October 15, 2007
Family Programs Update
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
- Army Leadership Focuses on Army Families at AUSA Annual Meeting
- AUSA Military Family Forum II Stresses Need to Support Military Children
- AUSA Family Programs Featured on Army Wife Talk Radio
- Commission Releases Report on Veterans Care and Benefits
- VA Secretary Calls for End to Pay Delays for Veterans
- Employer-Paid TRICARE Supplemental Plans to End
- Sweeping Changes to Military Mental Health Care Services Planned
- Survey Shows State Support for Military Families
- New DoD Predatory Lending Regulation Takes Effect
- Military One Source Offers a New Counseling Service
- Military Youth Coping With Deployment: Resources from Military Homefront
- Army Launches Benefits Website
- USAREUR Eases Travel for Soldiers and Families
- Share the Honor With a Freedom Team Salute Commendation
Army Leadership Focuses on Army Families at AUSA Annual Meeting
The opening ceremony of the AUSA Annual Meeting began with a commitment from the Army’s leadership that support to Army families would be enhanced and expanded to meet the continued strain of war. The Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Pete Geren, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George W. Casey, Jr., elaborated on the Army’s initiatives to support families during AUSA’s Military Family Forums.
Speaking at Family Forum I, General Casey and his wife Sheila shared feedback they had received from Army family members while visiting installations. The Caseys acknowledged that Army families are experiencing enormous strain because of deployments. Gen. Casey continued by noting that although Army families remain strong and resilient, the Army must take action to ensure that family readiness programs continue to meet the needs of Soldiers and families who are experiencing continued and multiple deployments.
The Army leadership’s goal is not to introduce new family readiness initiatives but to improve and enhance those that already exist. To this end, the Army is committed to standardizing and funding family readiness and child and youth programs, providing quality healthcare, increasing opportunities for education and employment, and continuing to improve family housing.
Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, Jr., Chief of the Army Reserve, and his wife Lauralyn also spoke at Forum I about the importance of ensuing that Reserve Component families – who often live far away from installations – still have the same access to support programs and services as active duty families. The Stultzes gave an overview of a new online resource known as Virtual Installations, which seeks to connect all Army families to information about services and benefits.
Gen. Casey described the Army’s new approach to Army families as a covenant emphasizing that the Soldier’s strength comes from the support of their families and that the Army must in turn provide for and support those families.
AUSA Military Family Forum II Stresses Need to Support Military Children
Speakers at AUSA’s second family forum drew attention to the special needs of military children who are facing the deployment of a parent. Deployments can be traumatic for children who often lack ability to express their concerns and fears and may develop behavioral problems. Parents and caregivers therefore need to be alert to the different ways that children respond to stress.
Vicki Johnson, a social worker, Army spouse and advice columnist, suggested some methods to help children cope with stress including discussion groups that allow children to talk about their concerns, programs to help children develop coping skills, and activities such as drama and art.
Dr. David Callies of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington, gave an overview of a program he established to help children with parents deployed identify and cope with their feelings through problem-solving activities. The program also seeks to train local school counselors and teachers about how to help military children in school.
Representatives from the Military Child Education Coalition also introduced a new initiative to help military children. Dr Mary Keller, MCEC’s Executive Director, and Patty Shinseki, a member of the coalition's Board of Directors, described "Living in the New Normal: Supporting Children through Trauma and Loss” as a program to support children as they cope with the death or injury of a military parent. The program is especially important for children of Reserve Component Servicemembers who are left out of the support networks available at installations. More information about the work of MCEC is available at http://www.militarychild.org.
AUSA Family Programs Featured on Army Wife Talk Radio
Sylvia Kidd, AUSA’s Director of Family Programs, recently made an appearance on Army Wife Talk Radio, an Internet radio show run by two Army wives, Star Henderson and Tara Crooks. The show is broadcast weekly and features up to date information, special reports, as well as stories and interviews specifically tailored to army wives. To hear Ms. Kidd’s segment please visit http://www.ArmyWifeTalkRadio.com and search the archives for show 129: Week of October 1, 2007.
