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NEWS | Aug. 2, 2017

Role reversal: Living with a secondary dependent

By Staff Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

At a young age, when your parents are sick, it is hard to comprehend what it means and how it will affect them. When I turned 14, I had no idea how drastically my life would change after finding out my Mom had Diabetes.

Although it took many doctors and several years, in 2003 my mom, Mary, was diagnosed as a brittle Diabetic, but due to the extended amount of time it took to figure out what was wrong with her, it would later lead to extensive health problems.

Throughout my younger years, my mom kept the severity of her disease well hidden. All I knew was that her body didn’t work the way mine did, and that I had to make sure she checked her blood sugar when she wasn’t feeling well.

When 2010 came along, my mom was married and relatively healthy, or so it seemed. At that point I had just graduated high school, and I felt comfortable enough to move on and start my own life by joining the U.S. Air Force.

Through the years that followed, I would talk to my mom every day and occasionally took a trip to visit or vacation with her.

In 2015, I invited her to visit me for Thanksgiving in Virginia, where I am stationed, since she had never been here before. On the day she arrived, I was both nervous and excited to tell her that I would be deploying in April.  Since my mom and I have always been close, it was easy for me to detect that something was very wrong when I asked her if she could watch my dog for a few months while I was away. After a long talk, she expressed to me that she was having extensive marital problems and no longer felt safe, so instantly I asked her to move in with me.

Most of the time when children move out, they never imagine living with their parents again. For me, this was a must. A few weeks after her visit, she moved to Virginia to live with me and this was when I realized just how bad her health had gotten.

With everything piling up, from her medical bills to preparing for deployment, I was struggling and needed to find a way to make my mom a secondary dependent.

My first step was talking to my first sergeant. She explained that it takes a lot of work to make someone a secondary dependent and referred me to the finance section for more information.

After taking her advice, I visited finance where they directed me to the Defense Finance and Accounting Services website.

It was difficult to get all of the paperwork finished, especially while being thousands of miles away, but I owe a large thank you to the people within my office for helping my mom while I was away.

Now, three years later, I have received helpful hints to make the process a little easier.  

  • Make sure to apply for the correct type of secondary dependency.

  • Be aware if you are applying for Base Allowance for Housing, or if the dependent needs a Common Access Card.

  • You must reapply every year, so make sure you keep track of when your application is due.

  • The individual must be unemployed for one year.

The majority of the process can now be done through the DFAs website, which for me was very user friendly. 

I am also very grateful, as a service member, that the military is able to help me provide the necessary medication, medical attention and everyday necessities my mom needs.

If interested in secondary dependency, visit