Dear Coast Guard Family: Tips and resources for new spouses

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Once a month, the Compass will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families written by Coast Guard spouse, Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

I found my strength standing on a pier…

On Nov. 2, 1999, my (now) husband departed for basic training. I can still remember my excitement for the future and apprehension over the unknown. Those feelings are something that I will never forget. Yet somehow, nearly 20 years have passed in what often feels like the blink of an eye.

As a shy, small-town, Georgia girl, I could have never imagined this life and the places it would take me. And somewhere along the way, I found ME – I found my voice in speaking out for others (as an ombudsman and advocate); I found my strength standing on a pier, and I found that I was capable of living this life (and all it’s ups and downs) with grace. Because – let’s face it – I can’t control what happens, but I can control how I react!

I hope your Coast Guard experiences enrich your life in countless ways! Here’s some information to help navigate this adventure:

Your official point of contact – unit ombudsman: Coast Guard ombudsmen are appointed by unit commanding officers to serve as official liaisons between the command and unit families. Ombudsmen are communication links, provide information and referral services, and act as advocates for family members. If you haven’t already, contact your ombudsman through the Coast Guard Ombudsman Registry. It’s important that your ombudsman knows how to reach you and that you know how to reach them!

Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS): Enrollment in DEERS is required to receive military benefits. Learn more about DEERS enrollment, required documents, and how to locate an ID card facility here.

TRICARE: Once enrolled in DEERS, marriage is a qualifying life event providing TRICARE eligibility. Learn more about your benefits, options, and enrollment requirements here. (You can only enroll in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select or switch plans during open season or after a qualifying life event.)

Extra Vision Coverage (if needed): Vision plans through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) are in addition to TRICARE vision coverage and provide more robust/comprehensive vision coverage (if needed).

TRICARE Dental Program: The TRICARE Dental Program is a voluntary, purchased dental insurance plan that requires separate enrollment.

Coast Guard Health Benefits Advisors (HBA): HBAs are available to assist with TRICARE benefit information, billing issues, referrals/authorizations, access to care issues, eligibility and enrollment assistance, medical, dental, and pharmacy concerns, etc. You can contact them at 1-800-9-HBA-HBA (1-
800-942-2422) or

Moving Resources: Have you recently received orders or are you excitedly (perhaps anxiously) awaiting news of where your Coast Guard adventure will take you next? There are a variety of programs and resources to support you along the way.

Spouse Employment: If you’re seeking employment, there are programs and resources to support you, including LinkedIn Premium! Additionally, the Family Child Care (FCC) Program provides thriving business opportunities for eligible Coast Guard spouses!

Coast Guard Work-Life Programs: Work-Life offers a variety of helpful support programs, including a scholarship program, adoption reimbursement, and a child care program!

Special Needs Program: Through the Special Needs Program, efforts are made to ensure that members with special needs dependents are assigned to duty stations where medical and community services are accessible and available. For this reason, enrollment in the special needs program is mandatory for active duty service members, Public Health Service (PHS) officers serving with the Coast Guard, and reserve members on active duty for 181 days or more who have dependent family members diagnosed
with medical, psychological, physical or educational special needs. Special needs span a broad range of conditions from asthma/allergies, to wheelchair use, to Individualized Education Plans – contact your family resource specialist to determine if enrollment is required.

Resiliency: I can’t tell you that the days will always be easy – life is full of ups and downs, but hopefully, those trials and tribulations will make us stronger in the end. Learn more about “living your best Coast Guard life” and the resources available to support you here.

Deployment: Time – it’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes passing too quickly. Sometimes too slowly. It never feels more evident than when you’re facing or experiencing time away from the one that you love. Check out these deployment tips and resources!

Sea Legs: The Family Member’s Guide to the U.S. Coast Guard provides information to help support a smooth transition into military life.

Assignment Process: Nothing impacts Coast Guard life and a service member’s career quite like the assignment process. Learn more here!

Spouse Clubs and Associations: Connecting with other Coast Guard spouses can provide camaraderie and a great support system. The National Council of Coast Guard Spouses’ Clubs provides a helpful club directory.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA): CGMA is the official relief society of the U.S. Coast Guard and provides emergency and disaster financial assistance, education programs, and family support assistance.

USCG HSWL app: For those looking for information about the support programs and services available to Coast Guard military and civilian personnel, family members, and retirees – there’s an app for that!

CG SUPRT website and app (available for download through the Apple App Store and Google Play): CG SUPRT provides resources and referrals, non-medical counseling, health coaching, personal financial wellness, legal services, education and career counseling, and online tools and information. The access password is: USCG

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