The decision to leave the military for your spouse is not only an important decision, but also one that comes with many considerations. My husband made the choice just this past year to ETS (Expiration of Term of Service) out of the Army, and wanting to continue being the supportive spouse I have been throughout various deployments and TDY’s, I jumped right in and did what I could to ensure the transition would be smooth for our family.
After 15 years of service, this of course was not an easy choice to make. We discussed how this would impact our family as well as how the soldier to civilian transition would impact him as an individual. As a National Guard family, we have faced our own set of challenges being a military family and living in a civilian world, this still meant taking the time to ensure all areas were covered and no surprises were thrown our way.
While there are some differences between active duty and guard/reserve spouses, this guide will cover both components and help ensure you have a good grasp on what to expect and plan for.
Evaluate Employment Options and Use Available Resources: Perhaps the biggest part of leaving the military is figuring out what your spouse will be doing in their next career. Will they stay in a field like their MOS (military occupational specialty), or will they venture out to a new career? To reduce stress and financial burden on your family, start the job search process as soon as possible. A wonderful way to help in the process is by working with a recruiter to help your spouse with their job search. Organizations like CASY, a non-profit dedicated in assisting veterans with their job search, offers free services such as; resume writing and interview training to ensure your service member is ready for civilian employment.
Review Housing Options within Your Budget: Will you rent or will you buy? When you’re living on base, much of the home maintenance is covered. Even in the Guard and Reserve components, when our spouses are deployed or on AGR (active guard reserve) housing/BAH (basic housing allowance) is included in their monthly pay. As a civilian, be prepared to take on all housing payments and expenses. Whether you are deciding to rent, or perhaps finally make your first home purchase, get ready to keep track of all the expenses. Do your research before making the choice for your family.
Be Aware of Changes in Taxes and Car Registration Fees: If you’re coming back to the United States after living overseas, you will most likely have a vehicle or two to bring back with you. Be prepared to pay taxes and registration fees for the state you will be residing in. This number should always be included in your budget as it can cost a pretty penny, so do your research ahead of time.
Research Health Insurance Options: After your spouse’s ETS date, you are no longer covered under the Tricare plan. However, you do have the option to continue your plan, but you must pay a monthly premium. The premium charges will vary on family size and plan, but be sure to shop around for insurance before selecting. Many times, it may be more expensive than simply selecting your spouse’s or your own employer insurance, so compare before signing up. If selecting your employer insurance plan be sure to ask when your coverage begins to ensure proper coverage and to avoid gaps. Don’t forget to compare plans and coverage, co-payments, co-insurance and yearly deductibles.
Be Prepared to Search for new Medical providers: One issue I had with Tricare, is the limited availability of “in network” doctors you can see. In the military world, you generally don’t have much of a choice. As soon as you become a civilian, the doors will open and the options will be many. This can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time, as you will be thinking about the obvious questions upon selecting a new provider; is this doctor in network? How do I know if I will like this practice? Google searches and reviews will come in handy while selecting new providers.
Embrace Your New Community: If you are moving to an area you are not familiar with, it’s like PCS’ing all over again. However, this time, your community may be 99% civilian, so you will need to find other common bonds to make new friends. Be prepared to get out, and make an effort. A great place to make new friends is among your work friends, church groups or even your children’s school. Upon moving into our new neighborhood, which is 99% civilian, we attended all our community picnics, events and church gatherings. Within the year, we had a nice social circle outside military life.
While these steps may seem overwhelming, eventually we slowly settled into our civilian life and my hope is you and your family will do the same.
What ETS / EAOS tips can you offer another military spouse? Share with us in the comments below.
About the blogger: Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, freelance writer, published author and branding expert. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband and two children.
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