Sick and Tired: Military Kids Need Better Access to Same-Day Care at MTF

Child-at-MTFRecently, when a military spouse at our Association told me she had to take her baby to the emergency room when there were no appointments at their Military Treatment Facility (MTF), I thought my head was going to explode.

I flashed back to one of many similar situations I faced when we were on TRICARE Prime, and my daughter, Kate, was in her ‘ear infection phase.’ On one memorable occasion, Kate started a fever on a Friday night (of course, after the MTF was closed for the weekend). By Saturday, the telltale ear tugging and crankiness were in full swing. I kept my fingers crossed that we could keep things under control with Motrin and Tylenol until the clinic reopened on Monday. Unfortunately, by Sunday she had a 104 degree fever, obvious signs of a ruptured ear drum (I’ll spare you the details), and was crying inconsolably.

I knew we couldn’t wait until Monday for an MTF appointment, so with a newborn crying to be fed and a 20 month old wailing in pain, I braced myself for an uphill battle to find medical care that TRICARE would cover.

I consulted the TRICARE website where it seemed like our only option was the emergency room. This concerned me; did a ruptured ear drum constitute a threat to life, limb, or eyesight? I was terrified of having to foot the bill for an ER visit.

Not willing to risk it, I called TRICARE. They told me to take Kate to a network urgent care and call our primary care manager (PCM) on Monday to request a referral.

I think you know where this story is going…

On Monday, I called our PCM, who refused to give me a referral because the appointment had already taken place. When I called TRICARE back, their hands were tied. Without a referral, they could not pay the urgent care provider. We were at an impasse, and eventually paid out of pocket for that visit.

The reason this particular incident is burned into my memory is because it occurred while I was recovering from a c-section, and we were about a week away from PCSing. My husband’s new unit had orders to Iraq, but the departure date kept moving, causing second and third order effects… most notably on our temporary housing plans. Oh, and we had just learned (from CNN – surprise!) that Army deployments were being extended to 15 months.

Military families lead complicated lives full of uncertainty. Getting a sick child appropriate medical attention should NOT be complicated.

The National Military Family Association has advocated for years to fix this problem.

And, in fairness, things have improved.

Sometimes.

At certain locations.

For instance, our old MTF in Virginia, the Woodbridge Clinic, is gone now. It’s replaced with the Dumfries Clinic, which has improved appointment access by adding Saturday hours.

Yet, we still hear of too many instances where families can’t get same-day appointments at the MTF, are refused referrals to urgent care, and are left with no option but the emergency room for their sick kids.

This is just wrong.

As the health care subject matter expert for our Association, this issue is not only my job, it’s personal. Now is the time to fix this problem once and for all. Military families deserve access to the best care, including same-day appointments for urgent issues.

Please help us by signing our petition and sharing your experience with access to same day appointments in the comments below.

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

Win Movie Tickets to See Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom!

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When we think of military families, words like strength, determination and resiliency come to mind. Those words are even more powerful when we think about military kids. In Disney’s new movie, Monkey Kingdom, Kip the monkey learns to be strong, determined, and resilient, much like military kids–especially since his mom, Maya, often puts herself in danger when foraging for food in the wild.

Monkey Kingdom illustrates the tireless effort of a parent caring for her young one, and displays her resilience through adversity. Maya’s determination gives her the strength and resourcefulness she needs to fend for Kip and be a leader in her troop.

Military families often sacrifice and take on selfless roles in their own troop when a parent deploys, and sometimes, it’s the military kids who become the glue that holds their family together during the tough times–much like Kip does for Maya.

This Earth Day week, we hope you head to theaters to see Monkey Kingdom with your military family, and enjoy the time you can spend together. We can all learn from Maya and Kip and appreciate the strong bonds family provides – after all, we are nothing without each other, especially our young ones!

Want to win free tickets for your family to see Monkey Kingdom? Disneynature has you covered! Enter to win on NMFA’s Facebook page!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

 

 

Since When Does MTF Mean ‘Might Take Forever?’

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Did you know garlic is a powerful antibiotic?

I didn’t either, until I had lived in Germany on an Army post for a couple months.

One day, my daughter woke up with a fever. It was just high enough to have me worried, so I waited for the appointment line to open for the day, and called as soon as the clock rolled over to 7:30am.

We know how this goes, so of course, I had the number programmed in my phone. All the better to dial quickly. By 7:31am I had navigated (like a pro) through the menu options and found myself on hold, waiting to talk to a representative.

“There are seven calls ahead of you.”

Seven.

My heart sank. Seven isn’t great. Seven means it’s likely that the appointments for the day will be filled before they get to me. But, being the optimist I am, I hung on the line.

