C’mon Folks, Know Your Benefits

April 04, 2013 | Kate Horrell

If there is one thing that will make me crazy, it is someone who doesn’t have any situational awareness.  It could be my child, who has zoned out and has no idea that we’ve just had an entire conversation about a relevant topic, or an adult who claims that they “didn’t know” about something important.  C’mon folks, engage a little, utilize the amazing power of technology, and bring yourself into the real world.

Today, a comment on an old Survivor Benefit Plan post really set me off.  Here’s the comment:

I am wondering something. I was never told by my husband that I needed to decline the SBP BEFORE he signed up for it, only months after he told about it. I would never have had us do that knowing what I know now. Was I supposed to be informed of this before he signed it, not after?? I want to cancel this and get life insurance, but know if we do we lose all that money that was taken for this SBP that I was never told about. Can this be used against them to get a refund cause I was never given the chance to look at this since they did need me to sign this of it was to be waived? Does a contract that was signed without my knowledge for something I would have been party to be considered void due to this reason? I am pissed and feel he left me out of something that I should have been told about, at least the navy should have required me to be there for something that concerns both of us in the 1st place. I feel they allowed him to do this behind my back.

There are really a lot of things about this comment that upset me, and make me worried about this spouse, and other spouses like her.  I only have room to deal with one small aspect of this letter today, so I’m going to focus on Not Knowing About Important Stuff.  This military spouse apparently had never heard about the Survivor Benefit Plan until months after her husband’s retirement.  That is just sad, and I have difficulty knowing how it is even possible.  However, I have noticed that many military families are woefully ignorant about the military and its many programs and benefits.

Some people may ask, “How am I supposed to know about benefits and issues that concern me?”

I want to ask, “Have you had your head under a pillow?”  Instead, I’m likely to reply with a cheerful, “There are lots of ways to be informed.”

The Military

The Department of Defense and the military branches go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that servicemembers and their families are informed about any and all issues and benefits.

Every command has active duty folks who know about benefits and financial issues and who are responsible for helping their servicemembers with information, questions, or concerns.  For families, nearly all commands have Family Readiness Groups to provide similar support without having to involve the servicemember.

Each installation has an entire unit dedicated to all kinds of family support issues:  The Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Fleet and Family Support Center, Marine Corps Community Services, and Army Community Services.  Installations also publish newspapers, magazines and websites chock-full of stuff you need to know.  Installations also bring in programs like SpouseBUZZ Experience and Army Wife Network Field Experience.

The individual services provide web-based programs like Army One Source (which includes Army Family Team Building), the Fleet and Family Readiness website, the Marine Corps Community Services website, and Air Force Crossroads.

The Department of Defense publishes tons of news releases and other articles.  It runs a Family Matters blog.  It has its own television station, The Pentagon Channel.  Plus, it has contracted an outside company to run its “everything you could ever want or need to know about the military” program, Military OneSource.

Non-Profit Associations

Many non-profit organizations are dedicated to helping military families be informed.  Join any military association to keep up-to-date on things that affect you.  Even if you don’t want to pay for a membership, most have tons of resources available for free.  Choices include, but are not limited to:

Companies

Third, many companies provide extensive coverage of military benefit information.  This blog, hosted by Military.com, is one of them.  Military.com is all about military benefits – that’s why we exist.  There are also the Military Times newspapers and the Military Spouse magazine.   Companies like USAA offer tons of free information to their customers and the public.

The Internet

So, let’s say that you hate talking to people, and you hate organizations, and you hate companies.  You’re still covered:  It is 2013 and everything you could ever want to know is available on the internet, for free.  You could follow military family groups on Facebook, join the Military Moms group at Cafe Mom, or read any one of the hundreds of military spouse blogs.

I’ve demonstrated that information about military benefits and issues is available, in large quantity and a wide variety of formats.  Why, then, do people still find themselves in a position where they don’t know what is going on?  Please, please, if you are a military spouse, put forth some effort to educate yourself about military benefits and the specific topics that concern you.  Then you will never find yourself in the position of having to say, “But I didn’t know…”

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