Monthly Archives: December 2012

One last holiday gift

Last chance to donate for 2012 - your gift makes a difference!The wrapping paper is torn to shreds, your relatives have departed, and you couldn’t possibly eat another ham sandwich. The holiday season may be drawing to a close, but there are still gifts left to give this year!

As you kick your feet up and breathe a sigh of relief for another successful holiday season, you can put your weight behind a great cause without risking flashbacks of long lines and crowded shopping malls. Consider supporting the military families who stand watch as their loved ones miss holiday celebrations to deploy or participate in humanitarian missions for victims of natural disasters all over the world.

In addition, today is the last day to make your gift one that gives back— December 31st is the last day to make a charitable donation to be deductible on your next tax return.

Show your appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of service members and their families by standing with them and making a donation. Give in your own name or as a tribute to the important people in your life.

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor at the National Military Family Association

More money for military families in 2013

More money for military families in 2013Here’s some good news for the new year, and it’s not even here yet! Some military families will see additional money in their paychecks in 2013. The annual adjustment for BAH and BAS were recently announced. BAH and BAS? While you may not score points in Scrabble with either word, these are important acronyms for military families. BAH means Basic Allowance for Housing, and BAS is the Basic Allowance for Substance.

BAH is a nontaxable allowance provided to eligible service members. The allowance varies worldwide and is based on the median current market rent, average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer), and average renter’s insurance. BAH is also calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents. For 2013 the average increase in BAH for military families is about $60 per month. You can calculate your BAH rate for 2013 before it hits your service member’s paycheck. Remember, BAH is based on your service member’s duty station, which may not be the same zip code where you live. (There are some exceptions to this guideline.)

I used the calculator and noticed the BAH rate for 2013 for our family was actually less than our 2012 rate. Yuck. But not to panic. A key feature of the BAH program is rate protection. This means our BAH will not decrease. This ensures military families who have made long-term housing commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area’s housing costs decrease. However, new families assigned to the area will receive the 2013 rate.

BAS is also a nontaxable allowance and is intended to replace the rations historically provided to service members. BAS rates are tied directly to the United States Department of Agriculture’s calculation of the increasing price of food. This not an allowance to feed your family. It is an allowance to offset the cost of food for the service member only. Enlisted service members will receive $352.27 a month, up from $348.44 per month in 2012. Officers will receive $242.60 a month, up from $239.96 in 2012.

Is this what you expected for the new rates? Are BAH and BAS allowances a key part of your family’s budget?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association

The Holiday Split

The holiday split - how do military families decide where to spend the holidays?It is that time of year again.  The time when you look back on the past 12 months and wonder where the days have gone. The time when the weather gets cooler, the kids are back in school and we are suddenly in the midst of the hectic holiday season! There are many things to think about regarding the holidays but probably the main question brought up before they start is: “Where are we going to spend them?”

This question can easily become an argument in many households. One spouse might feel like they don’t see their family enough and that should justify spending one holiday there. Another spouse might feel like their family holds more traditions and cannot see being away for the year. When you are a military family, this decision seems to get even harder.

It is a rarity that we live near our families. Maybe one tour during our military careers will put us near our loved ones, but let’s face it, we go where the job is.  That being said, visits are hard to come by and the holiday season might be the only time to see extended family during the year. Now, don’t go putting too much pressure on the situation or on your spouse. It is important to remember that holidays are supposed to be fun. We need to enjoy the time with those that we love.

If you and your spouse have this argument every year, it is time for a change. Make it easy and say we will do Thanksgiving at one house and Christmas at another. Then, the next year, you can switch! If it seems like other family members are putting pressure on you, then be honest with them about what you can and cannot do. Family is important, but they are also supposed to be understanding.

In the military, there are many men and women who cannot come home for the holidays at all. We always need to remember that and not feel so bad when choosing where to go because at least you have the choice!

How do you decide where to spend the holidays?

Posted by Rebecca Brinkley, a Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

A Christmas Tree Tale

A Christmas Tree TaleIt’s a particularly warm December day in Florida, but the Christmas spirit makes its way into the hearts and homes of thousands of military families. It is the day when every local military family has the chance to bring home a free Christmas tree. With the help of FedEx employees, the Trees for Troops organization brings thousands of freshly cut Christmas trees to military bases across the world. At MacDill Air Force Base, this annual tree giving event is highly anticipated.

I arrive at the location half an hour early and there are already dozens of families from all branches of Service ahead of me in line. The smell of freshly cut Christmas trees is enchanting. Holiday music is playing in the background and happiness sparkles in the eyes of the children. Everyone already has their perfect Christmas tree in mind and is anxious to pick it up.

As the hour of choosing a tree approaches, the organizers of the event serve us cookies and hot beverages. They are all smiling and thanking service members for the sacrifices they are making for the country. A sense of pride, accompanied by a smile, appears on the faces of military families present. I feel very fortunate to be part of this large family.

One by one, each person goes to pick out the tree of their choice. Children run and point their parents to the tree they desire. Everyone seems, for that particular moment, to have forgotten about all the worries in the world. FedEx employees help carry the trees to the cars and everyone rushes home to start decorating their new Christmas tree.

