Monthly Archives: February 2013

Military spouses with professional licenses: we need your feedback to improve the process

Military spouses with professional licenses: we need  your feedbackWe all know it – between frequent moves, maintaining the household during a service member’s deployment, and providing strength and support to the entire family, military spouses make sacrifices every day. Their service to this country is invaluable and such an important part of the success of our military.

These sacrifices often include a spouse’s career. We often hear that many of you face career challenges due to frequent moves, especially with professions that require a license.

The National Military Family Association has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense State Liaison Office to address state licensing issues to ensure military spouses can pursue their careers regardless of the number of times they have to move. We were asked to reach out to see if state legislation has impacted your professional career in a positive way. If you have a story or experience to share, tell us the following information:

  • What is your spouse’s branch of Service?
  • What is your professional affiliation?
  • Have you applied for a license in your current state using new legislation? Which state?
  • Have you benefited from spouse licensing state legislation?
  • Was it a positive experience? If so, please tell us why!

We look forward to sharing your positive experiences with state legislators so more states can support military spouse career portability!

To obtain more information about state-specific licensing, review our 50 State Licensing Chart and see where your state stands.

Military families and Earned Income Tax Credit – what you need to know

Military families and Earned Income Tax Credit - what you need to knowFor many of us, tax season comes with a sinking feeling. The incomprehensible forms, piles of documents to sort through, and the unwelcome prospect of writing a large check to the IRS leaves us with a splitting headache.

However, tax season does not have to bring bad news. In fact, some military families may find that they are eligible for an income tax credit that will allow them to keep more of the money they have earned, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate income families. To qualify, your taxable income must fall below a certain threshold. For 2012, a married couple with two children may qualify for the EITC if their earned income and their adjusted gross income are below $47,162. Remember that allowances, such as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) are tax-exempt. Combat pay is normally not taxable but you can elect to have it included in your Earned Income if doing so increases the amount of your credit.

Intimidated? Don’t be. There are plenty of resources to help military families tackle tax season. The most important thing to remember is that in order to qualify for the EITC you must file a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file. For more information about the EITC, check out the IRS online guide for families and individuals.

Do you think you might qualify for the EITC? What other tax tips do military families need to know? 

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

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3This is Part 3 of a series explaining the National Military Family Association’s legislative priorities for 2013. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Some issues affecting military families can only be taken care of through Congressional action. We see most of the work on these issues being addressed through the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the laws and regulations for Department of Defense (DoD) and the Services to follow. The funding of this legislation comes through the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with the Defense Appropriations bill and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

Congress did not pass the Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13), which began on October 1, 2012. They passed a Continuing Resolution or CR, which forced DoD to work on 2013 missions, projects, and programs with 2012 levels of funding. The current Continuing Resolution will expire March 27. While military paychecks are protected for 2013, essential services could shut down if the CR is allowed to expire. This isn’t the first year we have had the threat of a government shutdown.

Pass the NDAA FY14

This is why our first “ask” for Congress is to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 and the bills that fund this legislation by October 1 in order to eliminate the uncertainty faced by the military community.

Increase Impact Aid

If you have children attending public schools, you should be aware of how important Impact Aid funding is to local school districts that educate large numbers of military children. We’re asking Congress to increase the level of Department of Education Impact Aid funding to meet the Federal obligation to support school districts educating military children and continue to fund the DoD supplemental impact aid and grant program. Impact Aid funding has not kept pace with rising education costs.

Protect surviving spouses

Survivors of service members who have died on active duty or from a service-connected disability are unfairly penalized by having their Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity offset by the Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment. Under current law, survivors who are eligible for both SBP and DIC must forfeit a dollar of their SBP annuity for every dollar of DIC received. Often the offset eliminates the SBP annuity altogether. We ask Congress to end the DIC dollar for dollar offset of SBP payments for surviving spouses. For more details on this issue, visit the Survivors section on our website.

Ease transitions for the whole family

DoD does not always need Congressional approval to improve or change policies. We are asking DoD to address the informational needs of military families transitioning out of the military by expanding the opportunity for spouses to attend transition classes with service members and tailor information to address family transition issues.

Support families with special needs

It can often take DoD a long time to implement programs mandated by Congress. In the NDAA FY13, Congress charged DoD to start a pilot program to provide therapy for some families with special needs. We want DoD to implement the new pilot program to provide Applied Behavior Analysis to ALL eligible TRICARE beneficiaries.

If you have questions about our priorities for 2013 or would like to provide us with information about how these issues will affect you and your family, please leave a comment below. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog series, we are sharing your stories, your experiences, and your suggestions to improve the quality of life for military families.

These are not the only issues we will be advocating for. When a new challenge surfaces that affects military families, we will make sure it is brought to the attention of the policymakers who can make a difference. We are listening to you and for you. We are your voice.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 2

We fight for military families: the Association's 2013 priorities, Part 2Yesterday we covered how we determine our legislative focus for the year. Today, Part 2 in our series on explaining our priorities for 2013.

This is the time of year we develop our list of priorities to share with policymakers. What needs to be done to make the benefits and programs that military families depend on more responsive to their needs right now and for the long term? What can the Department of Defense (DoD) do to improve or refine military family access to health care and mental health support? How can the schools our children attend better serve the needs of a mobile population in a time of diminishing school budgets? Why doesn’t the expansion of spouse career opportunities go hand in hand with quality, affordable child care? What support does a grateful Nation owe wounded service members, their caregivers, and the survivors of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice? How can DoD help those service members and families who are transitioning to civilian life?

Here’s the first part of our list of priorities – the priorities we will address to Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Services. Not all issues need to be addressed by legislation. Sometimes Congress asks for a report on how a program is working or to find out how a specific need is being addressed. While DoD may have policy jurisdiction, Congress – through language in the National Defense Authorization Act – can mandate that DoD take a certain action. That’s why we address these priorities to both Congress and DoD.

  • Ensure families of all seven Uniformed Services have timely access to high quality, affordable health care and a robust TRICARE benefit.
  • Enhance military families’ access to the medical and non-medical counseling they need to recover from the stress of long years at war. The progress made in lessening the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health care is threatened if service members and families cannot get help when needed.
  • Mandate tracking and reporting on military family member suicides. Anecdotal reports indicate the number of military family suicides is growing. We cannot address the problem until we know its extent.
  • Ensure that a robust, responsive system of reintegration support for families still trying to reconnect or deal with the effects of wounds, injuries, or illnesses is accessible across Services, components, and geographic locations.
  • Provide equal eligibility of benefits for caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans across all seven Uniformed Services and from all wars. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD caregiver benefits don’t mesh and many caregivers lose the support they need just when they need it the most.
  • Ensure better cooperation and accountability between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs at the highest levels in the support of transitioning wounded, ill, and injured and care givers. The lack of a seamless transition between agencies still exists and must be corrected.
  • Protect the commissary benefit by continuing the annual appropriation to support the system at its current level. Commissaries provide an important benefit for military families as well as a good deal for the taxpayer. Oppose attempts to consolidate the commissary and exchange system.

Do these resonate with what you are experiencing as a military family? What are your priorities for Congress and DoD for 2013?

Tomorrow’s post, Part 3 in this series, will look at the rest of our priorities for 2013. Read Part 1 here.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 1

We fight for military families: the Association's 2013 priorities part 1It’s always nice to know you have someone in your corner, someone you can count on who understands where you are coming from, someone who knows what your life is like, and who will stand beside you as you try to make life better for you and your family. The National Military Family Association is in your corner – in fact, our highest priority is to fight for military families.

We fight to ensure programs and benefits critical to the well-being of military families – our families – are authorized, funded, and implemented to be there when you need them. We know how important they are in maintaining your family readiness and empowering you to meet the challenges of military life.

Each year, at the beginning of the Congressional session, we gather information we have heard from you and develop a list of legislative and policy priorities that we will promote and advocate for on your behalf. Some of these priorities we will bring to the attention of Congress – those items that need legislative changes, updates, or fixes in order to better meet the needs of military families. Some priorities we bring to the attention of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Services, to recommend changes to policies or regulations to better serve military families.

We use these priorities as a basis for the testimony we prepare for Congressional hearings every year. You can find examples of testimony from previous years on our website. Our testimony is not just a list of requests. We use our testimony to share your story – the story of the Nation’s families. We talk about the importance of the foundation of benefits and programs that military families depend upon: quality, accessible health care; behavioral health support; spouse career opportunities; good schools for military children; quality, affordable child care; a secure retirement; and unwavering support if wounded, widowed, or orphaned.

We talk about what is working for military families – the programs and resources meeting the needs of families most effectively. How do we know? We hear from you. We talk about how programs need to be flexible and accommodate the diversity of military families – whether they are far from the flag pole in recruiting duty or the family of a citizen soldier who lives nowhere near a military installation. We also remind Congress that effective support for military families must involve a broad network of government agencies, community groups, businesses, and concerned citizens. DoD and the Services cannot do it alone.

In our next two posts in this series we will explain and outline our Association’s specific priorities for 2013. Read Part 2 and Part 3 here.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association

Operation Purple camp for military kids: apply now!

Ten years ago, the National Military Family Association heard the same thing over and over from military parents: “How can we help our kids deal with deployment?” Our answer? A free, week-long camp experience for military kids to get to know each other, share common bonds, and have a blast!

Operation Purple® camp offers military kids a time to get away and be kids in a stress-free environment. Campers ride horses, climb towers, plummet down water slides – all in a “purple” environment. The very name of the game is to bring kids of all ranks and services, including reserve and guard components, together to enjoy a very special week of camp. This experience is unmatched by any other programs currently serving military kids.

These days, what we’re hearing from military parents is: “Thank you for Operation Purple camp!” Thousands of military children have experienced the joy of camp, and this year we are focusing on getting the word out to families who have never had the opportunity to share in the fun. If your child has attended Operation Purple in the past, tell a friend and encourage them to apply! The application is available beginning today.

Check out the video below for a little peek into an Operation Purple camp.

Has your child attended an Operation Purple camp in the past 10 years? If so, tell us the best part of their experience!

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association