I understand how hard it is to make the transition from deputy to active military service. Due to the changing nature of the reserve community and different county programs, I have attempted to cover as much information as broadly as I can, to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Start by compiling a list of all bank accounts, credit cards, cell phone accounts, gym memberships, insurance policies, investments, etc. that you have in your name. Try to compile anything you can think of that might be affected by your deployment. Choose a time to go over this information with someone before you deploy.
County Military Leave - The County gives you 30 “MIL” days each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). Basically, you receive 30 paid workdays for military leave; if your normal workday falls on a paid holiday, then that day does not count against your 30.
While you are on military leave, you will continue to accrue sick leave, vacation time, seniority, and retirement credits. The leave balances will not be available for use until you have “hours worked” showing up on your Kronos, after you return to CONUS or work. It doesn’t matter how much time is in the “hours worked” row (you could make an arrangement to go in and do something administrative for 10 minutes, and as long as it is noted as “hours worked” in your Kronos, that will trigger the vacation and sick leave to become available).
If you are making less money while activated than you do with the SDSO, the Sheriff’s Department will make-up the difference (base pay without OT). Get the name and number of your payroll clerk for your significant other, or whomever you designate to oversee your finances, while you are gone. Also, to help with some matters it is best to get that payroll clerks supervisors name. You want your family to be prepared in case any issues should arise.
Power of Attorney – A power of attorney is a legal designation that grants to another the authority to execute documents in the name of the grantor, as if he or she actually signed the documents. While you are deployed it may be necessary for your spouse, a parent, or another competent person to act for you in your behalf. Before you execute a power of attorney, be sure you understand exactly what you want your attorney-in-fact to do in your place. For example, you may want to limit the duration of the power of attorney to the period of time you expect to be deployed. You can also designate a Health Care Power of Attorney in case you become incapacitated and are unable to make medical decisions on your own.
Will - It is always easier for your survivors to take care of things if there is a legally executed will. If you die without leaving a will, personal and real property are distributed by state law, which might not necessarily coincide with the way you would have wanted it. You should also consider a living will.
Bank Accounts - Take your power of attorney—and the person to whom you are granting this power—to your bank. Meet with a bank manager or someone at that level face-to-face. Most banks will want their legal department to review a power of attorney before anything can be done, and this may take a couple of weeks. It is best to be proactive and get a little face time with someone who can facilitate the process for you. It’s actually easier to put someone on a bank account than to deal with a power of attorney, but the power of attorney is necessary for other things as well.
Make sure that direct deposit is set up to an account accessible by your spouse or power of attorney for both your military and county pay. This is the fastest and most convenient way to receive pay while you are deployed. If you are opening a new account for household bills while you are deployed, test at least a month of direct deposits to make sure everything is working.
Insurance and Benefits - Gather up all of your life insurance paperwork and have it in one place. Update your beneficiaries and let them know that they are on the policy. Also, check into active duty life insurance benefits that you may be eligible for while you are deployed. Spend a few hours going over insurance and beneficiaries with your family and attorney-in-fact. Put any directions or wishes you may have in writing.
Healthcare - When you are activated for more than 30 days, you and your family become eligible for healthcare coverage through TRICARE. You must fill out an application for coverage for both you and your family members. There is no cost for this healthcare coverage while you are on active duty. This health care can also extend beyond your initial deployment depending on what operation you are supporting.
You should notify county benefits that you will no longer be using county healthcare. You can elect to have your county money put into a flexible spending account. There are two types of flexible spending accounts: health care and dependent care. This money can be used to cover eligible expenses as outlined by the administrator, Creative Benefits.
Under Federal law, the most that can be put into an account is $5,000 by an individual and spouse combined. If both spouses are county employees, money can go into both accounts (health care and dependent care).
Also, there is a pre-activation benefit. You and your family may be covered for up to 90 days before active duty begins. To see if you qualify you need to check with your units TRICARE representative. You may also call TRICARE direct at (800) 538-9552 or on the web at http://www.tricareonline.com.
In addition you should look into the TRICARE dental plan for reservists. This plan works for you whether you are activated or not.
Records - Collect all your vital records–birth, marriage, and divorce records–early on. In San Diego, most of those documents can be collected in a day. In other locations such as Los Angeles, an expedited document can take a couple of weeks.
At this time, check your service record to make sure all information is correct, including contact information for you and your family. If your family will be moving or living elsewhere while you are deployed, notify your command with current information.
ID Cards – Make sure that all dependent military ID cards are valid. If they are set to expire in the near future, start the paperwork for renewal before you deploy, so that your spouse and dependents can have access to the base, military hospital, commissary and exchange. If the reservist is called to active duty for more than 31 days, dependents are eligible for the tan ID cards instead of the red reservist cards. For commissary and medical privileges, the red reservist cards must be accompanied by the service member’s order to active duty.
Child Support - If you have a child whom you support make sure that your agreement is in writing, and preferably in the form of a court document.
Bills - Service members are responsible for their household expenses/bills while they are deployed. These expenses include rent, mortgage payments, car payments, credit cards, etc. Before deploying you should ensure that you have made arrangements for these payments to be taken care of. You may wish to appoint your spouse or family member with power of attorney, so that they can handle your finances while you are deployed. Notify all creditors and banks of your deployment and your power of attorney.
As a side-note, most credit card companies and some lenders will allow you to not pay your monthly payments for a short period, usually about 6 months, but you must ask the programs. It is not automatic. If you incur financial hardship while deployed, you may ask your credit card company to cap your interest rate at six percent for the duration of the service. There are restrictions to this, so plan on proving you have been drastically affected financially by becoming active duty.
Cell Phone and Memberships - Your cell phone company, gym and other member associations should be willing to suspend your account for the duration of your deployment. Simply call them and explain you are being deployed out of the country.
Storage - If you have a rental or storage unit, make sure you have a couple copies of the rent/lease agreements. Make arrangements to pay for any rental units in advance or designate someone to handle this while you are deployed.
This information is up to date as of 2007. National Military Family Association also offers advice for families of deployed reservists. Visit their website at http://www.nmfa.org.—William Law - 2007