August 15, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 36
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:
- Military Students Highlight Transition Challenges at MCEC Conference
- House Approves Defense Spending Bill; Includes 3.5% Pay Raise
- Indiana Governor Signs Military Family Leave Act
- Oregon Offers Tax Credit Incentives to Health Care Providers Serving Military Families
- Federal Voting Assistance Program Website Enhanced
- Army Announces Initial Success in Improving Medical Care for Troops
- President’s Commission Releases Report on Wounded Warrior Care
- Changes to TRICARE Reserve Select Program Effective October 1st
- TRICARE Prime Travel Reimbursement Assists Beneficiaries Traveling for Care
- Army Responds to Research on Impact of Deployment on Children
- Affiliate Program Seeks to Raise Awareness of CRSC and TSGLI
- DoD Launches New Employment Assistance Website
- New Website Offers Resources for Teachers
- VA’s Suicide Hot Line Begins Operations
- A Survivor's Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of Our Own Has Been Updated
- Full Replacement Coverage for Household Goods Available Soon
- Beach Homes for the Brave Program Launched to Support Veterans and Injured Servicemembers
- Free Financial Planning for Injured Servicemembers
- Artists Honor Fallen Heroes
- Awards Help Military Families
- Operation Give a Hug Helps Children Cope with Deployment
- AAFES Welcomes New Commander
- AAFES Places ‘Speed at Checkout’ on the Fast Track
Military Students Highlight Transition Challenges at MCEC Conference
Sylvia Kidd, AUSA’s Director of Family Programs, recently attended the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. MCEC is dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges faced by military children because of the mobility of their lifestyle. The Conference, which draws military leaders and experts in the field of education, features workshops and panels designed to spotlight initiatives to support military children.
This year’s conference also included a panel of military students who provided first hand insight into how frequent school transitions affected their lives and those of their peers. Students from Korea expressed frustration because of the lack of extracurricular activities and because certain classes taken did not transfer between schools. Currently there are about 4,000 children of US military personal in school in Korea but that number is set to increase as command sponsored positions double. To prepare for this change the number of school counselors has been increased. School officials in Korea are also looking at ways to help children make connections with other students before they arrive at a new school as well as ensuing that they have all the information they need about the school, the community, and activities.
MCEC and the Department of Defense have also been active in working with the Council of State Governments to encourage states to sign memoranda or agreements recognizing each others’ graduation requirements so students don’t have repeat classes when they move. To learn more about MCEC and its work on behalf of military children please visit http://www.militarychild.org. More detail about this year’s MCEC Conference and the Teen Panel is available here.
House Approves Defense Spending Bill; Includes 3.5% Pay Raise
On Sunday, 4 August, the House passed the fiscal 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill (HR 3222) approving almost $460 billion for defense programs, increased personnel levels, military healthcare, housing and benefits. The bill also includes a 3.5% pay raise for Servicemembers to take effect in January 2008. Further consideration of the bill will take place following the August recess. More detail about this bill is available here.
Indiana Governor Signs Military Family Leave Act
On July 1 2007, Indiana joined a growing number of states that have passed Military Family Leave Acts in an effort to ease the burden faced by Reserve and National Guard families. In general, such laws allow certain family members of mobilized and deployed military personnel to take periods of unpaid leave leading up to or immediately following deployment or during a leave period while the military member is still deployed. Under the Indiana Military Family Leave Law employers with 50 or more employees must provide 10 days of unpaid leave to the spouse, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the person who is ordered to active duty. The Act requires employers to continue the employee's healthcare benefits at the employee's expense and to reinstate the employee when the leave ends. To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months prior to the leave date and must have worked at least 1,500 hours. Employees must also request the leave 30 days in advance, when possible. Currently, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York have passed similar military family leave laws. More information about eligibility and procedures for the Indiana military family leave policy is available in PDF format from the Indiana State website.
