Category Archives: Military kids

Sick and Tired: Military Kids Need Better Access to Same-Day Care at MTF

Child-at-MTFRecently, when a military spouse at our Association told me she had to take her baby to the emergency room when there were no appointments at their Military Treatment Facility (MTF), I thought my head was going to explode.

I flashed back to one of many similar situations I faced when we were on TRICARE Prime, and my daughter, Kate, was in her ‘ear infection phase.’ On one memorable occasion, Kate started a fever on a Friday night (of course, after the MTF was closed for the weekend). By Saturday, the telltale ear tugging and crankiness were in full swing. I kept my fingers crossed that we could keep things under control with Motrin and Tylenol until the clinic reopened on Monday. Unfortunately, by Sunday she had a 104 degree fever, obvious signs of a ruptured ear drum (I’ll spare you the details), and was crying inconsolably.

I knew we couldn’t wait until Monday for an MTF appointment, so with a newborn crying to be fed and a 20 month old wailing in pain, I braced myself for an uphill battle to find medical care that TRICARE would cover.

I consulted the TRICARE website where it seemed like our only option was the emergency room. This concerned me; did a ruptured ear drum constitute a threat to life, limb, or eyesight? I was terrified of having to foot the bill for an ER visit.

Not willing to risk it, I called TRICARE. They told me to take Kate to a network urgent care and call our primary care manager (PCM) on Monday to request a referral.

I think you know where this story is going…

On Monday, I called our PCM, who refused to give me a referral because the appointment had already taken place. When I called TRICARE back, their hands were tied. Without a referral, they could not pay the urgent care provider. We were at an impasse, and eventually paid out of pocket for that visit.

The reason this particular incident is burned into my memory is because it occurred while I was recovering from a c-section, and we were about a week away from PCSing. My husband’s new unit had orders to Iraq, but the departure date kept moving, causing second and third order effects… most notably on our temporary housing plans. Oh, and we had just learned (from CNN – surprise!) that Army deployments were being extended to 15 months.

Military families lead complicated lives full of uncertainty. Getting a sick child appropriate medical attention should NOT be complicated.

The National Military Family Association has advocated for years to fix this problem.

And, in fairness, things have improved.

Sometimes.

At certain locations.

For instance, our old MTF in Virginia, the Woodbridge Clinic, is gone now. It’s replaced with the Dumfries Clinic, which has improved appointment access by adding Saturday hours.

Yet, we still hear of too many instances where families can’t get same-day appointments at the MTF, are refused referrals to urgent care, and are left with no option but the emergency room for their sick kids.

This is just wrong.

As the health care subject matter expert for our Association, this issue is not only my job, it’s personal. Now is the time to fix this problem once and for all. Military families deserve access to the best care, including same-day appointments for urgent issues.

Please help us by signing our petition and sharing your experience with access to same day appointments in the comments below.

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

Since When Does MTF Mean ‘Might Take Forever?’

MMC-GR-Military-Kids-Deserve-the-Best-Care-(3)

Did you know garlic is a powerful antibiotic?

I didn’t either, until I had lived in Germany on an Army post for a couple months.

One day, my daughter woke up with a fever. It was just high enough to have me worried, so I waited for the appointment line to open for the day, and called as soon as the clock rolled over to 7:30am.

We know how this goes, so of course, I had the number programmed in my phone. All the better to dial quickly. By 7:31am I had navigated (like a pro) through the menu options and found myself on hold, waiting to talk to a representative.

“There are seven calls ahead of you.”

Seven.

My heart sank. Seven isn’t great. Seven means it’s likely that the appointments for the day will be filled before they get to me. But, being the optimist I am, I hung on the line.

After all, my baby daughter had a fever. She’s never sick, and even after being trained as a nurse, fevers in infants worry me. The hold music starts playing, and I pulled out the thermometer again. I held my breath and hoped.

Nope, the fever was still there. She’s was flushed, and clammy, and crying, again, because I just had to take her temperature one more time.

“There are four calls ahead of you.”

It’s now 7:45am and I am losing hope. I’m bouncing the baby and waiting.

Finally, a representative comes on the line, gets my husband’s social security number, and asks me to explain the problem. I do, and the baby screams, filling in the gaps of my story with her own frantic song.

“The earliest we can get you in is Friday. There is an appointment at two.”

Today is Monday, and we need seen now. Friday won’t work. On Friday, she’ll be fine. Or, as my overly worried Momma brain starts thinking, she’ll be dead.

The only other option is to take her to the emergency room. Germany doesn’t have an urgent care system, and other than the small clinic on post, there isn’t an American facility to go to. However, the German children’s hospital is amazing, if your child needs a hospital; if you have an infant with a fever, it’s really not that great. What I needed was antibiotics for an ear infection, and the reassurance that I was doing the best I could by hydrating and comforting my child at home. What I got was excessive testing in the German hospital, hours of waiting, the stress of not being unable to understand the system, and the flu (probably from the arm rests in the waiting room).

Unfortunately, this situation happened to me again, and again, for the three years we were stationed in Germany.

During our tour there, I was only seen ONE time for an urgent matter in the pediatrician’s office, and that was because I sat in the office and refused to leave until someone could help me.

I learned quickly the best I could do was attempt to help myself. I learned that garlic is a powerful antibiotic… in large doses. And believe me: you really haven’t lived until you’ve tried to get your five year old to swallow four cloves of fresh garlic to treat a suspected ear infection.

I learned Germany has an extensive alternative medicine culture, and in a pinch, I could go to a pharmacy off post and communicate my problems (in terrible German) to their pharmacists. I learned essential oils can help, and sometimes, you just have to suck it up and spend two nights in the German hospital for an issue American doctors would treat as urgent care, and send you home.

This has to change. Our military children deserve better. As wonderful as alternative medicine and emergency rooms are, we shouldn’t be forced to use them because there aren’t enough appointments, or doctors, to go around.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up on garlic.

Have you had problems making an MTF appointment for a sick family member? Please tell us about it and include the approximate time frame (we are most interested in recent situations to show this is a current problem). We will compile your stories and share with Congress and senior DoD leadership.

heatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Win a Bedroom Makeover for Your Awesome MilKid!

MilKid-Bedroom-Makeover

We’re having a blast celebrating the Month of the Military Child, and this month just got a little more awesome! NMFA is teaming up with top design firm Laurel & Wolf to give a special military child a bedroom makeover! You may remember the contest we did with Laurel & Wolf, where we surprised a deserving military spouse with a master bedroom makeover…now, it’s time for the kids to win!

Military kids are resilient, endure change like champs, and in some cases, are the glue that holds the family together while a parent is deployed. They’re strong 365 days a year, we’re excited to work with Laurel & Wolf to give back to our nation’s smallest heroes.

Would your MilKid love a bedroom makeover? Are they in need of a space that’s all theirs? Enter to win today! Tell us why your child is one-of-a-kind and he or she could be chosen as the winner on April 17th!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

 

Jump for Joy! It’s the Month of the Military Child!

month-of-the-military-child

April is here and it’s one of our favorite months! That’s because we get to celebrate and recognize some of the military community’s smallest heroes: military kids!

Though they’re some of the tiniest humans (both in size and age!), they play a huge part in their military family. They’re courageous, resilient, well-rounded, and strong! We think MilKids are SO awesome, we’ve got a summer camp just for them!

Now, we’re inviting you to tell us about an awesome military child in your life! Leave us a comment and share why they rock!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

2 Ways to Make Your MilKid’s Homework Easier in the Final Semester!

Children-in-classroomAmid the doldrums of the end of winter and the spring forward time change, students struggle with the start of the second semester. Once the snow melts, however, all thoughts wander first towards spring break, a reprieve from the drudgery of long school days and homework, and then to the lure of a long summer break – the ultimate escape from the classroom.

If vacation time occupies your mind right now, you’re not alone. Even the most dedicated teachers and tutors are already scanning cruise brochures and plotting their Space A travel adventures.

For military children, it’s even harder. With the average military child attending up 9 schools over the course of his or her academic career, the end of the school year most often means a PCS, and the end of time with friends at that duty station. Your student still has several months to go, though, and despite their adamant independence—yes, you know they can do it themselves!—they need you right now.

It’s time to make sure your student learns to finish the semester strong!

Here are two key ways you can help your child prepare to power through the final semester.

1. Help avoid visual distractions. If their desk is messy, help them clean it. For a visual or hands on learner, a messy desk is a reflection of how organized the rest of their schoolwork looks. If their desk isn’t neatly arranged, then it’s a sure bet you may find the missing homework assignments bringing down their grade somewhere at the bottom of their book bag. Once organized, have your child take those assignments to the teacher to see if they can at least earn a late grade. If nothing else, this presents an opportunity for your child to practice self-advocacy, a skill they’ll need long past their grade school days.

2. Reduce interaction with as many electronic devices as possible. That means no television, no music with lyrics, no texting, and no social media. It’s unrealistic to expect students to turn off all electronics, as most students, particularly those in middle school and beyond, need the internet to access homework websites and conduct research. However, it is possible to make sure that those devices are used for their stated purpose.

The following website plugins and apps may help:

  • FocusWriter allows students to really focus on writing that essay for class. It locks down all other programs, leaving only a writing document available for student access. It even allows users to set a writing goal, either for time or for word count.
  • Focus Booster helps teach your student productivity skills through time management. For younger students, set time goals of 10-15 minutes for concentrated work. Build up their study efforts in increments of 5 minutes. High school students who don’t have any other learning limitations should be able to study for up to 50 minutes at a time.
  • Cold Turkey also helps with productivity by blocking social media and games. It helps students schedule time for breaks, too.
  • Focus@Will helps define music for reading, music for studying, café noise, or my favorite, water sounds. Some music can actually facilitate studying for all learners, but it’s important to distinguish what type of music works best for your little learner. Regardless of what he tells you, though, music with lyrics distracts even the most conscientious learners, and if your child is an auditory learner, forget it!

While your kiddo is engaged in one of his productive study periods, you can break out the stack of vacation guides you picked up at the ITT office on base after all. If you have executed these changes with your child, then you’re on your way to a successful end of the school year and a well-earned summer break!

How do you help keep your kids encouraged and engaged at the end of the school year? Share your tips with us!

KarinaGHeadshot(Square)-(2-of-2)Posted by Karina Gafford, Air Force spouse, founder of Tutors By Base, and blogger at Thoughts on Tutoring

Raising my Military Kids: Does the Worrying Ever Stop?

liz-larsen-and-familyIt’s been a few days since our son Jake, and daughter Grace, left to go back to school and my house is completely silent. We had a busy Thanksgiving holiday filled with lots of food and football! I still can’t believe both of our children are in college.

I can’t help but think about the young adults they have become, and how I worried about them as they were growing up. If you have kids, you worry, stress over, and second guess every decision you make on their behalf. For me raising my military kids, it was even worse!

I worried about all of the PCS moves and new schools they’d attend. Jake moved with us (in utero) three times before finally being born at Fort Polk! I worried about all of the deployments their dad went on, and how that would affect the kids not having him around. I worried about not having extended family close by.

larsen-kidsAnd the schools! Are they going to be behind at the new school? Will they fit in? Make new friends? Jake attended six different schools and Grace attended five. I wondered if they’d end up hating us for dragging them away from old friends. The worrying never stops. My husband, Jay, and I joked about what our kids would complain to their future therapist about! We’ve given them plenty of material!

But it hit me this morning; I would not change anything about the way they were raised. I am proud of my military brats! They are far more mature and responsible than most of their peers. They are comfortable speaking to anyone, and have respect for everyone they meet. They have a great prospective on life at their young age because they have learned what is truly important.

Adjusting to college life was easy for these two. They have great friends, are making good grades, and are both in leadership positions on campus. I can’t think of anyone more prepared to go off to college, and face life than my military kids!

Liz-LarsenPosted by Liz Larsen, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

Drowning in Child Care Costs? Here’s Your Lifesaver!

judy-familyI was 7 months pregnant, working full time and searching for a child care provider. As a first time parent, I was terrified to bring my daughter home (can you believe they let you leave the hospital with a newborn and no instruction manual?), but finding someone I trusted enough to leave her with all day while I worked made me incredibly paranoid. Add to that the expense of infant daycare in the DC area, and I was a wreck.

While relaying my plight to my coworkers, a fellow military spouse spoke up and asked, “Don’t you know about Child Care Aware?” The name sounded like some watchdog group who might provide a list of reputable centers.

As it turned out, they were so much more.

My coworker went on to tell me about the subsidy she received for her two children in daycare. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The military would help us offset this huge expense? I wouldn’t just be ‘breaking even’ between my income and the price of daycare? AND the facilities had to adhere to even more stringent guidelines than the state required? Where could I sign up?!

My husband and I selected a few places off their list to check out and tour. We got on a couple of waiting lists at the ones we liked, but we couldn’t do anything with the Child Care Aware application until our daughter was actually born. Once she arrived, we called them (and spoke to a really helpful representative) and discovered we just needed to scan and upload a few documents, and apply online.

To be eligible, I had to either be working full time, or in school full time. So, we sent in one of my pay stubs, my husband’s leave and earning statement (LES), along with the application, and waited a couple weeks to see if we were approved. If we were approved, how much would our subsidy be?

The process was easier than I assumed it would be; I figured I’d have weeks of paperwork going back and forth, and I worried we’d still be waiting to finalize everything when I was ready to go back to work after maternity leave. My worries were, thankfully, unfounded and we were eligible to receive the highest stipend allowed!

So how do they figure out your stipend? In a nutshell, they take into account the income of the service member and the price of the center where you’re placing your child. Suffice it to say, our center was more than their ‘cap,’ which is how we were able to receive such a large amount.

Today, Child Care Aware has contracts to work with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps families, and Army families now use the General Services Administration (GSA).

I am continually surprised by how many other spouses with children aren’t aware of this benefit. If you’re in school or working, and you’re up to your ears in daycare costs, take a few minutes to look this up and see if your center is listed. Trust me when I tell you, it was so worth it for our family!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager