March 1, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 25
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 and type “subscribe” in the subject line.
In this issue:
- AUSA Family Programs Attends 2007 Family Readiness Summit
- TRICARE Strategic Plan Presented at DoD Medical Conference
- New Program Supports Spouses Coping with Deployment Stress
- Webinars Show How New Technology Can Help Military Families
- Health Promotion and Well-Being Council is a Success in Europe
- DoD to Review Military Medical Rehabilitative and Administrative Care
- Center for the Intrepid Opens in Texas to Serve Injured Troops
- Combat-Related Special Compensation Claim Process Improved
- TSGLI Administrators Clarify Misperceptions about Insurance Program
- Call Home Act Will Ease Cost of Long Distance Calls for Deployed Troops
- Reservists Exempt from 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty for Some Investments
- Army Budget Request Highlights Equipment, Training, and Quality of Life
- Women’s Museum to Open New Exhibit
- Armed Services Blood Program Updates Web Site
- U.S. Department of State to Pilot Military’s Electronic Health Record System
- Flags Across The Nation Sponsors Patriotic Photo Contest
- Connect And Join Helps Celebrate “The Month of the Military Child”
AUSA Family Programs Attends 2007 Family Readiness Summit
Senior military family program leaders from across the Armed Services gathered in Arlington, VA in February to address the issue on how to better coordinate their efforts. Sylvia Kidd, AUSA’s Director of Family Programs, joined one of four working groups 2007 at Family Readiness Summit whose goal it was to identify best practices, lessons learned, challenges and requirements. At the end of the Summit it was noted that while each group tackled different issues there was agreement about the problems families experience in getting support and the challenges they face because of interservice and bureaucratic barriers. There was also common ground in the recommendations made to improve military family support. Among the recommendations were:
- Defining, and possibly renaming, family assistance centers across the services.
- Increased and consistent funding for family assistance programs
- The successful use and integration of emerging technologies
- Increasing partnerships between military and civilian organizations
- Increased focus on single Soldiers’ family needs, as well as the reintegration process after returning from deployment.
The findings and proposals will be attached to a letter from Assistant Defense Secretary Thomas F. Hall to the service secretaries and reserve-component chiefs asking for their support in implementation of the recommendations.
TRICARE Strategic Plan Presented at DoD Medical Conference
Sylvia Kidd, AUSA’s Director of Family Programs recently attended the Department of Defense’s Medical Conference held in Washington, D.C. in January. The Conference gathered almost 3,000 military medical professionals from military installations across the world to hear the DoD’s senior medical leadership lay out a strategic plan for the future of military healthcare by developing processes that provide health services in a way that is both patient-centered and cost effective. The Conference also provided medical professionals with an opportunity to learn about new programs and initiatives to better serve TRICARE’s 9.1 million beneficiaries. Areas of discussion included ways to reduce drug costs through the pharmacy program, the need to educate beneficiaries about the TRICARE enrollment process, and programs to improve care for service members injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
TRICARE does face significant future funding challenges, however. Dr. William J. Winkenwerder, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Director of TRICARE Management Activity (TMA), stated that there would have to be increases in TRICARE fees because across-the-board cuts have not been sufficient to decrease overall health care costs. New benefits and the expansion of benefits to older military retirees and reservists have also put pressure on the system. Increases in TRICARE fees are likely to be met with resistance. In 2006, Congress rejected a proposal to increase fees for retirees younger than 65, which would have added a heavy financial burden to retirees living on modest incomes. AUSA strongly endorsed this congressional action and will continue to fight to prevent further erosion of health care benefits for retirees and other TRICARE beneficiaries.
New Program Supports Spouses Coping with Deployment Stress
Family members in Germany are benefiting from a new program, initially developed at Fort Bragg, NC, which provides counseling for the stress associated with having a spouse deployed and with supporting the families of service members who have been killed or injured. Family members meet in a group setting with a chaplain or trained counselor in order to share and discuss their experiences and to learn about strategies to cope with stress. The program is especially beneficial for spouses who are trying to understand and to support loved ones who may be experiencing combat stress.
