Category Archives: Joyce’s Voice

Celebrating One of the 99 Percent Who Cared for Us–the 1 percent

Dick-Steinberg1Sometimes, when we’re tired, frustrated, or lonely, military families feel that no one outside our military world could possibly understand our lives. And if they can’t understand us, there’s no way they could possibly know how to support us.

We, the 1 percent of the Nation’s population who serve or have a family member who serves, look at the 99 percent and ask “Don’t you know we’re fighting a war—on your behalf?”

We suspect there are supporters among that 99 percent, but struggle to find them.

We lost one of those champions on March 4. Richard “Dick” Steinberg was a businessman whose company, S&K Sales, helped companies sell products at military commissaries. But Dick wasn’t interested only in selling things at the commissaries—he wanted to make sure those products were sold at the best prices possible. Why? Because he understood how much commissary savings meant to military families struggling to make ends meet.

In an email to me less than a week before he died, Dick denounced the proposed budget cuts to the commissaries because they would decrease the current 30 percent savings to only 10 percent. He wrote:

“Commissaries are about the savings!” When savings disappear, so will the commissaries.”

Years in the business of selling to the commissaries taught Dick—even more than his stint in the Air Force—about the challenges military families face. So, twice a year, Dick, his colleagues, and business partners at S&K Sales created promotions that would feature even lower prices and they would donate some of the proceeds from those promotions to charities supporting military families. For the last four years, the National Military Family Association received that support. We’re grateful for the grocery savings the promotions provided to the military families, which topped $5 million last year alone. We’re also grateful for the donations we received, which have helped us reach out to support families, send military kids to our Operation Purple® camps, and speak up on behalf of military families.

Dick was a patriot who valued the service of our military members and their families and always looked for ways to support them. He believed in us and in all military families and in the responsibility all Americans have to those who serve our Nation. He was hiring military spouses and veterans before everyone else figured out how valuable they could be as employees. He fought with determination to keep the commissaries strong and to protect the savings so important to military families. In his last days, he cheered us on, telling us to “keep up the good fight” for military families. His regret? That he wouldn’t be around to “man the barricades” on their behalf.

Military families may not know the name Dick Steinberg, but their lives are better because of him. All of us at the National Military Family Association will miss him and are grateful to his family for sharing him with us.

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

Fighting for Military Families for 45 Years and Counting!

joyces-voice-11514The year was 1969. Our troops were far away fighting a war that was becoming more unpopular at home. Women’s lib was catching on, but military wives were dismissed as “dependents,” whose place was in quiet support of their husbands’ careers. Their roles were as hostesses and volunteers, equipped with the right hat, shoes, and gloves for each occasion.

Most of those “dependent wives” didn’t know there were no Department of Defense survivor benefits and that their income would stop when their retiree spouse died. Tired of watching their friends become destitute, a small group of women met around a kitchen table in Annapolis, Maryland and formed the Military Wives’ Association (later the National Military Family Association). They decided to wage war on these inequities and pledged to fight for the same pension for military widows that widows of retired federal civilian workers received.

A local reporter asked the first president, Raye Dickins—“properly” identified by the reporter, of course, as Mrs. Justin H. Dickins—whether there was really a need for the organization. She responded:

“Our Service men are bound by a code of ethics. They have been taught to accept orders and to abide by existing laws. They bow to these conditions and don’t talk back. As a result the military hasn’t had a voice even in affairs that concern them. But, their wives are now ready to stand up and fight.”

The year is now 2014. Our troops are far away fighting a war that most Americans forget is happening. Budget cuts are making military people a target for last minute deals. Meanwhile, military spouses—male and female—continue to support their service members through recovery of visible and invisible wounds. They endure frequent moves that hurt their own careers. They deal with deployments that test the strength of their families. They support their service member and others in their communities as volunteers, caregivers, advocates, and good neighbors—hat and gloves no longer necessary, heels optional.

