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Getting Married

Before or After Joining the Military?

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If you are planning on joining the military and planning on getting married, there are certain advantages (as well as some disadvantages) to tying that knot before you leave for basic training.

However, I emphasize that one should not make their marriage decision based primarily on these factors. The divorce rate in the United States is about 50 percent, and that statistic follows over to the military. In fact, the military divorce rate may be even a little higher, because of the difficulty of a military life (frequent moves, unaccompanied assignments, long working hours, combat deployments, etc.).

But, if you've already made your decision to get married and are now just deciding whether it would be better to get married before or after joining the military, the following information may be of use to you.

Housing Allowance. A married servicemember receives a Housing Allowance while in basic training and follow-on job training (Technical School, AIT, A-School), in order to provide a household for his or her dependents, even though they are also living for free in government quarters (barracks). If you get married before joining the military, this tax-free housing allowance begins on the very first day of active duty (the first day of basic training).

If one waits until after joining the military to get married, the housing allowance becomes effective on the date of the marriage. However, one needs a "certified" copy of the marriage certificate to change their marital status, and (depending on the state) this can take a couple of weeks, or even a month to obtain. Even so, the housing allowance would be "back-dated" to the date of the marriage.

Medical Care. Dependents of active duty members are covered by the Military Medical System (Tricare), effective the very first day of active duty. During basic training in-processing, the recruit completes paperwork to enroll their dependents in DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment System), and for a military dependent ID Card. The ID Card paperwork is mailed to the spouse who can then take it to any military installation and obtain a military dependent ID Card. If medical care is needed before getting the ID card, the spouse can keep the medical receipts, and then file for reimbursement later, under the Tricare Standard or Tricare Extra program (depending on whether or not the medical provider is part of the Tricare network).

Family Separation Allowance. Married members are entitled to a Family Separation Allowance, when they are separated from their dependents, due to military orders. The tax-free allowance begins after separation of 30 days. This means married people in basic training and technical school (if the technical school duration is less than 20 weeks) begins to receive this pay 30 days after going on active duty. Single personnel do not receive this allowance.

Movement of Dependents. Unless the first duty assignment is an unaccompanied (remote) overseas tour, the married military member is entitled to move their dependents (and personal property) to the first duty station at government expense. Travel entitlements end when one signs in at their new duty station, so whether or not one can be reimbursed for dependent travel depends on the date of the marriage.

For example, Airman Jones graduates technical school (Air Force Job Training), then goes home on leave enroute to his first duty assignment. While on leave, Airman Jones gets married. He then reports to his first duty station. He will be entitled to movement of dependents at government expense, because the date of the marriage was before he signed in at the duty station.

Another example: PFC Jackson finishes AIT (Army Job Training) and goes to his first duty assignment. A couple of weeks later, his fiance flies down, and they get married. PFC Jackson cannot move his wife and her property to the duty assignment at government expense, because the marriage occured after he completed his assignment move.

There is an exception to the above rule for certain overseas assignments. When a single person is assigned to a "long" overseas tour, the assignment length is generally 24 months (the unaccompanied tour length). For an accompanied married person, the tour length is usually 36 months. If a single person goes overseas on such a tour, then gets married during the tour, he/she can apply to move his dependents overseas, if they agree to extend his tour-length to the accompanied tour length.

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