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How to Add a Parent as a Military Dependent

Thinking of expanding your family unit to include in-laws or your own parents? Learn who qualifies to be a dependent parent in the military and how to start the process.
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parental dependency

For active-duty service members and their families, military life often means moving around. You may be far from your extended family. But, service does not have to make caregiving for an extended family member more difficult. 

Military families can sometimes add parents or “secondary dependents” to their household. 

Table of Contents
  1. Who is Considered a Secondary Dependent Parent? 
    1. What is the Difference Between a Live-In Parent and a Dependent One? 
  2. What are the Benefits of Adding My Parent as a Dependent? 
    1. Benefits for Parental Dependents
  3. How Can I Determine if My parent is My Financial Dependent? 
    1. Income 
    2. Expenses
    3. What Forms Do I Need to Begin the Process? 

Who is Considered a Secondary Dependent Parent? 

First, verify that the individual you seek to add as a dependent qualifies as a parent. 

Here’s what DFAS says: 

The term parent extends to parents, parent-in-law or an adult who assumed responsibilities similar to a parent before you reached the age of 21. Legal adoption is not specifically stated as a requirement, however, specific documentation like an affidavit is required for most branches. In order to qualify, the income of potential-dependent parents must be less than half of their living expenses.

DFAS outlines a specific period of five years under the parent’s care for the adult to qualify as a parent.

What is the Difference Between a Live-In Parent and a Dependent One? 

As service members PCS through various states, family units may live together for periods without becoming dependents. Living expenses and legal in-fact dependency – not preference –determine if parents can or should become military dependents, according to DFAS.

Non-Dependent Situations May Look Like This:  

  • Your financially independent parent creates a home base at your dwelling while enjoying RV life.
  • Your financially independent parent stays with you for a period of time to help with a new baby.
  • Your spouse temporarily lives with extended family during a deployment.
  • You are hoping to add your parent(s) as dependents so they can PCS overseas with you.

Dependent Situations May Look Like This: 

  • Assisting your parent(s) financially with living expenses.  
  • Taking on medical or care-related expenses for your parent(s).
  • Becoming medically responsible as a caregiver for your parent(s).

While each family circumstance is unique, dependency essentially boils down to finances.

What are the Benefits of Adding My Parent as a Dependent? 

Parents added as dependents may become eligible for a military ID card and Tricare Plus medical coverage. 

Benefits for Parental Dependents

  • Access to military bases.
  • Ability to PCS along with service members overseas.
  • Ability to reside in on-post housing with service members
    • Service members already receiving BAH with dependents prior to adding a parent dependent will not receive an increase in BAH. Those whose dependents’ status would change from “without” to “with dependents” should expect to receive the increase.  
  • Travel allowance when relocating.
  • Access to military medical care on base. 

How Can I Determine if My parent is My Financial Dependent? 

Since financial responsibility is the primary factor, it may be helpful to speak in detail with a financial advisor, like the ones at Military One Source. You can also contact DFAS directly via phone or email.

Family members may become eligible if their income is less than half of their actual living expenses.  

Before you can declare dependency, you need an in-depth understanding of your parent’s income and expenses. 

You’ll need to keep accurate and detailed receipts of contributions you make on your parent’s behalf to prove their dependency. 

Pay special attention to:

Income 

Are your parents receiving income from any of the following categories?

  • Social security
  • Disability
  • Pension funds
  • Trusts
  • Passive income (are they getting paid monthly, quarterly, etc. from any current or past business operations or deals?)
  • Paychecks or unemployment

Take inventory of all income categories to include any income made in the prior 12 months to your application.

Expenses

Expenses vary by individual. DFAS has a helpful list of general expenses, which may include:

  • Household expenses (These may vary depending on whether your parent is already living with you)
  • Medical expenses
  • Insurance
  • Repairs
  • Food  

What Forms Do I Need to Begin the Process? 

Each branch has a slightly different application process for parents and guardians. 

For parents or parents-in-law by marriage, you will at least need the service member’s birth certificate and marriage certificate. For step-parents, you’ll need the parents’ marriage certificate. For legal guardians, you may need additional documentation, like affidavits. If the documents are foreign, you’ll need an approved English translation of them. 

You can complete Army, Air and Space Force submissions online or by mail. The Air Force and Space Force require additional forms, including AF/SF form 594 and DFAS form 1856. 

The Navy requires you to submit NAVPERS 1070/602 by mail or secure link.

DFAS doesn’t handle claims for the Marines. Instead, you’ll submit your documentation and  AVMC form 10922 to your command.

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About Samantha Peterson

Samantha Peterson is a regular contributor for military publications such as The Military Wallet, Military Families Magazine, We Are The Mighty and more. She feels passionately about telling compelling stories and crafting captivating narratives. Living life one PCS at a time, she's travel schooling her children while tackling careers in the nonprofit and environmental sector all as military life allows.

Featured In: Samantha's writing has been featured in We Are The Mighty, Military Families Magazine, InDependent, Reserve + National Guard Magazine, and other publications.

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