Spouse calls: On-base support centers can help
I don’t even know where to start. Ever since my husband and I have been married I’ve always worked and never depended on his money, but he always pays the bills. We have separate bank accounts. We’ve been overseas for just a few weeks, and it has been the worst experience of my married life. Since we got here, all of the money we spent was deducted from my bank account, which included paying for billeting, purchasing a vehicle and insurance, eating out and much more. Now I have less than $10 in my account. In other words, I’m broke. Back in the States, I was making a good salary, and now I’m making nothing. Here’s the problem: He has cleaned out all my money, but I don’t have access to any of his money whatsoever — not his bank account, checkbook, or ATM. He’s been hiding and lying about his base pay, TLA, COLA, temporary duty pay and everything else you can think of. When I confront him about any of them, he said there’s no such thing as COLA, and the TLA amount was just enough to pay some bills, so it’s already gone. If by any chance he’s checking his account (LES) online and I walk by, he immediately closes it. I left my family, my friends and my own life to come here only to get treated like nobody. We’ve been arguing and not talking for weeks. My family has offered to send me some money to come back to the States. I have been thinking about going back to start all over again but definitely cannot afford the airline tickets for myself and my kids. Even if I do go back, I have no place to live. Half of my furniture is here and the other half is in storage. I really don’t want to go back home, because it would be too embarrassing. Please, please help because I don’t think I can live like that any longer.
— Name and Location Withheld
Help is available to you right where you are, so don’t give up. You have options and resources on your base or post to get you through this difficult time and improve your circumstances. Your husband has a responsibility to support those he claims as his dependents — you and your children — and the military takes that responsibility very seriously.
If you need necessities in an urgent situation, you may be able to get help from a family readiness or support center on your installation. In the various military branches, these are called Navy Fleet and Family Support Center, Airman & Family Readiness Center, or Army Community and Family Support Center. These organizations provide help in situations like yours on a case-by-case basis.
Your letter does not say if your husband is refusing to provide food or necessities for you and the children. If that is the case, or for other reasons, these agencies can also direct you to more sources of help, possibly to Family Advocacy, legal or to your husband’s chain of command. You can also get help, counseling and guidance from a chaplain. Any of these sources will be an advocate for you, and you do not need your husband’s approval to go to any of them.
As far as your husband’s financial information, you can find pay charts for all ranks in all services at www.dod.mil/dfas. At that site you can also find information about all types of military pay and allowances. You can find a COLA calculator at this web address: https://secureapp2.hqda.pentagon.mil/perdiem/ocform.html. Type in your location, spouse’s rank, dates; no name or PIN is required. The calculator will guide you. Click “execute,” and you will get the per day COLA amount.
Now, you are armed with information and support. You are not alone. Your family can get through this, and there are people on your base to help you. I hope that when you do get through this, that you and your husband will seek counseling and learn to manage your military life and your finances as a team.
Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She and her family live in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB.