Donor Spotlight: Crafting for a Cause

fabric-traditionsIn honor of their 25th Anniversary, FabricTraditions has chosen to commemorate their special day with the launch of a fabric collection that’s particularly significant to the people who most contributed to their success. According to the company’s co-founder, Dom Seddio, “We developed the ‘Creating New Traditions’ 100% Made-In-America line to honor our American employees, vendors and customers, as well as our military.” A percentage of fabric sales will benefit the National Military Family Association.

Seddio adds, “We chose the Association because it’s the only national organization that represents officer and enlisted families, all military branches, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service. It’s earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for 10 years, a distinction that only 1% of U.S. charities merit. Our hope is that we can continue this program long term.”

The initial “Creating New Traditions” collection will consist of 26 new fabric prints. Subsequent collections will be introduced quarterly. Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, the nation’s leading fabric and craft retailer with more than 800 stores in 49 states, will retail the collection and feature the fabrics in their Jo-Ann Fashion Fusion magazine. The “Creating New Traditions” collection will be easily identified in-store by custom-printed, deep blue Made-in-America board-ends.

This generous donation from Fabric Traditions brought back some wonderful memories of military life for me. My family was stationed at Andrews Air Force base for nine years. We were lucky enough to live in base housing and were blessed with wonderful neighbors. Every Tuesday night, the ladies in the neighborhood held a craft night. Some nights, only three people showed up. Other nights, we had twenty people packing the room. We all had different projects to work on – cross stitch, quilting, doll making, dough art, sweatshirt painting, and knitting. It was a lovely way to relax away from the kids, and connect with other spouses.

Every once in a while we held a special craft night, and we would all learn a new craft together. We had so much fun! We made gingerbread houses at Christmas time, learned how to ‘blow out’ real eggs to make our own keepsake Easter eggs, tea stained fabric, and painted sweatshirts.

Did you know crafting improves your health and overall quality of life? It can soothe emotions and relieve stress. You gain a sense of accomplishment and the pleasure of creating things. Trying new crafts, and being creative, promotes brain flexibility and growth. Who knew?!

Crafting also offers an escape from your every day cares and worries. It’s a low-stress way to unwind from life’s pressures and concerns while engaging in a worthwhile activity that allows for a bit of a diversion. We never realized that those few hours gave us a break from the stresses of military life – we were just having fun!

We are so happy that FabricTraditions has chosen to recognize the efforts of our Association! Military life can often be overwhelming, uncertain, and stressful, but with companies like FabricTraditions, spouses and families can find fun, creative ways to bond and enjoy this unique adventure!

Do you and your neighbors get together and do anything crafty? Share them with other military spouses in the comments section below!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

Some are All Talk…We’re Not!

Girl-with-Yellow-Ribbon“Our Association’s highest priority is to fight for military families. We fight to protect the programs and services that allow them to meet the challenges of military life and maintain readiness. Our Nation’s leaders cannot ignore the promises they made to those currently serving as they prepare to shape the force of the future.”

Each year, the National Military Family Association develops our Legislative and Policy Priorities list. We don’t do it in a vacuum. We incorporate the concerns we’ve heard from military families. We listen to what our volunteers are telling us from the field. We look at gaps in legislation that has already been passed. We dust off some issues that we’ve promoted for years. We beat the drum on the need for sustaining the programs military families use that work. We seek advice from our Board of Governors and other experts.

This year we paid special attention to the uproar on social media when the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retired pay was reduced by one percent, as well as when military families were impacted by sequestration and the government shutdown. We heard you loud and clear! Our military families and their service members never fail to answer the call. In return, our government has promised to provide them with the resources to keep them ready. You asked Congress to #KeepYourPromise, and in our priorities, we ask Congress and Department of Defense (DoD) to do just that.

We ask Congress and DoD to guarantee, and sustain, the resources necessary to safeguard the readiness of military families. Like protecting the commissaries, where savings are such an important part of compensation. And ensuring access to high quality health care and preventive health care services. Our families are still healing from over a decade of war – they need medical and non-medical counseling readily available. Our kids have served, too – make sure the schools they go to thrive with help from Impact Aid and DoD grants and supplemental aid. Although the wars are winding down, don’t forget the wounded and their caregivers, who still face the uncertainties of their recoveries or the new realities they must deal with as a family.

