President’s Day Isn’t Just About Shopping Deals

“Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.” -George Washington

Washington-Monument-and-NMFA-logo

Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

military-saves-weekMilitary Saves Week starts February 24 and runs through March 1. In the weeks leading up to and including Military Saves Week, many installations host programs and events that focus on saving. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to attend one of these events. Why? I know many join the military because it provides a steady dependable paycheck, and if a service member stays in for more than 20 years, the retirement pension is guaranteed at a set and predictable rate. However, recent events (cuts to the COLA, a 1% pay raise for 2014, and proposed changes to the commissaries) show how uncertain those guarantees are. We are all one congressional vote away from any change to the benefits packages that were offered when our service member signed up.

It’s simple, really. Like the old saying goes, “The only guarantees in life are death and taxes.” I’ve said before that as military families, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is just as applicable in your financial life as it is anywhere else. So, if you get that retirement pension for military service, great! This does not negate your responsibility to save for your retirement. Make sure you are using the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), use the Savings Deposit Program (SDP) during deployments, and open up a Roth IRA (yes, I said “and,” it’s called diversification). There are a million ways to save your money to ease your long-term financial worries and burdens, and that means a more peaceful and enjoyable retirement. Don’t we all want that, especially after living a military life?

On that note, I will point out that not everyone who joins the service will stay in for 20 years or more. In fact, only 17% who serve end up making it to retirement. So, savings should start as early as possible and as often as possible. Another old saying tells you to pay yourself first. Find 10% of your income to pay (to yourself) in a retirement account. The earlier you start, the more money you will have at retirement because those first dollars grow the most.

One more big point I want to make is for you spouses, yeah, you, the one who is keeping the checkbook balanced, holding down the homefront, or running around like a chicken without a head, savings is also for you! There is no reason why all of the retirement and savings needs to be in the service member’s name or in connection with their employer; get some savings in your name, too. I am not implying that your marriage is on the rocks. I am reminding you that life happens, and facilitating your ability to take command of the ship if you need to, is part of having a secure family. You deserve to have assets, savings, and a nice credit score, too. These are all important factors for long-term financial success, regardless of whether you are inseparable for life.

Military Saves has a great motto this year, “Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.” Their website has tools and resources for you to learn how to save smart and make the most of your financial power. Take some time this month to learn more about how you can build your family’s wealth!

Have you considered savings as a spouse? Share your thoughts!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Here’s Your New Deployment Survival Guide!

Dads-homeI can identify the Fort Campbell hangar immediately when looking through pictures. The color on the walls, the bleachers, and the banners welcoming our heroes home. I remember the anxious feeling when my husband was both leaving and coming home from deployment. Anxious to get the deployment started so he could return home, and anxious to introduce him to our new family of three and welcome him to our new house.

Have you ever heard that saying “you don’t know, what you don’t know?” That’s how I feel looking back on our first deployment. We were married in September and my husband deployed in December. I didn’t want to move to a new installation by myself so I moved home with my mom. Little did I know that moving home meant I would be completely out of touch with my husband’s unit.

I received monthly emails about some things, but was never contacted about other things. During the year-long deployment, I received only two phone calls from the Family Readiness Group (FRG). I felt a little out of the loop, and under informed, to say the least! I am fortunate that my husband communicates well enough to keep me in the know. Now, I urge spouses to get out there, get involved, and stay informed! There are so many awesome resources available that won’t come knock on your door.

If there was an app like MyMilitaryLife available to me during our first deployment, my time away from my husband would have been very different. I feel like I would have been able to manage that time better, and I could have actively involved myself with his unit’s happenings. Hindsight is great, but I realize now, just how much I missed out!

With MyMilitaryLife at my fingertips, I would have utilized the Deployment Life Path and discovered the Red Cross offers online courses about deployment cycles. Military OneSource has a website, called ‘Plan My Deployment,’ with planning tools, checklists, and helpful tips. The National Military Family Association has Operation Purple® Camps for children with a parent that has been, is currently, or will be deployed. Aside from this, there are Family Retreats to help families reintegrate after deployment.

If my husband deploys again, I am prepared with resources to help, and if I have any questions I know I can pull up MyMilitaryLife on my phone to find the answer.

Download our MyMilitaryLife app today and let us know what you think!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife

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