July 1, 2006
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 11
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.
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:
- Military Fails Some Widows over Benefits
- DoD Establishes Mental Health Task Force
- Work on ’07 Pay Raises May Come Later Rather Than Sooner
- Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Veterans and Their Dependents
- Soldiers Offered Spouse GI Bill Transfer as Re-Enlistment Bonus
- Protect Against ID Theft
- VA Announces Free Credit Monitoring
- Family Assistance Centers
- Families First Casualty Call Center Launched
- Kids of Deployed Parents Need Consistency
- AAFES: Big Money Only a Snap Away
- Commissary “Club Packs” Offer Deep Discounts
- *HONORABLE MENTION (AUSA Chapters)
Military Fails Some Widows over Benefits
Survivors of soldiers lost in Afghanistan and Iraq are having trouble collecting benefits from the government. While the process runs smoothly for many widows, some have encountered numerous hurdles in trying to collect survivor benefits. Others have suffered through lost files, an avalanche of paperwork, misinformation and gaps in the patchwork of laws governing survivor benefits. Visit this link for details:
DoD Establishes Mental Health Task Force
DoD announced the formation of a congressionally-directed task force to examine matters related to mental health and the Armed Forces. The Task Force, will be comprised of seven DoD members and seven non-DoD members, along with Army Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Surgeon General, as co-chair. The task force will be submitting a report to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May 2007 which will include assessments and recommendations for improving the efficacy of mental health services provided to service members. More information regarding the DoD Mental Health Task Force can be found at http://www.ha.osd.mil/afeb/mhtf/members.cfm
Work On ’07 Pay Raises May Come Later Rather Than Sooner
It appears that the 2007 pay raises for civil service and the military won't be sorted out until much later in the year. The president's budget which will be released in February is the starting point for the annual pay raise deliberations. The president proposed a 2.2 percent pay raise for next year for the civil service and the military. For the facts visit:
Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Veterans and Their Dependents
House panel adopted a provision by Rep. Shelley Berkley, which would extend the cost-of-living increase to a $250-per-month benefit for veterans’ survivors with children under 18. The benefit has a two-year limit and is intended to provide help for families dealing with a recent death. Berkley also won adoption of the amendment in committee last year, but conferees dropped it because of budget-neutrality concerns. “Our nation has an obligation to care for the families of those Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Berkley said during the markup. “There is no reason we should not apply the same COLA we award to other benefits earned by our veterans to payments made to families with children who have lost a parent as a result of military service.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of Berkley’s provision would be less than $500,000 in the first year, $1 million over five years. Read the details at: http://www.cq.com/displayalertresult.do?matchId=25507627
Soldiers Offered Spouse GI Bill Transfer as Re-Enlistment Bonus
The Army wants to allow re-enlisting Soldiers to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouses. The benefit transfers, which will probably be launched later this year, would be in lieu of receiving a Selective Re-enlistment Bonus. Specific details should be available by early summer, according to Pentagon sources, and would likely begin as a pilot program targeted at active-component enlisted Soldiers. If the pilot program is successful, "the Army may explore expanding it to all Soldiers, as well as offering a similar program to eligible reserve-component Soldiers. Visit: http://www.ArmyFamiliesOnline.org and click on Flo Notes to read all the details.
Protect Against ID Theft
Due to the recent compromise of Soldiers' and veterans' personal information from the Department of Veterans Affairs, information on how you can protect yourself is available at http://www.ArmyFamiliesOnline.org, keyword "IDTheft."
VA Announces Free Credit Monitoring
Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced that as a part of ongoing efforts to protect and assist those potentially affected by the recent data theft, veterans will receive one year of free credit monitoring, should they choose to utilize the service. After VA hires a credit monitoring company, they will send a detailed letter to people whose sensitive personal information may have been included in the stolen data. This letter will explain credit monitoring and how eligible people can enroll or “opt-in” for the services. VA expects to have the services in place and the letters mailed by mid-August. For story details visit:
Family Assistance Centers
The Vermont National Guard Family Readiness program has contacted Senator Leahy for help in reaching out to all active duty family members in the state. Recently the Guard became aware of some mothers of Regular Active Duty service members who were feeling extremely isolated because the FRGs associated with their sons’ units were in other states and too far away to provide the support they need. The active duty moms were delighted to learn that the VT Guard’s five Family Assistance Centers are also there for them. The National Guard has Family Assistance Centers in every State, for everyone’s use. Families should visit: http://www.guardfamily.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=B0302 to locate the family assistance centers and Joint Force HQ Family Program Directors as well as ANG Wing Coordinators.
Families First Casualty Call Center Launched
The Casualty Memorial Affairs Operations Center (CMAOC) launched a new resource for survivors which is effective immediately. The Families First Casualty Call Center (FFCCC) assists surviving family members with their needs for long term advocacy and support services. The FFCCC is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and may be reached by calling toll-free 1-866-272-5841; by e-mail at FFCCC@hoffman.army.mil; or by mail at Commander, Army Human Resources Command, and ATTN: AHRC-PEC (FFCCC), 200 Stovall Street, Alexandria, VA 2233.
Kids of Deployed Parents Need Consistency
Consistency is key for children as their military parents deploy. While children of different ages have different needs, if parents offer as consistent an environment as possible, their children tend to fare better. Visit: http://www.ArmyFamiliesOnline.org and click on Flo Notes to read all the details.
AAFES: Big Money Only a Snap Away
AAFES is sponsoring the Patriot POG Gift Certificate Photo Contest, with prizes worth up to $1000. Submissions should either depict the spirit of activities in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom or highlight activities in support of deployed troops, such as troop welcome home events. To ensure operational security is not inadvertently compromised, each photo submitted must include the complete identification of the picture including location, date, action, and identity of people in the photo. Twelve winning entries will appear on 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢ POGs, and the winners will also pocket a combined total of $4,800. POG Gift Certificate Photo Contest prizes include: 1st Prize (2) - $1,000 Gift Card; 2nd (2) – $750 Gift Card; 3rd (2) - $500 Gift Card; 4th (6) - $50 Gift Card (POGs are used in place of traditional currency and are accepted at any AAFES location worldwide). All entries must include an e-mail address, physical address and telephone number for winner notification. POG Gift Certificate Photo Contest submissions can be emailed to email@example.com, please include AAFES POG CONTEST in the subject line. Submissions must be received by August 15, 2006, and contest winners will be notified by August 31, 2006. For a complete list of Patriot POG Gift Certificate Photo Contest rules and information, log on to AAFES.com. AAFES employees and their family members are not eligible to participate. All other entries can be mailed to: Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Attn: MK-MS (AAFES POG CONTEST) 3911 S. Walton Walker Blvd., Dallas, TX 75236-1598.
Commissary “Club Packs” Offer Deep Discounts
Buying in bulk at the commissary can earn shoppers enormous savings. While the “greater volume, greater savings” philosophy has always had followers, particularly among big families, commissary shoppers are discovering the benefits of “club packs” in increasing numbers. Commissaries began selling popular products in bulk three years ago, and sales have gained momentum ever since. Club packs allow customers to stock up on the products they know they need all the time — things like canned goods, paper products and cleaning supplies — and save money in the process. Buying in bulk makes even greater economic sense as the cost of gasoline rises.
* HONORABLE MENTION (AUSA Chapters)
MG John Lekson Chapter
As the main event of the annual Memorial Day ceremony, MG John S. Lekson was the principal sponsor and program coordinator [assisted by local chapters of the Marine Corps League and Air Force Association] for the FALLEN WARRIORS TRIBUTE, This was a very moving ceremony which honored the memory of six U S Army Soldiers, two Marines, and three Airmen killed in action in the War On Terror. The families of these eleven FALLEN WARRIORS were brought to Albuquerque from as far away as California, Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado. Each family received a Memorial Brick inscribed with each Servicemembers name. The bricks will be permanently installed in a special place of honor at the NM Veterans Memorial. Each family also received a Purple Heart plaque from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and a handmade quilt in patriotic colors, from the Jemez Springs Quilting Guild. There were few dry eyes in the Memorial Day crowd of 2900, as each Servicemembers was eulogized by a member of the AUSA, Marine Corps League, and AFA; and in special remarks by Congresswoman Heather Wilson. A reception followed the ceremony, sponsored by AUSA. Over 100 family members attended, their expenses were reimbursed, and hotel rooms provided through donations solicited by AUSA Chapter members. AUSA raised $4000 in cash donations, and $2400 in value of donated hotel rooms, to cover the expenses of the families.
AUSA’s Ft. Hood Chapter Presents Scholarships
Ft. Hood Chapter Presents $45,000 in Scholarships. Forty five Central Texans will find their pursuit of a university education a little more affordable this year because some very special Central Texans care. At the chapter’s annual Scholarship Luncheon which was held on June 8 at the Fort Hood Catering and Conference Center, the chapter was able to present $1,000 scholarships to 45 deserving area students.