Category Archives: Resources + Information

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

Same-Sex Spouses: Welcome!

same-sex-military-coupleIt’s been over a month since same-sex spouses could register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and receive a brand-new military family member ID and all the benefits it encompasses.

We have heard of the overwhelming welcome that these just-recognized military spouses have received. We have also heard of their pride in their new-found recognition as a military spouse.

In case you haven’t heard, once a spouse is enrolled in DEERS, he or she is eligible for the whole array of military benefits.

The most important benefits to most service members and their spouses are:

  • Military Family Member Identification Card
  • TRICARE health care coverage
  • Dependent-rate housing allowance
  • Eligibility for the family separation allowance
  • Ability to move off base to live with a spouse
  • Command-sponsored visas
  • Access to military installations and facilities, including: commissaries, exchanges, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) centers; Family Center programs
  • Joint Duty Assignments
  • Access to legal assistance

The spouses of service members may also invoke the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which provides certain protections from civil actions against service members who are called to active duty.

While military affiliated same-sex married couples are protected under Federal law, there are some states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage and may create stumbling blocks in accessing state benefits or services.

A recent example includes the refusal of National Guard armories in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi to issue military ID cards to same-sex spouses because same-sex marriages are illegal in those states.

You should also check on other state legal requirements such as those associated with adopting biological children, or limitations to joint home-ownership. There may also be problems with accompanied assignments to countries where homosexuality is illegal.

The information landscape is in a state of constant change so check back with our website, and the Military Partners and Families Coalition, for updates.

New military spouses – welcome! Consider this your symbolic swat with the saber. And know that we are here to provide you and your military family the same helpful information and resources that we have been offering to all military families for more than 40 years.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

FAQ Series: Domestic Violence Awareness month

domestic-violence1October is a national Domestic Violence Awareness month and a time to remind military families about the available prevention resources in your community. As a mobile population, military families may not be familiar with navigating local resources or know where to go for help.

If you’re the victim of domestic abuse, you may have thought for months or years about leaving the relationship. But leaving is scary, and it’s hard to do. Victims often feel trapped and very much alone. They may fear for their own and their children’s safety. Or they’re financially dependent on the abuser and may have no means of support. Within military families, victims are also likely to be far from their support system of family and friends back home.

Victims who need to get out of an abusive relationship can get support from the military, but they also need help and encouragement from friends, relatives, co-workers and trusted professionals. With planning and support, you can build a healthy and safe new life for yourself and your children.

Q: How do I come up with a safety plan?
A: Contact the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) office on your installation to request a victim advocate. A victim advocate can give you information about reporting options and services for victims, including help finding a shelter or other safe place to go. Once you have a safe place to go, talk to trusted friends or family members about the situation. Come up with a code word or signal so that confidant knows when to call for help. Go over safety plans with your children. Teach your children how to call 911 if they need help. Most importantly, plan ahead in case you need to leave on short notice. Gather important documents in one place, preferably away from where you live.

Q: Are there any legal actions I can take?
A: You can get a restraining order or Military Protective Order (MPO) to discourage your spouse from returning home, entering your place of work, or contacting your children. A restraining order or MPO can usually be extended to child-care centers or providers. Remember that neither a restraining order nor an MPO will prevent your spouse or partner from returning home or entering your workplace, but it does make it illegal for him or her to do so. Contact an attorney or court advocate specializing in domestic abuse. He or she can explore custody, visitation, and divorce provisions to protect you and your children. Your Legal Assistance Office can help you obtain legal information and provide general guidance. For issues such as child custody and divorce proceedings, they will refer you to legal services in the civilian community.

Q: I feel like no one understands the situation. Where can I turn for help?
A: Find your local FAP office by using the locator at Military INSTALLATIONS or calling your installation operator or Family Support Center. Call a domestic abuse hotline. They are available twenty-four hours a day at the National Violence Hotline (888-799-SAFE [7233]) and can help you find shelter, counseling, support groups, job training, and legal assistance in your area. Utilize any support group you can. While you may feel alone, many others have also suffered domestic abuse. By joining a domestic abuse support group, you’ll gain strength and support from being around them.

(Source: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/monthly-focus?content_id=266708)

Navigating the Healthcare Crossroad: Active Duty to Reserves

crossroads-ad-to-reservesRecently, my spouse separated from active duty and transitioned to the Reserves. Healthcare was a major concern for us. While he was on terminal leave, we were eligible for TRICARE Prime, but we had to change service regions and find new doctors for any non-urgent treatment.

We were unsure about what would happen upon his separation date.

He had an assignment to a Reserve unit that processed him in the day after he separated from active duty, preventing a break in service. This made us eligible for the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP).

TAMP provides continuation of TRICARE coverage for 180 days.
We applied for TAMP through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). If your dependents are not enrolled in TRICARE Prime upon separation, you will have to submit a new enrollment. This means there will be a waiting period before benefits can begin.

