- As of January 2020 -
Military service members aren’t the only ones who serve. Spouses, children, and other family members are all affected by military service. Here, we outline some of the most popular and most useful military family benefits that can make your life a little easier.
5 Programs That Make Military Service Easier for Families
Over the years, the armed forces have made remarkable efforts to support not only the active duty member but the families as well. Military leaders recognize family support directly correlates to service member retention. Therefore, the DoD created several military benefits for family members to create a more sustainable environment for military families.
1. Military Parental Leave Program (MPLP)
The time after welcoming a new baby to the family (birth or adoption) can be stressful. Fortunately, the services have made great strides in affording their members time to adjust and recover.
The military parental leave program applies to all active, Full Time National Guard (FTNGD) reserve component members who were performing active duties of more than 12 continuous months around a birth or adoption event.
The program consists of: maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave, and secondary caregiver leave. All services allow parental leave entitlements to be retroactive to Dec 23, 2016.
Here’s a quick summary of each service’s parental leave policies and common misconceptions.
Maternity Convalescent Leave (MCL)
Limited to a covered service member birth parent and must be taken in one increment immediately following childbirth following the first full date after discharge and release from the hospital. The birth parent, with concurrence of the medical provider, may elect to have less than the allotted 42 days. Any medically required extension of MCL will be deducted from primary care giver leave.
Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, & Coast Guard
6 Weeks (42 Days) of Non-chargeable Leave
Primary Care Giver Leave (PCL)
Limited to covered service members designated as "primary caregivers" in conjunction to a birth event or adoption. Must be taken in one increment within 1 year of the qualifying event (deployment time will not count towards the 1 year period after birth).
As defined, the primary caregiver is the parent with the primary responsibility for caring for a child. In most cases the non-military parent shall be designated the primary caregiver. However, the final designtion rests with the approving Commander.
In some cases, the covered military member may be designated as the primary caregiver. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to,
Member is the birth parent
Dual military couple where one member of the couple is designated as the primary caregiver
The unavailability or incapacity of the birth parent if the birth parent is not a military member
The necessity of the non-military parent to return to his or her place of employment
The death of the non-military parent
Or other circumstances where the military member must act as primary caregiver
Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, & Coast Guard
6 Weeks (42 Days) of Non-chargeable Leave
May be taken consecutively to MCL (Total of 84 days)
By default the PC will be the non-military parent, and for dual military couples the member who is serving in the least operational position
Secondary Care Giver Leave (SCL)
Limited to service members designated as "secondary caregivers" in conjunction to a birth event or adoption. Must be taken in one increment within 1 year of the qualifying event (deployment time will not count towards the 1 year period after birth).
Air Force, Army, & Coast Guard
3 Weeks (21 Days)
Navy & Marines
2 Weeks (14 Days)
Postpartum Operational Deferment
For the birth mother service member.
*If you feel pressured to waive the deferment, you are in your right to file the issue with the Inspector General*
6 months (Army may ask for 12 months)
*Approved NDAA 2020 Section 572 will make the deferment period for all "armed forces" to be 12 months*
Active Duty male service members with civilian spouses can take primary caregiver leave
Join Spouse couples choose which parent to designate as the PC
Birth mothers have a 12 month PT deferment
Female members will also be provided with two sets of maternity OCPs. Take a memo from your commander with a copy of pregnancy profile to the Central Issuing Facility or unit supply room.
Enrollment in the Pregnancy/Postpartum Physical Training (PPPT) Program is required while pregnant and up to 6 months post-partum
Pregnant Sailors may remain onboard a ship until the 20th week and should not be assigned to units that are deploying from the 20th week through 12 months following delivery.
Sailors are also deferred from all transfers (PCS, TDY, TEMDU, etc.) 12 months after giving birth.
Servicewomen are exempt from the PFA for nine months after giving birth. After the 9 months, they’re required to participate in the next PFA cycle.
1 year following a birth or adoption event, all members are permitted to use a flexible work schedule at the discretion of the Commanding Officer
No pregnant service member shall deploy or remain aboard a ship, including small boat duty, beyond her 20th week of pregnancy.
