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June 1, 2006

Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 9

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.

Once again,
Family Programs will be a part of the AUSA Annual Meeting, Oct. 9-11. Family Forums I, II, and III will address current issues that concern and/or affect service members and their families, followed by a question and answer period. Please continue checking the Web site for the latest information about the Forums.

In this issue:
  • Theft of Veteran Affairs (VA) Personal Data
  • Move Afoot to Remove Social Security Numbers from IDs
  • AAFES and Privacy Matters
  • AAFES Scores an A+ with “You Made the Grade”
  • First Guard Troops to Deploy to Border Next Week
  • House Subcommittee Calls for Larger Pay Raise & Suspension of TRICARE Fee Increases
  • President Signs New Tax Legislation for Military Personnel
  • Summertime D.C. Transfers Should Use Web Site
  • America Supports You: Troops, Families Get Secure Connection
  • Putting More Money Where Your Mouth Is
  • IRR Translators Offered Bonus
  • Horatio Alger Launches $10 Million Military Veteran’s Scholarship
  • Extremely Graphic’ HBO War Film Prompts Army Warnings
  • 4 of 5 Vets Deemed “At Risk” for PTSD, Get No Referral
  • Online Stress Screening Offered
  • DoD Releases New Online Survivors’ Guide
  • TRICARE Lifts Prescription Refill Time Restrictions in Flooded New England States
  • 39-cent Purple Heart Stamp Unveiled
  • Sesame Street Teaches Coping Skills

Theft of Veterans Affairs (VA) Personal Data
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA recently announced that an employee had taken home electronic data from VA and a computer containing the data was subsequently stolen from the employee’s home.. This data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. The affected data did not include any of VA’s electronic health records or any financial information. VA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans’ service organizations, and other government agencies to help ensure these veterans and their families are aware of the situation and the steps they can take to protect them from misuse of this personal information. VA will send out individual notification letters to veterans to every extent possible. Veterans can also go to to get more information on this matter. VA has set up a special call center which can be reached at 1-800-FED INFO (333-4636). The President’s Identity Theft Task Force members have already taken actions to protect the affected veterans, including working with the credit bureaus to help ensure that veterans receive the free credit report they are entitled to under the law. You can monitor your credit report for potential misuse by accessing these websites: Equifax: Experian: and TransUnion:

Move Afoot to Remove Social Security Numbers from IDs
A House committee wants the Defense Department to stop putting Social Security numbers on military identification cards. “Many service members are concerned that the inclusion of their Social Security numbers on military identification cards places them at greater risk of identity theft,” the House Armed Services Committee said in a report on the 2007 defense authorization bill. The bill, HR 5122, passed the House of Representatives last week. For details go to:

AAFES and Privacy Matters
Widespread reports concerning identity theft have prompted many past and present military members to reevaluate the security of their personal information. As recent news reports have highlighted, data such as social security numbers, passwords and birthdates must be closely guarded in a digital world. “Whether active duty or retired, it’s very important to keep a close eye on your financial statements to make sure there aren’t any unexpected charges or other unusual activity,” said the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Howard. “With that said, unless suspicious activity has been found, there’s really no reason to close credit cards or bank accounts.” We restrict access to nonpublic personal information about our cardholders to those associates who have a need to know for the performance of their duties,” said Howard. “We maintain strict physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to guard nonpublic personal information.”

In the event that personal information is compromised, the Federal Trade Commission recommends the following actions should be immediately taken:
Step 1 - Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Step 2 - Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Step 3 - File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Step 4 - File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by contacting the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: 1-877-438-4338, online at, or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580.

AAFES Scores an A+ with “You Made the Grade”
Children of military families often face unique educational challenges, not the least of which include moving from one location to another every two to three years and dealing with deployed mothers or fathers (sometimes both) who are called to serve in harm’s way. There are currently more than 1.2 million kids of military parents who experience this lifestyle. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service regularly recognizes outstanding students with exceptional academic achievement through its “You Made the Grade” program, which was initiated in February 2000. Qualifying students receive a coupon booklet that includes free admission to an AAFES Reel Time movie, a free magazine and a free slice of Anthony’s pizza with drink, as well as other coupons. Each booklet also contains an entry form for a quarterly savings bond drawing in which three winners are randomly awarded savings bonds in $2,000, $3,000 or $5,000 denominations. To receive the booklet, students must present a valid military ID card and proof of an overall “B” or better average to their local PX/BX. Military families are encouraged to contact their local AAFES General Manager for more information.

