Financial Planning and Assistance for Families with Special Needs

Family laughing and playing outside with their son with special needs

When you have a family member with special needs, financial planning is vital. Be prepared to take good care of your family member by starting your financial plan today.

Military OneSource is here to help you – with financial planning related to issues like disability tax credits, Supplemental Security Income and much more.

How to start your financial plan

While every family should have a financial plan for the future, it’s even more important for families with special needs. When setting up your plan, ask yourself:

  • Will my family member need continued care throughout his or her life?
  • How will my family member’s support needs change over time?
  • What large or out-of-pocket expenses do we need to be prepared to face?
  • Who will care for my family member if I am no longer able? What kind of financial resources will be necessary?
  • How should I include my family member with special needs in my estate planning?

Need help with your plan?

Setting up a good plan can be demanding. There’s a lot to consider. For example, if you leave assets worth more than a certain amount to a family member with a disability, you could disqualify him or her from government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. But you do have consultants available to help at no cost:

  • Meet with a Military OneSource special needs consultant for assistance with questions related to finances, education, care and more.
  • Contact an Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support provider at your installation.
  • Talk to a special needs consultant for recommendations on setting up an Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, account. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings and investment accounts for individuals with special needs. You may also want to meet with your installation personal financial management services or legal services to discuss additional options for your plan.
  • Contact TRICARE to see if the Extended Care Health Option, or ECHO, applies to you. TRICARE ECHO provides financial assistance to beneficiaries with special needs for an integrated set of services and supplies.

Credits and programs for families with special needs

Your family may qualify for certain tax credits, deductions and be eligible for federal programs. Get details on our Special Needs Benefits page.

Military OneSource provides year-round access to tax consultants who can help maximize your refund.

Visit for information about disability and earned income tax credits including the following:

The IRS also provides tax information on ABLE accounts, along with other tax highlights for people with special needs.

Federal programs: Learn more about whether you qualify by contacting a special needs specialty consultant at Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

  • Supplemental Security Income, or SSI
  • Title V programs: State programs with direct, personal health care services to improve the quality of health care for children with special needs.
  • Fair Housing Act: In privatized housing on military installations, property managers are required to make reasonable alterations at no cost to the tenant.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance: Provides supplemental income to people who can’t get or keep a job because of a disability.
  • Medicaid and Medicare for families with special needs: Basic health and long-term care services for eligible people including individuals with disabilities, in families with low income and limited resources.

Facing financial challenges? Here are some sources for help

The best way to address money issues is to get ahead of them. If you see a need for assistance on the horizon, here are some places to turn for assistance:

  • TRICARE Debt Collection Assistance Officers. TRICARE regional offices can help with resolving health care collection-related issues and are located at military treatment facilities. Or visit the Customer Service Community Directory to find a Debt Collection Assistance Officer.
  • Military Aid Societies. These nonprofit organizations support each of the services by providing emergency financial assistance in the form of interest-free loans and grants. Visit the Army Emergency ReliefNavy-Marine Corps Relief SocietyAir Force Aid Society or Coast Guard Mutual Assistance websites for more information. Or contact your local Military and Family Support Center for more information about the Military Aid Societies.
  • Social Security Administration. Use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out if you qualify for benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Make sure to visit the EFMP & Me tool to create a customized checklist for your family. Review the Legal, Estate Planning and Trusts section for more information on future planning. Other great resources are episodes 4 and 5 of the season 1 EFMP Podcast Series, which cover legal and long-term financial planning.

Visit the EFMP Family Support provider at your nearest installation or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use live chat to schedule an appointment with a special needs consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Appointments are available seven days a week.

Liaison Connects Families with TRICARE Services

Woman filling out paperwork at desk

To help families with special needs get the most benefit from their health care coverage, the Department of Defense Office of Special Needs includes a TRICARE liaison on its team. The liaison helps families navigate TRICARE to find the information and services they need.

The TRICARE liaison can help with issues such as enrollment, benefits, claims, debt collection, provision of services at military treatment facilities, as well as finding civilian medical and dental resources. This service is free to military members and their families anywhere in the world, whether they are enrolled in TRICARE East, TRICARE West, TRICARE for Life, TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select.

The TRICARE liaison can be contacted by appointment only. You can request an appointment through your installation EFMP Family Support staff or Military OneSource’s Exceptional Family Member Program specialty consultations. Either way, the EFMP Family Support or specialty consultation staff will work with you to get your questions answered as quickly as possible. If help is needed beyond their ability to assist, you will be offered a three-way call connecting you to the TRICARE liaison, who can:

  • Provide inside information and resources beyond what EFMP staff or a consultant may have.
  • Explain different policies and options to help families make informed choices.
  • Help families navigate TRICARE: who to speak to, what to do and where to start.
  • Assist with the appeals process for denied claims.

The TRICARE liaison has extensive experience with TRICARE and disabilities care issues and, if needed, can provide direct assistance to your situation.

For more information, contact your installation EFMP Family Support Staff or a special needs specialty consultant through Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or by live chat

Beyond Your Service Member’s Pay: The Benefits of Military Service

hands holding wallet with credit cards

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% military pay raise in 2021. Beyond the salary bump, you’ll be glad to know that military service offers your loved one additional ways to be financially fit while shaping their lives and preparing them for the future.

The military provides notable compensation benefits, ranging from paid vacation to retired-pay plans that beat those many private-sector employers offer. It also offers free or reduced-cost housing, a host of special and incentive pays, free financial and tax consultations and more. At the same time, the military offers your service member opportunities to develop both professionally and personally. Tuition assistance and opportunities to travel and develop leadership skills are just some of the reasons a military career is unlike any other.

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 the installation or in town, BAH provides a reasonable amount each month to afford housing based on their rank and the area where they live.

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

Special and incentive pays: While base pay and allowances cover the fundamental components of military pay, special and incentive 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 aircrew members.

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 can also earn government-provided contributions to a 401(k)-like savings account called the Thrift Savings Plan. 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 the installation, they can enjoy living for free in the barracks or dorms. Service members who receive a housing allowance are offered affordable housing options on the installation or in town through the housing office.

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.

Newsletter Connects Friends, Family

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

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 the installation 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.

Professional and personal development

Military service shows your loved one what they are capable of, helping them grow both personally and professionally. The military instills strong values, such as integrity and personal responsibility, traits that will serve your loved one well, wherever they go in life.

Professional development: As a service member, your loved one will acquire knowledge, skills and abilities that civilian employers value. These include:

  • Leadership. The military trains individuals to lead with confidence, example and integrity.
  • Discipline. Service members learn that success requires them to see a task through to completion and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Flexibility. Conditions can change quickly in the field. Service members learn to adapt to new situations with little preparation.
  • Teamwork. The military is made up of people of different backgrounds and personalities. Service members learn to overcome their differences and work cooperatively to accomplish their mission.
  • Communication skills. The military teaches service members to communicate with one another effectively and efficiently.
  • Problem-solving skills. Service members learn to think on their feet. When something doesn’t go as planned during a mission, they quickly identify new solutions.
  • Technical skills. In addition to their technical education, service members have opportunities to become proficient in a variety of technical and tactical skills.

Tuition assistance: Your service member may qualify for tuition benefits while serving and after leaving the military. The military Tuition Assistance program provides up to $4,500 of assistance per fiscal year. The Department of Veterans Affairs administers a number of education benefit programs, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which your service member can use after leaving the military.

Job stability: Regardless of the economy, the military offers a secure job and a regular paycheck.

Personal development: As a member of the armed forces, your service member will be challenged to grow in new ways. They will discover new strengths and capabilities, boosting their confidence and opening new pathways in life. Areas of personal development through military service include:

  • Fitness. Physical fitness is important in the military where staying strong and healthy is essential to the mission. In addition to the physical benefits of staying fit, studies have shown that exercise boosts emotional well-being.
  • Friendship. Deep bonds of friendship often develop among those who serve together. Service members connect with one another through shared experiences and mutual dependence.
  • Travel. Service members have opportunities to live in different parts of the country and the world. Being exposed to new cultures and ways of life broadens their horizons and teaches them about how the world works.
  • A sense of purpose. Serving in the military can instill the sense of purpose that comes from working toward something much bigger than yourself.

Military service comes with many benefits — both financial and personal. Whether your loved one plans to serve one tour of duty or retire after 20 years, you can be confident they are fully compensated while serving their country and have opportunities to gain skills and strengths that will shape their life in positive ways long into the future.

Finding Support After the Death of a Loved One

Father and son embrace

After the death of a loved one, you may experience a wide range of emotions. That is natural. The path to finding a new normal may not be the same for everyone. Knowing where and when to find support along the way may help. Here are some resources that may be of help to you and your family.

Connect with support networks

Each branch of the military service offers programs that provide long-term support to surviving families of deceased service members.

  • Survivor Outreach Services, the Army’s official long-term support program for surviving families of deceased service members, helps continue the survivor’s connection with the Army by providing comprehensive services that include assistance with housing, education and finances.
  • Long Term Assistance Program is the Marine Corps’ resource for survivors that connects family members to grief and peer support experts, provides information on benefits and entitlements and offers any kind of assistance that is needed.
  • Navy Gold Star Program is the Navy’s support network that provides survivors with information on resources available to them.
  • Air Force Families Forever offers support for survivors who are grieving the death of a service member. Among its services is an online community through Family Support Network exclusively dedicated to friends and family of deceased Air Force members.

Consider counseling options

You don’t have to grieve or go through this journey alone. Sharing your feelings can be productive and therapeutic. Here are a couple of free counseling options to consider:

  • Military OneSource provides 24/7 service to all active-duty service members, National Guard and reserves and eligible family members, including surviving spouses who remain unmarried. Counselors offer information and make referrals on a wide range of issues including grief and bereavement. Arrange a face-to-face, phone, online or video counseling session by calling 800-342-9647 or click here for overseas calling options.
  • Veterans Affairs Bereavement Counseling offers bereavement support to parents, spouses and children of active duty and National Guard or reserves who die while on military duty. Call 202-461-6530 or send an email to to use this service.
  • TRICARE may provide medically necessary coverage of mental health services during times of grief.

