Last December we had our first baby, and it’s been a whirlwind six months. Looking back, I can vaguely recall those last few “nesting” weeks of pregnancy. The strange combination of happiness and anxiety you feel, as you scramble to finish the nursery, install your car seat, wash clothes and deep clean your house for the fifth time. The chaos. The anxiety. You’re knee-deep in feeling all of it. So the last thing you need to stress about is how to add your baby to DEERS or what legal paperwork you need to get done.
Some questions you might have – will my baby need a military ID ? No. Does TRICARE automatically cover our newborn and hospital stay? Yes, but there’s a few things you need to do.
Here’s a quick check-list of things to do after you have a baby:
Plan for paternity leave.
I know, being in the military and using the word “plan” is just funny. But the good news is service members in the Navy are granted a “Secondary Caregiver Leave” (SCL), a 14-day, non-chargeable leave period. In our situation, we had family in town so my husband elected to take only half his leave, then save the remaining days for later in the year. Every command is different, so have the conversation with your partner and determine what works best for your family. Before you have the baby!
Find a pediatrician.
Your OBGYN will remind you about this as you get closer to your delivery date. A good first step is to contact your local base clinic and ask if they are taking new patients. If not, you’ll need to shop around town for a pediatrician (who accepts TRICARE). In my case, I crowd-sourced from other sub spouses on Facebook (more on Facebook groups here), and called a local pediatrician’s office about two weeks before my due date. They confirmed they were accepting new patients and took down my information. There’s not much more you need to do that! Typically once you have your baby, your doctor will assess the need, and then you’ll contact the pediatrician’s office to schedule an appointment (keep their phone number handy). Our son had his first appointment the day after being discharged from the hospital, but everyone is different.
Apply for the birth certificate and SSN.
Most hospitals send the paperwork for you, but this is your #1 priority. The hospital should provide you with next steps on how to apply for a social security number (SSN) and collect the birth certificate, which is usually through your local city. My hospital provided a one-sheet with all the details. I remember it saying it could take up to 13 weeks to receive the SSN card in the mail, but it arrived in about two weeks. This is the first step, and you cannot complete the following without it. And while it’s top of mind, make several copies of the birth certificate to store.
Add your baby to DEERS.
A newborn is automatically covered asa a TRICARE beneficiary for the first 60 days after birth, as long as another family member is enrolled. A baby should be added to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) as soon as possible, within 30 days of birth. Family members cannot be added to DEERS over the phone, so you must do this in person at your personnel office on base. You don’t have to have the baby’s SSN at time of enrollment, but once you do make sure you update it. Having a baby is so overwhelming of course, so I made a point to have my husband in charge of this. For more details, click here.
Take advantage of free resources.
The Navy has some great (and free) resources for new parents. The New Parent Support Visitation Program seeks to empower parents to meet the challenges of parenthood while maintaining a military lifestyle. The program offers prenatal health and nutrition consultation, breastfeeding education, early child development education, parenting skills and home visitation services. To learn more, contact your local Fleet and Family Services and ask for the nearest New Parent Support Specialist.