July 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
- Sesame Workshop Presents DVD Kit for Military Children and Parents
- AUSA Book Wins First Place Honors in National Competition
- “Army Wives” Second Season Features AUSA Chapter Members
- President Bush Signs HEART Act into Law
- Congressmen Urge Creation of Pilot Programs to Prevent PTSD
- TRICARE Reimbursement Rates Affected as Medicare Bill Introduced to Congress
- Congress Avoids Changes to Ex-Spouse Law
- Philadelphia to Host TAPS Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Children
- The Military Child Education Coalition 2008 Annual Conference
- Websites Allow Military Families to Stay Connected
- Children of Military Benefit from Historic Partnership
- Nickelodeon Show Features Children Welcoming Parents Returning from War
- Sesame Street Characters to Greet Children of Military Families
- Summer Fun for Children With Special Needs
- Antidepressant and Sleeping Pill Use Growing Among Deployed Soldiers
- Internet Radio Show Features Discussion on Combating Depression
- TRICARE Educates Members About Saving On Prescriptions
- Quality of Life Foundation Extends Survey for Wounded Warrior Families
- VA Launches Expansion in Veterans’ Health Facilities
- VA Develops Veteran’s Rural Health Advisory Committee
- Groundbreaking for New Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
- VA Warns Anti-Smoking Drug May Produce Serious Side Effects
- Educational Assistance Available Through the Veterans Upward Bound Program
- Portable Career Opportunities for Military Spouses
- Foreign Military Spouses’ U.S. Citizenship Can Be Obtained Overseas
- VA Reaching Out to Veterans with Mortgage Problems
- Army Battlemind Training Expanded
- “Eternal Flame” May Go Out Due to Funding Issues
- AAFES Contributions Top $6.5 Million for “Help Our Troops Call Home” Program
- Troops and ‘New Avengers’ Step Into Line of Fire in Free Comic Book
Sesame Workshop Presents DVD Kit for Military Children and Parents
Sesame Workshop’s “Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes” is a bilingual (English and Spanish) multimedia outreach program for children between the ages of two and five. The kit includes two DVDs featuring Sesame Street Characters, a magazine for parents and caregivers, and a children’s activity poster. The first DVD is designed for families who are experiencing deployment and reunion. The second DVD relates to children who had a loved one return home with a combat-related injury. Sesame Workshop has donated copies to AUSA Family Programs for distribution to Army families. For your FREE copy, please email your shipping information to AUSA Family Programs at email@example.com. For more information about the kit, visit Sesame Workshop’s website at http://www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc/.
AUSA Book Wins First Place Honors in National Competition
The Association of the United States Army’s “Airborne Forces at War,” by Robert K. Wright Jr. and John T. Greenwood, took first place honors in the Society of National Association Publications Excel Awards Non-Technical Book category. Greenwood previously received a first place finish for his co-authored book, “Medics at War.” This is the third AUSA book to win the award in the past four years. The book is available online at http://www.ausa.org or in bookstores.
“Army Wives” Second Season Features AUSA Chapter Members
Lifetime’s original hit series “Army Wives” is into its second season. The series explores the struggles, friendships and dreams of women and men living on an Army post. Recently, twenty seven of AUSA Charleston South Carolina Chapter members were used as extras in the fifth episode of the second season. “Army Wives” has also agreed to donate gifts for AUSA Newell-Rubbermaid’s Family of the Year winner. “Army Wives” airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on Lifetime. For more information about the television series, visit http://www.mylifetime.com/on-tv/shows/army-wives.
President Bush Signs HEART Act into Law
President Bush signed the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act (H.R.6081) into law (public Law 110-245) on June 17, 2008. The HEART Act will permanently allow tax-exempt pay received in a combat zone to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and will permit contributions of military death gratuity payments to Roth IRAs and Education Savings Accounts. To read all of the provisions, please visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.06081:.
