Monthly Archives: April 2013

Don’t break the bank: Financial resources for college-bound military kids

Don't break the bank: financial resources for college-bound military kidsSpring is the time of year high school seniors anticipate college acceptance letters and parents discuss how to pay the hefty tuition bill. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2010 – 2011 academic year the annual price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated as follows:

    • $13,000 at public colleges
  • $36,300 at private not-for-profit colleges
  • $23,5000 at private for-profit colleges

Yikes! That is quite a bit of money for one year of post-secondary education. Thankfully, military kids are eligible for unique funding opportunities:

In-State Tuition: Dependent children of service members on active duty for a period of more than 30 days are eligible to receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where the service member is permanently stationed. This does not mean a military kid is eligible to receive in-state tuition rates in all 50 states, but rather the state where the family is stationed. Once the child is enrolled and paying in-state tuition rates, the child remains eligible for the in-state rate even if the service member receives orders and relocates out of state.

Post-9/11 Transferability: Active duty service members with 10 years of service may be eligible to transfer their Post-9/11 GI bill to a child.

Scholarships for Military Kids: Several organizations have scholarship opportunities for military kids. Below is a selection of opportunities. College-bound military kids are encouraged to review specific eligibility requirements and deadlines, especially as some deadlines are quickly approaching:

College-bound military kids are also eligible for the same federal financial aid opportunities as other students including:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA is the required application from the Department of Education to determine eligibility for any form of federal financial aid.

Federal Grants:

  • Federal Pell Grant: A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Typically, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program: The FSEOG Program provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the costs of postsecondary education. Priority is given to those who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients.

Federal Loans:

  • Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized): Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Parents of dependent students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help pay their child’s education expenses as long as certain eligibility requirements are met. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS Loans for their own expenses.
  • Federal Perkins Loans: A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. This is a school-based loan program.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): The FWS allows students to earn money by working at a subsidized job, usually on the college campus.

Be sure to explore these resources to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. What other resources would you share with college-bound military kids?

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

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testament

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testamentI was born into the military. My dad is a West Point graduate, and for most of my childhood I was the only one in my class who had immediate family serving in the military. Many of my peers did not know or understand what I was going through. It’s one of those things in life that unless you are living it, you can’t 100% understand it. I often felt alone and kept my feelings inside thinking nobody could relate.

But life changed as I knew it when my dad was deployed during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. That year I had turned the big 13, a significant time in every teenager’s life, and received a life changing opportunity – I attended the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple® camp. The professional camp staff with the Tsuga Community Commission that week helped me address the negative feelings I had bottled up inside about my father’s service. It allowed me to be part of a community that I didn’t know existed and feel proud of my family instead of feeling embarrassed and alone. I was able to escape the hardships and struggles, focusing on being just a kid that week.

My father deployed again to Afghanistan a few years later when I was a sophomore in high school and I was able to attend Operation Purple camp again, this time bringing my younger sister for the first time. Watching her flourish that week is something I’ll never forget. She gained confidence and a feeling of belonging that she had been lacking. Something I believe many military kids struggle with in silence.

It was the Tsuga staff that brought the Operation Purple program to Oregon who opened my eyes to see that even through there aren’t any active military installations in Oregon, a support system was actually out there for military children. It helped draw out my inner leader and inspired me to become a camp counselor at Operation Purple camp and join the Tsuga staff that helped me out so much.

After two summers of working with military children, I was able to identify that my passion lies in serving others and being part of something bigger than myself. Operation Purple camp holds a special place in my heart because of what it did, not only for me, but my family and many others like it. Without these nonprofit programs, our military’s youth would be without a resource that provides support and community for our dependents that need it the most.

We cannot forget that our Kids Serve Too.

Posted by Lauren Miner, Former Operation Purple Camp Attendee and Counselor 

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators play

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators playEvery military family knows that moving is just a fact of life. My own family has moved more times than I care to count and my children, who are now 14 and 12, attended two preschools and five elementary schools. Being the new kid in school is normal for them, and like most military kids they have handled our moves smoothly – more smoothly than I have, in fact! Still, as a parent, it’s hard not to worry about the effects of so much change.

Military parents do their best to make moving as painless as possible for their children, but schools have a vital role to play as well. I know from personal experience that the new school can make a huge difference during those first days and weeks. After our last move, a greeter at the front door of the elementary school recognized immediately that my daughter was a new student and welcomed her with a warm smile and big hug on her first day. Her new classroom teacher matched her with a buddy to help show her around the school and sit with her at lunch. She came home all smiles and within a few short weeks it was as if she had never gone to school anywhere else.

Sadly, though, our good experience is not universal. Unless schools take steps to ease the transition for students as they move in and out, it can be difficult for highly mobile kids to fit in – and sooner or later, their grades will start to suffer. Knowing this, I have been excited to hear more about steps that teachers, administrators, and even our Nation’s leaders are taking to help our military kids. Last year, the Obama Administration, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education launched Operation Educate the Educators, an effort to get colleges and universities to include information on the challenges faced by military children in their teacher education programs. More than 100 higher education institutions are already participating.

Probably no school system has more experience with transitioning students than the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA teachers and staff are used to highly mobile students and treat transition as a normal part of life. They have developed routines to welcome new students and – just as importantly – say goodbye to children who are preparing to move away.

Some public schools with a high concentration of military kids have followed DoDEA’s example and adopted innovative strategies to help students transition. Schools can create newcomers’ clubs or match new children with a buddy. Other schools have gone even further and set up transition rooms, a type of welcome center for new families. There they can learn about school activities, community resources, receive a tour, fill out questionnaires about their needs and situation, and meet other parents and students. Another good idea is to appoint one staffer as a “transition specialist,” who can greet families when they arrive to register, keep track of whether new students are making friends, help students cope with a new set of school rules, and answer parents’ questions.

Moving is always going to be part of life in the military, but transitions don’t have to negatively affect our kids’ experience in school. Check out our Military Kids Toolkit section on Transition for more ideas to help make your child’s move a little bit easier.

What do you think schools should do to help military children transition? What has worked for you and your family? Share your experiences below.

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

The Best Thing About Being a Military Kid!

The best thing about being a military kidWhat’s the best thing about being a military kid? Some might say seeing new places, some might say making new friends, and some might even say learning new languages and cultures, but for me, the best thing about being a military kid is the person I have become along the way.

In September 2012, I joined a boys’ soccer team here in Italy, where we live now. At that time, I was the only girl and only American on the team. You might be thinking that this has nothing to do with being a military kid, but it does. In ten years, I have moved six times, attended five schools, been without my dad for months at a time and joined countless sports teams.

When I was younger, I was very shy and dreaded moving because it meant that everything was going to change. Each time, I gained a little more self-confidence. I joined sports teams and attended camps and activities to help me make friends at each new place. I actually started to look forward to moving without being scared.

I now try to take advantage of every opportunity that our new home offers. I have even run in a few 5K races here in Italy. Being a military kid has made me stronger and more outgoing. I look for challenges and I try to always be the best I can be.

I have played soccer for seven years and I am really appreciative to be playing on the boys’ team. Even though I get a little nervous sometimes, I would’ve never had the courage to go play on a team where I can’t speak or understand the language. I really love soccer and don’t know what I would do without it. Being a military kid has given me more courage, so that I could be brave enough to play.

My Army life has taught me to adapt to new situations, to be kind and understanding, to be brave, and to never give up when things get hard. I believe that all of the things I have been through as a military kid have made me strong and brave. I am proud to be a military kid and I look forward to the next opportunity the Army has for me and my family.