After all, my baby daughter had a fever. She’s never sick, and even after being trained as a nurse, fevers in infants worry me. The hold music starts playing, and I pulled out the thermometer again. I held my breath and hoped.

Nope, the fever was still there. She’s was flushed, and clammy, and crying, again, because I just had to take her temperature one more time.

“There are four calls ahead of you.”

It’s now 7:45am and I am losing hope. I’m bouncing the baby and waiting.

Finally, a representative comes on the line, gets my husband’s social security number, and asks me to explain the problem. I do, and the baby screams, filling in the gaps of my story with her own frantic song.

“The earliest we can get you in is Friday. There is an appointment at two.”

Today is Monday, and we need seen now. Friday won’t work. On Friday, she’ll be fine. Or, as my overly worried Momma brain starts thinking, she’ll be dead.

The only other option is to take her to the emergency room. Germany doesn’t have an urgent care system, and other than the small clinic on post, there isn’t an American facility to go to. However, the German children’s hospital is amazing, if your child needs a hospital; if you have an infant with a fever, it’s really not that great. What I needed was antibiotics for an ear infection, and the reassurance that I was doing the best I could by hydrating and comforting my child at home. What I got was excessive testing in the German hospital, hours of waiting, the stress of not being unable to understand the system, and the flu (probably from the arm rests in the waiting room).

Unfortunately, this situation happened to me again, and again, for the three years we were stationed in Germany.

During our tour there, I was only seen ONE time for an urgent matter in the pediatrician’s office, and that was because I sat in the office and refused to leave until someone could help me.

I learned quickly the best I could do was attempt to help myself. I learned that garlic is a powerful antibiotic… in large doses. And believe me: you really haven’t lived until you’ve tried to get your five year old to swallow four cloves of fresh garlic to treat a suspected ear infection.

I learned Germany has an extensive alternative medicine culture, and in a pinch, I could go to a pharmacy off post and communicate my problems (in terrible German) to their pharmacists. I learned essential oils can help, and sometimes, you just have to suck it up and spend two nights in the German hospital for an issue American doctors would treat as urgent care, and send you home.

This has to change. Our military children deserve better. As wonderful as alternative medicine and emergency rooms are, we shouldn’t be forced to use them because there aren’t enough appointments, or doctors, to go around.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up on garlic.

Have you had problems making an MTF appointment for a sick family member? Please tell us about it and include the approximate time frame (we are most interested in recent situations to show this is a current problem). We will compile your stories and share with Congress and senior DoD leadership.

heatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Volunteering is More Than Just Showing Up! #OurVolunteersRock

VolunteerAppr-Blog

At the National Military Family Association, we like to say #OurVolunteersRock and we really mean it!

Recently, I joined our Volunteer Services Director and West Region Coordinator for a volunteer training session – where we provided in-person training to volunteers in Tucson, Arizona.

I started with NMFA as a volunteer in 2005 shortly after my husband joined the Marine Corps. My first Association event was a volunteer training conference held in Denver, Colorado. I was hooked. I loved meeting volunteers from all seven Uniformed Services and proudly boasted that I had a new friend who was a Coast Guard spouse! Not only did I learn about the history of NMFA, I had a chance to meet with staff, Board Members, and other volunteers. I learned about the latest legislative action, how to network in my community, and how to share information with NMFA so they could advocate on behalf of military families across the globe.

The training in Arizona was no different; except this time I was the trainer. I shared information about sequestration, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommendations, the 2016 Defense Budget, and how these elements connect with our 2015 Legislative Priorities.

Do you know what I learned from this training session?

Our Volunteers want MORE!

Our Volunteers are engaged in their communities and want to be more involved.

Here are some quick tips that I shared to help our Volunteers be their own best advocate:

  • Read our publications. From our monthly, Military Family News, to our website, and blog – we have great information for #milfams.
  • Follow us on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram…let us know you read our blog!
  • Stay engaged in your local community. Attend community events and report back to us about what is or is NOT happening to support military families.
  • Be an active volunteer. We provide exclusive volunteer-only training with webinars, conference calls, and in-person training sessions.

During Volunteer Appreciation Week, I would like to personally thank our past, present and future, yes, future, volunteers for continuing to be the “eyes and ears” in your local community and helping us advocate for you and your military family.

Wanna join us? Check out our volunteer opportunities!

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Blink of an Eye: A Perspective of 20 Years at NMFA

1997-kmoakler

1997

After almost 20 years, I’m leaving my job here at NMFA to go work with military families as the Director of Case Management for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). As the last day approaches, I’ve been sharing my experiences with co-workers and thinking about how I, and our Association, arrived where we are today.

