a lot of problems with the name change and things like BAH and moving. Would it be easier if we just didn’t update the records? I don’t want a lot of hassle or errors. What advice do you have? Natalie Honestly, the idea of not updating your military records is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in a while. We’ve all heard horror stories of families who didn’t have accurate records and the chaos that ensued. Dear Natalie, Congratulations on your marriage! You need to update your records with the military, even if it isn’t as simple for a service member marrying a civilian. In addition to wanting to receive the correct BAH and other allowances, you want the military to know about your legal relationship if something happens. It is possible that the DEERS office won’t have dealt with an active duty-reserve couple before, but I doubt it. For the most part, the record changes that occur with the marriage are the same for everyone. What can get more complicated, and you do need to closely follow and manage, is any time that you become eligible for BAH. If you are activated, and start receiving BAH, and your husband has no other dependents, you need to notify his payroll folks to change his BAH to without dependents. And then you need to verify that it happened on his Leave and Earnings Statement (LES.) Then, when you stop receiving BAH, you need to make the change again, and then again verify that the change occurred via the LES.

I don’t recommend that you choose not to update your military records. So much relies on accurate records, including BAH, SGLI/FSGLI, eligibility for family separation allowance, PCS moving entitlements, Tricare, etc. Plus, your records would be inaccurate, and the military is pretty unhappy with inaccurate records. It may take a little effort and follow-up to get things right, but it is important that you do it. Kate

Please, I implore you – regardless of your family situation, be sure your DEERS information is always 100% accurate and up-to-date. It will make your life so much easier in the long run.

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