Salute to Spouses Blog

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Six things to do before you separate from the military

There are a lot of bennies to being active-duty military – freebies, discounts and other little benefits, both from the military and civilian sides - that we often we forget about. If you are retiring or separating from the military for other reasons, be sure to do these five things first:


  1. Take a Space-A flight. Pick a destination and go, anywhere you want. Hawaii, Europe, Asia … travel to the location of your dreams could be free. You can still fly Space A when you retire, but in a lower category that can make it much harder to get a premium destination, especially during peak retirement times. And, retiree spouses cannot travel without their “sponsor” after retirement, either.
  2. Take advantage of discounts that apply to active-duty only, such as certain theme park tickets, free national park passes and shopping discounts. You’ll still get some of these as a retiree or veteran, but many will disappear. Disney World, for example, offers their discounted admission tickets to retirees, but not veterans in general. Busch Gardens allows one day of free admission per to year to military families, but only while still on active duty.
  3. Check your GI Bill benefits. We had a friend who recently found out, a decade after retiring and when his daughter was applying for college, that his GI Bill benefits had not been properly transferred to her. There is no recourse at this point. I also recently heard of a family who, after their retired servicemember died, discovered that he had only transferred 10 percent of his GI Bill benefits to each of their two children. That advice was commonly given to people when changes were made in the program about 10 years ago. The idea was that you could adjust the amounts for each child later as needed. The problem: Only the servicemember or retiree can make such adjustments. In the unfortunate circumstance where this retiree passed away, the remaining 80 percent of GI Bill benefits could not be used by his children.
  4. Get physicals for everybody. The separating or retiring servicemember will go through extensive medical screening. The rest of the family should get full physicals, too, while it’s still covered by active-duty insurance. The same should be done for dental appointments, eye appointments, or any other related issues. Get a well woman exam, mammogram, dermatology screening, prescription refills, immunizations. Basically, ask for anything your primary care manager will authorize or give you referrals for.
  5. Utilize free legal services. The average cost of having a will drawn up at an attorney’s office in the U.S. is $375. A power of attorney can cost anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the type. You can get these, and many other legal documents, from your base or unit JAG office for no cost.
  6. Get your resume updated. Most bases have an employment readiness program, usually through Army Community Services or a similar agency, that gives free career counseling, helps with writing resumes, has job interview classes, etc. The retiring or separating servicemember usually goes through these classes as part of their transition. But spouses can use these benefits, too, to get ready for their post-service job search.
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