Make the Most of Your Post-Military Health Care Options

My biggest stressor during my husband’s separation from the military was finding new health care for our family. I was pregnant with our second child while my husband was going through the transition process, and I didn’t know if he would be eligible for the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP).

And guess what? We didn’t find out we were NOT eligible for TAMP until AFTER he separated from the military. Just in case TAMP wasn’t an option, I explored the Continued Health Benefit Plan (CHBP). This plan has several pros and cons:

Pros:
-Coverage is similar to TRICARE standard
-Coverage ranges from 18-36 months
-Coverage is available for the entire family, or just the service member

Cons:
-A quarter of premiums are due up front ($2,868 for a family)
-Includes cost-shares and deductibles
-Deductibles from TRICARE standard to NOT carry forward to the CHBP coverage

CHBP may be an option right after TRICARE or TAMP coverage ends.

What are some of your other options? You may consider an employer’s health insurance plan, finding insurance in the individual market, or coverage through the Affordable Care Act. If you’re losing TRICARE, TAMP, or CHBP coverage, you’ll have a qualifying event, which means you don’t need to wait for open enrollment to come onto the plan. For our family, finding coverage in the ‘marketplace’ through the Affordable Care Act was the best option. Some good things about this coverage for us was:

  • Subsidies to pay for premiums are available based on your income
  • A wide-variety of plans to choose from ranging from HMO plans similar to TRICARE Prime and PPO plans similar to TRICARE Standard
  • We were able to keep our current providers
  • Monthly premiums are paid at the beginning of the month (not 3 months up front as required by the CHBP)
  • If you move, you can apply for coverage in another state

Here’s what we did:

Are you considering post-military health care options? What would you recommend to others separating from the military who are not eligible for retirement health care benefits?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Power of Volunteering Together: Two Heads Are Better Than One!

Catherine-and-MarlisOne of the privileges of representing the National Military Family Association is the unique opportunity to honor our heroes and military families, and to celebrate their sacrifice through volunteerism. There is no better way to achieve this goal than by attending events on behalf of the Association and working with Association Volunteers.

Events are also great ways to connect with other military spouses and leaders in your community. I have always loved working with Volunteers and traveling to various places to attend events. I have not only gained lifelong friends, but it made my own military spouse journey worthwhile. I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve had the chance to work with!

If you love volunteering, serving those who stand behind the uniform, or you’re attending a national or regional event, maximize your experience and outreach by following these tips:

  1. Have a partner in crime, or in this case a partner in Volunteering. Working together makes the experience more fun and allows you to connect with more military families.
  2. Connect with everyone possible! Connect with the attendees and the different organizations exhibiting at the event.
  3. Rely on your partner. Maybe you know a lot about a specific topic and he or she knows a lot about something else. Together you might know everything!
  4. Are you shy? With another Volunteer by your side, you don’t have to worry about not knowing anyone.
  5. You can become a networking star! The more events you attend, the more people start recognizing you, and your network will continually grow.
  6. If you happen to walk into a room and don’t know anyone, take advantage of name tags. Name tags are great conversation starters!
  7. Recruit! Do you like Volunteering? (We hope so!) If you do, ask others to join you in your efforts.

If you enjoy Volunteering in support of military families, we want you to be a part of our Volunteer Corps!

Have you had an experience where it is better to work as a team instead of working alone? Tell us about it! And consider being a part of our Volunteer Team!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Mobile Initiatives Content Specialist and Catherine Margetiak, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Tampa FL

Teleworking: Is It Really Worth It for Military Spouses?

mom-working-from-homeLike many military spouses, I’ve struggled with unemployment and underemployment. I’ve worked in terrible offices, doing thankless work, with bosses who were less than stellar. My employment journey had been so rocky, I started to accept that ‘bottom of the barrel’ was my lot in this military life.

Then came a fortune cookie that changed everything: “Bide your time for success is near.”

And it was.

A few weeks later, I got a job offer that landed me here. Working for the National Military Family Association has been the best thing I’ve ever done. How often are military spouses fortunate enough to find and land a job that is portable, fulfilling, and that we love doing? The answer is barely ever.

If you’re a military spouse looking for a teleworking position, I have one tip: try to find a job in an office, rather than starting out at home from day one. It’s a risk, but I believe going to an office, forming relationships with coworkers, and being able to SHOW your worth as an employee in person is critical.

Of course, not every company or position will accommodate working remotely, so do your research before you apply. Do you know if the company has other remote employees? Does the job listing say they offer flexible schedules or telework days? If you aren’t sure, ask!

But what happens when you find a great job and get the go-ahead to work remotely when you PCS? Do the Pinterest fairies come during the night and give your home office a makeover worthy of HGTV? Umm… no.

