I am often surprised at the number of military family members, usually spouses, who don’t know basic information that they need to know in case of an emergency. If you’re not married, your parents or brothers and sisters need to know this information, and older children should probably have it as well.
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.
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
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.
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 aged 10 and over 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.
Access to 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 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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