Oregon Offers Tax Credit Incentives to Health Care Providers Serving Military Families
The State of Oregon recently passed legislation featuring a tax incentive package to encourage health care providers to support military families by participating in TRICARE, the health care plan for the uniformed services, retirees, and their families. The incentives include a one-time tax credit of $2,500 for new providers in the TRICARE system, plus an additional annual credit for treating patients enrolled in TRICARE. It also creates a deduction from federal taxable income in the first two years of a provider's participation in the TRICARE system. [Source: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=304]
Federal Voting Assistance Program Website Enhanced
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which helps US citizens living overseas, including military personnel, to vote, now allows visitors to its website to save their completed Online Federal Post Card Application (OFPCA) and Online Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (OFWAB) to their computer for future use, using an Adobe Acrobat Reader version of 7.0 or higher. This could be useful for someone who may expect to move frequently between now and the November 4, 2008 election to be prepared for sending mailing address updates to the local election official. The FVAP can be contacted from the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands with any questions via a toll-free telephone service at 1-800-438-8683 and from 67 countries using the specific international toll-free numbers listed on the FVAP website: http://www.fvap.gov. Questions regarding the above may also be referred to the Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Department of Defense, 1155 Defense Pentagon or by email to email@example.com. [Source: http://www.fvap.gov/pubs/releases/2007/10-2007.html]
Army Announces Initial Success in Improving Medical Care for Troops
The Army is making progress in meeting the goals of the Army Medical Action Plan (AMAP) to improve Soldiers’ medical care, according to Army leaders. The first phase of the AMAP focused on procedural and structural changes designed to make transition easier for wounded Soldiers and their Families. The Army Medical Command now places wounded Soldiers in Warrior Transition Units comprised of 12 Soldiers and one squad leader. In addition, each Soldier has a primary-care manager and a nurse case manager to provide medical oversight and coordination. The Army is also using web-based technologies to facilitate Soldiers’ access to review board records and to link the DoD’s Personnel Records Retrieval System to the Department of Veterans Affairs to electronically transfer records needed to initiate VA benefits. The Army is also making greater efforts to support family members and to ensure that Soldiers are treated in facilities closer to their family homes. Other initiatives are focused on streamlining the administrative processes that Soldiers face when applying for benefits and services and reviewing training and doctrine to ensure greater recognition and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
President’s Commission Releases Report on Wounded Warrior Care
On July 31, 2007, the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors released its final report with six recommendations to improve access to medical care, services and benefits for injured Servicemembers. Created on March 6, 2007 by President George Bush, the nine-member Commission co-chaired by Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala was tasked with completing a comprehensive review of the military’s healthcare system. During its tenure the Commission visited military medical centers and VA centers, heard briefings by medical experts and agency officials and surveyed injured Servicemembers. The Commission made six broad recommendations:
- Implement a patient-centered recovery plan for every seriously injured Servicemember
- Restructure the disability rating system
- Improve treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Increase the level support provided to families of injured troops
- Implement systems to ensure rapid transferal of patient information between DoD and VA
- Ensure that Walter Reed Army Medical Center has necessary staffing and funding until scheduled closure in 2011
To download the Commission’s report and to learn more about its work please visit http://www.pccww.gov.
Changes to TRICARE Reserve Select Program Effective October 1st
The enhanced TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) program will begin October 1, 2007. Currently, TRS has three-tiers of coverage and six premium rates. The enhanced TRS will have only one premium amount for each type of coverage. In addition, TRS all members of the Selected Reserve will be eligible for TRS regardless of any active duty served, with the exception of those are currently covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits. Current enrollees will soon be receiving a letter from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, the Honorable Thomas Hall, informing them of the change and of certain requirements they must fulfill by September 30, 2007 to continue in the program. The enrollments of those presently in the TRICARE Reserve Select program will be terminated as of September 30th. Before that date, those who wish to continue in TRS should make plans to re-enroll under the new program. The TRICARE Management Activity plans to have the enrollment forms available online by August 11th. A complete overview of the changes can be found at the TRICARE website at http://www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/home/overview/Plans/ReserveSelect.
