New Benefit Gives Military Families More Flexibility in Paying for Dependent Care
In coordination with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has expanded eligibility for a benefit that will provide military families with another financial option for reducing the burden of the cost of dependent care, ultimately bolstering military readiness. The Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) initiative provides accounts that allow eligible service members to set aside up to $5,000 per household in pre-tax earnings for qualified dependent care expenses.
Qualified expenses include child care, preschool, and before and after school programs for dependents under 13 years of age, care for incapacitated family members of any age, and other eligible dependent care expenses that enable service members and spouses to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.
The DoD estimates that approximately 400,000 active component service members and members of the Active Guard Reserve on Title 10 orders have eligible dependents and thus may be eligible for this benefit. Additionally, this benefit is already available to DoD civilians. Dependent care is vital for maintaining military readiness as it enables service members and DoD civilians alike to focus on their duties with peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones are receiving quality care.
"The introduction of the DCFSA for military families is a significant milestone in DoD's ongoing effort to take care of our people. Helping families afford care for their loved ones while pursuing their career goals supports the economic well-being of families and a mission ready force," said Ashish Vazirani, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
"OPM welcomes the opportunity to build on the Defense Department's existing support of military families," said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. "We wholeheartedly back their desire to ensure that military families have access to affordable, high-quality child care. In collaboration with the agency, OPM is expanding eligibility of DCFSAs, under the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program, to military personnel effective January 1, 2024. OPM already provides this important, cost-saving benefit to the Federal civilian employees and looks forward to including military personnel."
DoD service members will be eligible to enroll in a DCFSA during the annual Federal Open Season from mid-November through mid-December. Specific enrollment beginning and ending dates will be announced by OPM.
In preparation for the annual Federal Benefits Open Season, DoD has developed educational materials to support service members and families in determining whether a DCFSA will benefit their family. DoD strongly encourages anyone considering a DCFSA to review these educational materials and to seek support from a tax consultant and financial readiness professional before enrollment. Tax and financial readiness consultations are provided at no cost to service members and families through Military OneSource and the DoD Office of Financial Readiness.
To learn more about DCFSAs and to learn how to reach a tax consultant or financial readiness professional, visit the Office of Financial Readiness website.