Military families are faced with a great amount of uncertainty. Permanent change of station moves, military deployments, training, temporary duty, and military exercises all have the potential to take the military members in the family away from home and the responsibilities of everyday living.
That is why it is a very good idea to develop a family care plan that includes a full range of plans for a sudden or prolonged separation due to military duty requirements. The family that anticipates separation-related problems related to money, child care, and other important areas will endure the hardship of military life in a much better way.
Family Care Plans, Army Style
Some troops don’t have a choice when it comes to developing a family care plan; consider the United States Army official Family Care Plan Policy, informed by DoD policy and Army regulations.
The Army actually goes as far as to impose punitive measures for soldiers who fail to create and submit a family care plan before TDY, deployments, field training, and other events that take the soldier away from home for extended periods of time.
The Army requires Family Care Plans to be submitted prior to any of the following:
- Temporary Duty
- Field Duty
- Training Exercises
- Permanent Change of Station
- Unaccompanied Tours
- Unit Training Assembly
- Annual Training (Reserve Component)
- Emergencies/Other Military Duty
- Leave/Non-duty Time
We present this information here not because Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, or Coast Guard troops are subject to exactly the same requirements, but rather as a guide to help those who do not have a specific requirement for a family care plan to know when it’s best to have one.
In the Army’s specific case, not filing a family care plan ahead of one of these situations can have negative consequences including possibly being considered ineligible for deployment, TDY, or PCS. Soldiers can be involuntarily separated from military service for failing to create a family care plan as required.
Who Needs A Family Care Plan?
Continuing to use our Army example, soldiers required to submit family care plans include but may not be limited to the following:
- Pregnant Soldiers “Without spouse or not residing with spouse”;
- Pregnant soldiers who are married to another service member in active or Reserve status;
- Soldier who has joint or full legal custody of family members under the age of 19 without a spouse or not residing with the spouse;
- Soldiers with joint or full custody of family members under 19 who are married to another service member in active or reserve status;
- Soldiers who divorced and did not remarry, and has “liberal or extended visitation rights by court decree that allows the family member to be solely in the Soldier’s care in excess of 30 days”;
- Soldiers with a spouse who is incapable of self-care or is otherwise physically, mentally, or emotionally disabled so as to require special care or assistance;
- Soldiers who are half of a dual-military couple on active or reserve status with custody of family members under age 19 or who have “adult family members incapable of self care regardless of age”.
While this list does not directly address the needs of all service members, those who find themselves in any of the situations mentioned above should never be without a family care plan regardless of the nature of military service, branch of service, etc.
Not everyone has the same requirements or circumstances when it comes to a family care plan. But all family care plans should have several things in common.
What Your Family Care Plan Should Include
- Anticipation of delays in your return;
- Instructions on who to contact if the service member cannot be reached for an extended period of time;
- A specifically named guardian for your family via a special Power of Attorney;
- Ensure all military ID cards are up to date and not at risk of expiration during the extended absence;
- Base contact numbers including the unit orderly room First Sergeant or Sergeant Major, Family Support numbers, etc;
- Contact information for other spouses and families affected by the deployment/TDY/PCS;
- Apply for life insurance coverage such as the military’s SGLI program;
- Plan for appropriate housing, food, transportation and emergency requirements;
- Make arrangements to have your finances looked after;
- Make sure your assigned guardian/caregivers will have access to money for expenses;
- Arrange for child care and medical care;
- Prepare a legal will;
- Name a guardian in your will;
- Describe any living will type requirements in your will;
- Set up auto-deductions/automatic payments for your financial obligations.
Those who are asking non-military members to be part of the family care plan should take extra steps to insure that caregivers, guardians, and those acting with powers of attorney know how to access on-base resources, what is required of them to get on base and to represent the service member.
You may be able to authorize a non-military person to shop for your dependents and/or spouse at military commissaries or base exchanges by getting a letter of authorization issued by the office responsible for issuing ID cards at your base.
Family Care Plan Requirements By Branch Of Service
Each branch of military service has its own requirements for family care plans. Two branches of service, the Air Force and the Navy, require a form to be filled out acknowledging that the service member has been briefed on family care requirements and outlining a brief description of the plans made.
Navy and Air Force forms require names, contact numbers, and even signatures of designated caregivers or representatives of the service member available when the family care plan is activated.
The Marine Corps and the Army have more complicated requirements. Consider what was ordered for all affected Marines according to Marine Corps Order 1740.13C:
“All Marines, with the exception of those with no dependent(s), shall have a validated Family Care Plan (FCP) (NAVMC 11800 (Rev. 01-13)) initiated as part of the check-in process for their first permanent duty station or within one year from the date this Order is signed.”
According to the order, training on family care plans are considered part of the standard “readiness curriculum” for Marines.
Army requirements include having soldiers complete DA Form 5305-R, Family Care Plan, which “…documents the specific measures (the soldier) has taken to ensure that his family is cared for during (the soldier’s) absence.” Those in the Army are also required to complete DA Form 5841-R, Power of Attorney, which is advised to be completed in advance “but wait until deployment to sign and notarize it and deliver it to the Guardian,” according to official Army instructions.
Each branch of service has its own unique deadlines and paperwork requirements for family plans; know yours in detail before you need one.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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