Understanding the Probate Process, Survivor Benefits and Resources for Financial Planning

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Current as of May 15, 2020

While no actions can erase the pain you feel after losing a family member or loved one, getting your financial and legal affairs in order can be a small step in the right direction and can provide some peace of mind during this difficult time.

Here are a few essentials to consider as you address financial and legal affairs in the days following the death of a loved one.

Understanding the probate process

When your loved one dies, the probate process will begin in the county of their legal residence at the time of death. If your loved one had a will, the person they named as the executor will take charge of finalizing his or her affairs. If there isn’t a will, the court will appoint an administrator. With or without a will, the probate process can be divided into four steps. Here’s what you can expect to happen.

Step 1: the probate hearing

  • The judge formally appoints the executor or administrator to be the personal representative throughout the probate process.
  • The validity of the will is established and the court issues an order “admitting the will to probate,” which causes the will to become public record.
  • The personal representative is given a document, called the “letters of administration” or “letters testamentary,” that grants him or her the full authority to deal with the decedent’s probate property and accounts.

Step 2: collection and inventory of assets

The designated personal representative takes an inventory of the estate assets and files this inventory with the court. These assets may include money owed to the decedent or the estate, bank and stock brokerage accounts, and evaluations of real estate or property.

  • Money owed to the decedent or the estate includes loans, a final paycheck, life insurance payouts or retirement account(s).
  • Bank and stock brokerage accounts includes account numbers and latest balances.
  • Evaluations of real estate or property will probably require a professional appraisal.

Step 3: bills, taxes, expenses and creditors

  • Any final bills, debts, taxes or claims against the deceased are reviewed for their validity and then paid with funds from the estate. You are not personally responsible for paying these expenses out-of-pocket, even if estate funds are not available.
  • Once all debts and bills are paid, the personal representative files a report with the court to account for all income received and payments made on behalf of the estate.

Step 4: formal transfer of remaining estate property

  • The remainder of the property is distributed as the will directs or according to state law if there isn’t a will.
  • Depending on the state, there may be a state-required waiting period before property can be officially sold or transferred, which is usually six months.
  • Once all remaining estate property is transferred to heirs and beneficiaries, the personal representative completes a final settlement of the estate that details all dealings.
  • The judge then approves the final settlement and the personal representative’s duties are complete.

If you need more information on the probate process, contact your local legal assistance attorney. You can find legal assistance offices through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website.

Make sure your wishes are properly carried out should the unthinkable happen by creating a last will and testament. Plan ahead with everything you need to know about estate planning.

Understanding benefits

The Department of Defense and other agencies are committed to doing everything possible to assist you as you deal with the financial details and decisions that surround the death of an active-duty service member. Every service member’s family may be eligible for certain benefits, such as:

Death gratuity: Death gratuity is a lump-sum payment made by the Department of Defense to the survivors or other individuals identified by the service member prior to his or her death while on active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty for training or within the 120 days of release from active duty if the death is due to a service-related disability. The amount of death gratuity is $100,000 and is tax exempt.

Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance, or SGLI: Upon the death of the service member, SGLI payment is made by the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.

Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP: Surviving spouses or children of service members who die in the line of active duty may be entitled to SBP payments. The automatic monthly SBP death benefit is provided at no cost, as service members do not pay into this benefit when on active duty.

Student eligibility for 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

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.

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.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC: This compensation will probably be the most important part of an eligible survivor’s long-range financial planning. It is paid to eligible survivors of active-duty service members and survivors of those veterans who deaths are determined by the VA to be service-related.

Assistance from the Social Security Administration: Monthly Social Security payments are paid to a spouse or a divorced spouse with children of the deceased service member under the age of 16, or disabled before the age of 18. The amount paid will be determined by the Social Security Administration.