TRICARE Prime Travel Reimbursement Assists Beneficiaries Traveling for Care
TRICARE Prime beneficiaries referred by their primary care manager for specialty services at a location more than 100 miles from their provider’s location may be eligible to have their reasonable travel expenses reimbursed by TRICARE. Beneficiaries must have a valid referral and travel orders prior to traveling, and file a travel claim upon their return. This can be requested at the military treatment facility (MTF) or from the TRICARE Regional Offices (TRO) if the doctor is a TRICARE network provider. Reasonable travel expenses are the actual costs incurred by the beneficiary when traveling to their specialty provider. Costs include meals, gas, tolls, parking, and tickets for public transportation (i.e., airplane, train, bus, etc.). Beneficiaries must submit receipts for expenses above $75. The MTF or TRO will provide the beneficiary with specific instructions on how and where to submit his or her travel entitlement claim. Government rates are used to estimate the reasonable cost. Beneficiaries are expected to use the least costly mode of transportation. Costs of lodging and meals may be reimbursed up to the government per diem rate. This benefit does not apply to travel expense for specialty care experienced by active duty uniformed Servicemembers, or active duty family members residing with their sponsors overseas, which are reimbursed by other travel entitlements. [Source: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=305]
Army Responds to Research on Impact of Deployment on Children
The August issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association included a report that showed Army children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect when a parent is deployed as a result of parental stress. An abstract of the study is available at http://www.jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/298/5/528. In response to the study the Army’s leadership is stepping up efforts to educate parents about how to recognize and to prevent child abuse and to encourage them to seek help if they feel overwhelmed. U.S. Army Europe and Installation Management Command-Europe, for example, offers a number of programs for spouses of deployed soldiers — often services that are underutilized. Army families also have access to the Family Advocacy Program, which is specifically geared to identify child abuse and neglect and to provide intervention and counseling. Information about the Army Family Advocacy program is available from Army Community Service centers and from the My Army Life Too website. [Source: http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=55360&archive=true]
Affiliate Program Seeks to Raise Awareness of CRSC and TSGLI
The Army is planning a new grassroots effort to increase awareness of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) and Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI). The CRSC and TSGLI programs will partner with Veterans Service Organizations and Retiree Service Officers to educate veterans about eligibility, benefits, and the application process. CRSC is a monthly payment provided to military retirees with a combat related disability and 20 or more years of service to replace the VA disability offset. More information about CRSC is available at https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/index.html. TSGLI provides severely injured Soldiers with a one-time payment to offset financial hardship during hospitalization and recovery. Learn more about TSGLI at https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/tsgli/index.html.
DoD Launches New Employment Assistance Website
The Department of Defense has created the TurboTAP website to help veterans who encounter difficulty returning to their old jobs after returning from deployment or need to find new jobs and Servicemembers who are transitioning to civilian life. The site allows military members to create an individualized transition plan and features job listings and job search resources. Information about benefits and relocation is also available.
New Website Offers Resources for Teachers
Military spouses working as teachers have a new web resource in the form of TheApple.com. The website is an online magazine and forum for teaching professionals featuring career advice, job listings, a scholarship finder, information on certification standards, lesson plans and other teaching tools.
VA’s Suicide Hot Line Begins Operations
To ensure veterans with emotional crises have round-the-clock access to trained professionals, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a national suicide prevention hot line for veterans. The toll-free hot line number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The mental health professionals staffing the hot line will take toll-free calls from across the country and work closely with local VA mental health providers to help callers. [Source: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1363]
A Survivor's Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of Our Own Has Been Updated
The DoD publication A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits was recently updated. The guide is intended to aid the survivor as he or she works through the difficulty and pain of losing a loved one who was serving in the military. It provides an overview of the application for benefits and entitlements process for families of deceased Servicemembers. The guide can be downloaded at http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil/survivorsguide.
Full Replacement Coverage for Household Goods Available Soon
The Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) has announced that full replacement value coverage will be provided for household goods during PCS moves. The new coverage begins on October 1, 2007 for shipments to and from overseas (including Hawaii); on November 1, 2007 for domestic moves to the lower 48 states and Alaska; and on March 1, 2008 for permanent storage shipments. The policy change applies to Servicemembers and Department of Defense civilians. To obtain full coverage Servicemembers must file a claim with the moving company within nine months of receipt of the household goods. Additionally, damage visible when the delivery is made must be immediately reported to the moving company on form DD Form 1840. Damage noticed after completion of the delivery must be reported to the moving company on DD Form 1840R within 75 days of delivery. If a claim is filed after nine months but before the two-year deadline for filing then the moving company is only liable for the depreciated value of the lost or damaged items. To learn more about the new coverage and about how to file a claim for damage or loss of household goods visit the SDDC’s website.
Beach Homes for the Brave Program Launched to Support Veterans and Injured Servicemembers
“Beach Homes for the Brave” is a new program for military veterans and those wounded while serving in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. This program provides the war veterans with a complimentary weekend getaway to Palm Island, Florida. The program includes free ferry transportation to the island, lodging in a fully furnished beachfront home, meals at the Palm Island Resort’s Rum Bay Restaurant, complimentary golf carts and other resort-like privileges on the island. David and Holly Haynes, who own and operate Tarpon Real Estate in Cape Haze, Florida, decided to start the program to provide wounded Servicemembers with the opportunity to enjoy a stay on Palm Island. They asked beach home owners if they would like to offer their beachfront homes to the Servicemembers and their families and about 50 owners volunteered their homes. Local businesses also joined the program.
Free Financial Planning for Injured Servicemembers
Severely injured Servicemembers face an array of difficult and unique financial challenges as they re-enter their lives at home. To help address this issue, the Project for Financial Independence recently offered to assist Heroes to Hometowns, a Department of Defense program created to help severely injured military members, by providing pro bono financial planning assistance to these individuals. For more information about the Project for Financial Independence, visit http://www.consultaplanner.org. To learn more about Heroes to Hometowns, log on to http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil/heroes. Injured Servicemembers who are interested in receiving free financial planning should contact their local Heroes to Hometowns representative.
Artists Honor Fallen Heroes
Project Compassion is bringing comfort to the families of fallen Servicemembers by providing them with an original gallery quality oil on canvas painting of their loved one, free of charge. Kaziah Hancock, the project’s founder, and her team of volunteer artists create the portraits based on photographs provided by family members. The Project Compassion website has more information about how to request a portrait plus an online portrait gallery of the artists' works.
Awards Help Military Families
This year a total of $75,000 was awarded to projects supporting veterans and military families by a consortium of grant-giving organizations. The Newman’s Own Foundation, the Fisher House Foundation and the Military Times Media Group offered a challenge to volunteer organizations that presented an innovative plan to support military families. This year’s winners included the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which provides transition support to wounded Servicemembers who are reentering civilian life, and Operation VALOUR IT, which provides specialized laptops to military hospitals for injured troops.
Operation Give a Hug Helps Children Cope with Deployment
Operation Give a Hug was created in 2004 by Susan Agustin, an Army wife and mother, to help children with a parent deployed remain connected to their absent parent. The program distributes special dolls with a place for a picture of the absent parent’s face. The program is sponsored by The Kiwanis Club of Greater Tacoma Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization.
AAFES Welcomes New Commander
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) welcomed its new commander on August 15. Brig. Gen. Keith Thurgood will take command of the $8.9 billion military retailer from Maj. Gen. Bill Essex. During General Thurgood’s more than 24 years of service, he has been assigned to a variety of command and staff positions, including command at company, battalion and brigade levels. His overseas assignments include an extended tour in Germany and multiple training assignments in Japan and Korea. General Thurgood is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advance Courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Brigham Young University, a Masters of Science in Business Administration from Boston University, a Masters in Strategic Studies from the Army War College and a Ph.D. in Candidate Organizational Management and Leadership from Capella University. [Source: http://www.aafes.com/pa/news/07news/07-064.htm]
AAFES Places ‘Speed at Checkout’ on the Fast Track
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is refocusing its efforts on “speed of service” at central checkouts. Now if a checkout associate, supervisor or even someone in customer service sees more than three people in line, they are expected to immediately open another register. In addition to AAFES’ pledge to open additional registers anytime more than three shoppers are in line, BXs and PXs across the globe are holding recurring training to ensure enough checkout lanes are opened and staffed to keep lines moving quickly.