Military life can be difficult, especially for a service member’s family. There is so much unpredictability and instability that comes with the job, with officers in some branches being forced to move every couple of years. As a result of this constant relocation, a service member’s children might experience challenges in keeping up with school. At the same time, their spouse might have trouble finding employers willing to hire them since they can’t guarantee how long they’ll be able to stay in a position let alone in the state. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources that can help alleviate the stress of these moves, including VA loans, crash pads and on-base housing, moving services, and organized social groups at each location. All of these are meant to make each transition easier for both service members and their loved ones.
Government-backed VA loans were first established with the passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act around the end of the second World War. The purpose of this act, as the name suggests, was to help soldiers easily transition back into daily life when returning from war. VA loans are mortgage-type loans used to help eligible veterans, active servicemen, and women, or their surviving spouses buy property. The benefit of using a VA loan instead of a conventional mortgage loan is that it has more flexibility, lower interest costs, and does not require the applicant to make a downpayment when applying. Of course, as with any other kind of loan, there are requirements that you must meet to be eligible to receive a VA loan. You must have completed the minimum required length of service, and can only use the loan for a permanent residence–not a vacation home or rental property–which must be deemed safe by a VA-approved inspector. The majority of service members will choose to live on base or rent a home during their first assignment, then utilize the VA loan to buy a home during their second or third assignment since they’ll typically have met the service requirement by then.
Base Housing and Crashpads
It can be difficult for service members and their families to find rental properties that work for them, since the majority of leases are inflexible, requiring tenants to sign on for an entire year at a time, and some assignments last only a few months. Thankfully, at nearly every location, there are rental options created specifically for service members. Many military bases offer on-base housing for soldiers, either in houses–for families–or dormitories. These houses are rented out and maintained through a third-party service, separate from the military itself. On-base housing comes with many perks including a safe neighborhood with playgrounds and dog parks, and on larger bases, there are additional amenities like schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and other public recreational spaces like libraries, gyms, and pools. Similar to on-base housing, near many popular training bases there are apartments or houses called crashpads, which are intended to be used for short assignments–typically just a few months. These options help to eliminate some of the stress that service members might experience when switching locations.
Though the move itself will not have the same long-lasting impact on the service members and their families as the changes in environment, career, and social life, it is still a pretty big hurdle to get past. Thankfully, the military offers flexibility for its service members, giving them the option to hire movers at no cost to them, or to do the move themselves and be reimbursed for any qualifying associated costs. Service members should be wary, though, that there have been many reports of fragile items being improperly handled and broken by military-hired movers. So, while doing the move yourself might be more of a hassle, it could prevent you from losing anything of sentimental value.
The majority of bases offer social groups for spouses and fun activities for children. These spouse groups can usually be found on social media websites like Facebook, but oftentimes when a service member is in processing they’ll be asked to include information about their spouse, that way they can receive notifications about fun spouse events like bonfires and potlucks. These groups are a great resource for spouses that are new to the area, since every single member was once in the same boat of living in a new place where they don’t know anyone, and will therefore be more empathetic. Having a shared experience like this can be a great way to bond. Not only are these groups a great way to make friends in a new location, but they can be a great resource for finding a new job or great local recommendations for food and entertainment.