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Family Programs >> Family Programs Update >> February 1, 2008 Email this... Email    Print this Print

February 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:

  • Last Frontier Chapter Assists FRGs and Wounded Warriors
  • Conference Addresses Military Health Care
  • 2008 Defense Authorization Bill Now Law
  • Some States Allow Soldiers to Get Ballots Via E-Mail
  • Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force Report Released
  • Military One Source Offers Tax Help
  • Free Online Credit Management Resource for Military Families
  • TreasuryDirect Offers Online Investment Services
  • Foundation Offers Military Families Financial Help
  • Army Clarifies Soldiers’ Leave Policy
  • New Law Gives Disabled Veterans More Home Grants
  • Paid-Up SBP Takes Effect October 2008
  • VA Distributes 2008 Insurance Dividends
  • Valentines for Veterans Programs Launches its 2008 Campaign
  • AW2 Launches Wounded Warrior Blog
  • New Program Assists Wounded Warriors in TRICARE’s Southern Region
  • TRICARE for Life “Explanation of Benefits” Goes Digital
  • TRICARE Now Covers “Lap-Band” Surgery
  • TRICARE Retiree Dental Program Offers Consumer Toolkit
  • Newman’s Own Provides Grants to Groups Helping Military Families
  • Guard Troops Receive Commissary Certifichecks

Last Frontier Chapter Assists FRGs and Wounded Warriors
AUSA’s Last Frontier Chapter has made supporting the military community in the Anchorage, Alaska region a priority through its fundraising efforts. In addition to donations to Active Duty and Reserve Component Family Readiness Groups to assist families while their loved ones are deployed, the Chapter has also donated $2,500 to its local Armed Services YMCA for direct support of the Wounded Warrior Family Assistance program. Learn more about AUSA’s Chapters at

Conference Addresses Military Health Care
AUSA’s Director of Family Programs, Sylvia Kidd, and Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs, Julie Rudowski, recently attended the Department of Defense Military Health System Conference in Washington, DC. The Conference, which gathers more than 3,000 health care professionals, military organization representatives and government officials, is designed to assess MHS goals and objectives and to examine how technology can improve care to military members, veterans, retirees and their families. A major goal of this year’s conference is to continue improving care for wounded warriors. Other issues covered in this year’s conference include:

• Better integration of purchased care and direct care at the point of healthcare delivery,
• Ways to improve wellness, preventive care, and disease management programs, and to measure the effectiveness of those programs,
• 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 to include changes to enrollment fees, deductibles, co-payments, indexing and other cost-related issues.

All plenary sessions are available via streaming video on the MHS Web site,

2008 Defense Authorization Bill Now Law
The revised 2008 Defense Authorization Bill was signed into law by the President on Monday, 28 January. The bill contains a number of provisions dealing with service pay and benefits, including a 3.5% basic pay raise, retroactive to January 1st. The bill also includes a 120-day sanctuary period to protect bonuses and special pay after the services lost authority to make new payments after December 31st because of the veto of the original bill. Congress also added a measure to lower the retirement threshold for Reserve and National Guard personnel. Reserve Component retirement currently begins at age 60 but would be reduced by three months for every 90 days a Guard or Reserve member is activated. There is some dissatisfaction with this provision because it will not be applied retroactively to troops mobilized after 9/11. The full text of the bill is available at Further analysis of the bill is available in Tom Philpot’s Military Update columns:

Some States Allow Soldiers to Get Ballots Via E-Mail
Military personnel serving overseas may be able to receive ballots for the November election by fax or email depending on their state of residence. The Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP’s) Electronic Transmission Service (ETS) enables local election officials to transmit and receive election materials via fax or email to/from Uniformed Services members and overseas citizens. To learn if your state allows the transmission of ballots electronically, please visit the FVAP website and select your state from the map:

Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force Report Released
The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Task Force, a group of experts chartered by the Army Surgeon General to analyze and make recommendations to improve the clinical, administrative and research processes involved with providing medical care and services to Soldiers and other Servicemembers, released its final report in January. The report can be found on the Army medical website,, under the news and media heading.

