There are two basic definitions that military members have to be concerned with regarding their status as a resident; the home of record and the legal residence. These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing and stating the home of record for military purposes has many implications that the state of legal residence does not.
The Definition Of A Legal Residence
The very term “legal residence” could apply to a specific dwelling, but for our purposes here “legal residence” can be thought of in a similar manner as the “state of legal residence.” We’re concerned here with what state the military member and family reside in.
When you become a resident of a state, you do so because you meet certain requirements; you may be required to have a home address in that state, utility bills addressed to you in that state, some areas may require you get a state driver’s license or ID, require you to register your privately owned vehicle, etc.
In general, you may find that if you can vote in the state you live in, you are a resident of that state. That may sound like an oversimplified explanation of state residency to some but for those who relocate frequently that rule of thumb is a good one.
Why Your State Of Residence Is Important
Your housing allowance and certain other military pay or benefits may be calculated by zip code, and the location of your home will affect those calculations, especially where GI Bill housing allowance benefits are concerned.
But having a zip code isn’t the same as being a legal resident, though paying rent and utilities in that zip code goes a long way toward establishing you as a legal resident of that state.
Being a resident of a state may have certain benefits related to military duty; many state-run veterans homes require state residency or a minimum period of time in the state before they qualify for care.
Certain financial benefits for military members offered by state agencies such as emergency loans, state job preference points, and first-time home buyer grants depend on residency. Some states may waive out-of-state tuition costs for military members and/or family members, but some may not. Establishing residency helps take that question out of the college tuition equation.
The State Of Residence Is Not Necessarily The Home Of Record
Why is this true? Because your legal residence is completely different than the Home Of Record listed in your military service records. Simply put, the military Home Of Record is the state where the military member enlisted or received an officer’s commission.
Your Home Of Record is not the same place as the state Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) the service member was sent to; MEPS could be in the same state or a different state depending on where you enlist and when.
Your Home Of Record Matters
One blogger billing themselves as a military finance coach wrote a post discussing the difference between your state of legal residence and the military’s Home Of Record . That blogger writes, “Pretty much the only time your home of record is important is when you leave the military before reaching retirement.”
This is not true.
Your home of record can mean a great deal when it’s time to claim certain state-level veteran benefits. One excellent example? The Illinois Veterans’ Grant, which is offered to those who list Illinois as their home of record AND who return to Illinois within a specified time limit after leaving military service.
You cannot claim the Illinois Veterans’ Grant if you do not meet Illinois residency requirements AND list Illinois as your Home Of Record.
Not all state veteran benefits work this way, but many do and it’s very important to know the difference between the requirement that you be a legal resident of the state and the requirement that a given state is your listed home of record.
Changes To Your Home Of Record
In general, there are few provisions to change your home of record unless there was an error when it was recorded. Generally you may find that altering your home of record (when there was no error) requires a break in military service of one day minimum – which means that you cannot simply change your Home of Record when you re-enlist unless the break in service exists.
Military Spouses And Home Of Record Concerns
Military spouses do not have a Home of Record designation-that is required of the service member only.
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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