Inquiries about ‘Veterans/Military Benefits’
Introduction: SILENT PARTNER is a lawyer-to-lawyer resource for military legal assistance attorneys and civilian lawyers, published by the Military Committee of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section and the North Carolina State Bar’s military committee. Please send any comments, corrections and suggestions to the address at the end of this Silent Partner. There are many SILENT PARTNER infoletters on military pension division, and other aspects of military divorce. Just go to www.americanbar.org > Family Law Section > Military Committee (the website of the above ABA committee), or www.nclamp.gov > For Lawyers (the website of the military committee, N.C. State Bar).
From time to time, our office (in Raleigh, N.C.) gets inquiries by phone or e-mail regarding military benefits and entitlements (e.g., military medical care on-base, ID cards, TRICARE, use of the commissary and/or BX/PX, GI Bill, etc.), as well as benefits, privileges and entitlements for survivors, dependents and veterans. Answering such inquiries is, in general, beyond the scope of what a law firm can undertake. Knowing the answers and keeping up with rules and statutes can be a full-time job, whether it’s entitlements under U.S. Code Title 10 (the Department of Defense), Title 38 (the Department of Veterans Affairs) … not to mention the various benefits accorded to military personnel, dependents and veterans by state law!
In these situations, we always refer out the client so that he or she can get accurate and up-to-date information since we don’t have it. For example, when I needed to find out about my own Army Reserve healthcare benefits, my wife and I had to drive out to the Joint Guard Center in Raleigh to sit down with a sergeant and listen to what we could expect from Tricare for Life, how to ensure we are enrolled, and how to get a current ID card for my wife.
TYPES OF BENEFITS
There are different types of benefits associated with military service. Some benefits are earned through military service or a relationship with a member of the uniformed services (e.g., spouse, child or step-child). Other benefits must be granted by a court of law (e.g., division of military retired pay, allocation of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), division of accrued leave).
The home page for the Army Retirement Services Office (RSO) has a great deal of information on retirement and the Survivor Benefit Plan, and this data can be helpful in explaining these topics to clients, opposing counsel or the court. The website is - https://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement/ > RC Retirement Services. Remember that data at the RSO for the Army is equally applicable to all branches of the uniformed services; anything said about “soldiers” will apply equally to sailors, Marines, airmen and members of the Coast Guard.
The Army’s Casework Guide, prepared by the Office, Chief of Legislative Liaison, HQDA for Members of Congress to orient them regarding Army and general military issues and questions from constituents, may be found at: https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo68417/114th/Casework%20Guide%20114th%20Congres_new.pdf. It is a compendium of information on such topics as release forms for medical and dental information (DD Form 2870), recruiting and enlistment, discharges and reentry codes, compassionate reassignments, overseas travel of family members, Army family programs, medical and health care, eligible health care beneficiaries, access to medical and health care records, leave, various types of special pays, military justice, discharge and separation, security clearances, disability separations and retirement, official military personnel files, the National Personnel Records Center, and how to request military records (Request Pertaining to Military Records - SF 180).
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE RESOURCES
The website for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service has SBP fact sheets and “Frequently Asked Questions” under the tabs marked “Provide for Loved Ones” and “Survivors and Beneficiaries” tabs, found under the “Retired Military and Annuitants” heading. DFAS (the Defense Finance and Accounting Service) also has published a “Guide to Survivor Benefits” (August 2014) which may be found through any search engine (search for “DFAS Guide to Survivor Benefits August 2014”).
COST GUARD RESOURCES
The Coast Guard generally follows the DFAS rules on pension division and SBP issues.
You’ll find the Coast Guard’s guide to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (including SBP) at - http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Portals/10/CG-1/PPC/Docs/Legal/Uniformed%20Services%20Former%20Spouse%20Protetion%20Act%20(FSPA).pdf
The Coast Guard Reserve Component SBP Guide is at: http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Portals/10/CG-1/PPC/RAS/RCSBP.pdf?ver=2017-03-02-093832-530
The packet on Survivor Benefit Plan information for the Coast Guard, and the commissioned corps of NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and PHS (the Public Health Service) is at: http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Portals/10/CG-1/PPC/RAS/retpack.pdf?ver=2017-03-02-093837-793.
Some states have a veterans’ service agency or a department of veterans affairs. In North Carolina, you can find the information about the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs info at https://www.milvets.nc.gov/services/benefits-claims.
There are regional offices throughout the state, and an office in every county.
For contacts or clients who are in other states, one should ask the individual to look up the information for that particular jurisdiction. For example, a one-minute search for information on veterans’ benefits offices in California yielded this website: https://www.calvet.ca.gov/VetServices/
A similar search for veterans’ benefits in Oregon turned up this website in less than a minute: https://www.oregon.gov/ODVA/Benefits/Pages/default.aspx
Answers about military benefits and privileges can sometimes be answered by a veterans services officer or an employee of the veterans affairs agency. At other times the answers will come from an office at the military base (e.g., Retirement Services Office – each base has one!), or from a personnel or finance officer. The answers may be found in some cases at the statewide headquarters of the National Guard. It would also be worthwhile checking with the American Legion, AmVets, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other veterans’ organizations.
Often an internet search for “military benefits” will turn up a good source of information – such as this URL at “military.com” - http://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/military-benefits-overview.html. The 2019 guide to military benefits published by “Military Times” is at https://hub.militarytimes.com/ebooks/04-26-benefits-guide-2019/.
Some other internet sources of information include these:
- Military benefits information in general -
- U.S. Army Benefits Web Page - https://www.goarmy.com/benefits.html
- Website for Defense Department (DMDC and DEERS)-https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/
- Information of marriage separation and divorce resources (National Military Family Assn) - https://www.militaryfamily.org/info-resources/marriagedivorce/
When it comes to ID cards, the rules are set out in a joint services regulation. The Air Force is the proponent, and the regulation is AFI [this stands for Air Force Instruction] 36-3026. Search for “36-3026” on any internet search engine. This is the source for information as to entitlement to benefits for dependents (regardless of branch of service).
BENEFITS FOR VETERANS
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) publishes a Guide to Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors. It is located here: https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book.asp
The reader may also want to suggest these handbooks:
https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book.asp > For Veterans > Benefit Information
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military Servicemembers who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of Veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. Details may be found at - https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/types-dependency_and_indemnity.asp.
The SILENT PARTNER series of info-letters is prepared by Mark E. Sullivan (COL, USA – Ret.), a family law attorney in Raleigh, N.C. For comments or suggested changes, contact him at email@example.com; or 919-832-8507.