This Memorial Day: Honor Heroes and Make Meaningful Connections With Your Service Member

American flag

Current as of May 1, 2020

Memorial Day weekend 2020 will likely look different this year. Parades, concerts and public ceremonies may be canceled because of the coronavirus 2019 disease pandemic.

If some of these traditional events won’t be happening in your community, you can turn to other ways to remember and honor those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Talk about who you will honor on Memorial Day

We remember all of our fallen heroes on Memorial Day, but your service member may be mourning a specific loss this year. Talk about family members and other loved ones who are on your mind. Ask if you can join your service member in honoring anyone special.

Let your service member know the ways you will observe Memorial Day. You may decide to take time to quietly reflect on those you’ve lost. Or you and your service member may find comfort in connecting with others.

Ways to honor someone important to you and your service member

Here are a few ideas to consider while you and your service member talk about ways to remember a fallen hero.

  • Post a tribute on social media. Online platforms are virtual gathering places where we celebrate life’s joys and mourn our losses. Create a tribute page for your fallen loved one. Share pictures, memories, favorite songs and other remembrances.
  • Reach out to others who share your loss. Connect through a phone call, text, send a card or write a letter.
  • Send flowers from you and your service member to the family of someone who lost their life in service to the country.
  • Make a donation to a nonprofit that was important to your fallen hero. Or ask about possible volunteer opportunities.

Marking Memorial Day 2020 in times of social distancing

Following the rituals of Memorial Day tells your service member that you are proud of our military and thankful to those who served. Here are ways to share this important day despite the miles that separate you.

  • Make and send poppies for your service member to wear on Memorial Day. Typically made from red crepe paper, poppies are worn to honor the sacrifices of American service members during war. Look for instructions online. You might even make enough for your service member to pass out to others to wear on Memorial Day.
  • Fly the American flag. If you have a flagpole you may want to follow the formal flag-raising ceremony. Raise the flag briskly on Memorial Day morning, then lower it to half-staff to honor the fallen. At noon, raise the flag to full staff for the remainder of the day. If you’re unable to be with your service member, consider sharing this moment on video chat.
  • Observe the National Moment of Silence. Stop what you are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, and observe one minute of silence. Use this time to reflect on those who lost their lives.

Important holidays bring us together, even when we are physically apart. For more information about Memorial Day, see Remember America’s Military Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend.

Service members and their families can stay up to date on all the latest military-related information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Rebuilding Community: Army Personnel Accountability System for Disasters

soldier stands next to truck

In today’s world of frequent natural or man-made disasters, it is essential to have a plan of action for reducing the impact of such events on Army personnel and their families. The Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, or ADPAAS, was developed to account for personnel and family members after catastrophes and assist the Army in a rapid return to recovery and stability.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Defense mandated that each of the services develop an automated accountability system. ADPAAS is designed to account for personnel, assess needs and assist the Army in making a rapid recovery. It is the only way the Army will accept status reports from soldiers, civilians, families and overseas defense contractors. Since 2008, ADPAAS has been used during numerous disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and events like the Boston Marathon bombings.

If directed to do so by the Secretary of Defense or their major commands, all soldiers, civilians, family members and overseas defense contractors must report their status and whereabouts following any natural or man-made disaster. Army preparedness using the ADPAAS system increases the resiliency of America’s fighting forces, supports soldiers who are forward-deployed and offers reassurance to deployed soldiers about the safety of their families.

ADPAAS Aids in Disaster Help and Recovery

If an emergency or disaster occurs, the Secretary of Defense or Headquarters, Department of the Army, may issue a directive to the services and 4th Estate Agencies for all personnel to report on their status to their respective agencies. Army personnel will be directed to report their status either to their unit, directly to the ADPAAS website or through the Army contact center.

