HomeAboutMembershipProgramsPublicationsNews & EventsLegislationHomeAboutMembershipProgramsPublicationsNews & EventsLegislation

Family Programs >> Family Programs Update Archive >> 2006 Archive - Family Programs Update >> December 1, 2006 Email this... Email    Print this Print

December 1, 2006

Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 21

This newsletter is published bi-monthly by the AUSA Family Programs Directorate. If you would like to receive the Family Programs Update by e-mail, please send a message to with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

In this issue:

  • New Commission to Improve the Future of American Veterans
  • House Passes Veterans’ Benefits Bill
  • Hundreds of Soldiers Leaving the Service Take Advantage of Baumholder Career Center
  • New Guide on Adoption Services for Military Families Released
  • The “Coming Home to Work” Initiative: Federal Direct Hiring Authorities for Veterans
  • Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA)
  • Operation Hero Miles Helps Troops Fly Home
  • Soldier Who Lost Legs in Explosion Walks to Greet Returning Troops
  • Military Families Rake in Lawn Care
  • Just a Little Warning Before Traditional Gift Giving Time
  • Public Warned About E-Mail Scam
  • TMA Fact Sheet: Hearing Aids for Active Duty Family Members
  • TRICARE: Announces Updated Reimbursement Rates

New Commission to Improve the Future of American Veterans
A nonpartisan, independent Commission on the Future for American’s Veterans, comprised of ten commissioners, has been created to develop a long-term plan for veterans. Their inaugural meeting was held on November 9, 2006. The Veterans Coalition is a nonprofit, private organization, composed of five veteran’s service organizations (VSO): the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PAV), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) which is an autonomous body; and is privately funded through various grants, private partners, and the generosity of individuals and groups. The Commission will examine catastrophic lifetime disabilities, modernization of benefits, the health care system’s long-term viability, and the changing role of the Reserve and the National Guard. Its work will include examining where veterans programs and services need to be in order to support today and tomorrow’s American veterans. Over the next eighteen months, the Commission will hold a series of town hall meetings, gather and formulate information from various resources, and present their findings in a report to the American public by Memorial Day 2008. Additional information on the Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans can be found at:

House Passes Veterans’ Benefits Bill
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6314, which would prevent the cutoff of some current programs and provide a new education benefit to spouses of severely injured active-duty service members. It must now be considered by the Senate. The bill prevents a cutoff of rehabilitation programs for homeless and seriously mentally ill veterans as well as grants for veterans’ programs. It also extends the VA advisory committee on homeless veterans and health care for veterans exposed to biological and chemical testing under Projects SHAD and 112 in the 1960s and ’70s. There is one new benefit, which is built upon a current survivor benefit: Spouses and children of service members who are permanently and totally disabled from service-connected causes would be allowed to use VA survivor education benefits while the member is still on active duty. Under current law, that is allowed only after the disabled service member is separated from active duty. For more on this story visit:

Hundreds of Soldiers Leaving the Service Take Advantage of Baumholder Career Center
Roughly 400 Baumholder, Germany soldiers — all just back from Iraq — are getting out of the Army by February. Hundreds of soldiers are taking advantage of the Army Career and Alumni Program in Baumholder, which offers a résumé writing program, mock interviews, Internet job searches and more. All soldiers leaving or retiring attend a mandatory pre-separation briefing, and it’s up to them to take advantage of ACAP’s other services, including the two-day job assistance workshop. For all the details:

New Guide on Adoption Services for Military Families Released
The Department of Health and Human Services today announced the publication of Wherever My Family Is: That’s Home! Adoption Services for Military Families. The guide offers advice to military families and social work practioners, and highlights adoption practices that can help to minimize the obstacles military families face when attempting to become foster or adoptive parents The guide, which is simple to read and user-friendly, is designed not only for social work practitioners, but also for military families contemplating adoption or foster parenting. Copies of the guide may be obtained by calling 1-888-200-4005. It is also available on line at

The “Coming Home to Work” Initiative: Federal Direct Hiring Authorities for Veterans
This authority enables a hiring manager to appoint an eligible candidate to any position for which he or she is qualified, without competition. There's no grade-level limitation. Initial appointments are time-limited, lasting no more than 60 days; however, you can noncompetitively convert the individual to permanent status at any time during the time-limited appointment. Eligibility applies to the Disabled veterans who were retired from active military service with a disability rating of 30 percent or more, and veterans rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (within the preceding year) as having a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more.

Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) (Formerly, Veteran’s Readjustment Appointment)
VRA allows appointment of eligible veterans up to the GS-11 or equivalent. Veterans are hired under excepted appointments to positions that are otherwise in the competitive service. After the individual satisfactorily completes 2 years of service, the veteran must be converted noncompetitively to a career or career-conditional appointment. VRA eligibility applies to, disabled veterans, Veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war declared by Congress, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, Veterans who, while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces, participated in a military operation for which the Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded, and veterans separated from active duty within 3 years.

Operation Hero Miles Helps Troops Fly Home
Airline travelers are helping troops stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan to fly home on leave for free by donating their unused frequent flyer miles to Operation Hero Miles. The Program also gives family members of wounded servicemen and women free plane tickets to visit their loved ones recovering at military hospitals across the country. As of this writing the following airlines are participating in Operation Hero Miles: AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Midwest Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Air Lines, and US Airways. To find out more about the Program, or to donate frequent flyer miles, visit the Operation Hero Miles web site at

Soldier Who Lost Legs in Explosion Walks to Greet Returning Troops
It had been three months since a roadside bomb explosion took the lower portion of both of his legs, but Master Sgt. Daniel Robles stood up on new legs and walked again. It was a proud moment for Robles, who was in Baghdad, Iraq, with the 4th Infantry Division's Charlie Troop, 8th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, when the April 8 explosion occurred. To read the full story visit:

Military Families Rake in Lawn Care
A new program called GreenCare for Troops has made things a bit easier for military spouses with deployed Servicemembers. The program, started by Minnesota-based Project EverGreen, provides free lawn care and maintenance for military families whose primary provider is deployed overseas. The program connects families nationwide with local lawn and landscape firms that volunteer their services. One of more than 300 landscaping companies nationwide participating in the program, Brickman has coordinated participation from nearly 60 of its branches that are in proximity to military bases, said Debra Holder, the company's director of industry relations. Each branch has adopted a family and provided basic landscape maintenance, free of charge. Read the complete story at the following website:

Just a Little Warning Before Traditional Gift Giving Time
If you buy Gift Cards from a display rack that has various store cards you may become a victim of theft. Crooks are now jotting down the card numbers in the store and then waiting a few days and calling to see how much of a balance THEY have on the card. Once they find the card is "activated", they go online and start shopping. You may want to purchase your card from a customer service person, where they do not have the Gift Cards viewable to the public or buy them from the online versions of the stores they are to be used in. Never buy cards from auction sites. This does not apply to all gift cards, only to those that can be used in “card not present” (aka “CNP) situations, such as when making purchases on line. Many retailers who have been hit with gift card fraud now require that a specific PIN be keyed in. Visit the following website for more details:

Public Warned About Email Scam
The Social Security Administration is warning members of the public to be alert for a new e-mail scan. The Agency has received several reports of an email message being circulated with the subject “Cost-of-Living for 2007 update” and purporting to be from the Social Security Administration. The message provides information about the 3.3 percent benefit increase for 2007 and contains the following “NOTE: We now need you to update your personal information. If this is not completed by November 11, 2006, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely.” The reader is then directed to a website designed to look like Social Security’s Internet website. Once directed to the phony website, the individual is asked to register for a password and to confirm their identity by providing personal information such as the individual’s Social Security number, bank account information and credit card information. The public should be aware that the Social Security Administration does not ask for banking or credit card information via e-mail. The Better Business Bureau's has several tips on how to avoid being taken in by one of these scams and what to do if you think that you have been the victim of identity theft as a result of a scam. To report receipt of the fraudulent email message or other suspicious activity to Social Security’s Office of Inspector General, please call the OIG Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available on-line at OIG’s website

TMA Fact Sheet: Hearing Aids for Active duty Family Members
TRICARE covers hearing aids and services to active duty family members diagnosed with a "profound" hearing loss. Only active duty family members who meet specific hearing-loss criteria are eligible for this benefit. To view the fact sheet in its entirety, go to

TRICARE Announces Updated Reimbursement Rates
An updated list of the TRICARE reimbursement rates is now available to beneficiaries. The changes for fiscal year 2007 include updated rates for inpatient mental health, residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization, hospice, and inpatient cost-shares for civilian hospitals. TRICARE reimbursement rates are aligned with Medicare rates as set by Congress. However, TRICARE does have some dispensations that may not be available to Medicare to ensure that beneficiaries continue to have health care available. Medicare premiums also change annually and Medicare Part B premium is now linked to income. In 2007, individual incomes will trigger premium increases at $80,000, $100,000, $150,000 and $200,000. For married couples the premium rises when the income is double those amounts. However, this change will have no effect on TRICARE costs or benefits for those who are also Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can view the updated reimbursement rates at: