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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.

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, email 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: Upon retirement, a service member 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.

Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance

This is a Department of Defense program that supplements an eligible active service member’s household income if it’s below 130% of federal poverty guidelines (maximum payment is $1,100 per month). FSSA is only available for members with at least one dependent in their households who are serving overseas (not including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Guam). For more information about the FSSA program or any other assistance, members should contact their family support center, command or community services financial management counselors. The FSSA Application, DD Form 2857 is available on the WHS DOD Forms website.

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 congressionally mandated 5% surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of at least 25% 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.

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