For me, it took a few months to even get around to unpacking what would be my home office. I worked at my kitchen table quite a bit, and on other days, my motivation came flowing when I was bundled up in a blanket on the couch.

Teleworking takes discipline—and not just when it comes to checking off everything from your to-do list. Work and personal life are suddenly in the same space…literally and figuratively, and human interaction outside of your family becomes scarce. This is especially true if you’re PCSing to a place you’ve never been, or to an area where you don’t know anyone.

When my only interaction in a normal week was my husband, and the sandwich artist at Subway, I knew I needed to regroup. “But the sandwich artist is my friend!” I told my husband. I was delusional and in need of a good group of girlfriends to pull me out of my rut. I wondered if I was just one of those people who thrived in an office setting. I questioned whether I was still valuable to the Association, and ultimately, I asked myself, is teleworking really worth it?

Working from home can be the gold medal of military spouse careers, but it takes more than just waking up and walking into your office. Some days are so productive you think you can take over the world. Others seem like a win because you managed to change out of your pajamas before your spouse came home from work.

Don’t settle for ‘bottom of the barrel.’ If you love what you’re doing, set boundaries for yourself, and surround yourself with things (and people) outside of your house. Teleworking can be an awesome, rewarding experience for military spouses.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Raising my Military Kids: Does the Worrying Ever Stop?

liz-larsen-and-familyIt’s been a few days since our son Jake, and daughter Grace, left to go back to school and my house is completely silent. We had a busy Thanksgiving holiday filled with lots of food and football! I still can’t believe both of our children are in college.

I can’t help but think about the young adults they have become, and how I worried about them as they were growing up. If you have kids, you worry, stress over, and second guess every decision you make on their behalf. For me raising my military kids, it was even worse!

I worried about all of the PCS moves and new schools they’d attend. Jake moved with us (in utero) three times before finally being born at Fort Polk! I worried about all of the deployments their dad went on, and how that would affect the kids not having him around. I worried about not having extended family close by.

larsen-kidsAnd the schools! Are they going to be behind at the new school? Will they fit in? Make new friends? Jake attended six different schools and Grace attended five. I wondered if they’d end up hating us for dragging them away from old friends. The worrying never stops. My husband, Jay, and I joked about what our kids would complain to their future therapist about! We’ve given them plenty of material!

But it hit me this morning; I would not change anything about the way they were raised. I am proud of my military brats! They are far more mature and responsible than most of their peers. They are comfortable speaking to anyone, and have respect for everyone they meet. They have a great prospective on life at their young age because they have learned what is truly important.

Adjusting to college life was easy for these two. They have great friends, are making good grades, and are both in leadership positions on campus. I can’t think of anyone more prepared to go off to college, and face life than my military kids!

Liz-LarsenPosted by Liz Larsen, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

Can Military Connected Women Have It All?

As a working mom, it was an honor and a privilege to moderate a conversation between 4 amazing women at this year’s Leadership Lunch.

The topic: does a work-life balance exist for women in the military community? But really, the conversation applied to women—and even men with families.

Lieutenant General Flora Darpino, the first female Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army is married to a retired Army colonel. They raised two daughters together. For LTG Darpino, it’s not about work-life balance. It’s about life.

“For me, work and life don’t have to be two separate things. I don’t look at it as two different buckets on a tight rope that I am trying to balance. I just have to figure out what is going to be in the bucket that I am going to carry.”

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Lakesha Cole, 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, is an entrepreneur. She’s founder and CEO of “She Swank Too,” a boutique for women and girls.  She stays balanced by bringing her kids to work with her, going along with the theme that life and work aren’t necessarily separate.

“My daughter lets me know that I am spending too much time at the computer. My daughter went so far as hiding my computer charger. Set those boundaries and stick to them.”

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Reda Hicks, 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year®, has been a “remote” spouse for the past 6 years. She’s a practicing attorney in Houston, Texas where she lives with her son while her husband is stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

“Women are their own worst critics. Is something that I am going to do when he is 3-years-old going to mess him up for the rest of his life? A lot of us are Type A, and we need to sometimes let some of that control go. I don’t have a formula for how it’s all supposed to work, but you just have to take it day-to-day.”

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Claudia Meyers, wrote, directed and produced Fort Bliss, a movie about an Army medic who comes back from deployment and struggles to resume her role of “mom” to her young son.

“It was the ultimate working mom scenario. Just like civilian mothers, it’s finding that balance between career and family. It’s one of the elements that goes into decision making – she is trying to make the best decision she can in an imperfect situation. When can you really be present and what compromises do you have to make.”

So, does a work-life balance exist for women in the military community? I learned that the answer depends on what balance means to each individual.

Now excuse me while I go reevaluate what’s in my bucket.

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Drowning in Child Care Costs? Here’s Your Lifesaver!

judy-familyI was 7 months pregnant, working full time and searching for a child care provider. As a first time parent, I was terrified to bring my daughter home (can you believe they let you leave the hospital with a newborn and no instruction manual?), but finding someone I trusted enough to leave her with all day while I worked made me incredibly paranoid. Add to that the expense of infant daycare in the DC area, and I was a wreck.

While relaying my plight to my coworkers, a fellow military spouse spoke up and asked, “Don’t you know about Child Care Aware?” The name sounded like some watchdog group who might provide a list of reputable centers.

As it turned out, they were so much more.

My coworker went on to tell me about the subsidy she received for her two children in daycare. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The military would help us offset this huge expense? I wouldn’t just be ‘breaking even’ between my income and the price of daycare? AND the facilities had to adhere to even more stringent guidelines than the state required? Where could I sign up?!

My husband and I selected a few places off their list to check out and tour. We got on a couple of waiting lists at the ones we liked, but we couldn’t do anything with the Child Care Aware application until our daughter was actually born. Once she arrived, we called them (and spoke to a really helpful representative) and discovered we just needed to scan and upload a few documents, and apply online.

To be eligible, I had to either be working full time, or in school full time. So, we sent in one of my pay stubs, my husband’s leave and earning statement (LES), along with the application, and waited a couple weeks to see if we were approved. If we were approved, how much would our subsidy be?

The process was easier than I assumed it would be; I figured I’d have weeks of paperwork going back and forth, and I worried we’d still be waiting to finalize everything when I was ready to go back to work after maternity leave. My worries were, thankfully, unfounded and we were eligible to receive the highest stipend allowed!

So how do they figure out your stipend? In a nutshell, they take into account the income of the service member and the price of the center where you’re placing your child. Suffice it to say, our center was more than their ‘cap,’ which is how we were able to receive such a large amount.

Today, Child Care Aware has contracts to work with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps families, and Army families now use the General Services Administration (GSA).

I am continually surprised by how many other spouses with children aren’t aware of this benefit. If you’re in school or working, and you’re up to your ears in daycare costs, take a few minutes to look this up and see if your center is listed. Trust me when I tell you, it was so worth it for our family!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

A MilKid Milestone: Getting Your First ID Card

birthday-cakeFor any kid, turning ten is a big deal. Getting to double digits is a milestone worth celebrating. However, military kids have an extra reason to look forward to the big 1-0. As every military kid knows, age 10 is when you can get your very own, super grown-up, military dependent ID card.

I didn’t realize just how big a deal this was to my kids until my son’s 10th birthday approached. Glancing at the calendar one day, I noticed the day after his birthday was circled in red. I racked my brain to try and remember what was happening on an otherwise uneventful Monday, with no success. Finally I gave up and asked – what’s so special about December 4?

Ryan looked at me with surprise, “That’s the day we can get my new ID card.”

Gulp. I had forgotten.

Okay, I thought. I can do this. How hard can it be, right? People get new ID cards all the time. And then I remembered.

“Honey, you know, Dad won’t be here that day. Can we wait a few weeks until he’s back? It will be so much easier if he’s there with us.”

Ryan’s face fell. Clearly, he had been looking forward to this for months. The prospect of waiting even a few more weeks for his very own super grown-up military dependent ID card was hugely disappointing.

There it was. Mom guilt. Right then, I decided I was going to get this kid his ID card, no matter what it took.

Turned out, it actually didn’t take that much. In fact, getting my son his first ID card was surprisingly easy. If you are a military parent with a kid approaching the double digit milestone, fear not; you, too, can get your child his very own super grown-up military dependent ID card in just a few easy steps.

  1. Your service member needs to complete the DD 1172-2, the Application for Identification Card/DEERS Enrollment. If he or she will be there when you get the ID card, they should wait and sign it in front of the official at the ID card office.
  2. If the service member can’t be there, the DD 1172-2 must be notarized. Alternatively, if you have a general Power of Attorney, you can present that, along with the completed and signed DD 1172-2.
  3. Find your nearest Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site using the RAPIDS Site Locator. Be sure to check whether the site issues cards for family members (not all do) and if the office accepts walk-ins or requires an appointment.
  4. Visit your nearest RAPIDS site with your excited ten-year-old, his or her birth certificate, and your completed DD 1172-2 (and, let’s be honest, a good book – you’re likely to be there a while). Wait your turn, turn in your form, and that’s it – your child is now the proud owner of his or her very own military dependent ID card.

Need more info? We’ve got your step-by-step instructions and a list of required documents!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director