Military Times

2012 Insider's Guide to the Guard and Reserve

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Pay and Benefits



Commissaries are military supermarkets that sell items at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge. Their primary mission is to provide an economic benefit to military people through savings on food and household items.

The Defense Commissary Agency oversees 249 stores worldwide on Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy installations. The larger facilities are relatively full-service grocery stores.

Contact: DeCA uses social media to get information to patrons. Along with its website,, DeCA is on Facebook at; on Twitter at Commissary; Flickr at; and YouTube at

Case lot sales: Generally held in May and September, often in tents in commissary parking lots, these popular sales offer deals above and beyond standard commissary savings. Sometimes they sell items in bulk or club packs, like some civilian warehouse discounters. As those months draw near, visit and click “Shopping” and then “Case lot sales” for information on your commissary’s case lot sale.

Customer satisfaction. Commissary products can be returned for an exchange or refund.

Eligibility. National Guard members, reservists and their families have unlimited shopping privileges in the commissaries, as do disabled veterans, surviving spouses, former spouses and their families.

Employees. Most employees in commissaries work for DeCA. Their salaries are covered by federal civil service regulations and are paid from taxpayers’ dollars. Baggers, however, are not DeCA employees, and their only compensation comes from customer tips.

Military spouses may apply for jobs at commissaries, and there are provisions to help them continue their careers with the commissary system after permanent change-of-station moves.

Exclusive Savings program. Through links to their websites from, some manufacturers and distributors offer coupons and information about special sales in commissaries. The “Exclusive Savings” icon is on the commissary home page. DeCA doesn’t control the websites or what manufacturers offer, but provides the links as a way for manufacturers to offer something extra to commissary customers.

Hours. Most stores have evening and weekend hours.

Locations. A store locator on DeCA’s website has driving directions, phone numbers, floor plans and current information about savings at specific stores.

On-site sales. Since National Guard and reserve members and their families often don’t live near military installations, DeCA has been taking its goods on the road to Guard and reserve sites under an initiative begun in late 2007. DeCA keeps a list of upcoming sales and locations online at

Overseas. Overseas commissaries operate under unique restrictions. Limits typically are imposed on purchases of cigarettes, coffee and items favored by the illegal market.

The rules on who can use overseas commissaries are affected by the Status of Forces Agreement between the host country and the U.S. government. Service members on leave, retirees, National Guard and reserve members visiting nations overseas in an unofficial capacity do not have commissary privileges. Also, reservists in Germany do not have full commissary privileges there as they do in the U.S.

Sales restrictions. Federal law restricts what commissaries may sell. For example, they do not carry beer, wine or some other items carried by commercial grocery stores or base exchanges. State laws, military policy and installation commanders also restrict the availability of some products.

Savings. Shoppers enjoy average savings of 30 percent or more. There is no sales tax. A 5 percent surcharge on all items pays for construction and renovation of stores and equipment.

Information on monthly sales and promotions is at, including bulk “case lot sales” generally held in May and September.

Contact: For more information and virtual commissary shopping, visit


Exchanges are the military’s version of department stores. Soldiers call it a PX, for post exchange. Airmen say BX, for base exchange. Sailors call it a ship’s store when afloat and NEX when in port; Marines say MCX; to a Coast Guardsman, it’s CGX.

In addition to their brick-and-mortar stores, exchanges sell to authorized customers via retail stores, catalog and online at the Exchange Online Store.

Exchanges sell brand-name goods from civilian companies, as well as their own private-label items. There is no sales tax, and prices usually are lower than commercial retail prices.

There are four exchange systems:

♦ Navy Exchange Service Command, based in Virginia Beach, Va., operates 293 stores of varying sizes and more than 1,200 service outlets at 104 Navy installations around the world.

♦ The Marine Corps Exchange system operates 17 Marine Corps exchanges with 225 resale facilities. MCX reports to the Corps’ Personal and Family Readiness Division in Quantico, Va.

♦ Coast Guard stores are run by the Coast Guard Headquarters’ Exchange and Morale Division in Washington. In addition to land-based stores, the Navy and Coast Guard run ship’s stores.

