Monthly Archives: January 2013

Job searching? Here’s what the Military Spouse Employment Partnership can do for you.

Job searching? Here's what the Military Spouse Employment Partnership can do for you.My husband and I have moved three times in the past four years. To be quite honest, no one knows what the military lifestyle has to offer unless you have lived it and understand the complexities of deployments, moving, the TRICARE system, finding new friends, a new job….the list goes on. Although it can be difficult learning how to navigate the military lifestyle, I am very proud of my soldier and his service to this great Nation.

I remember moving to Fort Campbell, Kentucky after obtaining a graduate degree in Corporate Communication. It was a culture shock. I was looking for “Corporate America” and in reality all I could see for miles were corn fields. I was lucky enough to find a career teaching in higher education where I continue to educate many veterans, spouses, and military kids as an adjunct instructor.

Two moves and two jobs later, I landed a full-time position working as a Deputy Director in the Government Relations department for the National Military Family Association, an enduring partner with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). MSEP is a White House-sponsored Joining Forces initiative that is housed under the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program. This initiative seeks to ease the challenges of military life by helping spouses find and maintain rewarding careers despite frequent moves.

As a spouse who wants a rewarding career that matches my education and experience, it is an exhausting process to prepare for interviews, be offered a position, love it, leave it, and start all over again! Although I have never applied to a position through the MSEP web portal, I have learned a tremendous amount about the program. The Association works very closely with MSEP to ensure that military spouses have career opportunities no matter where they live. The MSEP initiative is truly outstanding and I hope all military spouses take advantage of the service offered.

There are many private sector employers and government organizations that are actively searching for military spouses to join their workforces. These organizations want the skills, knowledge, credentials, and attributes that military spouses have to offer. To learn more about MSEP, create a profile on MSEP’s web portal which hosts over 130 Fortune 500 military-friendly partner employers who have pledged to recruit, hire, promote, and retain military spouses. As of today, there are over 180,000 positions posted that are available to military spouses of all branches.

In addition, SECO has other key components that offer career counseling, resume writing, professional mentoring, and support services for education and state licensure. A compiled list of available resources is available in the Spouse Employment section of our website.

I hope you take advantage of these resources as navigating the military lifestyle can be a challenge. I would love to hear from you and learn about your personal experience with job searching. Are you a military spouse seeking a new job? Have you applied for a position using the MSEP website? What challenges have you encountered while job searching?

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Recent CDC allegations: rebuilding trust and communication

Tips for communicating with child care providersI remember the first time I dropped my then toddler (now teenager) off at preschool. He was so proud of his new backpack and lunch box and so excited to go off to school like a big kid. Without a moment’s hesitation, he dropped my hand and dashed through the classroom door, eager to begin his new adventure. I, of course, was terrified. The thought of leaving my little one with someone else for hours at a time was overwhelming – even when that someone else was a beloved preschool teacher. How could I be sure that he would be safe, happy, and taken care of?

Leaving your child in someone else’s care requires a leap of faith. As parents of small children we painstakingly review our child care options to find the setting and provider that is the best fit for our families. Most of the time, the faith we place in our child care providers is rewarded and our children thrive.

On a rare occasion, however, a child care provider betrays a parent’s trust. Parents of children at the Fort Myer Child Development Center (CDC) were shocked to learn that two staffers allegedly abused children in their care, while others were found to have criminal records that were not uncovered in background checks. While the staffers in question have been removed from the CDC and an investigation is ongoing, the parents’ trust in the CDC has understandably been shaken.

I attended a town hall meeting for Fort Myer CDC families and it is clear families and staff want to rebuild trust. They are finding that communication is key. Parents need reliable and timely information about how their children are being cared for and what steps are being taken to ensure their safety. They also need a way to express their concerns and feel that their voices are being heard.

At Fort Myer, installation officials and CDC staff are taking steps to open the lines of communication. Town Hall meetings have been held, giving parents an open forum to air their concerns. Parents have also been encouraged to use the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system to let commanders know about any issues they have with the CDC or their child care providers. The command has also used Send Word Now®, a notification system you may be familiar with in your child’s school that sends social media alerts to notify parents about CDC events via their phones or email.

When my children were in preschool I relied on a regular note in my son’s backpack to keep me informed of what was going on in his classroom, but the world has changed since then and there are many more methods we can use to communicate.

Although most parents will thankfully never face a situation like the one at the Fort Myer CDC, it’s still vital to have effective lines of communication with your child care providers. Parents need to know about last-minute schedule changes, upcoming events, and behavioral concerns that affect their kids. They also need to make sure that providers are aware of their children’s unique needs, such as a parent’s deployment or a new baby in the house. And, as seen in the Fort Myer CDC situation, parents need to know who to contact if they’re not getting the information they need from their provider or if they have concerns about the quality of care their child is receiving.

How do you keep in touch with your child’s teacher or child care provider? What method works best for you, and what hasn’t worked? 

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

3 tips to beat the post-holiday slump

3 tips to beat the post-holiday slumpYou’d think with all of the stress that the holiday season often brings with it, we’d be happy to see it go. But somehow, after the perfect meals are cooked, you (and Santa) managed to get every must-have gift, and your in-laws have gone home, we feel sentimental as we crash land into January.

With freezing temperatures and grey skies, your favorite TV shows on winter hiatus (a personal struggle), and returning to work after vacation, it’s easy to catch a case of the new year blues. But there’s a cure! Consider these tips to help you come out of winter hibernation with a smile on your face.

Step 1- Take on something new

New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap, but even if you don’t exactly keep up with your mission to go to the gym six days a week, you can still do something with the intention behind that idea. Have you always wanted to see what the fuss was about Zumba? Lots of gyms have guest and trial passes at the start of the year, so you can grab a friend and try it out. Latin tribal dancing not your thing? Even committing to walking around the neighborhood once a day or finally digging out that cross stitch kit you never got around to re-gifting can be considered steps in the right direction or help get you out of a rut. This doesn’t just work for adults — get kids in on the fun, too. Sign them up for a new activity or set a reading challenge for the winter months. Taking chances and indulging whims are great ways to surge your endorphins. Who knows, something could stick and become a worthwhile habit.

Step 2- Get your mind right

Yes, it’s cold. Yes, you have to go to work or do chores around the house. No, you can’t stay in your sweat pants all day. Instead of growling at passersby until you get your coffee, try to approach each day differently. Think what you want about the hokiness of positive affirmations, but there is something great about stopping yourself mid-complaint and changing your viewpoint. We might not have control over morning traffic or grumpy cashiers, but we do have control over our reactions and perspective. Instead of carrying over old stressors and attitudes from last year, think of the new year as a clean slate. Take the extra time you’ll be spending indoors to get organized, quit the stinking thinking, and muster up some energy. April will be here before you know it.

Step 3- Treat yourself

When reading this step, your mind might have immediately jumped to a shopping spree or eating an entire cheesecake, but treating yourself comes in less elaborate forms, too. Shape your days so that at some point you can have a few “me” moments, be it reading your favorite blog (or magazine), talking on the phone (or texting), catching up on a show on the DVR, or going for a run. Sure, a full uninterrupted day at the spa is a fantasy for most of us, but carving out even 15 minutes to do something you like can make winter an easier pill to swallow.

Getting back into the swing of things isn’t always fun, but reshaping your approach, adding a few new activities, and taking some time for yourself could make the next few months fly by. However, if you feel like the blues are here to stay, seek help where you feel most comfortable, whether it’s talking with friends or family or a counselor.

How are you battling the post-holiday blues?

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

Looking back at 2012

National Military Family Association: A look back at 2012Where does a year go? It’s amazing to see the months fly by, filled with memorable occasions like weddings, road trips, big moves, and deployments. 2012 was a year of change, new ideas, and growth for the military community, and for us as well! Here’s how we spent our year.

Sometimes it seems like if something can go wrong, it will. Or when it rains, it pours. Whichever idiom you want to apply, 2012 brought a few unexpected lemons for us to make into lemonade. From the close call of a government shutdown in April, threats to commissary benefits, and the fiscal cliff negotiations in December, we were proud to be  the place military families turned to understand the impact of these actions and find out what could be done in response. It’s nice to know that no matter what comes our way, our community always makes it to the other side of the issue infinitely stronger.

With almost everyone and their grandma (literally) having a smart phone or social media account, these days it seems like we are more connected than ever. Military families are no different, and this year we created a few new ways to provide resources and support via the most-used platforms. Although we are all part of the same community, each military family faces its own challenges going through the many different stages and phases of life. Whether a family is preparing to move, expecting a baby, or anticipating a deployment, our new app, MyMilitaryLife, brings our subject matter expertise and important resources when and where it’s most needed. We’ve had nearly 4,000 downloads from the iTunes and GooglePlay stores, and with six more life paths being added in 2013, we look forward to growing our presence on this new mobile platform.

We are committed to providing spouses and families with the resources and programs needed to make military life a bit easier. We awarded $448,000 in scholarship funds to military spouses beginning or continuing their education through our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Our Operation Purple® program had another great season, sending 1,581 military kids to camp across the country. With so many service members returning from deployment, creating a network of support during this period of change and adjustment was more important than ever. We held six Family Retreats and four Healing Adventures for families with a wounded or returning service member who needed to ease into the reintegration process after a deployment.

It went by fast, but 2012 was a productive and fulfilling year. We’re excited to see where 2013 takes us—stay tuned for a companion post on the Association’s goals for the year.

Your turn: what would you like to see us focus on this year?

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

Losing sleep over your home loan?