As the National Military Family Association celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, we remember the determination of Raye Dickins and our other founding mothers. Her words about the struggle to gain survivor benefits for military widows could be the rallying cry for today’s #KeepYourPromise efforts to persuade Congress to end the budget deal’s military retiree COLA cuts:

“We are determined to keep trying until an unreasonable and inequitable situation is corrected.”

Our Association has made a difference for military families for 45 years because of the military families who have joined us in speaking out, connecting, sharing their stories, and supporting each other. We’ll channel their voices—and those of all military families—this anniversary year to fight to end the inequities that put them at risk. We will work to ensure families can connect with the resources they need to thrive in military life, to speed military spouses’ journey to work and career, to find quality education for their children, and to gain timely access to quality health care. We will help military families find strength while dealing with deployment; the return of their service member, however changed; or a transition to civilian life.

We’ll continue our fight on behalf of military families as we remind our Nation’s leaders, and its citizens, of the obligations all Americans share to ensure that the strength of our military and our country starts with its people—and their families. There’s no better way to celebrate 45 years of service to military families than by fighting for them every day of the year!

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

Losing the Budget Battle Does Not Mean We’ve Lost the War

son-says-goodbye-to-dadSomething happened last week that made military families stand up and say “Don’t you dare!!” That something was the budget deal that provides $6 billion in “sequestration relief” for DoD out of the wallets of our youngest military retirees. As word about the deal spread into the military community, the sound you heard was “Enough!”

What followed was a #KeepYourPromise campaign on Twitter, storm the Hill visits by military associations, and letters and calls to Congressional offices all aimed at persuading Congress to reject the proposed cap on Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) for military retirees under age 62. Despite all the best efforts, the budget bill passed the Senate on December 18.

What should military families do now?

  1. Say Thank You: While too few Members of Congress showed they understood the damage the budget deal would do to the military community, several did and stepped up to fight the COLA cap. They will be our allies in our continued fight, so please send them a thank you letter or email.
  2. Stay Engaged: Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and several other Senators who voted in favor of the budget deal are on record saying they want the Committee to look for ways to eliminate the cap—count those statements as proof that the grassroots efforts were noticed.
  3. Hold Them Accountable: Military families need to help us remind Members of Congress who said they hoped they could find a way to eliminate the cap to do so. Ask your Member, especially if he or she is on the House or Senate Armed Services Committee, to encourage the Committee to take up this issue as soon as possible. If your Member voted for the budget deal, give them a chance to make things right.
  4. Expand Your Outreach: Tell your story to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. The commission’s website has a comments section for military families and Commission’s recommendations will be taken seriously.
  5. Keep Telling Your Story: Start each letter to your Member of Congress with “I’m a proud military family member and I VOTE in your state/district.” Enlist your family and civilian friends in this fight to help Congress understand the service and sacrifice of our military families and the need for our Nation’s leaders to keep the promises they made.
  6. Don’t Give Up! The Senate vote this week was only the opening skirmish of a fight we can win if we continue to work together and make our voices heard.

The military spouses who founded our Association walked the halls of Congress for several years before it passed the DoD Survivor Benefit Plan. The elderly retirees who were once denied military health care once they became eligible for Medicare spent almost a decade mobilizing their peers, their associations, and their Members of Congress before getting TRICARE for Life. It took our Association almost eight years to see Congress pass and DoD implement the WIC Overseas program for military families. Our past successes prove that we can do so again IF WE DON’T GIVE UP!

Mourning a Lost President and Finding My Fellow Citizens

jfkEvery generation has a “Where were you when it happened?” event. For my parents, that event was the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For my children, it was September 11, 2001. For me and my fellow baby boomers, it was November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot.

I grew up on a farm outside Hampstead, Maryland, which was then just a small, rural town. On that fateful day, I was a 10 year old fifth grader. It was a Friday, just as it is this year—the Friday before Thanksgiving. THE big event held every November in Hampstead was the Elementary School’s PTA Fall Festival—everyone in town came to see the school program, play games, and buy all the PTA ladies’ baked goods.

The theme of that year’s Fall Festival, American Heritage, seemed especially appropriate given that week’s 100 year anniversary commemoration of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, only 30 miles up the road. In honor of that historic event, the two fifth grade classes would recite the Gettysburg Address and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic during the Fall Festival program.

An extra benefit for kids was that school closed early on Fall Festival day. So that afternoon, my brothers and I were at home, playing in the TV room while our mother ironed and watched her favorite soap opera, “As the World Turns.” All of the sudden, a news bulletin interrupted the show and Walter Cronkite announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. Later, a visibly-shaken “Uncle Walter” shared the sad news that our President had died.

As the TV news reporters tried to make sense of what was unfolding in Dallas, the Hampstead Elementary PTA President and Principal were trying to figure out what to do about the evening’s program. Because of its patriotic theme, the school decided to go on with the festival in honor of our fallen President. In our classroom that night, as we waited to go on stage, my classmates and I talked about all we had seen on TV that day. We also talked about Mrs. Kennedy, little Caroline, and John John. We talked about the one dad who was going to complain to the school board because the school went ahead with the program, but concluded, “He’s new in town and just doesn’t understand.”

We filed onto the risers in the auditorium and—all 70 of us—recited Lincoln’s inspired words. Then, as we sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, I began to have an inkling of how much we were bound together in our Nation’s sorrow. I noticed the mother of a classmate crying as we sang, and then saw others were crying as well. Our Nation’s loss of another President 100 years before took on a more powerful meaning because of the day’s events.

When the program was over, instead of going with their kids from one game or food table to another, the grown-ups stood in clusters, shaking their heads, and talking about our loss. Many of these grown-ups had voted for Richard Nixon in the last election, but the grief they conveyed was profound.

On Monday, when schools were closed because of the President’s funeral, everyone—my family included—was glued to the TV set watching the events. We saw the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, Jackie and Caroline kissing the coffin as President Kennedy lay in state in the Capitol, John John’s salute as the coffin went by, the Kennedy family walking along Pennsylvania Avenue. Each of the four channels we got on our TV set showed the same events, binding us as part of a Nation in grief.

My elementary school classmates and I came to awareness of what government was, and did, by what we saw of the Kennedy administration. His inaugural words—“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”—were featured in our second grade Weekly Readers. We heard his TV speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis and experienced fear for our safety. We celebrated with him as our astronauts launched into space. We saw Jackie’s televised tour of the White House. We talked about joining the Peace Corps when we grew up, and we saved the Look and Life magazine pictures of the happy young Kennedy family.

When we took our sixth grade class trip to Washington, D.C., we wanted to see two things: Jackie’s inaugural gown in the Smithsonian, and President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington Cemetery. While there, we saw others who remembered where they were November 22, 1963, and who mourned the loss of something important.

Historians continue to debate the legacy of John F. Kennedy. To me, his legacy was one of optimism and the possibility for good that can come from all of us working together to benefit our Nation and its citizens. That’s what I’ll remember today as our Nation remembers him.

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

What Do You Say About Military Pay…in Two Minutes?

moneyI’ve been invited to provide a military family perspective today at a hearing of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC).

Yes, even the acronym for this Congressionally-created group of experts is a mouthful! And its task is broad. The commission is charged with looking not just at military pay and retirement, but everything that affects service members and their families: health care; family support programs; education assistance to service members and families; tax implications of military pay; military family housing; commissaries and exchanges; and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Programs.

The Commission must accomplish its mission within 15 months. Its recommendations, if approved by Congress, may have a far-reaching impact on the future force. But, it’s important to note that the law creating the Commission says no retirement changes will apply to current military retirees and anyone who joins the military before Congress enacts any of the changes recommended by the Commission.

Even though retirement changes recommended by the Commission may not affect today’s military families, other proposals could. The scope of what the Commission is supposed to study is so vast, but those testifying at the hearing are given only two minutes to sum up what’s important to military families before the question and answer period starts.

Here’s what I’m saying on behalf of the National Military Family Association:

  • The choice to serve our Nation in the uniform of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, isn’t just another job for the service member or the family. And, it shouldn’t be regarded as just another job when our Nation’s leaders consider how those service members should be compensated.
  • Who makes up today’s military force can give clues about who might be recruited for the force of the future. In order to determine what will be needed to recruit and retain the best possible force of the future, those looking to change the compensation system to meet the needs of the future should learn as much as possible about the military families of today. Look at all the data available, not just on what today’s military families say they need but on what the demographic trends in our Nation at large tell us about the people who might become tomorrow’s military families.
  • If we’ve learned nothing else in the past dozen years it’s that keeping families strong and ready is essential to the readiness of service members and their ability to focus on, and perform, their mission. Programs and services used to enhance the readiness of families help ease the transitions they face. Those programs and services also provide support when the challenges of military life threaten to overwhelm them, and are not and MUST NOT EVER BE considered part of the service member’s compensation package. They are a cost of doing business.
  • Given all the unpredictable things that are a part of military life—frequent moves, deployments to dangerous places, family separations, and upheavals to spouses’ careers and military children’s education, military families value whatever predictability is possible. They want to know what support resources will be available when they move or their service member deploys. They want to know they can access quality health care when they need it. They want to be assured there are community resources available to enhance their quality of life wherever the military sends them. They want assurance that their kids’ education won’t suffer because of the service member’s choice of career. They want clear expectations about what they must learn and do to be ready to handle the unpredictable. They want to know what to expect in retirement should they make the decision to make the military a career. They want to know that both monetary and community support will be available to them should their service member be injured or wounded or if they should die in service to our Nation.
  • The military, as an employer, must acknowledge its “employees'” need for predictability, and balance that need with the flexibility it must have to shape the force of the future and ensure it has the right skill and experience mix to meet new challenges to our Nation’s security.
  • The military, as an employer and because of the nature of how it does business, has a unique responsibility to ensure the community in which military families live and work has the systems necessary to enhance quality of life. The military community is not just a place of work; it is also a place of support that enhances the readiness of service members and families.

And lastly, military families need to believe that the Nation they serve values their service. Even though it may be difficult to put a dollar and cents value on what might be appropriate compensation for the work performed, the sacrifices made, the skills gained, and the lives disrupted, families want to know both the tangibles and intangibles are weighed in our leaders’ decisions about military pay, benefits, and quality of life programs in their communities.

My two minutes are up.

What would you say about military pay?

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

The Lesser of Many Evils

govt-shutdownMy, how expectations have fallen in recent years!! When I started working for the National Military Family Association in the mid-1990s (yes, I’m old and feeling older by the minute), I learned about budget cycles, fiscal years, and the requirement that appropriations bills for a new fiscal year should be signed into law BEFORE THE YEAR STARTED on October 1. I was also told that, even if Congress didn’t get all the appropriations bills passed on time, the expectation was that Members of the House of Representatives and Senate would never want to put our military at risk by failing to provide the authority and the money on time to protect our national security.

Why is passing a Defense budget on time so important? If an appropriations bill isn’t passed by the start of a new Fiscal Year (FY), the Department of Defense (DoD) must face the possibility of several evils. One evil is a Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds the government at the previous year’s level for a certain period of time. Continuing Resolutions are bad because they don’t account for different priorities in the current year and so too much money might be available for things that aren’t needed anymore, but not enough for current needs. Also, the money is only allocated for the period covered by the Continuing Resolution. That means agencies only get a portion of their whole budget and no long-term projects, such as construction, can be started.

Contrary to the expectations we used to have about DoD getting its funding bill on time, DoD has had to operate under a CR for at least part of the year for all but one of the last five years. FY 2010 was the last time DoD had its appropriations at the beginning of the year. This year, DoD didn’t get an appropriations until March 26—halfway through the fiscal year!

I’ve talked a lot in this space about the evils of sequestration—and I’ve heard plenty from military families about its effects. Another Continuing Resolution will continue sequestration AND make it more difficult for DoD to put limited money where it’s most needed.

But as bad as the evils of Continuing Resolutions and sequestration are, we’re coming close to a situation where a CR is actually the lesser evil. If Congress can’t pass—and the President sign—a CR by midnight, September 30, the government will shut down. The military hasn’t been affected by a shutdown in a while—it could operate during the last one in 1996 because its funding bill had passed. But, we’ve come close to a shutdown in recent years and military families are understandably concerned about what might happen next week. How did we get in a situation where temporary funding—the lesser of many evils—is seen as the best our Nation’s leaders can do?

We’re gathering information about what resources will be available for military families in case of a government shutdown. Military families want to know whether their service member will be paid on time and where they will go for help if they don’t get paid. We’re asking whether military hospitals will be open or whether their civilian doctors will still treat TRICARE patients. Military families want to know whether their commissary, child care facility, or DoD school will be open. Be sure to check our Government Shutdown web page for regular updates and resources.

What do you want to know about a shutdown? We’ll ask and keep you informed.

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

Association Takes the #EndSequestration Case to Congress

Storm-Capitol-HillToday, September 12, more than fifty National Military Family Association staff, Board members, Volunteers, and friends head to Capitol Hill to let our elected leaders know how sequestration is hurting our Nation’s military families. Last month, we asked families to send us photos and stories highlighting the difficulties they’ve faced as they’ve experienced sequestration in their communities.

Military families from all over the world showed us sequestration means more difficulty in getting care for their sick child, delays in arranging moves or in processing changes in pay, and reduced training time for the service member. As they encountered these hardships, military families also shared how much their service members’ ability to protect our Nation is now at risk.

We compiled families’ sequestration photos and stories into a photo album that we’re delivering to every Member of Congress today.

Our message is simple: The arbitrary, across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration are hurting military families, their communities, and service members’ readiness to perform their mission. Congress must end sequestration!

Military families are taxpayers, too. They understand the Department of Defense must share in efforts to cut government spending. BUT, those cuts must be made in a balanced way that does not impose a disproportionate burden on our military and the people who serve.

Remember, sequestration was intentionally designed to be so devastating to our defense that it would never be allowed to happen.

But it did happen.

Our purpose today is to show our Nation’s leaders the faces devastated by the aftermath of sequestration’s destruction–our military families. We present our photo album as evidence that sequestration is not a painless way to reduce the deficit. The devastation for our military families will be worse every year sequestration continues. It must stop. NOW.

The National Military Family Association thanks the families who shared their sequestration stories and photos. We thank our partners in this effort—Macho Spouse.com, Military Partners and Families Coalition, Military OneClick, Military Spouse Magazine, and Spouse Buzz—for their outreach to military families and for joining us on Capitol Hill today. We appreciate the work of our friends in The Military Coalition to seek an end to sequestration.

Sequestration is unraveling the yellow ribbon of military family support. If our Nation’s leaders allow sequestration to continue, the yellow ribbon will continue to fray. Please keep our military families strong. #EndSequestration!

Together we’re stronger!

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

Recent Good News Won’t Keep the Yellow Ribbon from Unraveling in 2014

yellow-ribbon-tree-blogOn August 6, military families got a little sequestration relief. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the DoD civilian employee furloughs would be capped at six days rather than the planned 11. These furloughs had closed commissaries an extra day, made it more difficult for families to get health care appointments, cut family center hours, and would have closed DoD schools for several days in September.

So, let’s celebrate a little because the 2013 DoD furloughs will end this week. But, make it only a small celebration please! Sequestration is a 10-year menace and none of the good news from last week will carry over into the new fiscal year that starts on October 1. DoD officials have shared a lot of numbers about the difficulties sequestration will cause in 2014.

According to DoD, this summer’s furloughs that caused so much disruption saved the Department $1 billion. In 2014, DoD will have to find savings of $52 billion.

How much pain and disruption for military families will come as DoD tries to find those savings?

Forget about furloughs–how many civilians will be laid off? How fast will a drawdown in the number of uniformed troops happen? How many airplanes will the Air Force be able to fly? What training will be cancelled? What family support facilities will close? What will the DoD and civilian schools educating military children have to cut? How long will we wait for health care appointments? Will schedules for Permanent Change of Station moves lengthen? What ships will be repaired? Already, the Navy has announced it will scrap, rather than repair, a nuclear submarine damaged by arson. Why? Navy officials blame a $4 billion shortfall in the shipbuilding account and other maintenance priorities deferred by sequestration.

Cuts totaling $52 billion in 2014 will hurt service members, families, and the communities where they live. Even though the 2013 furloughs will soon end, sequestration’s effects can still be seen in programs affected by hiring freezes, in reduced training for service members, and deferred maintenance of equipment and facilities. Those effects will get worse unless Congress acts to #EndSequestration.

The National Military Family Association and the other organizations that have joined with us in our campaign thank the families who have sent us pictures and stories about how sequestration is affecting their communities. Please continue to send pictures showing sequestration’s effects to social@militaryfamily.org. We’re creating a booklet of your photos and sequestration stories and will deliver it to every Member in early September.

Our Nation’s leaders must keep the yellow ribbon from unraveling. #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.

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.

Sequestration adds stress to military families: Association meets with DoD officials

Sequestration adds stress to military families:Association meets with DoD officialsShortly after the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, arrived at the Pentagon, he told his staff that he wanted to reach out to military and veterans organizations. As a result of that request, I recently spent two days at a Pentagon roundtable meeting with Secretary Hagel, senior Department of Defense (DoD) officials, and twenty-one other military and veterans organization leaders. I appreciate Secretary Hagel’s early outreach and the opportunity his roundtable discussion provided for me to ask many of the questions military families have been asking us about sequestration, support for military families, and what lies ahead for our military community.

Secretary Hagel shared his opinion that the tough budget realities facing DoD would not change. He asked how DoD can effectively work with military and veterans organization to expand the services and support our service members and military families need. This was an important discussion for a new Secretary of Defense to have with the organizations in the room and, I hope, with many others in the future. Partnerships and collaborations are important, but we also need to talk about the unique obligation our government, through the Department of Defense, has to support and sustain military families during times of war and peace.

We remain a nation at war. Our all-volunteer force, making up less than one percent of the nation, has made extraordinary sacrifices for our country. Military families are navigating new uncertainties: unpredictable deployment schedules; downsizing; worry about how the stress of separation and reunion will affect family relationships; and concern that the foundation of support families have come to rely on will disappear.

The reality of sequestration adds to the stress of military families. Will the military be able to retain mental health counselors and will civilian mental health providers continue to care for our families to the extent needed? How will DoD address the consequences of civilian employees furloughs on the delivery of support services? Will child care services be available for school-aged children who suddenly have fewer school days? Will families be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs made in anticipation of a deployment only to learn the deployment has been cancelled? Will DoD have robust resources for the families affected by suicide or sexual assault? Does DoD have the funding and capacity to meet the mandated requirements of the new transition assistance program to effectively prepare transitioning families?

Our Association’s highest priority is to fight for military families. We will fight to ensure programs and benefits critical to the wellbeing of military families are authorized, funded, and implemented to maintain their readiness and allow them to meet the challenges of military life. We will fight to protect families from destructive budget cuts. We will fight to relieve the emotional stress of military families as service members respond to crises worldwide.

What budget cuts are you most concerned about?

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