13 Often Forgotten-About Military Family Benefits

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Often Forgotten-About Military Family Benefits
A celebratory collage of military families for November's Military Family Appreciation Month. (Air National Guard/Beth Holliker)

Many service members and family members find comfort in the job stability that comes with military life. While they may move more than the average American family and their service member may be called away at the last minute for an undetermined amount of time, some benefits make it more bearable.

Here are some benefits that are often forgotten about but may come in handy for your family.

OCONUS Flights for College Students

If you're the parent of a college student and currently stationed overseas, the government may cover the cost of one flight per fiscal year. There are eligibility requirements, most of which are met if the student is a dependent of the service member and listed on the PCS orders. The travel benefit must be approved by the service member's chain of command. For additional information, including eligibility requirements, contact the installation travel coordinator or Military OneSource.

Retirement Move Extension

When retiring from the military, you are entitled to one final move. While you don't have to make that move immediately after retirement, the regulation says you need to make that move within a year. However, you can request an extension of one year up to five times by providing a reason to the local transportation office. They don't have to accept it each time, but the absolute max is six years.

National Park Entry

Military families, service members, veterans and Gold Star families can enter national parks for free with the interagency annual military pass. This entry does not eliminate fees for camping, special tours or other fees. For more information about how to secure your pass, visit the National Park Service's website.

Free Non-Medical Counseling

Non-medical counseling is available for service members and their family members through Military OneSource. You can call, text, chat online or schedule a session to talk with counselors about a variety of things, including relationships, money, personal goals, moving, family issues or anything else affecting your life. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255 or visit Military OneSource online.

MWR Rentals

Did you know you can rent things from Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)? Having a party and need some chairs or tables? A bouncy castle for a birthday party? You can even rent a recreational vehicle from MWR. Additionally, installations with recreational areas, like Pointes West Army Resort at Fort Gordon, Georgia, have cabin and camping rentals available as well.

Free Tricare Breast Pump

Tricare beneficiaries can receive one breast pump per "birth event," which includes legal adoption with the intent to breastfeed. Beneficiaries under all Tricare plans are eligible for this, regardless of the sponsor's duty status. When medically necessary, Tricare may approve medical-grade pumps. Tricare also covers supplies for up to 36 months after birth, and beneficiaries can receive a second pump for a second birth event. You'll need a prescription from your doctor, which you can get before you deliver, so you can have everything set up before giving birth.

SCRA Benefits

When joining the military, you may have learned about how the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can reduce your interest rate. For eligible loans -- usually those you opened before joining the military -- a reduction of the interest rate down to 6% is possible. The SCRA also protects you if you need to break a lease due to orders. There are several ways the SCRA can help you financially.

Blue Star Museum Entry

Most years, from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, military families can visit select museums, zoos and aquariums for free through the Blue Star Museums program -- supported by the Defense Department and the National Endowment for the Arts. The number of participating locations vary, but extend across the country and number approximately 2,000. With a valid ID card, service members, dependents and family members can enjoy museums all across the country.

SatoTravel

Travel discounts are always a plus for military families, and when they come with a travel adviser, it's even better. SatoTravel has been working with military families for more than 70 years and can help you plan and book your trip while saving you money. They can be especially helpful when stationed overseas. Check your installation's Sato office for more information.

The USO

The United Service Organizations has been supporting military service members and families for years. One way they do this is through their airport lounges -- a service for which weary travelers are very grateful. The USO also supports military marriages, spouses and service members through a variety of online programs and groups.

Thrift Shops

Many installations have a thrift shop -- often operated by a spouses' club -- where community members can shop for items and sell them through consignment. They also serve as an opportunity for volunteering and often have some paid positions.

Education Center

In addition to providing spouses, service members and dependents with assistance regarding their education, the education center has a computer lab. All the smartphones in the world still don't compare to a physical computer hooked up to a printer, which is something the computer lab can help with when you're mid-move or just need to print something.

Libraries and Overdrive

If you're lucky enough to be at an installation with a library, you'll get a lot of great benefits, including summer reading programs for children, story hour and a quiet place to read or study. You also can use your library card to access MWR libraries online through Overdrive.

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