Monthly Archives: December 2012

Speak up or shop until your Commissary benefits are dropped

Are military families' Commissary benefits in jeopardy?Growing up, the Commissary was just the store we went to where I got to push the cart and be denied candy. At the time I didn’t understand that there was a benefit to shopping there, but as an adult (an adult without military privileges) I understand just how much you can save by shopping at the Commissary instead of the local Safeway.

Military families that shop at the Commissary save up to 30% more on their grocery bill than civilian families, however, these savings are in jeopardy. In a measure to cut spending, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has suggested cutting the $1.5 billion subsidy the Department of Defense spends on Commissary operating costs. In addition to possibly losing the subsidy, military families’ Commissary benefits could also be affected by looming sequestration cuts should debt agreements not be reached by January 2nd. That’s just three weeks away! With government funding cut by 9.4%, prices could be raised, hours could be restricted, and staff could be reduced in order to absorb some of the shock.

Many families value the Commissary’s savings so much that they are already willing to drive over an hour a few times a month to stock up on groceries. Families overseas are able to purchase favorites from back home without having to pay import prices.

Here’s what other military families have been saying:

“Commissary privileges are a valued asset to the military way of life. We need the subsidy and without it, it would make for a hardship on many of our lower enlisted soldiers and their Families.”

“Please be considerate when looking at our commissary benefit. There are bases across the country that without a commissary service members and dependents would be driving for 30 minutes or more to buy groceries at higher prices.”

“Support our military and our military benefits, which are so important to the morale and welfare of all those who serve and go into harm’s way. Veterans depend on their military benefits and have fought to defend our country. Our military deserve the very best as they give their very best to defend our country.”

Now’s the time to speak up—contact your member of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know what the Commissary benefit means to you.

Military families, how would your life be affected if your Commissary benefits were altered?

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

So you love a service member: partners, parents & significant others

So you love a service member: partners, parents & significant othersSo, you love a service member. They could be your son or daughter, your boyfriend, or long term partner, but there are likely a number of things you’ve yet to understand about the military lifestyle.  As an “outsider” on the inside, it can be difficult to feel connected to the military community, especially when your service member is deployed or away on duty.

Modern military families take on many different shapes and forms, and it’s important for you to know the basic information and resources available to your unique situation.  Getting everything down can be confusing, even for those that grew up in the military, let alone for parents or boyfriends trying to nail down the logistics. Whether you think an FRG* is the toy robot your nephew wants for Christmas, or you just want to know how to keep in touch with your service member while they’re deployed, the new Partners, Parents, and Significant Others section of our website has you covered. Find information particular to those new to the military lifestyle or just approaching the military from a new perspective. Acronyms, benefits, and information for caregivers—we’ve put it all in one place!

As a non-ID card holder, you are likely not near a military installation, and there are many things that you might not have access to.  Your service member is always your best information resource, but they might not always be available to help with questions and concerns as they arise. Create your own military community by staying in the know through your service member’s leadership, and becoming part of local groups and organizations that provide support and resources. With our nation at war for more than a decade, it is an especially difficult time to have a loved one in the military, but having the right resources and information can help provide some stability in the most unstable of times.

*an FRG isn’t a toy robot—it’s a Family Readiness Group.

Experienced military families: what’s something you’ve learned that you would pass on to a non-ID card holder as they learn more about the military?

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

Discrimination by uniform: an update on TRICARE and ABA therapy

Discrimination by uniform: an update on TRICARE and ABA therapyFor the first time—ever—Congress is purposely excluding certain members of the Uniformed Services from receiving some health care benefits because of their Service affiliation. Shocked? So are we.

When I speak about who our Association serves, I say that we work to improve the lives of active duty, National Guard and Reserve, retired, and surviving families of members of all seven Uniformed Services. Then I ask the trivia question: “What are the seven Uniformed Services?” In most cases, people easily name the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, but they’re often stumped on the other two: the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Public Health Service (PHS).

Members of all seven Uniformed Services take the same oath to support our Nation, are paid using the same pay tables, go where our leaders send them, earn the same retirement benefits, and receive the same TRICARE health care coverage. But this equality in benefits for their service that is granted by law is now threatened by the very Congress we ask to protect us.

A little background. Many military families with an autistic child, as well as some with other disabilities, have seen improvement when the child has access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. Because TRICARE has provided ABA therapy under the ECHO Program, which is open to active duty families only and has an annual cap on costs, many military families have asked Congress to make it a covered TRICARE benefit to remove the cap and be available to retirees as well. They’ve encountered resistance for several reasons, most notably the cost.

The House’s version

In May, the House of Representatives added a provision to its version of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would make ABA therapy a TRICARE benefit for patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. Normally, when a benefit is added to TRICARE, it applies to everyone that qualifies medically. In this case, however, the House decided it was acceptable to specifically exclude all  families of three Uniformed Services: the Coast Guard, NOAA, and PHS—a first.

The Senate’s version

On December 4, the Senate approved its version of the NDAA, which also contains a provision adding ABA therapy as a TRICARE benefit. At the request of our Association and others, the Senate provision opens up the therapy to anyone whose doctor believes would be helped. In response to our concerns about the House excluding three of the seven Uniformed Services from the benefit, the Senate included coverage for all active duty Coast Guard, NOAA, and PHS family members. But, it still specifically excludes retiree families of those Service branches.

What’s Needed

I don’t want to diminish the importance of this new TRICARE benefit. I’m glad Members of Congress have recognized the burden military families with a child needing ABA therapy face in finding and paying for the treatment. However, our Association is deeply concerned about the precedent this action by both Houses of Congress sets—and thinks that every military family should be as well.

Members of Congress have a chance to fix this inequity as they meet to create the final version of the NDAA. They must ensure eligibility for TRICARE benefits is determined by the medical needs of the patient, not the type of uniform their service member wears or wore.

How do you feel about these exclusions in the proposed NDAA?

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

Bah-Humbug: The Christmas I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge

Tips for dealing with being separated from loved ones during the holidaysThe holiday season can be challenging for military families stationed far from family and friends. It is difficult to maintain holiday traditions if you can’t travel home or celebrate with your loved ones. Add a deployment to the mix, and you may feel less than festive.

My husband was deployed not one, or two, but three holiday seasons in a row. Bah-humbug was my motto. I avoided the mall, holiday gatherings, and didn’t want to decorate our home. Not only did I feel alone, but I also felt guilty about celebrating while my husband was serving in harm’s way.

I tried to be strong for my husband and when he called told him I was alright and finding new ways to experience the holiday. I sent him “Christmas in a box” packages and included items we could use to celebrate together: a CD of our favorite holiday music, DVDs of our favorite holiday movies, homemade holiday snacks, and festive treats. As I thought of ways for us to celebrate “together,” my heart soften and I began to don the holiday spirit.

Here are some tips that helped me through the holidays while my husband was away:

  • Accept that this holiday season will be different: Acknowledge your feelings. The holidays without your spouse will not be the same.
  • Find ways to celebrate together: Even miles apart, there must be something you can do “together.” You can read a holiday book, listen to the same holiday music, or eat the same holiday treats.
  • Create new traditions: I decided to spend quality one-on-one time with family and cherished friends. I invited a spouse who also had a deployed husband to my home. We spent a day exchanging holiday recipes and baking. We each learned new holiday traditions and had tasty treats to share.

What advice would you share with other military families who are celebrating the holidays apart?

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

Military spouse scholarship: apply now!

Have you finally found the time (or energy) to head back to school, but aren’t sure how you will pay for it? Apply for a scholarship! Our Joanne Patton Holbrook Spouse Scholarship program application period is open now through January 31st. Spouses of all Uniformed Service members, including active duty, National Guard and Reserve, retirees, wounded, and survivors, are eligible to apply. Scholarships can be used for many types of programs, be it finishing your GED, or completing those last few requirements for your master’s degree. Don’t let money be the thing that holds you back from pursuing your dream career!

Apply for a military spouse scholarship at www.militaryfamily.orgAstin Laferriere, the spouse of an Army National Guardsman stationed in North Carolina, was a recipient of our scholarship in 2012. Astin is a graduate of Tennessee State University and she recently obtained her Physical Therapy license. Way to go Astin!

Licensing scholarships were a focus of our program in 2012 because we recognize the challenges that military spouses face in obtaining and maintaining licensing or certification. Read about how we’re speaking out on this topic in Congress here.

In last year’s scholarship program, we were able to assist more than 60 spouses like Astin. Applications for the 2013 Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship program are available now!

Military spouses: what obstacles have you run in to while pursuing your education? What are your educational or employment goals?

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