Servicemembers (male and female) are encouraged to contact the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) with any questions/concerns regarding parental leave issues.
2. Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)
Initially enacted by the Army in 1979, Exceptional Family Member Program supports military dependents who have special medical, emotional, or educational needs. All military branches offer EFMP for military dependent spouses, children, dependent parents, and other sponsored family members.
Dependents with chronic health issues or special educational needs must enroll in the program via base agencies. Each installation provides special events, information, training, and other support services for EFMP enrollees. EFMP teams at both the losing and gaining installations review the member’s profile before each PCS to ensure the gaining installation has the services and specialists required to support the dependent. Upon moving to a new installation, EFMP members then connect directly with EFMP coordinators to set up care and ensure a smooth transition of services.
Children and adults who require continuing services must enroll in the program. Sometimes, EFMP considerations can affect assignments, specifically to overseas installations.
(Select the image below to download the EFMP Quick Reference Guide)
We also want to mention the services offered by the Fisher House Foundation. In short, the
Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where military & veterans families can stay free of charge, while a loved one is in the hospital. These homes are located at military and VA medical centers around the world.
3. Join Spouse Assignments for Mil-to-Mil Spouses
For dual-military couples, juggling assignments, TDYs, and deployments can be tricky. Luckily, each military branch has provisions for mil-to-mil families. These programs allow spouses to be stationed within no more than 100 miles of one another, helping dual-military families stay together.
Mil-to-mil spouses from different branches may find it more difficult to obtain joint assignments, but typically, both branches will coordinate to make accommodations whenever possible.
Mil-to-mil couples will also have to consider the financial implications of a joint assignment.
*Money Note - when a mil-to-mil couple have children, only one can claim dependent BAH.
*Educational Note - mil-to-mil spouses are able to initiate a Transfer of Educational Benefits (TEB) to the other spouse as long as that spouse is identified in the initiator's DEERS account
(Read More about TEB on our Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits page)
4. Cost Reimbursement: Childcare & Spouse Licensure
Military family benefits extend to the youngest dependents, too. Most installations have childcare centers for dependents of active duty and reserve members. However, if these centers are full, service members may be eligible for off-base childcare fee reimbursement.
Service members can receive reimbursement for childcare in eligible civilian childcare centers or in-home family childcare (FCC) programs.
Military child care fee assistance programs are managed by Child Care Aware of America. Military families interested in learning more about the programs can find information on the Child Care Aware of America website. The following are the service specific Child Care Aware Sites:
Spouse Licensure Reimbursement
Currently, all operational services (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy) offer a $500 reimbursement for military spouses that incur relicensing costs due to a PCS relocation. The benefit is retroactive to Dec 12, 2017.
*The recently passed NDAA 2020 section 628 increases the rate to $1,000*
Below is the MOAA chart summarizing each service's program
5. High School Senior Assignment Deferral for Military Dependents
Moving during a student’s senior year can have drastic implications on the teen’s emotional and academic success. As such, each branch permits military service members to request assignment deferrals to accommodate their high school junior or senior dependent.
Where to Discover More Military Family Benefits
Military Family Recreational Programs
Military families who play together, stay together. For that reason, most installations feature Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facilities and programs for service members and their dependents.
These facilities often provide guided outings, like sightseeing tours or extreme sports trips, and allow service members and their families to rent high-quality recreation gear. Often, families can purchase deeply discounted tickets to events or famous locations like Disney, SeaWorld, and more. Plus, the MWR oversees affordable vacation resorts in Germany, Hawaii, South Korea, and Orlando.
The goal of MWR facilities is to provide a respite for military families, allowing them to reconnect and recharge.
Installation Family Resource Center
For more information about benefits for the family of military service members, check out your installation’s family resource center:
Air Force: Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC)
Coast Guard: Sea Legs Program
United Service Organizations (USO)
Another great resource is to reach out to your local USO (not-for-profit org).
The USO's mission is, to "strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation".
Key family programs to be aware of are:
You can also learn more about military family benefits and a host of other topics at Military One Source, a comprehensive site designed to make military service easier for the entire family.
*Written in Coordination with Becca, Air Force Key Spouse*
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