I'm a New Spouse and a Reservist. What Do I Do Now?

It's tricky when one spouse is active duty and one spouse is a reservist.

Updated: 2/19/2021

Sometimes, the military records system gets things wrong. We've all heard the stories of it adding or subtracting dependents and other errors. There's only so much you can do to keep the system straight, but it is important to try.

There can be issues for spouses who grew up as military children or who are serving in another branch. Problems may also pop up when one service member marries another.

"I've just gotten married, and I don't know what to do about my situation with military records. I am a reservist, and my husband is an active-duty soldier. I'm pretty sure we need to go into the DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System] office and update our records, but I'm afraid it will mess things up. I've talked to some people in my reserve unit, and they report a lot of problems with the name change and things like [Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH] and moving. Would it be easier if we just didn't update the records? I don't want a lot of hassle or errors," one spouse wrote.

DEERS is an electronic database of military members, retirees and their dependents. Accurate information in DEERS is the key to getting medical, dental and life insurance, as well as educational benefits. It also shows eligibility for Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moving allowances and Family Separation Allowance, among others.

So not updating your records is a bad idea.

While updating your information may be complicated as a Reserve or National Guard member, or even as an active-duty service member yourself, you need to do it. Update the paperwork to make sure they know you two are married so you get the correct rate for benefits such as BAH.

It is possible that the DEERS office won't have dealt with an active duty-reserve couple before, but I doubt it. For the most part, the record changes that occur with marriage are the same for everyone.

What can get more complicated, and you do need to closely follow and manage, is any time that you become eligible for BAH. If you are activated and start receiving BAH, and your husband has no other dependents, you need to notify his payroll folks to change his BAH to without dependents. And then you need to verify that it happened on his Leave and Earnings Statement (LES.) Then, when you stop receiving BAH, you need to notify them again -- and once again verify that the change occurred via the LES.

I don't recommend that you choose not to update your military records. So much relies on accurate records, including BAH, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI/FSGLI), eligibility for family separation allowance, PCS moving entitlements, Tricare, etc. Plus, your records would be inaccurate, and the military is pretty unhappy with inaccurate records.

It may take a little effort and follow-up to get things right, but it is important that you do it. And it isn't a terrible idea to double-check your records every year or so, to make sure they are still accurate.

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