Tag Archives: transitioning

Veterans Have Families, Too.

girl-holding-flagsRecently, I shared some of the awesome things NMFA does for the military community, and last week, we had a great opportunity to work with the military families, and other organizations who have a huge impact within their own towns all across the country.

NMFA hosted our second Military Transition Roundtable, where we dove into discussions about how we help communities around the country prepare, support, and welcome separating service members and their families.

Some of the questions tackled were:

  • How do we prepare our communities to handle the transitioning service members and their families?
  • Can military support organizations open the door to the civilian community more, if so, how?
  • How do we help these organizations move beyond offering only deployment support?

Being a civilian, this conversation really spoke to me, and the work I do with military families. Before I became involved with NMFA, I would always say I was a supporter of the military, but I’m not sure I really knew what that meant. I wasn’t sure how to go beyond the word support…especially when it meant helping families transitioning out of military service. Did they still need our help?

The answer is yes. Transitioning families do still need support, and here are a few ideas the experts around the table shared to do just that:

  • Let’s get our communities to adopt a mindset which supports hiring veterans and their spouses. It needs to be cultural within community businesses and organizations.
  • If community organizations should make a habit of asking newcomers if they’re members of the military.
  • There are significantly more information gaps and confusion when it comes to transitioning out of the military, and families in the throes of it are navigating as best they can. Just because families are finding their new normal outside of the military, doesn’t mean we need to stop supporting–we just need to change how we’re doing it.
  • Let’s encourage civilians to be the connecter in their communities.
  • Community organizations can make relationships with transitioning families happen by reaching out and talking to military family readiness leaders to find out how to help.
  • We must continue to make it known that veterans have families, too. In some instances, we are dealing with communities who aren’t thinking about the families behind the veteran, so, how do we shift the conversation?

If you are interested in seeing more, check out a full recap of our tweets from our Roundtable discussion.

What are some ways communities, and civilians, can help make transitioning military families feel more at home? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

 

Getting Out: 4 Reasons I Won’t Miss Active Duty Life

sailor-saying-goodbye-to-wifeWe’re getting out. After 22 years of service, my husband is making the transition to civilian life. I’ve been by his side for 13 of those years, and I’ll admit, I’m finding it hard to accept my new role as something other than a military spouse. There are so many things I’m going to miss about military life, which I wrote about here, but let’s be honest: there are definitely things I won’t miss once we’re on ‘the other side.’

I won’t miss things like:

Saying goodbye. In our 13 years together, my husband and I spent at least eight of those years living separately thanks to deployments, unaccompanied tours, separations due to employment, or long term training. Words cannot capture the dread that would build in my heart in the weeks approaching a deployment, the desperation of the last night before the dreaded flight, the weight of the ceremony, the emptiness of the car ride home. I am forever thankful for the service and sacrifice of those still deploying, but I am even more grateful it will never be my husband’s service, or our sacrifice, again.

“Rank” discrimination. While military spouses officially have no rank, in my opinion, many perpetrate class-based discrimination against their fellow spouses. As a senior enlisted spouse, I found myself shunned from some events since my husband was not an officer. Simultaneously, I was penalized by junior enlisted spouses for living in a household that made too much money. Let’s stop separating ourselves and support each other for what we are: people joined in a common life experience, supporting our active-duty spouses, while raising families and meeting our own life goals. Together we’re stronger, right?

Keeping up with the Joneses. My last few years as a military spouse turned me into brand-name loving fiend. Prior to relocating to our last duty station, I never owned a Coach purse, and I wouldn’t have even considered spending what we did on my most recent purchase from Louis Vuitton. But spending money on brand name goodies seems to be an ingrained part of military life: from the healthy Kate Spade selection at the Exchange, to the brand name clothes, to the status cars. It seems like everyone is trying to out-do each other, and that’s probably why a lot of military families are in debt, in my opinion. I don’t know if post military life will change my ways, but now that I’m backing away from the ‘forest,’ I can see the trees …but, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up my purses!

The sense of entitlement. Though we’ve all played a role in our spouse’s career, we’re still military dependents, and the benefits granted to are because of our service members. As an Army/Air Force civilian employee and volunteer on post, I have witnessed numerous cases of spouses behaving badly at all levels. All the services and support we have access to are benefits, not entitlements, which can be taken away. And if you don’t write your Congressman, some of them might well be a thing of the past. Military spouses who want to benefit from the sense of community on their installations should be ready to stand up and contribute to it; if you don’t like the events the FRG is holding, volunteer to help plan a function. If you don’t feel there are enough military guards manning the crosswalks in front of your child’s school, help organize a group of parents to do the job. Start being part of the solution!

Sure, it’s easy to point out the things I won’t miss about military life. But what really matters is your own experience, the bonds you formed, and the amazing places you’ve lived, all because of a lifestyle that most don’t have the chance to live. I’ll see you on ‘the other side!’

Can you relate to any of these? Will it be different in the civilian world? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Laura-Yates-headshotPosted by Laura Yates, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army spouse

6 Things You’ll Miss About Military Life

spouse-at-homecomingMy husband is in the process of transitioning out of the Army after 22 years of service. After three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, two tours in Korea, and a stint in Kosovo, he’s paid his dues, and he’s finally ready to make the transition to civilian life. Looking back at the years I accompanied him along his journey, I have mixed feelings moving on from the role of Army spouse. One thing I know is there are plenty of things I’ll miss about being an active duty spouse.

