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Taking care of your family, today and tomorrow

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- In my business as a Casualty and Mortuary officer, I have heard it all. From notification teams knocking on wrong doors because the address on the member’s record of emergency data is incorrect, or while notifying parents we find out the Airman is married or has children, to informing spouses that their loved ones did not leave a dime to their name because they had outdated beneficiary information.

While I would like to tell you these experiences are uncommon, the sad truth is that they are not. At least one in five Air Force members have outdated or inaccurate information in their emergency data or Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance documents. These inaccuracies in personal data affect our ability to expeditiously notify next of kin and ensure families promptly receive their benefits and entitlements.

If you are not around, how are you taking care of your family tomorrow? If you have not thought about this, there are things everyone can take care of now. Begin by taking time today to ensure your information is current. Log into virtual Military Personnel Flight to update your RED and log into SGLI Online Enrollment System to review your elections and beneficiary designations.

Remember what your will says doesn’t affect who inherits certain assets like retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance. These assets have separate beneficiary designation forms, and that determines who inherits. If you do not understand the crucial designations you are making, stop by the Airman & Family Readiness Center and see the Casualty Assistance Representative so they can explain these important choices you are making.

Another step you can take right away, is to talk to your spouse or parents about this topic. Starting this discussion may be uncomfortable at first but will give you and your family peace of mind. You can begin this conversation by advising your family of your designations and decisions. Let them know where you keep important documents such as wills, trusts and deeds. Discuss disposition of remains and address your wishes. This small step will help avoid unnecessary strife, delays and possible litigation and undue hardship for your family.

While I hope you take the time today to take care of your family tomorrow, I know some of you will put off making these steps. We all know, and some have personally experienced how an unexpected family death, disability or tragedy can be emotionally and financially devastating.

My goal today is to prevent potential financial problems from adding to the emotional stress of an unexpected family tragedy. We are not invincible, so it makes sense to take steps to secure our families tomorrow by getting things in order today. So I will ask again, how well are you taking care of your family?