AUGUST 1, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 35
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 Military Family Forums at the 2007 Annual Meeting
- FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill Put on Hold
- Senate Passes ‘Wounded Warrior’ Bill
- DoD Seeks Additional Funds for Mine Resistant Vehicles
- Proposal to Expand VA Care to Priority 8 Veterans Meets with Controversy
- Legislation Challenges New DoD ID Cards Because of Security Concerns
- Some Servicemembers’ Personal Data Put at Risk
- Bank of America Warns Customers of “Phishing” Scam
- VA Ordered to Pay Veterans with Agent Orange Connected Illness
- Homeless Veterans Receive Support through VA Grants
- Army Reserve Launches Family Network Project
- Survey Needs Feedback from Army Reserve Families
- Military Spouses Sought for Employment Study
- Army Expands Family Readiness Support Assistant Program
- DoD Increases Rest and Recuperation Period for 15-Month Tours
- IMCOM Issues Advice to Families PCSing from Europe this Summer
- DoD Creates “Red Cell” to Review Servicemembers’ Mental Health Care
- Army Implements Program to Teach Soldiers about Brain Injuries; PTSD
- American Legion Acts to Support Injured Troops
- Charity Supports Injured Troops by Providing Specially Adapted Housing
- Government Website Features State-by-State Guide to Disability Resources
- TRICARE Coverage Continues for College Students
- Sesame Workshop Seeks Your Vote for American Express Members Project
- Consumers Warned of Botulism Danger in Certain Brands of Hot Dog Chili Sauces
- Commissaries Recall Gerber ORGANIC Rice, ORGANIC Oatmeal Cereals
AUSA Military Family Forums at the 2007 Annual Meeting
AUSA Family Programs is pleased to announce that it will again host three Military Family Forums at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Convention to be held October 8-10 at the Washington, DC, Convention Center.
- Military Family Forum I
2:00 to 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8
The Chief of Staff of the Army's Views on Army Initiatives to Support Families
- Military Family Forum II
8:30 to 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9
The Impact of War: Helping Families and Children Cope
- Military Family Forum III
9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 10
Parents' Stories: Experiences of Having a Child in War
Anyone attending the AUSA Annual Meeting is also welcome to attend the Forums. However, reservations are recommended to ensure seating. An online registration form is available at http://www.ausa.org/familyprograms. Click on the link to the “Military Family Forums” and scroll down the page to the registration form.
For further information about the AUSA Family Forums please contact the Family Programs staff at 800-336-4570, ext. 151 or by e-mailing email@example.com. We recommend that you frequently check the Family Programs website at www.ausa.org/family for updated information about the Forums.
In addition, during the Annual Meeting AUSA Family Programs will also host the AUSA Family Programs Pavilion on the main exhibit floor featuring a variety of organizations which support military families. AUSA Family Programs will also have a booth in the AUSA Pavilion.
FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill Put on Hold
On Wednesday, 19 July, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the Fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 1585) when it became clear that there would not be enough votes to end debate on an amendment that would require U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by April 2008. Senator Reid, who is the majority leader, announced that he would temporarily set aside the bill until September. The $648 billion bill contains funds for a number of military programs as well as enhancements to military pay and compensation.
Senate Passes ‘Wounded Warrior’ Bill
On Wednesday, 25 July, the Senate passed by voice vote the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007 (HR 1538). In addition, the Senate also provided for a 3.5 percent pay raise for members of the military to take effect at the beginning of 2008. The bill is specifically designed to address shortfalls in the care and treatment of injured Servicemembers which were identified in a series of Washington Post articles in February 2007.
One of the bill’s primary goals is to ease the bureaucratic hurdles that injured troops face when transitioning from the Department of Defense to Veterans Affairs and to ensure proper oversight of medical care for injured Servicemembers.
The legislation was originally introduced into the Senate as S 1606 in June. The House passed its version of the measure (HR 1538) in late March and then attached it to the 2008 defense authorization bill. Although the defense authorization bill was pulled from the Senate floor after it became clear that it would not pass, Senators decided to salvage the provisions dealing with the care of wounded warriors. The bill will now go to a conference with the House.