There are some areas where the readiness of our military families can be improved and refined. We need more forward motion on standardizing programs for families with special needs across the Services. Enhance the spread of information about tools to help military spouses with education and employment. Some families need to be better equipped to react to the stresses of military life that can result in domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, and sexual assault. Help them negotiate the confusion of installation, State and Federal agencies. Our survivors need to be able to receive all the benefits they are entitled to – end the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset to Survivor Benefit Plan. And how can we better prepare those families who are facing an end to their military service, through their choice or the government’s, while they are still serving? How do we help them negotiate a successful transition to civilian life?

I’ve just given you a quick overview of our priorities’ statement – the Association Legislative and Policy Priorities for for 2014. It gives us a starting point. By no means do we limit our advocacy to these few issues. We expand on it for our statement to the Armed Services Committees. We refine it when necessary to shine a light on a specific issue or policy. Read it over and let us know what you think. And please know that we are always ready to address issues affecting military families as they arise. We fight for you and for all military families.

What would you tell Congress and DoD are most important? What’s your military family story about one of the issues we’ve outlined above?

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

Mentor or Protégé: Both Make an Impact in the Military Community!

mentorI’m at a stage in my life where I find myself in the position of the mentor; the one who offers sage advice, the perspective of my long years of experience, and sometimes just general thoughts or judgments on how things ought to be.

After 18 years with our Association working with policymakers and volunteers, I have the historical perspective of how we arrived at a particular decision – be it legislation or our position on those issues and why they are so important to our military families.

I thoroughly enjoy the role of mentor. As the oldest in a family of eight, I have been doing it all my life. At some point in all of our lives, we find ourselves in a role that requires a generous spirit, good communication skills, and a willingness to share our knowledge for the betterment of the others. With a recent staff overhaul in our Government Relations department, I’ve been spending a lot of time mentoring here at work. It also makes me appreciate the women and men who have been mentors to me.

As a young military spouse, I enjoyed the mentorship from spouses who had walked the path before me, whether in the same unit, or in the Army as a whole. These were the spouses who had weathered Vietnam wartime deployments – where family support was found with your own family, back in your hometown. Even still, they shared the connection with other spouses and fostered the continuation of the spirit of our “military family.”

In the “stone age” of military spouse employment – the 70s and 80s – spouses who were lucky enough to find employment, mentored me by pointing me to the best schools where I could substitute teach. Others would reach out from a duty station where we were headed to let me know of a position that would be opening at the chapel around the time I was showing up.

When I finally landed at the Association, I learned from the best: military spouses who decided to capitalize on their experiences and let policy makers know the importance of military families. Not just their importance to the readiness of their service members, but to the success of the force . Sydney Hickey was the first, among many, to train me to be a voice for military families. She, and our other Association foremothers, helped shape our organization and our staff and volunteers to be successful today.

There is a lot of national attention on mentoring these days, especially for military spouses in the employment arena. We work closely with the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation’s Joining Forces initiative and the AcademyWomen’s Military Spouse eMentor Program mentoring military spouses.

Have you had any mentors in your life that have helped you in your military spouse journey? Are you a mentor to someone else? Let us know!

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

Navigating Urgent Care as a Military Family

urgent-careMy family has fairly extensive experience with urgent care. We have been very fortunate to avoid major medical issues and emergencies, but, like most people with kids, we’ve had our share of strep throat, stomach viruses, and recurrent ear infections. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, these situations tend to crop up at the most inconvenient times.

When my daughter was a toddler, I could predict her ear infections with remarkable accuracy based on the federal holiday weekend schedule when our Military Treatment Facility (MTF) would be closed for 3-4 days straight. Many times, I was faced with a decision on where and when to seek care that did not fit the category of emergency, but seemed quite necessary to me.

When you or a family member need unexpected medical care, it can sometimes be difficult to know who to call or where to go. Urgent medical conditions are those that do not threaten life, limb, or eyesight, but need attention to prevent them from becoming a serious health risk. Your options differ based on whether you have TRICARE Prime or Standard but, in both cases, your primary care manager (PCM), family doctor, or pediatrician is your best place to start.

For TRICARE Prime Beneficiaries
If you reach your PCM but they cannot provide an appointment within 24 hours, you can request a referral to a local network urgent care clinic. You can find a network urgent care clinic by using the Find a Provider tool on your regional managed care support contractor’s website: HealthNet Federal Services in the North Region, Humana in the South Region, and UnitedHealthcare in the West Region or by calling the customer service line.

If you are unable to reach your PCM, call your managed care support contractor to discuss your options.

A TRICARE Prime beneficiary who uses an urgent care clinic without a referral is choosing the TRICARE Point of Service option which results in higher out of pocket costs. The Point of Service option has a $600 family deductible. This means that your family has to pay $600 out of pocket before TRICARE cost sharing begins. If your trip to urgent care is your family’s first time using the Point of Service option, the entire fee will be applied against the deductible and you will be responsible for paying the urgent care clinic out of pocket.

For TRICARE Standard Beneficiaries
TRICARE Standard does not require a referral for urgent care. If you reach your family doctor or pediatrician but they cannot provide an appointment – or – if you are unable to reach your regular doctor, you can find a network urgent care clinic using the same options listed above. Your usual deductible and cost shares will apply.

This spring, TRICARE plans to introduce a Nurse Advice Line that will give beneficiaries another option for getting an Urgent Care referral. We will release details on the Nurse Advice Line as soon as they are available to us.

What questions do you have about TRICARE? Let us know in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to answer them!

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

Finding the Silver Lining: Military Family “Wins” in 2013

army-dad-with-babyOver the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the many ways that Washington is breaking faith with military families. Just in the last month, we learned that in 2014 the military will receive a pay increase of only 1 percent – the lowest such pay raise since the creation of the all-volunteer force. At the same time, we were told that cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases to military retiree pensions will be reduced starting in 2016. And just last week we learned the stateside commissaries may be eliminated in the next three years. These blows came at the end of a year in which military families watched as the programs and services they depend on were threatened by budget cuts. Under these circumstances, it’s understandable that military families feel that they are the big losers in Washington’s epic budget battles.

Fortunately, there were a few bright spots for military families in 2013. Both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) included provisions to support military families and improve their quality of life.

As a parent, I was particularly pleased to see the NDAA provides a total of $30 million to assist public schools educating large numbers of military-connected children. Even better, the spending bill passed by Congress restored $65 million in Department of Education Impact Aid funds that had been cut by sequestration. These funds are used to compensate school districts for the loss of tax revenue due to the presence of a federal activity or federally connected students (like military kids). These two provisions mean public schools educating military children will receive much-needed financial support in 2014.

In 2013 some retiree families learned that they would no longer be eligible for TRICARE Prime because of the elimination of some TRICARE Prime Service Areas. This change struck many military family members as unfair and disruptive, and Congress agreed. The NDAA offers a one-time opportunity for those families to opt back in to TRICARE Prime. We have not yet received any information from TRICARE about how this policy will be implemented.

The NDAA recognized families of service members in Special Operations Command have unique needs that may not always be met by regular family support programs. To address these needs, Congress authorized $5 million to develop support programs dedicated to those families.

We were gratified to see Congress take on the issue of suicide among service members and military families in the NDAA. Our Association has long been concerned about suicides among military family members. We have heard reports the numbers may be increasing, but currently there is no data on the numbers, the causes, or how they can be prevented. We recommended Congress call for a study on this issue and were especially pleased to see this request included in the NDAA. The legislation also called for enhanced suicide prevention efforts for members of the reserve component.

Finally, we were pleased to see that the NDAA included provisions to care for wounded service members, their families and caregivers, and survivors. DoD was directed to improve assistance for Gold Star spouses and other family members in the days following the death of a service member. The legislation also aims to support wounded service members as they transition out of the military and seek civilian employment by providing additional information about disability-related employment and education protections in Transition Assistance Programs. Congress also directed DoD to provide service members’ medical records to the VA in an electronic format.

In 2014, our Association will continue to fight for programs and services that support service members and their families.

What issues are important for you and your military family? Let us know – and let your Members of Congress know too!
Click here to find contact information for your Representative or Senator.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Who Gives a Crap About the Commissary?

sailors-at-commissary

With all the different things on the budget’s chopping block, who gives a crap about the commissary? It’s a legitimate question we hear a lot these days coming from people in social media, discussion boards, and news articles. There are so many things to be mad about right now, why worry about a grocery store? Who gives a crap??