Check out other support organizations

Many other organizations offer support by people who understand grief and may have been through a similar experience. A full listing of support and service organizations is available in the publication “The Days Ahead.”

Explore Bereavement Camps and other groups for children

The death of a loved one can be especially difficult for children, so finding resources tailored to their needs is essential. Several groups work to provide grieving children with a comfortable place to talk about their feelings and feel understood. A full listing of support and bereavement camps is available in “Bereavement Camps: An Opportunity to Grieve and Heal.” and in the publication “The Days Ahead.”

Knowing where to turn for support may not make the hurt disappear, but it can help you begin to take those first steps toward finding your new normal. You have a place in the military community. Your country will never forget your loved one’s sacrifice and service to our nation. For more resources to assist you, see the resources section. Or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options.

Health Care – Benefits

American flag

When you join the military, one of the most valuable benefits you’ll receive is access to TRICARE, the military’s health care program.

There are TRICARE plans for just about every military family and situation. But as with any health benefit plan, it’s important to understand your options so you can take full advantage of the benefits available to you.

While Military OneSource does not provide health care services, it does offer non-medical counseling and information about health care services and benefits.


Each service branch determines who is eligible for TRICARE coverage. Generally, TRICARE is available to:

  • Uniformed service members and their families
  • National Guard/Reserve members and their families
  • Survivors
  • Former military spouses
  • Medal of Honor recipients and their families
  • Others registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System

There are also plans and temporary-coverage options available to transitioning and separating service members.

The easiest way to find out if you’re eligible is to check your information in DEERS, or by calling the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office at 800-538-9552. You should always make sure you and your family members’ information stays up to date in DEERS. Enrollment in DEERS does not mean you are enrolled in TRICARE.

Types of TRICARE plans

With the TRICARE changes that took effect Jan. 1, 2018, TRICARE continues to offer several health plans. Plan availability still depends on who you are and where you live. Basic coverage is no longer automatic when you retire from the service.

The TRICARE website can help you select the plan that’s right for you. You can even compare plans side by side. All plans meet or exceed the requirements for minimum essential coverage.

TRICARE also offers special programs, including:

Some of these programs are separate from TRICARE’s medical coverage and are based on factors such as your status with the armed forces. See the TRICARE website for more information.

Military OneSource health and wellness coaches

Military OneSource health and wellness coaches can help you lose weight, eat better, get in shape, manage stress, tackle transitions and more.

Call 800-342-9647 or view overseas calling options to sign up for health and wellness coaching sessions. You can choose from three Health and Wellness Coaching session options: phone, online chat and video.

Mental Health Matters in the Military

Mental health specialist speaks with a service member in her office.

Just as physical fitness is a central part of military life, good mental health is as important for your well-being, and military and family readiness. Mental health challenges and issues shouldn’t be ignored or hidden. There are lots of resources available to help anyone who is struggling with mental health challenges to feel better.

Recognizing signs and addressing challenges early

Start by learning to recognize signs in yourself or in someone close to you. Adults and teens who are suffering from a mental health disorder may display any number of the following signs:

  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  •  Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Excessive substance use

Help for you, fellow service members or family members

Reaching out is the first step towards recovery. These resources can get you started:

  • Check your mental health. If you are wondering if you have symptoms of a specific mental health condition, you can complete a brief screening tool and get instant feedback. This tool from the Department of Veterans Affairs is confidential and anonymous; none of the results are stored on your account or sent anywhere.
  • TRICARE is the health care program for military members and their families. The program is divided into two regions (East and West), and offers overseas assistance. TRICARE may provide coverage for medically necessary mental health services. Mental Health Care Services offers outpatient psychotherapy for up to two sessions per week in any combination of individually or as a, family, group or collateral sessions. The TRICARE Military Treatment Facility Locator is the locator tool for military treatment centers.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health provides information on a variety of mental health topics and list current clinical trials that allow persons to access treatment for free. Call 866-615-6464.
  • Mental disorders can lead to substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers information about prevention, treatment, recovery and more.
  • InTransition is a free, confidential program that offers specialized coaching and assistance to service members, veterans and retirees who need access to mental health care during times of transition, such as returning from deployment, relocating to another assignment or preparing to leave military service.

Mental health for children and youth

Signs in adolescents. Many symptoms in adolescents may be similar to those in adults, but you may notice other characteristics, including:

  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft or vandalism
  • Decrease in grades
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death

Signs in younger children and preadolescents. Young children and preadolescents may display some of the following characteristics:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (such as refusing to go to bed or school)
  •  Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Finding help. For children’s mental and behavioral health care, reach out to TRICARE.

Mental and behavioral health concerns and conditions vary greatly in children and adolescents from adults, and special considerations apply for children of military families.

When to step in and help, or ask for help

Don’t let stigma stand in your way of helping — or reaching out. An estimated one in five American adults experience a diagnosable mental health disorder each year. Many of these conditions are common and treatable; yet many people suffer in silence because of shame and stigma. Facing issues early is a sign of strength.

You wouldn’t hesitate to seek help for a physical ailment. So reach out for assistance with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, and encourage others to do the same.

If you need help immediately: Suicide is a serious issue for service members and their loved ones — and suffering from a mental health disorder can increase the risk. If you or someone you know is at risk, the Military Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also start a conversation via online chat or text (838255).

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance use disorders, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

A Benefits Guide for National Guard and Family Members

service members pose in front of helicopter

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Global War on Terrorism and the subsequent operations have altered our lives, and the uncertainties of local, regional and overseas deployments have challenged our abilities to cope. Whether your loved one is supporting a military operation overseas, performing duty in a local or regional location, or performing training at the local armory or reserve center, you may face challenges during these periods similar to active military service. The geographic dispersion of many Guard and reserve families is unique and at times can make it more difficult to obtain information about benefits, and in some cases to use them. It also may be more difficult to access various support services that are normally available at active-duty installations. Follow the links below to access specific information.

Guidance During COVID-19 Pandemic

Stay informed on how policies, training, pay and benefits may be impacted by COVID-19.

Benefits guide

This guide provides a valuable resource to service and family members who may have questions about their entitlements and benefits or simply need to know who to contact for assistance.

Family readiness requires detailed and comprehensive planning. Tools such as the internet and toll-free phone numbers have allowed us to easily receive valuable information, but the unit chain of command must be utilized whenever possible. We continuously assess how to improve family support and this guide is just another tool to achieve family readiness. Our mission is to provide the assistance you need, when you need it

Identification cards for military family members

The Department of Defense issues eligible dependents an identification card authorizing them to receive certain uniformed services benefits and privileges. The DOD ID card issuance process consists of several steps to ensure the correct ID card is issued and the appropriate benefits and privileges are assigned. An important step is the verification of a customer’s identity by reviewing the two required forms of identification and their information in the Defense Enrollment and Eligibility Reporting System.

The DOD uses a system referred to as the Real Time Automated Personnel Identification System to issue ID Cards. Family members and eligible dependents are required to report to a RAPIDS ID Card issuing site in order to be issued the appropriate ID card. Children under the age of 10 can normally use the ID card of their parent, but they must be registered in DEERS. At the age of 10, children should obtain their own ID card. Not all military installations have the ability to use RAPIDS so, you may need to ask your command or unit administration office for a list of ID card issuing locations in your area or visit the RAPIDS Site Locator online.

Normally, Reserve Component family members and other dependents receive a DD Form 1173-1, the DOD Guard and Reserve Family Member ID card. These ID cards do not authorize eligibility for medical benefits. They will assist family members in accessing these privileges when accompanied by a copy of the service member’s orders to active duty. These ID cards do authorize access to commissary, exchange and certain Morale, Welfare and Recreation privileges. The DOD Guard and Reserve Family Member ID card serves as proof that the individual has been pre-enrolled in DEERS. This is an important first step in obtaining family member and dependent medical treatment when the service member is called to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days.

When the Reserve Component service member is called to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, part of the processing for entry on active duty should be the completion of DD Form 1172, Application for Department of Defense Identification Card-DEERS Enrollment, for each eligible family member. This application, along with the DD Form 1173-1, will allow family members and dependents to receive the DD Form 1173, Uniformed Service Identification and Privilege Card. This card will authorize appropriate medical benefits and privileges for the period of active duty specified on the member’s orders.

Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System

DEERS is the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. It is an information system designed to maintain timely and accurate information on service members and dependents who are eligible for military benefits and entitlements. It also serves to detect and prevent fraud and abuse in the distribution of these benefits and entitlements. Updating information in DEERS is key to maintaining eligibility for TRICARE and other military benefits.

DEERS should be updated anytime a service member moves, changes status, gets married or divorced, adds an additional dependent, etc. In other words, any change that would affect benefits and entitlements for the member and his or her dependents should be recorded in DEERS. Additionally, DEERS information should be reviewed for accuracy once a year.

You can verify DEERS information through a military treatment facility’s Patient Administration Office by contacting your service’s personnel office, or by visiting milConnect.

There are several ways to update DEERS information:

  1. A request to add, delete or change information can be initiated with a request through your nearest military personnel office.
  2. Call the DEERS Support Office toll-free telephone number: 800-527-5602 from Alaska/Hawaii, 800-334-4162 from California or 800-538-9552 from all other states
  3. Visit the DEERS web site at Updating DEERS
  4. Fax changes to 831-655-8317
  5. Send an e-mail
  6. Finally, changes can be mailed to:
    DEERS Support Office
    ATTN: COA 400 Gigling Road
    Seaside, CA 93955-6771

Common Access Card

The Department of Defense has implemented smart card technology in a department-wide Common Access Card. This card is a credit card-size credential with one or more embedded memory and/or microprocessor circuit chips. The CAC contains a linear barcode, two-dimensional barcode, magnetic strip, color digital photograph and printed text. The CAC is the standard identification card for active-duty military personnel, Selected Reserve, DOD civilian employees and eligible contractor personnel. It is also the principal card used to enable physical access to buildings and controlled spaces and for access to defense computer networks and systems. A cryptographic coprocessor enables it to serve as a token for public key infrastructure identity, e-mail and encryption certificates.

