November 15, 2006
Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 20
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 with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.
In this issue:
- Study Shows All Volunteer Force Educated, Less Wealthy
- New Web-based Training for Casualty Officers
- Breaking Ground on the Future of Carlisle Barracks
- Most Retirees and Survivors to Receive 3.3% Benefit Increase in 2007
- American Legion’s Family Support Network
- VFW Unmet Needs Program
- VA Services for Returning Combat Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation enduring Freedom
- Adopt a Service Member or Military Family with Operation Homefront’s eCarePackage!
- 2007 DECA Scholarships Program Opens
- DoD Schools Satisfaction Survey
- American Pain Foundation Helps Wounded Veterans
- TRICARE Information Now Housed Under One Roof
- Changes to TRICARE Transitional Survivor and Survivor Benefits for Active Duty Family Members
Study Shows All Volunteer Force Educated, Less Wealthy
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a study released in September by the National Priorities Project, a policy research group, found that young men and women from families with household incomes ranging between $30,000 and $60,000 a year are over-represented in Army recruitment levels. The national household median income was $46,326 in 2005, and the study found the most highly represented families were those whose household income was between $40,000 and $55,000 a year. People from those families tended to join the Army at nearly four times the rate of youths from households with between $120,000 and $130,000 in annual income. Yet in terms of education levels, 82.9 percent of the Army's enlisted force — those at the rank of sergeant or below — has a high school degree or equivalent. That's above the average of 78.8 percent for the population as a whole, according to 2005 U.S. census data.
New Web-based Training for Casualty Officers
The Army fielded its first standardized, web-based, mandatory training curricula for casualty assistance and notification officers on 1 November 2006. These new training products are the outgrowth of recommendations from the Army's Inspector General to Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey after completing an inspection of the Army's Casualty Program in January 2006. Previously, each installation Casualty Assistance Center (CAC) developed and presented its own certification training classes for casualty assistance officers (CAOs) and casualty notification officers (CNOs) within its geographic area of responsibility prior to assigning Soldiers to an actual notification or assistance mission. The new on-line courses are the base training curricula for all CACs world-wide. The web-based format enables Soldiers in remote locations 24/7 access to the same level and quality of training that was normally only available at key installations. Each installation CAC may supplement these standard training curricula with additional discussions, role-playing exercises, and information on resources and procedures applicable to the local geographic area. The Army's Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center (CMAOC) has also formed mobile training teams with casualty and mortuary affairs expertise who will deploy to locations across the Army in the coming months assisting installation CACs to incorporate the web-based products into local training protocols. Additionally, the CMAOC will continue developing additional web-based training resources and other specialized functions that support the Army's Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Programs.
Breaking Ground on the Future of Carlisle Barracks
On a lush piece of land that will become known as The Meadows, Soldiers, family members, military and community leaders and GHM Military Housing representatives braved the windy weather to witness the Carlisle Barracks residential community initiative groundbreaking October 23. In an area that will soon host more than 50 new modern-styled homes, 14 representatives dug their shovels into the dirt, breaking ground for what will be a long lasting addition to the Carlisle Barracks installation and surrounding communities. This begins a 50-year partnership between the Army, Carlisle Barracks and GMH Military Housing which will lead to very good improvements in quality of life for Soldiers and families living at Carlisle Barracks. For complete article go to: http://www.ima.army.mil/sites/newsletter/carbarracksiwn.asp
Most Retirees and Survivors to Receive 3.3 % Benefit Increase in 2007
Social Security payment recipients and most military retired members will receive a 3.3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) starting in January 2007. The same COLA will also be received by Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuitants, veterans getting Veterans Disability Compensation, and survivors receiving Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC). As enacted in the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), active duty service members will receive a 2.2 percent increase in basic pay in January, 2007. Select noncommissioned and warrant officers will receive targeted raises in April, bringing the average raise to 2.7 percent. For the second year in a row, the percentage increase in active duty pay will be less than the increase in retiree and survivor benefits. The COLA will not be the same for all military retired members. Servicemembers who retired during calendar year 2006 will receive a somewhat smaller, partial COLA for 2007 only. Their retired pay is based on the January 2006 military pay tables, which resulted in a higher retired pay than if their pay had been based on the 2005 pay rates. Servicemembers who entered service before September 8, 1980, and who retired on or after January 1, 2006, will receive a 2.8 percent COLA. Those who entered service on or after September 8, 1980 (whose retired pay is calculated on their highest 36 months' basic pay rather than final basic pay), (cont’d)
and retired between January 1, 2006, and September 30, 2006, will receive a partial COLA based on the calendar quarter in which they retired: January-March retirees will receive 2.8 percent; April-June retirees, 2.4 percent; and July-September retirees, 0.6 percent; those who retire after October 1, 2006, (fourth quarter) will see no COLA this year.