And that’s where the misunderstanding begins. The commissary is not a normal grocery store. It’s subsidized with money from the Department of Defense (DoD) budget; 60 percent of its employees are veterans or military family members; and it saves military families an average of 30 percent compared with an average grocery store (yes, even those big box stores and dollar stores).

The commissary is one of the few operations on a military installation that provides more benefit than it costs the government. While costs of supporting the wars, the cost of health care, and just about everything else has gone up, the cost of the commissary has stayed the same. The stats show that for every $1 of taxpayer dollars, the commissary provides more than $2 worth of savings to military family shoppers. A family of four that shops at the commissary regularly saves an average of $4,500 a year. That seems like something to give a crap about, don’t you think?

No one joins the military to get rich. We know our list of sacrifices includes separations, moves, the fear involved in sending a loved one off to war, and (of course) money. We earn certain benefits to help ease the burdens of military life, and one of those is the commissary. That benefit is especially important today because of this year’s active duty pay raise that is lower than average private sector raises.

The commissary made my life richer without giving me a handout.

Do you know how much cheaper certain name brand pints of ice cream are at the commissary? Those pints got me through some rough times. I give a crap about the commissary because I am grateful that when we were a newly married couple, barely paying our bills, I could splurge on that pint of ice cream because I saved on everything else there. I care because that 30% helped us when we were trying to build a savings in preparation for transition. I care because almost every bagger knew exactly what I was going through during deployments and made being new a little easier.

Here’s something you may not know: the commissary saves military families more money than it gets from the taxpayers. I mentioned the double return on taxpayer dollars above, but let’s flesh it out. If the commissary goes away, the money goes back in the DoD wallet. The taxpayer pays the same amount, but your 30% savings is gone and the jobs it provided go away, too. Effectively, those who shopped at the commissary get a big pay cut and veterans, military family members, and others are unemployed.

Enough is enough… it’s time to give a crap.

We should all care about the commissary. Even if you don’t use it, even if you don’t think you need it… someone you know, who is sacrificing or has sacrificed, does use it and does need it. In fact, you can help them by using the commissary, too, because that builds better commissaries, increases their return to the military community in employment, infrastructure, and service and builds a case for making sure that they endure. We should all give a crap.

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Putting the Pieces Back Together After Deployment

family-retreatsThe other day when I was at the commissary, I ran into someone who told me she was feeling overwhelmed with all of the stuff she was dealing with after her spouse returned home. He had been deployed for the third time in five years, the children were not as welcoming as they had been the last time, and she was wondering how they all could recapture the family she remembered and wanted back again. She knew I worked at the National Military Family Association, and that I had been a military spouse. Was there something out there that could help?

The world of military life has changed since I was an active-duty spouse. These past years of wartime climate have affected families in ways that could not have been imagined when troops began their repetitive cycles of deployment. Most families have worked to come back together after each deployment but it gets harder and harder when the time apart exceeds the time together.

The National Military Family Association has been advocating for military families for forty-five years. And like the changes that have occurred since I was a military spouse, our Association has changed. One of those changes, born from our advocacy, listening and acting in response to families’ concerns, and the occasional chance encounters in the commissary, is our Operation Purple® Family Retreats.

Take a military family dealing with reintegration and reunion challenges following one or multiple deployments, add family-focused activities designed to celebrate the family and each other, and mix with special resiliency and team-building fun set in or near national parks, and you have the basic recipe for an Operation Purple Family Retreat. And this special opportunity comes with free lodging, activities and meals…thanks to the generosity of donors that want to honor military families. But there is more.

“Seeing my son smile more than he has in months…Husband retreating into self and allowing growth…Me allowing myself to admit areas I need to improve on…” Service member Dad

“Great experience that was much needed for our family. We were able to connect without the distractions of everyday life…” Military Spouse

Almost 400 military families have participated in an Operation Purple Family Retreat. We keep learning what it means to them. And so I suggested to my new friend from the commissary that she and her family apply so that they, too, could begin to focus on each other. Applying online is as easy as checking our website in February for the application, locations, and dates. We will have four in 2014 – across the country. February 14-18, 2014 at Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY is already full but we return there June 30 – July 4th. Maybe this is just what your family needs…

theresaPosted by Terry Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director