If you're considering adopting, you should know that in addition to the joy of welcoming a child into your family, other adoption-related benefits are available as well. The Department of Defense recognizes the importance of family as well as the role that family plays in service member morale and retention. A service member who adopts a child may be entitled to leave and tax benefits, and may also be entitled to compensation for some adoption-related expenses through the DoD's Adoption Reimbursement Program. By learning about all of the benefits available to you, you can approach the adoption process well prepared and well informed.
Adoption Reimbursement Program
In accordance with federal law, the Adoption Reimbursement Program authorizes reimbursement to eligible service members for "reasonable and necessary" expenses associated with adopting a child from a qualifying adoption agency. These expenses typically include public and private adoption agency fees, placement fees, legal fees, medical expenses and temporary foster care charges. "Reasonable and necessary" expenses do not include adoption-related travel costs. Service members are limited in the amount of financial reimbursement they can receive per child in a given year. The program and reimbursement limits are governed by DoD Instruction 1341.09.
To be reimbursed for adoption-related expenses through the Adoption Reimbursement Program, service members must meet these requirements:
- Be on active duty for at least 180 days
- Adopt a child who is under age 18
- Adopt through a qualifying adoption agency and have the adoption finalized
- Submit a claim for reimbursement within one year of the adoption finalization and before the service member is discharged from the military
In accordance with federal law, service members may be authorized up to 21 days of non-chargeable leave following an adoption. This leave authorization is not automatic and must be approved by the service member's supervisor, and may be denied depending on mission requirements and certain circumstances.
To be eligible for authorized leave, the service member must meet the eligibility requirements for the Adoption Reimbursement Program and the adoption must have been completed after January 6, 2006. For dual-military couples who adopt a child, this leave may be authorized for only one service member.
Health care benefits for adopted children
Children are covered as TRICARE Prime beneficiaries for 60 days after birth or adoption, as long as one family member is enrolled in TRICARE Prime. After these first 60 days, an enrollment application must be submitted to keep the child enrolled in TRICARE Prime. If an application is not submitted within 60 days of the adoption, the adopted child will automatically be covered under TRICARE Standard and Extra until 365 days after the adoption. The child can still be enrolled in TRICARE Prime during this time.
If the child is not enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System after 365 days have passed, DEERS will show the child's status as "loss of eligibility." At that point, the child must be registered in DEERS to be eligible for TRICARE benefits.
Internal Revenue Service Adoption Tax Credit
Families adopting a child may qualify for a tax credit (up to $12,970 for 2013) to help offset adoption costs. This is not a tax deduction, but rather a credit to your federal tax liability. If you can't use all the credit in one year, it may be carried forward. For more information, visit the Internal Revenue Service website.
For a more comprehensive overview of available adoption benefits, contact your installation service provider.