Category Archives: Resources + Information

Currently Serving and Retirees – Pay Cuts Affect Us All

Balance-Budget-on-Backs-(2)With the proposed Ryan-Murray budget deal being voted on this week, military retirees are being urged to let their Congressional Members know how the Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLA) cap on military retired pay will adversely affect them over the course of their retirement. But this is only one part of the Congressional attack on compensation aimed at both the currently-serving and retirees.

Let’s not forget that the other deal announced recently — the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (NDAA) — inflicts some pay pain on those currently-serving, which will translate to more pain when they retire. Our active duty service members should be getting a 1.8 percent pay raise, but the NDAA provides only a 1 percent raise.

And, oh by the way, in 2014, retirees will receive their full 1.7 percent COLA. The phase-in of the reduction in the COLA for retirees ages 62 and under, called for in the budget bill, doesn’t start until 2015 and will happen over 3 years. Projections on active duty pay call for smaller raises than the civilian wage increase during that time. So even if the phase-in of the reduced retired pay goes into effect, those currently serving will probably receive a few smaller pay increases than retirees. And remember, smaller active duty pay raises translate into lower retiree pay when that active duty member retires.

Congressional decisions are spreading the pain to all military people in a way disproportionate to the rest of the Nation. We firmly believe the changes in pay and retirement should not have been done piecemeal by Congress without waiting for the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, established to study compensation and retirement.

We can’t talk about the harm to one group of our community without talking about the damage long term to the folks serving now if they’re denied the pay raises equal to civilian wage growth. The families of our future retirees are getting a double whammy–one punch is the lower pay raise now and the other is the lower retiree COLAs in the future. At least there will be a catch-up for the retirees when they turn 62. There’s no catch-up on active duty pay losses.

Let’s make our leaders understand the effects these deals AND continued sequestration are having on all military people.

Let Congress know that budgets should not be balanced on the backs of those who have already given so much. Despite the urgency on the budget bill, we need to focus on the effects to entire life cycle of service – from currently serving to retired. Write your Members of Congress and let them know how you feel.

And, on another note, with these hits to military families’ wallets, commissary savings become even more important! We continue to urge the Department of Defense to preserve the commissary system and the savings it provides.

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

Military Spouse Scholarship Opportunities!

man-studyingNational Military Family Association is pleased to announce a new affiliation with the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. With master’s degree programs delivered online, these universities can help you continue your education no matter where military life takes you. Plus, through our Association, program candidates are eligible for scholarship opportunities.

What do YOU want to do?
Each of these programs blends live, online classes taught by university faculty with hands-on field experiences in students’ own communities.

To learn more, choose your field of interest:

Education: Make a Positive Impact in the Classroom — and Beyond
You can create positive learning experiences in a variety of educational settings when you earn your master’s degree in education. Ideal for aspiring or practicing teachers alike, the USC Rossier School of Education offers three online master’s degree programs:

Featuring the same highly selective admissions criteria as the on-campus programs, the USC Rossier’s online master’s degree programs can prepare you to inspire students everywhere.
Pre-Requisites: Bachelor’s degree
Scholarship Opportunity: $5,000
Learn more >>

Social Work: Further Social Justice
The University of Southern California School of Social Work is the first among elite research universities to offer its highly regarded Master of Social Work online. Expand your knowledge and gain in-depth training by choosing a concentration that complements your personal and professional interests — including a specialization in Military Social Work. Taught by renowned faculty and leaders in the field of social work, the online curriculum matches the academic rigor of the on-campus program.
Pre-Requisite: Bachelor’s degree
Scholarship Opportunity: $7,500
Learn more >>

Nursing: Improve the Health and Well-Being of All People
Advance your practice and improve patient outcomes as a nurse practitioner. Georgetown University’s nationally ranked Master of Science degree in Nursing features Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner specialties. Taught by Georgetown’s highly respected faculty, these programs are designed to provide the next generation of nursing leaders with the insight and knowledge they need to grow professionally and improve the health and well-being of all people.

Pre-Requisite: Registered Nurse (RN) license and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN)
Scholarship Opportunity: $7,500
Learn more >>

No matter where life takes you, never stop learning!

Are you a military spouse going back to school? Tell us what you’re studying!

