How To Be A Military SpouseUpdated: March 31, 2020
Becoming a military spouse can come with a multitude of emotions: joy, confusion, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. While these feelings are understandable, there are many resources available to help you as you begin your transition into the military life!
DEERS and TRICARE
One of the first things that you should do as a new spouse is getting enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Each service member and their dependents must enroll in this system to receive benefits such as TRICARE. Your spouse can enroll you at their uniformed services personnel office; you and your spouse can visit the office together when it is convenient for you, or you can make an appointment ahead of time.
To be added to DEERS, your spouse must have:
- Original or certified copies of your marriage certificate, as well as your birth certificate
- Your Social Security card
- Your photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport)
- Department of Defense Form 1172
To add a child, your spouse will need the child’s birth certificate and Social Security card. There are different requirements for different situations, such as step-children or children over the age of 21, so it is important to check the TRICARE website prior to your appointment.
When you go to register for DEERS, you can also get your military ID card. This card allows you to get on post, access medical care, and use the commissary. Children age ten and older must also get an ID Card. In addition to the documents required for DEERS enrollment, the DD Form 1173 must also be completed by your spouse.
You can also utilize TRICARE after enrolling in DEERS. While TRICARE is not technically an insurance company, it works as one to help military families get health care and pay medical bills. There are two main types of TRICARE for active duty families: TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select. The major difference between the two is that TRICARE Prime requires you to be seen at a military treatment facility, while TRICARE Select allows you to choose your own provider as long as they are within a TRICARE-authorized network. Both plans cover medications and treatments that are medically necessary and have been proven to be effective. Dental insurance is provided through United Concordia, and vision insurance is provided through TRICARE.
Adjusting to Military Life
One of the challenges of being a new military spouse can be finding employment in your field. Frequent moves and living in areas that are often remote can make finding and keeping a job difficult. For these reasons, many programs have been developed to make finding work as a military spouse easier.
Military OneSource has many resources that can help you find a job, such as:
- Career coaches. You can reach a career coach by calling 800-342-9647, 7:00 am to 10:00 pm Eastern time, Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays.
- Career planning tools like resume builders
- The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search
Working for the government is also a career opportunity as a military spouse. These jobs often allow you to work as a civilian on post, or at other locations in your new community.
If you are already working and have a job that can be performed remotely, talk to your employer! Increasingly, companies are allowing more flexible schedules for employees; if you know that you will be moving due to your spouse’s assignment, check with your employer to see if they would be willing to allow you to work from home. If this is not an option, or if you do not currently have a job, there are multiple remote jobs available. You can use job search websites to look for jobs in your field that may have a telecommute option.
If you are interested in pursuing a degree or certification, you may be eligible for the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship. This is a workforce development program that provides spouses with up to $4,000 towards a certification, license, or an associates degree in a career field that is portable. Spouses whose sponsors are enlisted are eligible for this scholarship.
One perk of military life is the possibility of being stationed overseas, or OCONUS. While the prospect of living abroad can be exciting, there are unique challenges that come along with an overseas assignment. However, there are steps you can take to make the process easier, and to fully enjoy your time abroad!
First, in order to move overseas with your spouse, you must be named on their orders. This allows your spouse to have an “accompanied” move. Your spouse will also be assigned a sponsor, who will be the main contact person at your new base. They can give you information about available housing, what types of services are available and how to find them, and more.
When you move, it is likely that you will not be able to bring all of your furniture and other household goods with you overseas. You are typically allowed two different shipments: unaccompanied baggage, which are the essential items you need for your new home like clothes and kitchen wares, and household goods, which consists of furniture, appliances, and everything else. Each of these shipments can take weeks to months to arrive, so it is important to budget for purchasing some necessary items once you arrive overseas. There are some items that you cannot ship overseas; you can check with the Customs Office for a definitive list. Typically, you are allowed to ship one car, but can often purchase another overseas if needed. You are allowed to bring up to two dogs or cats; other pets are not allowed. Pets must also have their rabies vaccination and a Veterinary Health Certificate (DD Form 2209).
Dealing with Deployment
One of the most stressful parts of being a military spouse is handling deployments. It is likely that your spouse may be deployed at some point, so it is important to be prepared. One way to handle deployment is by having a good support system; you can attend unit gatherings before and during deployment, and you can check your installation’s social media to find various events where you can meet other spouses who are going through the same thing. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for what you need, whether it is help around the house, or someone to just listen and provide support. Deployment is a difficult time, and having support makes it much easier to get through!
Staying connected with your spouse during deployment can make the long separation easier for both of you. This may mean sharing videos of things going on at home, calling, and emailing often. Keeping your spouse updated on life at home can help you both feel more connected. At the same time, it is important to remember that deployment is tough on all members of the family, and being patient and understanding with your spouse is especially necessary during this difficult time.
Deployments are tough, but they are also an opportunity to make time for yourself and activities that you already enjoy, or have always wanted to try:
- You could take music lessons, or learn a new language
- Attend events on post with other spouses
- Visit friends and family
Preparing for deployment with your spouse is also important:
- Take time to talk with them about managing the household and bills while they are gone
- Set expectations with one another on communication
- Try to stay positive and limit discussing unresolved issues during deployment
Finally, accepting that deployment dates may change will help you to manage your expectations. You can work with your Family Readiness Group (FRG) to stay informed before, during, and after deployment.
There is so much to take in as a new military spouse, but there are many resources (and other spouses) available to help! Do not hesitate to reach out to your FRG and other spouse groups to get all the information you need for this next chapter of your life.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.