Secondary Dependency – General Information

There are times when a military member (including active duty personnel, reserve personnel, members of the National Guard, retired members, and deceased members) have or will need to support family members other than a spouse or a (non-primary) dependent. These additional dependents can increase financial responsibilities. If a sponsor is providing over 50% of a non-primary's living expenses, the sponsor may be able to claim the individual as a secondary dependent.

For more information on a specific dependent type or how to apply, please select one of the following:

On this Page…

Who can be a Secondary Dependent

To qualify as a secondary dependent:

  1. The claimed dependent’s income, not including the sponsor’s contribution, must be less than one-half of the actual living expenses.
  2. The law requires the claimed dependent to be ‘in fact’ dependent on the sponsor.
  3. Sponsor’s contribution must be more than one-half of the claimed dependent’s actual living expenses.
  4. Documentation to prove living expenses must be provided when the claimed expenses exceeds the allowable threshold. Documentation to prove the sponsor’s contribution must always be provided when the claimed dependent resides in a house not occupied by the sponsor.

Eligible dependents include:

  1. Incapacitated Child - 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 a sponsor, or is considered the dependent of a deceased sponsor (while under age 21 or under age 23 and a full-time student).
  2. Parent, Parent-in-law, Step-parent, Parent By Adoption, or In-Loco Parentis (in the place of a parent to the sponsor for at least five years prior to their emancipation).
  3. Student - Unmarried children ages 21 or 22 who are enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education on a full-time basis.
  4. Ward of the Court - Unmarried, and placed in the permanent legal physical custody of the sponsor, or if not permanent custody for a period of at least 12 consecutive months.

What are the Benefits of Claiming a Secondary Dependent

Benefits and allowances to you and your secondary dependents may include:

  • Increased Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) not to exceed full BAH with dependents
  • Uniformed Services Identification and Privileges Card (In loco parentis dependents are not entitled to a USIP card.)
  • Travel allowances
  • Morale, welfare, and recreation privileges
  • Commissary and Exchange

When to Apply for Secondary Dependent

Sponsor's can apply for secondary dependent benefits by submitting the applicable information at anytime during the calendar year. In most cases, upon receipt of application and prior to registration in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), a financial verification will be preformed to determine whether the family member, seeking secondary dependency, receives over 50% of his/her income from the sponsor. Once the dependency determination is approved and the individual is registered in DEERS, the non-primary dependent will be immediately entitled to the to dependency status and the associated benefits/privileges.

What to know…

  • Annual redetermination is required for a secondary dependent claiming housing allowance (BAH).
  • Quadrennial (every 4 years) redetermination is required for a secondary dependent who receives an Uniformed Services Identification and Privileges Card (commonly referred to as USIP card or ID card).
  • To avoid a lapse in benefits, primary minor dependents should be determined prior to the child’s 21st birthday; however, determination cannot be completed more than 90 days in advance.
  • Failure to re-certify any secondary dependent will result in the suspension of benefits received on behalf of that dependent and the potential for a debt. It’s recommended that the sponsor begin preparing for redetermination prior to the expiration of the existing benefit; however, determination cannot be completed more than 90 days in advance.
  • Should your secondary dependents’ status lapse and your BAH is stopped, you will not be authorized back payment of BAH for the period during which the individual(s) were not officially recognized as a dependent.
  • If at any time the secondary dependency status changes or the sponsor’s support drops below 50%, all entitlements to DoD benefits and privileges cease. The beneficiary or sponsor must report any change to the office maintaining the claim.

How to Find the Correct Processing Office for my Secondary Dependency Claim

When you’re ready to submit your initial or redetermination application, make sure you send it to the correct processing office. To determine the correct processing office for your branch of service click here.

All applications processed by DFAS can be submitted one of two ways…

  1. Online: Submit completed dependency packages to our secure AskDFAS Secondary Dependency Claims modules. This submission method will require documents to be scanned onto the computer and then uploaded online. After submitting your application online, an automated ticket is made, you will be emailed your ticket number for reference and updates on your application.
  2. By Mail: All packages may be sent via mail to the address found here. Make sure you review instructions and have included all required documents prior to mailing your application.
Please note: Applications for secondary dependency are NOT accepted via fax or email.

For additional assistance or to find answers to questions not available on, please use our toll free phone number listed here. Additionally, your personnel or finance office can help get you answers to secondary dependency questions.

Page updated January 18, 2022