Stacy (not her real name) called in distress. She has been having serious, sometimes incapacitating, health issues and her husband’s command was bullying him to sign papers saying who would care for their kids in the event of deployment. The command said he couldn’t use her because of her illness and he had to turn in a provider name or be punished. He and Stacy didn’t have any available family members that could take their children and were being pressured to list people they barely know. Stacy was upset.
The military requires a family care plan for certain servicemembers to ensure their family members are properly and adequately cared for whenever the member is deployed or otherwise not available due to military requirements. Single parents, dual military couples and people with special-needs-family-members must have an updated plan to continue serving. Not having a family care plan makes someone non-deployable and also subjects the person to involuntary separation. However, it does not subject the person to disciplinary action like the husband’s command was threatening.
Stacy was relieved to find out that discharge is the consequence of refusing to list strangers or anyone else as their backup provider. She and her husband would be fine with him getting out. She wanted to know why no one explained this as an option for them. She was even more surprised to learn they could also seek release themselves by requesting a dependency discharge. We went over details of how to put together memos for the different options and the things her husband could say in response to the command.
Calls like this are common, because in a military that is low on numbers, commands don’t want to lose anyone. They would rather pressure someone to make irresponsible (sometimes even criminally negligent) parenting choices. So commands don’t present options. They just demand what they want as though it is the only choice. “You have to do this…. or else.” Fortunately many in these circumstances find the GI Rights Hotline and learn their real options.