♦ Army and Air Force stores, known for decades as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, are now called simply The Exchange. Based in Dallas, this is the oldest and largest of the exchange systems, with more than 3,100 facilities, including 180 main stores, in the U.S., its territories and more than 30 countries.

Army and Air Force exchanges and the Marine Corps exchanges also support military personnel deployed to the Afghanistan war zone and elsewhere through three increasing levels of Tactical Exchange Support: AAFES Imprest Fund Activities, Tactical Field Exchanges and Direct Operation Exchanges.

Active-duty Marines and Marine Corps civilian employees deploy to run the Marine exchanges in the war zones.

At any given time, hundreds of AAFES and MCX associates are voluntarily deployed in support of these contingency operations. The stock assortment found in these exchanges varies from location to location, but even the most basic operation provides access to toiletries, phone cards and cold drinks.

Stores not only support themselves almost completely through their sales income, but all earnings generated from sales are ultimately returned to the customer. For example, about three-fourths of NEX profits are paid to Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, while the remainder is used to build new stores or renovate existing NEX facilities at no expense to taxpayers.

Academic rewards. Exchanges offer rewards such as savings bonds and coupons for student achievement. See local exchanges for details.

BXMarts. Some installations have combined commissary and exchange stores called BXMarts, NEXMarts or CXMarts. Food is priced as a commissary item — at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge added at the checkout counter. Other items carry exchange prices, with variable markups.

Eligibility. Eligible shoppers include all ranks of active-duty, retired, National Guard and reserve members and their families, some disabled veterans and their families, surviving spouses and former spouses. Limits or restrictions may apply. Check with local exchanges. Those eligible can shop at any exchange, regardless of service affiliation.

Employees. Exchange employees are paid from exchange revenue, not taxpayer dollars. The exchanges also seek to hire military spouses, with hiring preference programs, and have programs to help them continue their careers with the exchange when they relocate.

The more than 10,000 active-duty military family members working for AAFES now account for nearly a quarter of all the military command’s employees, making it one of the largest employers of military family members.

Gift cards. The exchanges sell gift cards in their stores and through their online catalogs.

NEX-, AAFES- and MCX-specific gift cards now can be redeemed at any Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps Exchange facility.

Mail order. Exchange items can be purchased through the Exchange Catalog, available to all service members. The two “big book” catalogs, released in spring and fall, are $5, but include $30 in coupons. Individual exchanges also offer specialty catalogs for uniform items, furniture and other needs.

Orders can be placed by mail, fax or phone. Toll-free orders can be placed from the U.S., Puerto Rico or Guam at 800-527-2345. The Exchange Catalog center is open around the clock, seven days a week.

Authorized customers can also shop the Exchange Catalog online.

Contact: Exchange Catalog Sales, P.O. Box 660211, Dallas, TX 75266-0211; 800-527-2345; fax: 800-446-0163;,;

Malls. Many bases have shopping malls near their exchanges and commissaries. Services include uniform shops, barber shops, beauty parlors, dry cleaners, bookstores, florists and food courts.

MWR. After covering operating expenses, part of exchange earnings support on-base Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs such as swimming pools and arts and crafts centers.

The exchange systems also run optometry and audiology clinics at several bases. Clinics are run by private contractors overseen by local military medical officials. Navy clinics are run by private contractors, with no military medical oversight.

Online shopping. Stores at,, and offer more than 30,000 items via their main sites as well as thousands of items from virtual vendor partners and hundreds of thousands of items from Exchange Online Mall partners. The Internet extends the exchange benefit worldwide to a mobile customer base. is operated for all the military exchange services by AAFES and features more than 18 million items, if you count the Exchange Online Mall with items from a variety of vendors.

The all-services shopping site also features items sold at the same price offered in brick-and-mortar Navy exchanges, with new items continually added.

The secure websites will verify your exchange privileges against the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) database. Eligible shoppers can create log-in names and passwords. Items ranging from curtains to children’s clothes to uniforms are available.