How to Manage Spending and Stress During the Holidays

budgeting-for-holidaysA few weeks ago, we posted an article about managing your money as the holidays approach. Nothing is worse than the reality check of opening the credit card bills from all the overspending you did during the holidays. And here we thought putting on those few ‘holiday pounds’ was the only problem! The good news is that it’s never too soon to start being smart with your money. It’s never too late, either. So, let’s get down to business!

Consumer Finance Protection Bureau recommends that you avoid holiday overspending by:

Making a spending plan. Be honest about what you can really spend. Not everyone needs a tangible gift purchased with money and people often appreciate things that don’t have a price tag. So, make a plan and work within that plan. Get creative: offer childcare, house cleaning, make dinner, or get crafty!

Make a list of gift recipients. Plan, plan, plan! If you make your list early, you have time to search for good deals instead of settling for what is available at the last minute. If your list seems long (is every member of your extended family on the list?), consider doing a drawing of names or make a family game where gifts are anonymous, like “Secret Santa”. This can be a great opportunity to bond and minimize cost when your recipients have common connections. If your budget is tight, but you feel like you have to purchase gifts, try to prioritize who needs something purchased instead of something homemade. Shop online and compare prices if you have specific gifts in mind.

Keep track of what you spend. If you save in one area, you can shift that savings to other areas of your holiday gift budget! Don’t forget to look for coupons. Many paper coupons can be redeemed online and vice versa. Consider putting any money saved into a retirement or savings account!

Avoid impulse purchases. Shop online to avoid the temptation of shelves crowded with overpriced stocking-stuffers and last minute purchases that you didn’t plan on. When you are in a store, stick with your list! Think twice about window shopping, the occasional splurge, or spoiling moment in an effort to keep more money in your wallet until after the holidays when you are back in a predictable spending routine.

Leave your credit cards at home. Using a credit card almost immediately busts your budget, or at least allows for too much temptation. Make a budget that fits within what you can afford in cash. If you will be purchasing on credit, make sure you have a pay-off plan that you can stick to. You can even save a little extra money elsewhere by making a creative spending plan in advance, like purchasing gift cards for an expensive item when those gift cards offer savings on something, like gasoline. Many stores, like AAFES, offer free or reduced fee layaway prior to Christmas. Always check your local installation exchange to see if they offer a layaway program.

Check details when purchasing gift cards. Some gift cards have special use requirements, like deadlines by which the card expires or fees for not using them within a specified amount of time. This impacts the useable value of the card, so check in advance for full redemption value.

There are lots of great ideas out there about ways to save, but I love this one from Military Saves: start a savings plan in January 2014 to budget for your gifts for next year! This is the perfect time to analyze how you spend during the holidays and put a realistic long term plan together that will have less of an impact on your pocketbook and relieve some of your financial stress.

What tips and tricks do you use for holiday spending and budgeting?

brookePosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship: Apply Dec 1!

Female-Psychology-StudentIt’s all in a name.

In this case, that name is Joanne Holbrook Patton. Joanne is a fifth generation Army daughter, and was married to the late Major General George S. Patton IV for 52 years. She has served graciously as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Army Community Service, and the National Military Family Association. She believes strongly in the importance of education for military spouses.

In 2005, the National Military Family Association renamed its scholarship program in her honor. In the ten years since the program’s inception, we have awarded more than 2,700 military spouses with over $2.4 million towards their education and careers.

Over the years, the scholarship program has adapted to the ever-changing military lifestyle. The ‘mobile’ lifestyle requires that spouses have portable careers – those that can be restarted in any state or overseas – in order to remain in the job market after each move. Often times, spouses already own a degree, or may be pursuing a degree, and return back to school to find a career that is more portable. The return to education comes at their own expense. The Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program is here to help alleviate the cost of schooling, licensure and certification.

Based on the current shortfall of professionals in the mental health field, we believe the military community will continue to suffer unless we devote efforts to developing a future workforce of individuals trained in these specialties. This year, UnitedHealth Foundation has made it possible for the program to cover clinically supervised hours for spouses with a Master’s degree in Psychology, Psychiatry, Social Work, or Counseling, who are pursuing clinical licensure in the mental health arena. In partnership with the UnitedHealth Foundation, we are striving to build an education to employment pipeline for mental health providers.

Wartime realities increase the importance and difficulties of military spouse education. Extraordinary battlefield medicine saves lives that would have been lost in prior wars – but many of the wounded are no longer able to work.

Military spouses require increased educational opportunities to help prepare for “the unthinkable.” In the event that the service member has been wounded, a better education can allow a spouse to rebuild their family, and pursue careers best suited to supporting them long term. To aid such situations, our program offers scholarships to spouses of the wounded and fallen.

Ten years later, we are still inspired by Joanne Holbrook Patton. She exemplifies what it means to serve, and even today, is avid supporter of military spouses.

If you are a military spouse heading back to school, signing up for a licensure exam or pursing a certification, remember to apply to the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarships opening December 1st. Applications are accepted through our website.

See a full list of eligibility requirements here.

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program

[Watch Live] Cyber Safety and Your Military Family: What you need to know!

In an increasingly interconnected world, military families face unique challenges when using social media to connect to loved ones. Maintaining operational security and the safety of family members at home and abroad requires extra levels of care and planning.

This afternoon, the National Military Family Association will convene a conversation that explores these unique challenges and provides recommendations that will help family members stay safe online.

Cyber Crisis: Protecting the U.S. Companies and Your Family in a War Waged by Hackers takes place today at 3:00pm EDT. The second in our series on technology advancements and threats affecting the Nation, this event focuses on its impact on every American home—including those of military families.

Tune in to the live feed below, or watch from our website. We’ll be taking your questions during the conversation and General Hayden and Mr. Mandia will answer them!

Follow us on Twitter as we live-tweet the event using #cybersafe!

Honoring Military Caregivers

caregiver1Each November the military Services observe Warrior Care Month to honor the service and sacrifice of wounded, ill, and injured service members, and their families – the caregivers who support them. This year’s theme is Warrior Care – Building a Ready and Resilient Force. The National Military Family Association believes there is a wounded family behind every recovering warrior or veteran. In honor of Warrior Care Month, we are pleased to release Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers. The first compilation of its kind, a resource from seasoned military caregivers for new military caregivers, shares advice and insights to help guide new caregivers.

Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers was made possible through an inaugural Innovation Grant from Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation. With the support of this grant, we asked experienced caregivers what advice they would give to a new caregiver. One caregiver noted, “There are two types of support I need as a caregiver: me dealing with my spouse’s injury and me dealing with me dealing with my spouse’s injury.” This is sound advice and emerged as a theme for the tips that fell into two categories: Taking Care of your Recovering Warrior and Taking Care of Yourself.

In addition to Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers, our Association incorporated the information we received from caregivers into the Caregiver Life Path of our MyMilitaryLife mobile app and our website’s caregiver section. We appreciate the support of Caring for Military Family: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation in helping us gather the insights of experienced caregivers for the purpose of helping others. We are honored to release these resources to assist military caregivers as they care for their recovering warrior or veteran.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Cyber Crisis: Protecting your family in a war waged by hackers

cyber-crisisRaise your hand if you’ve ever heard the term “OPSEC.”

What about “PII?” Or “PERSEC?”

It’s fairly common for military families to know an arsenal of acronyms that pertain to their service member, or military culture in general. While a lot of them are important, not understanding these three acronyms in particular can put you and your family in harm’s way.

OPSEC, or Operational Security, keeps our military information secure and out of the hands of those who could harm us – not just in person, but online, too. Sharing things like your loved one’s rank or job title, where they’re stationed, or when they’re returning home could get you in trouble. In some cases, even having a unit-specific sticker on your car could be a violation of OPSEC,

PII, or Personal Identifiable Information, is any information that can be pieced together to determine your identity. Things like your social security number and name are the obvious ones. But when someone knows your first name, email address, and the town you live in, it becomes easier to then determine your last name. With your full name, a person could search property records and find your address. And by simply driving by your home, they’d see the decal on your car, “Half of my heart is in Iraq.” They now know your service member is deployed and you are home alone, just from sharing too much PII.

PERSEC, or Personal Security, like OPSEC, reminds us to be aware of what we are sharing. Terrorists are just as tech savvy as you and I, and in most cases, have the means and abilities to find out things about us that we didn’t know they could.

With the internet being our main way to communicate with our service members when deployed, pay your bills, share photos, and do online banking, we have to be even more cautious of what we share online. If you aren’t careful, each of these seemingly harmless actions can lead to over-sharing, and can put your family in danger.

Are you doing everything you can to protect your family? Find out this Thursday at 3:00PM, when we bring you a live stream discussion with Former CIA and NSA Director, General Michael Hayden and one of America’s top private cyber sleuths, Kevin Mandia . They’ll share a real-world evaluation of threats and solutions, plus tips to keep your military family safe.

Do you have questions for General Hayden or Mr. Mandia? We’ll be asking them! Leave your question in the comment section below.

Tune in to find out how to protect your military family from danger online.

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

How to Get the Job: Interview secrets from a hiring manager

interview-secrets

Military spouses, wake up! The National Military Family Association is trying to hire YOU!

Unfortunately, as a hiring manager for the Association, my experience with interviewing many military spouses has been, well, quite disastrous. We military spouses love to share our lessons learned and I hope sharing some of mine will help you reach your employment goals.

Interviewing with the National Military Family Association can be your dream interview. We know you are competing for a position which may need to be flexible to your needs. Flexible in ways many other employers are not able to support.

We know that as a military spouse, you will likely relocate at some point. You will want time off to spend with your family when your service member returns. We need your experience as a military spouse. In fact, being a military spouse HELPS you get a job with us. We’re flexible. Many of us are military spouses, too.

I can be your dream interviewer. I want you to succeed. I want to hire you, but you have to be prepared to be hired. Here are a few tips and resources to empower you to rock the interview:

Resumes should be concise and interesting! Before I interview you, my first impression of you will be the one you create with your cover letter and resume. Because we move, our resumes can get to be a bit overwhelming. Choose a resume style that will highlight your skill sets and chronologically list your employers. Highlight the most important skill sets for the position you are seeking. Include volunteer positions in your employment chronology – those skills are important, too!

Dress for interviewing. Know your target employment market; if you’re unsure, a suit will do. Friends who work in the world of academia will tell me wearing a suit is a big no-no. For that, you may want to rock the tweed jacket. If you live in a humid climate, a light suit will do. But, I can assure you that even in the tech world, flip flops are never a good choice.

Do your research. Know about the company you are interviewing with. I don’t expect you to tell me everything we do, but know the mission of the organization. Know the major projects or clients.

Be excited! Show some enthusiasm! If you’re not excited about the opportunity, please don’t apply.

Apply your answers to fit the requirements of the job description and your past experience. I don’t expect you to be able to walk in on day one and know how to do the job. I do expect that you have the skill set to be successful and to learn. It’s OK to ask for clarification of a question.

Be prepared to answer why I should hire you. This is your time to shine. This is your time to sell yourself. You know your skill set. Connect your skills to the position. You know why you are perfect for this job, so tell me. I can assure you the answer, “Because I’m awesome” is not an appropriate. Think that. Feel that. But, please, don’t say that.

Ask two or three questions of the hiring manager about the position, the company, or the work environment.  You are not the only one who’s being interviewed. You need to know if my organization is a good fit for you too!

And last, but most importantly, do not give me reasons why I shouldn’t hire you. I understand you want to be honest and upfront with a potential employer. You have to decide how up-front you want to be with a hiring manager. You may be giving reasons why you shouldn’t be hired.

I encourage you to take the time to review the resources out there. There are how-to-interview articles, YouTube videos, and other support available to you. Here are a few of my favorites: Interviewing Tips for Military SpousesDo I Tell The Interviewer I’m a Military Spouse?, and Rock the Interview: 5 Tips for Military Spouse Employment Success .

What’s the best interview practice advice you would give a military spouse?

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Help Veterans and Their Families “Make the Connection”

make-the-connectionWhen Reagan returned home from service in the Marine Corps, his fiancée, Tiffany, noticed he was on edge and frequently irritable. Although it took some time for Reagan to connect with the care he needed for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, Tiffany was able to help him understand that going to counseling was an important thing to do—not just for himself, but for his family, as well.

As a loved one of a veteran or service member, you provide support to those who have served, or are serving our country. You’ve been there for them during good times and hard times, and you might be the first to notice if they are having a tough time. Whatever challenges you and the veteran or service member in your life may be dealing with, and no matter how long they’ve been going on, you are not alone. Support is available. Every day, veterans and their families connect with resources and services to manage the issues they face, and find ways to improve their lives.

Make the Connection, a campaign by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), encourages military families to seek support and be encouraged by powerful stories, like Tiffany and Reagan’s, that showcase strength, connection, and overcoming challenges. At MakeTheConnection.net, veterans and service members from every military branch, service era, and background speak about their experiences during and after service, including how they faced adversity, reached out for support, and moved forward in their lives. Hundreds of short videos of veterans and their families are featured on this highly accessible online resource. The website also includes reliable information about mental health and resilience, signs and symptoms of problems, common life events and experiences, and a locator for VA and community-based resources.

Military families and others can support veterans and service members by exploring MakeTheConnection.net to download materials to print and distribute. You can also visit the YouTube channel, “like” the Facebook page, and share content with your friends to build support for veterans and their families. Support from the VA and other organizations helped Tiffany and Reagan, and it can help a veteran you know, too.

Preparing to Return to Civilian Life: A spouse’s perspective

crossroads-sign2With small budgets and shifting priorities, the mission for the U.S. military is changing. An estimated 123,900 service members will leave the Services within the next five years. Some folks signed up for one tour and only intended to stay in for that enlistment. Others joined knowing they wanted to make this a career. Regardless of the reasons for separating from the military, a significant number of current service members will not make the military a career.

When I read articles about downsizing, I immediately think about how this would impact our family; specifically what happens to our pay and benefits. Any entitlement to pay and benefits after your service member leaves the service will depend on the circumstances of separation.

For example, if the service member retires; he or she is eligible for retirement benefits. Unfortunately, most folks who are separating due to the drawdown are not eligible for retirement benefits. If you fall into the later category, here are some tips to help you prepare for life outside the gates:

Pay: This is a big one. You and your service member will need to decide how you will earn an income. It may be helpful to consider the following:

  • Your taxable and nontaxable income (i.e. allowances such as a housing allowance (BAH) are not taxable)
  • Your current and estimated expenses (i.e. if you are living on the installation now and will move back to your home town, check out the local rental rates, property values, utility costs, etc.)
  • The cost of living in your projected job market
  • Your estimated income needed to meet or exceed your current standard of living

Health Care: Health care is the largest non-monetary part of the service member’s benefit package. While the service member may be eligible for service-connect health care for life through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), your family generally loses coverage once the service member separates from the Service.

You may be able to receive health care coverage in the individual market, a health care exchange, or through an employer’s plan. Your family may be eligible to participate in TRICARE’s Transitional Assistance Management Program for 180 days of premium-free transitional health care benefits after regular TRICARE benefits end. After this coverage ends, your family may be eligible for the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP).

CHCBP is a premium-based program offering temporary transitional heath coverage from 18-36 months after TRICARE eligibility ends. A family premium for 2013 is $2,555 per quarter.

Life Insurance: Whether you are separating from military service or retiring, you will need to decide what to do with your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage. SGLI stays with you for an additional 120 days after you leave the service, and then it stops for good. You need to decide to either take Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or get your own individual life insurance.

For those who sustained injury or have chronic conditions, it is imperative to look at whether or not outside insurers will cover you. You can convert to VGLI in the specified time period without proof of good health. After that time period, you will have to prove you are in good health.

Keep in mind that Family Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) provides coverage for your spouse and children. It may be converted to an individual policy, but not to VGLI. Companies listed on the VA website will convert spouse health coverage without proof of good health during a specified time period.

Ancillary benefits: Ancillary benefits may include the Commissary, Exchange, reduced child care fees, or discounts in your local community – all part of the overall military lifestyle and some elements of the military compensation package.

In most cases, you will not be able to continue to access these privileges; however, some communities may provide benefits for veterans. It is recommended you ask each establishment to determine what type of documentation you need to show if you are eligible to participate. You may find there is another type of discount, such as a community membership, for folks who live in a specific neighborhood, which is available to you instead of a military discount.

This is the first of a blog series discussing transition from military life to civilian life. What other transition topics would you like to see? Leave a comment below!

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager