Category Archives: Speaking up

Association Takes the #EndSequestration Case to Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it did happen.

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

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

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

Together we’re stronger!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



**By submitting your photo, you agree that the National Military Family Association may use your submission, the language within, and any subsequent photos in any way including, but not limited to, publications, promotional brochures, promotions or showcase of programs on our website or social networks, showcase of activities in local and/or national newspapers or programming, and other similar lawful purposes.

Time to #EndSequestration: The yellow ribbon is unraveling

yellow-ribbon-tree-blog“I tried to schedule my son’s 2-month well-baby exam this morning and they won’t be able to see him until he’s almost 3 months old. His clinic is closed on Fridays now due to the Furlough so if either of my two children or I get sick on a Friday, we will have to go to the ER to be seen. As a patient, this makes me feel unimportant – insignificant.”  Military Spouse

“Sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible process. You know it — I know it. And I’m hoping that our leaders in Washington will eventually get that and come to some policy resolution.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, July 17, 2013

The time is NOW. You’re frustrated, we’re frustrated, even the Secretary of Defense is frustrated, and there is still no end in sight. No matter how many articles are written, interviews done, or blogs posted, Congress still isn’t stirring to do something about the budget cuts that are hurting military communities. The National Military Family Association says: “It’s time to #EndSequestration!” The only way we can accomplish this goal is for all of us to take a united stand.

So what can you do?

Don’t just tell us how sequestration and budget cuts have hurt your family, disrupted your community, and brought pain to your lives – show us! We’re asking every military family to send us pictures demonstrating the disruptions of sequestration. Send them to social@militaryfamily.org with a brief description and your location**.

Get creative! Find a way to tell us your sequestration story in a picture. Take and send us pictures of:

  • “Closed” or “reduced hours” signs at commissaries, clinics, or other installation facilities
  • Extra-long lines at installation gates
  • Unpaid bills because of furloughs
  • Military equipment in disrepair
  • Canceled school programs
  • Your family holding a sign that explains how sequestration has affected you

We believe our Nation’s leaders and ALL Americans need to understand what sequestration is doing to our military community. We will use your photos to create a photo book that we will hand deliver to each Member of Congress so they can see for themselves how their actions, or lack thereof, are hurting the military community. We’ll also post these photos on our website so others can see what you see every day in your community.

We’re proud that Military.com, SpouseBUZZ, Macho Spouse, and Military Partner and Families Coalition are partnering with us to show Congress the power of numbers. And we’ll be announcing the support of other organizations soon.

But, it starts with you: we need YOUR help to make sure the message is heard. Send us your pictures, but also tell everyone it’s time for the budget madness to stop. Please change your Facebook profile picture and/or cover photo to join the movement. Let’s show we are united. We may only be 1% of this Nation, but we protect what we hold dear. It’s time to make it clear where we stand on the broken promises.

The yellow ribbon is indeed unraveling.

Yellow Ribbon FB Cover2

It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to #EndSequestration!

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

 


**By submitting your photo, you agree that the National Military Family Association may use your submission, the language within, and any subsequent photos in any way including, but not limited to, publications, promotional brochures, promotions or showcase of programs on our website or social networks, showcase of activities in local and/or national newspapers or programming, and other similar lawful purposes.

An Advocate is Born: Affecting change for military families

Susan-Reynolds-and-son

We have all heard the phrase from William Shakespeare, “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

A few years ago I was content with my starring role in the production of “Susan’s Military Life”. An active volunteer, educator, mentor, and friend were my starring roles. That changed when my infant son was denied healthcare coverage for a cranial reshaping helmet. I was offered a different role – the role of a lifetime – and I couldn’t pass it up.

The National Military Family Association and I were introduced in October 2011 when I was asked to be a volunteer. From there I discovered a world of advocacy that I never knew existed. The Association was working on issues ranging from education to healthcare. I fell in love and knew I was ‘home’.

In July 2012, I was invited to a conference in Washington, D.C. to tell my son’s story. In two days I had eight meetings on Capitol Hill and my performance had to be flawless. Fortunately, I had great support from the Association’s Government Relations department, as well as Kara Oakley from the Children’s Hospital Association.

