Securing the Homefront: Deployment-Related Legal Paperwork

Marines preparing helicopter for deployment

Life in the military is about being ready for deployment. You may be duty-ready, but don’t overlook preparations on the homefront. Make sure to create or update essential legal documents before deployment. Do it for your family’s sake.

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Plan My Deployment is a planning tool that helps service members and families manage and build resilience through every phase of deployment.

Must-have documents

Getting your legal affairs in order beforehand will reduce some of the worry when you deploy — and gives you more control when away. For peace of mind, take the following steps:

Prepare or update your will. A will lets you decide what happens to your property, belongings and even your children’s guardianship if necessary, in the event of your death. Otherwise, the courts may decide for you. If you already have a will, consider updating it based on your current needs.

Decide whether you need to appoint a general or special power of attorney. This document lets you name a trusted person who can act on your behalf regarding a number of personal matters including legal, financial, and family matters or just a specific matter while you’re deployed.

Decide whether you need a living will or a durable medical power of attorney. With a living will, you can declare ahead of time which medical treatment you want or don’t want, if you suffer a serious injury or illness and can’t speak for yourself. A durable medical power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make decisions regarding your medical care in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions yourself. These may seem like difficult things to do, but you want to make sure your wishes are known and honored and that someone can legally speak on your behalf. Tip: Discuss your wishes with this person beforehand.

Create a family care plan. This serves as a blueprint for how you want your family cared for while you’re away. A plan is required for service members who are:

  • Single parents
  • Dual-member couples with dependents
  • Married with custody or joint custody of a child whose non-custodial biological or adoptive parent is not the current spouse of the service member, or who otherwise bear sole responsibility for the care of children under the age of 19 or for others unable to care for themselves in the absence of the service member
  • Primarily responsible for dependent family members

You select a family caregiver for your loved one(s). Tip: It’s best if you and your caregiver work on this document together. Learn more about how to create a family care plan for caregivers.

Need legal help with documents? Active-duty and retired service members are eligible for free legal assistance from judge advocate general legal offices. Find your installation’s legal services/JAG office on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or through your base website. You can also use the online Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator.

More ways to secure the homefront before deployment

Be sure to review or update personal and beneficiary information for the following:

  • Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93). This is the military’s official and legal document that designates the beneficiaries of certain benefits in the event of your death.
  • Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Forms. To download forms, visit the Veterans Affairs Life Insurance webpage.
  • Bank accounts – make sure to ask about transfer on death provisions.
  • Thrift Savings Plan, Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) and other retirement savings vehicles.
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other assets.

If you do not designate beneficiaries for your assets or guardianship for minor children (if you have children), then the court (based on state law) makes these very important decisions for you. Making preparations in advance allows you to remain in control of your affairs and provide for your loved ones.

Additional benefits and resources

Need help translating or creating legal documents? Military OneSource can help. Consultants are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions and connect you with deployment resources and assistance. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat. You can also contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for more information about deployment support services.

Documents for a Deployed Service Member’s Designated Family Caregiver

Military dad holds smiling daughter

You want your family to receive the best care possible while you are deployed. And a family care plan provides the information and documents necessary for a designated caregiver to help your family until you return home.

Family care plans

The family care plan is a blueprint that describes how your family should be cared for while you’re away. Although family care plans aren’t required for all service members, they are required if you’re a single parent, a dual-military family with children younger than 19, or if you have sole responsibility for caring for a disabled or elderly family member. You and your designated caregiver should work together on this document to be sure it includes all necessary information, including:

  • Child care guidance – Expectations and schedules for child care, school and extracurricular activities
  • Medical care information – Medications, allergies and doctor’s appointments
  • Parenting responsibilities and challenges – Should include information on food preferences and restrictions, bedtime, discipline, religious observances and activities, social and leisure-time activities, safety precautions and allowances and spending
  • Contact information – For friends and relatives, health care and other service providers, community resources and your unit
  • Important documents – Location of documents such as wills, insurance papers and birth certificates
  • Finances – Information on how the financial support of family members should be managed
  • Alternative caregiver – Name and contact information of an alternate caregiver

Other important documents

Also keep these documents current and available to your designated caregiver:

  • Power of attorney: This authorizes your caregiver to make parenting decisions on your behalf for a specified period of time, including decisions related to medical care. A POA is required as part of your family care plan.
  • Military ID cards: Make sure each family member age 10 and older is registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and has a current ID card. Caregivers do not get their own ID cards while caring for your family.
  • Agent letter of authorization: Caregivers can access on-installation facilities to support your family members in their care, but they must have a letter of authorization signed by the commanding officer of the installation. You can request this letter through the ID card office at your installation.

For more information about documents your designated family caregiver needs, talk with a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for overseas calling options. The legal assistance offices on your installation can also help with any legal documents to support your family care plan.

Returning Home from Deployment – The Essentials

Deployment Reunion

You’re headed home after a deployment. It’s been a long time coming, and you deserve to celebrate. But it’s important to know what other adjustments you might face post-deployment, like how your children will respond to you after a long absence and how you will fit into the household routines.

Your transition will be easier if you consider the following:

Be patient with yourself.

You may feel out of sync or disconnected with your loved ones or friends after returning home. Fatigue, confusion and a change in pace can lead to a short temper. If you have children, be prepared for them to have emotional outbursts or even be rude. Remember everyone is adjusting – be patient, keep the lines of communication open and allow yourself to feel anything.

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Prepare to go back to work.

Returning service members can expect some challenges reintegrating. While active-duty service members return to a military community where others have “been there, done that,” members of the National Guard and reserves go back to the civilian work force. Civilians generally don’t understand deployment. But there are things you can do to reintegrate.

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Prepare your children for your return.

The mixed emotions that often come with a deployed parent’s return can be especially confusing for children. On one hand, they’re excited to have mom or dad home, but they may also feel nervous about the adjustment. Try following these guidelines for a smoother transition.

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Lean on your network of support.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support as you transition back to the home front. If you, your spouse or other family members are feeling signs of physical or emotional stress, it’s important to seek help – the earlier the better. These resources, including The Military Family Support Center and Military OneSource non-medical confidential counseling, can help you make a smoother re-entry.

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Sometimes returning home from deployment can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you have people to talk to. Our non-medical counseling staff is always a phone call away during your military journey. Call us at 800-342-9647 or send a chat request and we’ll help you with reintegration. OCONUS/Overseas? Click here for calling options.


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Deployment Survival – Murphy’s Law has a deployment-related brother, and he’s even tougher than his everyday counterpart. In our Deployment Survival webinar, you’ll learn how to prepare for deployment, ways to manage separation and planning strategies that will help you cope when the water pipes burst at 3 a.m.

Issues Families Face When the Military Deploys – This webinar will enable participants to recognize symptoms of deployment stress and develop personal strategies to cope.

Maintaining a Healthy Marriage During Deployment – This webinar will discuss challenges a marriage may face during deployment or remote assignment. Additionally, the webinar will discuss ways to strengthen and protect a marriage while promoting personal growth during deployment or remote assignment.

Pre-Deployment and the Single Service Member – Think your pre-deployment checklist is simple because you’re a single service member? Think again. This webinar will cover all the items that should be addressed -even if you’re unattached – prior to your deployment date. Let us guide you through the must-dos so you can keep your mind on the mission.

When a Sibling Deploys – This webinar will discuss the complex emotions surrounding the deployment of a sibling – particularly when the non-deploying sibling is a young child – and the resources available to assist and support the non-deploying sibling.