April 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
- Children’s Book Series Available at Discount to Military Families
- Confusion Over Provisions Related to Disability Benefits in 2008 NDAA
- Military Mentors Sought for Grief Camps
- Military Supporters Invited to Sponsor Families of the Fallen at TAPS Gala
- Department of Defense Reports Pay Gap Closed
- AER Doubles Aid to Meet Rising Needs
- Overseas Housing Allowance Survey
- Changes to Fuel Coupon System for Troops in Germany
- Wounded Warrior Pay Support Team
- Survey Indicates Most Wounded Soldiers are Satisfied with Healthcare
- TRICARE is “Hooking Up” Beneficiaries and Providers
- Department of Defense Anti-Tobacco Campaign
- TRICARE Educational Briefings for National Guard and Reserve Members
- New Reserve Component Deployment Support and Reintegration Office
- Military Retirees Encouraged to Review Retiree Account Statements
- Kentucky Updates Veterans Affairs Website
- Troop-Support Group Shows Appreciation for Troops and Families
- ‘Give an Hour’ Seeking Volunteers
- Inclusive Livable Communities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities
- Operation Purple Summer Camps Registration Now Open
- Military Working Dogs Available for Adoption
- Guitars for Vets Program
- AAFES Radio Network
Children’s Book Series Available at Discount to Military Families
AUSA Family Programs has teamed up with the publishers of the Thumbs Up Johnnie children’s book series to offer a 50 per cent discount to military families. Thumbs Up Johnnie and his friends help children learn important life skills about teamwork, friendship, financial responsibility, and good hygiene. The books are written for children aged four to eight years.
In the most recent book in the series, entitled Thumbs Up to the Red, White and Blue, Johnnie and his crew travel to visit the Nation’s monuments, learn about the pledge of allegiance, and meet their friends from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The discount applies to the Thumbs Up Johnnie books and the Thumbs Up Johnnie™ Reading Cuddle Buddy. Items can be ordered online at http://www.thumbsupjohnnie.com (click on “Johnnie Merchandise”), or by calling toll free (866) 749-4378. To receive the 50 per cent discount use the coupon code “AUSAFP” when ordering.
Confusion Over Provisions Related to Disability Benefits in 2008 NDAA
A provision of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act intended to improve access to disability benefits appears to have inadvertently caused more confusion. The NDAA changed a law that reduced the amount of service a military member had to have before becoming eligible for disability benefits from eight years to six months. The problem is that the revised piece of public law had already been revised to ensure disability benefits are available to Servicemembers as soon as they enter active duty provided they are not absent without leave or proven negligent. More detail on this issue is available from the Air Force Times online:
Military Mentors Sought for Grief Camps
TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, is recruiting 300 plus mentors to help at its 14th annual Good Grief Camp being held Memorial Day Weekend near Washington, DC. The camps are designed specifically for children who have lost a family member who was in the military. More than 500 surviving family members and 300 children are expected to attend the TAPS National Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
To apply to be a mentor, go to the TAPS website at http://www.taps.org and click on the banner for the 2008 National Seminar and Good Grief Camp. Families who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces may sign up through http://www.taps.org to attend the National Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
Military Supporters Invited to Sponsor Families of the Fallen at TAPS Gala
Sponsorships are currently being sought for 40 family members who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan to attend the inaugural TAPS Honor Guard Gala, being held in Washington, DC on April 15, 2008 to benefit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). It costs $500 to sponsor a family member to attend the gala. To sponsor a family member, contact Jean Lockey at email@example.com. Family sponsorships will be recognized on the TAPS website at http://www.taps.org/ and in the gala program.
Department of Defense Reports Pay Gap Closed
In Tom Philpott’s March 13, 2008 Military Update column, he writes that a new Department of Defense study conducted over the last two years found no pay gap existing today between Servicemembers and their civilian counterparts. However, the study does advise that Defense leaders enlist a new tool for comparing military and private sector compensation so that Servicemembers can understand the full value of their more favorable pay package. The full article can be read at http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,163897,00.html.
AER Doubles Aid to Meet Rising Needs
Since 2005 the Army Emergency Relief (AER) program has increased the financial assistance it provides to Soldiers and families in need by about 40 percent. The increase is attributed to improved outreach and education efforts as well as the implementation of a new program called the Command Referral Program, which allows company/battery commanders and first sergeants to authorize $1,000 in interest-free loans to their Soldiers for car repairs, emergency travel, rent or other needs. AER also provides grants to wounded warriors and need-based scholarships to retired Soldiers and the family members of active duty Soldiers. To find an AER office or for more information, visit http://www.aerhq.org.
Overseas Housing Allowance Survey
The Department of Defense Per Diem Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee is currently conducting a survey of military personnel stationed in Europe to assist in determining rates for Overseas Housing Allowance for troops living in privately leased quarters. To participate in the survey go to https://www.perdiem.osd.mil/oha/survey/maroha.html
Changes to Fuel Coupon System for Troops in Germany
U.S. Forces in Germany are set to change from using fuel coupons to purchase gas to using an automated fuel ration card. The change from fuel coupons will take place gradually from July to November in 2008. The change will affect all who have been paying for fuel from AAFES stations and ESSO stations in Germany with fuel coupons. To learn more about the new fuel ration card, please visit the Installation Management Command - Europe Region website: http://www.imcom-europe.army.mil/sites/news/fuelcard.asp
Wounded Warrior Pay Support Team
The mission of the Wounded Warrior Pay Support Team is to provide accurate, real-time financial support to Servicemembers who are medically evacuated as a result of wounds, disease, or injury incurred while serving in a combat zone. More information is available from the DFAS website: http://www.dfas.mil/militarypay/woundedwarriorpay.html
Survey Indicates Most Wounded Soldiers are Satisfied with Healthcare
An independent poll by Zogby International of 435 Soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan indicates that just over three-quarters believe that the military health care system is doing all it can to meet their health care needs. At the time of the survey the Soldiers were all part of Warrior Transition Units and receiving care in military treatment facilities or through TRICARE. Details of the survey are available at http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1463
TRICARE is “Hooking Up” Beneficiaries and Providers
The Behavioral Health Provider Locator and Appointment Assistance Service has taken more than 2,300 calls in the U.S. to help Active Duty Servicemembers and their families find approved behavioral health providers in their area. The service, which began three months ago, is a dedicated toll-free telephone line at 1-877-747-9579 where service representatives offer assistance in locating and making outpatient appointments with behavioral health care providers. For more information about TRICARE and the Behavioral Health Provider Locator and Appointment Assistance Service, visit the TRICARE website at http://www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/home/MentalHealthAndBehavior.
Department of Defense Anti-Tobacco Campaign
“Quit Tobacco. Make Everyone Proud” (http://www.ucanquit2.org) is an interactive website offering help to Servicemembers who want to quit smoking and those helping others to quit. The site provides information to develop a personalized plan for quitting. Also available on the website are podcasts, RSS links and live online help with a cessation coach.
TRICARE Educational Briefings for National Guard and Reserve Members
On March 20, 2008, Humana Military Healthcare Services announced an online resource for National Guard and Reserve members. This new Internet resource explains TRICARE benefits for activated Guard and Reserve members and their families. Topics include:
Briefings may be viewed on Humana Military’s website (http://www.hummana-military.com) by clicking on the National Guard and Reserve link.
- An Overview of TRICARE
- Inactive Duty Status
- Benefits during pre-activation and activations periods
- TRICARE for family members
- TRICARE Reserve Select
- Behavioral Healthcare Services
New Reserve Component Deployment Support and Reintegration Office
On March 17, 2008, the Department of Defense announced the formation of the Deployment Support and Reintegration Office within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. The office will implement and expand the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which is designed to provide support and outreach services to Reserve component Servicemembers and their families throughout the deployment cycle. Program capabilities are already in progress with services provided through the Joint Family Support Assistance Program and are currently being pilot tested in 15 states. There are plans to enlarge this program beyond the pilot phase to all 54 states and territories.
Military Retirees Encouraged to Review Retiree Account Statements
The Defense Finance and Accounted Service (DFAS) is reminding retirees to review their Retiree Account Statements (RAS) to ensure that information about their designated beneficiaries is accurate. The designation of beneficiary form can be accessed at http://www.dod.mil/dfas/retiredpay/beneficiarycard.html. [Source: http://www.dfas.mil/rna-news/dec2007/keepingyourrecordsupdated.html]
Kentucky Updates Veterans Affairs Website
Kentucky’s Department of Veterans Affairs has redesigned its website to provide constituents with more information on benefits, cemeteries, nursing homes, homeless veterans, women veterans, and employment. The new website features a benefits assistance map, which presents a quick and easy way to find contact information for the Commonwealth’s veterans’ benefits representative in a particular county.
Each state manages its own benefit program. A list of links to the websites for each of the individual states that offer veterans’ benefits can be found at http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/state-veterans-benefits-directory.
Troop-Support Group Shows Appreciation for Troops and Families
“Operation Never Forgotten” was initiated during Operation Iraqi Freedom to raise awareness and appreciation for America’s troops and veterans. The Michigan-based organization is responsible for more than 500 billboards across America with phrases encouraging support for the military and their families. To find out more visit their website at http://operationneverforgotten.org/.
‘Give an Hour’ Seeking Volunteers
Give an Hour is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), founded in September 2005 by Dr. Barbara V. Romberg, a psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area. The organization’s mission is to develop national networks of volunteers capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions affecting society. Currently, GAH is dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of the troops and families affected by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization provides counseling to individuals, couples and families, and children and adolescents. GAH recently recruited 1,000 licensed mental health professionals nationwide and continues to seek out additional volunteers. For more information visit their website at http://www.giveanhour.org.
Inclusive Livable Communities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities
A new report from the National Council on Disabilities (NCD) looks at obstacles and solutions relating to people with psychiatric disabilities and their ability to fully participate in their communities. Among other topics, the report covers housing, employment and discrimination. The full report can be viewed at http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2008/LivableCommunities.html.
Operation Purple Summer Camps Registration Now Open
Operation Purple Summer Camps provide an opportunity for military children to connect with peers who are experiencing the stress of having a parent deployed. The camps teach valuable coping skills while also letting children have fun. This year, there will be 64 camps in 37 states and territories. The camps are free but parents are encouraged to apply to a camp closest to their home because transportation costs are not covered. Information about specific camp locations is available at http://www.operationpurple.com/. Registration is available online until May 5th.
Military Working Dogs Available for Adoption
Thanks to a little known law passed in November 2000, military working dogs can be adopted to members of the general public. Debbie Kandoll, who recently adopted a military working dog named Benny, has developed a website (http://www.militaryworkingdogadoptions.com) to help people learn more about the adoption process. To learn more about Debbie and Benny’s story, please visit http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2008/03/military_dogs_032208w/
Guitars for Vets Program
Guitars for Vets is a nonprofit organization established to help ailing and injured veterans by providing free guitars and musical instruction Dan Van Buskik, one of the founders, credits his guitar playing with helping him manage his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Vietnam, and hopes music with help other veterans. If you would like to donate musical equipment or find out more about the organization, visit http://guitarsforvets.org/home.html.
AAFES Radio Network
Delivering a message to local military communities is easier than ever before thanks to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Radio Network. Thoughts of appreciation and gratitude, an announcement welcoming deployed troops home, information on upcoming base or post activities and much more can be communicated through the proprietary in-store radio. Learn more at http://www.aafes.com/pa/news/08news/08-014.htm.