Category Archives: Your benefits

Looking back at 2012

National Military Family Association: A look back at 2012Where does a year go? It’s amazing to see the months fly by, filled with memorable occasions like weddings, road trips, big moves, and deployments. 2012 was a year of change, new ideas, and growth for the military community, and for us as well! Here’s how we spent our year.

Sometimes it seems like if something can go wrong, it will. Or when it rains, it pours. Whichever idiom you want to apply, 2012 brought a few unexpected lemons for us to make into lemonade. From the close call of a government shutdown in April, threats to commissary benefits, and the fiscal cliff negotiations in December, we were proud to be  the place military families turned to understand the impact of these actions and find out what could be done in response. It’s nice to know that no matter what comes our way, our community always makes it to the other side of the issue infinitely stronger.

With almost everyone and their grandma (literally) having a smart phone or social media account, these days it seems like we are more connected than ever. Military families are no different, and this year we created a few new ways to provide resources and support via the most-used platforms. Although we are all part of the same community, each military family faces its own challenges going through the many different stages and phases of life. Whether a family is preparing to move, expecting a baby, or anticipating a deployment, our new app, MyMilitaryLife, brings our subject matter expertise and important resources when and where it’s most needed. We’ve had nearly 4,000 downloads from the iTunes and GooglePlay stores, and with six more life paths being added in 2013, we look forward to growing our presence on this new mobile platform.

We are committed to providing spouses and families with the resources and programs needed to make military life a bit easier. We awarded $448,000 in scholarship funds to military spouses beginning or continuing their education through our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Our Operation Purple® program had another great season, sending 1,581 military kids to camp across the country. With so many service members returning from deployment, creating a network of support during this period of change and adjustment was more important than ever. We held six Family Retreats and four Healing Adventures for families with a wounded or returning service member who needed to ease into the reintegration process after a deployment.

It went by fast, but 2012 was a productive and fulfilling year. We’re excited to see where 2013 takes us—stay tuned for a companion post on the Association’s goals for the year.

Your turn: what would you like to see us focus on this year?

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor at the National Military Family Association

More money for military families in 2013

More money for military families in 2013Here’s some good news for the new year, and it’s not even here yet! Some military families will see additional money in their paychecks in 2013. The annual adjustment for BAH and BAS were recently announced. BAH and BAS? While you may not score points in Scrabble with either word, these are important acronyms for military families. BAH means Basic Allowance for Housing, and BAS is the Basic Allowance for Substance.

BAH is a nontaxable allowance provided to eligible service members. The allowance varies worldwide and is based on the median current market rent, average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer), and average renter’s insurance. BAH is also calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents. For 2013 the average increase in BAH for military families is about $60 per month. You can calculate your BAH rate for 2013 before it hits your service member’s paycheck. Remember, BAH is based on your service member’s duty station, which may not be the same zip code where you live. (There are some exceptions to this guideline.)

I used the calculator and noticed the BAH rate for 2013 for our family was actually less than our 2012 rate. Yuck. But not to panic. A key feature of the BAH program is rate protection. This means our BAH will not decrease. This ensures military families who have made long-term housing commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area’s housing costs decrease. However, new families assigned to the area will receive the 2013 rate.

BAS is also a nontaxable allowance and is intended to replace the rations historically provided to service members. BAS rates are tied directly to the United States Department of Agriculture’s calculation of the increasing price of food. This not an allowance to feed your family. It is an allowance to offset the cost of food for the service member only. Enlisted service members will receive $352.27 a month, up from $348.44 per month in 2012. Officers will receive $242.60 a month, up from $239.96 in 2012.

Is this what you expected for the new rates? Are BAH and BAS allowances a key part of your family’s budget?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress Acts

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress ActsAttention TRICARE beneficiaries! In two weeks, doctors will face a 26.5% payment cut for care they provide to Medicare and TRICARE patients. The National Military Family Association believes these impending cuts will directly affect military families’ access to timely care because physicians may decide to no longer care for their existing Medicare or TRICARE patients or accept new ones.

Getting a so-called “Doc Fix,” which would end scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, is a recurring issue. Congress temporarily stopped the scheduled payment cuts in February 2012 as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012  (P.L. 112-96). Unfortunately, that fix is due to expire on January 1, 2013, which means that without further Congressional action the 26.5% physician payment cut will go into effect. The timing of the expiration also means the issue has been caught up in the negotiations over the pending fiscal cliff. This makes fixing it that more difficult.

By law, TRICARE reimbursement rates must follow the Medicare reimbursement rules. The law does permit TRICARE to make exceptions if necessary to ensure an adequate network of providers or to eliminate a situation of severely impaired access to care. But, the process of making those adjustments can take time and may happen only after TRICARE officials receive enough reports that military families aren’t finding the care they need.

Our research, Views from the Homefront, demonstrated the need for mental health services for military spouses and children. Our military families already experience difficulty gaining access to mental health care in many communities. We cannot afford to lose any mental health providers. After 11+ years of war, the military must be growing our access to mental health care rather than decreasing it.

We’ve been monitoring this issue and raising concerns about the impact not fixing the rates could have on military families. We encourage military families to contact Members of Congress (House and Senate) and tell them how these cuts can affect access to the health care they need. Ask Congress to implement a permanent fix.

What do you think about these potential cuts? Will your family be affected?

Joyce RaezerPosted by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association

Speak up or shop until your Commissary benefits are dropped

Are military families' Commissary benefits in jeopardy?Growing up, the Commissary was just the store we went to where I got to push the cart and be denied candy. At the time I didn’t understand that there was a benefit to shopping there, but as an adult (an adult without military privileges) I understand just how much you can save by shopping at the Commissary instead of the local Safeway.

Military families that shop at the Commissary save up to 30% more on their grocery bill than civilian families, however, these savings are in jeopardy. In a measure to cut spending, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has suggested cutting the $1.5 billion subsidy the Department of Defense spends on Commissary operating costs. In addition to possibly losing the subsidy, military families’ Commissary benefits could also be affected by looming sequestration cuts should debt agreements not be reached by January 2nd. That’s just three weeks away! With government funding cut by 9.4%, prices could be raised, hours could be restricted, and staff could be reduced in order to absorb some of the shock.

Many families value the Commissary’s savings so much that they are already willing to drive over an hour a few times a month to stock up on groceries. Families overseas are able to purchase favorites from back home without having to pay import prices.

Here’s what other military families have been saying:

“Commissary privileges are a valued asset to the military way of life. We need the subsidy and without it, it would make for a hardship on many of our lower enlisted soldiers and their Families.”

“Please be considerate when looking at our commissary benefit. There are bases across the country that without a commissary service members and dependents would be driving for 30 minutes or more to buy groceries at higher prices.”

“Support our military and our military benefits, which are so important to the morale and welfare of all those who serve and go into harm’s way. Veterans depend on their military benefits and have fought to defend our country. Our military deserve the very best as they give their very best to defend our country.”

Now’s the time to speak up—contact your member of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know what the Commissary benefit means to you.

Military families, how would your life be affected if your Commissary benefits were altered?

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor
at the National Military Family Association