Medical benefits

Depending on the service member’s duty status, family members may be eligible for TRICARE. TRICARE is the Department of Defense health care program which provides medical and dental care services for eligible uniformed services members and other eligible DOD beneficiaries.

Note: The Department of Defense recognizes that choosing a health plan is a very personal decision. Members should consult with their spouse and review their civilian employer/other health insurance plan to consider their health care needs and options.

Eligibility for TRICARE is determined by the uniformed services and reported to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. All eligible beneficiaries must have their eligibility status recorded in DEERS.

TRICARE beneficiaries can be divided into two main categories: sponsors and family members. Sponsors are usually active-duty service members, National Guard/reserve members, or retired service members. “Sponsor” refers to the person who is serving or who has served on active-duty or in the National Guard or reserves. The phrase “National Guard and reserve” refers to members of the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Members of the Individual Ready Reserve may purchase the TRICARE Dental Program but usually do not qualify for any other TRICARE benefits when not on active-duty orders or immediately following a period of activation.

Service member and family health and dental options are different depending on the sponsor’s current military status.

On military duty for 30 days or less: Service members may qualify to purchase TRICARE Reserve Select, a premium-based, voluntary health plan that provides comprehensive health coverage for the sponsor and family. Traditional drilling National Guard and reserve members are eligible for the TRICARE Reserve Select health plan. The service member may also qualify for Line of Duty Care for any injury or illness sustained in the line of duty, including traveling to and from the place of duty. For dental care, the sponsor and family can enroll in the TRICARE Dental Program. You will enroll separately and pay separate monthly premiums.

When activated for more than 30 consecutive days: When the service member is activated (called or ordered to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days under federal orders), the service member becomes eligible for the same health and dental benefits as active-duty service members. The service member will enroll in one of the following Prime options upon arrival at the final duty station:

  • TRICARE Prime
  • TRICARE Prime Remote
  • TRICARE Prime Overseas
  • TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas

If the service member is enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program when called to active duty, the coverage is automatically terminated. The service member is now covered by active-duty dental benefits and receives dental care at military dental treatment facilities and through the TRICARE Active Duty Dental Program.

The service member’s family becomes eligible for the same TRICARE benefits as active-duty family members when the service member is on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days. The family can use any of the following plans depending on where they live when the service member is activated:

  • TRICARE Prime
  • TRICARE Prime Remote
  • TRICARE Standard and Extra
  • TRICARE Prime Overseas
  • TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas
  • TRICARE Standard Overseas
  • US Family Health Plan
  • TRICARE Young Adult (for dependent adult children up to age 26)

If the service member’s family is enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program, their coverage continues uninterrupted and their premiums are reduced to the “active duty family member” rates. If not already enrolled, they can enroll in the TRICARE Dental Program at any time.

Pre-activation or “early” eligibility: If the service member is issued delayed-effective-date active-duty orders for more than 30 consecutive days in support of a contingency operation, Guard and reserve members may qualify up to 180 days early for active-duty TRICARE benefits. This “pre-activation benefit” begins on the date the orders are issued but not earlier than 180 days before reporting to active duty.

During the pre-activation period, service members are covered as “active-duty service members” and receive active-duty medical and dental benefits. Eligible family members are covered as “active duty family members” and can enroll in one of TRICARE’s Prime options or use TRICARE Standard and Extra.

The service personnel office will tell members if they are eligible for pre-activation benefits when they receive their delayed-effective-date active-duty orders. If the service member does not meet these “early eligibility” requirements, your coverage (and your family’s coverage) will begin on the first day of the service member’s orders.

When deactivated: When the service member leaves active duty, or deactivates, the family’s health plan options may be different if the service member was called to active duty in support of a contingency operation. If activated in support of a contingency operation:

  • Sponsor is immediately covered by the Transitional Assistance Management Program for 180 days. TAMP coverage begins on the first day after leaving active-duty service. Family members are also covered during the TAMP period.
  • After TAMP ends, service members may qualify to purchase TRICARE Reserve Select for personal and family coverage.
  • If service members don’t qualify for TRICARE Reserve Select, another option is to purchase the Continued Health Care Benefit Program.
  • Service members continue to be covered under active-duty dental benefits during TAMP. After TAMP ends, TRICARE Dental Program coverage will automatically resume (if previously enrolled) and monthly premiums will resume until the 12-month minimum enrollment period is reached.
  • If the service member’s family is enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program, their coverage continues uninterrupted, however, their premium payments will revert back to their original rates.

If the service member was not activated in support of a contingency operation, the family does not qualify for TAMP, and active-duty benefits (including dental) end immediately.

When the service member retires: When a service member retires, he/she may qualify to purchase TRICARE Retired Reserve for personal and family coverage. At age 60 (and when you begin receiving retired pay), you become eligible for the same benefits as all other retired service members. To learn more about medical benefits in retirement, select this link: Retiree Medical Benefits.

For dental care, the member may purchase the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program for personal and family coverage.

Additionally, adult children who “age out” at 21 (or 23 if enrolled in college full time) may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult.

Voluntary dental and vision coverage: Retired service members and family members and National Guard or Reserve Component members enrolled in TRICARE Reserve Select may qualify to purchase dental and vision coverage through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. FEDVIP is a voluntary program that offers eligible TRICARE participants a choice among a number of dental and vision carriers. The FEDVIP plans vary in coverage and cost. Retirees have 60 days after retirement to enroll in a FEDVIP plan. If eligible, you can also enroll during FEDVIP open season in the fall. Visit the FEDVIP website for more information.

For more information and details for all options, please visit TRICARE Home. Please contact the local Military Treatment Facility and ask to speak with a TRICARE representative or contact the appropriate TRICARE Service Center:

  • East Region Humana Military 800-444-5445
  • West Region Health Net Federal Services LLC 844-866-9378
  • Eurasia-Africa Call Center +44-20-8762-8384 toll-free from U.S 877-678-1207
  • Latin America/Canada Call Center 215-942-8393 toll-free from U.S. 877-451-8659
  • Pacific Call Centers Singapore +65-6339-2676 toll-free from U.S. 877-678-1208
  • Sydney, Australia +61-2-9273-2710 toll-free from U.S. 877-678-1209

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides protection to anyone entering or called to and on active duty in the armed forces. Members of the National Guard and reserve are covered by SCRA when in active federal service and while serving on active duty. The SCRA provides important safeguards to members on active-duty status in the area of financial management, including rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, installment contracts, interest rate limits on pre-service consumer debt and mortgage loans, civil judicial proceedings and income tax payments. One of the most widely known benefits under the SCRA is the ability to reduce pre-service consumer debt and mortgage interest rates to 6% if military service materially affects your ability to make payments. If you believe being called to active military service will impact your ability to meet financial obligations, please contact the nearest legal assistance office to determine if the SCRA offers you protection.

Note: If you are eligible for relief under the SCRA, it is your responsibility to inform creditors as soon as possible of your circumstances. Most businesses and agencies have no way of knowing the duty status and/or special circumstances of their clients unless they are informed.

The military services have legal assistance offices available to assist service members with legal issues while the member is on active duty. Typical legal services involve consultation and assistance on wills, powers of attorney, child support questions, family matters, contractual disputes and more. Although legal assistance officers cannot represent family members in court, they can negotiate on your behalf.

Generally, the military services offer limited legal assistance to Guard and reserve members during inactive duty training periods to prepare legal documents needed (wills and powers of attorney) in the event of an involuntary call to active duty. Each military service has specific regulations regarding the extent of legal assistance they provide. The nearest military legal assistance office can be found through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services Locator. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel serves to promote the delivery of legal services to military personnel and their family members on their personal legal affairs.

Military pay and allowances

Pay, allowances, benefits and entitlements depend, all or in part, on a member’s rank, length of service, dependent status, and duty status. There are various types of pay. Basic Pay is the fundamental component of military pay and typically it is the largest component of a member’s pay.

Allowances are the second most important element of military pay. Allowances are moneys provided for specific needs, such as food or housing. The most common allowances are Basic Allowance for Subsistence and Basic Allowance for Housing. Most allowances are not taxable, which is an additional embedded benefit of military pay.

Basic pay

A member serving on active duty is entitled to basic pay. Basic pay is based on a 30-day monthly rate. The rate of pay is based on the member’s rank/pay grade and years of service.

Inactive duty training pay

This is commonly referred to as “drill pay.” The amount earned for each drill equals 1/30th of the monthly basic pay rate for the member’s rank and years of service. Each “drill weekend” consists of four four-hour drill periods.

Special and Incentive Pay

In addition to basic pay or IDT pay, many National Guard and reserve members are eligible for additional special pays for a wide variety of special skills or duties. A member who meets the eligibility requirements for an incentive or special pay is entitled to this pay in addition to basic pay or IDT pay (if payment is authorized by law when a member performs IDT). Some examples of these incentive or special pays include pay for duty associated with aviation, diving, hazardous duty, hostile fire and imminent danger, air weapons control, sea duty, submarine duty and health care professions. Your finance office can provide more information.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence

This allowance is intended to provide a partial subsidy for the cost of food. It is generally paid only when the member serves on active duty. The number of dependents does not affect BAS, and it is not subject to income tax.

Basic Allowance for Housing

This allowance is intended to offset the cost of housing when you do not receive government-provided housing. Your BAH depends upon your location, pay grade and whether you have dependents. BAH rates are set by surveying the cost of rental properties in each geographic location. Therefore, BAH rates in high-cost areas will be much greater than those in low-cost areas. Members performing IDT are not entitled to a housing allowance. However, the member’s unit may provide lodging in kind when government quarters are not available.

Direct deposit of pay and allowances

With few exceptions, all pay and allowances are delivered to the member’s chosen financial account via electronic funds transfer. This is handled through the unit’s finance office.