DoD Seeks Additional Funds for Mine Resistant Vehicles
The Department of Defense has asked Congress for permission to transfer funds from other Army programs in order to ramp up production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. The vehicles have a v-shaped hull which has proven better at deflecting the explosive force of a blast than armored humvees. If approved, the DoD will be able to increase its total MRAP order to 6,415 vehicles. An estimated 3,500 vehicles are expected to be delivered to Iraq by Decemebr 31. [http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=46782]
Proposal to Expand VA Care to Priority 8 Veterans Meets with Controversy
A provision of the Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Enhancement Act (S 1233), which passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in late June, would allow so-called “Priority 8” veterans to enroll for care in veterans’ hospitals. Priority 8 veterans are those who do not have a service-connected disability and whose annual income is higher that $27,790. A law passed in 2003 prohibited their enrollment. Some Senators believe the measure would have a negative impact on an already overwhelmed VA system and potentially jeopardize the level of service offered to newer wounded veterans in need of urgent care. The bill has now passed to the full Senate for a vote. Military.com has more analysis of this debate: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,139877,00.html
Legislation Challenges New DoD ID Cards Because of Security Concerns
The House Ways and Means Committee has introduced legislation that would prevent the Department of Defense from issuing the new Common Access Card (CAC). CAC cards are gradually replacing old ID cards and do not have the holder’s Social Security Number on the card but instead encode the information in the magnetic strip. According to the Army Times, however, the Committee does not believe that this security measure provides CAC card holders with enough protection from identity theft. The Social Security Number Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2007 may still be amended to include an exception for military ID cards.
Some Servicemembers’ Personal Data Put at Risk
The personal information of nearly 900,000 Servicemembers, their families and other government employees may have been compromised while being processed by the defense contractor SAIC under several health care data contracts for military service customers. SAIC remedied the security lapses upon learning of them and began working with the customers to mitigate any potential impact. An investigation has not yielded any evidence that any personal information was actually compromised; however, the possibility cannot be ruled out. SAIC is notifying approximately 580,000 households, some with more than one affected person. For more information, go to http://www.saic.com/response.
Bank of America Warns Customers of “Phishing” Scam
Customers of Bank of America, which issues the government travel card used by government employees, are being warned about a new email scam. Customers have been receiving an email, purporting to be from Bank of America, which tries to trick them into divulging personal data by informing them that they need to upgrade their account information. This type of “phishing” scam, in which a phony email is disguised as a legitimate communication from a financial institution, is now one of the most common types of email fraud. If you should receive a suspicious email do not give away any personal information. Instead, contact your bank to ensure that there is not a problem with your account. Bank of America has a fact sheet about identity theft and fraud on its website.
VA Ordered to Pay Veterans with Agent Orange Connected Illness
The Associated Press reports that a federal appeals court recently issued a ruling that the Department of Veterans Affairs should pay retroactive disability benefits to Vietnam War veterans who suffer from a type of leukemia contracted through exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange. In 2003 the VA extended benefits to Vietnam veterans who had developed chronic lymphocyctic leukemia but it did not reexamine past claims from veterans nor did it pay benefits retroactively. Information about the VA’s benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange is available at http://www1.va.gov/agentorange/. [Source: http://www.ap.org/, 07/19/07]
Homeless Veterans Receive Support through VA Grants
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a number of special programs and initiatives to help homeless veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. The VA recently announced that it will give $24 million worth of grants to organizations in 37 states which provide transitional housing to homeless veterans. More information about the VA’s homeless programs is available at http://www.va.gov/homeless.
Army Reserve Launches Family Network Project
Army Reserve Family Programs hopes to connect Army Reserve Families through a new email based program. Reserve family members can volunteer to provide their email addresses and will be notified when a family in their area is requesting a connection with another family. Learn more at http://www.arfp.org/famnet.
Survey Needs Feedback from Army Reserve Families
Army Reserve Families are being sought to participate in a study: "Impact of Reunification on Soldier Families - A Longitudinal Study." The study will look at the impact of the reunification process on Soldier’s families. The families will only need to answer surveys that will be sent to them in pre-paid envelopes during the study. Families interested in participating in this study should contact Dr. Peggy McNulty directly at 808-956-5226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to learn more.
Military Spouses Sought for Employment Study
The RAND Corporation, a private, nonprofit, public policy research institute, is conducting a study for the Department of Defense on military spouse employment. It is seeking to interview female spouses currently residing in the United States whose employment is in fields perceived to be complementary to military life such as nursing, education, finance and accounting, and information technology. To learn more about the study please visit https://milspouse.rand.org/milspousestudy.php.
Army Expands Family Readiness Support Assistant Program
The Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command is expanding the Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) program to create an FRSA position in each deployable battalion, brigade, division and corps headquarters, Army-wide. FRSAs primarily assist unit Family Readiness Groups by providing administrative support and training. The plan to expand the program will increase the number of FRSAs from slightly fewer than 400 to 1,100 and will also ensure central funding and the addition of the FRSA position to unit manning documents. [Source: http://www.army.mil/-news/2007/07/20/3868-army-extends-family-readiness-support-assistants-to-battalions/]
DoD Increases Rest and Recuperation Period for 15-Month Tours
The Department of Defense has approved a policy change to the U.S. Central Command Rest and Recuperation Leave Program, increasing the time provided to Servicemembers for rest and recuperation in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The change increases the R&R leave period from 15 to 18 chargeable days for those Servicemembers deploying to the OEF and OIF area of operations for 15 months. The amended policy became effective July 13, 2007, applies to military personnel only and is not retroactive. Servicemembers serving one-year tours will continue to receive 15 days of chargeable R&R leave. Information on the R & R program is available at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/randr/default.asp. [Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11137]
IMCOM Issues Advice to Families PCSing from Europe this Summer
As a result of transformation and rebasing initiatives in Europe many more military families are expected to be leaving Germany to return to the United States this summer creating one of the highest household goods shipment demand surges in more than a decade. Due to capacity limitations, customers in Heidelberg, Mannheim, Darmstadt, Baumholder, Wiesbaden, and Hessen areas who have not yet scheduled their moves can expect pick-up services after August 3. The Installation Management Command-Europe is advising customers living in affected areas to visit their local transportation office immediately.
DoD Creates “Red Cell” to Review Servicemembers’ Mental Health Care
At a hearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee on July 12, 2007, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, S. Ward Casscells announced that that the Department of Defense has created a “red cell” priority action team to analyze and to implement the findings of the DoD’s Task Force on Mental Health Summit held in June. Red Cell members include experts in the field of psychological health and traumatic brain injury drawn from both the Active Army and Reserve Component. Over the next few months the Red Cell will review the Summit’s recommendations and consult with stakeholders before producing a draft White Paper for DoD senior leaders by September 12, 2007. AUSA has been an observer at meetings of the Task Force. To view the Assistant Secretary’s testimony click here.
Army Implements Program to Teach Soldiers about Brain Injuries; PTSD
The Army recently announced that it is launching an aggressive campaign to ensure that all Soldiers are aware of the symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Army intends to reach more than 1 million Active, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers worldwide within the next 90 days through "chain teaching," a process where leaders train their immediate subordinate leaders in small groups, who then in turn train those whom they lead, who in turn train the next level of leadership and so on, further down the line, until all Soldiers have received the required training. It is hoped that using a chain teaching technique will help erase the perceived stigma that discourages Soldiers from seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns. Information regarding the chain teaching program and other behavioral health programs is located at http://www.behavioralhealth.army.mil. The Army Medical Department's site provides resources and mental well-being information for Soldiers and their family members. More information is available here.
American Legion Acts to Support Injured Troops
The American Legion is acting to help wounded troops evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Legion hopes to raise $50,000 to purchase clothing, personal care items and other supplies to give to wounded Servicemembers. Many arrive at Landstuhl with few, if any, personal belongings. To learn more about the Legion’s efforts please visit http://www.legin.org and click on the link for “Operation Landstuhl.” The Legion also runs the Heroes to Hometowns program to assist severely injured veterans returning to civilian life.
Charity Supports Injured Troops by Providing Specially Adapted Housing
Homes for Our Troops assists severely injured Servicemembers and their families by building specially adapted houses or adapting pre-existing homes to an individual’s disability needs. To continue its service, the non-profit organization needs help in the form of donations of money, building materials and professional labor. To learn more about the program please visit http://www.homesforourtroops.org.
Government Website Features State-by-State Guide to Disability Resources
DisabilityInfo.gov, a collaborative effort among twenty-two federal agencies, is a one-stop website for people with disabilities, their families, employers, veterans and Servicemembers. The website has recently been enhanced to include a state and local resources map so that visitors to the site may locate programs and information in their state. To browse through state information, just select one of the nine subject tabs — benefits, civil rights, community life, education, employment, health, housing, technology or transportation — at the top of any DisabilityInfo.gov page. Then click on the State and Local Resources map on the right-hand side bar to find information on that subject in your state. You can also subscribe to receive e-mail updates on information and resources in your state. Learn more at http://www.disabilityinfo.gov.
TRICARE Coverage Continues for College Students
TRICARE coverage for military children normally ends at age 21. But full-time students enrolled at an accredited institution of higher education with a sponsor providing more than 50 percent of financial support may be eligible for TRICARE coverage until age 23, or when their full-time student status ends, whichever comes first. Only family members of active duty or retired service members are eligible for this benefit. To prevent a lapse in TRICARE coverage, TRICARE officials remind students to call or visit the nearest uniformed services ID card-issuing facility and ask about documentation needed to extend benefits beyond their 21st birthday. It’s important to make changes before turning 21 to avoid automatic termination of TRICARE coverage. The nearest ID card-issuing facility can be located at http://ww.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl/owa/home. [Source: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=295]
Sesame Workshop Seeks Your Vote for American Express Members Project
The Sesame Workshop has joined the American Express® Members Project to help military families with deployment. The Members Project provides American Express® Cardmembers with the opportunity to raise awareness of a project that will have a positive impact in the world. American Express will fund the winning idea with up to $5 million. To vote, please visit http://www.membersproject.com/ and go to #01372 "Helping Military Families with Deployment."
If it is successful, the Sesame Workshop hopes to use the funds to expand on the success of the Talk, Listen, Connect DVD which features the popular Sesame Street character Elmo and is designed to help preschool children cope with the absence of a parent because of deployment. The PBS special program about the DVD, When Parents Are Deployed, featuring Cuba Gooding, Jr. was recently nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Learn more about the Sesame Workshop at http://www.sesameworkshop.org/.
Consumers Warned of Botulism Danger in Certain Brands of Hot Dog Chili Sauces
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to eat certain brands of hot dog chili sauce listed in a July 18 voluntary recall because of possible botulism contamination. To learn which brands are listed in the recall, please visit the commissary website. Food safety officials at the Defense Commissary Agency said that DeCA carries two of the 10 product brands mentioned – Castleberry Hot Dog Chili Sauce (UPC: 03030000101) and Castleberry Chili with Beans (UPC: 03030001015). Commissary patrons who have any of these products at home should stop using it, empty the contents in the trash, take the product label off the can and return the label to the store from which they purchased it for a full refund. Castleberry recommends calling 1-888-203-8446 for any questions about this recall. Consumers can also call the FDA at 1-888-SEAFOOD for updates.
Commissaries Recall Gerber ORGANIC Rice, ORGANIC Oatmeal Cereals
Commissaries worldwide have been directed to remove from their shelves all packages of 8–ounce Gerber ORGANIC Rice and ORGANIC Oatmeal cereals due to a potential choking hazard. All codes of Gerber ORGANIC Rice and ORGANIC Oatmeal Cereals in 8–ounce boxes are being recalled. The following UPC numbers can be found on the bottom right side of the box:
- Gerber ORGANIC Rice, UPC Code 15000 12504.
- Gerber ORGANIC Oatmeal, UPC Code 15000 12502.
Commissary patrons who have either of these products at home should stop using it and return the product to the store from which they purchased it for a full refund. Consumers can also call the Gerber Parents Resource Center 1–800–443–7237 or 1–231–928–3000 to return the product and receive a full refund. [Source: http://www.commissaries.com/news/news_2007/DeCA_69_07.cfm]