I am often surprised at the number of military family members, usually spouses, who don’t know essential info and have basic life planning things that they need in case of an emergency. A lot of this is important for older children as well. Not all of this will apply to parents or siblings, but some does apply.
A lot of you are going to think that it is ridiculous that I am even making this list, but you would be surprised at how many people haven’t attended to these simple and important issues.
NEED TO KNOW
The Name of the Command or Unit
I am literally amazed at how many people tell me that their husband is in the military, and don’t know where they work. Even if they can tell me the name of the base, that isn’t always a lot of help if it someplace big, like Fort Bragg or Naval Station Norfolk. It is really important that family members can identify the command or unit.
A Telephone Number to Call
Family members need to have a telephone number that can get them to someone in case of emergency. In most cases, it is the same phone number that the service member would use if there were an emergency. It might be the watch floor, or the duty officer, or the first sergeant, every command is different. But there is someone in charge of being in charge of stuff, all the time.
How to Use Tricare
Tricare is comprehensive and affordable health care coverage. But it can also feel daunting. Take some time to learn how to use Tricare so that you can get the medical care you need. If you are confused, ask for help. Your installation’s family service center may have a class, or there will be someone there who can help you.
In addition to this essential info, there are a couple of things military spouses should have:
NEED TO HAVE
A Military ID
This one isn’t for parents, unless the service member has gone through the process of having them approved as secondary dependents. However, spouses and dependent children over a certain age*, or otherwise needing it, must have a military ID. The ID, and the associated Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) registration, are your ticket to all benefits military, including medical insurance.
*the age has changed so often recently that I’m not even going to try to keep this up-to-date.
Access to Their Own Cash or Credit
While I recommend that couples join their finances, there are a few exceptions. I always recommend that each person have their own credit, including a credit card, that is not joint with anyone. Ideally, each person should also have access to a small amount of money that is in an account in only their name.
In the event of death, bank accounts can be frozen. The exact way in which that all happens isn’t always as sensible as it should be. Sometimes, people find that they can’t get into the account that has their living money in it. If you have your own credit card, or a small, private emergency fund, then you can manage until all the paperwork is organized.
The Right Legal Documents
At the very minimum, all service members should have a will, and their family needs to know where to find it. Experts also recommend that you have a durable power of attorney that becomes active if you become incapacitated, a health care power of attorney, and an advance medical directive. Your base legal office can provide all these, for free, with a short appointment, and many offices offer walk-in services. Keep in mind that these documents are worthless if your family can’t find them in an emergency.
These really are the most basic level of essential info and things that a military family needs to have organized. Other things that are nearly as essential include more powers of attorney, access to MyPay, and proper insurance. Military life can be crazy – be prepared!
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