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January 1, 2008

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

This Issue:

  • AUSA Chapters Support Soldiers and Families
  • Minnesota Guard Reintegration Program to go National
  • Defense Authorization Bill Addresses Wounded Warrior Care
  • Soldier and Family Assistance Centers Go Operational in 2008
  • Army Adds Traumatic SGLI Advisors at 10 Hospitals
  • VA Announces $4.7 Million to Help Caregivers
  • DoD Releases 2008 Basic Allowance for Housing Rates
  • SBA Releases PSA on New Vet Loan Program
  • Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care Delivers Final Report
  • Investment Options for Military Personnel
  • Certain Payments to Disabled Veterans Ruled Tax-Free; Some May Be Due Refunds
  • The America Supports You Bookstore
  • Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Presents Legion with $500K
  • Children of Fallen Troops Experience the Magic of Disney
  • Honor Flight Program Flies Veterans to World War II Memorial
  • Movie Highlights Experience of Military Survivors
  • AAFES Testing Leads to Recall of Four Toys
  • AAFES to Host Online Video Contest

AUSA Chapters Support Soldiers and Families
AUSA’s Space Coast Chapter helped brighten the holiday season for military families by partnering with Operation Homefront to organize a secret Santa toy giveaway to distribute almost 4,000 toys, provided by Dollar Tree, to military families in Florida. The Space Coast Chapter serves the East Central Florida Coast area. Learn more at The Fort Leonard Wood Chapter continues its efforts to support wounded warriors and their families through its Wounded Warrior Fund. The goal of the fund is to help injured Soldiers who are facing financial difficulties or need some kind of assistance. For more information go to

Minnesota Guard Reintegration Program to go National
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2008, which Congress recently passed as part of an omnibus spending bill, includes funding to expand the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program to all members of the Guard and Reserve. The Minnesota National Guard developed the program to help troops transition back into civilian and family life. The psychological and emotional problems Servicemember often face after returning home often don't surface until weeks or months later so workshops held at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals following redeployment provide training on marriage and parenting, substance and gambling abuse, and anger management. More information about the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon initiative is available from the Minnesota National Guard website:

Defense Authorization Bill Addresses Wounded Warrior Care
A number of provisions of the 2008 Defense Authorization bill seek to improve the level of care afforded to wounded Servicemembers. The legislation calls for better coordination between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, especially with regard to the transfer of patient records. Additionally, the legislation authorizes measures to support caregivers of wounded troops, such as the provision of respite care as well as space-available medical treatment for family members taking care of an individual in medical holdover at a VA medical facility. The Family and Medical Leave Act is also extended for caregivers of seriously injured service members from 12 workweeks to 26 workweeks. The bill also pays special attention to Servicemembers coping with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A detailed summary of the legislation’s measures regarding wounded warrior care is available from the Wounded Warrior Project:

Soldier and Family Assistance Centers Go Operational in Early 2008
In January, thirty-two new Soldier and Family Assistance Centers (SFACs) will go operational to provide comprehensive support to wounded Servicemembers and their families. The SFACs are designed to be “one-stop-shops” for wounded warriors in need of information and referral services. The Centers will provide military personnel services, transition and employment assistance, education services, TSGLI counseling and application/appeal assistance, and other forms of counseling. SFAC staff will also be able to help in the coordination of benefits and services with local, regional, state and other federal agencies. AUSA Family Programs recently joined a number of corporations, non-profit, veterans and military service organizations to learn more about the SFACs and how non-government agencies can supplement the care and resources provided to injured troops and their family members.

Army Adds Traumatic SGLI Advisors at 10 Hospitals
Soldiers eligible for, or who want to determine if they are eligible for payments under Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, can now turn to Soldier Family Support Specialists. SFSSs are subject-matter experts on the TSGLI program and provide advice and assistance to Soldiers and family members so they can file claims for traumatic injuries. They are available at 10 military treatment facilities across the country and they will also provide assistance at other treatment facilities throughout the country. In addition, other facilities are now being identified for future SFSS deployments. For more information about the SFSS program, TSGLI, or TSGLI eligibility requirements and claim submission instructions, contact the U.S. Army TSGLI service center at 1-800-237-1336 or email Information is also available on the website at [Source:]

VA Announces $4.7 Million to Help Caregivers
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced it will provide nearly $4.7 million for “caregiver assistance pilot programs” to expand and improve health care education and provide needed training and resources for caregivers who assist disabled and aging veterans in their homes. The pilot programs will support eight caregiver projects across the country. Among the key services provided to caregivers are transportation, respite care, case management and service coordination, assistance with personal care (bathing and grooming), social and emotional support, and home safety evaluations. [Source:]

DoD Releases 2008 Basic Allowance for Housing Rates
The Department of Defense has released the 2008 basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates. In total, the planned increase in housing allowance funds for 2008 is about $600 million above the 2007 amount. Military members will receive an average housing allowance increase of 7.3 percent when the new rates take effect Jan. 1, 2008. For members with dependents, average increases in the BAH are approximately $83 per month. A typical E-4 with dependents, for example, will find his/her BAH about $63 per month higher than last year, while an E-8 with dependents will receive about $79 more than last year. An integral part of the BAH program is the provision of individual rate protection to all members. No matter what happens to measured housing costs, an individual member in a given location will never see his/her BAH rate decrease. This assures that members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area's housing costs decrease. For further information, visit .

SBA Releases PSA on New Vet Loan Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking steps to increase awareness of the SBA’s new Patriot Express Loan program. Patriot Express is a new loan product designed specifically for veterans, reservists, members of the National Guard, and their spouses, who want to start or expand a small business. Since its launch six months ago, the program has produced more than 670 SBA guaranteed loans amounting to $68 million, with an average loan amount of nearly $101,000. The Patriot Express initiative builds on the more than $1 billion in loans SBA guarantees annually for veteran-owned businesses, and the counseling assistance and procurement support it provides each year to more than 100,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans and Reserve members. For more information go to

Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care Delivers Final Report
The Department of Defense Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care briefed key findings and recommendations from their final report on December 20. They included:
  • Better integration of purchased care and direct care at the point of delivery of healthcare
  • Independent examination of financial controls to ensure healthcare for those eligible and to ensure that Tricare operates, as legally required, as a second payer when there is other health insurance
  • Ways to improve wellness, preventive care, and disease management programs, and to measure the effectiveness of those programs, emphasizing the need for more coordination, leadership, and outreach outside of the department
  • Recommendations for streamlining procurement systems and more effective contracting
  • Continued attention on medical readiness of the Reserve component and close attention to the implementation and effectiveness of Tricare Reserve Select
  • Restructuring of the cost-sharing structure for retirees and their families (not active duty and families), e.g., changes to enrollment fees, deductibles, co-payments, indexing, etc.), including the pharmacy benefit program, including a modest fee for the Tricare for Life program.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year of 2007 established the group and tasked it to provide an assessment of and recommendations for sustaining the military health care services being provided to members of the armed forces, retirees, and their families. More information on the task force and a copy of the final report are available on its website at: [Source:]

Investment Options for Military Personnel
Military members deployed in combat zones, qualified hazardous duty areas, or certain contingency operations may be eligible to deposit all or part of their unallotted pay into a DOD savings account up to $10,000 during a single deployment. Interest accrues on the account at an annual rate of 10% and compounds quarterly. The Savings Deposit Program (SDP) should not be confused with the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP is a Federal Government-sponsored retirement savings and investment plan available to everyone in the military. More information about investment options for Servicemembers is available from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service:

Certain Payments to Disabled Veterans Ruled Tax-Free; Some May Be Due Refunds
Payments under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program are no longer taxable and disabled veterans who paid tax on these benefits in the past three years can now claim refunds, the Internal Revenue Service said today. The IRS agreed with a U.S. Tax Court decision issued earlier this year, which held that CWT payments are tax-free veterans’ benefits. In so doing, the agency reversed a 1965 ruling which held that these payments were taxable and required the VA to issue 1099 forms to payment recipients. According to the VA, the CWT program provides assistance to veterans unable to work and support themselves. Under the program, the VA contracts with private industry and the public sector for work by veterans, who learn new job skills, re-learn successful work habits and regain a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. [Source:,,id=176442,00.html]

The America Supports You Bookstore
Barnes & Noble, a corporate supporter of the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program, has created an online book store that benefits troop-support organizations with a 5 percent donation from each sale made through the website. America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad. The groups, all supporters of America Supports You, include: ThanksUSA, Operation Troop Appreciation, Operation AC, Adopt-A-Chaplain, Comfort for America’s Uniformed Services, Give2TheTroops, Operation Paperback, and United Through Reading. The groups offer a wide range of support including providing Servicemembers with care packages, offering support to military family members and the wounded, and helping keep deployed Servicemembers connected with their children through reading. Each group will receive an equal share of the total donations annually. [Source:]

Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Presents Legion with $500K
The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes presented a check of $500,000 to The American Legion to provide grants to disabled veterans who served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. The funds will be divided into $500 grants and awarded to veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who are rated with disabilities of 30 percent or more. The American Legion will assume all distribution administrative costs, meaning that 1,000 grants will be awarded - the entire amount of the Coalition’s contribution. To learn more about the program visit

Children of Fallen Troops Experience the Magic of Disney
With sponsorship of American Airlines and other corporate and charitable sponsors, the Snowball Express recently provided a trip to Disneyland to almost 1,200 widows and children of fallen Servicemembers. The Snowball Express is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization based in California. The program began in December 2006 when the organization flew 900 grieving family members from all across America to Southern California for an unforgettable holiday party. For more information on Snowball express go to

Honor Flight Program Flies Veterans to World War II Memorial
Humana Veterans Healthcare Services (HVHS), along with Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Fl-01) announced the sponsorship of the inaugural Emerald Coast Honor Flight trip. The mission of this flight is to take World War II Veterans from Northwest Florida to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorial. The inaugural flight is expected to take place in the spring of 2008. The Emerald Coast Honor Flight is an organization, composed of individuals and businesses throughout Northwest Florida, and is a group dedicated solely to honoring America’s veterans for their many sacrifices. Application and further information are available form The Florida initiative is part of the Honor Flight Program, established in May 2005, to help veterans who wanted to visit the newly completed World War II memorial. Learn more at

Movie Highlights Experience of Military Survivors
John Cusack stars in the movie Grace is Gone as a man who learns that his wife has been killed while serving in Iraq and then has to explain to his two daughters that their mother is gone. Deborah Tainsh, who lost a son in Iraq and spoke about her experience at AUSA Family Forum III in October, was invited to advise on the film. The film, released in early 2007, won several awards at the Sundance Movie Festival. It is now in limited release. A preview of the movie is available at

AAFES Testing Leads to Recall of Four Toys
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has been routinely and randomly sending toys to independent labs for supplemental lead testing. These additional tests have revealed problems with the following four “Soldier Bear” toys. Descriptions of the recalled items are available at Consumers should immediately take these recalled toys away from children and return them to the nearest AAFES store for a full refund. Manufactured by First Learning Company Ltd. and Toy World Group Co. Ltd, both of Hong Kong, the affected wooden and plastic toys were sold under the “Soldier Bear” logo in AAFES stores worldwide from Aug. 2006 through Oct. 2007. Consumers with questions regarding this recall can contact AAFES at (800) 866-3605 or visit for additional information.

AAFES to Host Online Video Contest
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is giving military shoppers a chance to show off their video making skills (and maybe even win one of three possible shopping sprees) with the “It’s My Benefit” video contest. From December 15, 2007 through February 15, 2008, authorized AAFES shoppers are invited to produce a 30-to 60-second commercial about their military exchange and Morale, Welfare and Recreation benefits. The Internet audience as well as AAFES leadership will judge submissions. The winner of the “It’s My Benefit” contest will have the choice of an Apple G5 Computer with software or a $2,000 online shopping spree. Runner-up contestants will receive a $1,000 and $500 online shopping spree. The contest is open to all authorized shoppers of the military exchange. Entries must be received by Feb. 15, 2008. No purchase is necessary to win. A complete description of the “It’s My Benefit” contest rules can be found online at