July 18, 2006
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 12
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.
You are invited to attend The Family Programs Military Family Forums at AUSA’s Annual Meeting, Oct. 9-11. This is your opportunity to receive updates on the latest programs and most current issues affecting our Soldiers and their families. For additional information go to the Family Programs web site (www.ausa.org/family)
In this issue:
- Iraq War’s Costs Pinch Stateside Army Posts Bases’ Budget $530m Short
- Military Fails Some Widows over Benefits
- DoD Announces Appointment of Nixon as DeCa Director
- More on the Senate Defense Authorization Bill
- Stolen VA Laptop and Hard Drive Recovered
- Uncertain Prospects for Veterans Credit Monitoring
- Military OneSource Provides Information About Identity Theft
- Program for Soldiers to Earn $1000 Referral Bonus Expanded
- EagleCash Makes Spending Easier for Deployed Soldiers
- www.connectthetroops.com Is Now Officially Live
- Uniformed Services Deployment – Helping Children and Adolescents Through the Difficulties of Deployment in the Family
- Helping Teens Whose Parents Have Suffered Trauma
- Command Sponsorship: A New Requirement for Active Duty Family Member Enrollment in the TRICARE Overseas Program Prime
- Amendment Bars TRICARE Hikes
- Enhanced TRICARE Reserve Select Open Season
- TRICARE Lifts Refill Times in Florida
- TRICARE Enhances Maternity Ultrasound Benefit
Iraq War’s Costs Pinch Stateside Army Posts Bases’ Budget $530m Short
A diversion of dollars to help fight the war in Iraq has helped create a $530 million shortfall for Army posts at home and abroad, leaving some unable to pay utility bills or even cut the grass. In Texas, Fort Sam Houston has not been able to pay its $1.4 million monthly utility bill since March, prompting workers in many of the post's administrative buildings to receive automated disconnection notices. Fort Bragg, North Carolina cannot afford to buy pens, paper or other office supplies until the new fiscal year starts in October. And Fort Knox had to close one of its eight dining halls for a month and lay off 133 contract workers.
Military Fails Some Widows over Benefits
Some 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. For details visit:
DoD Annouces Appointment of Nixon as DeCa Director
Dr. David Chu, undersecretary of defense, personnel and readiness, announces the appointment of Patrick Nixon as the director, Defense Commissary Agency, effective June 27. Nixon, with more than 40 years of quality retail experience involving every facet of grocery marketing, has served with the military commissary community since 1983. He has held a number of senior positions within the Defense Commissary Agency since its activation in 1991. He has served as the agency’s chief executive officer since 2001 and was appointed its acting director in August 2004. Nixon’s appointment constitutes a new paradigm within the department, with the conversion of the agency’s directorship from a military flag officer billet to that of a career member of the Senior Executive Service. Mr. Nixon’s quality and caliber of executive civilian leadership will contribute significantly toward achieving our vital DoD mission.”
More on the Senate Defense Authorization Bill
It is anticipated that as soon as Congress reconvenes, the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill will go to conference. Several provisions important to AUSA and its members were adopted by the Senate when it passed its version last week. Some highlights are:
Sen. James Talent's, R-Mo., AUSA - supported amendment that would significantly tighten laws governing so-called "payday lenders," who now entice service members into loan schemes involving 300-400 percent interest rates.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln's, D-Ark., amendment would allow National Guard/Reserve members to use their mobilization GI Bill benefits for up to 10 years after leaving Selected Reserve status.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, amendment would require a Pentagon report on the feasibility of removing Social Security account numbers from military ID cards.
Sen. Wayne Allard's, R-Col., amendment would authorize $5 million for a new program to coordinate assistance for military families at selected sites around the country.
Sen. Mike DeWine's, R-Ohio, amendment would expand eligibility of certain survivors (whose sponsors died in active service after Oct. 1, 2001) to transfer SBP eligibility to children, if any.
Sen. Hillary Clinton's, D-N.Y., amendment would establish various requirements to assist Guard and Reserve members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan in successfully transitioning to civilian employment, with particular emphasis on those who suffered traumatic injuries.
