Every transition has a few bumps in the road, and the integration of the United States Space Force into the Department of Defense is no exception.
Guardians have been serving their country since 2020, but civilian and military infrastructure haven’t quite caught up. That leaves Space Force families facing issues with the transition, often in unexpected places.
For example, Home Depot offers a 10% military discount, which requires pre-registration to confirm eligibility. The website has been updated to include “Space Force” in a list of qualifying groups, but the drop-down menu during the registration process does not offer it as an option.
Some Space Force users have had success by selecting “Air Force” instead, while others have reported that it didn’t work for them, likely due to the system used to validate registrations.
ID.me is a system many retailers use to verify military affiliation in order for customers to qualify for discounts. Everything from Sea World Parks to the Apple store use the ID.me system to confirm users qualify for the deals and discounts they offer to military-affiliated shoppers.
Jennifer Nightingale, a Space Force spouse and Air Force veteran, was frustrated when she attempted to use the system to register for a discount.
“ID.me doesn’t have Space Force listed yet,” said Nightingale, meaning the growing number of Space Force families cannot access the generous discounts for which they qualify based on active-duty service.
Even the military itself and its related entities aren’t free from difficulties, some of which are more significant than a lost discount. Health insurance is an area where many Space Force transition families have seen problems.
Brittany Zinck, a Space Force spouse whose husband made the transition from the Air Force, was dis-enrolled, along with her children, from the Johns Hopkins health plan they use via TRICARE when her spouse changed branches. That left them uninsured for a time, a fact they only discovered after their doctor notified them that their claim for the family’s flu shots had been denied.
It took many phone calls, but eventually Zinck managed to speak to someone who was able to re-enroll them in their plan and backdate their coverage to the date of the transition.
Another Space Force spouse, Sarah Clark, had a similar issue when her family received a bill for her child’s medical care. Eventually, Clark’s husband was able to sort out the issue, and the treatments were covered, but it was a stressful time.
“There was definitely a gap of no coverage, and my husband had to take the initiative to activate it again,” Clark said. “We were surprised by that. Maybe that’s par for the course if you switch between branches, but he shouldn’t ever lose his benefits if he isn’t leaving active duty.”
Clark also ran into unexpected difficulties when trying to book vacation lodging at a Navy facility. Attempting to use the online booking option, she found that “Space Force” was not a listed option.
When she selected “Air Force,” she received an error message. Her next approach was to try to make the reservation via telephone. The agent who took her call explained that they only serve Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and therefore couldn’t help her. A second call with a different agent got the same result.
“I explained Space Force is DOD, and my husband is active-duty military,” Clark said. “The second agent echoed the same sentiments as the first.”
During a third call, Clark decided to say they were an Air Force family and was able to book, but she is concerned that upon checking in and showing a Space Force ID card, they might be turned away.
Transitioning guardians also report receiving information in the mail about retirement benefits, even though they never left active duty. Some had heard from those who had made the transition before them that this might happen, but for others, it was disconcerting and stirred up fears that perhaps their transition paperwork hadn’t been handled correctly.
Many guardian families say they still receive incredulous responses from people who think the Space Force is not a real thing. That, combined with the surprising complexity of adding a new military branch into existing military and civilian systems, means some growing pains.
Over time, the public’s understanding of the Space Force should grow, and many of these wrinkles will be ironed out. Until then, guardian families may continue to hit snags while waiting for the world to catch up to their service.Read comments