Although the Task Force concluded that the diagnosis and treatment of TBI has improved, it also acknowledged that more improvements need to be made. Some of the challenges identified included coordination and policy; recording of incident data; inconsistent treatment and documentation; and education for Soldiers, units, leaders, families, providers and communities. The study also concluded that more specialists in brain injury are needed in the military healthcare system and that the Disability Evaluation System process needs to be standardized.

Military One Source Offers Tax Help
Military One Sources is again offering H&R Block’s TaxCut Basic Online® free to Servicemembers to help them prepare federal and state tax returns for 2007. The following are eligible:

• Active-duty US Army, US Marine Corps, US Navy, and US Airforce
• US National Guard and US Reserve (regardless of activation status)
• Spouses and dependent children of the services noted above, and who are authorized in DEERS
• A family member who is taking care of the affairs of a Servicemember (in one of the services noted above) when the Servicemember is deployed
• A severely injured Servicemember of one of the services noted above, or a designated family member of a severely injured member who is incapable of handling his or her own affairs .

To learn more visit and follow the links to TaxCutBasic Online. Military One Source also has a number of articles and resources to help military personnel and their families with tax issues.

Free Online Credit Management Resource for Military Families
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation announced recently that it is offering BrightScore®, an online credit management tool, free of charge to active duty military personnel and their spouses to help them manage their credit wisely. BrightScore provides detailed analysis of credit reports and shows which aspects of a user's credit history are positively or negatively affecting their credit score and the impact that their credit score has on being able to secure favorable rates on loans or other lines of credit. BrightScore also provides a personalized action plan to help improve a user's creditworthiness and access to live, professional counselors. Servicemembers can obtain free access by visiting their on-base personal financial manager (PFM), attending one of FINRA’s free financial forums, visiting or sending an email to

TreasuryDirect Offers Online Investment Services
TreasuryDirect is the financial services website that lets you buy and redeem securities directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in paperless electronic form. The website allows investors to open an online account through which they can manage their portfolio and purchase savings bonds, treasury bills, and other government securities. Holders of paper savings bonds can also convert them to electronic bonds through SmartExchange. Learn more at

Foundation Offers Military Families Financial Help
The American Soldier Foundation was created to assist Servicemembers on extended duty and their families. Through its website the organization also offers resources for education, family life, employment and personal finance. Military families can get advice on whether to buy or rent home, check current mortgage rates or even determine how much a skill set is worth in different job markets. Learn more at

Army Clarifies Soldiers’ Leave Policy
In a December Military Personnel Message, the Army issued a clarification of policy regarding the rules for taking leave and passes consecutively. Soldiers may combine leave time with pass time. However, the Soldier must be at his or her duty station when the leave portion begins and ends, otherwise the entire block of time will be counted as leave. This policy took effect in April 2005 but there has been some confusion about its application.

New Law Gives Disabled Veterans More Home Grants
A change in federal law allows certain seriously injured veterans and Servicemembers to receive multiple grants for constructing or modifying their homes, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced. Before the change, eligible veterans and Servicemembers could receive special adaptive housing grants of $10,000 or $50,000 from VA only once. Now they may use the benefit up to three times, so long as the total grants stay within specified limits outlined in the law. For more information about the adaptive housing grants available to veterans please visit the VA’s website: or contact a local VA regional office at 1-800-827-1000.

Paid-Up SBP Takes Effect October 2008
Effective October 1, 2008, retirees who are age 70 and older and have paid SBP premiums for at least 360 months will no longer be required to pay SBP premiums. The first retired pay payment affected will be the payment dated 1 November, 2008. For more information visit the DFAS Web site at pay.html or call 1-800-321-1080.

VA Distributes 2008 Insurance Dividends
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that more than a million veterans are in line to share $349 million in annual insurance dividends during 2008. The VA operates one of the nation’s largest life insurance programs, providing more than $1 trillion in coverage to 7.1 million Servicemembers, veterans, and family members.
The dividend payments will be sent to an estimated 1.1 million holders of VA insurance policies on the anniversary date of their policies. Veterans who have questions about their policies may contact the VA insurance toll-free number at 1-800-669-8477 or send an email to They may also visit VA on the Internet at

Valentines for Veterans Programs Launches its 2008 Campaign
The week of February 14 each year is your opportunity to say thank you to more than 98,000 veterans of the U.S. armed services who are cared for every day in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, outpatient clinics, domiciliaries, and nursing homes. The VA invites individuals, veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers. The activities and events include special ward visits and valentine distributions; photo opportunities; school essay contests; special recreation activities and veteran recognition programs. To participate in the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans week please contact your nearest VA Medical Center and ask for Voluntary Service. Facilities can be located through the VA website:

AW2 Launches Wounded Warrior Blog
Visitors to the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) website can now view the AW2 blog. The blog will contain updates from AW2’s Director and staff about the AW2 program, which serves severely wounded Soldiers and their families. The blog can be reached through the AW2 website: AW2 Soldiers who need assistance can contact their Soldier Family Management Specialist or AW2 headquarters at 1-800-237-1336.

New Program Assists Wounded Warriors in TRICARE’s Southern Region
The Warrior Navigation & Assistance Program (WNAP) provides guidance to Active Duty and Guard and Reserve Servicemembers as they transition through the military healthcare system. Established by Humana Military Healthcare Services (HMHS), the managed care support contractor for TRICARE’s Southern Region, the WNAP offers one-on-one assistance with many unique health care challenges Servicemembers may face. Issues may include access to care; or simply the need for information on all available resources.

A dedicated toll-free number can be used by Servicemembers transitioning through the health care system. Calling 888-4GO-WNAP provides direct access to a multi-disciplinary team with the mission to assist Servicemembers and/or their family members. [Source:]

TRICARE for Life “Explanation of Benefits” Goes Digital
TRICARE for Life (TFL) beneficiaries will soon be able to print copies of their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from the convenience of their own homes. Starting in January 2008, the only paper EOB’s that TFL beneficiaries living in the United States and U.S. territories will receive are monthly summaries. The exception to this is if a claim includes services that are rejected, and those services have appeal rights; or if the EOB is mailed with a payment to the beneficiary. TRICARE overseas beneficiaries will continue to get their EOBs as usual. In February, beneficiaries will have the option to receive an electronic notification every time a claim processes. Beneficiaries can then log on to the secure web site at, to view and print their EOB.

TRICARE Now Covers “Lap-Band” Surgery
TRICARE beneficiaries whose weight poses a serious health risk now have a new surgical alternative available. For those who medically qualify, TRICARE now covers laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, also commonly called Lap-Band surgery. Although the TRICARE policy change has only recently been made, coverage is retroactive to February 1st, 2007. In addition, TRICARE will cover the surgery if a patient has had an intestinal bypass or other surgery for obesity and, because of complications, requires a second surgery. Details of the coverage are available in the TRICARE Policy Manual, which beneficiaries can view online at A search for "morbid obesity" goes directly to the correct section.

TRICARE Retiree Dental Program Offers Consumer Toolkit
The TRDP is starting off 2008 with a dynamic new enhancement to the Consumer Toolkit® for enrollees. The Toolkit, which can be found under the "Current Enrollees" section at enables TRDP enrollees to manage their program enrollment by allowing them to view their eligibility, benefits, claims and maximum information; print ID cards and claim forms; and much more. The TDRP website has also added an online tutorial, which now lets enrollees learn about the TRDP at their own pace.

Newman’s Own Provides Grants to Groups Helping Military Families
The Newman’s Own Awards competition is now accepting grant applications from volunteer and not-for-profit organizations whose programs improve quality of life for Servicemembers and their families. A total of $75,000 is available. The competition is administered by the Fisher House Foundation. For more information please visit or call 1 (888) 294-8560.

Guard Troops Receive Commissary Certifichecks
9,500 National Guardsmen recently received $100 “Certifichecks” for commissary purchases. The funds came from the American Logistics Association, which gathered donations from commissary suppliers. The Certifichecks were then distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis through the National Guard Bureau. National Guard troops and their families are often unable to take advantage of their commissary benefit because they do not live close to a military installation. The Defense Commissary Agency has been trying to find ways to bring the commissary to Guard families by providing offsite sales of popular items.