Contact:,, and

On-site sales. Following DeCA’s lead, The Exchange takes truckloads of goods to National Guard and reserve sites not near military installations.

The Exchange does not maintain a continually updated list of scheduled locations for such sales on its website, but the sales often are collaborative efforts with DeCA.

Check to see if a commissary on-site sale is coming to a location near you. If so, AAFES officials suggest calling the nearest main exchange store to ask if it will be joining in. A list of AAFES stores is online at

Overseas. Overseas stores offer many U.S. products that may be difficult to find otherwise. Commands often impose shopping restrictions to limit the sale of U.S. goods on the illegal market. Items bought through an exchange or commissary cannot be resold, even at cost. Military police patrol larger exchange shopping areas for illegal marketers.

There also are restrictions on gifts bought in overseas exchanges. For example, cigarettes or alcohol bought in exchanges cannot be given to foreign nationals.

Payment. Stateside and overseas exchanges accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover credit cards. Exchanges also offer their own credit plan through the joint-exchange Military STAR Card. Exchanges cash personal checks at no charge with a military ID.

Prepaid phone cards. Exchanges carry phone cards with rates for specific geographic areas, including war zones.

Military Exchange Global Prepaid Calling Cards can be used to call from 200 countries and to call between 90 countries around the world, including any of dozens of AAFES phone centers throughout the Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom war zones. The minutes on these exchange prepaid phone cards never expire. No additional charges or connection fees are ever added.

The AAFES Help Our Troops Call Home program, at, lets anyone send Military Exchange Global Prepaid Calling Cards to individual service members or to “any service member” through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief, United Service Organization (USO), and Warrior and Family Support Center.

More details about AAFES and Help Our Troops Call Home are available at and by calling 800-527-2345.

NEXCOM offers calling aboard most Navy ships and some Coast Guard cutters for 45 cents per minute to the U.S.

Price matching. Exchanges will match lower prices on identical items sold by local competitors. For example:

♦ Navy Exchange and Marine Corps Exchange shoppers who see a price difference at the store of less than $5 can tell the cashier, who will match it on the spot. AAFES shoppers who see a price difference of less than $10 can have the price matched on the spot.

♦ NEX and MCX customers who report a price difference of more than $5 need only bring a current local competitor’s ad to get the reduced price. For AAFES customers, the same policy applies, but the price difference must be more than $10.

If within 14 days of purchase, the identical item is offered at a lower price by the NEX or a local competitor, a refund will be given for the difference. Just bring in a copy of the advertisement and the receipt to the NEX.

AAFES offers a 30-day price guarantee on any item originally purchased from AAFES if the identical item is subsequently sold at a lower price by AAFES or another local competitor, excluding unauthorized dealers.

Since the exchanges have a dual mission to provide quality merchandise and services at competitively low prices and generate earnings to supplement MWR programs, the price-matching program has exceptions.

Except for the Exchange Catalog and the exchange online stores, the exchanges cannot accept challenges from any catalog or website. Other exclusions include special offers or promotions, free-with-purchase offers, limited-quantity offers, bundled promotions, special financing, “gimmick” promotions, special-order automotive parts, gasoline, automotive labor/service, double and triple coupons, clearance items, flat-percentage-off items and vending items. Marine Corps exchanges do not match prices on alcohol and tobacco.

The price-matching policy applies to all AAFES and NEX retail stores, including main stores, Shoppettes, Class Six, Car Care and troop stores. Complete details are available online at, and

Sales restrictions. Congress restricts what can be sold at exchanges. Stateside exchanges cannot sell cars or fur coats, for example. The Armed Service Exchange Regulations also limit the size of diamonds and type of furniture sold in stateside stores. Exchanges can sell finished furniture, although any one piece cannot cost more than $900.

In addition, Congress banned the sale of sexually explicit materials in exchanges. Material is reviewed by a Defense Department board to determine whether or not the materials can be sold in the exchanges.

There are also pricing restrictions. Defense Department policy mandates requirements for setting prices on gasoline, alcohol and tobacco.