Tax withholdings and advantages

Federal income and Social Security taxes are automatically withheld. State taxes are withheld from members’ pay if the state has such an agreement with the U.S. Treasury. If you serve in a combat zone or certain other designated regions, your earnings may be excluded from taxable income. Certain limitations may apply.

Reserve retirement pay

Service members who accumulate 20 or more years of qualifying service are eligible for reserve retirement when they reach age 60 or, in some cases, a lesser qualifying age. There are two non-disability retirement plans currently in effect for reserve qualified retirees. These are the Final Pay plan and the High-36 Month Average plan.

Retirement age

Service members are generally not eligible for reserve (non-regular) retired pay until they reach age 60. However, any member of the Ready Reserve who, after January 28, 2008, is recalled to active duty or, in response to a national emergency, is called to certain active service, shall have the age 60 requirement reduced by three months for each cumulative period of 90 days so performed in any fiscal year (this qualifying service must occur after January 28, 2008).


Members eligible for reserve retirement must request retired pay from the military department in which they last served. Payment is not made until requested. This request is made by responding to the documentation sent to the service member from your branch of service a few months prior to reaching the retirement age.

Travel on military aircraft

Space-Available travel is a great program for our active-duty, Guard, reserve, retired and eligible family members. But understand that Air Mobility Command’s primary mission is to support our war fighters. Once duty and safety requirements are met, available seats will be offered to passengers awaiting transportation. Therefore, you must be prepared to possibly wait a few days or arrange alternate transportation. Remember, Space-A travel is a privilege, and AMC cannot guarantee movement to your desired location or on any particular schedule.

When not on active duty, authorized National Guard members and reservists, as well as authorized Reserve Component members entitled to retired pay at age 60 (gray area retirees), may fly within the continental United States and directly within/between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Dependents are not authorized to travel Space-A with these members. Reserve or Guard members placed on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days may travel Space-A to any location authorized for Space-A travel on presentation of a military ID card, orders placing the member on active duty, and a valid leave authorization or evidence of pass status as required by the service concerned. Dependents are authorized to travel when accompanied by members on active duty in excess of 30 days.

For Space-A travel eligibility, once the retirement age of 60 is reached and the member is receiving retirement pay, no distinction is made between members retired from the reserves/Guard and members retired from active duty. Dependents of these retirees are authorized to travel Space-A when accompanied by the sponsor.

Commissary, Exchange, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Commissary

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.

Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5% surcharge. Shoppers save an average of more than 30% on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings amounting to thousands of dollars annually. Authorized commissary patrons include active duty, Guard and reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100% disabled veterans, and their authorized family members. Since November 2003, members of the Guard and reserve including the ready reserve, selected reserve, individual ready reserve, inactive National Guard, Guard and reserve retirees and their authorized family members have enjoyed unlimited access to commissaries in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. A military ID is required at all commissaries.

The Guard/Reserve On-site Sales Program provides the commissary benefit to Guard and reserve members and their families that live in areas that are not close to an existing commissary store. Military installation exchanges provide quality merchandise and services to its customers at competitively low prices. Income generated is used as working capital to maintain and improve exchange sites as well as support Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Authorized personnel include uniformed or retired uniformed personnel, either on active duty or serving in any category of the Reserve Component. A military ID card is required for all exchange services.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation

MWR activities include arts and crafts facilities, bowling centers, golf courses, libraries, outdoor recreation, recreation centers, youth services activities and recreation membership clubs. Occasionally, local MWR facilities may offer significant discounts on popular local and national family attractions. In most instances, Guard and reserve members and their dependents are eligible to use all facilities on the same basis as active-duty personnel. Local installation and facility commanders do have the authority to establish priorities for MWR activities that are in high demand and unable to accommodate all who desire to participate. Be sure to call ahead and confirm hours of operation and eligibility for the activity you and your family are interested in.

Child care

The DOD has created several programs to provide military families with quality, affordable child care. The DOD currently oversees 800 child development centers (located on military installations worldwide that offer a safe child care environment and meet professional standards for early childhood education. Child care is typically available through these centers for children ages six weeks to 12 years. The DOD also oversees the family child care programs that provide in-home care by installation-certified providers. FCC programs help bridge gaps in child care when the CDC does not entirely meet the child care needs of the family.

An additional component of military child care is the school-age care program, which meets the needs of children ages six to 12 years and provides before- and after-school care as well as summer and holiday programs. Additional support for families with children over the age of 12 can be found through the youth and teen programs often sponsored by youth services and community centers.

The DOD military child development system is a benefit available to active-duty members, retirees, Guard and reserve members, and DOD civilian personnel. Availability of the facilities and programs varies depending on the location of the installation, resources and the needs of the local community. The availability of child care is also affected by the status of the service member and the priority of the family on the waiting list. In some instances, for example, reserve and Guard personnel must be activated in order to use military child care facilities and programs.

Medication Disposal Tips for Your Old or Unused Medicines

Service members at medical group pharmacy table

Getting rid of old or unused medicine is a tricky issue. Throwing it in the trash might pose a risk to a child or pet that finds it, and flushing it might hurt the environment. Keeping it “just in case” or for another time isn’t safe either, as expired meds don’t work as well and can even be harmful. Keep your family and community safe by cleaning out your medicine cabinet periodically. Take the following steps.

