March 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line
- AUSA Family Programs and Operation Life Transformed Partnership
- Family and Medical Leave Act Extended for Military Families
- New Bill Seeks to Increase Cost of Living Benefit for Veterans
- Congressman Presses for Higher Military Pay Increase
- Questions Raised About Childcare Center Staffing
- Senator Proposes Law to Pay for Guard and Reserve Travel
- DoD Family Readiness Council Established
- Political Activity Guidelines for Servicemembers
- VA Changes Policy on PTSD Diagnosis
- New Research Details Suicide Rates among Veterans
- 2008 National Summit on Women Veterans' Issues
- ACAP 'Express' Launched
- Walter Reed's Warrior Clinic Officially Opens
- DoD Healthcare Conference Highlights Benefits of IT
- Army Hopes Program Helps Soldiers Seek Mental Health Care
- IMCOM Website Links Families to Installation Resources
- Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards
- Military Postal Service Offers Means to Track Lost Mail
- Economic Stimulus Package Information Available
- IRS Warns of Advance Payment Scams
- Commanders’ Referral Program
- TriWest Donates $250,000 to TAPS to Help Grieving Military Families
- Scholarship Opportunities Announced
- Girl Scouts Show their Support for the Troops
- AAFES Rewards Students Who “Make the Grade”
- Recall of Icy Hot Products
AUSA Family Programs and Operation Life Transformed Partnership
AUSA Family Programs has teamed up with Operation Life Transformed to award two scholarships worth $2,000 each to the caregivers of wounded troops to assist them with career training. Operation Life Transformed is a 501c3 charitable foundation that provides online education and training programs to help the spouses and other caregivers of injured personnel find portable careers that fit into busy schedules. Providing caregivers with job skills and training helps them contribute to family income at a time when the family may be facing financial hardship. The recipients of the 2008 scholarships will be announced shortly. To learn more about Operation Life Transformed please visit http://lifetransformed.org.
Family and Medical Leave Act Extended for Military Families
A provision of the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will alter the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to assist military family members who need to take unpaid leave to care for an injured Servicemember. The new law, which took effect when the bill was signed on January 28, 2008, allows the spouses, children, parents or other next of kin who are providing care for an injured Servicemember to take as many as 26 weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve month period. Normally, eligible employers are permitted 12 weeks of unpaid leave for such family emergencies.
Another amendment to the law provides up to 12 weeks of leave for an employee with “any qualifying exigency” arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty or about to be mobilized for active duty in support of a contingency operation. This provision will not take effect until the Secretary of Labor issues final regulations defining “any qualifying exigency.” More information about the FMLA as it pertains to military families is available from the Department of Labor’s website: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/NDAA_fmla.htm
New Bill Seeks to Increase Cost of Living Benefit for Veterans
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) has introduced legislation to increase veterans' compensation through a cost of living adjustment (COLA). The COLA is designed to offset inflation and other factors that alter the cost of living over time. The Veterans' Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2008 (S 2617) directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase, as of December 1, 2008, the rates of veterans' disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and additional related benefits. The rate of the COLA increase for veterans will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, was introduced on February 8, 2008.
Congressman Presses for Higher Military Pay Increase
A bill (HR 5481) introduced into the House by Representative Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL) would provide a 3.9 percent military pay increase, 0.5 percent above that requested by the President in his Fiscal Year 2009 budget request.
Questions Raised About Childcare Center Staffing
Representative Vic Snyder (D-AK) has criticized the Department of Defense for failing to fully staff its new childcare centers on military installations, according to the Army Times. His comments came after he attended a ceremony to open a new childcare facility at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. The Department of Defense has committed to providing more childcare facilities for military families to assist military spouses with their career options.
Senator Proposes Law to Pay for Guard and Reserve Travel
Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) recently introduced legislation (S 2623) to allow the Secretary of Defense to use Department of Defense (DoD) funds to pay for travel if a Reserve member is placed on leave because of training suspensions or staffing issues. The language would apply to situations where a Reserve member is more than 300 miles from home and has been placed on leave for more than 96 hours. The bill is in response to an incident which took place last Christmas when a group of Nebraska National Guard Soldiers were almost stranded in Washington State after training exercises were suspended. The Soldiers eventually made it home thanks to donations from members of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.
DoD Family Readiness Council Established
The Department of Defense is creating a 12 member council to evaluate the effectiveness of military familiy readiness programs and to make recommendations to increase support to military families. The Council, which was mandated by the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, will be comprised of the Services’ senior enlisted advisers or their spouses, DoD and Service leaders, and members of military service organizations.
