Servicemember being Deployed

Deployment can be a very scary and uncertain time for many military families.  During this time it is essential that there are people that loved ones of deployed service members can turn to for help in their absence.  All branches of the military have developed forms of family support groups to assist families, not just in time of deployment, but with a wide variety of issues where assistance would be beneficial. 

Getting Ready for Deployment

Being prepared and knowing what to expect are key factors in making deployment an easier and more manageable situation for both you and your family members.  If all involved know and understand the deployment procedure and what to expect when, unnecessary surprises will be prevented and difficult times for the servicemember and the family back home will be avoided.  Often there are pre-deployment meetings and briefings in which family members may attend that provide essential information about the details of the upcoming deployment.  It will be explained to family members what services are available to them during this time and key points of contact in case any issues arise for which they may need assistance.    

Once a servicemember receives notice that they will be deploying, the family should start preparations for the temporary separation that is about to take place.  Financial responsibilities should be discussed and plans to fulfill all obligations should be ironed out to avoid difficulty in the future.  Families should familiarize themselves with all the support service available to them while their loved one is away.  A list of people to contact should any emergent situations arise should be complied and all people on that list should be notified of the situation.  Any loose ends concerning household work that needs to be completed should be finished or resolved and it should be discussed what actions need to be taken concerning any unfinished tasks while you are away.  Most importantly, spend as much quality time as you can together.  Spend time focusing on the family and enjoying one another doing activities that do not focus on the upcoming separation.  When a servicemember leaves for deployment it is important for them to stay focused on the task at hand to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them.  This job will be much easier if they feel comfortable about the state of affairs at home while they are away from their loved ones. 

Be sure to have the following documentation complete and in order before the servicemember leaves for employment:

Will – Even though it is not pleasant to think about, a will is a necessary thing to have to ensure your family and your estate are properly taken care of in the unfortunate event of your death.  Especially in the case of families with children who will need to be cared for by a person of your choosing.  If there is no will in place, the state will make decisions on your behalf and charge a fee for their services.  It is much better to have your wishes carried out as you intend them to be and not at the hands of a stranger.  Often times the military will provide you with legal assistance at no charge to have a will drawn up. 

Power of Attorney – You may choose a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf in your absence by assigning them Power of Attorney.  This can be a spouse, other family member or just a trusted friend.  You can also dictate exactly what decisions they may make for you from anything from banking decisions, buying and selling of properties or possessions to medical decisions.  This can usually be done through a military lawyer often free of charge. 

Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) – Make sure that your SGLI beneficiary or beneficiaries are properly designated on your policy before deploying.  If any changes need to be made a VA Form SGLV-8286 must be completed and submitted before you deploy. 

Family Care Plan – If you are the single parent of dependent children or other family members, or both parent are in the service, it is essential that you have a family care plan in place to dictate care for dependent family members in our absence.  A copy of this current plan should be kept with the servicemembers unit and should be updated as needed.

ID cards – Make sure all eligible family members have up to date ID cards in their possession before leaving for deployment.  This will ensure that family members will have access to the usual benefits such as exchange, commissary and recreational facilities and medical care and if necessary arrangement of the transfer of goods and obtaining on base housing. 

Service Record – Verify that all contact information on all pages of your service record are correct to avoid delays in response if an emergency arises. 

Vehicle information – If you do not have a secure location to store your vehicle while deployed you can check to see if your military installation has a storage facility on base for these situations.  Also be sure registrations are current and if they are going to expire while you are deployed either renew it before you go or make arrangements through a power of attorney to have someone renew it for you.  Contact your insurance company to let them now you are deploying, as some companies offer discounts to members during times of deployment. 

Filing taxes

If the situation arises where it is necessary for taxes to be filed while you are deployed, the IRS has given special considerations to those servicemembers and their families to make this process less of a burden. Filing taxes can be less complicated if you keep in mind the following tips:

Make sure to file tax returns in your state of record.  Even if you are stationed in another location, taxes should be filed in the state listed as your permanent address.  If a spouse, however, works outside of their home of record usually they must file a state tax return in the state which they are employed. 

Military members can access and print out their W2 form online often before they receive it in the mail.  You will have to have your personal identification number to access this form. 

If anyone other than the servicemember is completing the tax return, a power of attorney is required.  A copy of this should be included when submitting the tax return to the IRS. 

Use available resources to assist in filing your return.  The IRS has a detailed tax guide specifically geared to armed service members.

The IRS will extend filing deadlines for members of the armed services for the following reasons: 

  • If you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone or directly in support of those serving in a combat zone and receive hostile fire or imminent danger pay.  The allowed extension is 180 days after returning the last day in the combat zone or hazardous duty area.  This can be further extended if there are days left in the filing period, January 1 through April 15, when you entered the combat zone or hazardous duty area. 
  • If you or your spouse is hospitalized outside of the United States due to an injury suffered in a combat zone or hazardous duty area.  The extension is 180 days after discharge from the hospital.  The extension is not valid for the spouse if the injured servicemember is hospitalized within the United States. 

The IRS will be notified by your command of your combat zone deployment, however, you can directly notify the IRS by either email or phone.  Emails should be sent to combatzone@irs.gov.  The IRS can be notified by phone by calling (800)829-1040.  The deployed servicemembers name, date of birth, stateside address and date of deployment will need to be referenced when notifying the IRS. 

Another service available to servicemembers and their dependents is tax filing assistance through the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program.  If your military installation has this service available you can get help free of charge when filing your taxes.  The following documentation will be required when using this service:

  • Military ID
  • W-2 and 1099 forms
  • All family members Social Security cards
  • Bank account documents, including routing number if direct deposit is desired
  • Credit information and deductions
  • Child care expense receipts
  • Previous year’s tax return if available
  • Power of attorney if applicable

For those family members of Reservists who are activated and deployed, the State Area Command within the State National Guard Military Headquarters will activate a Family Assistance Center.  This is a place where the family members of the deployed Reservists can go to get information of available family support programs in their state.  It will also help by providing forms necessary during times of deployment and offer assistance in filling out those forms. 

While Away

During most deployments there will be several ways to keep in contact with your loved ones at home.  With all the social media networks, as well as traditional letters and phone calls, it is relatively easy to stay in touch.  It is important to realize that there may be periods where the servicemember will be unreachable but this is usually not for very long. Family members should stay actively involved in family support group activities and communications to be sure and have the latest details available regarding their deployed family member. 

Returning Home

It’s finally time for your loved one to come home!  This can be a very exciting yet anxious time for all members involved. Often times long stretches of time has passed and feelings of anxiety over missed moments and milestones in the family’s lives can cause uneasiness and apprehension when faced with the impending reunion.  For the most part, these fears are put to rest once the family is together again and relieved that the servicemember is safe and the separation period is over.  It is important to be patient with all members of the family in this time of readjustment.  It takes some time to get back into the swing of day to day life after having to play different roles whether in the job setting or household setting in the days prior.  There are services available as well as post deployment meetings for the servicemember and family to help make the readjustment process easier.

 

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