Once I select my Christmas tree, I notice it is accompanied by a hand written note thanking the troops for guarding our freedom and wishing them a Merry Christmas. I look closely and notice all of the trees carry the same message. It is a true gesture of respect and appreciation.

Among the events I attended at MacDill Air Force Base, this seems to be the one that brings most smiles and light to the community. Bringing a Christmas tree home becomes a symbol of hope and joy. This year, Santa Claus will have a few more decorated trees to admire as he spreads his gifts around the world.

What is your favorite holiday memory or favorite place you’ve spent the holidays?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, a Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress Acts

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress ActsAttention TRICARE beneficiaries! In two weeks, doctors will face a 26.5% payment cut for care they provide to Medicare and TRICARE patients. The National Military Family Association believes these impending cuts will directly affect military families’ access to timely care because physicians may decide to no longer care for their existing Medicare or TRICARE patients or accept new ones.

Getting a so-called “Doc Fix,” which would end scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, is a recurring issue. Congress temporarily stopped the scheduled payment cuts in February 2012 as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012  (P.L. 112-96). Unfortunately, that fix is due to expire on January 1, 2013, which means that without further Congressional action the 26.5% physician payment cut will go into effect. The timing of the expiration also means the issue has been caught up in the negotiations over the pending fiscal cliff. This makes fixing it that more difficult.

By law, TRICARE reimbursement rates must follow the Medicare reimbursement rules. The law does permit TRICARE to make exceptions if necessary to ensure an adequate network of providers or to eliminate a situation of severely impaired access to care. But, the process of making those adjustments can take time and may happen only after TRICARE officials receive enough reports that military families aren’t finding the care they need.

Our research, Views from the Homefront, demonstrated the need for mental health services for military spouses and children. Our military families already experience difficulty gaining access to mental health care in many communities. We cannot afford to lose any mental health providers. After 11+ years of war, the military must be growing our access to mental health care rather than decreasing it.

We’ve been monitoring this issue and raising concerns about the impact not fixing the rates could have on military families. We encourage military families to contact Members of Congress (House and Senate) and tell them how these cuts can affect access to the health care they need. Ask Congress to implement a permanent fix.

What do you think about these potential cuts? Will your family be affected?

Joyce RaezerPosted by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association

Operation Appreciation 2012

Show military families you care at www.operationappreciation2012.com!It’s nice to be a part of something.

This year, we are proud partners with Operation Appreciation, a new, fun, and easy way to support our military families. At the time I write this, more than 38,000 people have signed Operation Appreciation’s pledge to thank military families during the holiday season. Actor Geoff Stults, along with dozens of athletes and celebrities have taken the pledge and signed on to support our cause to show military families just how much we appreciate them. Watch their messages of support here.

As the person at our Association responsible for rallying support for military families, this initiative is music to my ears. As a military spouse, the thanks are truly appreciated.

While it’s so important to recognize those in uniform, we must not forget the families that serve with them. When you consider all of the wives, husbands, kids, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles affected, there are millions of people with an empty seat this holiday season—at the dinner table, at a school play, on the bleachers at a game, or sitting at home with their family.

Sometimes we struggle with how to acknowledge the sacrifices of military families in a meaningful way. What will make a difference? Operation Appreciation is a great place to start. Sign the pledge, share your own story, and learn about ways you can join the Operation Appreciation movement at www.OpApp2012.com.

So, do you have a favorite of the celeb support videos? I definitely have mine!

michellePosted  by Michelle Joyner, Communications Director at the
National Military Family Association

Military families and child care – what are the options?

Military families and child care - what are the options?When mom and dad work, finding care for the little ones, especially if the child is under the age of two can be a challenge and quite an expense. According to Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, in 35 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college. Yikes.

Military families are not immune to this cost. Many times the Child Development Centers are backfilled for months and do not have space availability for new parents. Since many military families don’t have the safety net of extended family and the service member’s schedule is unpredictable, finding reliable child care is a top priority.

So what resources are available for military families?

Military OneSource is a great resource as families start thinking about what options are available when it comes to child care. The National Military Family Association also has a section on our website dedicated to information about child care for military kids. Both are good starting points!

If you are located near a military base, contact the local Information and Referral specialist and the Children, Youth, and Teen programs. The Information Referral specialist will provide information about child care on and off base. The Children, Youth, and Teen programs will have installation-specific options available. Services vary from installation or community and fees are tiered based on the total family income.

Military families may also be eligible for a subsidy through Child Care Aware (formerly NACCRRA). Child Care Aware can help parents locate quality resources in their local community. Child Care Aware also processes the military child care subsidy for most Services. The subsidy programs include Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, Operation Military Child Care, and Child Care Assistance for Families of Severely Injured Military Members. Eligibility requirements vary from program to program, and Service-specific information is available on Child Care Aware’s website.

Most military families are also eligible for a free membership to Sittercity, a popular child care website that is a great option for families new to an area that don’t know any babysitters.

What child care resources have worked for you and your family?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information
Manager at the 
National Military Family Association