Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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military childServing in our nation’s military is a tough thing as it is, but trying to get benefits for your child or children if you’re not married can prove to be even more difficult…especially if you are overseas somewhere serving your time.

Military benefits are pretty good – my brother served as a Marine and his family is still reaping the benefits of his service. Fortunately for him though, he was already married and things went a bit smoother.

A lot of times life isn’t that simple however – you have a girlfriend, she gets pregnant and you’re off to basic training. All of a sudden, things start to look like a logistical nightmare trying to get her and your child the benefits that the military offers for families.

First off, in order to get benefits for any child the military now requires anyone that is not married to prove that you are indeed the father. I say now because it wasn’t always so. Unfortunately, as with many systems, there are always some people to find ways to take advantage of them, and for the purpose of this article, those systems are Tricare (the military’s health program) & BAH (the military’s basic allowance for housing program). Each provides certain benefits for family members, however…and here is the important part, they need to be your family members and not just hearsay that “yes, that is my future wife and yes, that is my child” – even if you know 100% that to be true. Proof will be needed if you cannot provide a marriage license/certificate from your wedding. That’s where the DNA paternity test comes into play. It will provide unequivocal proof that you are the father (or not). It’s an easy process and the notarized legal paperwork will be sent to you (or the address you provide) and then you can now enroll them in DEERS (the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System). This is yet another step you must take before enrolling in Tricare and/or BAH.

Now if you are considering joining the military and are in a relationship and not married, or perhaps just happened to get a woman pregnant, don’t go jumping on the marriage “band wagon” either just because you want what the military has to offer and/or you don’t want to deal with the hassle of the whole paternity testing thing. Marriage shouldn’t be just an option just because you want benefits and/or avoid the logistics of testing – marriage is a life-long commitment that should not be taken lightly. If you think getting benefits for a child out of wed-lock is difficult, try going through a divorce and figuring out what military benefits follow if any…there are strict requirements with that as well. It’s not like you are married for a year, get a divorce and the spouse and children get full benefits for life – it doesn’t quite work that way. I think the last time I checked for full benefits it was still something like the 20/20/20 rule: 20 years of marriage, 20 years of service, and of those 20 years you need to be married during all that time of creditable service.

The best thing to do is have the conversation and do a lot of research before enlisting. Getting the DNA test is actually not all that difficult even if you happen to be already enlisted…and you are still Stateside anyway. Inform your commanding officer of your situation and then call 1-800-535-5198 for more information.

A Legal Paternity is what you will need to set up in order to get the child military benefits. There is also an option to have a Home Paternity Kit sent to you that you can do yourself, however, those results are not legally binding and the military will not accept them as actual proof – it’s just for you and your partner to know for sure that you are indeed the father should you have any doubts before setting up an actual legal test. For each option, results are typically ready within 3-5 days and you are notified immediately when they are ready.

All of us here thank you for your service and what you do for our country…we are here to help you with your situation if one like this ever arises.

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About the Author:

Patricia Carr, FNP began her career in 1989 after completing her Registered Nurse degree. She later went on to graduate in 2001 with a degree in Advanced Practice Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner. She is affiliated with multiple medical facilities including HSHS Greenville Regional Hospital, SSM Health St. Mary's / Good Samaritan Hospitals while regularly collaborating with other doctors and laboratories. Patricia is a founding member of Test Me DNA and currently sits on the board of directors which has overseen more than 50,000 DNA tests.
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