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First Quarter 2003

First Quarter 2003

Online W2s and more!
Beginning in January, the 2002 W2 tax forms will be available online through the DFAS myPay system.

A personal identification number (PIN) is needed to access personal accounts. Servicemembers, retirees and civilian employees who do not remember receiving their PIN or do not remember the number can retrieve it online.

"We decided to put the W2 form online because we get a lot of phone calls from soldiers who are deployed, have lost their originals or for some reason need another copy," said Catherine Ferguson, a DFAS spokeswoman.

Some of the other finance actions that can be performed online are: purchasing savings bonds, managing allotments, and viewing and printing travel vouchers.

If just civilians received their leave-and-earnings statements (LES) electronically, the Department of Defense would save more than $6 million annually, Ferguson said.

MyPay was formerly known as the Employee Member Self Service system. The system changed, but people don't have to change their PINs, Ferguson said.

Customers with questions about myPay can call customer support at 800-390-2348, Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. EST.

PCS orders may be revoked for moves after 28 February.
In a recent move to ensure unit readiness, the Army has issued "stop-movement" orders to a limited number of active duty soldiers.

Unlike stop-loss, which suspends voluntary separations, stop-movement suspends orders for soldiers in designated units who are projected to rotate and does not apply to soldiers retiring or just leaving the Army.

Enlisted soldiers with assignment orders for 28 February and earlier will proceed as scheduled. Reporting dates of 1 March or later will be revoked for soldiers in affected units. Soldiers affected by stop-movement who are currently TDY and are scheduled to return may have to return early.

According to Army officials, the specific units that will fall under stop-movement have not been announced for security reasons. Units already supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle will not be affected, officials said. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

Stop-Loss Freezes Mobilized Reservists.
PERSCOM just released a new stop-loss program affecting reserve component soldiers. The new measure will keep all mobilized Reservists and National Guardsmen in the Army for at least 90 days following reserve unit demobilization.

LTC Bob Ortiz, Chief, Enlisted Distribution and Readiness Branch, said: "This is a unit-based stop-loss versus the previous individual-skill announcements. When a soldier leaves, that leaves a hole in the unit that has to be filled. In order to fill that hole, reserve commands have been reaching into other units that haven’t been mobilized, which cannibalizes that unit [of] trained and qualified replacements. . . . This stop-loss measure is designed to fix that problem."

Stop-loss does not impact involuntary separations or mandatory retirements. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

Critical Skills Eligible for Retention to 22 Years.
PERSCOM recently announced that staff sergeants in some critical skills may request retention to 22 years’ active federal service. Soldiers must have 19 years’ active federal service and be otherwise eligible for retention.

For more information, contact local career counselors or call Mrs. Marche at PERSCOM, DSN 221-6807 or commercial 703-325-6807.

Enlistment Bonuses
On 31 October 2002 several changes took place to the Seasonal Enlistment Bonus Program. The $4,000, $2,000 and $1,000 bonus program and the $7,000, $2,000 and $1,000 bonus program were adjusted to eliminate the $1,000 amount. Also effective 31 October 2002, the bonus was reduced from $8,000 to $6,000 for applicants with 60 or more semester hours of college and from $4,000 to $3,000 for those with 30–59 semester hours.

These changes do not affect persons currently in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) or persons who enlisted in the DEP prior to 31 October 2002.

PERSCOM POC for this information is Mr. Brophy, DSN 221-4182, commercial 703-325-4182, or e-mail

Personnel MOS consolidation to take place in 2003.
The military occupational specialties (MOS) 75B (personnel administration specialist) and 75H (personnel service specialist) will be consolidated and redesignated 42A (human resource specialist) in 2003. Other changes include the redesignation of MOS 75F (personnel information system management) to 42F (human resources information system management specialist) and MOS 71L (administrative specialist) to 42L (administrative specialist). Reclassifications will occur from 1 June 2003 through 30 September 2003.

According to SGM James Miller, the AG Branch sergeant major, some of the benefits from these actions include more diverse assignment opportunities and increased promotion opportunities. (From an ArmyLink news story.)

Stolen Medical Records.
TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corporation, a military health care contractor in Arizona, recently reported the theft of computer equipment and files.

Besides patient SSNs, the stolen data may include medical procedures, diagnostic codes for medical services, and locations and dates of services. The TRICARE Central Region (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and part of western Texas) is affected.

Officials recommend you take the following actions if you think your personal information is being misused:

  • Contact the three fraud departments listed below and
    1. ask them to close or suspend accounts believed affected;
    2. request a "fraud alert" notice be placed in your files;
    3. request you be called before creditors open new accounts.
  • File a police report in the community where the identity theft took place.

The credit bureau fraud departments below can be contacted weekdays from 0830 to 1630:

For suspected theft or misuse of your SSN, call the SSN Fraud Hot Line at 800-269-0271 or visit the Social Security Administration online. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-438-4338 or by writing to:

Identify Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20580

(From an ArmyLINK news story.)

Special MOS Alignment Promotion Program (SMAPP)
The SMAPP allows promotable specialists and corporals the opportunity to move to a new career field and get promoted early. Soldiers will be promoted on the first day of the month following completion of training into the new skill. Only soldiers in overstrength skills or in an MOS with a promotion cutoff score above 550 are eligible to apply.

Mrs. Marche (DSN 221-6807, commercial 703-325-6807) is PERSCOM’s point of contact for this program.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act.
If you are a reserve component servicemember called to active duty, you are protected by a law that can save you some legal problems and possibly some money as well. Under the provisions of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940, you may qualify for any or all of the following:
  • reduced interest rate on mortgage payments;
  • reduced interest rate on credit-card debt;
  • protection from eviction if your rent is $1,200 or less;
  • delay of all civil court actions such as bankruptcy.

Income Tax Relief for Combat Zone Service.
Tax breaks are on their way for military personnel stationed in combat zones or hazardous duty areas. Eligible servicemembers can exclude from federal income tax either all or some of their active duty pay earned in Afghanistan, specified parts of the Kosovo area and the Persian Gulf region. The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide (PDF) lists some but not all of the designated combat areas.

Qualified hazardous duty areas include: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Djibouti, Africa and the Philippines. (From a Defense Press Service release.)

Soldiers on PCS Need Better Infor-mation.
HQ 1st PERSCOM reported recently that soldiers are arriving for their new assignments with their dependents in spite of the "Deferred Travel Authorized" annotation on their orders.

Most travelers are first-term, sole-parent soldiers proceeding to the first permanent duty station (PDS) without the required Exceptional Family Member Program (EXFMP) screening and/or without applying for command sponsorship or concurrent travel.

When interviewed, these soldiers universally state that they were told by either the chain of command or training base personnel that they could travel and take care of the paperwork after arrival at the new PDS. These events impose considerable personal and financial hardships on soldiers and their family members. They also cause a significant outlay of resources by USAREUR in trying to perform expedited EXFMP screening and attempting to find adequate family housing.

Because these soldiers opted to personally procure commercial transportation without prior approval, many have not been and will not be reimbursed. Further, since the families traveled prior to the issuance of orders, their travel will not be reimbursed either.

For more information call the POCs, Mr. Thomas Gray, 703-428-1425, or MAJ Cynthia Flynn, 703-428-1432.

Order commissary goods for your deployed servicemember.
The commissary offers gift certificates can be redeemed in any store in the CONUS or OCONUS. Certificates are available online, by calling 1-877-770-4438 or by visiting your local commissary.

Gift certificates may be purchased by anyone with a U.S. credit card, but only authorized commissary shoppers may redeem them. Certificates come in denominations ranging from $5 to $100.

The gift certificate program is made possible through a business agreement with CertiChecks, Inc. The Defense Commissary Agency does not receive any money from the agreement. A charge of $4.90 for up to 20 certificates is the standard fee for purchasing certificates, providing they are all going to the same address. Additional charges apply for bulk orders. Typical delivery time for certificates is four to ten days.

AAFES Military Star Card Deployment Policy.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has a special payment policy for its deployed Military Star Card holders. The plan offers deployed card holders a reduced interest rate and no payments for those who are deployed for at least 90 days in conjunction with a JCS deployment. The plan provides two options:
  1. a 6 percent interest rate and the use of the card during the deployment while making no payments, or
  2. a 0 percent interest rate during deployment while making no payments. No charges can be made under this option.

For additional information, contact your local AAFES.

Overseas TDY personnel can purchase motor vehicles.
In a recent change to AAFES overseas purchasing policy, personnel in a TDY status can now buy cars and motorcycles. Previously, buying motor vehicles has been restricted to personnel serving in a permanent change of station status. Now AAFES patrons who have been stationed overseas for at least 30 consecutive days can buy cars, and those serving 90 consecutive days can buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The new vehicles can be purchased for in-country or CONUS delivery.

Major General Kathryn G. Frost, AAFES commander, indicated that this new policy will satisfy the requests of many who are stationed overseas in other than permanent duty status.

Free prepaid phone cards.
Operation Uplink is a unique program of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The contributory program is designed to keep military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with free phone cards. Using contributions from supporters like Wal-Mart, the National Football League and individual donors, Operation Uplink purchases phone cards and distributes them to servicemen and women who are separated from their families.

Cards can be sent to hospitalized veterans or active duty military personnel deployed away from home. Only one card request per servicemember is honored in any 60-day time period. Phone cards will be sent only to military addresses, hospitals or nursing homes.

According to Ron Brown at the VFW’s headquarters in Kansas City, MO, because of the recent threat of war with Iraq, they’re receiving more than 50,000 requests a week compared to the 300 to 400 normally received. Historically, parents, spouses and other relatives and commanders have requested cards in behalf of servicemembers, he said.

Army testing new procedure to detect breast cancer.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) recently began a five-year testing period of a new procedure for detecting early stages of breast cancer in women under age 45. According to Major Alexander Stojadinovic, a surgeon at WRAMC, the study is not intended to compete with mammograms. Rather, electrical impedance scanning (EIS) will assist in diagnosing the early stages of breast cancer, particularly in younger women. Since 20 percent of the active duty force is female (92 percent of them under age 40), EIS could prove to be a valuable tool for the military. "EIS has the potential to identify women at high risk of breast cancer, even if it does not localize a specific lesion," Stojadinovic said.

So far 200 patients are enrolled in testing the new system; WRAMC’s goal is 4,800. Women ages 18 to 45 who are not pregnant and who are military health care recipients may ask to be included in the testing group. They must not have breast-fed or had breast surgery within the preceding three months and must not have implanted electrically-powered devices.

For more information call the Walter Reed Comprehensive Breast Center at 202-782-3416. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

Military Life Insurance Premiums Reduced.
In July 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will reduce its Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) premiums. The new premiums will be about 19 percent less than the current cost, dropping the monthly payments from $20 to $16.25 for the maximum coverage of $250,000.

Family coverage costs will also decline. Spouses’ premiums for coverage of up to $100,000 will decline a maximum of 42 percent, depending on the age group. Children of servicemembers who have SGLI receive $10,000 of free coverage.

In announcing the new reduction, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said, "Ideally, military members and their families will never need to collect from their SGLI policies, but if the need does arise, we want them to have as much insurance protection as possible at the lowest rate possible."

For more information call 1-800-419-1473.

eArmyU expands to three MORE posts.
Soldiers stationed at three more sites will soon be able to enroll in the Army’s online university, eArmyU. The addition of Fort Bliss, TX, Fort Knox, KY, and Fort Sill, OK to the program brings the number of posts offering the Army’s web-based educational opportunities to 14.

Officials from the Army’s Continuing Education System stated that eligible soldiers who enroll at accredited institutions will receive 100 percent tuition, books and course fees up to a cap of $250 per semester hour and a fiscal year tuition ceiling of $4,500.

eArmyU provides access to quality education for enlisted soldiers around the globe, helping them further their professional and personal goals and providing the Army with top preparation for its forces.

Sergeant Justin Bryce, United States Army.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Sergeant Major of the Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense helped swear in 10-year-old Justin Bryce of Binghamton, NY, as an honorary soldier and then promoted him to sergeant in a Pentagon ceremony on 7 October.

Bryce’s 20-year-old-brother, Pvt. Raymond Bryce, a 10th Mountain Division artilleryman at Fort Drum, NY, was flown in to surprise his little brother and other family members attending the ceremony. The older Bryce said he thinks he inspired his brother’s wish to become an Army soldier.

"I think I had something to do with it. I think he leaned more toward it after I joined," Bryce said.

The ceremony kicked off with the official swearing in of Justin as an honorary soldier by Lt. Gen. John Craddock, the senior military assistant to the Secretary of Defense. "The Army gets better every time we enlist a new American," Craddock said prior to the swearing-in.

Justin was then given a custom uniform with Military District of Washington insignia, a challenge coin, black beret and certificate.

SMA Jack Tilley assisted in the ceremony and presented Justin with other special Army mementos, including various Sergeant Major of the Army coins, an Army briefcase, a bag full of Army footballs, an 11 September remembrance coin and an Army pen. He told Justin, as the boy eagerly held out his hand, "As long as you’re a good soldier, this pen will never run out of ink."

Tilley said this experience held special meaning for him.

"I have an exceptional family [member], so to be able to play a small part in something that makes you feel so good . . . I think it’s something everybody should do," Tilley said.

Justin was promoted from private to sergeant following the promotion orders signed by Tilley. Bryce became confused at one point in the ceremony and asked, "What’s a promotion?"

"We’re going to make you from a private to a sergeant so you get an increase in pay. But not much!" Tilley said.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld also participated in the ceremony and awarded Justin with a Secretary of Defense hat and pin. He praised Justin on his advancement in the ranks.

"Congratulations on your elevation to sergeant," Rumsfeld said.

After the ceremony, Rumsfeld met with Justin’s parents, younger sister and two older brothers and welcomed them to the Pentagon. He also expressed his appreciation to Justin for choosing to become an Army soldier.

"Thank you for choosing the Army for your wish," he said.

Jon Rosa, Make-A-Wish’s public relations and development coordinator, out of Kensington, MD, said doctors, family members and the children who have life-threatening illnesses can make wish referrals.

In Justin’s case, the hospital in Wilmington, DE, where he was receiving treatment for cancer made the call to the foundation, and official word of Justin’s wish reached them on 3 October. Rosa said it was urgent to grant the wish "as soon as possible."

"We wanted to provide Justin with some quality time with his family in these last stages of his illness," he said. Rosa said the foundation has a policy of not disclosing the illnesses of clients.

In addition to the swearing-in and promotion ceremony, Justin also had a full day of "training" on 8 October at the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, VA, and the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Baltimore, to get some hands-on experience.

"He really seemed to enjoy himself," Rosa said.

Tilley said he felt honored to assist in the ceremony and grant Justin’s wish.

"We just came out today to make him an honorary sergeant, give him his own uniform and tell him we would do anything we could to help out. It’s the least we could do," he said. (From an ArmyLINK news story by Michelle Bard.) (Editor’s note: Justin lost his battle with cancer on Christmas morning, 25 December 2002.)

Estate Planning Tool Kit.
Estate planning produces a plan that may include some or all of these: a will, military testamentary instrument, trust, life insurance, advance medical directive, health care power of attorney, designation of anatomical gifts, and other dispositive documents.

The Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps’ new Estate Planning Tool Kit for Military & Family Members covers basic tools and techniques many military members use to plan their estates.