The National Military Association encouraged me to use my voice to advocate for my son and all military children. I learned not to be afraid to share my story because I had a gift for speaking. You see, according to the Association, my story and my voice is powerful and should not be forgotten.

A year has passed since those meetings, and so many doors have opened because I’m a volunteer with National Military Family Association. The Association has helped me define my story and because of their support, I’m a stronger, more confident volunteer and advocate for military families.

As the saying goes, “a star is born every second.” In my case, an advocate was born and is supported by the National Military Family Association.

Susan ReynoldsBy Susan Reynolds, National Military Family Association Volunteer

An Outsider Looking In: Military life perspective from an AmeriCorp member and civilian

volunteer-with-flagAs I wrap up my first month here at the National Military Family Association , I wanted to share my perspective as a civilian working for a nonprofit that advocates for military families. For the next year, I’ll be a member of the Government Relations team through the AmeriCorps Call 2 Service Corps

Honestly, when I initially decided to apply for positions through AmeriCorps, I anticipated something along the lines of “feed the hungry!” or “clean up this polluted stream!” Those are both issues that pull at my heartstrings, and are typically what one thinks of when “AmeriCorps” comes to mind.

However, when I came across the Association’s job posting, I liked what I read about the kind of work I would be doing (think: research, reading, and writing), while working alongside these great experts in the Government Relations department. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not sure about the whole ‘military thing’, but they’re working for the betterment of families, so let’s do it!”

I haven’t regretted the decision to accept my position for one second. Learning how different the lives are of military families, in comparison to civilians, has astounded me. I had so many preconceived notions about military life, many of which greatly underestimated the realities of the hardships the families face, and many more of which were completely off base and entirely inaccurate. For instance, I assumed “military brats” moved to 2 or 3 different places by the time they finally graduate high school. In reality, many of them move every 2-3 YEARS!

I can’t begin to imagine trying to navigate the confusions of childhood and adolescence all while having to make new friends and adjusting to a new location on a regular basis. I knew that deployments were often long and not easy for military families, but I didn’t quite grasp just how hard they were. To get a better idea, check out these videos. My coworker (and military spouse), Karen, showed these videos to me to help me grasp the realities military families face every day – the same realities SHE faces every day – while husbands and wives, siblings and children, are deployed.

I am looking forward to my year of service to the Association. I am excited to continue learning about military families, and the issues that matter to them. I am excited to further develop my skills as an ally and resource. I am excited to see, firsthand, the efforts our Staff and Volunteers make to ensure military families receive the benefits and help they deserve. I am excited to be a part of the National Military Family Association.

What tips do you have for those wanting to learn more about military families and the military community?

nateBy Nate Parsons, Government Relations and Volunteer Services AmeriCorp Member

Update: Military Spouse Employment and Education Advocacy

military spouse education and employmentAs an Association, one of our top priorities is to ensure that military spouses are able to pursue their education and continue professional career development that works with the military lifestyle.

We highlighted these priorities in our testimony that was submitted for the record on April 17 to the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and asked Congress to take steps to support military spouses in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Here’s what we covered in our testimony regarding military spouse employment and education initiatives:

  • Collaborative work between the three Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunity (SECO) program components to include the Military Spouse Career Center at Military OneSource, Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), and My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) Program
  • The reinstatement of the MyCAA program to include all military spouses regardless of the service member’s rank
  • The extension of the MyCAA program to spouses of the Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of NOAA, and the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Expansion of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire military spouses
  • A tax credit to military spouses to offset the cost of obtaining a new license or credential when the service member is relocated to a new duty station
  • Reciprocity of professional licenses or alternative license arrangements across state lines

For the latest information on our advocacy efforts and support for military spouse employment and education initiatives, please visit our website’s policy issues section or subscribe to Military Family Topics to have updates delivered to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest news concerning military families and tell us what you’re seeing in your community.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

The Power of Volunteering

The power of volunteeringApril 21-27 is designated as National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is “Celebrate Service.” The National Military Family Association is celebrating our volunteers, both past and present, who have made a profound contribution to the Association and the military families we serve. Today’s post is written by a volunteer about a volunteer, and is just one highlight of the great work all our volunteers do!