When I arrived at NMFA in 1995, I was at a crossroads. My qualifications to become a legislative assistant in Government Relations included years of experience as a military spouse who had cobbled together a resume of itinerant job skills and a wealth of volunteer service. We had always lived on post. I had raised three children in the military life, changing schools, supporting their activities, and learning the military health care system. Heck, we were Military Family of the Year on post one year in the 80s – the year we were never together as a family at the dinner table. I was—and still am—a connector, a go-to person for anyone with questions because I learned all I could about each community when we moved there.

It was all about the phone and letters in those days – pushing out info through the newsletter and fact sheets. Learning from the great ladies of our organization in my time – Sydney Hickey, Margaret Hallgren, Dorsey Chescavage, Edie Smith – and the men – Bob Rosen, Tom Sims, and Jim Mutter. Being a calm voice at the end of the phone when someone called with a problem or challenge with military benefits. Hardly ever hearing the words “military family” (unless we spoke them) as we worked with members of Congress or attended hearings on the Hill.

testimony

2009

Cycle forward through 20 years. NMFA geared up and responded in a big way to the challenges military families faced as we entered the longest war in our history. From our office, we heard and felt the planes hitting the Pentagon on 9-11. We got rid of the paper and started reaching out to families in real time with the info they needed when they needed it. Our own spouses and children in combat. We were our own family readiness group, working with people who understood how it felt when we hadn’t heard from a daughter in Iraq for a few weeks. Sharing tears at the water cooler when it all became too much.

The pace was exhilarating, working long days and weekends, but seeing results in improved benefits and programs for the families of the deployed, the wounded and those who didn’t come home.

We’re fighting a different battle now – trying to preserve the benefits and resources that help keep our military families strong so that their service member can battle another day. We’re looking for support for what may be problems down the road, both for the spouses and children who faced the challenges of multiple deployments and for the families of those who have yet to serve.

I have been honored to work with a grand group of folks who are passionate about military families. It’s important to me because I see those next generations coming, with my kids who serve and my soon to be grandbabies who will be military kids. Some of the nicest people I know advocate for the military inside and outside the Pentagon. I know all the folks here, led by my outstanding Government Relations staff, will continue to channel that passion and make sure military families’ voices are heard

I’ve been privileged to have a family who supported me in my work, especially my husband Marty. Many thanks to my battle buddy, Joyce Raezer. I look forward to new challenges but know that it was NMFA that helped make me the advocate I am today. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s been a grand ride!

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, former Government Relations Director

Win a Bedroom Makeover for Your Awesome MilKid!

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We’re having a blast celebrating the Month of the Military Child, and this month just got a little more awesome! NMFA is teaming up with top design firm Laurel & Wolf to give a special military child a bedroom makeover! You may remember the contest we did with Laurel & Wolf, where we surprised a deserving military spouse with a master bedroom makeover…now, it’s time for the kids to win!

Military kids are resilient, endure change like champs, and in some cases, are the glue that holds the family together while a parent is deployed. They’re strong 365 days a year, we’re excited to work with Laurel & Wolf to give back to our nation’s smallest heroes.

Would your MilKid love a bedroom makeover? Are they in need of a space that’s all theirs? Enter to win today! Tell us why your child is one-of-a-kind and he or she could be chosen as the winner on April 17th!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

 

The Top 5 Reasons to Volunteer with Us! #OurVolunteersRock

Quantico-09.08April 12-18 celebrates Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate! For almost 46 years, our Association has built our legacy on the backs of our Volunteers, who have selflessly given their time, energy, and efforts to support military families.

No one knows military families better than military families. That’s why we need you! If you’ve considered applying to be part of our Volunteer Corps, but haven’t done it yet, here’s 5 reasons you should hit Send today!

Find lasting friendships.
Volunteering not only forms relationships with the community you’re working with, it also creates bonds with fellow military spouse Volunteers that last a lifetime.

Fabulous Training. Awesome Opportunities.
Volunteers receive ongoing mentoring from our Volunteer Services Department, instant access to training, and have access to our spouse scholarships, internships, even jobs within our Association!

Make a Difference. Change a Life.
Our Volunteers devote more than 14,000 hours each year educating, informing, and strengthening military families. We’re not just making a difference, we’re changing lives.

Amazing Programs for Amazing Families.
From Operation Purple® Camps to military spouse scholarships, our programs give military families the support and confidence they need. Together we’re stronger!

Military Families Rock!
“It’s rewarding to serve the communities we love. It’s an honor to be the voice for my military family community!” -NMFA Volunteer

Do you have a military connection and want to join our Volunteer Corps? Fill out your application today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager