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Rights Of Military Grandparent-Caregiver

More than 2.4 million grandparents in the U.S. are primary caregivers for their grandchildren (about 6 million children under 18 in the 200 census, which was taken before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars). Many factors – crime, drugs, the economy, illness and disability – contribute to this phenomenon; after 9/11, none seems more prevalent than military deployment.

If you are a military grand-caregiver, what assistance can you expect from the government?

On July 1, 2008, the U.S. military began allowing a soldier to earmark a one-time, $100,000 payment to nonspousal caregivers in the event that he or she is killed while serving the country. But suppose – mercifully – they’re not? If you’re in the situation of most grandparents, you’ll still need assistance.

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, allowing soldiers to designate as much as 100 percent of the death gratuity to whomever they choose, including caretakers. It also included significant revisions to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which extends coverage to employees who care for family members injured on active military duty or who must tend to other exigent circumstances arising from active military service.

But even more change was needed. The Department of Labor (DOL) published its final version of these changes (effective January 16, 2009) by clarifying the meaning of “qualifying exigency” by providing a list of specific examples as well as a provision to agree on “additional activities.” Now, as a grandparent-caregiver, you may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave while your son or daughter is on active duty or is called to active duty for one or more of the following qualifying exigencies:

Short-notice deployment: to address any issues that arise from the fact taht your child is notified of an order to active duty seven or fewer calendar days prior to the date of the deployment.

Childcare and school activities: to arrange for childcare, to provide childcare to your grandchild on an immediate-need basis.

Financial and legal arrangements: to make or update financial or legal arrangements to address your son’s or daughter’s absence while on active duty or call to active duty status, and to act as their representative for purposes of obtaining, arranging or appealing military service benefits while they are on active duty and for a period of 90 days following the termination of their active duty status.

Counseling: to attend counseling for your grandchild, provided that the need arises from the active duty call or call to active duy status of your son or daughter.

Rest and recuperation: (up to five days) to spend time with your son or daughter who is on short-term, temporary, rast and recuperation leave during the period of deployment.

Post-deployment activities: to attend arrival ceremonies, reintegration briefings and events and any other official ceremony or program sponsored by the military for a period of 90 days following the termination of your son’s or daughter’s active duty status and to address issues that arise from the death of a covered military.

Additional activities: to address other events that arise out of your son’s or daughter’s active duy or call to active duty.

Keep in mind that these changes only apply to soldiers who proactively name or switch their preferred beneficiaries; previous stipulations still apply to those who don’t update their beneficiary designations.


  • Ask your son or daughter to consider what any payments are used for and whom it is going to affect before deciding who the beneficiary will be prior to their deployment
  • Give notice to your employer of the need for FMLA leave
  • Be prepared to provide a copy of your son’s or daughter’s active duty orders or other documentation issued by the military that indicates that they are on active duty or call to active duty status, and the dates of their service

You must be prepared in order to protect yourself and your grandchild(ren).


Visit these Web sites for information regarding the new legislation and resources for helping you with the transition:

www.dol.gov/esa/ (Employment Standards Administration)
www.aarp.org/families/grandparents/gic/ (Grandparent Information Center)
www.gu.org (Generations United)


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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