ADPAAS is a valuable tool for Army leaders who must make quick decisions following an emergency. The ADPAAS data allows commanders to access personnel status, thereby facilitating the delivery of essential services to areas of critical need in the disaster-affected area. The system enables them to assess needs such as housing, medical, financial assistance, employment, pay and benefits, transportation, child care, counseling and general legal matters. ADPAAS ensures contact is maintained with Army personnel and family members to guarantee that the required assistance is provided, and affected personnel are returned to a state of normalcy.

Training Now Available

Regional, face-to-face training is now available to both new and existing ADPAAS command officer representatives, or CORs, within your command’s area of operations through the ADPAAS Mobile Training Team, or MTT. This reoccurring annual training event is a time to address all ADPAAS concerns and to discuss new ideas. Completion of the training will result in ADPAAS COR course certification and commander’s appointment to assume ADPAAS COR duties.

Class schedules can be found on the ADPAAS COR site. For each training session, you can download instructions for how to register for open classes. Notifications will be posted when pending classes are confirmed. For more information, you may also contact Army G-1, PCC at 703-697-4246 or email ADPAAS customer service at USArmy.Pentagon-E.HQDA.MBX.ADPAAS@mail.mil.

Protect Yourself: Keep ADPAAS Up to Date

Army families need to maintain accurate, up-to-date contact information in ADPAAS.

To access ADPAAS, log on to https://adpaas.army.mil and click on the Army Military, DA Civilians, NAF Employees, OCONUS Contractors and their Families button. Once logged in, navigate to the My Info button to update your physical address. This contact information in ADPAAS can be updated at any time by the soldier or their family member. Accessing ADPAAS from an iPhone, Android, iPad or other mobile device with an internet connection? The ADPAAS mobile application is up and running for use at https://adpaas.army.mil.

Army leaders can access a downloadable poster to help remind personnel to log in to ADPAAS before and during an emergency.

For more information, contact the ADPAAS Information Line at 888-276-9472 or oraskhrc.army@us.army.mil.

Plan Your Trip With Space-A Travel

Plane taking off on runway

Note: Effective March 21, 2020, Air Mobility Command temporarily suspended most Space-A travel due to COVID-19.

Service members and their families can use Space-Available flights – formally known as Military Airlift Command or MAC flights – to travel around the country and world at little to no cost. Though sometimes unpredictable, military flights are perfect for families with flexible plans and limited travel budgets. With the right planning and documentation, Space-A travel can be the best way to take a trip with your family.

Space-A Tips and Tricks

Learn how to take Space-A flights like a seasoned pro with these seven tips.

Space-A travel basics

These flights are not commercial, but rather military flights with a mission. That means there are certain restrictions to travel, including:

  • Only service members, retirees and their families are eligible. Only with certain qualifications are reservists, National Guardsmen and family members without an accompanying active-duty sponsor permitted.
  • Flights are typically free of charge, but you should contact your closest Air Mobility Command, or AMC, passenger terminal or the terminal at the location you intend to depart from for specific information.
  • Most terminals have a Facebook page where they post flight information, including their 72-hour flight schedule.

Space-Available travel eligibility

Once you sign up for a Space-A journey, you’ll be put into a category that determines your priority for a flight. A complete listing of eligible passengers by category is contained in DoD Instruction 4515.13. For the most recent instruction, search the DoD Directives Division website for “Air Transportation Eligibility.” Categories include:

  • Category I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel.
  • Category II: Accompanied Environmental and Morale Leave, or EML.
  • Category III: Ordinary Leave, Relatives, House Hunting Permissive Temporary Duty, Medal of Honor Holders and Foreign Military.
  • Category IV: Unaccompanied EML.
  • Category V: Permissive Temporary Duty (Non-House Hunting), Students, Dependents, Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence and Others.
  • Category VI: Retired, Dependents, Reserve, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program and Civil Engineer Corps members.

Prepare for your Space-A flight

AMC has a travel page that includes the following important information about Space-A travel. You should review this travel page for up-to-date information, including what type of identification is required for you and your family, baggage allowance for checked and hand carried baggage, and prohibited items.