Congressmen Urge Creation of Pilot Programs to Prevent PTSD
Legislation sponsored by Colorado Congressman Mark Udall and Missouri Congressman John Salazar, would direct Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to operate pre-deployment counseling programs. This would be a preventative effort to reduce the risk of combat stress and to provide prompt and effective treatment to returning Troops. The bill (H.R. 6268) also gives active duty Servicemembers access to readjustment and mental health counseling from veteran’s centers, provides grants for nonprofit groups who provide counseling services for the survivors of Servicemembers or veterans, extends military survivor benefits to families of Servicemembers who commit suicide after a history of combat-related health problems, and creates a scholarship program to train behavioral health specialists about mental health treatment for Servicemembers and veterans. To read the full bill, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.06268:.
TRICARE Reimbursement Rates Affected as Medicare Bill Introduced to Congress
The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), introduced a Medicare bill (S.3101) that would prevent the scheduled 10.6% cut to physician payment rates scheduled for July 1st. The bill calls for an 18-month fix that would include a 0.5% increase this year and an additional 1.1% increase in 2009 to the payment rates. The proposed bill would cost $20 million over five years and would use the Medicare Advantage Program to offset the costs. In a similar proposal, the House introduced the “Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008” (H.R.6331) to stop the July 1st and January 1st reimbursement cuts. For more information about the bills, please visit the Library of Congress website at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
Congress Avoids Changes to Ex-Spouse Law
No changes will be made to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) for 2009. Neither the House nor the Senate requested changes be made to the fiscal 2009 provisions. Currently, USFSPA allows state divorce courts to divide military retirement pay as community property. For more information on USFSPA’s current regulations, please go to http://www.military.com/benefits/retiree/uniformed-services-former-spouses-protection-act.
Philadelphia to Host TAPS Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Children
On Saturday, July 12, the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in downtown Philadelphia will host the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Children. The seminar will allow surviving families from the area to meet and find ways to cope with grief and loss through participation in peer based support groups. The Good Grief Camp for Children will include a day of activities for children of all ages to share feelings, deal with loss and find ways to heal. To register for the event or to learn more about TAPS, please go to http://www.taps.org or call 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).
The Military Child Education Coalition 2008 Annual Conference
The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) will hold its 2008 annual conference July 23-25 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, TX. MCEC will host pre-conference workshops on July 22 and 23. The workshops will include Transition Counselor Institute, Special Education Leaders Institute, Supporting Children of the National Guard and Reserve Institute and Living in the New Normal: Supporting Children Through Trauma and Loss. The general session of the conference will feature Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert M. Gates and Chief of the Army, General George W. Casey Jr., along with other speakers. MCEC will also celebrate its tenth birthday with General William E. Ward, Commander of the U.S. Africa Command. MCEC is a non-profit organization designed to identify the needs of the military child and implement programs to provide for those needs. For more information about MCEC, the conference, or to register for the event, please visit http://www.militarychild.org.
Websites Allow Military Families to Stay Connected
“Websites for Heroes” is a non-profit website that allows military families to stay connected while deployed or stationed overseas. Secure websites are donated to military families with the capability of uploading unlimited photos, message board or blog postings, calendar updates and up to two hours of streaming video. To request your free website, go to http://www.websitesforheroes.com.
Children of Military Benefit from Historic Partnership
The Department of Defense and the Department of Education have entered into a formal relationship to work together to address the unique challenges faced by children of military families. Senior leaders of both agencies signed a memorandum of agreement to provide a framework for their work together, solidifying a long-standing informal relationship. Priority areas will include strengthening and expanding school based efforts and providing coping skills to deal with deployment. To read about this historic agreement, visit http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=12014. The entire memorandum of agreement can be viewed online at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/d20080625doddoe1.pdf .
Nickelodeon Show Features Children Welcoming Parents Returning from War
Linda Ellerbee joins with Nick News to showcase military families and how they handle reintegration in the family. “Coming Home: When Parents Return From War” premiers on Nickelodeon July 6th at 9pm eastern standard time. The show will honor Servicemembers and highlight children who have bravely sacrificed during their parents’ absence. For more information about the program, visit http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6571172.html.
Sesame Street Characters to Greet Children of Military Families
Sesame Street’s most famous characters, Grover, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoe and Rosita, will visit military children on 43 military bases beginning July 8th. This will be the first time in the history of Sesame Street that the Muppets have done a live outreach program. Particularly effective with three to five year olds, the appearances will include a 20-minute performance by the Muppets, with giveaways and information about resources for military families with young children. To read the entire article, please visit http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/06/military_sesamestreet_tour_062608w/.
Summer Fun for Children With Special Needs
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities has published “Summer Camps 2008,” a list of camp sites and other websites designed for special needs children. The publication can be viewed at http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/genresc/camps.pdf. For more information on finding programs for children with disabilities, please visit your local Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) office or go to Military One Source at http://www.militaryonesource.com and click on the “Special Needs” icon.
Antidepressant and Sleeping Pill Use Growing Among Deployed Soldiers
According to a report in Time Magazine, a growing number of Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking antidepressants and sleeping pills to cope with anxiety and depression. An anonymous survey was conducted last fall by the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team. The survey found that 12% of combat Troops in Iraq and 17% of Troops in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills. The survey concluded that the lengthy deployments, insufficient time away from combat and escalating violence are to blame for the increase in prescription medication. To read the full article, go to http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1811858,00.html.
Internet Radio Show Features Discussion on Combating Depression
Dot Mil Docs, an Internet radio show, recently featured a show on combat depression with Colonel Robert Ireland, DoD’s Program Director for Mental Health Policy. Dot Mil Docs, a product of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, features shows designed to discuss topics related to military health. Listen to the show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stations/PentagonRadioNetwork/Dot-Mil-Docs.
TRICARE Educates Members About Saving On Prescriptions
Beneficiaries who use the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP) can save money on prescriptions, according to information being sent out to explain the cost-saving features of TMOP. The letters explain how to switch from retail pharmacies to TMOP and potentially save up to 66% on prescription drug costs. According to TRICARE, beneficiaries can get a 90-day supply of medication through TMOP for the same co-payment as a 30-day supply from a retail pharmacy. TRICARE serves more than 9.1 million eligible beneficiaries worldwide in the Military Health System (MHS). To register for TMOP, go to http://www.express-scripts.com/ or call the Member Choice Center (MCC) at 1-877-363-1433.
Quality of Life Foundation Extends Survey for Wounded Warrior Families
The Quality of Life Foundation is requesting Wounded Warrior Families to complete an online survey regarding support for Wounded Warrior family care. The information will be used as research material in analyzing the current level of support for Wounded Warrior family care. If you are willing to participate in the research study, please visit the Quality of Life Foundation at http://www.qolfoundation.org and click on the “Click Here” link under the “Help Us Help You” section of the website.
VA Launches Expansion in Veterans’ Health Facilities
The Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Dr. James B. Peake, announced plans to open 44 new community-based outpatient clinics in 21 states over the next fifteen months. The clinics will increase the VA’s network of independent and community-based clinics to 782. The increase in clinics helps the VA’s quality of service with 98 percent of veterans being seen within 30 days. For more information about the location of the clinics or about the VA’s health care program, please visit http://www.va.gov.
VA Develops Veteran’s Rural Health Advisory Committee
The Secretary of VA, appointed 13 people to the Veteran’s Rural Health Advisory Committee. The committee will advise Secretary Peake on the health care issues currently affecting veterans in rural areas. The committee is chaired by James F. Ahrens, former head of the Montana Hospital Association. The remaining members include affected veterans, rural health experts, state and federal professionals on rural health, state-level veteran’s affair’s officials and leaders of veteran’s service organizations. For more information, please visit http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1511.
Groundbreaking for New Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. As a result of a decision from the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the new $970 million project will add or renovate 2.5 million square feet to provide 345 beds. The center will be a joint-service medical facility and is scheduled for completion in September of 2011. To read more about the groundbreaking ceremony, go to http://www.navytimes.com/news/2008/06/army_walterreed_062508w/.
VA Warns Anti-Smoking Drug May Produce Serious Side Effects
The Veteran’s Affair’s Department is notifying around 33,000 veterans of the potential serious side effects of taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix. One serious side effect includes thoughts of suicide. The VA Secretary informed reporters that the drug is still being prescribed for some veterans suffering from stress disorders who are part of a larger study to stop smoking. The VA has not reported any serious problems with its use. To read more, go to http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/health/5847075.html.
Educational Assistance Available Through the Veterans Upward Bound Program
The Veterans Upward Bound Program is a free U.S. Department of Education program designed to help veterans refresh their academic skills and receive a college degree.
The program focuses on:
- basic skill development to help veterans complete a high school equivalency test and apply to college
- short-term remedial or refresher classes for high school graduates
- assistance with college applications
- assistance with financial aid applications
- personalized counseling
- academic advice and career counseling
- assistance in obtaining Veteran services from other resources
- exposure to cultural events, academic programs, and other educational activities
To determine if you are eligible and to find out more about the program, please visit their website at http://navub.org/.
Portable Career Opportunities for Military Spouses
The Military Spouse Career Advancement Initiative is a pilot program that provides assistance to military spouses seeking to advance their career. Career Advancement Accounts (CAA) cover the cost of training and education for military spouses to gain the skills and credentials necessary for their careers. CAA can pay up to $3,000 in fees for one year and can be renewed for a total of $6,000 over two years. CAA only apply to the following fields of study: health care, education, financial services, information technology, skilled trades, human resources, business management, hospitality, and homeland security. To determine your eligibility or for more information about the program, please visit http://www.military.com/spouse/cf/0,,cf_CAA_111407,00.html.
Foreign Military Spouses’ U.S. Citizenship Can Be Obtained Overseas
Foreign spouses of US Servicemembers stationed overseas no longer have to travel to the United States to obtain their citizenship. Representatives of the Citizenship and Immigration Services can now interview and swear in command-sponsored foreign spouses and children at their stations overseas. Those spouses applying for citizenship must fill out the N-400 application form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at http://www.uscis.gov/. Once the form is processed, contact the nearest Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services office for further information.
VA Reaching Out to Veterans with Mortgage Problems
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has reduced the number of veterans defaulting on their home loans due to the intervention of loan officers and the VA’s home loan guaranty program. VA loan counselors assist veterans at nine different locations through counseling and special financing arrangements. According to the VA, 74,000 veterans, active-duty members and survivors have kept their homes since 2000. To obtain more information about the VA’s home loan program or to speak with a loan counselor, please call 1-877-827-3702 or visit http://www.homeloans.va.gov/.
Army Battlemind Training Expanded
Battlemind training’s success in preparing Soldiers for deployment has led the Army to make the training a standard requirement Army-wide. The Battlemind website contains tools and materials that will allow individual units to conduct their own mental health training. The website provides training for leaders and health care providers, along with Soldiers and their families. It also features modules designed to address the stigma associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicide prevention, and scenario-based animations for military children. To view the website, go to https://www.battlemind.army.mil/.
“Eternal Flame” May Go Out Due to Funding Issues
The “Eternal Flame” sitting atop the Liberty Memorial tower at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO may be turned off due to funding constraints. Pioneer Services, a division of MidCountry Bank, has donated $5,000 to the museum to keep the flame burning through the July 4th weekend. They have also agreed to match any donations that are made, up to a total of $22,500. Museum officials report it costs $45,000 annually to maintain the flame. To donate, please go to http://www.nwwone.org.
AAFES Contributions Top $6.5 Million for “Help Our Troops Call Home” Program
After four years, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), through the “Help Our Troops Call Home” program, has provided more than $6.5 million in telecommunications support to Soldiers and families. AAFES telecommunications initiative has generated $6,522,898 for Troops serving throughout Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 270,000 phone cards have been sent to deployed Troops in order to maintain contact with their families back home. The Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards purchased through the “Help Our Troops Call Home” program can be sent to individual service members through charitable partners such as the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Soldier & Family Assistance Center, and USO. For more information, please visit http://www.aafes.org or call 1-800-527-2345.
Troops and ‘New Avengers’ Step Into Line of Fire in Free Comic Book
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and Marvel Comics are set to unveil the latest in a series of free military-only “New Avengers” comic books. The new comic, titled “Fireline,” will be available next month and will include information about an AAFES sweepstakes. The sweepstakes will choose two Servicemembers to be photographed and professionally drawn into the next Marvel comic AAFES distributes. The winners will also receive an Iron Man videogame and Nintendo DS handheld game console. For more information about the comic or the sweepstakes, please visit http://www.aafes.com.