Military families: losing sleep over your home loan?Over the past few months, my husband and I have been working with Housing Urban Development (HUD) housing counselors to modify our home loan and learn more about our mortgage options. It has been overwhelming to dig into the nitty-gritty details of the various government programs available to homeowners and to comprehend the fine print of our current mortgage.

Our situation is not unique and I know I’m not the only one losing sleep because of my home loan.

The National Military Family Association has heard from military homeowners across the Nation regarding their struggles with selling a home when they have orders to relocate. When PCS orders arrive, military families too often find their home is worth less than what they owe. In many cases, a LOT less.

While some families find renters, others struggle to maintain two house payments and make ends meets, or are forced to sell at a loss.

To help military families avoid foreclosure, the Treasury Department updated guidance to its Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program that may help in some circumstances. HAFA pays incentives for a short sale or a Deed-in-Lieu (DIL) of foreclosure used to avoid foreclosure when a borrower is financially unable to continue to pay their mortgage. Under the guidance, service members who cite a PCS order as the basis for their financial hardship when asking for help under HAFA will now be eligible even if their income has not decreased.

Our Association is continuing to work with policymakers to create better solutions for military homeowners. If you’re a homeowner losing sleep over your home loan, seek help (888-995-HOPE) and learn more about your options. Your sleepless nights might become a thing of the past.

What are your concerns as a military homeowner – could  the HAFA program help you?

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

One toe over the edge: the Fiscal Cliff and military families

One toe over the ledge: the Fiscal Cliff and military familiesSo we’ve managed not to topple over the cliff, but it looks like we’ll be hanging on the ledge of uncertainty for a few more months. In the wee hours of the New Year, Congress passed a compromise bill to keep the country from heading over the edge. Like any compromise, the bill didn’t please everyone, but it did fix several issues important to military families, including a one-year extension of the Medicare/TRICARE doc fix, which will help protect families’ access to health care. The compromise legislation did not include an increase to the debt ceiling and the Treasury Department estimates it will run out of ways to stay within the current ceiling by late February or early March, right about the time sequestration is now set to start.

And what of those automatic cuts to federal spending, known as sequestration? The best the Congressional leaders and the President could do was to postpone it for two months. That might sound like a good thing, but this delay also means uncertainty about what will or could be cut for military installations, schools that educate military kids, defense contractors, and all other military and community agencies that support military families.

Other provisions included in the compromise bill would:

  • Create a permanent fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax to prevent taxpayers from moving into higher tax brackets simply because of inflation—this fix was needed immediately to keep taxpayers from paying higher taxes on their 2012 income.
  • Permanently extend the Bush-era tax rates for all families earning less than $450,000.
  • Increase the tax rate on capital gains and some estates.
  • Freeze Congressional pay.
  • Extend federal unemployment benefits for one year.
  • Extend provisions in the expiring farm bill by one year. (This means milk prices won’t skyrocket, as you may have seen in the news.)

The compromise bill did not extend the lower payroll tax rate of 4.2% in effect during the past two years through economic stimulus legislation. Therefore, the payroll tax workers pay to support Social Security will immediately return to 6.2%. Workers will see this change in their first paycheck of 2013. Experts estimate that the family earning an average of $50,000 per year will pay an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes this year.

While the New Year’s Congressional action gives the government and taxpayers some breathing room, we’re not out of the woods yet. The temporary delay of the sequestration cuts will combine with other pending budget events to continue the fiscal uncertainty facing our Nation.

The Association appreciates the actions by Congress and the President to provide the fix to Medicare and TRICARE doctors. We remain concerned about the failure to address the potentially devastating sequestration cuts to both civilian and military programs that could have a negative impact on military families. While the delay in sequestration will temporarily protect some needed support services, it also continues the uncertainty, and a military community at war needs certainty that the Nation supports its service. We call on our Nation’s leaders to forge a more permanent solution that will preserve the strength of our service members and their families.

How do you feel about the outcome of the compromise bill and the negotiations surrounding it?

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

It’s resolution time!

National Military Family Association New Year's ResolutionsIt’s a new year! Time for new beginnings and a fresh start. Many people make New Year’s resolutions and, even if they get broken, we are still a fan of setting goals and planning for the year ahead.

Did you make a resolution for 2013? Here are some of the National Military Family Association staff’s resolutions and goals for the year, in case you need ideas!

Stop eating out at restaurants – Michelle W, Americorps Member

Take more photos throughout the year – Bailey B, Online Engagement Manager

Have a more positive perspective – Maranatha B, Communications Editor

I want to eat healthier – Karen C, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

To be more patient – Anne M, Development and Membership Deputy Director

To carve out time in my schedule to focus on my physical well-being (hit the gym!) – C.C. G, Government Relations Deputy Director

Spending more quality time with my kids – Amanda A, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife app

Eat less sugar – Caroline R, Development and Membership Manager

Volunteer more – Hannah P, Communications Deputy Director

So, what is your 2013 New Year’s resolution or goal?