Marry into the military and you are guaranteed to feel like an idiot. You are NOT an idiot. We know that. But starting married life in the military is like starting married life in a foreign country. Everything looks familiar, but all the rules have changed. Strange.
That's why you might feel like an idiot a lot when you are first married. Everyone does. Even for your service member, married military life is a lot different than single military life.
The best way to handle this is to treat these first six weeks like a curious tourist on a scavenger hunt. When we polled our Military.com readers to find out the top 10 things you and your service member should do to get off to the best start. This isn’t everything you could possibly do. These are the best things to do so you can fix it, forget it and go back to the honeymoon as soon as possible.
1. Memorize your service member’s Social Security number. Not yours. Theirs. Weird, huh? But remember the military keeps track of everything according to the servicemember’s Social Security number. You qualify for benefits through your servicemember and his or her SSN. This is not an indicator of your personal worth, it is a convenience for the accounting department. Let it go.
2. Grab your official marriage license and a copy of your service member’s current orders. For the next few weeks, you are going to trot these two papers everywhere. Put them in a plastic page protector and make sure they are hard to lose. Then get a fireproof lockbox and tuck those records inside, please.
3. Get in DEERS. The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is the database of all military service members and dependents. It shows that you are officially married and thus qualified to get an ID card, medical benefits and live in housing.
On most posts and bases, you need to present this military ID at the gate in order to get on base. You need it in order to buy anything on post and to get any medical benefits. Carry it with you all the time -- like your driver’s license.
4. Get an ID card. On most posts and bases, you need to present this military picture ID at the gate in order to get on base. You need it in order to buy anything on post and to get any medical or dental benefits. Carry it with you all the time -- like your driver’s license. Also, get an official base sticker for your car if it is required for your post or base.
5. Find the contact information for your service member’s command. Sometimes your service member can’t take their cell phone with them. Sometimes they work off-site or in the motor pool and not at their desk. You’ll want to know where they are working physically and a good contact number in case of emergency. For use only in an emergency. It’s also recommended to get the number of their immediate supervisor, again for use in an emergency situation only.
6. Get the name of the helper assigned to families in your unit. This is often called an Ombudsman, Family Readiness Officer or Family Readiness Liaison. Often, these people are listed on the command’s website or Facebook page. They will not solve your problem, but these helping professionals are trained to be able to listen to your problem and then hook you up with the right support. Think of them as your Spark Notes for military life.
7. Figure out your medical insurance. Tricare provides medical coverage to military families, and once you’re registered in DEERS you should be good to go. But go ahead and find the appointment line number and program that into your phone. Then call it and make sure tehy have a record for you and have assigned you to a primary care manager (PCM). Then find the local urgent care that accepts Tricare and the closest/best emergency room. Now you’re set.
8. Find out about military housing. Maybe you will live there. Maybe you won’t. But find out about it so you can make an informed decision. Take any horror stories you hear with a grain of salt. Make your own decision.
9. Get clear on the money. Many of our Military.com readers confessed that they messed up money because they spent what they thought they SHOULD make, not what they actually made. Just write on a piece of paper on your fridge how much money you take home every month and how much your service member takes home. That’s it. No one is asking you to make a budget, just write down what you take home.
10. Scope out the commissary checkout line. For some reason, the commissary checkout line is guaranteed to make you feel like an idiot. This pitfall was mentioned over and over by Military.com readers. So, instead of lining up at each cashier as we do at a normal grocery store, most commissaries have one line and then you go to the next available cashier -- kind of like Marshalls on a grand scale. And, don’t forget to tip the baggers.
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