Savings. Customer savings on exchange purchases average 17 percent to 20 percent compared with off-base retailers. That is over and above savings derived from exclusion of sales taxes. There is no surcharge on exchange purchases.

Store brands. Along with brand-name items, the exchanges carry private-label merchandise with the same quality as national brands, found exclusively in military exchanges, at significant savings. For example, the Exchange Select line offers military service members and their families high-quality, value-priced products. With 593 items in categories such as health and beauty care, household cleaning, laundry and single-use cameras, Exchange Select products provide a low-cost alternative to national brands and are made by reputable manufacturers.

Troops and their families can save an average of 50 percent over national-brand equivalents. Quality assurance representatives actively ensure the quality of Exchange Select merchandise by visiting suppliers’ plants to verify that “Good Manufacturing Practices,” as set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other governing agencies, are used. All over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, meet FDA-established guidelines, which are the same for Exchange Select and national brand-equivalent products.


Most military installations have casualty assistance officers to help families of service members who die on active duty. The officers are responsible for notifying the family of the death and circumstances surrounding it. In accordance with the family, they also can assist with burial arrangements.

Death gratuity. In most cases, survivors of service members who die on active duty are eligible to get a $100,000 “death gratuity,” regardless of whether the death occurred in the line of duty.

Service members may designate the full $100,000 to anyone they choose, in 10 percent increments. If a member does not make a designation, the money goes to survivors in a standard order set by law (surviving spouse, then children, then parents and siblings).

Burial/funeral allowances. The Defense Department also reimburses burial expenses up to $8,800 in private cemeteries and up to $7,300 in a national or other government cemetery if the family can arrange for the casket and preparation of remains.

The Pentagon also reimburses families for the money they spend to transport remains to the final destination.

Honor guards. Military regulations authorize honor guards for funerals of all active-duty members, as well as reservists and National Guard members who die on active duty. At least two uniformed service members will serve on honor details for each military funeral as long as they are not needed for missions. At least one honor-detail member must be from the deceased member’s branch of service.

Veterans’ organizations will provide honor guards when uniformed service members are not available. An adjutant general’s office, duty officer or commander’s office at a local installation or reserve training center also can provide this service.

Death benefits generally are tax-free.


As a National Guard or Reserve member, you receive dental care through one of two programs, depending on whether or not you’re on active duty. How it works:

When not activated. When not on active duty, reserve component members and their families are eligible for the Tricare Dental Program, which requires payment of monthly premiums. The program requires a 12-month minimum enrollment period, so you must have 12 months remaining on your service commitment to enroll. You may enroll at any time.

Reserve component family members may enroll in the Tricare Dental Program at any time. They also pay monthly premiums, but their enrollment will be separate from yours. This way, if and when you are called to active duty, your family members’ enrollment continues without interruption. Your enrollment, however, will change.

When activated. When you are called to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, you receive your dental care through your service at a military dental treatment facility, through the Tricare Active Duty Dental Program or through the Tricare Overseas Program Regional Call Center, depending on where you live and work. You pay no premiums for dental care as an active-duty service member and there is no minimum enrollment. Coverage can begin up to 180 days before mobilization.

If you are enrolled in the Tricare Dental Program when activated, your enrollment is automatically suspended. Your monthly premium charges also stop for the duration of your active duty service. Your family's enrollment in the Tricare Dental Program will continue, but their monthly premiums are reduced because they are considered active-duty family members during that time.

When deactivated. As of 2012, if you qualify for the Transitional Assistance Management Program, or TAMP, when you leave active duty, then you remain covered by active-duty dental benefits during the 180-day TAMP period. You will continue to receive dental care at military dental facilities and through the Tricare Active Duty Dental Program.

All orthodontics and implants and certain complex treatments must be completed within the TAMP period.

At the end of the TAMP period, you may enroll in the Tricare Dental Program at any time. If you were enrolled in the TDP before you were activated, your TDP coverage will automatically resume when TAMP ends and you will start paying your monthly premiums again.

Your family’s enrollment in the TDP will continue uninterrupted, but their premiums will return to the rates in effect before your activation.