“Never be afraid to ask what you can do, because even if something seems really small, it can still help,” says Susan Reynolds, a military spouse and volunteer for the National Military Family Association. This philosophy, an unshakable optimism, and a genuine desire to contribute to her community keeps Susan fighting hard for military kids and families. She is committed to making sure that military kids, especially those with special needs, get the quality medical care they need and deserve.

Susan’s initiative started when her son was diagnosed with plagiocephaly, a condition defined by an asymmetrical distortion, or flattening, of one side of the skull. Her son needed a reshaping helmet, which she was told was not covered by TRICARE. The helmets can cost up to $5,000. Luckily, she and her husband were able to pay for it out of their savings account. However, she realized that not every military family could afford to do the same. “I don’t care what your rank is, that is a lot of money to come up with right away,” Susan says.

Even worse than the cost of the treatment was the uncertainty and delay Susan faced in getting her son properly diagnosed. “I was really given the runaround from the military treatment facility about TRICARE and what his course of treatment was,” Susan explains. Her experience convinced her that TRICARE and DoD can and must do better to ensure that military kids, especially those with special needs, are getting the care they need.

Susan soon became a tireless advocate for military kids and families. She worked closely with our Association’s Government Relations Department to understand TRICARE policy and how it should be changed. She founded support groups for military families with special needs children and met with Congressional staff members and other officials to share those families’ stories. During this time, while her husband deployed to Afghanistan, Susan’s home was hit by a tornado, but she never allowed herself to be distracted from her objective: to fight for military children.

Thanks in part to Susan’s efforts, Congress included a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Department of Defense to study TRICARE and its policies regarding care for kids. The provision, known as TRICARE for Kids, aims to develop and encourage health care practices addressing the specific needs of military children. “It was just so exciting to know that something I had worked on with the Association was passed,” Susan says. For her, knowing the President signed the bill that includes this provision is among her most rewarding and exciting achievements. She continues to work hard, however, to make sure that the results of the study reflect the real needs of military children and families.

To Susan, being a volunteer for the Association is her part time job. She enjoys reading, doing research, and keeping an eye on different issues happening in her local community and the greater military community. She never hesitates to talk about the Association and the people and organizations that she is involved with. She goes to key spouse meetings, to community blueprint meetings, talks to local nonprofits, and reports information associated with the military.

Susan will continue to work with the Association and to represent military families, as she wants to ensure people’s voices are being heard. She has received various awards and recognition  including one of the Air Force General’s coins. On more than one occasion, Susan was nominated as Air Force Spouse of the Year by different spouse magazines. Nevertheless, to her, knowing that she can make a difference and serve her community is the greatest reward.

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Advocacy on Capitol Hill: a military spouse’s perspective on speaking up for her own

Advocacy on Capitol Hill: a military spouse's perspective on speaking up for her ownFor more than 44 years our staff and volunteers, comprised mostly of military family members, have built a reputation for being the leading experts on military family issues. I had the pleasure of joining the Association’s Government Relations team last summer when my husband and I PCSed into the Washington D.C. area. As an active-duty military spouse, I have a vested interest in our unique population and hope to shed light on just one exciting facet of this position.

Currently, I am working with the offices of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Representative Matt Cartwright (D-17th/PA), and Representative Rob Wittman (R-1st/VA) to support legislation titled Military Spouse Job Continuity Act. This legislation provides a tax credit to a military spouse to offset the cost of a new state-required license after a government-ordered move. Not only do we support federal legislation, but we also work to support military spouse licensing on the state level. Our Association believes that state legislation can expedite the employment process and Congress can alleviate the financial burden with a tax credit.

Looking at my portfolio for the Association, I focus on quality of life issues that pertain to military spouse education, employment, credentialing, financial literacy, commissaries, exchange, relocation, housing, and military construction.

I truly enjoy working with different Congressional offices to discuss issues of importance to military families. The past several weeks have been very busy! I have had the unique pleasure of visiting Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional staff from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Our Association’s accomplishments have made us a trusted resource for families and the Nation’s leaders. I look forward to visiting and working with other Congressional offices to ensure that our military families are taken care of and help communicate the stories that we hear from military families that are located around the world.

Continue to follow our Association’s advocacy work on our website, here on our blog (subscribe at top right!), and our Facebook and Twitter pages.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association