New military child care benefit to kick in starting January 1

by Tommy Grant

The Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account benefit will officially go into effect in 2024 for active duty personnel, as well as members of the Active Guard Reserve on Title 10 orders.

The deadline for enrolling for the plan each year is during the federal benefits open season, which generally runs from mid-November to mid-December. The 2024 benefit’s deadline was Dec. 11, 2023.

But beyond open enrollment season, many service members may have a qualifying life event, such as birth or adoption of a child, that will allow them to enroll or change their enrollment into the new account. Those entering the military during the year can also enroll.

If service members have enrolled for the new benefit, they are encouraged to stay on top of requirements for reimbursement, take full advantage of financial benefits, and avoid forfeiting money left in the account after the benefit period ends.

The new flexible spending account helps defray the cost of child care (up to age 13) and other dependent care by providing tax savings. Accounts are funded through pre-tax deductions from a service member’s paycheck. Documented claims can then be filed to receive reimbursement for eligible expenses.

Such costs include child or adult day care, preschool, summer day camps, and before- or after-school programs.

Families can contribute as much as $5,000 to the account in 2024. The Federal Flexible Spending Account Program, known as FSAFEDS, is sponsored by the Office of Personnel Management.

The Internal Revenue Service has final say in determining what counts as a qualifying event for making changes outside the open enrollment period. In addition to the birth or adoption of a child, or the death of a dependent, qualifying event examples include:

  • Change in employment status for you, your spouse, or dependent
  • Change in legal marital status
  • Change in your dependent’s eligibility (e.g., your child reaches age 13 and is no longer eligible)

Complete information about filing a claim is available at fsafeds.com/file.

Be sure to mind the deadlines, however. The last day for incurring expenses for the 2024 claim year is March 15, 2025. The deadline to submit claims for the 2024 claim year is April 30, 2025. Any amount left over in one’s account after that is forfeited.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families.” She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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