In the meantime, you will have TRICARE Standard coverage. If you were previously enrolled in TRICARE Prime, you can have your TRICARE Prime enrollment backdated to the last day of active duty service. It is important to submit a DD Form 2876 to your regional or local TRICARE office, because it cannot be backdated through web enrollment.

As a Reserve family, we are enrolled in TRICARE Dental and pay premiums. When called to active duty, my husband’s premium is suspended until his activation period is over, and he is covered under TRICARE Active Duty Dental Program. Dependents will continue to pay premiums for dental coverage during the activation.

Whenever we had questions, calling TRICARE or Military OneSource usually resolved things, but there were some paperwork headaches. The websites are pretty thorough and easy to navigate, even when we felt overwhelmed by all of the new changes.

Have you or your service member made this transition? Share your tips for transitioning from active duty to reserves in the comments below! 

brookePosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Get the Facts on the 2013 Government Shutdown

do-not-disturb-congress

Our Association has been tirelessly demanding Congress does its job. As part of our #EndSequestration campaign, we stormed Capitol Hill and took your concerns to the ears of our Nation’s lawmakers.

At 12:00am on October 1, 2013, those very same lawmakers shut it down.

No deal. The government shut down.

What does this mean for you and your military family?

Our Association is bringing all the facts to you on our website. While information is always changing, and new information is coming to the surface, we are working around the clock to make sure your questions, comments, Facebook messages, and tweets are answered!

If you want to know how the government shutdown will affect you, and get the most up-to-date information, visit our government shutdown page or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

FAQ Series: Tips for School Success

Teacher-and-students1Although it’s only been a few weeks since school started, it already feels like forever since summer. The days are getting shorter, leaves are starting to turn, and at our house, the piles of homework are starting to grow. Like so many families, we start every new school year with the best of intentions. This is the year we’re going to get organized, stay on top of assignments, and actually use the planner that was handed out on the first day of school. But every year, somehow, life gets the best of us and those good intentions fall by the wayside. Homework assignments get put off or forgotten, or the teacher introduces a new math concept before we’ve completely mastered the old one. Inevitably, there will come an evening when I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a kid who has a science project, math assignment, or history paper due – of course – tomorrow, and no idea where to start.

Luckily, military families have access to great resources to help us through those desperate moments or – even better – keep them from happening in the first place. Online resources are available to help with homework, prepare for college, and even make sure kids are where they need to be, academically, before a move. Here are some frequently asked questions for school success:

Q: I’ve forgotten all the geometry I ever knew. How can I help my eighth-grader?

A: Tutor.com is an online service that offers free homework help and tutoring services to military family members. Expert tutors are online 24/7 and available to help in more than 16 subjects, including algebra, chemistry, calculus, and physics. Tutors can also assist students with college applications and preparation for standardized tests. Military kids – and spouses too – can log on via their computer, tablet, or mobile device and connect with a tutor to get real-time, live homework help. Every tutoring session is anonymous, and no personal information is ever shared between tutor and student. Students can send transcripts of their tutoring sessions to their parents, allowing parents – even those who may be deployed overseas – to keep up with how their children are progressing. Visit Tutor.com to learn more and sign up your student.

Q: The SAT is coming up in a few weeks, and test prep classes are expensive. Are there any alternatives?

A: Military kids preparing for standardized tests have many sources for free and reduced-price assistance. Test prep software is offered to military-connected students at free and reduced-price through eKnowledge. Families pay only shipping and handling for standard test prep software. Premium software programs are available at a discounted price.

Many families don’t realize that the Department of Defense (DoD) has an extensive online library system. One of the many free services available to families through this system is the Peterson DoD MWR Education Resource Center, which offers online test prep assistance and classes. In order to access the Education Resource Center, military families must set up a log-in through Military OneSource. Visit Military OneSource to learn more about online library resources available through DoD.

Q: It looks like we’re moving again. How can I help my child get ready for his or her next school?

A: SOAR, or Student Online Achievement Resources, is sponsored by the Military Impacted Schools Association (MISA) and was established through a partnership among the University of Northern Iowa, Princeton Review, Skills Tutor, and CORE K12. It allows students to assess their skills against grade level standards in all 50 states and provides tutorials to help students where they may be falling short. Other education resources available on the site include links to military installations, transition resources and school websites, resources from specific states, including curriculum frameworks and testing information, and links to United States Department of Education online web resources. Registration is free for military families.

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) has many resources for military children, especially those transitioning to new schools. They created SchoolQuest which includes information to help transitioning military families find a school and features a library with articles, web links, and other educational resources for military students and their families.

What resources have you found to help your military-connected child in school? Let us know in the comment section!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy 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

Suicide Prevention Month: Listen, Respect, Share

marine-ceremony-flagRecently, I enjoyed a weekend getaway with my husband. We wandered in and out of beach front shops, miles away from a military base. It was nice to have a chance to be together and enjoy the beach scenery.

My husband and I were surprised when a local shop owner shared a very personal story with us. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked if my husband was in the military (his haircut gives it away). She also inquired where he was stationed and how long we had been assigned to this location. Her daughter’s family recently moved away from this particular location.

She shared with us that her son-in-law, an Army veteran, committed suicide. He was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was trying to grapple with her new feelings and offer support to her grieving daughter and grandchild.

After sharing our condolences, my husband and I both wanted to offer resources to help this anguished family. Before I rattled off a list of resources, I realized I need to step back and listen to the person speaking to me, respect what she was sharing with me, and share resources if she was agreeable to accepting information.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here are some suggestions:

Listen: Really listen. Try to understand what the person is communicating. Try not to think of a solution or offer a resource right away.

Respect: Respect that the person feels safe enough to share this information with you. Understand your boundaries and your comfort level.

Share: Is the person able to receive information? Do you have resources available? If not, and you are comfortable, exchange contact information and ask a professional for help.

I am not a counselor. I am not a medical expert. But, I am an involved military spouse. I was thankful I had read recent articles about the Military Crisis Line and Veterans Crisis Line.  Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support to those in crisis across the nation.

If you or someone you know has contemplated suicide, seek the support you need. The military and your local community provide a wide array of available programs for preventive care and support.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Rock the Interview: 5 tips for military spouse employment success

jobfairYou’ve graduated, enjoyed a taste of summer, probably PCS’ed across the country recently and now it’s time to hit the ground running and secure your dream job. Not quite sure how to build your resume to showcase your volunteer experience? Worried that you won’t know how to answer the questions the employers may ask you?

Before you hit the career fairs or begin interviewing, here are five tried and tested tips to help you get hired!

1. Research. Make sure you understand the industry you want to be a part of. Research companies that are hiring and keep an eye out for companies that are military spouse friendly. Research career fairs in your area. Use the Military Spouse Employment Portal to help you in your research and don’t miss the career counselors at Military OneSource.

2. Prepare. Update or create your resume. There are great resume builder workshops and guides available to you. It’s important to customize your resume according the job description you are applying to. Not only perfect your resume but understand it. Be able to explain in detail every point you make on your resume. Be able to back your skills up with examples. If you have gaps in employment, be ready to explain why. Also prepare questions and answers. Have a great set of go-to questions to ask potential employers at the end of an interview or at a career fair.

3. Practice. Work on your interviewing techniques with your spouse or friend. Give them questions to ask you and practice reciting your answers. Remember and repeat your ‘elevator pitch’ that describes yourself and tells why you are a good hire in 30 seconds or less. Practice in front of the mirror to help perfect your delivery.

4. Polish. Put together a professional outfit and go in with a polished look. If you need a suit or new outfit visit retailers that offer military discounts or look for business attire at the nearest exchange store or installation thrift shop.

5. Present. Make eye contact and use a firm handshake to make a good first impression. Don’t sell yourself short; present your best qualities and skills. Have a positive attitude and have confidence!

These simple steps will guide you in your employment pursuits. Visit our website for more military spouse employment resources and if you are in the area don’t miss any of these upcoming career fairs for military spouses!

  • September 5, 2013 – Quantico, VA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • September 9, 2013 – West Point, NY Military Spouse Networking Event
  • September 12, 2013 – JBLM, WA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • October 24, 2013 – Fort Sam Houston, TX Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • November 7, 2013 – Fort Bragg, NC – Military Spouse Hiring Fair

Find out more about the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse career fairs and initiatives here.

What tips do you have to help military spouses get hired?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Coordinator

Build Your Resume: Volunteer with our Association!

group-of-volunteersSummer is winding down. The kids are headed back to school. Maybe you don’t have kids but you’re looking for a new way to gain experience and make a difference? The military has, once again, moved your family to a new location and hopefully, you’re settling in. Now what? Volunteering is a great way to meet people and learn more about your new community. Have you considered volunteering with the National Military Family Association?

Let me share a few reasons why you should volunteer with us:

  • Get out and meet new people! While volunteering, you will meet and talk to a variety of people all over the world and create lasting friendships.
  • Tap into your passion for military families! Where better than with an organization that is the voice of military families. Our Volunteers are out in the field letting us know what is happening within their military community.
  • Add to your professional resume! Volunteering not only benefits our Association, it’s also a great addition to your resume. Employers look favorably on volunteer experience. Volunteering allows you to work with professionals who will be valuable references in the future. It is a win-win situation!
  • Develop new skills! Our Association offers many different volunteer opportunities such as writing, editing, and researching. The best part is that many of our volunteer opportunities can be completed at home on your own schedule.

Be a part of something meaningful that will enhance the quality of life for military families. Being a volunteer with the National Military Family Association is a position that you can take wherever you move! Our volunteers are global, and we want you to be a part of our Volunteer Corps.

For more information about volunteering with the National Military Family Association, please contact Christina Jumper by email: CJumper@MilitaryFamily.org or apply today!

Do you have a great story about a volunteer experience? Share it with us!

karen-cookPosted by Karen Cook, Volunteer Services Coordinator, North Region