Using your online survivor benefits report to set financial goals

The online survivor benefits report (PDF), allows you to view current and estimated future benefits, and set up savings and spending plans so you can forecast your financial future. Some useful features include:

  • The “what ifs”: See how different scenarios, such as changes to marital, education and disability status, will impact your current and future benefits. For example, if a spouse remarries before age 55, the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity is suspended, but can be reinstated if the remarriage ends by death or divorce. If the surviving spouse remarries at age 55 or older, the annuity continues uninterrupted for the duration of the spouse’s life. Current and “what if” reports can be saved or printed.
  • Homeownership possibilities: Look at your current finances and your financial future and decide if, or when, you should buy a home. Surviving spouses who have not remarried may be eligible for a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan guaranty, which they can use to buy a home, build a home or refinance an existing loan. Additional information about the VA home loan program is available on the VA website.
  • Education benefits: Whether you’re thinking about your own education or your child’s, the interactive report can help you financially plan for obtaining higher education, certification, technical or vocational school, apprenticeships or other educational programs. As a surviving spouse, you may access education benefits from the VA up to 20 years after the death of your service member. Surviving military children can typically use their benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Retirement options: Your report will show you how much money you should be receiving now and project your future benefits. That can help you decide how much money to set aside now for your retirement years.

Start preparing for your future by accessing your online survivor benefits report, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To log in and view personal reports, select your loved one’s branch of service below and follow instructions on the site:

If you don’t already have a Premium DS Logon account you can create one on the DMDC’s website. Meanwhile, Military OneSource also offers financial counseling and can help you with financial- or benefits-related questions. Call 800-342-9647. OCONUS/Overseas? Click here for calling options.

Contact the family assistance support team at 877-827-2471, or by email at osbr@afsc.com, about any questions concerning your report. Recipients of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance are entitled to a lifetime of free financial advice from FinancialPoint, an independent company whose team of professionals are experts in handling a wide range of financial matters on behalf of the VA.

Long-term survivor care programs

The services’ long-term survivor care programs also provide free services with financial counselors, as well as Military OneSource:

PCS Moves in a COVID-19 Environment

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Current as of June 15, 2020


Protect your health while moving

Learn about five measures you can take while moving during the current pandemic.

The Department of Defense relocates more than 400,000 personal-property shipments for service members, DOD civilians and their families each year across the globe. The department is committed to making these permanent change-of-station moves safe — especially during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. Protecting people takes top priority.

As the COVID-19 world situation slowly improves, the DOD is basing personnel movement and travel decisions on conditions in specific areas. That means military moves are beginning to pick up again. Whether you are PCSing inside or outside of the continental United States, the DOD has new safety measures in place to empower you and your family and make your move safe.

Below, you’ll find answers to questions about safe PCSing. Understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly changing, so continue to check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page for updates.

How will I get details about my move?add

What protections are in place for moves?add

When did the department put these measures in place?add

What if my movers aren’t following safety rules?add

What is an example of “swift corrective action”?add

How do the new measures empower me and my family? add

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Use the Military Installations website to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website or follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms. For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

Support for Families – The Essentials

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From special child care services and ongoing medical issues to complex housing situations and strained finances, it can be challenging to find the right resources to support a family member’s needs. The good news is, you’re not alone.

There are lots of support services available, including:

Experts to help you plan for your family’s financial future

When you have a family member with special needs, financial planning is vital. Military OneSource experts can help you manage issues like disability tax credits, Supplemental Security Income, estate planning and much more.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Child care services

Some children may require more than routine care, such as children with or at-risk of disabilities, chronic illnesses or physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions. Military child care programs work with parents and guardians to make reasonable accommodations by considering the needs of the child, the child care environment, staffing and training requirements, and the resources available to the program. Check out the Department of Defense MilitaryChildCare.com website, which provides a single gateway for locating military-operated or military-approved child care programs worldwide.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

The Fair Housing Act

If you or someone in your family is disabled, your home may need specific modifications to make it accessible for daily living. You are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which requires property owners to make, or allow residents to make, a home accessible for those with specific or special needs. This includes military installation housing.

Relevant Articles:

The Americans with Disabilities Act

People protected under the ADA are living with a physical or mental impairment that greatly limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, speaking, lifting, hearing, seeing, reading, sleeping, eating, concentrating or working. The ADA covers injured service members with a military disability, such as traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, loss of a limb, vision or hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

EFMP Family Support

Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support teaches military families with special needs the skills they need to make good decisions for the person they’re supporting and provides resources to help families gain confidence and strength to improve their quality of life.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Understanding Accessible Housing: The Fair Housing Act

Man in wheelchair emptying dishwasher

An accessible home is one that allows its occupant to do what he or she wants and needs to do, as independently as possible. If you or someone in your family is disabled, your home may need specific modifications to make it accessible for daily living. You are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which stipulates property owners to make, or allow residents to make, a home accessible for those with specific or special needs. This includes military installation housing.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to:

  • Make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. A property owner, however, is not required to make changes that would create an undue financial or administrative burden.
  • Allow people with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. Property owners must allow residents to make changes to their units if those changes are necessary for the tenant to use the unit fully.

The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal — based on your or family member’s disability — to:

  • Refuse to rent a dwelling or to accept a legitimate offer
  • Evict someone
  • Use different applications or criteria
  • Segregate people to specific units or areas
  • Ask if anyone has a disability
  • Refuse to make or allow reasonable modifications or accommodations

The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing options. In fact, many states have fair housing laws that provide even greater protections. For your specific state law, contact your public housing agency. Read the article “Fair Housing – It’s Your Right” to learn more about the Fair Housing Act.

The Architectural Barriers Act

Did you know that the Architectural Barriers Act requires access to all buildings designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds? According to the United States Access Board, at least 5 percent of each military installation’s housing is required to be either accessible or readily and easily modifiable for accessibility.

Privatized housing for military members with a family member with special needs

In privatized housing on military installations, property managers are required to make reasonable alterations and accommodations that abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act at no cost to the tenant.

What families with special needs should do prior to relocation

The availability of affordable on- and off-installation housing varies from one location to another. Military families with special housing requirements should contact the housing office or the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at their new duty location as early as possible. You can find contact information for both of these resources through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

How to handle accessible housing denials

If you’ve been wrongfully denied accessible housing, you should:

  • File an administrative complaint. You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development within one year. To bring action under state law, contact the responsible state agency.
  • File a private lawsuit. You can file a suit in federal court within two years. However, deadlines for state court actions vary.

If you are moving and your family member has specific accessibility needs, reach out to your new installation’s housing office for help in finding a home that has everything you need to make your life as easy and comfortable as possible.

Income Tax and Rental Properties When You’re in the Military

Exterior of the house

Many military families end up owning rental properties, which can bring special tax challenges. Here’s what you need to know to understand the potential tax impact of your rental property.

Your annual tax return

Each year that you own a rental property, you will complete an IRS Schedule E form to report your income and expenses. You’ll report all income received from the property that year, then reduce your income by the amount of your expenses, including mortgage interest, insurance, taxes, property management and other expenses. You will also depreciate the value of your investment using Form 4562.

The income, expenses and depreciation reported on Schedule E may increase or decrease your overall taxes each year. However, it is important to remember that the depreciation will impact your taxes when you sell.

MilTax: Designed for the MilLife

Military OneSource MilTax is a suite of free tax services developed specifically to address the realities of military life, from rental properties to combat pay.

Taxes when you sell your rental property

When you sell a rental property, you may have to pay two different kinds of taxes: capital gains taxes and recaptured depreciation taxes, technically called unrecaptured section 1250 gain.

Capital gains taxes are based on any profit made on the sale of your rental property, as determined by subtracting the purchase price and any improvements from the sales price. There are two rules that may help military families exclude capital gains from taxation.

The first rule applies to all taxpayers, not just the military. The capital gains exclusion permits taxpayers to exclude a certain amount of profit from their taxable income as long as they have lived in the house, as a primary residence, for 24 out of the previous 60 months. The amount that can be excluded is $250,000 for a single taxpayer and $500,000 for a married couple filing jointly. This means that as long as your profit is below these amounts, and you meet the residency requirement, you aren’t taxed on the profit.

The second rule is the military extension of the capital gains exclusion. The military extension allows active-duty military members who are away from their property due to PCS orders to extend the five-year period up to an additional ten years, for a total of 15 years. This means that eligible military members may exclude their capital gains as long as they occupied the primary residence for two of the previous 15 years.

There are special limitations for situations in which a homeowner moves back into a previous rental property.

Recaptured depreciation is a separate part of the calculation that takes into account the depreciation that you’ve taken over the years that the property has been a rental. It’s very important to note that you are subject to taxes on that depreciation whether you actually took the depreciation or not.

Military members who are selling a house should consult IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home. Another good resource for military-related tax questions is the Internal Revenue Service’s Publication 3, the Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.

Tax help when you need it most

Even when you understand the concepts, you may benefit from professional help with your income taxes. Military families can access free tax assistance from Military OneSource’s MilTax service or through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

MilTax is a suite of free tax services for the military, including easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software, personalized support from tax consultants and current information about filing taxes in the military. It’s designed to address the realities of military life – including deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals and multistate filings. MilTax is 100% free and there are no hidden surprises.

The VITA program offers in-person tax assistance at military locations worldwide. VITA volunteers are specially trained to address the tax questions of military personnel.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or via live chat to schedule a free appointment with a MilTax consultant or a financial counselor. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options.

The Military’s A+ Financial Benefits to Protect Your Future

F-16 falcons fly in a row over mountains

As a service member, you’ve earned financial benefits to help protect your future. Take advantage of military benefits to shore up your personal finances – for both the short term and long term.

Benefits that can help set you up financially

Basic pay is the fundamental component of military pay. All members receive basic pay, and typically, it is the largest component of a service member’s pay. A member’s grade (usually the same as rank) and years of service determines the amount of basic pay received.

Pay Raise for 2020

Military personnel are receiving a 3.1% increase in their basic pay in 2020. This raise is for both active-duty and reserve service members.

Allowances are the second-most-important element of military pay. Allowances are moneys provided for specific needs, such as food or housing. Monetary allowances are provided when the government does not provide for a specific need. For example, the quantity of government housing is not sufficient to house all military members and their families, so those who are not able to live in government housing receive allowances to assist them in obtaining commercial housing. Those who live in government housing do not receive full housing allowances.

Special and incentive pays provide the services with flexible additional pays that can be used to address specific manning needs and other force management issues that cannot be efficiently addressed through basic pay increases. Unlike basic pay and allowances, which vary by pay grade and years of service, S&I pays can be used to improve recruiting and retention by increasing compensation in key occupation specialties or critical skill areas. These pays are also used to compensate for onerous or hazardous duty assignments or conditions. In addition, S&I pays can be used to provide incentives for service members to develop certain skills that are important to national security objectives.

Savings Deposit Program. Service members deployed to a combat zone get guaranteed 10% interest on money put into a savings account, up to $10,000 for each deployment. That’s unheard of outside the military. Bonus: You keep earning 10% interest up to three months after you return.

Thrift Savings Plan. Sure, retirement seems a long way off. But your future self will thank your present self if you earmark a portion of each paycheck to retirement via the Thrift Savings Plan. It’s the easiest money you’ll likely make, thanks to compound interest. If you stash $100 in a retirement account (earning 2% interest) twice a month for the next 30 years, you’ll be looking at a balance of $102,500. You have several plans to choose from. Bonus: It’s one of the lowest cost retirement savings plans out there, charging just 40 cents per $1,000 of investment each year.

Free college. Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can get the full cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges covered for up to four academic years, or contributions for a private college education. You’ll also get a housing stipend and up to $1,000 a year for books and tutoring. Benefits cover the cost of education and training programs, including undergraduate and graduate studies, vocational schools and technical training. Learn the ins and outs of different GI Bill programs. Bonus: Benefits may be transferable to a spouse or children. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire.

Affordable housing. Service members get a tax-free housing allowance when government quarters are not provided. The size of the monthly subsidy is based on your rank, location and family size. It is intended to cover part of your rent or mortgage payment so you can live off base comparably to civilians.

Low-cost life insurance. Service members have access to some of the lowest-cost life insurance available anywhere. You can provide your family with financial security at just 6 cents per $1,000 of insurance. That means for up to $400,000 of life insurance, you pay only $24 a month, regardless of age or health. You also get traumatic injury coverage for just $1 per month.

Other ways to build wealth

Low-cost loans. As a service member, you can get a low-cost home loan via the Veterans Administration – without having to put down a down payment or pay pricy private mortgage insurance.

Different ways to save. When joining the Thrift Savings Plan, you can choose from two tax options: either make contributions to retirement on a pre-tax case and then pay taxes on the amounts at retirement, or contribute after-tax dollars, letting the amount grow over time and never paying taxes on that savings. Bonus: if you receive tax-free combat pay, you don’t have to pay any tax on Roth TSP or Roth IRA contributions.

Tax deductions. You or your spouse are eligible for numerous tax deductions, some extended to all citizens in certain situations and others exclusive to service members and their families.

Contacting Military OneSource can put you on the path to making the most of your financial benefits. Our free resources, information and personalized specialty services can help you make the most of your benefits. Call 800-342-9647 or connect via Live Chat 24/7/365. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Beyond Military Pay: Your Service Member’s Robust Military Benefits Package

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As a member of your service member’s support network, you may have heard the good news that both active duty and reserve military personnel received a 3.1% military pay raise in 2020 – among the biggest in a decade. Beyond the salary bump, you’ll be glad to know that your loved one has several ways to be financially fit.

The military provides notable compensation benefits to your service member, ranging from paid vacation and retired pay plans that beats many private-sector employers to free or reduced cost housing, a host of special and incentive pays to free financial and tax consultations and more.

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Gain a better understanding of your service member’s military life with the Friends & Family Connection eNewsletter.

Military financial benefits

Allowances: In addition to base pay, service members may also receive housing and food pay. A basic allowance for housing helps your loved one offset the cost of housing. Whether they choose to live on base or out in town, BAH provides a reasonable amount each month to afford housing based on their rank and the area they live in.

Basic allowance for subsistence is a monthly allowance meant to assist service members in paying for meals. However, if your service member lives on base, they will not receive BAS but will have access to free meals on base.

Special and incentive pays: While base pay and allowances cover the fundamental components of military pay, special and incentive, or S&I, pays are used to compensate service members for hazardous or difficult duty assignments and to recruit and retain them. There are more than 60 special and incentive pays. Common S&I pays are:

  • Hardship Duty Pay: For service members at duty stations where the standard of living is significantly below the continental United States.
  • Assignment Incentive Pay: This incentive is paid to service members for unusual assignment circumstances like extended tours.
  • Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay: For service members who perform hazardous duties like air crewmembers.

Paid vacation: Service members receive 30 days of paid leave each year as well as all federal holidays. Whether it’s a short or long trip, your loved one can go on vacation and fully enjoy their time off while still receiving salary and any other allowances that are due to them. If a service member has accumulated over 60 days of paid leave, they must use the excess days or lose them by the end of the year.

Full military health and dental insurance: You can rest easy knowing that your service member is fully covered at no cost to them through TRICARE Prime. Active-duty service members will never pay out of pocket for any type of care within the network for this comprehensive medical insurance program. TRICARE also offers several plans that cover service members and their immediate family members at competitive rates.

Retired Pay: Service members who stay in the military for a full 20 year career will qualify for monthly retired pay, which provides a continuing source of income long after the member has ended their service. In addition to this “pension-like” benefit after a full career, new members and those who previously opted into the Blended Retirement System(BRS) can also earn government-provided contributions to a 401(k)-like savings account called the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). This option is available to all members covered by BRS, even for those who do not intend to serve a full 20 year career. TSP is another avenue for service members to save and secure their finances for retirement. Service members can choose between a traditional or Roth account. Even if a service member decides not to retire from the military, they can roll their TSP into another 401(k) after separating from the military, or leave those funds in the TSP to continue growing until they reach full retirement age.

Free or reduced-cost housing: For those service members who are required to live on base, they can enjoy living for free in the barracks or dorms. Service members who receive a housing allowance are offered affordable housing options on base or out in town through the housing office on base.

Affordable life insurance: Service members are automatically signed up for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance through their branch. It offers low-cost coverage to service members for up to $400,000 at only $29 per month.

Free financial help: The military provides free financial perks to service members like financial counseling and tax services through Military OneSource. Your service member can be coached through several money-related issues like budgeting and money management, and MilTax allows them to easily prepare and file their taxes every year.

Military discounts: Maybe one of the greatest financial perks and least considered is military discounts. Service members have access to many perks like tax-free shopping at exchanges on base as well as discounts at the movies, restaurants, amusement parks and much more. And for their traveling needs they never have to worry about paying for luggage when flying within the continental United States.

Signing and reenlistment bonuses: At times, the military offers enlistment and reenlistment bonuses to service members in certain career fields. These bonuses are usually offered to help recruit and retain for jobs that are hard to fill or that require high skill levels, and they can range in the thousands. Each branch determines how much to offer. Bonuses are not guaranteed and change constantly at the discretion of each branch. For accurate information on bonuses, it is best to contact a local recruiting office.

You can be confident knowing that your loved one is being fully compensated while serving their country. Check out more Friends & Extended Family articles to keep connected with your service member’s military life.

Housing for Your New Service Member: Living in the Barracks

Service members playing a game of pool

During basic training and initial job training, all enlisted service members are required to live in the barracks. When service members move to their permanent duty station, only single members are required to live in unaccompanied housing, or barracks. Living in the barracks is also dependent on your loved one’s rank as well as the availability of space on each base.

Every service branch differs on what rank is required to live in unaccompanied housing:

  • Army and Marine Corps require single service members with pay grades E-5 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Navy requires single service members with pay grades E-4 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Air Force requires single service members with pay grades E-4 and below and with less than three years of service to live in the barracks, or dorms as they like to call them.

The Relocation Assistance Program or housing office can help single service members not required to live on base sort through their options. If your service member has dependents, each installation has a housing office where service members can find out what housing options are available to them and their families.

As your service member climbs the ranks, their living situation will change over time. After living in the barracks, they will have the option to live in military housing on base, military communities off base or choose to make their own living arrangements off base.

A closer look inside barracks and dorms

While you may feel a little out of touch with their military life, your service member can share with you their experiences of living on an installation and in barracks for the first time. Here are some things you can expect for your service member while living in the barracks:

  • Sharing a bedroom: Depending on the base, your service member may have to share a bedroom. Typically, it is large enough to fit two twin size beds, two desks and two closets. There are cases when a bedroom may hold more than two people. Sometimes, a service member will have a single bedroom and share a common area with another member.
  • Sharing a bathroom: Whether your service member has a single room or shares with others, they will typically share a bathroom in the barracks. At times there may be an in-suite bathroom or a community bathroom that is shared by a floor of service members. In some cases, the Air Force dorms will have private bathrooms for airmen.
  • Visitors allowed: After your loved one finishes training and moves to their first permanent duty station, they are typically free to have visitors. You can explore the base with your service member and in most cases, you can visit their rooms. While visitors cannot stay the night in the barracks, there are accommodations on base, if you choose, for visiting family members and friends, and your service member can stay the night with you.
  • Mail room: Mail does not go directly to service members. All mail is received and controlled by personnel in the mail room. Some bases have mail rooms located in the barracks, and others have a mail room located in a separate building. Typically, service members can access letters any time, but packages are only available for pick up during business hours.
  • No extra allowances: When your service member lives on base, they will not receive housing or food allowance. Instead, members only receive base pay and use their ID cards to eat for free in the dining facility on base.
  • Weekly room checks: Service members have their rooms checked for cleanliness at least once a week. They are also checked for unauthorized items such as candles and certain chemicals that may be considered hazardous. Rooms are expected to meet a certain standard during each check.
  • Community events: In barracks living, there are many events for your service member to attend. Of course, there are holiday events as well as movie and game nights to get them out of their rooms.
  • Recreation and entertainment: Each installation offers service members a wide range of recreation, sporting and fitness, arts and crafts, entertainment offerings and more through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Some installations even offer auto and other classes.

While there are high expectations for cleanliness and some restrictions, barracks living can be similar to apartment or dorm living, allowing service members quiet space to decompress, hang out with others, play videogames, and more.

To learn more about your service members new installation and the housing accommodations, go to MilitaryINSTALLTIONS, search by an installation and click on that base’s housing information.

Authorized Housing Flexibility Options Increase for Service Members and their Families During PCS Moves

Family packs their belongings on a truck

Eligible service members and their families now have increased housing flexibility options when they receive PCS orders within the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, based on changes in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

Permanent Change of Station Resources

The military offers many resources for service members moving for PCS orders. Learn what help is available at current and future installations.

Read on to learn about the new flexible options and whether you are eligible.

Eligibility for housing flexibility options

Under this new legislation, service members who meet requirements are eligible for authorized housing flexibility options before and during a PCS move.

Service members who qualify include those with:

  • One or more dependents enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP;
  • A spouse who is currently employed or enrolled in a degree, certificate or license-granting program;
  • An immediate family member with a chronic or long-term illness who they are caring for; or
  • One or more children attending an elementary or secondary school.

New authorized housing flexibility options

Eligible service members may request flexible housing arrangements for their family starting 180 days before their PCS date, with the options ending 180 days after the PCS date:

  • Continuation of stay in government-owned or -leased family housing if they are living in such housing at the start of the covered PCS period, though approval of this request requires that remaining there would not impact the housing arrangements of other service members assigned to that duty station. Note that this option does not cover Public Private Venture housing, or PPV, otherwise known as privatized military housing.
  • Early housing options at a new duty station within the flexible housing period if housing is available, even if their service member has not yet arrived.
  • Occupancy of government-owned or -leased unaccompanied housing if a spouse or dependents relocate at a time that differs from the service member’s arrival to an assigned station. This housing flexibility will be offered on a “space-available” basis that does not displace unaccompanied service members with no dependents.
  • Equitable basic allowance for housing, or BAH, based on prescribed criteria.

The military service branch reserves the right to adjust the timing and general availability of these flexible moving options depending on mission needs.

Requesting authorized housing flexibility options

For additional information regarding these legislative changes, contact your installation’s military personnel office.

These authorized housing flexibility options were designed with the service members and their families in mind. The focus on minimizing certain stressors associated with PCS moves helps to increase force readiness toward the Department of Defense’s goal of increased lethality.

For general moving support, you can always take advantage of the Plan My Move tool, with customizable checklists and tips to make your next move a breeze.

For Veterans: All the Benefits of Home

Real estate company hosts open house on their model homes.

You saw your share of moving in the military. Now, as a veteran, maybe you’re thinking about settling down. Thanks to your service, you’ve earned good benefits on the home front. Check out these loan and assistance programs as you make a place for yourself in the civilian world.

Your final move in the military

Most service members transitioning out have one year to complete a final military move at government expense. Plan early and visit your installation’s relocation support offices as you organize your move. You can also find more information at Move.mil.

VA Home Loans: Helping you to become a homeowner

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers substantial help with home buying. You don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer to take advantage of VA Home Loans.

  • Purchase a home at a competitive interest rate with a Purchase Loan, often without requiring a down payment or mortgage insurance.
  • Cash-Out Refinance Loans are for homeowners who want to take cash out of their home equity to take care of things like paying off debt, funding school or making home improvements.
  • Obtain a lower interest rate with the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan.
  • Eligible Native American veterans may be able to participate in the Native American Direct Loan Program to finance the purchase, construction or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land.
  • Veterans with a permanent and total service-connected disability can get help purchasing or building an adapted home with an Adapted Housing Grant. The grant can also go toward modifying an existing home.

The VA also has good information, tools and assistance to help smooth your way to a new home. Make sure you read over the eligibility requirements to determine what benefits you can receive.

Premier Retirement Communities: Armed Forces Retirement Homes

If you’re over 60 and had 20 or more years of active service, you might want to check into Armed Forces Retirement Homes. AFRH currently has two communities — in Gulfport, Miss., and Washington, D.C. Contact them to see if you can apply.

Additional Resources for Housing Assistance

  • National Resource Directory: When you decide on a location for your new home, you can always check the VA’s National Resource Directory for more location-specific housing assistance.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country that can provide advice on anything from buying a home to foreclosures and credit issues.
  • Having difficulty? Late payments can happen. Don’t beat yourself up — instead, address it. Your community is here to help.
    • Military OneSource offers financial counseling for retirees and those service members discharged under honorable or general under honorable conditions for up to 365 days after their retirement date, End-of-Tour date or discharge date.
    • Visit the VA website for information on what to do when payments can’t be made or financial troubles arise.
    • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also provides resources on avoiding foreclosure.
    • If you or someone you know is at risk of homelessness, contact your local VA medical center; call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838); or visit va.gov/homeless. VA can connect you with resources to get you back on your feet.
    • You don’t have to go through life’s hardships alone. Your military community can help get you, your loved ones or friends you care about through the trying times.