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December 15, 2006

Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 22

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:

  • Soldiers, Families Brave Holiday Season Without Loved Ones
  • Sesame Workshop TV Special for Military Kids Dec 27th
  • Army Stands Up Installation Management Command
  • House Panel’s Report Recommends Massive Military Expansion
  • VA Report Shows Gaps in Care for Soldiers with Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Army to Fund Research on Drug That May Help PTSD Victims
  • Soldiers’ Debt Woes Mount
  • Life Insurance Companies to Pay Refunds
  • Bill Introduced to Reduce Reserves Retirement Pay Age
  • Fort Belvoir Getting ID Scanning System for Gate Security
  • Thank You Notes for Servicemembers and Veterans
  • Operation Care and Comfort Reaches a Care Package Milestone
  • Teachers and Students Show their Support for the Troops
  • Scholarships for Servicemembers and their Families

Soldiers, Families Brave Holiday Season without Loved Ones
For people separated from family and friends the holiday season can be a sad time. This holiday season, more than 150,000 deployed Servicemembers will brave the holidays in combat zones without their family and friends. To help beat the holiday blues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Psychological Association, and the National Mental Health Association offer the following tips:
  • Connect to others. People with strong support systems cope better with separation from a loved one.
  • Communicate. Letters, telephone calls, and e-mails help lessen the distance.
  • Establish realistic goals and expectations for the holiday season. Do not expect the holidays to be a solution to feelings of sadness or loneliness.
  • Limit drinking.
  • Do not feel obliged to feel festive. If you have recently experienced a tragedy, death or romantic break-up, tell people about your needs.
  • To relieve holiday stress, know your spending limit and stick to it. Express your feelings to those around you in a constructive, honest and open way. If you need to confront someone with a problem, begin your sentences with "I feel."

Sesame Workshop TV Special for Military Kids Dec 27th
More than 700,000 children of military families under the age of five are separated from their mother or father this holiday season. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has developed a television program to address the challenges military families face with deployment. “When Parents Are Deployed” reveals candid and intimate moments with the parents, caregivers and children affected by deployment. They express how they are coping with the daily stress and fears associated with having a parent depart for military duty, and how families deal with that member when they return home after serving their country. As the holidays can be a very difficult time for military families, Sesame Workshop saw this special as way to illustrate how this group of Americans is managing during times of extended separation. The half-hour television special, entitled When Parents are Deployed, will be hosted by actor Cuba Gooding Jr., premiering Wednesday, Dec 27 at 9pm ET/PT on PBS.

Army Stands Up Installation Management Command
Last August the Installation Management Agency (IMA) became the Installation Management Command as the Army continued its efforts to streamline and centralize installation support and funding. The new organization will encompass the former IMA as well as the Army Community and Family Support Center and the Army Environmental Center. Although the Army in 2006 struggled to find enough base-operations money to provide post services Soldiers and families have come to expect the impact of funding cutbacks would have been worse if the then-IMA had not closely managed its allocated funds. For more information on the new Installation Management Command please visit the following article [PDF].

House Panel’s Report Recommends Massive Military Expansion
The House Armed Services Committee released a report recommending a massive military expansion that could cost trillions of dollars. According to the report, the U.S. Armed Forces do not have enough troops or equipment to meet current missions and to confront emerging threats. Specifically, the report calls for increasing the Army’s brigade combat teams from 70 to 78, expanding the number of Marine Corps infantry battalions from 33 to 43, increasing the Navy’s carrier battle groups from 10 to 15, and increasing from 10 to 15 the number of Air Force expeditionary wings. The expanded force structure would require heavy investments in new equipment.

VA Report Shows Gaps in Care for Soldiers with Traumatic Brain Injuries
Over 350 Servicemembers have received Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) as a result of the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Concerns about the quality of medical care offered to these injured troops at Veterans' Affairs (VA) Medical Centers has led the VA's Office of the Inspector General to conduct an investigation, the results of which were published in July 2006. The investigation was in large part the result of pressure from the families of wounded Servicemembers who complained that their loved ones did not receive adequate medical care and rehabilitation therapy. Although the VA report does not address individual cases, the final recommendations clearly show that there is room for improvement in the care of military TBI cases. After reviewing the cases of 52 Servicemembers with TBI, the Report's authors concluded that the case management system needed to be standardized so that care is coordinated on a long-term basis. The Report also called for better support of family members faced with the burden of being both care-givers and advocates for their injured loved ones, particularly in cases where families are not located close to major medical facilities. Additionally, in response to the growing number of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with multiple, severe injuries, the VA is in the process of establishing Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers so that wounded Servicemembers can receive comprehensive treatment and therapy. Click here to view the full report [PDF].

Army to Fund Research on Drug That May Help PTSD Victims
Stars and Stripes reports that the Army will fund research to see if Propranolol, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, might also lessen the emotional impact of memories associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers will examine the way in which the drug modifies the physiological symptoms, such as an increased heart rate, that are associated with traumatic memories. Click here for the full story.

Soldiers’ Debt Woes Mount
Like the other branches of the military, the Army is seeing a marked increase in the number of troops stripped of their security clearances because they are so deep in debt, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. The number of soldiers who are losing their clearances because of financial problems has nearly doubled since last year but is still an extremely small percentage of the Army's ranks. Military leaders attribute rising debt problems among military personnel to poor personal financial management skills coupled with reckless spending among troops returning home after long tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. All the Armed Services offer financial planning classes. Additionally, military leaders and Congress have called for legislation to protect Servicemembers from “payday lenders,” businesses that allow military personnel to borrow against their next paycheck at extremely high interest rates.

Life Insurance Companies to Pay Refunds
Four life insurance companies are being held accountable for their improper sales practices to military members. American-Amicable Life Insurance Company of Texas, Pioneer American Insurance Company, Pioneer Security Life Insurance Company and the Boston Mutual Life Insurance Company together will refund a total of more than $70 million to more than 93,000 consumers, including about 71,000 Servicemembers. The companies are notifying Servicemembers with current or lapsed policies affected by the agreements. Consumers who feel they are affected but have not received notification can call the companies' consumer service center at 800-736-7311.

Bill Introduced to Reduce Reserves Retirement Pay Age
A bill [HR-3831] has been introduced that would reduce the age at which a Reserve Component member may begin receiving retirement pay from 60 to 55. If enacted into law, the bill will take effect on the first day of the first month after the date of the enactment and would apply to retired pay payable for that month and subsequent months.

Fort Belvoir Getting ID Scanning System for Gate Security
New technology will improve post security at Fort Belvoir. Each of the post’s active gates will have a system that allows security guards to scan Department of Defense ID cards, drivers' licenses and passports in order to identify fake forms of identification. The system will also alert security personnel to lost, stolen or terminated DoD identification cards. Read the full article by clicking here.

Thank You Notes for Servicemembers and Veterans
A Million Thanks is a service project of Lutheran High School of Orange, Ca. It is a year-round campaign to show appreciation to U.S. Military Men and Women, past and present. The organization has collected 2.6 million thank you notes, one for every man and woman in the military. For information on how to send cards and letters to our troops, visit the A Million Thanks web site by clicking here.

Operation Care and Comfort Reaches a Care Package Milestone
Operation Care and Comfort has just shipped its 200,000th pound of care packages shipped to the troops. Since April 2003, this all-volunteer program has worked with the community to send a touch of home to troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict regions. Operation Care and Comfort is affiliated with the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. The organization is collecting items, handwritten cards and letters, and monetary donations to offset shipping costs of $1 a pound. Visit for more information or call (408) 373-8635.

Teachers and Students Show their Support for the Troops
Teachers and students from across the Untied States of America have sent in over 20,000 hand-made scrapbook pages with special messages for military men and women serving overseas. The Connect with the Troops project is one of the many programs offered by to help support America’s military personnel and their families. All of the pages will be scanned and digitized and will be archived at the Library of Congress – Veteran’s History Project. For more information about what is being billed as the World’s Largest and Greatest Scrapbook, visit

Scholarships for Servicemembers and their Families offers a powerful web based search engine for military personnel, their family members and veterans to search for scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of college tuition. Millions of dollars worth of scholarships and grants are available to the military community. Click here to view’s easy-to-use Scholarship Finder. Remember: Not applying for scholarships is like turning down free money.