By Amy Miller, AFC®
Spouses and families of service members may not be on active duty but, in my opinion, serve and sacrifice in many ways for our nation. Time apart, living away from family, deployments, every PCS and TDY along with diminished career opportunities are just a few of those sacrifices that come to mind. So, with that said, I can’t end November, National Veterans & Military Families Month, without dedicating at least one blog to the spouses and dependents that serve alongside the member and a few of the benefits and programs available to them.
Let’s start with Health Care. I recently asked a group of my mil-spouse friends what they were most thankful for and was a little surprised when they all said Tricare! I have often joked that “you get what you pay for” but the truth is – it’s hard to find better medical coverage.
Tricare provides coverage for care at military hospitals or clinics, civilian network providers or authorized non-network providers through several different plans that are based upon the service member’s individual status. It also provides pharmacy coverage and dental plans.
It is currently Tricare open season. If eligible, this is your opportunity to enroll or change your coverage. Changes must be completed by December 13, 2021 and will be effective January 1, 2022. For more information and an explanation of benefits, you can visit https://www.tricare.mil/Plans/New
The next benefit at the top of their list was education and training. Service members that have met certain criteria may transfer their unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit to their spouse and/or dependent(s) to use for higher education tuition costs, and sometimes housing, books, and supplies. Spouses may use this benefit for up to 15 years after the member separates and children may use it until they reach 26 years of age. However, the benefit does need to be transferred to family members prior to separation. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible for other VA education benefits if the servicemember died on active duty, is missing in action, or is permanently disabled due to a service-connected disability.
There are also programs available such as MyCAA (My Career Advancement Account) which offers up to $4,000 in tuition assistance to spouses of active-duty service members in pay grades E-1 to E-5, and O-1 & O-2 to train for a portable career. Some other scholarship opportunities include the ThanksUSA Military Spouse Scholarship and the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Program, just to name a few. You can find more information on all of these at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/education-employment/for-spouses/for-spouses-benefits/. There you can be connected to a career coach and start the application process.
A few others that made their list are outlined below in a little less detail:
- Life Insurance (SGLI) – spouses are eligible for up to $100,000 in life insurance coverage.
- Survivor Benefit Plan – provides lifetime monthly income for surviving spouses after a service member’s death.
- Patriot Express – this is a small business loan program established by the Small Business Administration that assists with the initial costs in establishing or expanding a small business
- Military Spouse Preference Program – extends preferential employment placement in vacant Department of Defense (DoD) civilian positions. -+-
The list goes on to include discounts at many businesses, free on base classes, access to the Exchange and Commissary along with counseling and legal assistance.
Being a military spouse, I understand the sacrifices that military families make – trainings, deployments and TDYs can be hard on everyone. The spouse and children’s contributions are rarely recognized in comparison to the member. So, during this time of year when we are all reflecting on what we are thankful for, let’s also remember the families that are home supporting the service members that protect our great nation.
Personally, I am very thankful for my Airman and these benefits, but I am also especially thankful for ALL my mil-spouses and families that we have met on this 16-year journey. Without some of them, I would have never held it all together! Happy Thanksgiving!