Monthly Archives: July 2013

Time to #EndSequestration: The yellow ribbon is unraveling

yellow-ribbon-tree-blog“I tried to schedule my son’s 2-month well-baby exam this morning and they won’t be able to see him until he’s almost 3 months old. His clinic is closed on Fridays now due to the Furlough so if either of my two children or I get sick on a Friday, we will have to go to the ER to be seen. As a patient, this makes me feel unimportant – insignificant.”  Military Spouse

“Sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible process. You know it — I know it. And I’m hoping that our leaders in Washington will eventually get that and come to some policy resolution.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, July 17, 2013

The time is NOW. You’re frustrated, we’re frustrated, even the Secretary of Defense is frustrated, and there is still no end in sight. No matter how many articles are written, interviews done, or blogs posted, Congress still isn’t stirring to do something about the budget cuts that are hurting military communities. The National Military Family Association says: “It’s time to #EndSequestration!” The only way we can accomplish this goal is for all of us to take a united stand.

So what can you do?

Don’t just tell us how sequestration and budget cuts have hurt your family, disrupted your community, and brought pain to your lives – show us! We’re asking every military family to send us pictures demonstrating the disruptions of sequestration. Send them to social@militaryfamily.org with a brief description and your location**.

Get creative! Find a way to tell us your sequestration story in a picture. Take and send us pictures of:

  • “Closed” or “reduced hours” signs at commissaries, clinics, or other installation facilities
  • Extra-long lines at installation gates
  • Unpaid bills because of furloughs
  • Military equipment in disrepair
  • Canceled school programs
  • Your family holding a sign that explains how sequestration has affected you

We believe our Nation’s leaders and ALL Americans need to understand what sequestration is doing to our military community. We will use your photos to create a photo book that we will hand deliver to each Member of Congress so they can see for themselves how their actions, or lack thereof, are hurting the military community. We’ll also post these photos on our website so others can see what you see every day in your community.

We’re proud that Military.com, SpouseBUZZ, Macho Spouse, and Military Partner and Families Coalition are partnering with us to show Congress the power of numbers. And we’ll be announcing the support of other organizations soon.

But, it starts with you: we need YOUR help to make sure the message is heard. Send us your pictures, but also tell everyone it’s time for the budget madness to stop. Please change your Facebook profile picture and/or cover photo to join the movement. Let’s show we are united. We may only be 1% of this Nation, but we protect what we hold dear. It’s time to make it clear where we stand on the broken promises.

The yellow ribbon is indeed unraveling.

Yellow Ribbon FB Cover2

It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to #EndSequestration!

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.Posted by Joyce Wessel Raezer, Executive Director

 


**By submitting your photo, you agree that the National Military Family Association may use your submission, the language within, and any subsequent photos in any way including, but not limited to, publications, promotional brochures, promotions or showcase of programs on our website or social networks, showcase of activities in local and/or national newspapers or programming, and other similar lawful purposes.

TRICARE Standard: Is it right for you?

flag-stethoscopeAs a new spouse, or even a seasoned spouse, the difference between TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Prime can be somewhat confusing. I remember how overwhelming it felt when I was faced with the decision on whether I wanted “Prime” or “Standard”. After reading through the literature available, as well as on TRICARE’s website, I decided TRICARE Standard was the best for me. If you are considering TRICARE Standard for your family, here are some points to consider:

TRICARE Standard is an option which allows you to choose your own doctor. You are able to see any type of doctor, from a specialist to a primary care physician. To search for the type of doctor you need, go to TRICARE’s “Find a Doctor” feature. If you choose a network provider, you end up paying less of a cost share . The cost share depends on what care you get at that particular appointment, whether or not you use a network or non-network doctor, or whether you are an active duty family member, retiree, or retiree family member.

The “in network” doctors file the TRICARE claims for you so you do not have to deal with the paperwork of filing the claim yourself. Using a network doctor is called TRICARE Extra . Also, there is no pre-authorization required when you need lab work or testing done. Each fiscal year you have an annual deductible to meet, which varies based on your service member’s status. As an active duty spouse, I pay only 20% of any allowable charges after I have paid my deductible for the year. There is also a $1000 “catastrophic cap” for active duty families. This means your out of pocket expense will not exceed that cap.

TRICARE patients have the option to choose which pharmacy they would like to use. Using TRICARE retail pharmacies are especially convenient for patients using TRICARE Standard, but are the most expensive option. Major drug store chains such as RiteAid, CVS, Target, and Walmart are in-network pharmacies. By using an in-network pharmacy, you are responsible for a $5.00 copay for generic medications and a $17.00 copay for brand name medications. You can save money if you use the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery to have your prescriptions mailed right to your home.

A common misconception of TRICARE Standard is the idea that patients are not able to use the military pharmacy because they are not seeing a doctor at a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). As a TRICARE Standard user, you have the option to use the MTF pharmacies, which may be the best value if the MTF stock your drugs. Personally, I have never used a MTF Pharmacy because they were not as convenient for me because I did not live on the Army Post. However, if you want to save money, using the MTF pharmacy is a great option because both generic and formulary drugs have no copay!

TRICARE Standard has been the best choice for me because I enjoy choosing my provider instead of being assigned one. I also enjoy the flexibility of changing providers if I am not happy with my current doctor. Unlike TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard does not require a referral to see a specialist. Because of these choices, I don’t mind paying to see a doctor when I am ill and can’t survive another day without an appointment! I feel I am in control of my healthcare experience with TRICARE Standard. I encourage you to read about the other differences between Prime and Standard in order to make the best decision for your family. I hope that by shedding some light on the sometimes confusing and often-misunderstood TRICARE Standard, your decision may come a little easier.

Stephanie-OSullivanBy Stephanie O’Sullivan, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Bragg, NC

A Video Glimpse of Operation Purple Camps

We have spent the week recognizing the 10-year anniversary of Operation Purple Camps. We’ll leave you this Friday with one of our favorite clips so you can see just how special this program is.

Operation Purple Camps: 10 amazing years

MichelleObama-OPkids

Who knew when we started Operation Purple Camps in 2004 that we were kicking off a legacy! It has been an amazing 10 years.

Here’s a glimpse of how the program has grown:

2004

  • Operation Purple Camps kick off in 12 states
  • Jessica Lynch makes guest appearance at OPC Pennsylvania

2005

  • Senators Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole host Capitol Hill reception to kick-off the 2005 summer camp season
  • Operation Purple Camps make the front page of the Chicago Tribune
  • OPC was featured on NBC Nightly News and in the Wall Street Journal

2006

  • Operation Purple featured on CBS Early Morning and Fox and Friends
  • OPC camp highlighted in Time magazine

2007

  • Operation Purple Camps make the cover of USA Today
  • Operation Purple Camps featured on CBS Sunday Morning

2008

  • Operation Purple Leadership Camps pilot program opens for military teens
  • First Operation Purple Healing Adventures for families of wounded, ill and injured
  • We host an Operation Purple Camp to support the children of delegates attending the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) Symposium
  • Sierra Club releases “Red, White, and Green,” a short film about Operation Purple Camp
  • CNN features Operation Purple Camp on its website homepage
  • 1,500 Operation Purple applicants participate in an Association funded research study looking into the effects of deployment on military families
  • Camp attendance tops 10,000 kids in one summer

2009

  • Mullen-at-OPCOperation Purple Camp featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”
  • Operation Purple Family Retreats program hosts first families
  • Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife, Deborah, visit Operation Purple Camp California

2010

  • Operation Purple Family Retreats featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”

2011

  • Operation Purple Campers participate with First Lady Michelle Obama in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his wife Becky visit families at Operation Purple Healing Adventures Washington

2012

  • First year without national sponsors; Local camps help fund the program so that it remains free for military families

2013

  • Operation Purple Camp reaches 10 year milestone! In 10 summers, 48,000 military kids have participated in the program

All of this would have been impossible without the generous donations and support from so many individuals and organizations committed to taking care of military families. Thank you!

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

An Advocate is Born: Affecting change for military families

Susan-Reynolds-and-son

We have all heard the phrase from William Shakespeare, “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

A few years ago I was content with my starring role in the production of “Susan’s Military Life”. An active volunteer, educator, mentor, and friend were my starring roles. That changed when my infant son was denied healthcare coverage for a cranial reshaping helmet. I was offered a different role – the role of a lifetime – and I couldn’t pass it up.

The National Military Family Association and I were introduced in October 2011 when I was asked to be a volunteer. From there I discovered a world of advocacy that I never knew existed. The Association was working on issues ranging from education to healthcare. I fell in love and knew I was ‘home’.

In July 2012, I was invited to a conference in Washington, D.C. to tell my son’s story. In two days I had eight meetings on Capitol Hill and my performance had to be flawless. Fortunately, I had great support from the Association’s Government Relations department, as well as Kara Oakley from the Children’s Hospital Association.

The National Military Association encouraged me to use my voice to advocate for my son and all military children. I learned not to be afraid to share my story because I had a gift for speaking. You see, according to the Association, my story and my voice is powerful and should not be forgotten.

A year has passed since those meetings, and so many doors have opened because I’m a volunteer with National Military Family Association. The Association has helped me define my story and because of their support, I’m a stronger, more confident volunteer and advocate for military families.

As the saying goes, “a star is born every second.” In my case, an advocate was born and is supported by the National Military Family Association.

Susan ReynoldsBy Susan Reynolds, National Military Family Association Volunteer

FAQ Series: Military commissary questions

Grocery-Store-Shopper

You have questions, we have answers. This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the commissary benefit.

Q: If commissary goods are sold at cost, why do I see an additional “surcharge” on my receipt?

A: Commissary shoppers buy goods “at cost” meaning the commissary does not generate a profit from sales. Shoppers pay a 5% surcharge. The surcharge is calculated on the total before coupons are deducted. The surcharge goes back into the stores to pay for new construction, renovations, repairs, and equipment. The surcharge does not decrease commissary savings because it is included in the savings calculations.

Q: How much should I tip the commissary baggers?

A: Baggers are not commissary or government employees and are paid solely by the tips they receive from commissary shoppers in exchange for bagging/carryout services. Baggers are self-employed, and work under a license agreement with an installation commander. The amount you tip is up to you. Some folks suggest twenty-five cents a bag; others tip a flat rate between $5 – $10.

Q: I am deploying and my children will stay with someone who does not have a military ID. Can the caregiver shop at the commissary for our children?

A: The caregiver will need an agent letter to shop at the commissary for the children. The caregiver does not have to be an authorized commissary shopper; however only the installation commander can authorize agent privileges. It is recommended that you contact the commissary store director near the caregiver’s location and request contact information for the installation office that prepares agent authorization. It may be helpful to ask what documentation an agent needs to gain access to the installation. You can find a list of commissaries here.

Q: Do I really save more money by shopping at the commissary?

A: Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings that amount to thousands of dollars annually when shopping regularly at a commissary. In addition to lower costs on products, the commissary also accepts coupons and uses a rewards card program to help increase your savings. While savings may vary from location to location, it’s important to remember that profits made by commissaries contribute to family readiness and enhance the quality of life for service member’s and their families. Those profits also cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.

What interesting information have you learned about the Commissary? Share it in a comment!

Send your questions or comments to PR@militaryfamily.org and don’t forget to follow our blog, Branching Out, for our next FAQ series.

Source: http://www.commissaries.com/documents/contact_deca/faq.cfm

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

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An Outsider Looking In: Military life perspective from an AmeriCorp member and civilian

volunteer-with-flagAs I wrap up my first month here at the National Military Family Association , I wanted to share my perspective as a civilian working for a nonprofit that advocates for military families. For the next year, I’ll be a member of the Government Relations team through the AmeriCorps Call 2 Service Corps

Honestly, when I initially decided to apply for positions through AmeriCorps, I anticipated something along the lines of “feed the hungry!” or “clean up this polluted stream!” Those are both issues that pull at my heartstrings, and are typically what one thinks of when “AmeriCorps” comes to mind.

However, when I came across the Association’s job posting, I liked what I read about the kind of work I would be doing (think: research, reading, and writing), while working alongside these great experts in the Government Relations department. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not sure about the whole ‘military thing’, but they’re working for the betterment of families, so let’s do it!”

I haven’t regretted the decision to accept my position for one second. Learning how different the lives are of military families, in comparison to civilians, has astounded me. I had so many preconceived notions about military life, many of which greatly underestimated the realities of the hardships the families face, and many more of which were completely off base and entirely inaccurate. For instance, I assumed “military brats” moved to 2 or 3 different places by the time they finally graduate high school. In reality, many of them move every 2-3 YEARS!

I can’t begin to imagine trying to navigate the confusions of childhood and adolescence all while having to make new friends and adjusting to a new location on a regular basis. I knew that deployments were often long and not easy for military families, but I didn’t quite grasp just how hard they were. To get a better idea, check out these videos. My coworker (and military spouse), Karen, showed these videos to me to help me grasp the realities military families face every day – the same realities SHE faces every day – while husbands and wives, siblings and children, are deployed.

I am looking forward to my year of service to the Association. I am excited to continue learning about military families, and the issues that matter to them. I am excited to further develop my skills as an ally and resource. I am excited to see, firsthand, the efforts our Staff and Volunteers make to ensure military families receive the benefits and help they deserve. I am excited to be a part of the National Military Family Association.

What tips do you have for those wanting to learn more about military families and the military community?

nateBy Nate Parsons, Government Relations and Volunteer Services AmeriCorp Member

Military Student Loan Forgiveness: What to do with your student loans?

Soldier-StudentMilitary families may rely on a variety of financial aid packages to help afford a higher education; including scholarships, grants, and loans. If your service member has federal loans, he or she will want explore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

The PSLF is a program for federal student loan borrowers who work in a range of public service jobs, including military service. The program forgives remaining debt after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments.  In most cases eligibility is based on whether you work for an eligible employer. Your job is eligible if you:

• are employed by any nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)organization
• are employed by the federal government, a state government, local government, or tribal government (this includes the military and public schools and colleges); or
• serve in a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

PSLF applies to federal Stafford, Grad Plus, or consolidation loans as long as they are in the Direct Loan Program.  Borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans must switch to the Direct Loan program to participate in this benefit.

In order to qualify for loan forgiveness the borrower must make 10 years (or 120 monthly payments) after October 1, 2007. Qualifying payments are made through the Direct Loan program. To count, the payments must be made while working full-time in an eligible job. “Full-time” means 30 hours per week or the standard for full-time used by the employer, whichever is greater. If your service member meets all of the eligibility criteria the earliest the remaining debt could be forgiven under the program is October 2017.

With advanced planning, the PSLF is another tool your family can use to help make higher education affordable. Since federal student loan interest rates reset each July , now is a good time to explore the PSLF program to see if it is right for you and your family.

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Father’s Day at the White House: A military family’s experience

MWI was ecstatic when we were offered tickets to the White House Father’s Day event on June 14th. We’ve been in the DC area for a little over a year and I knew that this was a once in a life time opportunity.

When we arrived, we waited at one of the entry gates with about 30 other people. After going through a ton of security, we were eventually met by a White House employee who also volunteers for the National Military Family Association. She gave us an amazing mini-tour of the west wing of the White House and walked us to where we would be having lunch shortly thereafter. Along the walk we were able to admire many of the pictures taken of our nation’s leaders throughout history, including Presidents, First Ladies, and celebrities. One picture which was especially memorable to me, personally, was a picture of Princess Diana and John Travolta dancing. It was certainly not something that I would expect to see occur at the White House, but it was impressive.

Much to the delight of my youngest son, Brady, a military band played nearby as we stood in the buffet line. Lunch turned out to be a simple, yet delightful meal: hamburgers, French fries, fruit, and salad.  There was a bit of a lull after we finished eating and Brady was becoming restless. I gave him my iPhone to keep him entertained while we waited for President Obama to arrive.  Shortly after, the President walked into the room and started speaking. I tried to grab my phone from my son to get a picture and when I grabbed it he started yelling, “NO, NO, NO!!”

President Obama replied back, “YES!”

Now, our family jokes that Brady is the youngest Presidential heckler! The President gave a short speech stating that being a father is the best job he has and when he looks back on life, he will remember the times with his kids and Michelle.

AndersonFamilyAfterwards, the President took the time to come around to each table – about 8 tables in total – to take a picture and chat for a few minutes. It was a surreal experience to shake hands and speak with the President! He looked and sounded exactly as I expected, probably because of all the speeches and appearances I had seen during this last election season. He asked my husband about his military service, where he currently worked, and also asked about how we met. When my husband told him that we met in Oklahoma, he asked me if I had any family affected by the recent tornadoes. He also made small talk with our boys and shook their hands. Normally, you are lucky to get a high five out of my two year old, but even Brady knew he needed to shake the President’s hand. He thanked my husband for his military service three different times. Being thanked by the Commander-in-Chief was so memorable and amazing. It is something I will never forget.

After President Obama left the room, it was his dog, Bo’s, turn to make an appearance. Bo ran around and sat by the tables so all the kids could pet him and take pictures.

In between the events, we went to Jefferson Park, which is conveniently located across the street from the White House. My two sons chased birds, ducks, and squirrels, and eventually met a friend – a child from Canada – to dig in the dirt with. After playing in the park, both boys were tired and wanted me to carry them for the rest of the long walk around the White House (which is no easy feat). When my oldest son pointed at a Pedicab and asked what it was, I decided this happened for a reason and we hopped right in. The Pedicab, a bicycle powered rickshaw, dropped us at the gate for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an early preview of Monster’s University. My kids haven’t been to a theatre before, so it was especially cool for them to experience their first movie in the White House.

We often hear that as a military family, we will see and experience amazing things during our travels around the world. I believe this recent experience in Washington D.C. will be hard to top going forward in my military life.

What experiences have you had that made you feel appreciated as a military family?

Amanda headshotBy Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife App