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November 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 and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

In this issue:

  • House Approves Tax Relief Legislation
  • New Career Initiative for Military Spouses Announced
  • New Legislation Affects TRICARE Supplements
  • "Recovery Coordinators" Planned for Wounded Warriors and Their Families
  • NAMI Launches Veterans Resource Center on Mental Health
  • Internet-Based Treatment for PTSD Shows Potential
  • Military OneSource Announces Short-Term Solution-Focused Telephonic Consultation
  • Military Health System Reaches Out to Grieving Families and Units
  • TRICARE Beneficiaries Win in the Battle to Increase Provider Network
  • Health Net Federal Services Launches Kids Journal
  • AUSA’s Kansas City Chapter Helps Injured Soldier and Family
  • Agencies Assist Military Families Affected by California Wildfires
  • VA Clarifies Policy on Flag-Folding Recitations
  • Transition Resources Available in One Place
  • Defense Department Consolidates, Redefines Abuse Policies
  • Holiday Deadlines Rapidly Approaching for Troop Support
  • Group Emphasizes Value of Reading to Children
  • Military Bloggers Compile New Book
  • HRCPOA Needs Help Spreading Christmas Cheer
  • Boatsie's Boxes Launches Holiday Care Package Drive
  • Wyeth Announces Voluntary Recall of Several Robitussin Products
  • Operation Forward Santa Makes Gift Giving Easy for Troops
  • Military Exchanges Make it Easier to Use Gift Cards
  • Moving With Your Pets: AKO Provides Quarantine and Vaccination Information

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

House Approves Tax Relief Legislation
On November 6 the House overwhelmingly approved the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007 (HR 3997). The
legislation would amend the tax code to make permanent provisions relating to the earned income tax credit, mortgage bond financing for veterans, and tax-free distributions from the retirement plans of active duty military personnel. It would also enhance pension plan benefits for active duty personnel and their survivors and allow tax-free rollovers of military death gratuities and life insurance benefits into survivor Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs) and education savings plans. The bill is now ready for consideration by the Senate. The full text of the legislation is available at

New Career Initiative for Military Spouses Announced
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao will sign the Military Spouse Career Advancement Initiative on November 14, 2007. The Secretaries of Defense and Labor are jointly offering Career Advancement Accounts for military spouses at 18 installations in eight states. The initiative will support military spouse training and education to help them successfully enter, navigate and advance in portable occupations and careers. [Source:]

New Legislation Affects TRICARE Supplements
Many TRICARE beneficiaries are getting letters from their employer to notify them that the employer will no longer offer TRICARE supplements as an employer sponsored medical option effective January 1, 2008. A provision of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2007 prohibits employers from offering their employees financial or other incentives to use TRICARE rather than the company’s Group Health Plan (GHP). The legislation applies to any employer, including states and units of local government with 20 or more employees, and mirrors the same prohibition that currently applies to Medicare.

Beneficiaries have earned their right to TRICARE benefits through their service and this remains unchanged. TRICARE beneficiaries should take measures to understand all of their health care options offered by TRICARE and their current employer before deciding what is best for them and their families. Eligible beneficiaries can enroll in TRICARE on their own without taking employer incentives if desired. The legislation was initiated after evidence showed many employers were consciously working to shift their health care costs to TRICARE by offering financial incentives urging eligible employees to use TRICARE rather than the employer’s GHP.

"Recovery Coordinators" Planned for Wounded Warriors and Their Families
The Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) recently signed an agreement to provide federal recovery coordinators who will ensure life-long medical and rehabilitative care services and other federal benefits are provided to seriously wounded, injured and ill active duty Servicemembers, veterans and their families. Under this agreement the first group of federal recovery coordinators will be provided by VA in coordination with DoD and will be assigned to select military treatment facilities throughout the nation.

The coordinators will support existing military service and veteran programs and care providers by coordinating needed services between DoD and VA and state and private and voluntary organizations, while serving as the ultimate life-long resource for wounded, ill and injured and their families who may have concerns about federal services or benefits. The first ten federal recovery coordinators are scheduled to be hired by December 1, 2007 and plans call for the new employees to be trained and in place at the military’s major health care facilities during January 2008. [Source: ]

NAMI Launches Veterans Resource Center on Mental Health
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has established an online Veterans Resource Center to help support active duty military personnel, veterans and their families facing serious mental illnesses such as depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To visit the site, go to and click on the link for the Veteran’s Resource Center on the right of the page. The Center’s resources include a growing compilation of fact sheets, self-help information, online discussion groups, research and policy updates, and links to government agencies and other private organizations. [Source:]

Internet-Based Treatment for PTSD Shows Potential
A report in November’s issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates that a self-managed online program of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) was more effective at reducing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression than Internet based counseling. The report is based on a pilot study run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. CBT helps patients process traumatic memories therapeutically, understand and manage symptoms, and correct maladaptive thoughts and behavior. These initial results for online self-management CBT point to a possible means to deliver rapid and effective PTSD treatment to a large population. [Source:]

Military OneSource Announces Short-Term Solution-Focused Telephonic Consultation
In an effort to further increase access to support services, Military OneSource now offers Short-term Solution-Focused Telephonic (STSF-T) Consultation. While referrals to non-medical face-to-face counseling sessions continue for those stationed in United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the new expanded service provides a telephonic consultation option for those who are unable to attend face-to-face counseling sessions due to their overseas location or other circumstances.

Both the STSF-T Consultation and the face-to-face counseling sessions may help individuals with issues such as adjustment to situational stressors, stress management, decision making, communication, grief and loss, blended family issues, and parenting skills. As with face-to-face counseling, STSF-T provides up to six sessions of consultation per person, per issue. Military OneSource is available anytime worldwide to all active duty, Reserve, National Guard members, their families, as well as deployed civilians and their families. To find out more, call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 (CONUS), or 800-3429-6477 or 484-530-5908 (OCONUS). For more information on calling from overseas visit and click the "Contact Us" link at the upper right of the page.

Military Health System Reaches Out to Grieving Families and Units
A new program in the TRICARE West Region is designed to help military leaders address grief and isolation in many of the communities hit hardest by combat casualties. TriWest Healthcare Alliance has joined efforts with Joanne Steen, an author and counselor, to offer the Grief Solutions program. The new program will give commanders and senior non-commissioned officers a deeper understanding of how to support and assist survivors, as they are the first to respond once families within their units are notified of a loss. Grief Solutions will be offered to active duty, National Guard and Reserve units throughout the 21-states that comprise the TRICARE West Region, which is administered by TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Further information on TRICARE and survivor benefits is available at

TRICARE Beneficiaries Win in the Battle to Increase Provider Network
The Minnesota Medical Association House of Delegates recently adopted a resolution to increase its membership’s awareness of TRICARE. The Minnesota initiative is just one of many from Governors in TRICARE’s western region to expand heatlcare options for beneficiaries. TriWest and TRICARE program leaders have spearheaded an innovative program to collaborate with Governors in the TRICARE western region to increase the network of providers delivering care to beneficiaries. The net result is an increase from approximately 80,000 providers to over 125,000. Governors in the 21-state western region contacted the medical associations in their states to applaud those providers already participating in TRICARE and to encourage others to consider contracting with TriWest to deliver care to military personnel and families in their states. The outreach focused on ensuring a quality network of providers at a time when Congress continues to enhance TRICARE benefits for Guard and Reserve members and their families. [Source:]

Health Net Federal Services Launches Kids Journal
Health Net Federal Services, the TRICARE provider for active duty military members and their families in the North region, has developed and begun distributing My Life: A Kid’s Journal. My Life serves as a resource for children as they make sense of their feelings during a loved one’s deployment. The 44-page journal, designed in vivid colors, guides children through the process of formulating and making sense of their feelings during a loved one’s deployment and helps establish important dialogue with their parents. The journal is meant to serve as a keepsake for the child or as a gift to their special person who is deployed once it’s completed. For copies of My Life: A Kids' Journal for military children living in the TRICARE North Region, e-mail your request to Copies may also be downloaded and printed in PDF format from the

AUSA’s Kansas City Chapter Helps Injured Soldier and Family
Members of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Association of the United States Army joined with other community service organizations to improve the home of a member of the Missouri National Guard who was severely injured while serving in Iraq. “Operation Soldier Assist” was a cooperative effort between the GKC Chapter and the Kansas City National Association of the Remodeling Industry and many local volunteers to modify and upgrade the Soldier’s home and to provide new furnishings. To learn more about AUSA’s Greater Kansas City Chapter please visit

Agencies Assist Military Families Affected by California Wildfires
TRICARE recently issued guidance for beneficiaries affected by the California wildfires. Displaced TRICARE Standard beneficiaries may seek care from any TRICARE-authorized provider. Displaced beneficiaries enrolled in TRICARE Prime should call 1-888-TRIWEST for more information or to find an authorized provider still operating in their area. Beneficiaries that relocate out of the TriWest region should contact TriWest immediately to ensure coverage at their new location. If beneficiaries evacuated without their medication, they can get a refill from their retail pharmacy without any restrictions. TRICARE copays still apply. [Source:]

In addition, the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior program has responded by engaging their Soldier Family Management Specialists (SFMSs) located throughout the country. Within the first 72 hours, the Soldier Family Management Specialists contacted more than 94% of AW2 Soldiers in affected areas to ensure they were all accounted for. AW2 assists and advocates for wounded Soldiers and their Families throughout their lifetimes, wherever they are located. AW2 Soldiers who need assistance should contact their Soldier Family Management Specialist or AW2 headquarters at 1-800-237-1336. Information about AW2 is also available at

Military families who have been evacuated because of the wildfires can also receive financial assistance from the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) and the American Red Cross to cover immediate needs such as food or gas. To locate
the closest NMCRS office, please visit or call (760) 725-5337. The American Red Cross can be reached at (760) 725-6877 or at

VA Clarifies Policy on Flag-Folding Recitations
To ensure burial services at the 125 national cemeteries operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reflect the wishes of veterans and their families, VA officials have clarified the Department’s policy about recitations made while the U.S. flag is folded at the gravesite of a veteran. Traditional gravesite military funeral honors include the silent folding and presentation of an American flag, a 21-gun rifle salute, and the playing of “Taps.” The clarification includes the following:

• Volunteer honor guards are authorized to read the so-called “13-fold” flag recitation or any comparable script;
• Survivors of the deceased need to provide material and request it be read by the volunteer honor guards; and
• Volunteer honor guards will accept requests for recitations that reflect any or no religious traditions, on an equal basis.

Veterans with a discharge other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker. [Source:]

Transition Resources Available in One Place
TurboTAP is an easy to use, interactive Web portal that provides life-long support to separating military Servicemembers (Active Duty, Guard and Reserve) and their families. It is a single source starting point for accessing key resources available for Servicemembers transitioning out of the military at any point in their military career. Features include:
  • Guard/ Reserve Transition Guide;
  • Active Duty Preseparation Guide;
  • Personalized Individual Transition Plan;
  • Employment Hub;
  • Benefits Hub;
  • Calculators.

Each transitioning Servicemember is encouraged to establish a TurboTAP Account within 48 hours of attending a Transition Assistance Program or as soon as they learn about this important resource. Once registered, TurboTAP is available for
life. Learn more at

Defense Department Consolidates, Redefines Abuse Policies
The Defense Department has consolidated 14 previous domestic abuse policies into one document that more clearly defines the roles and training of those who deal with the problem. The new publication, “Domestic Abuse Involving DoD Military and
Certain Affiliated Personnel,” was introduced by senior officials this month. The publication more clearly defines roles and training requirements for those the department calls “key responders,” including local commanders, law enforcement officials, legal representatives, victim advocates, health care providers, family advocacy staff and chaplains. The publication is the result of an effort that started more than six years ago with a congressionally mandated task force formed to help the Department stop domestic violence within its ranks. [Source:]

Holiday Deadlines Rapidly Approaching for Troop Support
Friends and family members who plan to send holiday packages to deployed loved ones should be aware of some rapidly approaching deadlines set by the Military Postal Service Agency: 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. More information is available at

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.

Also, please be aware that all packages and mail must now be addressed to individual Servicemembers as required by U.S. Department of Defense regulations. The U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. DoD policy prohibits such mail in order to ensure the safety of Servicemembers and to prevent the mail system from becoming overwhelmed. Instead of sending an “Any Service Member” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website:

Group Emphasizes Value of Reading to Children
Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. The charity distributes materials through pediatric departments by encouraging doctors and nurses to give out age-appropriate books to their young patients. Several military medical facilities have also benefited from Reach Out and Read’s program. Learn more at

Military Bloggers Compile New Book
“The Sandbox” is a 309-page compilation of roughly 90 online journal entries penned by scores of the military’s most talented scribes. Thousands of military bloggers, or milbloggers, in Afghanistan and Iraq use the Internet to tell an unfiltered version of war, sharing stories of compassion, hope, anguish and suspense to primarily niche audiences of family members and friends. Proceeds from The Sandbox will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation. Located on the grounds of military and veterans hospitals, Fisher Houses offer a setting where family members can be close to loved ones hospitalized for an injury, illness or disease. Go to for more information. [Source:]

HRCPOA Needs Help Spreading Christmas Cheer
The Hampton Roads Chief Petty Officer Association (HRCPOA) urges the military community in the mid-Atlantic region to help make Christmas brighter for the children of Virginia Home for Boys and Girls (VHBG). VHBG is a private, nonprofit, non-sectarian children's home offering shelter and support to children with special needs. Each Christmas, the HRCPOA treats children from the VHBG of Richmond to a tour of the ships, lunch and a Christmas party. HRCPOA helps provide VHBG household necessities such as clothing, kitchen utensils and cookware. They also purchase entertainment items such as sporting equipment and donated video games.

Boatsie's Boxes Launches Holiday Care Package Drive
Boatsie's Boxes is a non profit, 501(c) 3, charitable organization dedicated to supporting deployed troops. Based in West Virginia, the organization collects items to be included in care packages which are then send to US troops and hospitals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. The charity is currently collecting items for its annual Operation Christmas Stocking. A list of items needed is available on the organization’s website:

Wyeth Announces Voluntary Recall of Several Robitussin Products
Several brands of Robitussin® products were pulled from the shelves of DeCA stores after Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, a division of Wyeth), announced a voluntary recall on Oct. 29. The action involves only products with a dosage cap that doesn’t have a half-teaspoon mark, the recommended dose for children age 2 through 5. As a result, the Defense Commissary Agency has removed several children’s medicines from its shelves. Commissary patrons can also get more information on this and other recalls by going to the “food safety” section of the DeCA website:

Operation Forward Santa Makes Gift Giving Easy for Troops
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is bridging the gap between troops and those they love with a gift giving program specifically designed to serve deployed troops. “Operation Forward Santa” lets deployed Servicemembers shop for friends and family back home through free fliers distributed throughout Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Featured merchandise focuses on holiday gift ideas, such as food, flowers, jewelry and toys, with a majority of the items available at special promotional prices exclusively for deployed troops. Deployed Servicemembers have several ways to participate in Operation Forward Santa. They can fill out a flier and return the form to any of more than 50 Exchanges in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, where a sales associate will process their order. Troops can also log on to

Military Exchanges Make it Easier to Use Gift Cards
Effective Nov. 6, 2007, eligible exchange patrons will be able to redeem AAFES, MCX and NEX-specific gift cards at any Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps exchange facility. Exchange gift cards are available up to $500 and can be purchased at military exchanges worldwide. They can also be purchased online at or . MCX gift cards can only be purchased at MCX locations.

Moving With Your Pets: AKO Provides Quarantine and Vaccination Information
Military pet owners can turn to Army Knowledge Online (AKO) to find out requirements for PCSing with pets. Go to AKO’s “My Pets” section has vaccination and quarantine information, as well as details of military veterinary facilities worldwide. Many states, territories, and overseas locations require pets to have blood tests or microchips so pet owners should make plans to move with their pets as soon as they receive orders. Military pet owners can also find pet vaccination information on the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection website: Additional information about moving with your pet is available from the Humane Society of the United States: