When you are the spouse of an active duty (or retired) military member, you also may have benefits that come with being so. You may have authorization to purchase things at the commissary or base exchange or gas station. You may also have the privilege of utilizing base/post organizations that offer morale and welfare programs like bowling, swimming pools, libraries and more. You may need to access base locations for health care or other administrative issues and particularly if you are the spouse of an active duty member who is deployed, you may need to access base support and resources specific to that deployment.
For most military installations across the world, to do any of this, you’ll need an identification card. Active duty military members typically receive a CAC card. This Common Access Card is a ‘smart’ card that acts as the primary identification for active duty members, as well as Selected Reserve, Department of Defense Civilian employees and contractor personnel who are eligible to receive it. The CAC card allows physical access to base/post buildings, as well as access to Department of Defense computers, networks, servers and systems.
The military spouse ID card is different, though. The Department of Defense issues the military spouse ID card to eligible dependents of military (active duty or retired) members. It is not a smart card like the CAC is, nor does it allow any access to computer networks or systems.
Military Spouse ID Card Benefits
The military spouse ID card does, however, grant the military spouse access to the privileges and benefits they are entitled to, including the installation commissary, exchange, morale and welfare offices and more. Most military installations will not allow anyone on base without proper identification, and the Military spouse ID card acts as such.
The military spouse ID card allows access to health care and serves as an insurance card of sorts both on the military installation and with medical providers not affiliated with the military. It should be noted that, unless being used for proof of insurance to medical providers or a few other limited situations that are excluded from the law, a military identification card should not ever be photocopied. In fact, it’s illegal for companies or businesses to do so, and it is punishable by fine and imprisonment.
A military spouse ID card is a lifeline for military spouses and any children/dependents they may have.
Military Spouse ID Card Requirements
To get a military spouse ID card, the most important requirement is to have your spouse ‘sponsor’ you. A military service member, whether active duty or retired, must act as your sponsor and fill out DD Form 1173. He or she must fill out and sign the forms in person. In the event the sponsoring service member is deployed or unavailable due to duty, DD Form 1172-2 may be used, provided it is signed and notarized, or signed with a specific power of attorney for ID cards/ DEERS enrollment. A General Power of Attorney will not be acceptable and must be specific for obtaining a military spouse ID card.
One will also need a photo ID, social security card, birth certificate and wedding license. All documentation must be official documents/sealed as such, and cannot be photocopied. On many installations, unless the service member is deployed or unable to appear because of duty, he or she is often required to be present to sponsor the military spouse in person.
How To Get A Military ID Card For Spouse
When a military spouse has the required documentation and his/her sponsor available, the service member needs to enroll the spouse in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). DEERS is a database that houses information about all military service members and their legal dependents. It is a worldwide system that acts as a verification process for the qualification of military benefits.
The service member and spouse should have an appointment set up at their local ID card office on the military installation. This is known as RAPIDS, or the Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System office.
Military members can now set up appointments online, and this is recommended as walk-in opportunities often take a while. While at the appointment, the service member will give the processing officiant the documentation and appropriate form, and the officiant will verify the spouse’s enrollment in DEERS. Once this is verified, the spouse’s picture will be taken and the ID card will be made in the office.
Military Spouse ID Card Renewal
A military spouse ID cards expire every four years. Retired military spouse ID cards also expire, and need renewal at the sponsor’s 65th birthday. To renew a military spouse ID card, the process is very much the same as obtaining one in the first place.
One must visit the RAPIDS office on their local military installation, and must typically have their sponsor with them or a power of attorney specific to obtaining an ID. A new card with a new expiration date (and updated rank information, if any) will be given and the expired card will be confiscated as government property.
Spouse Lost Military ID Card
If a military spouse loses his or her ID card, the process to get a new card is also similar to the process for getting an initial military spouse ID card. It’s important for a military spouse who loses his or her card to notify DEERS and the RAPIDS office as soon as they know the card is lost, as it is government property and may be counterfeited or misused by someone. Again, the RAPIDS office will issue another card, and the military sponsor and military spouse will need the same documentation as if getting a new card.
Retired Military Spouse ID Card
Retired military spouses will still need their sponsors or a specific power of attorney to obtain a retired military spouse ID card. In the event that the military spouse’s sponsor has passed away, the military spouse will need to make sure that DEERS knows the retired military member has passed away, and they’ve received a survivor ID. This survivor ID will not expire.
To get either a new retired military spouse card or replacement, the military spouse will need to bring two forms of ID (one of which must be government issued—a passport or driver’s license, for instance), and in the event that the retired member has passed, it’s wise to bring a copy of the death certificate as well.
The RAPIDS office will verify DEERS enrollment and then have the sponsor and/or the spouse (in the event that the retired member has passed) fill out DD Form 2 and then continue through the process as would be for active duty.
Military ID Card For Divorced Spouse
A military ID card is government property, and when a military member and his or her spouse go through a divorce, the spouse is often no longer entitled to keep the ID.
This is based on the time of marriage between the service member and spouse. If the sponsor gave at least 20 years of service and the spouse was married to the service member for at least 20 years, with 20 of those years being during the sponsor’s service, the divorced military spouse is entitled to spouse benefits provided they remain unremarried. This is typically considered meeting the 20/20/20 rule after divorce.
The divorced sponsor needs to accompany (or provide specific power of attorney) his or her former spouse to the RAPIDS office in order to go through the process of getting a military ID card for his or her former spouse.