Your spouse is retiring from the military. And while congratulations usually abound, there may also be some trepidation as you prepare to exit the world you’ve known so well for the past twenty some years. Below, find a list of helpful hints for the retiring spouse to help you on your next journey. Some things are best to do as soon as possible, and others have more lenient time frames.
When it comes to the spouse’s perspective, the most common questions about retirement are about Tricare and health insurance. If you want to continue Tricare Prime, you need to enroll yourself as a retiree and your family as retiree dependents and pay the corresponding rate. You’ll be seen at an MTF (military treatment facility) if possible, but if not you can see a civilian physician within the network. If you or your spouse takes a job with medical benefits after retirement, that health insurance becomes your primary, and Tricare is the secondary. One of the great benefits of Tricare Prime as a retiree family is that you have portability, which means you can move around and not have to worry about your insurance catching up. You can also utilize the Tricare Pharmacy Program, and fill prescriptions at your local MTF. (www.tricare.mil/pharmacy)
2. Other Benefits
As far as Dental coverage you can enroll, for a fee, with Tricare Retiree Dental Program. This program is voluntary and you are encouraged to enroll within 120 days of retirement. A benefit to this program is that you do not need to wait the traditional 12 months before receiving any major dental work. For family members with special needs, you’ll need to talk to the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) Case Manager for options regarding care post-retirement.
3. Where to Live?
You may have a “forever house” somewhere waiting your final move. Or you may have grand ideas of moving back to your “home town.” Or, if you’re like me, the thought of picking one place to live for the rest of your life scares you too much to even think about it. My biggest piece of advice for choosing a new place to live is to figure out what you want from that place. Think about the job market, the weather, the cost of living, potential commute times, etc. Then find a place that fits most of what you want. Of course, if you have that house waiting for you, you’re incredibly lucky.
4. Transition to “Home”
A word of caution on moving “home.” At some point throughout our lives as military spouses, we all realize that home is not what we thought it was. I went home during a deployment and quickly realized it was not the same. Going home to family can be a great way to end your military life. They are usually very understanding, comforting, and can be a big help in the moving process. But things will not be the same, and helping your spouse to prepare for that can be very beneficial. Emotions will be running high, expectations will probably fall short, and your family, both immediate and extended, need to be supportive during this stressful and exciting time.
5. Find a way to be involved
One of the hardest things for service members, and for most spouses, is feeling like they don’t belong anywhere after retirement. They’re no longer Active Duty, but they’re not exactly a civilian. There are several organizations for retired service members, like the American Military Retirees Associations but what about for us spouses? Some installations have Retired Spouses’ Clubs and most installations are now combining groups and marketing Community Spouses Clubs. But that only helps if you live close to an installation. Take a look at some community organizations that have a need for volunteers, or join a local book club, bowling group, or Bunco group, just like you would upon a PCS move. Get out there and make new friends. Better yet, start a Retired Spouses Group of your own in your new hometown.
6. Volunteer Opportunities
Your spouse may also struggle with this lack of community service. After 20 plus years of serving their country, of giving back to the community, they may feel like a 9-5 job, or retirement doesn’t give them the same satisfaction. Encourage them to volunteer or to consider a job in the public service sector. Most police departments have Axillary Officers or positions that are filled by volunteers. This would be a great place for your spouse (or you!) to make a difference in your new community. There are also some great part-time contract positions that are perfect for veterans and retirees. I’d really encourage them to look at positions that help active duty service members, wounded warriors, or those who have transitioned.
7. The Final Move
You are probably aware that the military will give you that final move after retirement. In addition, some of the privatized housing companies will also grant you a courtesy move. You could make a local move and then later on utilize your retirement move. You are authorized this retirement move to anywhere within the United States, including Alaska or Hawaii, or to your home of record if it’s outside the United States. You have up to 1 year to utilize this move, but you could be granted an extension on a case-by-case basis.
8. Moving before Retirement is Official
You may, however, consider moving before your spouse begins terminal leave, for a number of reasons. This makes things just a little bit more complicated. Like all PCS moves now, you’ll need to start on the www.move.mil website. You have two options, just like most moves, Personally Procured Move (formerly known as a DITY) and the government move. If you are doing a PPM, you would go about it the same way, weigh your stuff, figure out the mileage, etc. However, you may not be able to get that reimbursement until after your service member starts terminal leave. This is an area that varies by branch and by situation. If you have the option to let the government move you based on the retirement orders (and you have these far enough in advance to make it worth your while) then you can do the no-cost (to you) move at that point. This is really a case-by-case situation and will need to be discussed with the good ole fashioned Transportation Office after you’ve done the initial pre-move counseling online.
9. Your New Career
It may be your time to shine. The world can now revolve around your career. Not sure? Well, it can! As soon as you figure out how to explain the 72 jobs you’ve had in the 15 locations over the last 20 years. Good news! There is a resume format built just for you! The newly popular combination resume, is designed for military spouses. It groups your experience by skill set instead of chronologically. So you could have a Leadership section, a Technical skills section, etc. This gives you the opportunity to highlight your skills while downplaying your multiple jobs. ) And, please don’t forget that you can attend the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) briefings with your spouse. These services are here for you to use whenever you need them, even after retirement.
10. Enjoy It!
This is a time that you and your spouse have worked hard for. At least 20 years of long days, separations, the fear of the “unknown,” and acronyms are over! You are now in control of your life and fully able to make your own decisions. Enjoy it! Reward yourself with a little Rest & Relaxation and plan a vacation. Or even better, a stay-cation in your new “forever house.” Celebrate the beginning of the rest of your lives, with the well wishes and congratulations of military service members and spouses everywhere. Good luck!