Dual-military couples must both enroll in DEERS

By Capt. Kattarina Simons
Judge Advocate General’s Corps

It is a common misconception that dual-military spouses need not enroll their spouse in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System.

Soldiers married to other Soldiers often believe that since their Soldier-spouse is not defined as a dependent and is already covered by military health care and Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, there is no need to enroll the spouse in DEERS.

Actually, Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R requires all Soldiers, including dual-military, to register their spouse in DEERS.

All persons married to a service member are automatically enrolled in Family SGLI. FSGLI is a creation of the Veteran’s Opportunity Act of 2001, and went into effect Nov. 1, 2001. Word was initially released in DCSPER ALARACT Message 107/01, notifying Soldiers and leaders of the new coverage and automatic enrollment. That message was revised in 2002 in MILPER Message 02-003, which reduced the premium rates.

In 2007, ALARACT 040/2007 went out, advising all leaders at all levels to conduct a 100 percent review of all Soldiers to ensure all family members, including spouses enrolled in Married Army Couples program, were registered in DEERS.

Despite that action message 51,628 Soldiers received notification that the Army had failed to deduct FSGLI premiums and that they owed the Army a debt for the coverage. Soldiers who failed to pay the premium nevertheless were covered by FSGLI and received insurance payouts when a spouse died, including 160 unfortunate dual-military spouses.

If you are a dual-military couple and are not having FSGLI premiums deducted (check your LES), check to make sure your spouse is registered in DEERS. FSGLI premiums range from $5.50 a month to $52 a month, depending on the age of the spouse covered, and are listed as FSGLI.

Enrollment is automatic, but it can be declined by both dual-military and one-Soldier military families. You can decline coverage using SGLV Form 8286A, available at your supporting personnel or DEERS office. You may either reduce the amount of coverage (automatically set at $100,000 and reducible in $10,000 increments) or decline it entirely. To decline, check the appropriate box and write “I do not want coverage for my spouse at this time” on the line below the “I want coverage in the amount of ____.”

If, like those 51,628 Soldiers, you receive notification that you owe the Army a debt for FSGLI premiums never deducted from your pay, you have several options. You may pay the full amount in a lump sum, pay it prorated over 12 months or request a waiver of the claim. As a last resort you may appeal to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.

By requesting a waiver of claim for erroneous payments of pay and certain allowances (also known as a remission of indebtedness request), you are essentially arguing that the Army overpaid you and you do not wish to pay back what they mistakenly paid you. To receive the waiver, more than administrative error on the part of the government must be proved: it must be in the best interest of the government to not get the money back, and it must be fair and equitable.

Courts have generally decided that because families did receive coverage (and payouts) even if they were not paying the premiums, they received value (the coverage) for nothing (no premiums paid), and therefore making them pay the back premiums is not unfair. Board cases as recent as Sept. 30, 2009 hold against the service member if the service member failed to properly note messages about FSGLI on his or her LES or failed to decline the coverage properly (see Claims Appeals Board Case No. 09091601).

If you still want to apply for a waiver, use DD Form 2789, Waiver/Remission of Indebtedness Application. The Soldier fills out Part 1 and the finance office fills out Part 2. The form should be returned by the finance office to the Denver DFAS office. The Denver DFAS office is the only approval authority for waiver of these debts. The Army cannot approve a waiver of FSGLI premium debts.
Appeal to military records

If the remission of indebtedness fails, you may still visit your legal assistance office for an appeal to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. You cannot appeal to the ABCMR until all other options have been exhausted; therefore, you cannot do it until the board has denied your remission of indebtedness. The ABCMR could then retroactively decline FSGLI for you. The ABCMR process can be very lengthy, and in the meantime you would likely have to pay the debt, and then be reimbursed if you win.

In short, preventive medicine is best: if you are dual-military and they are not deducting FSGLI premiums from your pay or you do not have your spouse registered in DEERS — register your spouse in DEERS immediately. If you are going to be marrying another Soldier, make sure that both of you enroll each other in DEERS. Decline the coverage if desired, but make sure your spouse is enrolled — do not give the Army a chance to pin the blame on you if premiums are not deducted.