Category Archives: Resources + Information

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

They Can’t Hear You: Raise your Milspouse voice!

evaluationYou’ve been trying to get an appointment for your two year old’s ear infection with no luck.

The day camp and swim lessons that have been such an important piece of your summertime child care plan aren’t being offered this summer because of budget cuts.

With furloughs reducing your family income, you want to improve your budgeting skills. You have found a program offered in the Family Service center, but can’t enroll because hiring freezes have eliminated the availability of an instructor.

Where do you go to complain? Do you rant and moan to your next door neighbor or work mate? Do you share your frustration on your Facebook page? How do you let the higher-ups know that the programs you rely on aren’t meeting your needs or just plain aren’t there?

At a recent national conference, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his spouse, Deanie, said it was important for the audience members to let them know which programs are necessary and focus on those that would benefit everybody.

But what programs are best? What programs need to get the boot? What programs need a few tweaks to really meet the needs of military families?

There are ways you can raise your voice on your own installation.

Recently, General Dempsey talked about the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) process, a web-based program that allows you to electronically provide feedback on services provided by on-base organizations. By completing a report through the ICE process, you let commanders know what programs may or may not be working on your installation.

What’s available in your local community? Is there an advisory committee for your hospital, commissary, exchange, child development center or youth center? Do you show up for meetings with a concern or do you figure someone else will do it?

What if your problem can’t be fixed locally? How do you push it up a notch? After a year’s hiatus, the Army is reintroducing the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) for the virtual age. In its 30th anniversary year, AFAP will transition into a new three-tier process, continuing with local conferences, and streamlined virtual review procedures. We’ve seen some great changes come over the last 30 years because of AFAP!

Instead of just sharing your concerns on your own Facebook page, share it with the National Military Family Association Facebook page – we are dedicated to making your voices heard!

What have you done on your installation to make your voice heard? Let us know in the comments section!

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

Early Childhood Education: How important is it to you?

military-family-2-kidsAs a mom, I am in the habit of thinking that whatever age my kids happen to be is THE most critical stage in their development. This makes sense, of course – when they were little I worried about reading readiness, while nowadays I stay up nights fretting about SAT scores. And certainly, every age and stage is an important part of a child’s growth and development.

Increasingly, though, research is demonstrating the importance of the early years. In fact, according to the Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC), 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age five.

Knowing this, it makes sense that quality child care and early education programs can have a huge impact on our kids’ development – and conversely, a lack of good early childhood education can threaten a child’s long-term academic success.

Busy parents – especially in military families – need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work. Some military families are able to enroll their children in their installation Child Development Center. Other families find care outside the installation through the Services’ fee assistance program administered by Child Care Aware .

Still, we know that the demand for quality child care is far greater than the supply. And for many families, the cost of quality child care or preschool is far out of reach. For this reason, our Association was pleased by President Obama’s recent proposal to expand access to pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. We want to make sure all of our military kids have access to the quality early child care and education they and their parents need and deserve.

The ECEC wants to let our government leaders know how important early childhood education is, and they need your help! They have launched a campaign, Strong Start for Children to show Congress how much early child education means to children and families.

Do you have a great story about your child’s experience in child care or preschool? Email info@ececonsortium.org and your story may be included in the campaign. Find out more at the ECEC’s Strong Start for Children page for parents. Every day, policymakers make decisions that impact you, your children, and your ability to access high-quality and reliable early care and education to meet your family’s needs. Make sure your voice is heard!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

FAQ Series: How the Interstate Compact affects school aged kids

kidsclassroomYou have questions, we have answers!

This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, more commonly known as the Interstate Compact.

Q: What is the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact is an agreement among states that allows for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states. As of August, 2013 it has been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses issues that may affect military children as they move to a new school district, including enrollment, placement, and graduation requirements.

Q: Who is covered by the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact covers children of active duty service members enrolled in grades K-12 in public school. Children of National Guard and Reservists are covered when the service member is in active duty status. Children of retirees are covered for one year following the service member’s retirement. Note that the Compact only applies to public schools. The Compact does not apply to private schools and does not address home schooling.

Q: My child is old enough to start kindergarten in our old location, but the new state has a different cut-off date. What can I do?

A: Under the Compact, if your child has enrolled in and attended kindergarten in your previous state, he should be allowed to continue kindergarten in your new state. However, this only applies if your child actually attended kindergarten. If your child was old enough for kindergarten in your previous location but you moved prior to the beginning of the school year, the new district is not required to allow him to start kindergarten.

Q: My child was receiving special education services at our old school. Will he continue to receive them at our new school?

A: The new school should provide comparable services based on your child’s current Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is required both by the Compact and by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new school is permitted to evaluate the student later to ensure appropriate placement.

Q: We had to move midway through my child’s senior year. Will he graduate on time?

A: An important goal of the Compact is to ensure that students graduate on time, even when they have to move during their senior year. For this reason, the Compact states that districts should waive specific course requirements for seniors as long as similar course work has been completed. If a waiver is denied and there is no way to complete the required course work on time, arrangements should be made for the student to receive a diploma from the previous school district.

Q: I don’t feel as though my school is following the Interstate Compact. What can I do?

A: It’s not uncommon for teachers and administrators to be unfamiliar with the Interstate Compact. Your installation’s School Liaison Officer can help you work with the school to resolve any questions about how the Compact should be implemented. Each state also has a Compact Commissioner responsible for helping ensure that the Compact is adhered to.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission website includes FAQ’s and other resources, including printable and downloadable brochures for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

What is your family’s experience with the Interstate Compact? Share your story in the comments below!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Back to School: TRICARE options for college students

collegeboyYou’ve spent the summer months searching for the perfect dorm room essentials: mini-fridge, extra-long twin sheets, and the perfect papasan chair. But what are your college student’s TRICARE options?

Dependent children are eligible for regular TRICARE benefits while in college full time until their 23 birthday or until graduation, whichever comes first. After that, children may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult.

The service member must update the dependent child’s “student status” in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to maintain the student’s TRICARE eligibility past age 21.

Before sending a son or daughter to college, it is important for military families to review their child’s health care options because some TRICARE options will work better than others. Here are some tips to consider:

Location. Where is the school located? Is it in a Prime Service Area? Contact the regional contractor for the TRICARE region where the school is located to determine if the school is in a Prime Service Area.

Transportation. Will your son or daughter have a car at school? Will your child be able to get to his or her assigned Primary Care Manager (PCM)? If enrolled in Prime, your child will need to see his or her PCM or additional fees will apply.

Cost. TRICARE plans have different cost sharing components and your student may need a split-enrollment in order to receive care while at college. A split enrollment allows some members of the family to be enrolled under one plan and other members of the family to be enrolled under another type of plan. For example, the family may be enrolled in TRICARE Prime, but the college-age student may be enrolled in TRICARE Standard. Or the college student may disenroll from Prime at his or her home location and re-enroll for Prime at the school location. Please review disenrollment options carefully. Students may be subject to a one-year lock-out if disenrolling from Prime and will not be able to re-enroll in Prime at their home location when returning for the summer. Families should check with their TRICARE contractor for more details.

On Campus Options. Many colleges and universities offer student health plans. Student health plans are considered other insurance, so TRICARE will be the secondary payer to any student health plan. TRICARE Standard and Extra work best with student health plans.

Visit our website for additional information about TRICARE options for college age kids.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager