September 1, 2007
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 37
In this issue:
- AUSA Military Family Forums at the 2007 Annual Meeting
- AUSA Fort Lewis Chapter Holds Event to Support Surviving Spouses
- Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2007
- Bush Administration to Propose Improved Disability Package for Veterans
- Army Releases Data from Suicide Study
- National Launch of Heroes at Home Helps Veterans with Housing
- Changes to Survivor Benefit Plan Announced
- Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy While on the Move
- Results of Army Family Study Released
- IMCOM Emphasizes Fire Prevention and Safety
- SDDC Launches Campaign to Make Military Families Aware of Full Replacement Value Policy
- 1,000 Free Oil Changes Offered to Military Families
- AXPOW Members Should Be Alert to Data Theft
- AAFES Launches Super Summer Sweepstakes
- Commissaries Encourage Families to Celebrate Family Day
- Strict Safety Standards Keep Fresh Chicken Off Commissary Shelves in Korea
AUSA Military Family Forums at the 2007 Annual Meeting
AUSA Family Programs will 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, which runs from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8, will focus on how the Army is responding to the needs of Soldiers and families. General George W. Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, and his wife, Sheila, will be the featured speakers. General and Mrs. Casey will share feedback from Army family members and describe what steps the Army is taking to ensure that families have the tools and resources to manage the strain of multiple and lengthy deployments.
In addition, leaders from Walter Reed Army Medical Center will also provide an update about how the Army has addressed concerns raised earlier this year over the treatment and care of Soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forum I will also provide an overview of several new initiatives to support Soldiers and families, including the new Soldier Benefits Service (SBS) and the Military Family Life Consultants Program.
Military Family Forum II on Tuesday, October 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., brings together a series of experts to discuss the impact of war and deployment on families. The first half of the Forum will deal specifically with the issue of children and deployment. Jeanette Betancourt of the Sesame Workshop will join us to provide an update on the success of the Talk, Listen, Connect DVD Kit which is designed to help preschool children cope with deployment. Dr. Mary Keller and Patricia Shinseki will talk about the Military Child Education Coalition’s efforts to support military children and a new community-based program meant to ease the burdens of military families whose loved ones are deployed. Dr. David Callies, Chief of Child and Family Services in Fort Lewis’s department of psychology will discuss how the Army is supporting military parents and children.
Other speakers include Meredith Leyva of CinCHouse.com who will introduce the newly founded Wounded Warrior Wives Program, an initiative to provide support to women who have become caregivers to loved ones recovering from injury. Vicki Johnson will draw on her experience as an Army wife and a clinical social worker to offer advice to help military families. Ms. Johnson has written the “Dear Ms. Vicki” column in the Fort Campbell newspaper for almost two years.
Military Family Forum III takes place from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, October 10 and features the inspiring and often heartbreaking stories of members of the Army community who are often forgotten – the parents of Soldiers. Deborah Tainsh and Carol Graham, both of whom lost sons in the war in Iraq, will be with us to talk about their families’ experiences and the journey towards healing and recovery. Mary Ward, the mother of infantryman Sean Ward, will share the inspiration behind her book Letters Home: From 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Military Mom Shares Her Family's Story of Patriotism, Courage and Love. Sergeant Major Bruce Stowe and his son will also join us to speak about their relationship and the experience of being deployed together.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that Forum speakers and topics may be subject to change. We recommend that you frequently check the Family Programs website at www.ausa.org/family for updated information about the Forums.
AUSA Fort Lewis Chapter Holds Event to Support Surviving Spouses
AUSA’s Fort Lewis Chapter partnered with Army Retirement Services recently to hold a Surviving Spouse Appreciation Day. The event was intended to recognize the sacrifice made by military spouses and to assist them by providing information about support services and benefits. Spouses who had lost their loved ones in Vietnam as well as those who had lost Servicemembers in more recent conflicts were invited to the event to connect with other military survivors and to learn about available resources. In all, approximately 300 surviving spouses attended the event. To learn more about the Fort Lewis Chapter or to contact a chapter officer please visit http://www.ausafortlewis.com/.
Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2007
Legislation introduced into the House and the Senate in January would allow concurrent receipt of both military retired pay and VA disability compensation, regardless of disability rating. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced S 439 while Representative Gus Bilrakis (R-FL) introduced HR 303. Both bills have been referred to committee.
Bush Administration to Propose Improved Disability Package for Veterans
A new legislative initiative being prepared by the White House would provide Servicemembers who are found unfit for duty because of injuries sustained during combat or in training for combat with a lifetime annuity from the Defense Department. Servicemembers would still receive TRICARE benefits for life and other VA disability compensation. The amount of the annuity would be calculated using a formula similar to that used to calculate retired pay and would be dependent on the number of years served. Details of the legislation are still being worked out by DoD and VA officials but it is likely to be presented to Congress in September. More information about the legislation is available from Military.com.
Army Releases Data from Suicide Study
In mid-August the Army released the results of its 2006 Army Suicide Event Report, which tracks suicide attempts and completions and the factors involved. The report showed that in 2006 there were 99 suicides within the Army, 30 of which occurred in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is an increase from 87 suicides in 2005 and 67 in 2004. The study cited failed personal relationships and occupational, legal and financial problems as the main contributing factors. The report did not find a direct relationship between increased deployments and suicides. It was noted, however, that increased deployments put strain on Soldiers and on their relationships and other studies have found that longer and more frequent deployments have increased the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
During the report briefing Army officials emphasize the steps the Army is taking to reduce the incidence of suicide, including an a initiative to hire more mental health professionals and a new training program designed to educate all Soldiers about post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries and stress. Additionally, the Army will take data from the current Suicide Event Report and incorporate it into their suicide prevention and training program. Information about how to contact the Army’s sucide prevention program is available here. [Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47074]
National Launch of Heroes at Home Helps Veterans with Housing
Heroes at Home is a new program focused on helping injured Servicemembers, veterans and military families who need home repairs or modifications. The program is the result of a partnership between Rebuilding Together, the nation’s leading all volunteer home rehabilitation organization, and Sears Holdings Corporation. To make a donation to Heroes at Home or to find out more about the program, go to http://www.RebuildingTogether.org/HeroesatHome or call 1-800-473-4229.
Changes to Survivor Benefit Plan Announced
Effective October 1, 2008, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) participants who reach 70 years of age and have made 360 payments (30 years), will no longer have to pay premiums for continued SBP coverage and will be placed in “Paid-up SBP” status. No action is required of SBP participants to be placed in Paid-up SBP status. Once the eligibility criteria has been met, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will automatically stop deducting premiums from qualifying military retired pay accounts. The law establishing Paid-up SBP does not allow for refunds of premiums paid prior to October 1, 2008, even though a retiree may have reached 70 years of age and made 360 or more premium payments. [Source: http://www.dfas.mil/news/2007pressreleases/release07070003.html]
Some TRICARE Prime Networks May be Cut
Proposed new TRICARE contracts to take effect in 2009 may have an impact on access to TRICARE Prime in some locations. Writing in his Military Update column, correspondent Tom Philpot reports that some 168,000 Prime enrollees could lose access to their networks under a plan to reduce the number of Prime Service Areas and would have to pay higher out of pocket fees. The change would primarily affect retirees, spouses, and survivors living more than 40 miles from a military treatment facility (MTF) or Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) site. More information about this issue is available here.
Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy While on the Move
To help military families manage the stress of moving the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences has issued a fact sheet with tips about how to keep track of medical needs. Some of the advice includes requesting a summary of medical records and prescriptions in case a health emergency occurs in transit and asking for extra refills of important medications. Learn more here.
Results of Army Family Study Released
The Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command (FMWRC) has recently released a 2007 update to its long term study of Army families entitled “What We Know About Army Families.” The report highlights some of the demographic changes affecting Army families and how families are responding to increased deployment. The study also looks at how families utilize Army family services and other resources. The study, along with other reports, is available on the FMWRC website.
IMCOM Emphasizes Fire Prevention and Safety
As a result of two recent house fires on military posts the Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM) is stressing the importance of ensuring that smoke detectors are operating correctly in all family quarters. Smoke alarms can save lives and should never be disconnected. If a smoke alarm activates due to cooking or other non-fire causes it can be shut off by waving a towel near the detector. Family members should also take steps to test that their smoke detectors are in working order on a regular basis and should plan and practice a fire escape drill two times a year. For more information about how to prevent and prepare for fire emergencies military personnel and their family members should contact their installation fire department. Online fire safety information is also available from the US Government Fire Administration.
SDDC Launches Campaign to Make Military Families Aware of Full Replacement Value Policy
The Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is spreading the word that most personal property shipments will be eligible for full replacement value (FRV) starting in fall 2007. FRV protection is available at no additional cost to DoD members. For personal property lost, damaged or destroyed while in the care of the Transportation Service Provider (TSP), the member can recover the greater of $5,000 per shipment or $4.00 times the weight of the shipment (in pounds) up to a maximum of $50,000 as compensation for loss. However, to receive FRV claims must be filed with the transportation company within nine months of delivery. Visit the SDDC website to learn more about FRV coverage and to download forms. The SDDC website also has a link to a customer satisfaction survey which allows military families to give feedback about their moving experience.
1,000 Free Oil Changes Offered to Military Families
Chevron and Texaco Xpress Lube, in conjunction with Operation Homefront and CinCHouse.com, are offering free oil changes to military families with a deployed or injured loved one. The program, called Operation Havoline Star, will provide military families with one free oil change redeemable at participating Texaco Xpress Lube locations across the country through December 31, 2007. To learn more about the program and to request a gift certificate please visit https://www.operationhomefront.net/chevron.asp.
AXPOW Members Should Be Alert to Data Theft
A break-in at National Headquarters for the American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW) resulted in the theft of several computer hard drives as well as mail, checks, and paper files. Some of these records contain the personal information of AXPOW members. Authorities have been notified of the theft but members should be alert for possible fraudulent use of their personal information. [Source: http://www.military.com/veterans-report/personal-information-stolen-from-axpow-headquarters]
AAFES Launches Super Summer Sweepstakes
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and Game Zone are giving military shoppers a chance to win a prize-packed gaming experience in the “Exchange Online Store Super Summer Sweepstakes.” Consisting of a Nintendo Wii gaming console, remote and four games, 32” Sharp AQUOS HDTV, Logitech Z-5500 Digital speaker system and Nunchuk controller, the sweepstakes prize package boasts a total approximate retail value of $2,600. Now through Sept. 15, AAFES shoppers 18 years of age and older in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia can enter to win the “Exchange Online Store Super Summer Sweepstakes” by logging onto http://www.aafes.com. While only one entry is allowed per day, there is no limit to the amount of entries throughout the course of the sweepstakes. The winner will be selected in a random drawing on or about Sept. 21, 2007.
Commissaries Encourage Families to Celebrate Family Day
Commissary officials are encouraging military families to enjoy a meal together on Monday, Sept. 24, to support Family Day, a national movement that encourages parental involvement in the lives of America’s children as a way of decreasing the odds of substance abuse.The Family Day initiative was founded by CASA, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. DeCA plans to encourage commissary customers to participate in Family Day with a gift certificate sweepstakes during the month of September, underwritten by Family Day national sponsor The Coca-Cola Company. [Source: https://www.commissaries.com/press_room/press_release/2007/DeCA_79_07.cfm]
Strict Safety Standards Keep Fresh Chicken Off Commissary Shelves in Korea
The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) pulled fresh chicken from commissary shelves in the Korean theater in September 2006 after military food inspectors noted higher-than-normal bacteria levels in the chicken during routine testing. Frozen poultry imported from U.S. suppliers is readily available in all U.S. Forces Korea commissaries, but fresh poultry will not be returning to stores until military food inspectors are satisfied that local processing facilities meet DeCA’s rigid standards. Learn more about DeCA’s food safety inspection process here.