Stolen VA Laptop and Hard Drive Recovered
Federal officials have announced the recovery of computer equipment stolen from an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They said that sensitive personal information of 26.5 million veterans and military personnel apparently had not been accessed. For complete story go to;
Uncertain Prospects for Veterans’ Credit Monitoring
Lawmakers said a supplemental funding request to pay for veterans’ credit monitoring services hangs in limbo for now and could require revision or elimination, after the stolen personal data was recovered. For complete story go to:
Military OneSource Provides Information About Identity Theft
Service members, military families and installation staff concerned about identity theft should call Military OneSource toll free at 1-800-342-9647or visit http://www.militaryonesource.com. Military OneSource will immediately provide troops and families with information about identity theft and how to obtain a free credit report. On the site they can download or have mailed to their home address information on: protecting onesself against identify theft; what to do if one is a victim of identity theft; what one should know about your credit record; and quick tips for ordering a free copy of your credit report. Military OneSource counselors are available to talk with military members and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Program for Soldiers to Earn $1000 Referral Bonus Expanded
The latest recruiting incentive that will pay Soldiers a $1,000 lump payment for referring applicants who enlist, complete basic training, and graduate advanced individual training has been expanded. The Secretary of the Army may pay a bonus to any Soldier who refers to an Army recruiter a person who has not previously served in the Armed Forces and enlists in the Active Army, Army National Guard or the Army Reserves. The referral may not be an immediate family member and the Soldier referring may not be serving in a recruiting or retention assignment. The referral must be made by the Soldier at http://www.usarec.army.mil or http://www.1800goguard.com/esar prior to the new recruit's first meeting with a recruiter.
EagleCash Makes Spending Easier for Deployed Soldiers
In Camp Liberty, Iraq the Soldiers from the Multi-National Division will now be able to handle nearly all their cash transactions from within their base camp, and at selected forward operating bases, with just a card and a simple touch on a screen. The EagleCash cash management program was developed by the U.S. Army Finance Command and the U.S. Treasury Department to support the financial needs of personnel serving in “contingency areas of operation.” Currently being rolled-out at selected sites in the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater, the program allows cardholders to access funds in their stateside bank or credit union accounts. EagleCash uses “smart” card technology, which allows Soldiers to access personal funds through a self-service “kiosk” machine. Cards are free and can be obtained at finance offices. There are no transaction fees and Soldiers can load money onto their card, or unload money back into their account, and perform card-to-card transactions as well. For full story visit: http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/read.php?story_id_key=9237
www.connectthetroops.com is Now Officially Live
Connect And Join, a family support and education services publishing company, announces the launch of its www.connectwiththetroops.com portal. The portal offers free tools that allow teachers, classrooms or students to communicate with and express support for U.S. troops or individual soldiers, while tying patriotism into the curriculum. As part of the launch, the company is holding a nationwide scrapbook initiative to have school children create the “World’s Largest Scrapbook” in support of the troops. The goal is to build the "World's Largest Scrapbook with Heartfelt messages from the Classrooms of America!" The Inspiration for this actually came from teachers and the children.
Uniformed Services Deployment – Helping Children and Adolescents through the Difficulties of Deployment in the Family
Children of deployed members of the military experience a broad range of reactions when a family member deploys. These reactions often include; anger, sadness, fear, confusion, and feelings of abandonment, loss, anxiety, and depression. Reactions such as these may lead to significant problems to include school absenteeism and failure, social isolation, family emotional abuse and violence, psychosomatic medical complaints, and depression. Health care providers and youth workers should be aware of these issues and be prepared to offer support and helpful resources to families experiencing problems related to deployment.
Helping Teens Whose Parents have Suffered Trauma
A new book by Michelle D. Sherman, Ph.D. and DeAnne M. Sherman supports teens dealing with parental trauma, "Finding My Way: A Teen's Guide to Living with a Parent Who Has Experienced Trauma" Although this book is not specific to military/veteran issues, many military organizations are finding it useful. For additional information or to order visit http://www.seedsofhopebooks.com or call 1-800-901-3480.
Command Sponsorship: A New Requirement for Active Duty Family Member Enrollment in the TRICARE Overseas Program Prime
TRICARE policy requires Active Duty Service Members with overseas orders to verify command sponsorship for accompanying family members for enrollment in TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) Prime, including TRICARE Global Remote Overseas (TGRO). The policy also requires family members to reside with their sponsor to be eligible for enrollment into TOP Prime. Beneficiaries may seek command sponsorship through Service personnel channels. If service families without command sponsorship move overseas, they may pay costly out-of-pocket health care expenses, as they are only eligible for TRICARE Standard, TRICARE Plus and space-available care at military treatment facilities. When TRICARE Standard beneficiaries seek care overseas, they may have to pay the entire bill at the time of service and then file a claim with TRICARE for reimbursement. Under TRICARE Standard, family members must pay an annual deductible and cost shares each time they receive care outside of the military treatment facility. Sponsors that bring non-command sponsored family members with special medical needs to an overseas location with no specialty support for those needs may put their family member at unnecessary health risk. For more information, beneficiaries may contact their overseas TRICARE Service Center listed at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/overseas/index.cfm or the TRICARE Area Office serving their overseas region listed below. Beneficiary counseling and assistance coordinators are also available to help at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/bcac
Amendment Bars TRICARE Hikes
The Senate recently approved an amendment that would bar the Department of Defense from increasing pharmacy copays in the TRICARE retail network through Fiscal Year 2007. The amendment would bar most other TRICARE fee increases for at least a year and, in the pharmacy area, it would actually reduce copays to zero for most drugs ordered through the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy system. Members of the military retiree community are urged to follow the S.2766 amendment as amendments affecting the military are debated.
TRICARE Lifts Refill Times in Florida
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) is allowing its beneficiaries to refill their prescriptions sooner than usual in Florida, where Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency due to Tropical Storm Alberto. This will be in effect until July 31, 2006. Normally, beneficiaries may not refill prescriptions until their supply drops below a certain level. However, beneficiaries in Florida may now refill their prescriptions as needed. For more pharmacy information or assistance beneficiaries may call Express Scripts, Inc. at (866)-DOD-TRRX.
Enhanced TRICARE Reserve Select Open Season
“Open season” for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) Tier 2 and Tier 3 Selected Reserve members is Aug. 1 through Nov. 25, 2006. TRS is the premium-based health coverage offered by the Department of Defense similar to TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra. Last year, coverage (Tier 1) was only available to members of the National Guard and Reserve who served on active duty for more than 30 days in support of a contingency operation or after Sept. 11, 2001. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 expands TRS coverage to all qualified members of the Selected Reserve. Purchasing TRS coverage is a two-step process. Step 1 is to qualify, Step 2 is the purchase. First, members must contact their Reserve Component to validate their qualifications for Tier 2 or Tier 3 coverage. After their Reserve Component has recorded their qualifications in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, members may then login to the Guard-Reserve portal and print a personalized TRS request (enrollment) form to purchase member-only or member and family coverage. The completed form and premium payment for coverage must then be submitted to the member’s TRICARE regional contractor by the applicable deadline for processing. TRS Reserve Component qualification certification for Tier 2 and Tier 3 started in July and ends Oct. 31, 2006.
Since the exact procedures to qualify for TRS Tier 2 and Tier 3 coverage may vary by Reserve Component, National Guard and Reserve members are encouraged to contact their unit or personnel office without delay for Service-specific guidance. TRS Tier 2 and Tier 3 coverage begins Oct. 1, 2006, for members whose request form and premium is postmarked or submitted to a TRICARE Service Center Aug. 1 through Sept. 25, 2006. TRS coverage begins Jan. 1, 2007, for members whose request form and premium is postmarked or submitted Sept. 26 through Nov. 25, 2006. TRS Tier 1 members must contact their Reserve Component to obtain qualification guidance. Service members can review TRS program eligibility requirements at http://www.defenselink.mil/ra/. For additional information about the TRS benefit for members of the selected reserve, including open enrollment dates for TRS tiers two and three visit: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/reserve/reserveselect/index.cfm
TRICARE Enhances Maternity Ultrasound Benefit
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) recently changed the maternity ultrasound policy, making ultrasounds easier to obtain when medically necessary. Ultrasounds for medical necessity have always been part of TRICARE’s maternity benefit; however, they were formerly covered as a service within the global fee for prenatal care and delivery services. As of April 4, 2006, the policy was changed to have TRICARE cover medically necessary maternity ultrasounds separate from the global delivery fee. Specific conditions for which TRICARE will cover include the following:
Estimating gestational age
Evaluating fetal growth
Conducting a biophysical evaluation for fetal well-being
Evaluating a suspected ectopic pregnancy
Defining the cause of vaginal bleeding
Diagnosing or evaluating multiple gestations
Confirming cardiac activity
Evaluating maternal pelvic masses or uterine abnormalities
Evaluating suspected hydatidiform mole
Evaluating the fetus’s condition in late registrants for prenatal care
For more information about the enhanced maternity ultrasound benefit, visit TRICARE’s Web site at http://manuals.tricare.osd.mil and click on the TRICARE Policy Manual, Change 39, which was posted on April 4, 2006. To link directly to this news release go to: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/news/news.aspx?fid=21