Benefits. As of May 1, 2012, the contract for the Tricare Dental Program was assumed by Metropolitan Life. The current annual maximum benefit payment under the TDP is $1,300. Certain preventive and diagnostic services do not count against the enrollee’s annual maximum. The program’s lifetime orthodontia maximum is $1,750.

Covered services include diagnostic and preventive care, sealants, fillings, endodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics (crowns, dentures and bridges), orthodontics and emergency services.

Tricare covers dental anesthesia and associated costs for beneficiaries with developmental, physical or mental disabilities, as well as children age 5 or younger.

Cost. There are four levels of monthly premiums for members of the Selected Reserve and IRR, depending on whether the sponsor, one family member excluding the sponsor, more than one family member excluding the sponsor or the sponsor and his family enroll.

Family members of active-duty, Selected Reserve and IRR (Special Mobilization Category) members and family members of reservists on active duty for more than 30 days have their premiums cost-shared. For these members, the enrollee pays 40 percent of the monthly premium and the government pays 60 percent. IRR members (other than Special Mobilization Category) and family members of IRR and Selected Reserve members not on active duty are responsible for 100 percent of the monthly premium.

Find what you would pay in premiums at

The program has a civilian provider network. Enrollees can seek care outside the network, but they may incur additional costs.


Enrollment. Enrollment is voluntary and requires at least a 12-month service commitment (active duty, reserve or combination). Exceptions are made for reservists with fewer than 12 months left in service but called to active duty for certain contingencies.

Members who live within the continental U.S. and are transferred outside it do not have to re-enroll. Sponsors can enroll family members by completing an enrollment form.

Overseas. Family members are seen in most military clinics overseas regardless of enrollment in Tricare. Those enrolled in the dental program outside the continental U.S. are eligible for the same benefits, but policies and procedures vary depending on location and service provided.

For care from host-nation dentists, dental plan members who do not live in a remote area must get a statement of nonavailability and a referral form and use dentists on the provider list. Those in remote areas outside the U.S. without a fixed dental facility may get routine dental care without the referral form but will need a form for orthodontic care. Contact the local overseas lead agent for information.

The cost-share requirements for selected members in the service area have exceptions. See the “Tricare Dental Program Benefit Booklet” online at


Active duty for less than 30 days. Reservists are covered by military medical benefits while on active duty for less than 30 days, including annual training. This also covers inactive-duty training or drill.

Military medical and dental care is available if the member:

♦ Incurs or aggravates an injury, illness or disease in the line of duty.

♦ Incurs or aggravates an injury, illness or disease while traveling directly to or from the duty location.

♦ Incurs or aggravates an injury, illness or disease while remaining overnight immediately before the start of inactive-duty training or between successive periods of inactive-duty training.

In most cases, orders will be written or extended to keep the member on active duty until the specific injury, illness or disease is cured or any resulting disability cannot be improved by further hospitalization or treatment.

Those on active duty for 30 days or less whose orders are modified or extended for medical treatment that results in active duty for a period of more than 30 days are entitled to the same medical and dental care as active-duty members. But benefits can be denied if the injury, illness or disease, or aggravation of an injury, illness or disease, is the result of gross negligence or misconduct.

Active duty more than 30 days. Once reservists are ordered to active duty for more than 30 days, their health care benefits status changes. Not only do they have benefits, but in most cases their families also are eligible.

Coverage can begin up to 90 days before a mobilization and last up to 180 days after demobilization.

The types of benefits are tied to the type of duty. Reservists activated in support of a contingency operation, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are immediately eligible for benefits within the Defense Department health care system. Family members also are eligible if orders specify a call to duty for 31 days or more.

To ensure their families get care if they are activated, members should make sure each family member is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Family members with military ID cards are automatically enrolled, but if a deployment is pending, it doesn’t hurt for service members to have units or administrators ensure their dependents are in the system.

Active-duty health care options include:

♦ Civilian insurance.

♦ Military space-available.

♦ Tricare Standard.

♦ Tricare Extra.

♦ Tricare Prime (available only for reservists ordered to 179 days or more of continuous active duty).

Tricare. Tricare is a combination of military medical services and civilian hospitals and health care workers. It offers managed care as well as a traditional fee-for-service plan and is available in the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit

Tricare Reserve Select. Members of the Selected Reserves can buy Tricare coverage when in a drilling status (not mobilized), provided they meet specific criteria under the Tricare Reserve Select program.

Monthly premiums are adjusted each Jan. 1. Current premiums are $54.35 per month for a member only and $192.89 for a member and family.

The program has continuous open enrollment. If a TRS Request Form (DD Form 2896-1) is received before the end of any given month, the member can choose the first of the next month or the first of the following month to start receiving coverage.

Coverage includes medical, behavioral and prescription drug benefits. For office visits, patients pay 15 percent of the allowable charge if the health care professional is in the network and 20 percent for out-of-network services.

The law requires annual premiums to be based on the Defense Department’s actual costs of providing benefits in the preceding calendar year.

More information on Tricare Reserve Select is online at benefit/home/overview/Plans/ReserveSelect.

Civilian insurance. Reservists may choose to continue civilian health insurance coverage during periods of active duty. However, the military will not pay the premiums. This option allows families to use their own doctors without military approval.

In this situation, Tricare would become the second payer for any civilian claims. In the event civilian insurance is not continued, the law guarantees immediate re-enrollment in a civilian insurance plan upon release from active duty.

Military space-available. Family members are eligible to receive health care from active-duty military medical facilities on a space-available basis — that is, if the facility has health providers in the right specialties and appointments are available. This availability varies depending on size and capability of the local military medical facility.

Transitional health care. Reservists ordered to active duty or who volunteer to remain on active duty in support of a contingency operation, as well as dependents, are entitled to medical care for 180 days after release from active duty. There are no enrollment fees.

Transitional dental care. Demobilizing National Guardsmen and reservists in TAMP have the same access to dental benefits as active-duty personnel. Participants must meet requirements for authorization, and all work must be completed within the member’s 180-day maximum TAMP transition period.

For more information on TAMP, visit:


For reservists who live near military facilities, fitness centers can save hundreds of dollars annually in health club fees.

Many are equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, stationary bicycles and weight machines. Most offer aerobics and other exercise classes. Some offer co-op child care facilities where spouses agree to help one or two days a month to receive the service.


Facilities include courses for open play and tournaments, driving ranges and services such as instruction, pro shops, and food and beverages. Reservists need to call ahead for availability.


Libraries support voluntary education, career transition, professional military education and family activities. They provide books, CDs, videotapes and other items for loan as well as Internet access.


Service members on active duty automatically are insured for $400,000 under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.

SGLI is available in increments of $50,000, up to $400,000. Premiums are 6.5 cents per month for $1,000 of coverage. That&rsquo:s $26 per month for maximum coverage. Beneficiaries pay an additional $1 per month for coverage of up to $100,000 for traumatic injuries.

Premiums are deducted from paychecks automatically. To refuse coverage or to choose coverage at less than the maximum coverage, a member must make a written request.

The Pentagon also pays the premiums for coverage up to the maximum of $400,000 for personnel serving in Operation Enduring Freedom for as long as they are deployed in support of those operations.

Family SGLI. A service member can buy Family SGLI coverage of up to $100,000, in $10,000 increments, for a spouse. Monthly premiums for spouses are based on age.

For the $100,000 maximum coverage, current monthly premiums range from $5 for spouses younger than 35 to $50 per month for spouses at least 60 years old. In addition, each dependent child of a service member is automatically insured for $10,000 of free Family SGLI coverage.

Traumatic injury insurance. A traumatic injury protection program pays between $25,000 and $100,000 for severe injuries suffered by service members.

This insurance coverage applies to traumatic injuries regardless of where the injury occurs, on or off the job — even an injury suffered while mowing the grass at home is included. Active-duty, National Guard and reserve members who have SGLI are insured automatically, for an additional premium cost of $1 per month. Because of its connection to SGLI, the traumatic injury insurance coverage is known as TSGLI.

Those who have SGLI cannot decline the injury coverage, nor can service members carry TSGLI without also carrying basic SGLI.

Examples of payment amounts include total loss of sight in both eyes, $100,000, and loss of one foot at or above the ankle, $50,000.

In late 2011, the program expanded to cover injuries to the genitals and urinary system, injuries that have increased in recent years as a result of the many insurgent attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan using improvised explosive devices. Payments for covered losses in that category range from $25,000 to $50,000 and, like other types of losses covered under TSGLI, are retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001.

TSGLI coverage is retroactive for service members who suffered qualifying losses between Oct. 7, 2001, and Dec. 1, 2005, that directly resulted from a traumatic event in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

Retroactive payments will be made regardless of whether service members had SGLI coverage at the time of their injury.

If troops die of their wounds, their families also may qualify for TSGLI payments, in addition to other death benefits, if the member survives for at least seven days after the traumatic event. This is also retroactive for those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

Troops still on active duty, as well as those who have left the service, can qualify for the payment, which is paid on top of any other Department of Veterans Affairs disability or pension benefits. But to qualify, the injury must have been incurred before the service member separated from the military.

SGLI and reservists. National Guard and reserve members assigned to units in which they are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive duty creditable for retirement purposes have full-time SGLI coverage 365 days a year. They are also covered for 120 days following separation or release from duty.

Guard or reserve members who choose less than the maximum $400,000 in coverage while in drilling status have their coverage automatically increased to the maximum whenever their duty status changes, such as being mobilized for active duty, as of the effective date of their orders. If they do not want the maximum coverage while in the new duty status, they must complete form SGLV 8286 and give it to their servicing personnel office.

Similarly, reservists who have Family SGLI at less than the maximum $100,000 also have their coverage increased to the limit with a change in duty status, and they must complete form SGLV 8286A and give it to their servicing personnel office if they do not want to carry the maximum Family SGLI coverage.

When reservists demobilize from active duty and return to drilling status, their SGLI and Family SGLI coverage again reverts to the maximum amount, and they must take proactive steps to reduce it again if they so desire.

Forms SGLV 8286 and 8286A are available online at

More information on SGLI for mobilizing and demobilizing reservists is at

Contact: Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, 800-419-1473;

Veterans and retirees can buy insurance similar to SGLI after they leave service, but the premiums increase substantially with age. That plan is known as Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, or VGLI.

SGLI, TSGLI and VGLI payments are tax-free.


Activities vary from one location to another and can include archery, hunting, fishing, rappelling, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, mountain biking, boating, canoeing, camping jamborees, water-skiing and snow skiing.

Many installations have parks and picnic areas with barbecue pits, pavilions, game fields, fitness trails, nature centers and playgrounds. Marina operations offer boats and water sports equipment for rent, private quarters, and food and beverage services.


Centers offer competitive indoor sports, classes and meeting spaces. Rooms also may be reserved on a space-available basis at official travel lodging facilities.


Located on many nstallations, travel lodges are for personnel moving on permanent change-of-station orders. However, they are available on a space-available basis to anyone in the military community, including active-duty and reserve personnel on vacation. Rates vary by room size.

Recreational cabins and campgrounds are another option. Located on many installations, these facilities consist of cabins, cottages, trailers or recreational vehicle parks with hookups and campgrounds.

Reservists receive a lower priority than active-duty members or families on orders, but once they have a reservation, which can be made 24 hours in advance, they cannot be bumped.


Reservist’s rights for space-available travel on military aircraft differ from those of their active-duty counterparts. Their families are not eligible for travel unless the reservist has been ordered to active duty. In those cases, the reservists and their immediate family members have the same eligibility as active-duty members.

There are six levels of priority for using space-A flights. Reservists are in category six, the lowest, so their chances of getting bumped off a flight are high. This can make traveling via space-A difficult, especially during holiday periods and weekends, when competition for seats is usually intense.

Many passengers awaiting space-A travel during the summer and holiday seasons find they pay premium rates for unexpected lodging, dining and commercial airline tickets when no space-A flight is available.

Contact. For more information, including locations and contact information for passenger terminals, visit

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