Political Activity Guidelines for Servicemembers
Members of the military and Department of Defense civilians have to abide by certain guidelines about participation in political activities. Political candidates also face campaign restrictions on military installations. Military.com has an online guide to provide information about restrictions and limits on political activity for each branch of service and civilian employees at http://electioncenter.military.com/political-activities-guid.html. None of these restrictions interfere with Servicemembers’ right to vote.
VA Changes Policy on PTSD Diagnosis
The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs has directed the VA regional offices to end the requirement that veterans diagnosed with PTSD while on active duty provide additional evidence of exposure to specific stressors during their service in order to establish their diagnosis of PTSD. Instead, the VA will immediately schedule examinations for such veterans in order to determine the severity of their PTSD for VA compensation purposes.
New Research Details Suicide Rates among Veterans
According to the Associated Press, data obtained from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) shows Reserve personnel who served in Afghanistan or Iraq between 2001 and 2005 constituted 53 percent of suicides among returning veterans. Advocates for veterans have responded by arguing that more needs to be done to help members of the Reserve transition back into civilian life after deployment. One of the challenges faced by Reserve personnel experiencing difficulties in readjusting to civilian life is that they are often geographically removed from the services provided by military installations or VA facilities. Both the Department of Defense and the VA have stepped up suicide prevention efforts in recent years by hiring more counselors and implementing post-deployment screening programs. The VA also established a suicide prevention hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
2008 National Summit on Women Veterans' Issues
The Center for Women Veterans, which is part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, is hosting the annual National Summit on Women Veterans' Issues at the Westin hotel, Washington DC City Center from June 20 to 22, 2008. The Summit is open to women veterans of all eras. There is no charge to attend but registration is required. More information is available at http://www1.va.gov/womenvet/page.cfm?pg=70
ACAP 'Express' Launched
The Army has launched a 12-month pilot of the Army Career Alumni Program Express to give Soldiers, their families and civilians a jump start on new careers as they retire or separate from the Army. The online program allows job-seekers to schedule career events and job fairs, access job assistance training tutorials, access an automated resume and cover-letter writer, and access ACAP counselors. Tutorials on job-search topics will also be available. Learn more at http://www.acap.army.mil/transitioner/transitioner.cfm
Walter Reed's Warrior Clinic Officially Opens
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Richard Cody officially opened the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on February 15, 2008. The clinic actually began treating patients in October and currently serves about 686 outpatient Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed. The Clinic’s is specifically designed to accommodate Soldiers with physical limitations. Also located in the Clinic are offices for doctors conducting a pilot program between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to consolidate the medical evaluation board system. More information about the Clinic is available on the WRAMC website: http://www.wramc.amedd.army.mil/WarriorsInTransition
DoD Healthcare Conference Highlights Benefits of IT
The theme of this year’s DoD Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference was “In Support of the Wounded Warrior.” The conference highlighted how information technology can improve care for patients in the military healthcare system. For more information about the conference visit http://www.himssconference.org
Army Hopes Program Helps Soldiers Seek Mental Health Care
The U.S. Army is inviting psychiatrists to consult on a new program to detect and to treat depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in primary care clinics. The screening program is intended to overcome the stigma attached to mental health problems and to encourage Soldiers to seek care. The RESPECT-Mil program began one year ago at the direction of the Army surgeon general and will spread to 43 clinics on 15 military bases in the U.S., Germany, and Italy over 24 months. Information about RESPECT-Mil is posted at http://www.pdhealth.mil/respect-mil.asp.
IMCOM Website Links Families to Installation Resources
The Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM), which oversees installation facilities and services, including family support activities, has enhanced its website to provide extensive resources for military families stationed in the United States and overseas. Visit the website at http://www.imcom.army.mil/site/command/ and click on the link to “Regions” to find the IMCOM region in which you are stationed: West, Northeast, Southeast, Pacific, Europe, or Korea. Each region’s site has information about installation services, including MWR programs, information about schools, employment opportunities, and local news.
Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards
In a recent Pentagon ceremony senior defense officials presented awards to seven National Guard and Reserve component units in recognition of their efforts to support the families of deployed troops. The Reserve Family Readiness Awards were established in 2000 in acknowledgement of the importance of family support programs to the success of Reserve Component units.
Military Postal Service Offers Means to Track Lost Mail
The Military Postal Service Agency now allows military personnel and family members to track late or lost mail with an email enquiry. Inquiries about mail that is more than 60 days late should be sent to email@example.com. The email should include a telephone number, email address; rank; first and last name; mailing address; return address; any insured, certified, registered or confirmation number if applicable; date of mailing; and type of contents to help identify the package. The Military Postal Service is an extension of the United States Postal Service, providing Department of Defense personnel, their family members and other authorized users mail services around the world. Learn more at http://hqdainet.army.mil/mpsa/.
Economic Stimulus Package Information Available
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is providing details about the economic stimulus payments which will be sent to more than 130 million households beginning in May. The information is available at http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=177937,00.html. The website also includes information for individuals who normally do not file tax returns, such as Social Security recipients and Veterans Benefits recipients, but who will need to file a tax return to be entitled to the stimulus payment. Many can use the simpler Form 1040A.
IRS Warns of Advance Payment Scams
The Internal Revenue Service has warned taxpayers to beware of several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure. The IRS expects such scams to continue through the end of tax return filing season and beyond. The goal of many of these scams is to trick people into revealing their personal and financial information with promises of early refunds or rebates. You can find a list of the most recent scams brought to IRS attention through the following link: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=178061,00.html
Commanders’ Referral Program
The Department of Defense has taken several steps to protect Servicemembers from predatory payday loans. Military relief societies are also doing their part to ensure that military personnel who are facing financial emergencies have alternatives to high-interest, short-term loans. Army Emergency Relief (AER) funds the Commanders’ Referral Program which allows Soldiers to obtain an interest free loan with a commander's approval. Loans are processed more expeditiously than regular AER loans and funds are usually made available on the same day. The timeline for paying back the funds is prorated depending on each individual’s financial resources.
TriWest Donates $250,000 to TAPS to Help Grieving Military Families
TriWest Healthcare Alliance has donated $250,000 to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to fund nine grief Survivor Seminars for adults and TAPS Good Grief camps for child survivors in the western region of the United States. Programs will be held at key military centers including Camp Pendleton, CA, Fort Carson, CO, Fort Richardson, AL, Fort Lewis, WA, and Fort Bliss, TX. TAPS supports all those who have lost a loved one in the military, regardless of circumstance or geography. All services are provided free of charge to the surviving family. Learn more at http://www.taps.org/
Scholarship Opportunities Announced
Homefront America, a troop-support organization based in California will award 25 scholarships worth $1,000 each in May to benefit military children. The program is open to dependent students of active-duty Servicemembers, retirees, disabled veterans or fallen Servicemembers, including activated or deployed Guard and Reserve personnel. The deadline for applications is April 25, 2008. Information about eligibility requirements and rules for the “The American Patriot Freedom Scholarship” program is available from the group’s website: http://www.homefrontamerica.org/
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is also offering 25 scholarships worth $1,000 each to dependent children of active-duty military personnel. Learn more about the 2008 Base/Post Scholarship Program at http://www.moaa.org. The deadline for submission is 12:00 pm (EST) on March 3, 2008. Selectees will be notified in May 2008.
Girl Scouts Show their Support for the Troops
The Girl Scouts of San Diego Imperial Council began Operation Thin Mint in 2002 as a way to show appreciation to troops stationed overseas and to make sure they didn’t miss out on the annual Girl Scout cookie program. By encouraging customers to buy an extra box of cookies for military personnel, the Girl Scouts have sent more than a million donated boxes of Girl Scout cookies to Servicemembers overseas. Learn more at http://www.girlscoutssdi.org/site/productsales/cookies2008.php
AAFES Rewards Students Who “Make the Grade”
Students who maintain a “B” average are eligible to receive a variety of complimentary exchange offers for every qualifying report card they bring home as part of the Army and Air Force Exchange Services “You Made the Grade” effort. The current “You Made the Grade” booklet includes coupons and an opportunity to enter a drawing for a savings bond. To receive the AAFES “You Made the Grade” booklet, students simply present a valid military ID card and proof of an overall “B” or better average to their local BX/PX. Military families can contact their local AAFES Main Store Manager or General Manager for more information.
Recall of Icy Hot Products
Chattem, Inc. has initiated a voluntary nationwide recall its Icy Hot Heat Therapy products. Chattem is recalling these products because it has received some consumer reports of first, second and third degree burns as well as skin irritation resulting from consumer use or possible misuse of these products. All lots and all sizes of the following Icy Hot Heat Therapy products are affected by this recall:
- Icy Hot Heat Therapy Air Activated Heat- Back
- Icy Hot Heat Therapy Air Activated Heat- Arm, Neck, and Leg
- Icy Hot Heat Therapy Air Activated Heat- Arm, Neck, and Leg single consumer use "samples" included on a limited promotional basis in cartons of 3 oz. Aspercreme Pain Relieving Crème.
Consumers who have the Icy Hot Heat Therapy products under recall should immediately stop using the products, discard them, and/or return them to Chattem, Inc. Product may be returned for a full refund (average retail price) by calling Chattem’s Consumer Affairs Department at 1-877-742-6275 (M-F from 8am to 4pm EST) or via Chattam’s website; http://www.Chattem.com. Any adverse reactions experienced with the use of the Icy Hot Heat Therapy products should also be reported the FDA Adverse Event Reporting Program, either online at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm, or by fax at 800-FDA-0178, and to Chattem at the above toll-free number.