Webinars Show How New Technology Can Help Military Families
Military OneSource has begun hosting webinars, interactive online workshops that allow users to view a presentation while listening to a teleconference that includes the presenter and other attendees. The webinars cover a variety of topics of interest to military families and allow individuals to interact virtually with the presenter and attendees through phone conversation, live chat, polling, and other online tools. One of the most recent webinars focused on resources for special needs children and provided information on locating local, state and community resources as well as giving parents the opportunity to connect with other families. Although each webinar is a one-time event, Military OneSource does keep an online archive of earlier workshops. The webinar schedule and archives are available at http://militaryonesource.com.
Health Promotion and Well-Being Council is a Success in Europe
The health and well-being of Soldiers, civilians and families stationed in Europe is being enhanced by the activities of the garrison level Health Promotion and Well-Being Council. The program, which was fully implemented in 1999, is designed to coordinate the efforts of various health programs and community agencies. The Council has strong command involvement and meets at least quarterly to assess the community’s needs. For example, if council members identify a trend, such as an increase in Soldiers driving drunk, they can implement a thorough review of the problem across organizations and make recommendations, which then result in the implementation or modification of programs. Recent efforts have focused on combat and operational stress and youth wellness.
DoD to Review Military Medical Rehabilitative and Administrative Care
The Department of Defense announced on Tuesday, Feb. 20 that it would begin a review of medical care for injured service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. Additionally, an independent review group will be formed to look into outpatient care and administrative processes at both centers. The review comes in response to a series of articles in The Washington Post that highlighted inadequate facilities and poor administrative support for injured troops and their family members. The group will have unrestricted access to all facilities and personnel and will have the expertise of an advisor who can provide expertise in the area of social work, rehabilitation, psychological counseling and family support issues.
Center for the Intrepid Opens in Texas to Serve Injured Troops
On Jan. 29 the Army opened a world-class state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility for wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Center will provide treatment for military personnel who have been catastrophically disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also serve military personnel and veterans severely injured in other operations and in the normal performance of their duties, combat and non-combat related. Two new Fisher Houses have also been constructed for families of injured service members. The Center was funded by private donations to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. More information on the Center is available at http://www.fallenheroesfund.org/.
Combat-Related Special Compensation Claim Process Improved
In response to complaints from veterans and retirees, the Department of Defense has improved the application process for Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) by providing applicants with a more user-friendly claim form. CRSC helps 20-year military retirees by providing a monthly tax-free compensation (full concurrent receipt option) that supplements Veterans Administration (VA) disability and military retired payments. The retired veteran has to have a 10 percent or greater VA disability rating, and must be able to prove that the disability is combat-related. Information on CRSC eligibility criteria, the claim process, answers to frequently asked questions, claim resources, and claim forms for download are available on the CRSC web site: http://www.crsc.army.mil.In addition, veterans can call the CRSC Service Center at 1-866-281-3254 or reach it via e-mail at email@example.com.
TSGLI Administrators Clarify Misperceptions about Insurance Program
Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) is intended to help military personnel and their families avoid the financial hardship that often follows a serious injury. The program, founded in December 2005, has already made payments of more than $110 million to traumatically injured Soldiers. However, the program faces challenges in the form of three common misperceptions about eligibility for compensation and how claims should be made. The first misperception is that TSGLI is just for combat injuries. In fact, any qualifying injury incurred after December 1, 2005 may receive compensation. Retroactive coverage is available to Soldiers receiving combat injuries in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005. Another misperception is that a healthcare provider’s statement is all that is needed to support a claim. Applicants do need to provide additional documentation beyond a statement from a healthcare provider. Last, TSGLI does not replace a traumatically injured Soldier’s income. It is a one-time payment of up to $100,000, based on the type and severity of the injury, intended to help Soldiers and families get through short-term financial hardship. For more information about TSGLI, contact the U.S. Army TSGLI service center at 1-800-237-1336 or TSGLI@conus.army.mil or visit http://tsgli.army.mil.
Call Home Act Will Ease Cost of Long Distance Calls for Deployed Troops
On December 22, 2006 President George Bush signed the Call Home Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-459) into law. The legislation directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of State, to examine the costs of overseas calls between deployed military personnel and their families and to take action to make communication more affordable. Possible actions may include the waiver of government fees and charges, encouraging telephone companies to adopt flexible billing plans for families separated by deployment, and implementing agreements with foreign governments to reduce international surcharges on foreign calls. The legislation also directs the FCC to investigate the ability of new technologies such as Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to replace traditional telephone calls. The FCC is also requesting comment from military personnel and their families about the various means they use to communicate during deployments and the costs associated with various service providers. Comment can be submitted by using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).
Reservists Exempt from 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty for Some Investments
Military reservists called to active duty can receive payments from their individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities, without having to pay the early-distribution tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The newly-enacted Pension Protection Act of 2006 eliminates the 10-percent early-distribution tax, commonly referred to as the 10-percent early-withdrawal penalty that normally applies to most retirement distributions received before age 591⁄2. The new law provides this relief to reservists called to active duty for at least 180 days or for an indefinite period. Eligible reservists activated after Sept. 11, 2001, and before Dec. 31, 2007, qualify for relief from this tax. Regular income taxes continue to apply to these payments in most cases. More information is available from the IRS.
Army Budget Request Highlights Equipment, Training, and Quality of Life
The President submitted the fiscal 2008 defense budget request along with a 2007 emergency supplemental request to Congress on Feb. 5. Included in the budget are requests for a 3-percent pay raise for service members, an increase in ground forces and continued funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the proposal, the active-duty Army will grow to 547,400 Soldiers by the end of fiscal 2012. The increase in the number of brigades, from 42 to 48, will allow Soldiers two years at their home stations for every year deployed.
Women’s Museum to Open New Exhibit
The U.S. Army Women's Museum at Fort Lee, Va., opened a new exhibit recognizing the contributions of women Soldiers since Sept. 11, 2001 on February 4, 2007. The U.S. Army Women's Museum tells the story of women's contributions to the Army since the colonial period. It is the central repository for historical source material pertaining to women in the Army, including thousands of artifacts, photographs, personal papers, books, periodicals and several hundred oral histories. For more information please visit the museum web site at http://www.awm.lee.army.mil.
Armed Services Blood Program Updates Web Site
The Armed Services Blood Program (ASPB) has redesigned its web site to provide updated information on blood facts, donor eligibility criteria, donor center locations, and more. The ASBP collects blood only from service members, government civilians, retirees, and their family members. The U.S. military needs blood every day for critically injured troops, cancer patients, premature infants, and other uses. For more information on the ASBP visit http://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/.
U.S. Department Of State to Pilot Military's Electronic Health Record System
The Department of State (DoS) selected the DoD’s Electronic Health Record System, known as AHLTA, over other electronic record keeping systems because of its robustness, reliability, and compliance with tough DoD security standards. AHLTA provides a comprehensive, computer-based patient record for all military health beneficiaries, regardless of their location. It ensures healthcare providers have instant access to invaluable medical information about their patients. Both the DoS and DoD anticipate that their partnership will benefit employees of both agencies by allowing continuity of care for DoS beneficiaries abroad, many of whom seek treatment at DoD facilities, and for DoD personnel and their families assigned to U.S. embassies and who must use DoS medical facilities.
Flags Across The Nation Sponsors Patriotic Photo Contest
Flags Across The Nation, an organization dedicated to promoting patriotism and support for troops and veterans through the arts, is sponsoring the I Love America Day Photo Contest. The contest is open to everyone, including amateur and professional photographers, through minors’ entries must be submitted by parent or guardian with given permission. Photos should reflect patriotic themes. The deadline for submission is March 19, 2007 and the top prize is $300. For more information about the contest please visit http://www.iloveamericaday.org.
Connect And Join Helps Celebrate “The Month of the Military Child”
This April, Connect And Join will help celebrate “The Month of the Military Child” by encouraging retailers to hold crafting and scrap booking events for military children and their families and friends. The activities are designed to help military children express their feelings and communicate with deployed family members. Events are scheduled to take place April 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2007. A web site will provide retailers with projects, event guidelines, and promotional and advertising suggestions. Connect And Join is an Internet based communications and publishing company that offers subscription services to enable separated families to stay in touch.