March 15, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 26
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 email@example.com and type “subscribe” in the subject line.
In this issue:
- Nominations Sought for AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award
- AUSA’s President Responds to Plans for Increased TRICARE Fees
- Congress Proposes Changes to the Military Death Gratuity
- FCC Provides Address for Military Families to Comment on Cost of Long Distance Calls
- Virginia In-State Tuition Rules Benefit More Servicemembers
- Veterans’ Affairs Partners With States to Help Injured Veterans
- Soldiers Can Get Family Life Consultant
- Fort Leonard Wood Begins Mock Utility Billing Program
- USAG Stuttgart to Host German-American Leadership Conference
- Wartime Raises Stress, Blood Pressure Rates in Military Children
- United Concordia Sponsors Drawing for Military Children
- TRICARE Honored for Innovation in Pharmacy Benefit
- TRICARE Benefit Covers HPV Vaccine
- Military Spouses Benefit from DeCA Hiring Focus
- Low Prices Meet Their Match at AAFES
- AAFES Rolls Out Green Carpet
- DoDEA Discontinues Home School Program
- Spouses to Teachers Expands to the Pacific
- SAT and ACT Help for Military Students
- Proposed Budget Would Provide $56 Billion for Education
- More than $80 Billion in Federal Aid Available to Students
- Department of Education News Show Looks at Higher Education
- Frequently Asked Questions About Education
- Army Spouse Seeks Stories of Army Life for New Book
- Support the Troops with Any Soldier, Inc.
Nominations Sought for AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award
The Association of the United States Army’s Family Programs Directorate invites nominations for the 2007 AUSA Rubbermaid-Irwin Volunteer Family of the Year Award to recognize the vital role volunteers and families play in the life of military communities.. The award will be presented on Monday, October 8, at the opening ceremony of the Association’s Annual Meeting (Oct. 8-10) at the Washington Convention Center. The winning family will receive a trip to Washington D.C. for the Annual Meeting, a cash prize and a gift basket courtesy of Rubbermaid, AUSA and GEICO. Two runner-up families will also be selected and each will receive a savings bond and gift basket. All nominated families will receive an Association coin and certificate.
Nominations for the Award may be submitted only through AUSA chapters. However, we encourage family readiness coordinators, volunteer coordinators and anyone else that is aware of a deserving family to contact their local AUSA chapter leaders with information. To locate your local chapter please visit the AUSA Regional Activities website at http://www.ausa.org/chapters. Active duty, U.S. Army Reserve, Army National Guard and Army retiree and Department of the Army families are eligible for the award. Nomination forms and submission guidelines are available on the AUSA Family Programs website at www.ausa.org/family. Nominations for the 2007 award must be received by the Family Programs Directorate no later than June 15, 2007. Questions regarding this year’s award should be directed to the Family Programs staff at 800-336-4570, ext. 151 or 150, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUSA’s President Responds to Plans for Increased TRICARE Fees
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., sent a letter to the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee’s Chairman Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., to express his concern about proposed TRICARE fee increases as well as the independence of the congressionally-mandated Department of Defense Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care. The Task Force was established to examine whether TRICARE fee increases would be necessary to reduce overall costs. Members of the Military Coalition (TMC), a group made up of 35 military, veterans and uniformed services organizations of which AUSA is a member, have been active in opposing these increases and have pointed out that they would deter beneficiaries from seeking treatment. In his letter, Gen. Sullivan endorsed the TMC’s position and urged Reps. Snyder and McHugh to review the TMCs written testimony to the Personnel Committee. AUSA, along with other TMC organizations, is committed to preserving the medical benefits of Servicemembers, retirees, and their family members. To learn more about this issue, and to read extracts from the TMC’s written testimony to Congress, please visit AUSA’s Government Affairs page: http://www.ausa.org/webpub/DeptGovAffairs.nsf/byid/JRAY-6Z2JH6. Visitors to the Government Affairs page can also find a link to contact members of Congress.
Congress Proposes Changes to Military Death Gratuity
Several members of Congress have recently introduced legislation to change the eligibility provisions for payment of the military death gratuity. The death gratuity is a one time payment of $100,000 intended to provide surviving family members with short-term financial support until other benefits begin to be paid. Under current law, the death gratuity must be awarded to next-of-kin in the following order: spouse, child or children, parents, siblings. In circumstances where the next-of-kin is the minor child of a single parent, the gratuity is held until the child reaches the age of 18. As a result, some surviving families are experiencing financial hardship because a grandparent or other guardian has been left to care for the minor child of a deceased Servicemember without receiving any financial assistance. While a state probate court may grant access to death gratuity funds to the child’s guardian, the process is likely to be costly and time consuming.