  • Travel instructions: travel eligibility; locations; required travel documents; registration, flight schedule and checking-in information.
  • AMC Form 140, Space Available Travel Request (fill out a form online and email it to your desired AMC passenger terminal)
  • Listing of Facebook pages for stateside and overseas locations.
  • AMC passenger terminal contact information.
  • Various travel information links.
  • Legal information for Space-A travel.
  • Operations security for social media and travelers.

Fly commercial with TSA Precheck

If Space-A travel isn’t right for your plans, take advantage of TSA Precheck to expedite your time at the airport when flying commercial. Use your Department of Defense ID as your known traveler number.

You’ll bypass long security lines without removing your shoes or jacket or taking your laptop from your bag. Family members under the age of 12 can pass through expedited screening with you.

The Joint Services Transcript for Military Personnel

Service members looking at map

When you convert your military experience into civilian college credit, you save time and money on your education. The Joint Services Transcript provides documented evidence to colleges and universities of professional military education, training and occupation experiences achieved by service members and veterans.

The JST translates military experience into civilian language and:

  • Gives potential employers a chance to see the real-world value of your experience
  • Allows academic counselors a better understanding of a military member’s skills
  • Saves time and money by awarding academic credits for military experience

The Joint Services Transcript is a collaborative program that replaces previous transcript programs. The JST describes your military schooling and work history in civilian terms, as a standard form, making it easier for colleges to read and recommend credits.

JST eligibility and access

Military members in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard who are active duty, reserve duty or veterans are eligible for the JST.

Follow these steps to obtain and access your JST:

  • Register for an account.
  • Click on the “Transcripts” link and view, print or save your unofficial transcripts.
  • You can also click on “Official Transcript Request” and complete the form to have your official transcripts sent to your desired institution at no cost.

Air Force members should contact the Community College of the Air Force for transcripts. You can order an official transcript through the Air University or the CCAF Online Transcript System.

Convert your military experience into civilian terms and college credit through the Joint Services Transcript.

Family Readiness System

Family Readiness System

The Family Readiness System is defined as the network of agencies, programs, services, and individuals, and the collaboration among them, that promotes the readiness and quality of life of service members and their families. For the Family Readiness System to be fully realized, Department of Defense asks that everyone who provides these services view themselves as part of the overall system.

The Family Readiness System supports every service member and family member, regardless of activation status or location, in person, by phone and online.

The Family Readiness System is made up of many organizations delivering a vast array of services; some of these organizations are part of the Department of Defense, some are other federal, state and local government organizations. They may function at the national state or local community level.

What services are available through the Family Readiness System?

The following services are available through the Military and Family Support Center Family Readiness System.

Additional services, which vary by access point, may be offered to meet the unique needs of your installation or community:

  • Mobility and deployment assistance — Services designed to help you adjust to all phases of the deployment cycle
  • Relocation assistance — Information and education to help with questions related to permanent change of station moves, including moving costs, housing options, spouse employment opportunities, schools, community orientation and much more
  • Personal financial management — Services that provide tools and information to help you achieve financial goals and address financial challenges (Topics include consumer education, budgeting and debt liquidation, retirement planning, savings and investment counseling.)
  • Spouse education and career services — Services include career exploration opportunities, education and training, employment readiness assistance and employment connections
  • Family life education — Education and enrichment services that focus on helping families build and maintain healthy relationships and strengthen problem-solving skills
  • Emergency family assistance — Services that promote short- and long-term recovery and the return to a stable environment after an emergency
  • Domestic abuse prevention and response services — Education, support services and treatment to help promote healthy and safe intimate relationships, reduce the occurrence of domestic abuse and address domestic abuse when it occurs
  • Child abuse prevention and response services — Services that help promote positive parent-child relationships, prevent child abuse and address abuse when it occurs
  • New parent support — Services designed to help new parents adapt to parenthood, including playgroups, classes and access to books, booklets and other written materials on parenting
  • Exceptional Family Member Program support — For families with special needs, education and assistance related to the Exceptional Family Member Program enrollment and assignment coordination process, non-clinical case management and relocation support
  • Non-medical individual and family counseling — Short-term, confidential non-medical counseling services to address topics related to personal growth and positive functioning
  • Transition assistance — Services that prepare separating service members and their families to re-enter civilian life
  • Information and referral — Information designed to help you become familiar with and access the range of services available through the Family Readiness System

How do I access services?

