Growing Family After Leaving Service? Follow This To-Do List

Growing Family After Leaving Service? Follow This To-Do List
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This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.


Getting married or having a new child are exciting life events. But if these milestones happen after military retirement, it might not be obvious that you have extra tasks to get your new family member set up within the various military systems.


Adding new family members to the right databases is key to ensuring they are eligible for the various benefits you’ve earned from your military service.


The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System 

The first step in accessing any DoD benefits is to add new family members to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, also called DEERS. This will require a visit to a physical Pass and ID Card office. (Head here to make an appointment.) It’s generally easier if the retiree and the new dependent go together, but there are ways to do it in two different trips if necessary.


The retiree will need to sign a DD Form 1172-2, Application for Identification Card/DEERS Enrollment. If the new family member is a spouse, the spouse will need two unexpired forms of identification, one of which must be issued by a state or federal government. This might include a driver’s license or passport, though other documents might be acceptable. You can find a full list of acceptable documents at this link. You will also need original or certified copies of the marriage certificate and the new spouse’s birth certificate.


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Consider bringing your Social Security card and any other ID you have, too — just in case. It’s always easier to have more documents than you need rather than not having what you need.


If the new family member is a child, you will need the child’s birth certificate or Consular Report of Birth Abroad, plus their Social Security card. For new stepchildren, you will also need the marriage certificate showing the retiree is married to the child’s parent. Other situations, such as adoption or children born outside of marriage, will require additional documentation.



Once your new family members are in DEERS, you can enroll them in TRICARE. Marriage or a new child is a qualifying life event that permits you to change your TRICARE enrollment outside of the annual open season. The change(s) must be made within 90 days of the qualifying life event.




Your new family members’ TRICARE options will depend on your location. It’s important to note your family does not have to choose the same TRICARE plan, but you will pay an enrollment fee for each plan your family uses.


The easiest ways to enroll your new family members in their selected plan are online through the milConnect portal or by calling your region’s TRICARE contractor.


Vision and Dental Coverage

In addition to TRICARE medical coverage, your family members are eligible for vision and dental coverage through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). Enrollment for these plans is done through the Benefeds website

Survivor Benefit Plan

It often surprises people that updating their family information in DEERS does not update their information with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).


Depending on the situation and your choices at retirement, you might be eligible to enroll your new family members in Survivor Benefit Plan coverage. If eligible, enrollment must be completed within one year of the new family member’s eligibility — the date of marriage for a new spouse or stepchild or the date of birth for a new child. There are some situations where enrollment might happen automatically, but it’s important to look into this coverage.


Arrears of Pay Beneficiary

You might also want to update your Arrears of Pay beneficiary. This is the person who will receive any outstanding pay if you die. This can be done through your myPay account access or by submitting DD Form 2894 to DFAS.


Department of Veterans Affairs

If you receive any benefits from the VA, you will want to add your new family members to your VA records. If you have a combined disability rating of 30% or more, the amount of your disability compensation will increase for additional eligible family members.


Depending on your specific situation, updating your VA records to include family members might make them eligible for other benefits. These might include education, health care, and survivor benefits.


If you have Veterans’ Group Life Insurance or any other VA life insurance, you might also want to update your beneficiaries for these policies.




Thrift Savings Plan

Consider if you want to change beneficiaries on your Thrift Savings Plan account. Make some time after your family change to update your information with DoD, DFAS, and the VA. This will ensure your new family members have all the benefits you worked so hard to earn. 


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About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell

Horrell is a personal financial educator and military spouse. Get more finance tips at