Three bills, S. 659, S. 663, HR 1115, introduced by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) respectively, would amend eligibility to allow a Servicemember to designate their parents, siblings, or other guardian of their choice to receive all or part of the death gratuity in order to provide for the care of a minor child or children. The Association of the United States Army supports changes in the legislation in order to allow short term financial support for the minor children of a deceased Servicemember until other survivor benefits become available. However, it should be noted that Servicemembers do have the ability to name multiple beneficiaries for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and so may already allocate monies to a parent or other guardian for care of a child in the event of their death. It is, therefore, vitally important that military personnel are fully informed about the death gratuity and other casualty benefits, including SGLI, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Social Security, and the Survivor Benefit annuity, before making decisions about the dispersal of survivor benefits.
FCC Provides Address for Military Families to Comment on Costs of Long Distance Calls
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. In accordance with this act, the FCC is 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. Written comments may be submitted by e-mail to CallHomeAct@fcc.gov or mailed to FCC Pricing Policy Division, Room 5A232, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.
Virginia In-State Tuition Rules Benefit More Servicemembers
In February, the Virginia House and Senate passed a bill to reduce tuition rates for members of the military. Tuition rates for military personnel at Virginia’s public institutions of higher education would be limited to the amount covered by their military service tuition assistance program or the institution’s in-state tuition rate, whichever is greater. The legislation benefits any member of the active duty military, activated guard and reserve members, and guard or reserve members mobilized or on temporary active orders for six months or more, that are either stationed or assigned by their military service to a work location in Virginia, and residing in Virginia. The full text of the legislation is available: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-in/legp504.exe?071+ful+HB1822ER.
The new legislation is the latest of several legislative actions by the state of Virginia to expand educational opportunities for military personnel and their families. In 2006, Virginia granted eligibility for in-state tuition to all family members of active duty military personnel stationed and residing in Virginia.
Veterans’ Affairs Partners With States to Help Injured Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that it would expand an outreach program to help severely injured Servicemembers receive benefits from their states when they move from military hospitals to VA medical facilities in their communities. The initiative, which is called “State Benefits Seamless Transition Program,” tasks VA staff located at ten Department of Defense medical facilities with identifying injured military members who will be transferred to VA facilities. The VA staff then contact state veterans affairs offices and the state offices, in turn, contact the veterans to inform them about the state benefits available to them and their family members. Source: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1295
Soldiers Can Get Family Life Consultant
Following the success of an Office of the Secretary of Defense pilot program in the United States Army Europe, a Department of the Army initiative that provides informal support to Soldiers and their family members began this month. The Soldier and Family Life Consultants initiative offers free, anonymous reunion and reintegration support to active-duty Soldiers, National Guardsmen, Reservists and their families. While life consultants are not members of the Army, they are experienced in family matters, relationships, raising children, substance abuse, goodbyes and homecomings. Services offered include workshops, group discussions, personal consultations, activities and organization tips. Installations taking part in the initial phase of the program are Camp Shelby, Miss.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Dix, N.J.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; Fort McCoy, Wis.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Korea and National Guard and Army Reserve units in Hawaii, Arkansas and Idaho. Interested families at these installations should contact their local Army Community Service to learn more.
Fort Leonard Wood Begins Mock Utility Billing Program
Families living in privatized housing at Fort Leonard Wood, MO will begin participating in the mock utility billing program for privatization in March. The program was initiated at five installations last year. The program is intended to encourage families to conserve energy by demonstrating how much they would pay for utilities. Eventually, all military families at privatized installations will be responsible for their gas and electric utilities. Water and sewer usage will remain the responsibility of the privatization partner. More about this story is available in Fort Leonard Wood’s post newspaper: http://www.flw-guidon.com/community/billing0222.html
USAG Stuttgart to Host German-American Leadership Conference
The Stuttgart garrison will host a German-American Leadership Conference on April 18th. The conference, entitled “A Global Perspective on Family Violence,” is aimed at increasing awareness of family violence and will feature host nation speakers, military leaders, and civilian professionals. Participants will discuss domestic abuse prevention strategies and methods to enhance and to preserve healthy family relationships. The Conference is timed to coincide with the Army Family Advocacy Program’s Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. The Conference will also include an essay and artwork competition for children ages six to eighteen in the Stuttgart and Garmisch communities as part of a Children’s Peace Project. Family Advocacy Program Manager Betsy Frier Walker said that the “intent of the contest is to recognize and to encourage children to think about peace within their home and the world.” Recognition and awards will be presented to the children at the end of the Conference. To learn more about the Conference please contact Ms. Walker at email@example.com.
Wartime Raises Stress, Blood Pressure Rates in Military Children
Children with parents in the military have higher blood pressure, heart rates and general stress levels than their peers during wartime, according to a recent study report published in Military Medicine. Researchers looked at 121 adolescents – including 48 with civilian parents, 20 with a parent deployed to Iraq and 53 with a parent in the military but not deployed – days after Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003 and nearly three months later when President Bush announced major hostilities had ceased. At both points, adolescent offspring of military personnel self-reported higher levels of stress and measures of blood pressure and heart rates supported that finding. Although Dr. Barnes, the report’s principal author and a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, noted that further research is necessary, he stated that the findings emphasize the need for parents, counselors, and educators to be aware of the stress experienced by military children in a time of war. The full news article is available here: http://www.mcg.edu/news/2007NewsRel/Barnes020907.html
United Concordia Sponsors Drawing for Military Children
United Concordia is recognizing and supporting the Month of the Military Child this April with a web based, random selection drawing for military children of varying ages. Children of active duty or National Guard and Reserve sponsors who are enrolled in the TDP are eligible for this drawing. For complete rules and regulations and to enter, complete the form, which can be found on the TDP Website, http://www.TRICAREdentalprogram.com, between March 28 and April 26, 2007 and submit it online. Winners will be selected at random. One first, second and third place prize will be awarded in each of the six TRICARE regions (North, South, West, Pacific, Europe and Latin America/Canada) for these age categories: 0-4, 5-7, and 8-12. Only one entry per child is permitted. Winners will be announced on the TDP Website May 10, 2007. Mailed or faxed entries will not be considered.
TRICARE Honored for Innovation in Pharmacy Benefit
TRICARE Management Activity received the 2007 Rx Benefit Innovation Award for implementing an electronic claims process in its retail pharmacy network. The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute award honors organizations for programs and policies that improve the delivery of drug benefits in a fiscally responsible way. The electronic claims process means that TRICARE beneficiaries with other health insurance no longer have to file paper claims for prescriptions they fill at many of TRICARE’s 58,000 retail network pharmacies. Retail pharmacists immediately submit electronic claims to TRICARE when a beneficiary purchases medications. Most beneficiaries now leave pharmacies with fewer out-of-pocket expenses and no requirement to file a claim. To view the full news release, please visit: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=267
TRICARE Benefit Covers HPV Vaccine
A new preventative vaccine for Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a TRICARE covered benefit. HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in women. The CDC recommends routine vaccination against HPV for girls 11 to 12 years old. Because the vaccine is new, however, it may not be available everywhere. Interested beneficiaries or their parents should contact their doctors to find out if they administer the HPV vaccine. Also, the new vaccine does not protect against every type of HPV infection and can’t prevent all cervical cancers. The vaccination does not eliminate the need for screening pap smears, or reduce the importance of regular gynecological exams. Source: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=266
Military Spouses Benefit From DeCA Hiring Focus
Military spouses now represent nearly 30 percent of the Defense Commissary Agecny’s (DeCA) workforce. According to DeCA, military spouses are a valuable pool of high-quality employees and the Agency actively works to recruit and retain them as employees. DeCA uses the Department of Defense Priority Placement Program, or PPP, to establish the DeCA Family Member Placement which facilitates the continued employment of current employees at commissaries as their spouses transfer to new duty stations. A similar “Program S” for military spouse preference provides a quick, easy method to fill nonmanagement positions within the continental United States. The spouses are hired under local merit promotion announcements as well, and they are afforded promotion, training and career-enhancing opportunities throughout the agency. To learn more about job opportunities with DeCA please visit http://commissaries.com and click on “Human Resources.”
Low Prices Meet Their Match at AAFES
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s (AAFES) “We’ll Match It!” initiative has been updated to allow authorized shoppers to compare prices between the exchange and “warehouse clubs.” In the past AAFES did not match warehouse prices because membership dues offset shelf prices. In some instances, however, shoppers can still find better prices at warehouse stores. The “We’ll Match It!” initiative is one way that AAFES can continue to be competitive and to ensure that military shoppers get the best value. Learn more about how the “We’ll Match It!” initiative works at http://aafes.com/pa/news/07news/07-013.htm
AAFES Rolls Out Green Carpet
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is taking significant steps toward reducing the military’s environmental footprint. In addition to a new real estate Energy Management team, complete with an Energy Management consultant, AAFES recently became a 2007 Energy Star partner and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. AAFES’ reinvigorated energy program is focused on reducing energy consumption through associate training and education, the building of sustainable facilities and systematic optimization of existing operations to ensure efficient and effective operation. Learn more about AAFES’s efforts to go green at http://aafes.com/pa/news/07news/07-015.htm
DoDEA Discontinues Home School Program
The DoD Education Activity will end its remote home school program at the end of the 2008 school year because grants and funding for the program have expired. Initial funds came for unsolicited grants and allocations from Congress but, by law, DoDEA is not permitted to lobby for further funding. The change will largely affect about 400 families who live in the Pacific Theater. DoDEA will assist students and families who have to transition to public schools but parents who wish to continue home schooling will have to do so at their own expense.
Spouses to Teachers Expands to the Pacific
Effective February 1, 2007, the Spouses to Teachers program is now available to military spouses stationed in the Pacific. This Department of Defense program provides counseling and guidance on state-specific certification requirements, certification options, scholarships, and state employment resources. Up to $600 also is available via a voucher process to reimburse the costs of testing fees associated with teacher certification/licensure. Teaching is a portable career making it very attractive to mobile military spouses. Eligible participants include spouses of active duty personnel, Selected Reserve and National Guard, and Individual Ready Reserve recalled to active duty. For additional information, e-mail the program at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Spouses to Teachers website: http://SpousestoTeachers.com.
SAT and ACT Help for Military Students
A group of NFL, NFL Europe, AFL and CFL football players are again helping to provide SAT and ACT test preparation software to military students. Since the program began last year the players have received over 16,000 thank-you letters from students who have benefited from the program. The software, created by eKnowledge Corporation, has a regular purchase price of $199, but military families only need to pay shipping and handling. The Department of Defense has created a secure website for military families to learn more about the program and to request the software. Go to http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil/ and click on the link “Donation: VSG/NFL Players” under special offers. Students can also get help in improving their performance on standardized tests with March 2 Success, a free, no obligation online tool to help improve test scores and a students’ command of English and Math. The site is sponsored by the US Army. To learn more about March 2 Success visit https://www.march2success.com.
Proposed Budget Would Provide $56 Billion for Education
On Feb. 5 President Bush revealed his education budget proposal for fiscal year 2008, which would provide an increase in resources to improve the nation's public schools overall, promote rigor in high schools and help more students afford college. The President's request of $56 billion would make bold investments in education by increasing funding for the landmark No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to $24.5 billion—up 41 percent since 2001—to reach the goal of every child reading and doing math at grade level by 2014. Overall, it would be an increase of $1.2 billion to help fund the president's priorities for NCLB reauthorization this year, as outlined in his plan Building on Results. To learn more about the President’s proposed budget please visit http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget.
More than $80 Billion in Federal Aid Available to Students
More than $80 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study assistance is available to help students pay for postsecondary education. To receive financial aid for the 2007-08 academic year, students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of these funds. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov is the first step in the process. While the application is also available in paper form, filing online eliminates mail delays and identifies errors that can be corrected immediately. Before applying, students should register for a Federal Student Aid PIN at http://www.pin.ed.gov. The PIN—which is needed throughout the student’s college career—serves as an electronic signature on the application, secures data and allows students to make changes to the application as well as view and print their Student Aid Report. For more information, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4FED AID (1-800-433-3243).
Department of Education News Show Looks at Higher Education
Making college education more affordable and accessible for all students in today's global economy will be the focus of the March edition of Education News Parents Can Use, the Department of Education's monthly television program. Guests on the March show will discuss ideas for making college more accessible to and less costly for students based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, established by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings over a year and a half ago. To learn about viewing options, including webcasts, visit http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/edtv/, or call toll-free 1-800-USA-LEARN.
Frequently Asked Questions About Education
For quick answers to frequently asked questions about education, the U.S. Department of Education offers an online resource filled with up-to-date information on numerous aspects of federal law, policy and initiatives. The Website http://answers.ed.gov answers more than 100 questions related to topics addressed by the Department, including No Child Left Behind, financial aid, special education, school choice, grants and research. Among the questions listed on the site are:
* How do I find out how my child's school is performing and if my child is eligible for school choice or supplemental educational services?
* I have a child with special needs. How do I determine if the school is providing my child with an appropriate education and services?
* What kinds of programs do you have to help teachers pay back their loans?
As an added feature, users can submit an e-mail inquiry to the Department's Information Resource Center, which manages the site, and track the responses to all the questions they have submitted through the "My Stuff" tab.
Army Spouse Seeks Stories of Army Life for New Book
In her 2006 book Household Baggage: The Moving Life of a Soldier’s Wife, Marna Krajeski wrote about the ups and downs of Army life. The author is planning a second book, to be published in November 2007, and is inviting other military spouses, past and present, to share their heartwarming, insightful, and humorous stories about moving, marriage, motherhood and the military. To learn more about submission guidelines please visit http://householdbaggage.com/sharestory.php. Questions should be directed to email@example.com.
Support the Troops with Any Soldier, Inc.
Visit http://anysoldier.com to learn how to support troops deployed overseas with letters and care packages. The program was started in August 2003 by Sergeant Brian Horn, an Army Infantry Soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, who agreed to distribute packages that came to him with "Attn: Any Soldier" to soldiers who didn't get mail. In 2004, the program expanded to include any deployed Servicemember.