DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) is an enormous database of people who are eligible to receive military benefits. The most important benefits probably are health insurance coverage provide by TRICARE. But others include access to commissaries and exchanges, ID cards, life insurance, and education benefits.
Because servicemembers (including active duty and eligible Reserve and Guard personnel) are automatically enrolled in DEERS, many military families (including the servicemembers) assume that the servicemember's dependents are automatically enrolled as well.
It is not the case. Getting spouses, children, and other qualified dependents require a separate step. If they don’t get registered in DEERS, they won’t be able to enroll in TRICARE or access any of the other benefits to which they’re entitled. Fortunately, registering family members in the DEERS system is quite simple.
The servicemember (called the “Sponsor”) is the only person who can add (or remove) family members to DEERS. (Actually, someone with power of attorney authorized by the sponsor can also add family members, but this is rare.)
Servicemembers can enroll their dependents in DEERS at any that is authorized to issue military and uniformed-services ID cards. This enrollment must be done in person.This enrollment must be done in person.
Before you pile into the car and drive down to the ID-issuing facility, make sure you have all the documentation you’ll need. These include marriage certificates, Social Security cards, photo IDs, birth certificates (for biological children under 21), adoption papers, and divorce decrees.
If you have children ages 21-23 who are full-time college students and you want to keep them covered by TRICARE, you’ll need a letter from the college’s registrar’s office verifying the child’s enrollment.
To enroll stepchildren, you'll need to provide their birth certificate, social security card, and parent's marriage certificate.
Enrollment for adopted children requires their social security card, birth certificate, and final adoption decree.
After you've gathered all the required documents, you’re ready to go.
Again, DEERS enrollment must be done in person because the sponsor will have to fill out and sign DD Form 1172. This document is the Official Application for Uniformed Services Identification Card and DEERS enrollment form. During this process, spouses, dependent adults and children aged 10 and up will receive military ID cards.
You’ll need to update DEERS if you or your dependents experience a major event. These include (but are not limited to):
- Changing your status from enlisted to officer
- Having a baby
- Retiring from the military
- Getting divorced
- Moving from active duty to Reserve or Guard or from active Reserve/Guard to inactive
It sounds a little overwhelming, but once a servicemember’s dependents are registered in DEERS, you won’t have to schlepp anywhere to update your information or make changes. There are a variety of ways to do this.
- Visit milConnect online.
- Calling DEERS Support, 1-800-334-4162 (California only), 1-800-527-5602 (Alaska and Hawaii), or 1-800-538-9552 everywhere else in the US.
- Send a fax (does anyone do that anymore?) to 1-831-655-8317
- Send snail mail to Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office
400 Gigling Road
Seaside, CA 93955-677
More about TRICARE and DEERS.
Updated by Armin Brott, February 2016