  • Read the medication’s label or the patient information that comes with it to see if there are disposal instructions. Don’t stray from those instructions; follow them strictly.
  • Take the medicines to a local drug collection or take-back program if your unused medications have no disposal instructions. Contact local law enforcement for an authorized site near you or find the nearest drug disposal location.
  • Follow the FDA’s simple steps for throwing most medications away in household trash if no authorized take-back site is in your area. Don’t throw the medicine away as is; instead, mix the medicine with coffee grounds before tossing it out.
  • Check the FDA’s authorized list of medications that can be flushed down the sink or toilet. Don’t flush any medicine not on the approved list.
  • Remember, these disposal methods can apply to over-the-counter drugs, too. Don’t think of over-the-counter medications as less important than prescription drugs. Treat them all the same when it comes to safe disposal.

Visit the Drug Enforcement Administration to learn more about drug disposal, national take-back events and locations of authorized collectors in your area, or contact Military OneSource if you’d like additional information on safe storage and disposal of prescription medications.

Expanded Access to Substance Use Disorder Services

TRICARE recently expanded mental health and substance use disorder services, including outpatient programs and reduced treatment copays. Keep reading to find out more about TRICARE’s new services.

An Overview of Adults With Special Needs

Service member and woman in wheelchair dancing

Adults with special needs are individuals over the age of 18 who have a medical condition or disability. People in this group may include:

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  • A spouse with a chronic illness or an acquired disability
  • A child with a developmental disorder transitioning to adulthood
  • A family member with complex needs, who requires assistance to live on his or her own

Supporting adult family members with complex needs or sustaining your own health and well-being as a person with special needs may involve collaboration with a variety of support systems and community-based services. Assistance may include access to nonclinical case management, referrals to mental health services and public benefits, and provision of assistive technology and adaptive equipment to help with overcoming limitations.

The adult child with special needs

An adult child with special needs:

  • May receive academic services through an individualized education program, or IEP
  • May require transition support as he or she reaches the age of majority
  • May remain under guardianship or incapacitated adult status’
  • May require assistance to live on his or her own

Military resources and support

There are a number of military programs and resources available to support service members as they carry out their duties. These programs and resources include:

Equal opportunity for individuals with special needs

Civilian and military advocates who worked to bring about legal, medical and social changes to address the needs of individuals with special needs, have paved the way for improved services and resources in many areas. These groups have encouraged the passage of three important laws:

For more information about how to receive assistance, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Independent living

Support for managing daily life is available to military families. Service members can receive assistance in the following ways:

To find more resources and information to support your family member with special needs:

Military OneSource special needs consultants can answer your questions and concerns about the care and education of your child or adult family member with special needs. Call us at 800-342-9647. OCONUS? Click here for calling options.

TRICARE’s Options for Opioid Treatment

Airman holds out goggles to simulate drunken disorientation.

TRICARE recently expanded mental health and substance use disorder services, adding outpatient programs and expanding options for opioid treatment. The benefits now provide a full range of mental health and SUD treatments.

What Your Family Needs to Know

From TRICARE updates to relationship boosts, you’ll find valuable tips and resources in each of our eNewsletters. Choose the one that connects you to your best MilLife. Sign up today for one or all of our eNewsletters.

Expanded military mental health and substance use disorder benefits

Chances are, benefits and treatment options have changed or expanded since you last looked through your TRICARE benefits. Here’s what you need to know about what’s available:

  • A wide variety of substance use disorder treatment options: SUD options include opioid treatment programs and office-based opioid treatment, as well as emergency inpatient hospital services. Office visits with qualified TRICARE-authorized providers may include coverage of medications for opioid addiction.
  • Fewer limits on number of treatments: There are no longer limits on the number of times beneficiaries can get SUD treatment, smoking cessation counseling or outpatient treatment per week. TRICARE also removed a previous requirement for authorization after the eighth outpatient mental health or SUD visit.
  • Lower copayments and cost-shares: Non-active-duty dependent beneficiaries, retirees, family members and survivors pay lower copayments and cost-shares for mental health and SUD care than previously required. See the full list of updated mental health copayments and cost-shares on the TRICARE website.
  • More TRICARE-authorized provider options: A newly streamlined process for providers and facilities means more options for TRICARE beneficiaries.

These options complement traditionally existing TRICARE-covered treatments, including:

  • Emergency and non-emergency inpatient hospitalization
  • Psychiatric residential treatment center care for children
  • Inpatient/residential SUD care
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Outpatient and office-based mental health and SUD treatment

For more information on the updated services and expanding treatment options for mental health and SUD, you can visit the Mental Health Care section of the TRICARE website. If you need extra assistance or are unsure of which services you or a family member may qualify for, don’t hesitate to reach out to Military OneSource for clarity and context – we’re here to help, however and whenever you need assistance.

Read More About Mental Health in the Military

Mental health is just as important as physical fitness for service members and their families to stay mission-ready. Read on to learn the signs of impending mental illness, as well as treatment options available to service members.