You can visit, call or log on to one of the Family Readiness System access points listed below. Regardless of your service branch or geographic location, you will have access to helpful support and resources. If the access point you choose does not have what you need, simply request help finding it. Family Readiness System access points include:

Installation-based Military and Family Support Centers

Installation-based Military and Family Support Centers are a one-stop-shop for family readiness information and services. Centers are open to all service members and their families, regardless of the service member’s branch. Find your local installation’s center by visiting MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or the links below. Each branch of service uses a service-unique name for this access point:

 

Reserve Component Family Programs

Reserve Component Family Programs deliver family readiness services through facility-based locations, online and by telephone. While these access points deliver a limited number of direct services to members and their families, they can readily refer you to other Family Readiness System resources. Find your Reserve Component Family Program by visiting the links below:

 

Community organizations

Non-military community organizations that support military families are also considered a part of the Family Readiness System, as they play a key role in providing the services you need for everyday life. Your local access points, Military and Family Support Center, National Guard and Reserve Component Family Program and Military OneSource, can also connect you to other approved providers, offering services in your local community.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation: Your Source for Affordable Fun

group of people in recreation center pool

Military life has many demands, so Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff want to help you make the most of your free time. MWR is the military’s network of support and leisure programs for service members. On base or off, Morale, Welfare and Recreation provides lots of ways for you to connect with friends and others for entertainment, rest and relaxation — all at reduced or no cost.

R&R on the installation

At military installations around the world, you’ll find a lot to do and enjoy, including:

  • Swimming pools: Cool off and relax with recreational swimming. Sign up for swimming lessons, or join an aquatic fitness class for aerobic, low-impact workouts.
  • Bowling facilities: Get a few friends together for a few games or buddy-up by joining a league.
  • Golf courses: From nine holes to full-scale, PGA-quality links, installation golf courses offer fun and fitness at affordable prices. Some locations also offer driving ranges, putting greens and lessons.
  • Recreation centers: Many centers help you connect with family and friends with free Wi-Fi and computer use. Or unwind with billiards, air hockey, foosball, table tennis, Xbox, PlayStations and board games. You’ll also find a large library of movies and big-screen TVs to watch them on.
  • Trails: Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff can recommend great local trails where you can hike, bike or take a relaxing walk in nature.
  • Auto skills centers: Most installations have Automotive Skills Centers where you can maintain or repair your vehicle. For a minimal fee, you can use work bays, vehicle lifts, and a broad selection of tools, and get advice from certified mechanics.
  • Libraries: Check out a bestseller, read a magazine article or study for an upcoming test with library resources. Visit your installation library or log on to your Military OneSource account to access the MWR Digital Library from anywhere in the world.
  • Movie theaters: See the latest movies at prices lower than those at the commercial chains. Now showing: all your favorite genres and some in 3D.
  • Outdoor and recreation rental centers: Need outdoor gear for a few hours or a few days? Rental centers offer campers, canoes and kayaks, canopy tents, tables and chairs, grills, garden equipment and much more.

See what Morale, Welfare and Recreation offers at your own installation.

R&R off the installation

Off-base adventures start with your installation’s Information, Tickets and Travel office and the outdoor recreation office. They’ll give you the scoop on sporting events, museums, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, historical sites and other attractions, both near and far. They’re also good for discount tickets and vacation planning services.

Be sure to check out these great off-base opportunities:

Remember, each service branch has its own Morale, Welfare and Recreation program. See what’s in store for you:

Morale, Welfare and Recreation is your destination for entertainment, rest and relaxation on or off the installation. Visit your local office for more information or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Managing Your Money as a New Service Member

Man in a military uniform shows a stack of twenty dollar bills.

You’re learning a lot of new skills in the military, and money management should be one of them. As a service member, you may earn more, get special duty pay or have new expenses. It’s your money. Make the most of it by creating a financial plan. Staying on top of your finances is important for your security clearance, your career and your future.

Do a budget for yourself

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.

Good financial management starts with writing a budget. Seek advice from one of the military’s no-cost personal financial counselors. If you have a family, get their input and set priorities. This will give family members a clear view of income and expenses.

Before you write a budget, you need to know your income. Check out the Department of Defense’s active-duty basic pay tables or log into myPay to see what you have to work with.

Save money every day

Make sure to track your spending and save where you can. Your weekly trips to the coffee shop can add up quickly. Here are a few ways to save money immediately:

  • Elect to save with the Thrift Savings Plan. Stash some money away in this defined contribution plan. How much you receive when you retire depends on how much you put into your account during your working years, so it’s a good idea to funnel as much as you can into this plan.
  • Eat out less frequently. Invite friends over for a potluck dinner instead of a more expensive meal out. Cook for yourself instead of eating takeout.
  • Avoid impulse buys. Force yourself to wait a week and see if you can live without the item you want or if you can find it cheaper somewhere else.
  • Take advantage of military discounts. Get discounts on insurance, travel, dining out, sporting events and recreation to name just a few.
  • Don’t pay full price. Shop at outlets or during sales. Take advantage of online discounts. Get the best prices and tax-free shopping at your local exchange and commissary.
  • Use the library for free books, music, magazines and videos. You can also find many of these same items for no cost at centers for single service members on your installation.
  • Use the on-base gym and Morale Welfare and Recreation facilities at no cost. It’s cheaper than joining a health club, and the workout is just as good.
  • Check the local or installation newspaper for free activities. Your installation Morale, Welfare and Recreation clubs may offer specials as well.

Look at the big picture

It’s also important to take a long view when creating your budget, making decisions about using credit and preparing for financial emergencies. The goal is to save enough money to ensure a bright financial future. Here are some tips for saving money over the long haul:

  • Make sure you’re getting free checking. If you are paying bank fees, find a bank with a better offer. If you’re on an installation, consult the installation bank and credit union.
  • Use your bank card only at no-fee ATM machines. Or open an account with a bank that pays other banks’ fees for using their ATMs. Many stores also give you the option of getting $20, $40 or another amount in cash back with debit card purchases.
  • Get rid of any credit cards with annual fees. Avoid interest charges by paying off balances each month. Never get caught by late fees.
  • Raise the deductible on your car insurance and lower your monthly payment. Just make sure you’ve saved enough money to cover the higher deductible.
  • Shop for the best deals on cell phone service, car insurance and other services. Be careful of long-term contracts that may leave you stuck if you move or deploy.
  • Turn off lights and lower heat or air conditioning settings when you’re not home. Check your windows and doors for drafts and put some insulation around areas where you feel cold or warm air.

Pay off your debt

Use that extra money you saved with the tips above to pay off your debt:

  • Acknowledge that you have debt issues. Commit to fixing them.
  • Stop spending. Take your credit cards, store cards and gas cards out of your wallet and put them in a secure location at home or cut them up.
  • Make a spending plan. Stick to it to avoid incurring additional debt.
  • Pay down your debts month by month and pay them off one by one. Make a list of the debt payments you owe each month, including the annual interest rate on each card. Then prioritize according to interest rate. Over time, you’ll get your debts paid off.

How to Use the Military Tuition Assistance Program

A row of graduates sit in the caps and gowns

If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance program may be just the benefit you need. The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100% of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:

  • Vocational/technical programs
  • Undergraduate programs
  • Graduate programs
  • Independent study
  • Distance-learning programs

Eligibility

All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active-duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.

Coverage amounts and monetary limits

The Tuition Assistance Program may fund up to 100% of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits

  • Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
  • Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30

Tuition assistance versus the Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits

While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you after you leave the military. 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. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.

Tuition assistance benefits and restrictions

Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee

NOTE: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.

Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:

  • Books and course materials
  • Flight training fees
  • Taking the same course twice
  • Continuing education units, or CEUs

Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid, if any of the following situations occur:

  • Leaving the service before the course ends
  • Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
  • Failing the course

Application process

Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center, go online to a virtual education center or click on the following links for each service branch:

Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:

  • Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
  • Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.

Top-up program

The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill – to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.

  • Eligibility. To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty.
  • Application. First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it to one of the education processing offices listed on the form.

Other supplemental funding possibilities

Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members, including the following:

  • Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.

Power of Attorney Basics

Power of attorney paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

A power of attorney is a written document that gives one person the authority to act on another’s behalf for any legal or economic issues for a specified time. You can tailor your powers of attorney for any situation, choosing between a general power of attorney or a special power of attorney, and whether the power of attorney is durable or not. If you’re married, both you and your spouse should designate a power of attorney prior to your deployment; assistance is available at most installation legal assistance offices.

  • General power of attorney — A general power of attorney gives the person you designate the power to perform almost any legal act on your behalf for a specified time. This can include managing bank accounts; selling, exchanging, buying or investing any assets or property; purchasing and maintaining insurance; and entering into any binding contracts. Because the authority granted is broad, give this type of power of attorney only if a special power of attorney won’t suffice and if the person you choose is trustworthy and financially responsible.
  • Special or limited power of attorney — A special or limited power of attorney gives specific powers to the designated person for a specified time. When drafting a special power of attorney, you’re required to list the particular decisions over which the designee has power.
  • Durable power of attorney — A durable power of attorney remains valid even if you become incapacitated or unable to handle your own affairs. If you don’t specify a durable power of attorney, it’ll automatically end if you’re incapacitated in the future. A general or special power of attorney can be durable with appropriate language. This eliminates the need for a court to choose a guardian and conservator to make decisions on your behalf during your incapacity.

Benefits of a power of attorney for your spouse

Providing a power of attorney to your spouse, parent or trusted friend can help ensure he or she can address whatever needs to be done on your behalf while you are away:

  • Access family finances — By providing your spouse a power of attorney, you can ensure access to your bank accounts and financial information.
  • Pay taxes and receive tax refunds — Even if you deploy, you have to file a federal and state income tax return, unless you get an extension. The Internal Revenue Service generally requires your and your spouse’s signatures to file income tax returns and to access refunds. For your spouse to be able to file a joint income tax return during your deployment without a power of attorney, you will need to complete IRS Form 2848, “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representation.”
  • Receive emergency financial assistance — Each of the service branches offers emergency financial assistance through their respective relief organizations.
  • Receive government housing — If your family is on the waiting list for government housing when you deploy, you should notify the installation housing office before your deployment. If you give your spouse power of attorney — and give a copy to the installation housing office — before your deployment, your spouse and children may be able to accept and move into government housing.
  • Enroll newborn children in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System — TRICARE Prime automatically covers your newborn baby for 120 days. To continue coverage after 120 days, enroll him or her through the installation ID card center. Your spouse must have either a general or a special power of attorney.

Terminating powers of attorney

You can revoke a power of attorney at any time as long as you’re mentally competent. When drafting the original document, you may consider limiting its length so it automatically revokes upon your return from deployment. To revoke a power of attorney before its expiration, you can consult a legal assistance attorney to execute a revocation.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Sending a Military Care Package: What You Need to Know

Service member smiles as he reads a holiday card received in a care package.

Military care packages deliver a welcome piece of home to your service member while they’re away – whether that’s your child, fiancé, sibling or friend. They help both of you stay connected despite distance or duty.

Here are some appropriate ways to send those care packages to your service member throughout their time in the military.

Get Connected to Military Life: Official eNewsletter

Keep in touch with the cadence of military life, understand its rich traditions and learn ways to support your service member with the Friends & Family Connection eNewsletter.

