Having lived the life of a military significant other for ten years, I know it can be challenging even in the best of times. Often times, by choosing to be with our veteran partner we are uprooted from our communities, our families, and our friends. Frequently, our careers are interrupted in some way whether due to not being able to stay with a company or agency long enough to gain seniority and related benefits, having a lower income due to living in areas that don’t pay well, or perhaps not being able to get a job in our field. If we have children, they are raised away from family and go through many transitions in their little lifetimes. And for those active duty spouses, we may be moved often and have to reintegrate into a new community, a new way of life in some ways, every few years. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to being with our military partner. It’s just to honor that there are unique challenges that we face in doing so.
There is so much information out there for military spouses and I know you are busy. So rather than overwhelm or take up a bunch of time by sharing my additional perspective, I have listed three helpful resources to help military spouses in a variety of ways. A simple Google search will show you that there are dozens of websites and organizations that are available to help military members. I have chosen to focus on the three that I use the most and that I know to be reputable sources from first hand experience. Still, I would like to encourage you to use your own judgment when interacting with these (and all) resources to ensure they are safe and a fit for you. As you know, there are many people who try to target military folks for our knowledge and access.
This is my favorite and most used resource for military spouses; when a military spouse needs assistance, this is the first place I check. It is so comprehensive, offering clear and easy ways to find information on military life as well as a plethora of resources on a large variety of topics. Some of those resources include resources for: special needs family members, elder care, building healthy relationships, new military parents, health and wellness coaching, education, adoption, financial and tax consultation, peer to peer support, and more. You can also access non-medical counseling through Military OneSource to help you address issues related to military life stress including but not limited to deployment, reintegration, parenting, marital problems, grief and loss, and financial concerns - “without affecting the service member’s career”.
I realize accessing counseling can be hard to trust as there is often so much fear about negatively impacting our veteran’s career. What I can say to that is that I offered non-medical counseling both for Military OneSource and as a Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC). In both roles, I had no contact with the military; the chain of command of the veteran was not involved or even aware that my services were being utilized. As an MFLC, not even the agency I worked for knew who I was serving. In fact, I rarely even knew the person’s last name! This was significantly different from when I worked as an Army Civilian in behavioral health on a military installation, so please know that you have options.
In their own words: “Military OneSource is your 24/7 connection to information, answers and support to help you reach your goals, overcome challenges and thrive. As a member of our military family, you are eligible to use this Department of Defense-funded program anytime, anywhere. Turn to Military OneSource for tax services, spouse employment help, webinars and online training, relocation and deployment tools, and much more.”
Whether PCSing, deploying, investigating work options, or wanting access to a large variety of topics impacting military partners and their families, this website offers a lot.
In their own words: “Military.com is one of the leading websites for military members, veterans and their families. We provide daily defense news, benefits information, veteran employment resources, spouse and family resources and tools to support our audience throughout the life cycle of their military service and post-service life.”
I have used this site less since Military OneSource is my go-to, but this site also offers good information. They also share helpful posts on Facebook.
This site from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shares information about some benefits accessible to military spouses including DoD’s SECO (Spouse Education Career Opportunities) program and other resources to help spouses build their career or start a small business.
There are also resources and information about resources for spouses on this page of the VA website; you just need to scroll down to the section of the page labeled “Benefits for spouses, dependents, and survivors” since this page also contains resources for veterans.
RESOURCES ON THE INSTALLATION
Lastly, there are programs on base or on post that can help spouses as well. Each branch has its own name for one of those resources. When my significant other deployed for the first time during our relationship (not his first time, just mine), the Key Spouse program in the Air Force really helped me get through it. It was also helpful to talk with spouses of his Air Force friends and coworkers especially during your first deployment and first redeployment (sometimes the reintegration is just as challenging in its own way). In the Army and Navy there are similar programs called the Family Readiness Group (FRG). In the Marines is it called the Family Readiness Program and for any Coasties out there, the Coast Guard has the Work-Life Program.
As with anything, I have heard some of these programs are better than others depending on the installation. Whether you choose to engage with these groups, I highly recommend not going it alone. Military life is challenging and while well-meaning, often there are things our civilian friends and family members just don’t understand because military life is so different from their experiences. You are not alone in this. Please reach out to find the support you need.