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Top 5 Military
Family First Programs

- As of July 2023 -

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)

(Updated July 2023)
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.

Prior to Dec 2022: The program consisted of: maternity convalescent leave (6 weeks), primary caregiver leave (6 weeks), and secondary caregiver leave (2-3 weeks depending on service). 


Effective 27 Dec 2022: New Dept of Defense Policy (23-001 published Jan 4, 2023) instated 12 weeks of paid, non-chargeable parental leave for new parents of a birth, adoption, or long-term foster care placement of 24 months.

There is no longer a difference between a primary or secondary caregiver leave. This includes dual-military couples in which both are authorized 12 weeks of parental leave. 

Convalescent leave may also be authorized for the recovery of the birth parent in addition to the 12 weeks. 

The 12 weeks of parental leave may be taken in multiple, nonconsecutive increments of at least 1 week, but overall within 1 year of the qualifying event (There are couple exemptions such as in-residence school, and if a member is TDY for 90+ days). 

Service Specific Regulations


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


Childcare Reimbursement

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*  

This article by the MOAA offers a great breakdown of the program and requirements for each service

Below is the MOAA chart summarizing each service's program

Join Spouse
Cost Reimb
MOAA Licensure R Snapshot.JPG

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:

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:

Click Here to Find a USO Center Near You

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*

High School

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