Certification Process Eases for Student Recipients of Survivor Benefit Plan

Mother helping daughter with homework

Current as of May 15, 2020

The certification process has gotten easier for students age 18 and older covered as a child annuitant under the military Survivor Benefit Plan.

The changes went into effect in May 2020, highlighted by the following:

  • A simpler certification form
  • A student’s ability to self-certify
  • An extension of the certification deadline to annually instead of each term/semester

SBP annuity payments for qualifying high school and college students are not affected by school closures in the wake of coronavirus disease 2019.

A quick SBP overview

The Department of Defense sponsors and subsidizes the SBP, which provides an ongoing monthly annuity (up to 55% of the service member’s retired pay) to military spouses and/or children when a military member dies while on active duty, inactive duty or after retirement.

Coverage is automatic and at no cost for members on active duty and for Reserve Component members while performing inactive-duty training. Active-duty members can purchase coverage upon retirement. Reserve Component members can elect full-time coverage, whether on duty or not, when they reach 20 years of qualifying service for reserve retired pay.

The department’s fiscal year 2020 budget made changes to the amount of the survivor benefit. The change, which takes place over three years, specifically affects those spouses and children of service members who died on active duty when the surviving spouse previously elected to transfer the SBP annuity to a child or children.

Student eligibility for the military SBP

The SBP’s child annuity payments typically end when recipients turn 18. You are eligible to continue receiving payments until the end of the school year during which you turn 22, as long as you remain unmarried and you attend one of the following full time:

  • High school
  • Accredited trade school
  • Accredited technical school
  • Accredited vocational institute
  • Accredited college or university

Easing the certification process

The DOD simplified the process of students becoming certified in other ways, including:

  • Students will now self-certify. So they will no longer need a school official’s signature or school documentation when they certify full-time attendance. With COVID-19 school closures, this truly simplifies the process.
  • Simpler Child Annuitant’s Certification for Previous Attendance Letter for certifying past attendance.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service details the new certification process on their website, including all the changes. Make sure to complete the updated Child Annuitant’s School Certification form.

The DOD is taking steps to make it easier to validate each student’s eligibility with an online option for uploading and submitting school certification forms. Use the AskDFAS online upload tool.

How to submit certification forms

Here are three no-cost ways you can submit your school certification form each term/semester. (Be sure to keep a copy for your records each time.)

  • Online: You now have a convenient online option. DFAS created a submission module, https://go.usa.gov/xymaH, where you can upload a school certification form through AskDFAS on the DFAS.mil website. This is accessible on mobile browsers. Simply fill in the required information in the online screen, and upload a PDF of your completed and signed DD Form 2788.
  • By mail:
    Defense Finance and Accounting Service
    U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
    8899 E. 56th Street
    Indianapolis, IN 46249-1300
  • By fax: 800-982-8459

If you would like to receive email reminders when it is time to submit your school certifications, follow the simple directions to create a profile in myPay.


Look for additional information about military benefits on the DFAS website. You can also speak with a customer service representative at 216-522-5955 or 800-321-1080, or write to the address above.

Military OneSource and the Office of Financial Readiness have more resources and tips to help you and your family members prepare for your financial future. Follow FINRED on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and look for more on YouTube (streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks) and the FINRED website and blog.

Information, Tickets and Travel: Your Key to Fun

Army Navy football game

Whether you want to take in a socially distanced ball game, spend a day at local attractions or plan a vacation, your local Information, Tickets and Travel office is your key to great deals on recreation and leisure travel. Keep in mind, with coronavirus disease 2019 safety guidelines in place around the world, your best bet is to check with your local ITT office for the updated safety measures you must follow, cancellations that could affect your event, or other important news before you purchase tickets or book a vacation.

What you can get through ITT

Your military ID provides access to the following discounts and savings through ITT:

  • Tickets for local attractions like sporting events, concerts, zoos, museums, historical sites and movies
  • Destination tickets, including theme parks and national parks
  • Day trips and tours to nearby cities
  • Vacation packages, including cruises and resorts
  • Leisure travel services

Why you should use ITT

  • Military discounts
  • Exclusive offers for service members
  • No service fees
  • Trip-planning assistance

Many Information, Tickets and Travel personnel are certified travel agents. They can save you time and money by figuring out the details for your trip. Whether you’re destined for Las Vegas or Walt Disney World® Resort, our staff can get you there at the best rate. And be sure to ask about these special programs:

  • Lodging on installations, through recreational facilities and at first-class resorts and nongovernment-owned hotels
  • America the Beautiful passes to get you into more than 84 million acres of national parks where you can hike, climb, ski, surf, stargaze or just relax
  • Blue Star Museums give you opportunities to soak up history, science or culture between Memorial Day and Labor Day across the country — for free

Who is eligible for ITT services

  • Active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members
  • Retired service members
  • Family of service members
  • Department of Defense civilians
  • Nonappropriated Fund personnel

Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation or just plain fun, contact your Information, Tickets and Travel office for deals that will turn your bucket list into next weekend’s to-do list.

