January 16, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 7, Number 1
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.
In this issue:
- Controversy Over Drug Used to Treat Combat Injuries
- Repeat Iraq Tours Raise Risk of PTSD, Army Finds
- Suicide Rate Spikes Among Troops Sent to Iraq War
- New Guidelines Allow Troops Who Have Recovered From Traumatic Stress Disorders to Redeploy
- Guide for Families of Wounded Servicemembers Available On-Line
- Army Housing OneStop Web Site Helps Military Families on the Move
- Spirit of America.net Projects Support Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Calling All Children: Help Make the Worlds Largest and Greatest Scrapbook for the Troops!
- COLA Rate Goes Up for Service Members in Europe
- Army Ups Referral Bonus to $2k
- Thrift Savings Plan Provides Important Benefits to Soldiers
- Grantham University Offers Scholarships to Wounded Soldiers and Family Members
- SOL Testing Waived for Military Children Transferred to Virginia
- DOD Warns of Scam Targeting Bank of America Cardholders
- Oh Baby! AAFES.com Sweepstakes Awards More Than $1500 in Prizes to Military Parents’ Newest Recruits
- Newborn DEERS Registration
- TRICARE Maternity Care
- TRICARE Cancels T-Pharm Contract Solicitation
- DECA Asks Customers to Choose Paper Over Plastic
- Mulch Warning Update/Retraction
- Honorable Mention (AUSA Chapters)
- Internet Resources: Web Sites for Parents, Family and Friends of Soldiers
Controversy Over Drug Used to Treat Combat Injuries
Concerns are being raised about a drug being used to treat severely injured troops. Recombinant Activated Factor VIIa (rF7a) is a blood-clotting medication approved by the FDA to treat a very rare form of hemophilia. Military doctors have also used the drug to control bleeding in over 1,000 severely injured service members who might otherwise hemorrhage to death. Using a drug for any purpose other than that for which it is approved brings risks and it is believed by some that rF7a can cause serious complications from blood clots. The Department of Defense has established a comprehensive system to track the treatment outcomes of Iraq War casualties. More information on this issue is available on-line from the Baltimore Sun by clicking here.
Repeat Iraq Tours Raise Risk of PTSD, Army Finds
The Washington Post reports that U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely than those with one tour to suffer from acute combat stress, raising their risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Army's first survey exploring how today's multiple war-zone rotations affect soldiers' mental health. To read the entire article, click here.
Suicide Rate Spikes Among Troops Sent to Iraq War
The suicide rate among troops deployed for the Iraq war reached its highest point last year since the 2003 invasion, according to an Army mental health study recently released. The Army had placed greater emphasis on suicide prevention and mental health counseling in the battlefield after rates reached a level of 18.8 per 100,000 soldiers in 2003. Overall, the number of soldiers who killed themselves last year almost doubled from the 2004 total, Although morale among troops remained high, according to the report, a survey of 1,461 soldiers showed higher levels of traumatic combat experiences than in previous years. Three out of four soldiers reported knowing someone killed or injured in combat last year or this year, compared with 69% in 2004. The survey also showed that 55% worried about dying in a roadside explosion last year or this year. And 17% of troops reported combinations of stress, depression and anxiety, a higher rate than 2004. Soldiers who had done multiple tours of duty reported more serious problems. Cases of acute stress were reported by 18.4% of soldiers serving at least a second combat tour; 12.5% of soldiers on their first tours reported such problems. The research shows that troops are more willing to seek treatment than in the past. The Army's Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, said officials will work to improve suicide prevention training. For the complete article in USA Today, click here.
New Guidelines Allow Troops Who Have Recovered From Traumatic Stress Disorders to Redeploy
Troops with bipolar and psychotic disorders cannot deploy into Iraq or Afghanistan but those recovering from traumatic stress disorders still can, under new defense guidelines released this week. Defense health officials said the new guidance is designed to clarify existing policy, not to replace any current practices dealing with deploying servicemembers with mental health issues. The more specific guidelines state that any condition that “limits the physical or psychological ability of a servicemember” must be evaluated before troops are sent downrange, since it could hurt both them and the mission. Troops who suffer from any mental disorder for more than a year should also be considered “unsuitable” for military duty. But servicemembers with “a psychiatric disorder in remission or whose residual symptoms do not impair duty performance” may be considered for duty downrange. It lists post-traumatic stress disorder as a “treatable” problem. To view the full DoD press release click here.
Guide for Families of Wounded Servicemembers Available On-Line
Our Hero Handbook is a step-by-step guide designed to help wounded Soldiers and their families. The handbook grew out of the experiences of Lt. D.J. Skelton, who was severely injured while deployed. Lt. Skelton saw the need for a comprehensive guide to the military medical system for Soldiers and families that would take them through recovery, transition, and beyond. Spouses from Lt. Skelton's unit and from the U.S. Army War College Class of 2006 also contributed to the book by researching resources and information to be included in the guide. Topics covered in the handbook range from practical information about how to make travel and lodging arrangements to strategies for coping with the emotional strain of being a caregiver and how to inform children about a parent's injury. There is also a comprehensive list of organizations that can help wounded Soldiers and their families and extensive information on military insurance and medical benefits. Our Hero Handbook is available for download in PDF format at the DoD's Military Homefront web site by clicking here. The guide is frequently updated as new information and resources become available so remember to check back often.
Army Housing OneStop Web Site Helps Military Families on the Move
The Army's Housing Office provides military families with comprehensive information about Army housing worldwide through its OneStop web site. Visitors to the site can learn about the kinds of housing available to them at a particular installation, view floor plans, plan a move and check their position on the housing wait list. There is also information about Army housing policy as well as charts listing Basic Allowance for Housing and Cost of Living Allowance by location. Click here to view the web site.
Spirit of America.net Projects Support Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan
• LIBRARY BOOKS IN IRAQ: The ocean container shipment of library books purchased by Spirit of America, as part of the Library books for Iraqi Children project, arrived in Bagdad and was distributed to the schools and libraries by the LIFE organization. Included in this shipment were 4,000 textbooks that were donated to Wasit University in Iraq, by students and teachers from Ball High School in Galveston, Texas.
• MICROSCOPES FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN IN AFGHANISTAN: At the request of US Army personnel in Afghanistan and with your support, Spirit of America donated 55 microscopes for a reconstructed school in Kabul Afghanistan.
• MARINES REQUEST FOR WINTER CLOTHING: Marines in Al Anbar, Iraq have requested winter clothing and blankets for local Iraqis.
Learn more about Spirit of America’s projects and/or make a donation by clicking here. You can also reach them at
Calling All children: Help Make the Worlds Largest and Greatest Scrapbook for the Troops!
In July 2006, Connect And Join, a family support and education service publishing company, announced the launch of their www.connectwiththetroops.com portal. As part of the launch, the company held a nationwide scrapbook initiative to encourage school children to create the world’s largest scrapbook in support of the troops. Connect And Join has received thousands of scrapbook pages from schools across the country to date and is extending the project to attempt a goal of 120,000 pages! To learn more about Connect And Join or their Connect with the Troops project, visit by clicking here.
COLA Rate Goes Up for Service Members in Europe
Service Members and their families stationed in Europe could see as much as a 25 percent increase in their cost of living allowance. The rise should counter some of the financial hardships caused by the dollar’s drop to near-record lows. A COLA rate query by location is available at https://secureapp2.hqda.pentagon.mil/perdiem/ocform.html.
Army Ups Referral Bonus to $2k
Active-duty and reserve-component Soldiers, and Army retirees, are eligible for a $2,000 referral bonus for successfully recruiting future Soldiers. Soldiers working in the Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program, Special Recruiter Assistance Program, Active Duty for Special Work Program or the Future Soldier Training Program are also eligible if the prospective Soldier has not already met with a recruiter. The bonus is not paid to Soldiers referring members of their immediate families, to include spouses, children, parents, stepparents and siblings. Referrals should be made through the Army Referral System - Sergeant Major of the Army Recruiting Team Web site by clicking here. An Army Knowledge Online user name and password are required to use the site, at which Soldiers must first establish a user account to make a referral. Users will be asked to submit such personal information as their social security number to facilitate payment. Referrals may also be made at (800) 223-3735, ext. 6-0473. The bonus is paid in two lump sums. The first half is paid when the Soldier begins basic training, and the second half is paid after the Soldier graduates from One-Station Unit Training or Advanced Individual Training. There are no retroactive provisions to the change. Sponsors who provided referrals before Nov. 13, 2006 are only eligible for the $1K bonus.
Thrift Savings Plan Provides Important Benefits to Soldiers
The Thrift Savings Plan is a retirement savings plan for Service Members and civilian federal employees. About fifty per cent of military personnel have taken advantage of the unique benefits offered by TSP. Money contributed to the account is deducted from the Service Members gross taxable income before taxes are deducted. TSP is also a tax-deferred family of funds – funds are not taxed until withdrawn at retirement. As of this year, and according to the IRS, military members are unlimited in the amount they can contribute to TSP. More information is available at http://www.tsp.gov/
Grantham University Offers Scholarships to Wounded Soldiers and Family Members
Grantham University recently announced that it is offering Military Severely Injured Scholarships to U.S. service members from any branch of the United States Military. In order to qualify, scholarship applicants must have received a 60 percent or higher disability rating from the Veterans Administration as a result of being wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom and have been retired from active military duty. The four-year scholarship program provides tuition and fees to pursue any Grantham University degree program. Required textbooks and software are the responsibility of the student. Grantham is also extending its Military Severely Injured Scholarship program to spouses and children of severely injured service members. This scholarship program provides a 25 percent tuition discount on any Grantham University degree program and includes the cost of required textbooks and software. Wounded service members applying for these scholarships are required to provide a copy of the “Rating Decision” memo issued by the Veterans Administration, verifying their disability related retirement/discharge. Eligible family members must possess a high school diploma or GED and a valid Military Identification Card. Applications and eligibility requirements are located on the Grantham University web site. Additionally, Grantham University is working with the Military Severely Injured Center and the Department of Defense, Military Community & Family Policy Office to offer career opportunities to severely wounded soldiers and their family members in its Kansas City office. The Center’s can be reached at 1-888-774-1361. Grantham University is an AUSA affinity partner. AUSA members can take advantage of a special tuition grant which reduces the credit hour cost from $335 to $250 and includes the cost of required textbooks and software.
SOL Testing Waived for Military Children Transferred to Virginia
Military children moving to Virginia will no longer need to take the state’s Standards of Learning test provided they have taken comparable tests in other states. Virginia is now the third state in the country to adopt a reciprocal policy that allows transitioning students to transfer test scores without having to re-take exams. Interstate compacts of this sort are increasingly seen as a means to ease the strain of transition for mobile military students. As a result of the initiative on the part of Virginia’s Board of Education, military students arriving in the state will be able to focus on adjusting to their new environment rather than studying for a subject they have already taken for an exam.
DoD Warns of Scam Targeting Bank of America Cardholders
Another e-mail intended to scam Department of Defense personnel is making the rounds. Some holders of Bank of America travel cards have received e-mail messages of an urgent nature stating that they must reply immediately to avoid some adverse consequence, according to a warning sent out by the DoD. The scammers use the Bank of America letterhead and logo and include a link to a web site very similar to that of Bank of America. Bank of America will always contact you by mail to your home and not by e-mail, the DoD warned. If you receive a letter from Bank of America, call the customer service number on the back of your travel card and verify that the letter is authentic.
Oh Baby! AAFES.com Sweepstakes Awards More Than $1500 in Prizes to Military Parents’ Newest Recruits
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is kicking off 2007 with an exclusive contest for the military’s newest moms and dads. Open to any authorized Exchange customer who has a baby born on Jan. 1 2007, the “New Year Baby Sweepstakes” is an online drawing for a bundle of baby goodies from GRACO, COSCO, The First Years, Safety 1st, Infantino and Gerber. The baby goodies include a stroller, toddler bed, security gate, bouncer, tub, bassinet, activity center and swing along with a one-year supply of AAFES’ Exchange Select Diapers and six-month supply of Baby’s Choice Formula. “New Year Baby Sweepstakes” entries must be received at the AAFES web site before Jan. 31. The drawing for the three grand prizes, each projected to exceed $500 in value, will be held Feb. 5.
Newborn DEERS Registration
Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are required for all DEERS records in order to keep benefits current. However, RAPIDS Verifying Officials (VOs) may temporarily add newborn children without a SSN provided a properly certified birth certificate or certificate of live birth authenticated by the attending physician or other responsible person from a U.S. hospital or a military treatment facility showing the name of at least one parent is presented and the sponsor is not a single male. Prior to adding the newborn child, VOs must first verify the child has not been previously added by a Managed Care Support Contractor. Once the newborn data has been verified, medical benefits will be updated automatically in DEERS. When adding a newborn, until the sponsor provides the SSN, a newborn child can obtain a Temporary Identification Number.
TRICARE Maternity Care
TRICARE has recently updated its information regarding maternity care for pregnant Soldiers and family members.
These services and their associated costs are related to beneficiary status, how close a beneficiary lives to a military treatment facility (MTF), and the choice of TRICARE program and provider. To view the full fact sheet click here.
TRICARE Cancels T-Pharm Contract Solicitation
Due to a recent development in the pharmacy industry, which will significantly impact the way third party payers price pharmaceuticals, TRICARE cancelled the T-Pharm contract solicitation. The T-Pharm contract solicitation would have combined current retail and mail-order pharmacy contracts. The requirement change will not affect current TRICARE pharmacy contracts and TRICARE beneficiaries will continue to enjoy a convenient and cost-effective pharmacy benefit. TRICARE must identify a new process to reimburse retail pharmacies for future pharmacy contracts. To establish the new pricing requirements and set a new benchmark, TRICARE will consult with the pharmacy community, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies within the next few months. Once a new benchmark is established, TRICARE will issue a new T-Pharm contract solicitation. For complete news release click here.
DeCA Asks Customers to Choose Paper Over Plastic Bags
DeCA customers have responded well during previous ‘Say no to plastic bags and no to double bagging’ campaigns. The purpose of the campaigns is to control unnecessary costs, not to inconvenience customers. Commissaries tally nearly 100 million customer transactions annually and the agency spent about $20 million on bags last year. Customers are helping are by bringing paper, mesh or canvas bags, or reusing their plastic ones. Visit the DeCA web site by clicking here.
****Mulch Warning Update/Retraction****
A vigilant reader of the AUSA Family Programs Update has notified us that the article "Warnings Issued about New Orleans Hurricane Mulch" contained in our latest e-mail Update, dated December 14th, was incorrect. Although the information was linked to LSU's AgCenter, we have since learned that there is no danger of Formosan termites spreading from the New Orleans area to other parts of the country via cheap mulch. We sincerely apologize for the error.