First Guard Troops to Deploy to Border Next Week
The first National Guard troops to be stationed along the Arizona-Mexico border to assist immigration agents are expected to deploy sometime between June 6 and 15. The troops will be sent to Arizona as part of President Bush’s plan to send up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the four southern border states to perform support duties that would free up federal authorities to focus on border security. Visit site for details:

House Subcommittee Calls for Larger Pay Raise & Suspension of TRICARE Fee Increases
The Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) voted to include a 2.7 percent across-the-board military pay raise next year, rather than accepting the 2.2 percent raise proposed in the administration’s budget request. The inclusion of the higher figure in the version of the fiscal 2007 Defense authorization bill, H.R. 5122, was just one of several provisions proposed by the Subcommittee to support military service members and families. Visit for the details:

President Signs New Tax Legislation for Military Personnel
On May 29, President Bush signed the Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities (HERO) Act, which amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow service members to still exclude their military compensation from federal income tax, but contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) while serving in a combat zone tax exclusion area. Military compensation earned by members of the armed forces while serving in combat zone areas is excluded from federal income tax. Enlisted members and warrant officers exclude all such military compensation. Commissioned officers exclude up to the maximum enlisted pay plus imminent danger pay for the months they serve in a combat zone tax exclusion area. The HERO Act is retroactive to tax year 2004. Therefore, members who did not make an IRA contribution during 2004 or 2005, because they were not eligible due to combat zone tax exclusion, have until May 28, 2009 (three years from the date of enactment) to make a contribution to an IRA for those years.
Web Version:

Summertime D.C. Transfers Should Use Web Site
If you’re moving to the Washington, D.C. area, officials advise you to avoid a lot of frustration by communicating through the Internet, rather than trying to reach household goods officials by telephone. You can give the personal property office your updated contact information and arrange for the delivery of your household goods through the Web site. If you haven’t yet found a place to live, officials say you should use this Web site to provide your contact information. Service members cannot query the Web site for information about their shipments, because of information security rules. So if that information is needed, they must call the automated phone system at (800) 762-7186; or (703) 806-4900; or DSN 656-4900. Check this out at:

America Supports You: Troops, Families Get Secure Connection
Military families will soon have a new and secure (password protected) way to keep in touch with their deployed loved ones. "Connect and Join," an Internet-based communications company, provides a forum for military families to keep in touch when their loved ones deploy, said the company's founder and president, Linda Dennis. The portal combines many elements: using your photographs, calendar system, family projects, and an archival tool for making scrapbooks. The multidimensional Web site went live in May. Dennis said the Web forum would be available to military families for $5 per month, half the normal charge. More details on this new portal can be found at:

Putting More Money Where Your Mouth Is
Learning a second language just got a little more rewarding — and learning a third could make your wallet even fatter. The Pentagon raised the cap on foreign language proficiency pay from a maximum of $300 per month to a ceiling of $1,000 per month beginning June 1 for dozens of sought-after languages, including Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Farsi and Pashtu. The Defense Department is paying the most for languages dubbed “immediate investment,” otherwise known as the “A list” — up to $500 per language, up to a maximum of $1,000 per month for fluency in two. Details at:

IRR Translators Offered Bonus
Individual Ready Reserve translators who are serving on active duty will now receive a $15,000 bonus if they switch to the active Army. Soldiers whose military occupational specialty is 09L qualify for the cash. Enlistments into the active Army must be for four years or longer, and the enlistment date must be on or before Sept. 30. For the contact info and the details click:

Horatio Alger Association Launches $10 Million Military Veteran’s Scholarship
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. launched a $10 million scholarship fund in June for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have served honorably since 2001. The Horatio Alger Association assists students who demonstrate integrity, perseverance in overcoming adversity, strength of character, critical financial need, a good academic record, commitment to pursue a college education, and a desire to contribute to society. Scholarship recipients will be awarded $5,000 to support their undergraduate education. The Association plans to award the scholarship for four years. Applicants must demonstrate critical financial need, proof of service in Afghanistan or Iraq, as well as honorable discharge from military service. For information or to apply online, go to

“Extremely Graphic” HBO War Film Prompts Army Warnings
The Army’s top medical officer has warned commanders throughout the service about an upcoming HBO documentary film called “Baghdad ER.” In a memo titled “Baghdad ER Post Screening Preparations,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, head of the Army’s Medical Command, said the film “shows the ravages and anguishes of war,” it may cause some who have served in Iraq to “experience some symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as flashbacks or nightmares.” Family members who watch it may also have emotional reactions such as anxiety, Kiley said. For the full article:

4 of 5 Vets Deemed “At Risk” for PTSD, Get No Referral
The report by the Government Accountability Office said that of the 178,664 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 5 percent were considered “at risk” for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Of those at risk, only 22 percent were actually referred for further mental health evaluation. The study says the Defense Department leaves it to the “clinical judgment” of health care providers to determine whether service members need more evaluation or mental health care. Read article details at:

Online Stress Screening Offered
Concerned by rising stress levels in the ranks, the Defense Department has quietly started an online self-screening program in hopes that anonymity will help some service members and their spouses overcome reluctance to confront possible mental-health problems. “It’s an excellent tool — available 24/7 so you can do it at night when nobody’s watching,” said Deborah Manning, who coordinates Army substance-abuse programs at Fort Benning, Ga. The program assesses answers to questions about recent behavior and mood swings. If the responses indicate possible trouble, it suggests options for seeking help. Visit:

DOD Releases New Online Survivors’ Guide
As part of a continuing effort to improve communication with survivors and clarify the explanation of the benefits to which they are entitled, the Department of Defense recently posted a new online booklet, A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of Our Own. The information it contains is pertinent to all survivors, no matter what the Service of the deceased service member. Publishing the guide on line allows it to be updated regularly so that survivors can have up-to-the-minute information about their benefits. This guide provides an introduction to the most important issues loved ones face during the difficult time following the death of a service member. For more information, click

TRICARE Lifts Prescription Refill Time Restrictions in Flooded New England States
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) is allowing beneficiaries to refill their prescriptions sooner than usual in three flood-ravaged states. Early refills are available in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, where governors have declared a state of emergency. TMA recognizes that those affected by severe flooding may not have access to their medications and is allowing beneficiaries to obtain refill prescriptions as needed. For more information beneficiaries may call Express Scripts, Inc. at (866)-DOD-TRRX, or call HealthNet (North region) at (877)-874-2273. They may also visit the TRICARE Web site, or .

Army Reserve and family readiness is a critical component of Soldier and Unit Readiness. Read in this month's edition to learn about some of the efforts to improve the readiness of the Army Reserve and how their Family Programs Office is responding with programs to support family readiness. Monthly Hot Topics is a monthly spotlight on information that can be found by visiting

39-cent Purple Heart Stamp Unveiled
The new Purple Heart stamp is out. In a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery marking the re-issue of the Purple Heart Definitive Stamp, Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson also presented the Purple Heart medal to two soldiers, Spc. Michael Hilliard and Spc. Ian Wagner. Ordering info and story details at:

Sesame Street Teaches Coping Skills
This July, Sesame Workshop, the makers of Sesame Street, will launch a program on DVD called "Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment." in an effort in a program Performed in English and Spanish, the program is designed to teach young military children and their caregivers how best to handle a parent's deployment. It will not air on television but will be distributed free to schools, childcare programs and family support centers, thanks to a gift from Wal-Mart stores and other sponsors. The kit covers all phases of deployment -- from predeployment to homecoming -- and the unique challenges each phase poses. Visit: