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November 1, 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 and type “subscribe” in the subject line

In this Issue:

  • New Legislation Would Mandate In-State Tuition for Children of Active Duty Military
  • House Subcommittees Discuss Tax Breaks for Servicemembers
  • Retiree COLA to increase 2.3% in 2008
  • Army Increases Funding For Support Groups, Child Care and Counseling
  • DoD to Unveil New Disability System
  • Disparities in Disability Pay Addressed by Congress
  • Fall Flu Shots Are Just What the Doctor Ordered
  • TRICARE Seeks And Listens to Input on Its New Website
  • TRICARE Beneficiaries: Don’t Get Stuck With the Bill – Get Preauthorization
  • New Online Resource Can Help TRICARE Beneficiaries Deal With Life's Challenges
  • TRICARE Adds Coverage for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Screenings for Breast Cancer
  • SOAR to Assist in Transition of Military Families
  • Sesame Workshop Creates New DVD for Injured Veterans
  • Baby-Go-To-Sleep Music Therapy Offers Free Audio Book to Parents
  • Organization Assists Military Families and Veterans
  • The Soldier Support Foundation Helps Transitioning Veterans
  • DeCA Pulls Baker’s Chocolate Baking Squares
  • DeCA Pulls Certain Pediatric Cold Medicines
  • America Sends More Than $5 Million to Help Troops Call Home
  • Holiday Deadlines Rapidly Approaching for Troop Support
  • AAFES to Giveaway Deluxe Disney Vacation

New Legislation Would Mandate In-State Tuition for Children of Active Duty Military
The House Military Quality-of-Life Subcommittee is debating a bill (HR 3780) that would make in-state college tuition available to the children of active duty military families who are stationed in that state per government orders. The bill aims to level the playing field for military children who have to move from state to state and who might not qualify for in-state tuition. However, there may be resistance to the bill from Congress members and state representatives who are reluctant to see Congress mandate tuition rates for state run colleges.

In recent years, in-state tuition has become a major focus of military organizations and thanks to a combined effort on the part of the Department of Defense, military parents, associations, and state legislatures, thirty-three states now provide in-state tuition to military children residing in their state. However, seventeen states do not offer in-state tuition. To learn more about the DoD’s in-state tuition initiatives please visit

House Subcommittees Discuss Tax Breaks for Servicemembers
The House Ways and Means Subcommittees on Select Revenue Measures and Income Security and Family Support held a joint hearing on October 17 on the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007 (HR 3594). The Act would make the following changes: <br>
  • make permanent the provision that permits active duty individuals to make penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans;
  • make permanent and modify qualified mortgage bonds used to finance residences for veterans;
  • make permanent the ability to include combat pay as earned income for purposes of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
  • extend the limitation period for filing tax refund claims resulting from Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) disability determinations;
  • make permanent the authority of the Social Security Administration to disclose tax return information to the Department of Veterans Affairs for purpose of determining eligibility for certain veteran programs;
  • permit recipients of military death benefit gratuities to roll over the amounts received, tax free, to a Roth IRA or an Education Savings Account;
  • permit an employer to make certain contributions to a qualified plan on behalf of an employee who was killed in combat;
  • for purposes of meeting the requirements of the uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), treat the day prior to the date of death as the date the employee returned to work for purpose of triggering payment of survivor benefits (or other beneficiary payments) under a qualified plan;
  • treat differential wage payments made by an employer to an employee who becomes active duty members of the uniformed services as wages for retirement plan purposes;
  • provide equitable treatment of most military cash allowances, beyond basic pay, for purpose of determining eligibility and benefit amounts for military families;
  • disregard certain annuity payments paid specifically to blind veterans for purpose of determining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility and benefits under the SSI program; and
  • disregard any benefits or allowances paid to Americorps volunteers for purpose of determining eligibility and benefits under the SSI program.

In connection with the hearing, the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation has published Select Tax and Social Security Benefit Issues Relating to Military Personnel, Volunteer Firefighters, Peace Corps Volunteers, and Americorps Volunteers, which is available at [Source:]

Retiree COLA to Increase 2.3% in 2008
Military retirees will enjoy a 2.3 percent increase in their annual cost-of-living allowance beginning December 1, 2007. The Cost-of-Living Allowance or COLA is an allowance paid to Servicemembers stationed in high-cost areas overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii). COLA helps maintain purchasing power so individuals can purchase about the same goods and services overseas as in the United States. The increase applies not only to military retired pay but also to disability retired pay and military survivor annuities. More information about cost-of-living allowances for retirees is available from the DFAS website: [Source:]

Army Increases Funding For Support Groups, Child Care and Counseling
Army families will benefit from $1.4 billion of funding in fiscal year 2008 in accordance with the goals of the new family action plan. The money will fund a number of family readiness and support programs such as FRGs, child care, camps, and counseling. The decision to allocate extra funding to families was announced at the AUSA Annual Meeting, where both Army Secretary Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey spoke of the need to ensure families continue to be supported during deployments. Currently, the extra funds will come out of the last supplemental defense budget approved by Congress for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means that the funds will expire after twelve months. The Army’s overall goal, however, is to standardize funding for family programs to ensure consistency and availability of services and programs. [Souce:]

DoD to Unveil New Disability System
Military Times reports that the Department of Defense will soon launch an improved disability evaluation system. The new system will streamline the disability rating process and ensure better coordination between the DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The plan is part of an ongoing effort to decrease the amount of time it takes for veterans to receive benefits and to make the process less confusing and cumbersome for veterans. [Source:]

Disparities in Disability Pay Addressed by Congress
The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on October 16 to investigate continued regional disparities between disability claims rating and benefits administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration. Following a GAO report issued in 2003, which noted that disability benefits were being awarded inconsistently, the VA has taken steps to improve its service to veterans. However, in testimony, Jon Wooditch, the deputy VA inspector general, told subcommittee members that disparities continue. According to Wooditch, the differences are in some cases the result of demographic factors over which the VA has no control, such as such as the branch of the service, period or length of service, or number of dependents. However, subjective differences in how raters evaluate cases are probably the cause of many of the disparities. The VA has introduced new training to improve raters’ objectivity and accuracy, especially in cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Testimony from the hearings is available at [Source:]

Fall Flu Shots Are Just What the Doctor Ordered
Fall is the best time to get the flu vaccination in the United States, according to health officials. This gives the body a chance to build up immunity before the winter flu season. TRICARE beneficiaries should check with their local military treatment facility or primary care manager to find out when and where they are offering the flu vaccine. It is strongly recommended that the following people get vaccinated each year: all children aged six months to their fifth birthday; adults aged 50 years and older; persons with underlying chronic medical conditions; pregnant women; health care workers involved in direct patient care; child care and elderly care workers; and persons at high risk for severe complications from influenza. TRICARE will cover the flu shot for beneficiaries, as long as it is administered in a doctor’s office. Flu shots administered in a civilian pharmacy or drugstore are not covered by TRICARE. For TRICARE for Life beneficiaries, Medicare covers flu vaccinations and TRICARE would pay as second payer, if needed. TRICARE covers two types of vaccinations; the inactivated vaccine containing a killed virus and given with a needle, and the nasal-spray flu vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. For more information about influenza visit [Source:]

TRICARE Seeks And Listens to Input on Its New Website
When the TRICARE Management Activity launched its new website in July, their objective was to make it easier for beneficiaries to find the information they need about their benefit. With close to 900,000 visitors in its first full month, the website appears to be quite popular; and valuable feedback from many of those visitors is helping TRICARE to make the site even better. TRICARE officials say they can make the website even better with the continued help of their beneficiaries. Officials hope that every website visitor who had difficulty or has a suggestion will go to and leave a detailed message, so the web team can work on the problem. [Source:]

TRICARE Beneficiaries: Don’t Get Stuck With the Bill – Get Preauthorization
When a TRICARE beneficiary needs hospital care, he or she can usually be confident that the benefit will cover everything involved with inpatient care. In some cases, however, TRICARE beneficiaries need preauthorization to get the health care procedures that are not routine, such as an MRI. Those who are in TRICARE should ask their regional contractors about the specific medical care being considered before scheduling an appointment to be sure TRICARE coverage will apply. If beneficiaries have other health insurance they need to follow the rules of the other plan. Generally, they won’t need preauthorization for TRICARE-covered services that would otherwise require it. Exceptions include adjunctive dental care, the Extended Care Health Option, hospice, stem cell and organ transplants, and some behavioral health care services. To verify if preauthorization is necessary, beneficiaries may contact their regional contractors: North Region: 1-877-TRICARE (1-877-874-2273); South Region: 1-800-444-5445; West Region: 1-888-874-9378. [Source:]

New Online Resource Can Help TRICARE Beneficiaries Deal With Life's Challenges
A new online educational resource offers TRICARE beneficiaries a secure, safe environment to seek information, educational materials and self-assessment tools on behavioral health, addiction and recovery, life events and daily living skills. “AchieveSolutions” can be accessed through the behavioral health link in the beneficiary resources area of the Humana Military Healthcare Services’ (HMHS) website at HMHS is the managed care contractor for the TRICARE south region. Resources provided on the Website, which are offered in both English and Spanish, include: access to self-referral tools, behavioral health program information, interactive self-assessment applications with solutions, health risk assessment tools and benefit information. AchieveSolutions also contains over 6,000 articles covering more than 200 topical areas such as: information on advocacy, emotional well-being, family concerns, dealing with illness, loss and grief, alcoholism and substance abuse. [Source:]

TRICARE Adds Coverage for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Screenings for Breast Cancer
The TRICARE Management Activity recently changed its policy adding coverage for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screening for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Anyone who meets the criteria for a breast MRI will be covered by TRICARE, retroactive to March 1. If any qualified beneficiaries received this care on or after March 1, 2007 and it was denied, they can resubmit their claim for reimbursement. Breast cancer is the third most common cancer among TRICARE beneficiaries and the second most common cause of cancer death for women in the United States. An individual’s level of risk can be influenced by a number of factors including age, family history and race. Doctors can advise their patients of their individual risk factors, but even women of average or low risk should be vigilant. [Source:]

SOAR to Assist in Transition of Military Families
The Military Impacted Schools Association has partnered with The Princeton Review, Houghton Mifflin and the University of Northern Iowa to implement SOAR for military students. Students On-line Assessment Resources is being developed for all children of military personnel.

When military families receive orders to their next assignment, children will be able to go on line and pull up the assessments for their next school district/state. When they take the assessments, the tests will identify the areas where children will need additional assistance. Students can then go to tutorials developed by the University of Northern Iowa to receive additional assistance in the identified area before they ever arrive at their new school. Students/parents can also present the results of their assessment to the new school personnel, which can assist in student placement. SOAR will be implemented and training provided at five school districts this year. The program will then be expanded next year.

For further information contact Cathy Williams (402) 850-4025 or John Deegan (402) 293-4005. Learn more about MISA at

Sesame Workshop Creates New DVD for Injured Veterans
The Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the popular children’s TV show Sesame Street, has created a new DVD kit to help the children of injured veterans. The new DVD follows upon the success of the “Talk, Listen, Connect” DVD, which was designed to help military parents with preschool children discuss deployment. In the new DVD, the muppet character Rosita is upset because her father has returned home from an absence in a wheelchair. With help from her friends, Rosita begins to talk to her family about how she feels and gradually learns that to adjust to the new situation. To learn more about the Sesame Workshop’s efforts to support military families and to obtain a copy of “Talk, Listen, Connect”, please visit [Source:]

Baby-Go-To-Sleep Music Therapy Offers Free Audio Book to Parents
The Baby-Go-To-Sleep audio therapy recordings combine music and nursery rhyme with the sound of a heart beating to help babies fall asleep. The recordings are commonly used in day care centers and hospitals. Now the creators of Baby-Go-To –Sleep are offering their audio book “Getting Your Baby to Sleep - Made Easy” free to parents through the website The audiobook may be listened to with a media player. Military parents can also receive discounts on other products and free shipping.

Organization Assists Military Families and Veterans
The Armed Forces Support Coalition is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in March 2006 to assist members of the Armed Forces and their families from Southwestern Colorado and the Four Corners Area who do not have immediate access to installation services. While the Southwestern Colorado and the Four Corners Area continues to be its primary geographic focus, the charity has provided assistance in other parts of the country. The Coalition provides financial assistance, information and referrals to military families and to veterans. It also encourages public support of the military through publicity and special programs. To learn more, please visit

The Soldier Support Foundation Helps Transitioning Veterans
The Soldier Support Foundation assists Soldiers, families and communities by providing transition assistance to members of the Armed Forces who are returning to their communities. It provides our Servicemembers with access to reputable and established resources to use as tools for transitioning back to civilian life. The Foundation has a nationwide resource network that can help veterans with housing, employment, counseling, and financial assistance. Learn more at

DeCA Pulls Baker’s Chocolate Baking Squares
Commissaries worldwide pulled from its shelves Baker’s Premium White Chocolate Baking Squares (6-ounce package) because the product may be contaminated with salmonella. Kraft Foods had issued the voluntary product recall on Oct. 3, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The recall only affects Baker’s Premium White Chocolate Baking Squares, UPC 0043000252200, with the following case expiration and package "best when used by" dates: 31 MAR 2008; 01 APR 2008; 02 APR 2008; 03 APR 2008. Consumers with food safety questions can contact Kraft Consumer Response at 1-800-310-3704. Commissary patrons who have this product at home should stop consuming it and return the unused product with the label to the store from which they purchased it for a full refund. [Source:]

DeCA Pulls Certain Pediatric Cold Medicines
Commissaries worldwide removed from the shelves several brands of over-the-counter pediatric cold medicine amid concerns that the products could lead to overdoses for children under the age of 2 years. Products manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare and Prestige Brands Holdings, Inc (NYSE-PBH) were voluntarily withdrawn from the market, the companies said in separate announcements Oct. 11. To view the list of medicines withdrawn please view the DeCA press release. . Commissary patrons who have these products at home should stop using them. They can return the product to the store of purchase for a refund. Consumers seeking additional information on the Little Colds® voluntary withdrawal may contact the Consumer Affairs Department of Prestige Brands at 1-800-7-LITTLE (1-800-754-8853).

America Sends More Than $5 Million to Help Troops Call Home
“Help Our Troops Call Home” allows anyone, even non-authorized exchange shoppers, to send Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards to individual Servicemembers (designated by the sender) or to “any Servicemember” through a variety of charitable partners. Since the program’s inception, 129,912 individual orders for more than 214,000 phone cards have been purchased. More than 24,000 have been earmarked for “any Servicemember” and distributed via charities such as the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Soldier & Family Assistance Center and USO. By simply logging on to or calling 800-527-2345, friends, family members and even civic groups can take part in the “Help Our Troops Call Home” effort by sending any one of three Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards, including a 550-minute denomination card capable of providing more than two hours of call time from any of 69 phone centers in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait to the United States. [Source:]

Holiday Deadlines Rapidly Approaching for Troop Support
While the holidays may still seem far away, Americans hoping to show their support to deployed troops must be aware of some rapidly approaching deadlines. According to the Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA), mail going parcel post must be sent by Nov. 14 while first class mail must be sent by Dec. 10 to arrive by Dec. 25. In addition to deadlines, several other factors must be considered when sending mail downrange. For example, each country has customs regulations that apply to all incoming mail, pertaining to everything from food items to reading materials. Furthermore, military units may also have additional restrictions concerning incoming mail imposed by unit commanders relative to size and weight to ensure logistics support can handle the heavy mail load. Finally, all packages and mail must now be addressed to individual Servicemembers as required by U.S. Department of Defense regulations.

In order to help facilitate the mailing process and avoid many of the obstacles that come with the traditional care packages, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) created "Gifts from the Homefront," a campaign that allows anyone to make a direct and tangible contribution to military morale with a gift certificate that can be redeemed for nearly anything a specific
Servicemember wants. "Gifts from the Homefront" can be sent to deployed troops by logging on to or by calling 877-770-4438. From there, the gift certificates are sent to individual Servicemembers (designated by the purchaser) or distributed to "any Servicemember" through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America's Heroes,
Fisher House, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Operation Homefront, Operation Interdependence R or USO. "Gifts From the Homefront" gift certificates can be redeemed at exchange facilities worldwide. [Source:]

AAFES to Giveaway Deluxe Disney Vacation
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is partnering with Disney watch maker Seiko Instruments to offer military families an opportunity to experience the magic of a Disney vacation with an exclusive, military-only sweepstakes. The winner of the “Disney Sweepstakes” will receive a vacation for four, including five-day-four-night deluxe hotel accommodations, airfare from any city in the world and a four-day pass to a Disney World amusement park, all with an estimated value of $10,000. Now through Dec. 24, exchange shoppers can enter to win the “Disney Sweepstakes” at BX/PX locations worldwide. No purchase is necessary to enter and entrants do not have to be present to win. The only requirement to enter is a military identification card authorizing contestants to shop at AAFES (see entry forms for complete details). The “Disney Sweepstakes” drawing will take place in February 2008. AAFES will award prizes within 30 days of the drawing. [Source:]