In October of 2010 my family went through a change – a big one! My mother and father moved in with us. My parents lived in a small town in the North Carolina Mountains where my father ran his own business. He also took care of my mom who is disabled due to degenerative bone disease. After struggling for two years to keep his small business above water, the bottom finally fell out from under him and my parents lost their business and their home. In an instant my life changed.
All of a sudden I had to do something that I thought would not come till much later down the road – I had to take care of my parents. After losing everything, I immediately took my parents in and began researching how to make my parents my husband’s dependents. I have also noticed that many people have begun to ask this same question as a weakening economy is forcing more and more military families to face this same situation.
I was so relieved when I discovered that the Army does allow the soldier to take their parents or in-laws in as dependents. It is actually a fairly painless process, or at least it was for me. You simply retrieve the required paperwork from your DEERS office and submit it to DFAS. The form requires some extensive information. DFAS also requires that in order for parents/in-laws to qualify – they have to be more than 50% dependent on the soldier financially. This was pretty obvious in my parent’s case since they no longer had a home.
Once the paperwork was approved by DFAS (about 30 days to get approval and a couple of phone calls to keep track of the status of the paperwork) my parents were declared my husband’s dependents and they were issued dependent ID cards. When parents or in-laws become dependents they are granted the same access to most everything that spouses and dependent children have access to. The BIGGEST difference is health care!
My mother was covered because she is has Medicare due to her being declared disabled, but my father was another story. I contacted Tricare and was informed that as long as there was space available, my father could be seen by military medical facilities ONLY under Tricare For Life. This worked out awesome, as we were stationed at Fort Eustis, VA and they had room to see my father. Everything was covered under Tricare for Life as long as he was seen at a military facility. If he was seen by a civilian, I would be responsible for the cost.
The problem came when my husband came down on recruiting orders and was assigned to Atlanta Battalion. For the first time in 14 years – we were not going to be on a military installation. In fact, the closest installations were Fort Benning and Fort Gordon and they were both two hours away from us. Now my husband and I are entirely responsible for his health care because neither installation will assign him a PCM because we are outside the hour radius of each installation.
We have submitted this as an AFAP issue because we believe it is something that needs to be fixed. I am finding more and more military families who are being faced with this same situation, and while it is awesome that the Army allows soldiers to be able to take care of their parents and in-laws, there are loop holes in the system.
It has been a huge adjustment, having my parents live with us. There are definite perks to having them here but there has also been a lot of change too. It is good for military families to know that they have this option because as everyone knows, we all come full circle at one point and it is time for us to care for our parents. For some that time may come sooner rather than later, so make sure you have a plan in place and know all your options.