Care packages during boot camp? Letters are better.

When your recruit first left for basic training, you may have noticed that they only took a few things with them. This is because the military provides everything recruits need during boot camp, from meals and housing to basics like toothbrushes or socks. Duplicates from home are stored and only retrieved after graduation.

That’s why most service branches discourage care packages for recruits in boot camp. In fact, receiving an unauthorized care package may result in a punishment from the drill instructor for their entire unit. So, it’s better to wait until your recruit finishes basic before you send any packages.

Ordinary mail, however, is always allowed. A letter from home can encourage your recruit during the demands of basic training.

If you do send a letter, use a plain piece of paper and an envelope. It’s okay to send photos, but don’t do things like decorating the envelope – it could cause unwanted attention for your recruit. Plan on two weeks for letter delivery, so time letters to arrive before graduation. Think twice about texting, sending digital cards or email, as your service member will have very limited use of a cell phone, if at all. Use of cell phones is dictated by service branch and drill sergeants.

After boot camp is the time to send military care packages.

Service members who have finished basic training or are on deployment generally have more freedom to receive care packages. Sending a military care package is a great way to show your appreciation and love for your service member and all they do for our country.

If you are a parent or other relative, consider sending the music, toiletries, foods and treats your service member likes best. If you are in a relationship with a service member, think about sending notes, cards and small items that remind them how much you care. And, of course, photos from home are always welcome.

Here are some military care package ideas that are appreciated by service members:

  • Necessities, such as sunblock, socks, underwear, flip-flops, lip balm and powder
  • Snacks, including chips, salsa, nuts, cookies, beef jerky, non-melting candy and trail mix in packaging that isn’t easily crushed. Drink mixes in single-serving packets are also a good addition.
  • Homemade foods: The most popular items are cookies and “cake in a jar,” which is a cake baked in a canning jar. Again, the key is sturdy packaging to prevent crushing.
  • Games, such as playing cards/poker chips, crosswords or puzzle books.
  • Stationery is a must if you want to receive any letters from your service member. Send paper, envelopes, address labels and pens, but skip the stamps. They won’t need them.
  • Photos and notes that show your support and affection. Maybe get a daily tear-off calendar and write an encouraging note on each page.

Once you know what you want to send, follow these tips to make sure your military care package arrives in good condition:

  • Seal everything: Individually seal items in plastic bags with zip locks, if possible, to protect items from the elements or to keep them from leaking out.
  • Use sturdy packaging: The best packaging is a free Military Care Kit from the U.S. Postal Service, which includes priority mail boxes, tape, custom forms and address labels. The packaging is free, but the postage is not.
  • Provide accurate shipping information: Include your service member’s unit, last and first name, title, DPO/FPO/APO and full ZIP code.
  • Take advantage of reduced postage for military mail: You only have to provide standard domestic postage on mail going to an APO or FPO address. For example, if you pay $5 to mail a package in the continental United States, it costs the same to mail it overseas as long as you have an APO / FPO / DPO address and associated ZIP code.
  • Complete the customs forms: You need to fill out customs forms for any shipping outside the United States. Customs forms are included with Military Care Kits or can be found on the USPS website.
  • Consider shipping time: Most care packages can make it to the Middle East in about two weeks, but some take longer. For holidays, allow about five weeks for delivery.
  • Be careful what you send: Check the post office’s prohibited items list to keep items from being rejected. Remember that sometimes packages from home get opened by someone before your service member, so don’t send anything you don’t want strangers to see. Also, don’t send things that are valuable or can’t be replaced – sometimes packages get lost.

Care packages are always good, but sometimes a service member may need a bit more, whether it’s help with taxes as Tax Day approaches or talking with someone who can listen. Do you know that active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members have access to a wide range of individualized consultations, coaching and other services? This includes relationship and peer-to-peer counseling to tax preparation and financial services to wellness coaches and more. It’s all free and available 24/7 through Military OneSource.