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Deciding to Stay Local When Your Service Member Gets PCS Orders


For many military families, long separations are a way of life. Often these separations are due to a deployment or an unaccompanied tour. But there may be times when you decide to stay while your service member moves on to a new duty station. Maybe you've made the decision so a child can finish high school or so you can take an important job promotion. Whatever the circumstances, coming to this decision has probably been difficult. The following tips can help you make the most of the situation.

Planning ahead

Although your time apart can be trying, a little planning will help you and your family better cope with the separation. Here are some things you'll want to take care of ahead of time:

Get a power of attorney. A power of attorney can help you deal with various financial and legal issues that may arise. Your installation's legal assistance office can help you prepare a power of attorney that meets your specific needs. Find more information in the article Power of Attorney Basics.

Check into housing. If you live in installation housing, you will want to determine if you will be required to move. Because each circumstance is unique, only your installation housing office can let you know for sure. You may also look into any changes in your basic allowance for housing. Depending on where and what type of orders your service member receives, there may be a change to BAH. Visit the Defense Travel Management Office Basic Allowance for Housing web page for more information.

Be sure everyone in your family is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and has a current military ID card. To be eligible for health benefits, family members must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Family members will also need current military IDs to take advantage of installation services. Check with your military personnel office if anyone in your family needs a new ID card.

Manage your finances. With you and your spouse living apart, managing your household finances can be tricky. Before your service member leaves, organize your finances so bills can be paid on time and you have access to money - whether through an allotment or other income. Also, be sure your name is on bank, credit card or other accounts you may need to access, and you have access to tax forms and records for filing your taxes.

Register your vehicle. Ensure you have current registration and insurance information to allow access to the installation for commissary, exchange and medical services.

Keep your important papers safe. Birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, lease agreements and any other important papers should be kept in a safety deposit box or a locked fire box. Make sure both you and your spouse know where these papers are and how to find them if necessary.

Make a plan for emergencies. Put together a plan in case there is a natural disaster or other emergency. Do you have somewhere to go if they need to evacuate? Can you get in touch with your spouse in case of emergency? Make sure you have the American Red Cross and your service's emergency relief phone numbers with you at all times.

Take care of home and automobile maintenance. If your spouse normally takes care of home maintenance and car care, make sure you have the information necessary to keep up the schedule while they are gone. Also, make a list of repair companies you can call if there is a problem.

Helping your family adjust

Family separations are hard on everyone, but it will be easier if you have a positive attitude and keep the lines of communication open.

Help your children prepare. It can be especially hard for children to live apart from a parent. Depending on their ages, you can help them prepare with visual aids such as a map to show them where their loved one will be or a calendar to mark the days. If possible, visit your spouse's new installation so they can picture where their other parent will be living.

Have a plan. Come up with a timeline that dictates how long you and your family will be separated. Even if the plan changes due to unforeseen circumstances, you will all know the situation won't last forever.

Plan to stay connected as a family. By talking with your service member on a regular basis, you can both keep up with the important events in each other's lives. Communicating by phone, email or video chat will help your family stay in touch.

Visit as often as possible. You'll feel more like a family if you are able to visit often, especially on special occasions. If possible, explore your spouse's duty station. If you're spending time at home, try to spend quality time together and not play catch-up on overdue household chores.

Seek support. With all your household responsibilities, you may feel overwhelmed. Seek help through installation support services or the local community. You can get referrals and confidential non-medical counseling through the Military OneSource website or by calling 800-342-9647.

Get to know other spouses who are going through the same thing. You may be surprised by how many military spouses are in a similar situation.

Have a positive outlook. It may seem cliché, but having a positive outlook - especially in front of your children - will go a long way to helping you get through this difficult time.

Military spouse checklist for separations

  • Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System current for all family members
  • Military ID cards current
  • Power of attorney completed
  • Allotments set up to pay bills and provide money to family account
  • Information on account numbers and financial institutions for bank accounts, loans, insurance and credit cards (be sure both partners can access information on accounts)
  • Safety deposit box or fire box for important documents
  • Installation registration for vehicle current
  • Information on how to handle car maintenance and repairs
  • Information on how to handle home maintenance and repairs
  • Information on how to pay the household bills
  • Information on how to get new military ID cards
  • Emergency contact information for your service member
  • Emergency plan in place
  • Information on tax forms and how to file taxes

Bank accounts and loans

  • Savings bank and account number: _____________________
  • Checking bank and account number: ____________________
  • Car loan bank and account number: _____________________
  • Other loan bank and account number: ___________________
  • Credit card company and account number: ________________
  • Credit card company and account number: ________________
  • Insurance company and account number: _________________ 

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