Don't Marry a Dirtbag, Military Spouse


Just don’t marry a dirtbag.

The Department of Defense used much nicer language to tell Congress this week that they shouldn't give money or benefits to the families of service members who have been kicked out after being convicted of crimes under UCMJ.

But the way I read it, their policy is that you just shouldn’t have married such a dirtbag, Darlin’.

That doesn't sound exactly right to me.

Because it's not equitable. Currently, families who suffer abuse at the hands of their service member do get some  transitional benefits, which is as it should be. We don’t want people suffering in silence because they have no funds to get away from their abuser.

But if you are married to a service member who commits any other kind of crime for which he gets convicted and then canned, you are on your own. This stings an extra big amount if you are really close to retirement and have put in the time and patience to earn those post-20 year benefits.

You can read all about the report over here in this Military.com story. 

In their report, the DoD points out that there are multiple times during the judicial process at which families can request financial relief from the military judicial system. They point out that very few people who are court-martialed then separated from the military near retirement. They note that pays and benefits are derived from the service member alone.

Easy to shame the downtrodden.

So I hope that the members of the military judicial system look out for these family members every time. I hope they always sympathize. I doubt they will. Because it is so easy to be callous to people when they are downtrodden, isn’t it?

When you are married to someone accused of a serious crime, you become the downtrodden. There is shame by osmosis for those families. Friends drop away. Neighbors stop seeing them. It is hardly a time people flock to help with meals or rides to school for the kids or job offers.

Easy to forget spouse employment realities.

There is a ton of research that shows how military marriage impacts the job prospects of a military spouse. Not only do spouses earn less and work fewer hours than their matched civilian counterparts, just living in a military town depresses the pay of military spouses as well as civilian females living in the community.

While the DoD cites the fact that other employers aren’t expected to pay transitional benefits, other employers don’t require whole families to move every 2.5 years. Getting back on your feet requires a little more from military families, especially those stationed overseas.

Easy to expect communication between partners.

If these appeals to the military judicial system require any assistance from the accused, I think that represents even more of a problem for families.

How much communication and cooperation actually goes on between marriage partners at that stage of the game?

By the time one of them is standing before a military judge, there is probably very little positive communication going on. Very little understanding. Very, very little looking out for one another.

Easy to forget the role of luck in marriage.

Most of all, I think it is easy for all of us to forget the role of luck in a marriage. I don’t know about you, but the creation of our marriage was based more on oxytocin than on cold, hard logic.  We worked hard at our marriage and our family and our jobs to come this far.  We were also lucky.

Can any of us really predict everything that will happen during a marriage? Do you really know that the sailor you marry in his 20s isn’t going to have a string of DUIs in his 40s? Can you guarantee that the soldier you send off to war is not going to encounter anything that triggers some terrible--even criminal-- behaviors? Can you accurately predict that your airman or Marine or Coastie will avoid fraud, theft, sexual harassment, sexual assault?

Eh, you like to think that you can. I know I do. But can you? I hope so.

Because the Department of Defense concludes that there is no merit in providing transitional compensation beyond the current parameters of the program.

Now I don’t think spouses of these service members prosecuted for violating the UCMJ deserve any lifetime benefit or pay. But I do think that these people who haven’t committed a crime still belong to us. I still think we have a moral obligation to do something to get them back on their feet after such a hard blow--even if it is only for a short while.

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