Note: This article addresses milspouses whose servicemembers are EAS’ing from the military. Please check back soon for an article specifically geared toward milspouses whose servicemembers are retiring.
Your spouse is leaving the military. This may come as a surprise as involuntary separations are becoming more popular with the troop draw downs. If this is the case, your timetable is definitely truncated. The more ideal situation would be while approaching the re-enlistment window, you and your spouse decide not to continue the military commitment and choose instead to End Active Service (EAS). Some things are best to do as soon as possible, and others have more lenient time frames.
1) Relocation Allowance
Once you have decided where you are going next, visit Transportation and find out if your spouse qualifies for Relocation Allowance.
You may be allowed one final move after your separation paid for by the government. Additionally, if you live in installation housing you may be granted one local move, and then your final move later on. Both time and geographic limitations will apply to these moves. Generally you will have six months to a year to utilize this final move, you’ll want to schedule with transportation as soon as you have the required information to ensure you can move on your schedule. (Particularly if this move will occur during PCS season.)
2) Health Insurance – Tricare
Up until the day your spouse receives their DD-214 (separation paperwork) your spouse and all their dependents will continue to receive their active duty Tricare benefits. In certain situations, your family can continue to receive benefits after final separation through either the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) or the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). To qualify for the 180 days of benefits under TAMP you must meet the qualifications, the most common one being that your spouse is involuntary separated from the military or that your spouse is separated with an agreement to immediately become a member of the Selected Reserve or Ready Reserve. For more information, visits www.tricare.mil/tamp.
To utilize CHCBP, a premium-based program, you have to enroll within 60 days of your separation. You can do so at Humana Military’s Web site at www.Humana-Military.com or call 1-800-444-5445. CHCBP is meant to act as a bridge between Tricare and the next health insurance you find. It serves military members and family members for up to 18 months, and it coves eligible former spouses and adult dependents up to 36 months. With CHCBP you will get comparable care to the Tricare program but you will not be seen at military treatment facilities. You can also get more information on CHCBP at www.tricare.mil/chcbp.
3) Reserve Options
Your spouse’s commitment to the military may not be over as quickly as you thought. Depending on the length of the enlistment, your spouse may have some additional years to serve as part of the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR).
Commitments are usually for 8 years of service, so if your spouse is separating at 6 years, then they will have 2 more years of IRR commitment. There is also the option of joining the National Guard or Select Reserve. When going through pre-separation counseling with the Transition Office, your spouse can get more information on options regarding the Reserves/National Guard. This may be a good way for your spouse to feel as though they are still part of the “team” without the full-time commitment and may ease in the transition to full-time civilian.
4) GI Bill Benefits
Depending on the GI Bill that your spouse has, the benefits can be used for either 10 or 15 years after your separation. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available to anyone who has served more than 30 days since September 11, 2001 and the full benefits are extended to those who have served for 36 months on active duty status. The program gives your spouse up 36 months of entitlements that can be used up to 15 years after separation.
The Montgomery GI Bill was the one your spouse had to sign up for at the beginning of their service and covers tuition at a monthly rate that varies. And, like the Post 9/11 GI Bill your spouse will be able to receive 36 months of entitlements but only for up 10 years after separation. For more information on how your spouse can utilize their GI Benefits, check out http://www.gibill.va.gov.
One thing that you may need to consider is schools for your children upon your separation. Most military spouses have already gone through the process of choosing a house on or off the installation based on schools. Some have also decided homeschooling was the best choice based on what is offered. While this is the first time you have complete and total control of the school district you live in, you’re probably looking for a starting place. Most of my milspouse friends have moved in the last 3 years (shocking, right?!) and they have all looked at schools for children ranging from pre-k to high school.
The main thing they say is to talk to parents and the school. However, to start narrowing down the choices, www.greatschools.org and www.schooldigger.com are the go-to websites. They both allow you to search by type of school and zip code or state. Then they give you a ranking based on test scores, they also provide the statistics on ethnicities, the children who qualify for free/reduced lunches, and reviews from parents who have had children attend. Once you have narrowed down the options, I would highly suggest a visit to the school and talking to some parents or potential neighbors.
Something else I would take into consideration is colleges. While it may seem like years away, settling in an area with a good community college system, or great state colleges will be helpful for your child and your wallet. In-state tuition is the most preferable to parents, and a lot of states will offer a deal for military children. You’ll also want to consider the high school extracurricular activities that will set your child up well for college, if that is their chosen path. Another reason to consider about local colleges is if your spouse will be using their GI Bill benefits, or if you are planning to continue your education.
6) Military ID
You’ve probably already guessed that you must surrender all military ID cards when your spouse completes their term of service. This means that commissary and exchange privileges will end. (Some may be able to keep theirs for up to 2 years as part of the TAMP.) Of course, if your spouse decides to continue service through the Guard or Reserve, you will be able to continue shopping at the commissary.
Your spouse will have access to MyPay, the pay-stub website, for 1 year after separation. I highly recommend printing off all those end of year statements, as well as the Statements of Compensation for your personal records before that year ends. Additionally, the military email address that your spouse currently has (and maybe you too!) will not be accessible after 180 days. Hopefully you both have already started transferring contacts and emails to your personal email address.
7) Life Insurance
Life insurance is probably one of the biggest things to consider when separating from the military. The Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) will continue to cover your spouse for 120 days after separation. Your spouse can convert the SGLI to the VGLI (Veteran’s version of the insurance) with those 120 days. For all the details and more information, check out the VA’s website at http://www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/SGLI/sglifaq.htm#8. USAA offers some excellent life insurance for service members separating from the military. It has also been recommended that active duty families consider additional life insurance to ease in the transition later.
8) VA Loan
Your VA Loan eligibility continues after your separation if you served 24 months on active duty and were separated under honorable or general discharge.
Depending on the state in which you live after separation, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation
10) Medical Exams
Final medical and dental exams should be completed 90 days before separation.
- Transition Assistance Program courses encourage spouse to attend as well.
- If you are pregnant while your spouse separates from the military, your prenatal care falls under either the TAMP or CHCBP with the same qualifications as all other dependents.