Commission Releases Report on Veterans Care and Benefits
The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission released a 562-page report on October 3 detailing a number of recommendations to improve financial and medical support to veterans. The recommendations included a 25% increase in disability compensation, a streamlined claims process, improved compatibility between DoD and VA healthcare systems, and measure to ensure that disability board procedures are revised to ensure better recognition of Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of the proposals would have to receive congressional approval in order to be put into effect. However, similar measures are already proposed in the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act which looks set to be passed later this year. The purpose of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission is to carry out a study of the benefits under the laws of the United States that are provided to compensate and assist veterans and their survivors for disabilities and deaths attributable to military service, and to produce a report on the study. More information about the Commission and their study is available at http://www.vetscommission.org/.
VA Secretary Calls for End to Pay Delays for Veterans
Jim Nicholson, the outgoing Secretary of Veterans Affairs, spoke recently in favor of steps to reduce the amount of time it takes for veterans to receive disability pay. Currently it can take months for veterans to start receiving payments. Nicholson noted that his successor would need to cope with increased strain on the VA system and disconnects between the VA and Department of Defense medical systems. A new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has not yet been named. [Source: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,150623,00.html?ESRC=marinenews.RSS ]
Employer-Paid TRICARE Supplemental Plans to End
Thousands of military retirees face the loss of TRICARE supplemental insurance plans offered by their employers. The change is the result of a new law passed by Congress last year to prevent companies, state and local governments, from reducing healthcare costs by encouraging employees to forego employer-provided health plans in favor of their TRICARE benefits. The supplemental insurance coverage which employers then provide covers TRICARE co-pays and other additional expenses. Retirees may now have to pay the supplemental out of their own pocket or try to obtain employer provided healthcare benefits. [Source: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,150697,00.html]
Sweeping Changes to Military Mental Health Care Services Planned
Congress recently received a detailed plan to improve the level of mental health care offered to Servicemembers and their families. The plan is based on 95 recommendations for change made by the Task Force on Mental Health and reported to Congress in June. The goal is to make the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs healthcare systems more patient-centered by encouraging providers to be more aware of patient perceptions and experiences of healthcare. The Task Force has also made several recommendations to streamline the medical bureaucracy and to improve support to family members. Congress also continues to examine ways to improve diagnosis and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The plan also emphasizes the need to educate military and civilian leaders about PTSD in an effort to reduce the stigma that some Soldiers and veterans may feel.
Survey Shows State Support for Military Families
A new survey from the National Governor’s Association indicates that more states are seeking to support members of the military and their families. The Association surveyed the 50 states and Puerto Rico about programs and benefits they provide to National Guard and Reserve members in six categories: family support; education; licensing and registration; tax and financial; state employees; and protections, recognition and employment. Fifty-one states and territories offer some type of family support while 43 offer educational benefits. Thirty-nine states offer tax or financial relief and about half offer state employees additional benefits. North Carolina is noteworthy for providing benefits in all six categories. A copy of the NGA survey is available at http://www.nga.org/guardsurvey.
New DoD Predatory Lending Regulation Takes Effect
The Department of Defense today put into effect a new regulation that protects service members and their families from high-cost, short-term loans. The regulation limits the fees and interest that creditors can charge on three specific types of loans: payday loans, vehicle title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans. These three products were targeted because they have high interest rates, coupled with short payback terms. Payday loan and vehicle title loans can often lead to a cycle of ever-increasing debt. Refund anticipation loans provide seven to 14-day advances on tax refunds, but at a high cost to the borrower. The financial stress Servicemembers and their families suffer in turn causes a decline in military readiness.
The new regulation is part of wide-ranging DoD efforts to increase ‘financial literacy’ among Servicemembers and their families. These efforts include 24/7 access to confidential financial planning and counseling, a variety of financial readiness training courses, improving the availability of small low-interest loans from financial institutions, promoting the practice of setting aside a $500 emergency savings account, and educating Servicemembers on the availability of counseling, grants, loans and other services from military aid societies. In addition to counseling available through a Servicemember’s chain of command, legal assistance office or military aid society, DoD offers several online resources to Servicemembers and their families:
The final regulation in effect today was released August 31, 2007. It can be viewed online at:
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/07-4264.pdf . [Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11369]
Military One Source Offers a New Counseling Service
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has contracted with Military One Source (MOS) for a new program. Starting Oct. 15, MOS will offer a Short-Term Solution Focused Telephonic (STSF-T) Consultation Program for military families stationed in Europe. The STSF-T Consultation Program, which will include up to six sessions per person, per issue and will be consistent with the in-person counseling service available via Military OneSource in the continental U.S. The service is available by phone and online and at no cost to active duty, guard and reserve, regardless of activation status, and their families. It offers help with information concerning child care, personal finances, emotional support during deployments, relocation and other valuable information. The toll-free numbers from each country as well as other information on Military One Source is available by logging on to http://www.militaryonesource.com.
Military Youth Coping With Deployment: Resources from Military Homefront
Military Youth Coping with Military Deployment is a program designed especially for teenagers and young adults whose parents or family members are deployed. The Department of Defense is aware of the challenges of being in a military family and appreciates all that you do to support your deployed family member. The goal of this program is:
- to support you and your family
- to help you learn what to expect during deployment
- to help you develop skills to get through deployment successfully
- to help members of the community to understand what you and your family are going through
To learn more about the program and to explore the materials offered please visit http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil and select the link to Troops and Families and then Children and Teens.
Army Launches Benefits Website
The Soldiers' Benefit Services website is now the Army's official one-stop resource for all benefits information. Located at http://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil, the website contains the most current benefit information for active-duty and reserve-component Soldiers, retirees and family members. Active-duty Soldiers - to include Reservists and National Guard members serving on active duty - also have access to calculators that figure survivor, disability and retirement benefits. Users must have their Army Knowledge Online password to access current Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System data. The site features more than 150 fact sheets - in both English and Spanish - grouped by Army component, life event, index and state/territory. Subjects include pay, education, family services, health care, life insurance, transitioning and retirement, Soldier services and social security. Grouping information by state and territory helps users quickly find local information and sources. The site will also help Casualty Assistance Officers provide surviving family members a clear, accurate report of benefits. [Source: http://www.army.mil/-news/2007/10/02/5218-army-launches-benefits-web-site/]
USAREUR Eases Travel for Soldiers and Families
The U.S. Army Europe is implementing a new policy to ensure Soldiers and their families are able to reach their duty stations the same day they arrive in Europe. In the past, Soldiers have had to spend a night with the 64th Replacement Detachment at Pioneer Kaserne in Hanau, Germany, before an initial briefing early the next day and before being bused to their units of assignment. To further help reduce the stress of travel for Soldiers and families, USAREUR also plans to establish a reception facility close to the Frankfurt International Airport. [Source: http://www.army.mil/-news/2007/10/01/5121-usareur-policy-changes-ensure-same-day-service-for-new-arrivals/]
Share the Honor With a Freedom Team Salute Commendation
Freedom Team Salute is an official program sponsored by the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff to recognize and honor members of the Army family to include all parents, spouses and, in the case of Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, their employers. There is no cost to participate. Anyone can honor a U.S. Army Veteran. Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Soldiers can honor their parents, spouse, and employer. Recipients of a Freedom Team Salute Commendation package will receive:
- Official Army Lapel Pin (mounted on a card)
- Official Army Decal
- Certificate of Appreciation signed by both the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army
- Letter of Thanks signed by both the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army
To learn more about Freedom Team Salute or to submit someone’s name for a commendation visit http://www.freedomteamsalute.com.