American Legion’s Family Support Network
The American Legion's Family Support Network assists the families of deployed Servicemembers by helping with everyday chores such as grocery shopping, child-care, lawn care, and car repair. Family members can contact the American Legion for assistance by calling 1-800-504-4098 or by e-mailing email@example.com. The Legion will put families in touch with its local volunteers to determine if and how assistance can be provided. A request form is also available on the Legion’s web site at www.legion.org. Click on the link to Veterans and select Military Family Support from the drop down menu for more information.
VFW Unmet Needs Program
The Veterans of Foreign Wars' Unmet Needs Program can provide funds to military families in financial difficulty. It also connects families with tradesmen who have volunteered their time and skills to support military families while the Soldier is deployed. For more information, visit the VFW's Unmet Needs website: http://www.unmetneeds.com/
VA Services for Returning Combat Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom
Seamless Transition is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program to serve Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and to assist them with transitioning from active duty to civilian life. The VA's goal is to ensure that every seriously injured or ill serviceman and woman returning from combat receives easy access to benefits and world-class service. For the most seriously wounded, VA counselors visit their bedside in military hospitals before separation to ensure their VA disability payment coverage will be ready the moment they leave active duty. Please click here to go to the VA’s Seamless Transition home page. http://www.seamlesstransition.va.gov/
Adopt a Service Member or Military Family with Operation Homefront’s eCarePackage!
Operation Homefront has recently launched eCarePackage, an on-line service that allows people to send care packages to deployed troops and their families. First, service members and families must register on http://www.ecarepackage.org, then visitors can identify which Soldiers or families they would like to help based on common interests. The secure site protects the identity of both Servicemember and family. Donors can then choose items from the eCarePackage store to be sent to the family or Servicemember. Items available in the eCarePackage store range from toiletries and necessities to games, books and candy. Most items were donated from generous sponsors, such as The Dollar Tree which runs its Operation Appreciation program in most stores nationwide. Donated items are not marked up, so eCarePackage visitors often pay only the cost of handling and shipping – making eCarePackage less expensive than doing it yourself. Moreover, Operation Homefront has partnered with DHL, which provides postal service to overseas troops, to ensure direct and timely delivery of all care packages to deployed troops.
2007 DECA Scholarships Program Opens
Applications for the DeCA Military Children Scholarship Program ($1,500 scholarships) are available at 264 commissaries worldwide or can be downloaded through though the link on the DeCA web site: http://www.commissaries.com. The $1,500 scholarships are available for children of military active-duty, retired, and Guard and Reserve service members. The program is administered by the Fisher House Foundation. Most of the funds are donated by DeCA’s suppliers and by private donations. Every dollar donated to the program by industry or the general public goes to fund the scholarships. Donations can be made through the DeCA web site. Applications for 2007, which includes an essay on “how and why” the applicant would change an historical event, must be turned in at a commissary by close of business on Feb. 21, 2007. At least one $1,500 scholarship will be awarded at every commissary location with qualified applicants. The program is open to unmarried children under the age of 21 (23 if enrolled in school) of military active-duty, Reserve, Guard and retired personnel. Eligibility will be determined using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database. Applicants should ensure that they, as well as their sponsor, are enrolled in the DEERS database and have a current ID card. The applicant must be planning to attend, or already attending, an accredited college or university full-time in the fall term of 2007, or enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.
DoD Schools Satisfaction Survey
On November 1, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) launched its Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS). The survey, which runs through February 28, 2007, provides valuable feedback to DoDEA from students, parents, and teachers concerning the quality of education it provides. DoDEA conducts this survey biannually. Separate surveys will be provided to teachers, parents, students in grades 4-5, students in grades 6-8, and students in grades 9-12. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete the survey. To take the survey go to http://www.dodea.edu/ and click on the link for the 2006 Customer Satisfaction Survey. For additional information, call (703) 588-3260.
American Pain Foundation Helps Wounded Veterans
Severely wounded Servicemembers may experience chronic pain as a result of their injuries. The American Pain Foundation recently launched a public service campaign to highlight the importance of getting early care for this problem. To help veterans learn more about managing chronic pain, the Foundation provides a list of resources on its web site, www.painfoundation.org. Veterans may also participate in on-line forums. The American Pain Foundation's toll-free number is 1-888-615-7240.
TRICARE Information Now Housed Under One Roof
The TRICARE web site has a new name, a new look and a new home. The new web site, www.TRICARE.mil is a comprehensive, one-stop guide to benefits, claims, TRICARE providers, and health news. TRICARE Prime enrollees can also make appointments on-line. In the next phase of web site improvements, beneficiaries will be able to enter their profile and receive benefit information tailored to them. TRICARE expects this feature to be available by winter 2007.
Changes to TRICARE Transitional Survivor and Survivor Benefits for Active Duty Family Members
Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 have enhanced TRICARE transitional survivor and survivor benefits for family members of deceased Servicemembers. Transitional survivor and survivor status also affects family members’ Medicare and dental benefits.
A spouse is considered a transitional survivor for a period of three years following his or her sponsor's death provided their active duty service sponsor died while serving on active duty for a period of more than 30 days. As transitional survivors, spouses receive TRICARE medical benefits equal to those of an active duty family members, including rates, fees, priority for appointments at a military treatment facility (MTF), and eligibility for active duty family member programs. At three years plus one day, a spouse’s status changes to survivor status and he or she receives benefits as a retiree family member, for as long as he or she is TRICARE - eligible. Survivor family members are eligible for this provision if their sponsor’s date of death occurred on or after Oct. 7, 2001.
The 2006 National Defense Authorization Act also extends transitional survivor status for surviving minor children and unmarried dependent children of service members who died while serving on active duty for a period of more than 30 days. Surviving children are in transitional survivor status from the date of the sponsor’s death until they reach the eligibility age limit of 21, marry, or otherwise become ineligible for TRICARE. Children remain eligible up to age 23 if they are full-time students at an institution of higher learning and if they rely on the sponsor for more than 50% of their financial support. Family members who are incapacitated (mentally or physically) are also eligible for transitional survivor status for 3 years after their sponsor’s death, or age 21, or age 23 if a full-time student, whichever time period is longer. After three years the incapacitated family member receives retiree status.
TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Prime Remote for Active Duty Family Members program, Overseas Prime, Global Remote and the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) programs are available to those in transitional survivor status (spouses, minor children, eligible unmarried dependent children, and incapacitated children). Transitional survivors who choose to live overseas should check with their overseas TRICARE Service Center, as the availability of certain benefits may vary between the United States and locations overseas. At the end of the transitional survivor period, the status for surviving spouses and incapacitated dependent children changes to survivor status at the retiree payment rate.
Transitional survivors who are eligible for both TRICARE and Medicare Part A benefits should be aware that they do not have to purchase Medicare Part B coverage to maintain TRICARE eligibility. However, Medicare considers transitional survivors the same as survivors and will charge a late penalty surcharge if transitional survivors do not purchase Medicare Part B coverage within eight months of their sponsor’s death (or eight months from the date that they themselves become eligible for Medicare Part A). After the transitional survivor period ends, surviving spouses and incapacitated dependent children who become entitled to Medicare Part A due to age (65), disability or end-stage renal disease, must purchase Medicare Part B in order to remain TRICARE eligible.
Active duty family members enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) before their sponsor’s death remain eligible for dental care as transitional survivors for three years from the sponsor’s death. During the three-year period, the government pays 100 percent of the dental premiums. Transitional survivors not enrolled in the TDP before their sponsor’s death may enroll in the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) at any time. Enrollees in this program pay 100 percent of the dental premium cost. After the transitional survivor period ends, surviving spouses, minor children, eligible unmarried dependent children, and incapacitated dependent children whose status has changed to survivors, may also purchase dental coverage under the TRDP. To enroll, surviving active duty family members may contact Delta Dental, the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program contractor, for help.
Surviving family members must ensure eligibility information listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is up-to-date by visiting the nearest uniformed services identification card-facility. Eligibility for transitional survivors and survivors’ benefits changes if the spouse remarries. To locate the nearest facility, survivors may visit the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office Telephone Center Web site at http://www.dmdc.osd.mil or call 1-(800) 538-9552. More information on TRICARE benefits for transitional survivors and survivors is available on the TRICARE web site: http://www.tricare.mil/survivors/Transitional.cfm