Guest Post by Delaney Edger, age 10, military child

Everything you need to know about the new TRICARE West Region Contractor, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans

Everything you need to know about the new TRICARE West Region ContractorThis month, the contractor managing the health care benefit in the TRICARE West Region changed from TriWest to UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans (UnitedHealthcare). If you are enrolled in the TRICARE West Region, you should have received a welcome packet from UnitedHealthcare.

The TRICARE West Region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa (excluding the Rock Island Arsenal area), Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri (excluding the St. Louis area), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (the southwestern corner, including El Paso), Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Continuity of care remains a top TRICARE priority, and UnitedHealthcare officials have pledged to the National Military Family Association and other beneficiary groups that it will make every effort to conduct a smooth transition. Here are some tips to help ensure your family has a smooth transition:

Keep Contact Information Handy
UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans
1.877.988.WEST (1.877.988.9378)
www.uhcmilitarywest.com

Review your Primary Care Manager (PCM)
UnitedHealthcare has recruited more than 90% of the PCMs in TriWest’s network to be in their network. A searchable online directory is available on UnitedHealthcare’s website. If you do not see your current PCM listed in the directory, do not be alarmed. UnitedHealthcare is will continue to add more providers. It is recommended your ask if your provider is part of UnitedHealthcare’s network before you seek services.

Explore Enhanced Benefits
UnitedHealthcare will provide new benefits including Convenience Care Clinics, Urgent Care Centers, Centers of Excellence, and Telemedicine services. Keep checking the UnitedHealthcare website for more information about the enhanced benefits.

The National Military Family Association welcomes UnitedHealthcare to the TRICARE community. We look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue about how to best meet the health care needs of military families in the West Region.

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

April is the Month of the Military Child – Let’s Celebrate!

Happy Month of the Military Child!In 1986, when Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child,” could he have imagined how relevant his vision would still be today? In 1986, many people assumed military kids were dealing with the same challenges, successes, and disappointments that any other kid might encounter. They were. But boy did we find out there was so much more to being a military kid!

Today we kick off the official celebration of our military kids – for their accomplishments and resilience. We recognize that some kids are dealing with struggles that neither Secretary Weinberger nor any of us could have imagined. The global conflicts since 9/11 have forever changed our lives. In the early days of conflict and in response to parents asking for help, the National Military Family Association launched our Operation Purple® summer camp program to help military kids cope with the stress they were experiencing. Stress from their dad or mom being in a war zone, stress from the ever-present media coverage of combat, stress related to the separation from a loved one, and stress from feeling alone.

This summer marks the tenth year of Operation Purple camp. Nearly 47,000 military children from around the world have had the chance to meet other kids at a place where they can just be kids, and celebrate being in a military family. At camp, military kids create a “Wall of Honor” to showcase the pride they feel toward their special family member who is serving. Kids raise their hands to share “top ten things” about being a military child or being at camp and have the chance to talk with each other about what bothers them and what makes them tick.

All of these activities are integrated into the well-known camp stuff like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, campfires, you name it. Operation Purple camp gives military children, who are unique yet the same, an opportunity to connect.

Ten years have passed and we never expected to be in this market for this long. Thanks to past generosity from Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, and countless individual donors, we have been able to serve our military kids. And while we didn’t expect to host camps for as long as we have, we know now is not the time to leave. Our kids are too important to our future – for all of us.

As we celebrate our military children this April, our work continues. We want this month to not only acknowledge how strong military kids are, but to also focus on supporting them as they grow up in the military community. Thank you, Secretary Weinberger, for bringing this awareness through the proclamation so many years ago. Now it is up to all of us to make sure we keep our military kids safe, loved, and celebrated – not only in April but through the entire year!

We want to celebrate by featuring YOUR military kid! Throughout April on our Facebook page and website, we will post videos, photos, and quotes from military kids around the country. Submit yours today!

On behalf of the National Military Family Association, we thank you and your children for their service and sacrifice. Together we’re stronger.

theresaPosted by Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director at the National Military Family Association