Book online now through American Forces Travel

In addition to the Information, Tickets and Travel office on your installation, there is a virtual offering for military members to access discounts.

American Forces Travel expands ITT services through an ecommerce website, making them available 24/7. Service members and their families can book their leisure travel and vacations completely online, and at a discount, through the service provider, Priceline Group Inc. Military discounts on concerts, theater, sporting events and more are also available.

Through AFT, you can:

  • Plan your trip, whether you are traveling domestically or overseas.
  • Stay at hotels all over the world and book cruises and vacation packages, with deep discounts.
  • Secure tickets to major events, even if they are sold out, through the AFT Secondary Ticket Marketplace, with no extra fees tacked on.

By booking your next trip or event through AFT, you’ll save money and Morale, Welfare and Recreation will receive a commission. You’ll be funding the programs you enjoy on your installation by taking a vacation or enjoying a concert!

Note the changes due to COVID-19

Due to COVID-19 circumstances, travel product inventory has been reduced. Please refer to the following for the most current information on AFT products:

Joining the Military as a Reservist: Eligibility, Obligation and Benefits

Two service members speak with a woman

Joining the Reserve Component of the military is a great way to serve your country. You will also earn valuable benefits without giving up your civilian employment or schooling.

New to the Military

Military OneSource has the information, tools and resources you’ll need to transition smoothly and quickly to military life.

Many people transfer to the reserves from the Active Component. But you can join the National Guard or military reserves without prior military experience. There are small differences among the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and the Coast Guard Reserve. But most have the same requirements, obligations and federal benefits. National Guard members who perform state active duty are eligible for state benefits.

Am I eligible to join the National Guard or military reserves?

You must meet these minimum requirements to join the National Guard or military reserves:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
  • Be between the ages of 17 and 42 (general requirement range; age varies by branch).
  • Pass an armed forces physical exam.
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
  • Meet the minimum ASVAB eligibility standard. You must receive a sufficient score on the ASVAB composite called the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

Each branch or specific job may have other requirements in addition to those listed above.

How do I join the National Guard or military reserves?

The first step is to contact a recruiter. Your recruiter will explain the process and available opportunities. Speaking with recruiters from different branches can help you get an idea of which branch you would like to join. You can also find out more information at the recruiting websites for each branch:

The process could go quickly or slowly, depending on different factors. Sometimes you can get through the requirements very quickly. It can also take weeks or months from when you first contact a recruiter to when you leave for your military training.

What’s my obligation if I join the National Guard or military reserves?

Joining the military reserves or National Guard is a significant time commitment. This is true especially at the beginning. You will get settled in your permanent unit. Then, you can expect to attend unit assembly, known as “drill,” one weekend per month. You will also participate in a two-week annual training each year.

  • Initial training: As a new military member, you will attend your branch’s basic military training. That may last from eight to 12 weeks. Depending on your job, you may also attend an advanced training course.
  • Monthly drill: You’ll need to drill for 48 periods or units per year. Most units drill one weekend per month. A typical weekend drill has four periods. Some military units have additional drilling requirements, which may include the weekday.
  • Annual training: You’ll also need to participate in annual training for two weeks per year.
  • Activations: You may be activated to full-time service in a voluntary or involuntary status. This can be with your unit or individually. These activations may vary in length and location. They may include 30 days in a unit near your hometown. Or up to a year supporting a mission outside of the United States. Generally, you cannot opt out of involuntary action. This is because the military has ordered you to active service.
  • Length of commitment: Your total contract may range from three to eight years. This depends on the branch of service and your specific occupation/job.

What kind of benefits will I earn?

For your commitment to the National Guard or military reserves, you’ll receive many benefits including:

  • Part-time pay: Reserve Component pay is based on rank and service time. Bonuses are sometimes available for high-demand and low-density skills. Your pay will be based upon the Active Duty Pay Table during full-time and annual training, and active duty. You will receive prorated payment while on partial month duty. This will be calculated using the daily rate. Learn more about Basic Pay, the fundamental component of military pay.
  • Skills training: You’ll be trained for your Reserve Component job. The selection of jobs available will depend on the needs of the military and your ASVAB scores.
  • Health care coverage: TRICARE Reserve Select is subsidized, fee-based health care coverage. It is for reservists and their families when the military member is not on active-duty orders. Reservists on active duty for more than 30 days receive comprehensive medical and dental care at no cost. While their service member is activated for more than 30 days, family members receive health care coverage.
  • Education: Selected Reserve or National Guard members who have signed up for at least six years, can access up to three years of educational assistance. This benefit is available through the Montgomery GI Bill® for Selected Reserve. Additional funding may be available for certain high-demand fields. Reservists may also earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which may be transferred to eligible dependents when certain eligibility criteria are met.
  • Commissary and exchange privileges: Reserve Component members and their eligible dependents have full-time access to on-base shopping. This includes the discounted food and department stores.
  • Retirement: Service in the Reserve Component earns points toward a reserve retirement.

Joining the National Guard or military reserves can be a great way to serve your country without leaving your full-time job. Once you decide to join, you can learn more about your new community. See Military OneSource’s New to the Military resources. Military OneSource can answer your questions about military life. Call 800-342-9647 or connect via Live Chat 24/7/365. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

An Overview of Special Education

Teacher works with student

Special education is designed to meet unique needs of children with special needs, ages 3 through 21. Military OneSource offers tools and resources to help you navigate the system. Start here to learn about the special education process, including eligibility, relevant laws and regulations, moving (including overseas) and graduating or leaving school.

Introducing EFMP & Me

Explore services and supports for your military family with special needs using this personalized tool as your guide. You can be your best advocate!

About the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with special needs have access to a “free appropriate public education” and they have the necessary tools to meet their educational goals. The act governs how states and public agencies, including the Department of Defense, provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities, ages birth through 21.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act assists with early intervention services for eligible children, birth to age 3, and special education services for eligible children, ages 3 to 21, in three specific areas:

  • Identification
  • Evaluation
  • Delivery

Children qualify for special education based on guidelines set by the state and Department of Defense.

Relevant regulations

The U.S. Department of Education uses specific regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in public schools in the United States and its territories. States then create guidance to supplement these regulations. You can find state regulations on state education agency websites.

The Department of Defense school system operates under Department of Defense policy as outlined in Department of Defense Instruction 1342.12, “Implementation of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents,” June 17, 2015.

It includes these guiding principles:

  • Free appropriate public education. This principle makes sure every child, regardless of disability, has the right to attend a public school and receive an education tailored to achieve his or her highest potential.
  • Appropriate evaluation. The testing process is regulated so children receive the best individualized education placement and services.
  • The individualized education program, or IEP. This written document is created for every child in the public school system who’s eligible for special education. It’s drafted by an interdisciplinary team and reviewed every year.
  • Least restrictive environment. This principle requires that students with disabilities share the same setting, as much as possible while still meeting their needs, with students who do not have disabilities.
  • Parent and teacher participation. This principle establishes the importance of parents and teachers working together to achieve their children’s educational goals.
  • Procedural safeguards. These are in place to protect the rights of families with special needs.

Moving with an IEP

The act also protects your child’s educational progress when you move to a new school district. School districts must provide comparable services that honor the previous school’s IEP. Keep in mind, the new school district may not necessarily recreate the same program.

When a student with an IEP transfers, the new school must:

  • Provide free and appropriate public education
  • Include services comparable to those in your child’s current IEP

Resources vary according to location. In some cases, they may be better than those available at your last duty station. Reach out to the school’s counselors and teachers who will develop a new IEP for your child after your move.

Bring current copies of your child’s IEP and eligibility records before transferring to start similar services immediately in your new location.

See Moving With an IEP for more information.

Moving overseas

The Department of Defense Education Activity special education website lists special education relocation suggestions and contacts for families moving overseas. Parents should contact the responsible special education coordinator if a child receiving special education also requires:

  • Special equipment
  • Assistive technology
  • Individualized paraprofessional support

If you need help with a PCS, be sure to reach out to your local installation’s EFMP Military Family Support Center.

Graduating or leaving school

Young adults with disabilities can find a number of continuing education and work opportunities within their communities. You can help find these opportunities by calling your local state vocational rehabilitation program. Learn how to advocate for your child within the school system by contacting your Center for Parent Information and Resources.

No matter what stage of life, individuals with special needs deserve a quality education just like everyone else. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is in place to open classroom doors to every child and help all students to be their best academically. The Exceptional Family Member Program provides family support, education and much more.

Contact a Military OneSource special needs consultant if you have any questions or concerns regarding the care and education of your family member with special needs.

See the Special Education Fact Sheet for more information.

Medicaid for Family Members With Special Needs

Eye doctor examining young boy's eyes

Medicaid is a federal program that provides eligible military families with benefits beyond TRICARE. It covers basic health and long-term care services for eligible children, adults, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities and the elderly, and for families with low income and limited resources. This benefit may be available for military family members who have special needs and require medical care. Medicaid coverage and income restrictions vary from state to state.


States can offer a variety of medical and non-medical services under a waiver program. Standard services include but are not limited to: case management (i.e. supports and service coordination); homemaker; home health aide; personal care; adult day health services; habilitation (both day and residential) and respite care. States can also propose other types of services that may assist in diverting and/or transitioning individuals from institutional settings into their homes and community. See Medicaid Waivers for Families With Special Needs Fact Sheet for more information.

Medicaid benefits for individuals with disabilities

Medicaid-eligible individuals with disabilities are entitled to all medically-necessary services. Individual states establish and administer their own Medicaid programs and determine the type, amount, duration and scope of services, within broad federal guidelines. Each state is required to cover certain mandatory benefits and can choose to provide other optional benefits through the Medicaid program. Mandatory benefits include:

  • Hospital, home health, clinic and laboratory services. Benefits include coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospital, home health, physician, certified pediatric and family nurse practitioner, rural health clinic, federally qualified health center, and laboratory and X-ray services.
  • Early and periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment services. This benefit provides comprehensive and preventive health care services for Medicaid-enrolled children under age 21. These services are key to ensuring children and adolescents receive appropriate preventive, dental, mental health, developmental and specialty care.
  • Nursing facility services. Nursing facility services, through Medicaid-certified nursing homes, provide three types of services: skilled nursing or medical care and related services; rehabilitation needed due to injury, disability or illness; and long-term care.
  • Transportation. Mandatory benefits include transportation for medical care.
  • Optional benefits. Depending on state guidelines, benefits could include coverage for: prescription drugs; physical and occupational therapy; speech, hearing and language disorder services; respiratory care services; other diagnostic, screening, preventive and rehabilitative services; and services in an intermediate care facility for the mentally impaired.

How to apply for Medicaid as a Supplemental Security Income recipient

Supplemental Security Income recipients should apply at the local Social Security office. To find the nearest office, enter your ZIP code using the Social Security Office Locator. When applying for Medicaid, you may need to bring the following:

  • Proof of income, such as check stubs
  • Proof of assets, such as bank statements, value of car, etc.
  • Social Security card
  • Two forms of identification, which can include your military ID or other photo ID, and your driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.
  • Proof of residence such as a utility bill, telephone bill or a rent receipt

Contact your Social Security office to determine which documents you’ll need to apply.

Where you can find more information

CAC and Military IDs for Dependents, Retirees and Others

Service member receiving an ID card

Obtaining and Renewing Military ID and Common Access Cards During COVID-19

Learn about the temporary updates (in place through Sept. 30, 2020) that change issuance and renewal processes.

The military issues standard identification cards to active duty, reserve and National Guard members, retired service members, civilian employees, some contractors, family members of eligible sponsors and other eligible individuals. In addition to providing verification of identity and affiliation to the Department, military ID cards also verify eligibility for access to those benefits identified on the card. Each card will display only those benefits to which the individual cardholder is entitled, which may include military health care, commissary and exchange access, or morale, welfare and recreation access.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Common Access Card and other military IDs.

Who is eligible for a CAC or military ID?add

Where do I get a military ID card?add

What forms and documents are needed for a family member to get their first ID card?add

How frequently do military IDs need to be renewed?add

What if I don’t live near a military base? add

What if my CAC card is lost or stolen?add

What if my Uniformed Services ID Card is lost or stolen?add

Can I keep my ID if I lose my eligibility (e.g., divorce) or if the card expires?add

When are divorced spouses eligible for a military ID?add

When are dependents eligible for a military ID?add

When do you get an ID card for a dependent under the age of 10?add

How do I get an ID card for a former dependent now using TRICARE Young Adult?add

Are survivors eligible for a military ID?add

When are veterans eligible for a military ID?add

Can caregivers get ID cards?add

If you have any other military ID card questions, or any other questions about military life, let Military OneSource help you find the answers.

Find help with ID cards – and anything military.

Military OneSource consultants stand ready to connect you to your best MilLife with the free resources you need – from Department of Defense ID cards to deployment and more.

VA Benefits for Disabled Veterans and Service Members

Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits and services to meet the needs of veterans and service members. While many VA programs are designed to serve veterans, particularly disabled veterans, VA services are not limited to those who have left the military.

If you are an active-duty disabled service member and need help covering the cost of school, securing a home loan or acquiring life insurance, or require medical care for your disability, the VA can help you and your family.

Medical care

More than 1,400 medical centers and clinics form the core of the VA’s services. In addition, the VA works with TRICARE to provide services for active-duty service members who are disabled:

  • Eligibility. Determine your eligibility for benefits by visiting VA Health Benefits.
  • Medical services. For a complete listing of VA health services, go to VA Health Care.
  • Medical care for active duty service members. Contact TRICARE for service-connected injuries or illnesses. Your service branch primary provider can refer you to the VA for treatment of combat injuries.

Post-traumatic stress disorder care and resources

The VA is expanding access to treatment for PTSD by increasing the number of mental health providers at VA medical centers. To learn more about the programs, support groups and research for helping those with PTSD, visit the Veterans post-traumatic stress disorder page of the VA website.

Disability compensation

The VA’s tax-free disability compensation pays veterans who have service-related disabilities. The amount is based on the severity of the disability, with additional payments available if the veteran has a spouse or other dependents:

Transition and employment services

The VA offers briefings on its benefits and services through the Transition Assistance Program. This outreach effort is intensified for service members leaving active duty due to a medical problem. The VA’s goal is to make sure all transitioning service members fully understand the benefits and services available to them:

  • Returning Service Member Program — If you have returned from Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn, visit VA’s Returning Service Member Program Web page.
  • Disabled Transition Assistance Program — To find out about the services available to you if you have a medical disability, visit Disability.gov.
  • Rehabilitation and employment services — To be eligible, you must have a service-connected disability and require vocational rehabilitation. The program is also available to active-duty service members awaiting discharge because of a disability. For more information, go to the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Web page.

Home and car adaptation

Veterans and service members with specific service-connected disabilities may be eligible for grants to help them adapt homes or cars to meet their disability requirements.

The VA offers housing grants to veterans who receive compensation for certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities:

  • Specially Adapted Housing Grant — used to build a specially adapted home or remodel an existing home for adaptation
  • Special Housing Adaptation Grant — used to adapt an existing home owned by the veteran or adapt a home intended for purchase, or help a veteran buy a home already adapted

Veterans and service members may also be eligible for home improvement and structural alteration grants. To determine what this grant will pay for, visit the Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services page of the VA website.

For veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities, the VA offers a one-time payment of up to $11,000 toward the purchase of an automobile. The VA may also pay for adaptive equipment, repair, replacement or reinstallation of equipment.

Life insurance

The VA’s life insurance program offers Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance to veterans with service-connected disabilities. Supplemental coverage is available at an additional cost. Service members remain covered by VA Servicemembers Group Life Insurance until they leave the military. For more information, visit the Life Insurance page of the VA website.

Other benefits

Many VA benefits and services extend to service members and veterans regardless of disability status, including the following education and home loan guaranty benefits:

  • Education Montgomery GI Bill®, Post-9/11 GI Bill® and the GI Bill® cover the cost of education and certificate programs.
  • Training programs — Many types of training are available through the GI Bill®, including undergraduate or graduate degree programs at colleges or universities.
  • Transfer of benefits to family members — Under certain circumstances, you may be able to transfer your benefits to an eligible spouse or child.
  • Home loan guaranties — The home loan guaranties help service members get competitive rates on home loans with little or no down payment. Find out more by visiting the Home Loans page of the VA website.

Benefits Eligibility Checklists

American Flag

The Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool This tool, provided by the Social Security Administration, is used to determine whether an individual could be eligible for benefits from any of the programs Social Security administers. This tool provides eligibility information based on answers given to the questions on the site.

Benefits.gov This website provides citizens with easy online access to government benefit and assistance programs. The site’s core function is the eligibility prescreening questionnaire or “Benefit Finder.” Answers to the questionnaire are used to evaluate a visitor’s situation and compare it with the eligibility criteria for more than 1,000 federally funded benefit and assistance programs. Each program description provides citizens with the next steps to apply for any benefit program of interest.