Welcome to the military wife life! We know that this can be a frightening time for a new military wife. After all, you probably had to relocate far away from home. You may have had to give up your job, and you are unlikely to have any friends where you are now living or moving to.
We’re here to make it a little less stressful by providing a simple list of everything you need to know about military wife life. You have the opportunity to be an active participant in the military wife life & family as the husband or wife of a service member. You are also eligible for various benefits, such as health care, on-base shopping privileges, and access to base recreation facilities and other programs.
Attending military wife / spouse orientations and briefings, as well as reading the information provided to you, will be beneficial. When you arrive at the military installation, go straight to the Community Service Center or Family Support Center to get the most up-to-date information on benefits and services and enroll in a spouse orientation program. Meanwhile, here is a quick checklist to help you get started.
The Basics of Military Wife Life
Your husband, also known as your sponsor, must complete all paperwork necessary for you to receive the military benefits. Be sure you have an original copy of your marriage certificate from the clerk’s office in the city, town, or county where the wedding took place. Your spouse will require it.
- Request that your spouse sign you up for the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
Service members and all their dependents must be enrolled in DEERS to receive benefits. This system allows the military to ensure that only authorized individuals are treated in its facilities. It is your spouse’s responsibility to enroll you. You can do that at the uniformed services personnel office. Go to this website to find the office closest to you. You can also make an appointment, which may expedite the process. You will need specific documentation to enroll, such as a copy of your marriage license, birth certificates, or Social Security cards for dependents. This includes any children that you may have.
- Obtain a military identification card.
You will need an identification card to receive benefits as a military spouse. All family members, including children aged ten and up, will require their ID cards. Your card will grant you access to military bases, exchanges, commissaries, and medical care. Check with the ID card facility to see what documents are required to receive a card. To apply for an ID card, you will typically need your marriage certificate, birth certificate, proof of identity, and Department of Defense Form 1172 (application form).
Registration for DEERS and obtaining an ID card are frequently done concurrently – killing two birds with one stone!
- Create a power of attorney.
This will allow you to continue to do business or obtain a new ID card on behalf of your spouse if you misplace yours. The base legal office will assist you in obtaining power of attorney.
- Request that your spouse add you to their Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy as a beneficiary.
This is also a good time for your service member to update their emergency data sheet record (DD Form 93).
- Decide whether you should change your marital status on your state and federal income tax returns.
Check with the legal office or the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on base to be sure that you’re doing the right thing for your situation.
- Make a note of your spouse’s Social Security number.
It will be required for a variety of paperwork and forms. You’ll know him better than your own before you know it.
Military Spouse and Family Benefits
- Base Services
On base, service members and their families can access a variety of services. When you relocate, your base’s family services program – known by a different name in each service – is your first stop for learning about military life or a new installation.
Your family center can assist you with relocation information, local employment opportunities, information about local resources and services, personal skills-building classes, financial education, volunteer opportunities or placement services when your service member leaves the military, and crisis intervention. These services are provided for free.
Legal aid is available. Most installations have a legal office from where you can obtain free legal advice and services.
Assist societies. Each military service branch has notable assistance organizations that provide financial assistance in times of emergency. This is something that your family center can assist you with.
- Military Pay
Every member of the military receives a base salary. Most also receive various allowances, special pay, and bonuses based on factors such as deployment, pay grade, and military job. Most married service members receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) (BAH).
Guard and Reserve pay are handled differently. The Military.com pay calculator is an easy way to figure out your service member’s income, regardless of branch of military service. If you aren’t sure how much your service member is currently paid, you can look at their Leave and Earnings Statement (LES).
- Military Spouse and Family Healthcare
Active-duty military families receive benefits through the military’s healthcare system, known as Tricare, irrespective of which branch of service their spouse serves. While Tricare is not an insurance company, it often functions similarly, assisting military families in receiving healthcare and paying medical bills.
Active-duty families, medically retired families, and families of activated guardsmen and reservists can choose between two types of Tricare: Tricare Select (previously known as Tricare Standard) and Tricare Prime.
You can still use Tricare if you are a non-activated guard or reserve family under the programs designed specifically for you.
Tricare is also available to military wife and retiree families. They make use of a variety of Tricare programs. United Concordia provides dental insurance to the military wife and families.
- Military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for the Military wife & Family!
Every active-duty service member receives a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as part of their biweekly pay. Your service member’s location typically determines the amount you receive. Even if you choose to live in a place other than his duty station while he is at home or deployed, you will still receive BAH based on his duty station rather than your residence.
Sometimes, your service member may be stationed somewhere you cannot visit, which is known as a “hardship duty assignment.” If this occurs, you may be eligible for BAH based on where you choose to live rather than where he is stationed.
BAH is required by law to cover 95 percent of your house prices, minus renters insurance. Every year, the BAH rates are recalculated. If interest rates fall where you live, you will be added back into the older, higher rate. If interest rates rise where you live, you will receive a new, more elevated amount.
- Military Shopping Benefits
Military shopping benefits, also known as “non-monetary compensation,” assist military families in saving money on items they want or need.
Most bases worldwide have a military commissary run by the Defense Commissary Agency, a government organization (DeCA). Because stores are required by law to sell items at cost, commissaries can frequently assist military families in saving money on grocery items.
Most bases also have a department store known as an exchange, petrol stations, liquor stores, and fast food restaurants. All those establishments on Army and Air Force bases are managed by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). They are governed by the Marine Corps Exchange (MEX) on Marine Corps bases and the Navy Exchange (NEX) on Navy bases (NEX). All of these businesses operate independently of the military, but a portion of their profits fund other military family programs. Most items purchased in the exchanges are tax-free, making these stores ideal for purchasing large-ticket items such as electronics and furniture.
- Military Childcare
Most military wife life bases have full-time or hourly daycare facilities. The costs of these services are based on a family’s overall income, not just the service member’s pay grade. Because waiting lists at these centers can be lengthy, the military wife life allows families to use officially approved subsidized in-home daycares. If you live far from a base or there are no available on-base daycare spots, the military will subsidize the cost of care at certain off-base, civilian daycares that have joined their network.
- Military Recreation Benefits: Military Wife Life
Military Welfare and Recreation (MWR) is essential to base life and includes your benefits. Because the government subsidizes the costs of the programs MWR funds and manages on base, they are frequently much more cost-effective than their off-base counterparts.
Most recreation on each base is managed by MWR, such as gyms, pools, bowling alleys, horse stables, event centers, golf courses, discounted equipment rentals, and more. Many bases also have MWR-run youth programs such as dance classes, sports teams, and clubs. Because most of these services are unique to each command, you should contact your local MWR office to find out what is available.
We Thank Military Wives for Their Service
Being a Military Wife is difficult because you must maintain your composure when your service member leaves to work in a dangerous location for months or even years. You must be willing to relocate half a world away from your family. The role of a military wife is not one to be taken lightly. It entails being encouraging, loving, loyal, fierce, and dependable. While you know separation occurs, no one can ever prepare you for the void left in your heart when your spouse is on a mission.