Secondary Dependency: What is it and how to apply

There are times when your dependents may include more than your spouse and children. These added dependents can increase your financial responsibilities. If you’re responsible for the financial support of other family members, you may be eligible to add them as your secondary dependents.

Preparing and submitting applications to have eligible persons included as your secondary dependents can ensure you receive the benefits and allowances you and your dependents are entitled to. These may include:

  • Increased Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) not to exceed full BAH with dependents
  • Uniformed Services Identification and Privileges Card
  • Travel allowances



Your personnel or finance office can help get you answers to secondary dependency questions. When you’re ready to submit your initial application or redetermination package, make sure you send it to the correct DFAS office. Make sure you review instructions for Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps secondary dependency applications.



What are secondary dependents?

To qualify as a secondary dependent, the individual’s income, not including your contribution, must be less than one-half of the actual living expenses. The law requires the individual to be ‘in fact’ dependent on you, the service member, Your  contribution must be more than one-half of the dependent’s actual monthly living expenses. Documentation to prove living expenses and your contribution must ALWAYS be provided.

Secondary (non-primary) dependents include:
  • Parent, parent-in-law, step-parent, parent by adoption, or any person who stood ‘in-loco parentis’ (in the place of a parent) to you for at least five years prior to your emancipation.
  • Unmarried children ages 21 and 22 who are enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education on a full-time basis.
  • Ward of the court, unmarried, and placed in the permanent legal physical custody of the member, or if not permanent custody for a period of at least 12 consecutive months.
  • Unmarried child over age 21 incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity that occurred while the child was considered a dependent of yours as a member or retired member, or is considered the dependent of a deceased member (while under age 21 or under age 23 and a full-time student).

Service-specific information for applying for or maintaining secondary dependency status

Select a service link below for application/redetermination information: When reading the instructions or filling out forms, the following terms may be included. It’s important you understand them.

  • BAH - Basic Allowance for Housing (Note: dependency redeterminations are required annually for BAH.  Failure to submit a redetermination package when required will cause a reduction in BAH entitlement and BAH will not be reinstated until a redetermination is submitted. Back pay will not be authorized. Check your service's requirements (links above) for more information.)
  • DEERS – Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
  • USIP – Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (commonly referred to as an ID card)
  • In-Loco Parentis – A person who stood in place of the natural parent(s) to the military service member for a continuous period of at least five years before his/her emancipation. 


The Joint Forces Travel Regulations (Chapter 10, Part B: Dependency) is one of the official documents relating to secondary dependency claims. Check with your personnel or finance office for other directives issued by your service. Page updated Aug. 22, 2013