Here are 6 things I’ll miss most:

Pride of service. Active duty life is not an easy one, and those who choose to live it (especially for over twenty years) deserve commendation for their commitment. Active-duty service members certainly don’t serve for the money, and they’re not in it for the lifestyle. Most do it because they love their country and what it stands for. My own association with military service, both as a spouse and as an Army/Air Force civilian employee, has made me feel like I’ve contributed to something greater than myself, and experienced something unique.

My Army home. There is a charm to active duty life not experienced by most Americans; like the moments we pause to honor the flag each day. I always felt in some ways, life on a military base combines old-time America with the best of what American should be: a place where tradition and professionalism transcend all boundaries. I miss it now that we’re away from our Army hometown.

Wonderful friendships. One of the great fortunes of my military life was forming close friendships that were a source of great support during periods of separation from my husband. The time spent together for holiday meals, fun weekend trips, and unit functions brought a level of closeness similar to the relationships I had with college roommates and high school besties. Some are sure to be lifelong friendships, and all had their place in helping me survive these difficult years.

Limitless opportunities. How many spouses have the opportunity to visit (or live) with their spouse in a foreign country, immersed in new language, cuisine and culture? Thanks to this lifestyle, I’ve traveled to Korea, flown in military aircrafts, rappelled down a 50 foot tower, met 8 of the 9 US Supreme Court Justices, and even the President of the United States. I was able to participate in a professional development program through my work, where I was able to meet some of the Department of Defense’s most pre-eminent senior leaders. I’ve sailed on a Navy destroyer, and even attended a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony with WWII Veterans who were present on that fateful day. Many of these things might not have happened, had I not chosen this military life.

Great benefits & support. As a prior installation employee and Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader, I became familiar with many of the resources available to military families. In addition to the hundreds of installation personnel waiting to assist with services and support, numerous private organizations exist on post to support military families. I found our units’ Family Readiness Group offered a great opportunity to meet other spouses. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your FRG leader, visit the Family Support Center on your installation, or visit the base’s website or social media sites!

My sense of (MilSpouse) self. As my husband’s time in the Army winds down, I realize I’m facing a real challenge: adjusting my own sense of self to reflect a reality where I am no longer an active-duty spouse. I have spent so many years living and breathing military installations, befriending other MilSpouses, and shopping almost exclusively at the commissary, I’m not 100% sure who I am without that identity. My challenge now, along with my husband, is to grab hold of the weight of my military life experiences, both good and bad, and make that leap.

Being a military spouse will always be a part of me, and in many ways shaped who I am today. But I look forward to the challenges to come, and becoming the person I’m meant to be in the next chapter of our military life…transition.

Have you been a military spouse? What would you add to this list?

Laura-Yates-headshotPosted by Laura Yates, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army spouse

Make the Most of Your Post-Military Health Care Options

My biggest stressor during my husband’s separation from the military was finding new health care for our family. I was pregnant with our second child while my husband was going through the transition process, and I didn’t know if he would be eligible for the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP).

And guess what? We didn’t find out we were NOT eligible for TAMP until AFTER he separated from the military. Just in case TAMP wasn’t an option, I explored the Continued Health Benefit Plan (CHBP). This plan has several pros and cons:

Pros:
-Coverage is similar to TRICARE standard
-Coverage ranges from 18-36 months
-Coverage is available for the entire family, or just the service member

Cons:
-A quarter of premiums are due up front ($2,868 for a family)
-Includes cost-shares and deductibles
-Deductibles from TRICARE standard to NOT carry forward to the CHBP coverage

CHBP may be an option right after TRICARE or TAMP coverage ends.

What are some of your other options? You may consider an employer’s health insurance plan, finding insurance in the individual market, or coverage through the Affordable Care Act. If you’re losing TRICARE, TAMP, or CHBP coverage, you’ll have a qualifying event, which means you don’t need to wait for open enrollment to come onto the plan. For our family, finding coverage in the ‘marketplace’ through the Affordable Care Act was the best option. Some good things about this coverage for us was:

  • Subsidies to pay for premiums are available based on your income
  • A wide-variety of plans to choose from ranging from HMO plans similar to TRICARE Prime and PPO plans similar to TRICARE Standard
  • We were able to keep our current providers
  • Monthly premiums are paid at the beginning of the month (not 3 months up front as required by the CHBP)
  • If you move, you can apply for coverage in another state

Here’s what we did:

Are you considering post-military health care options? What would you recommend to others separating from the military who are not eligible for retirement health care benefits?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

A Different Kind of Halloween: How Transition Changed Things

halloween-katieGhosts. Goblins. Princesses. A young Marine. Families dressed as the Jake and the Never Land Pirate characters. These are my 10 years of Halloween memories.

I love celebrating Halloween on a military base. I love the deep sense of community. I love the designated trick or treat hours in military housing. I love the fire pits and pot lucks and general good will in the community.
I felt safe and secure taking our young son to trick or treat on a military base.

But, this year will be different.

This is the first year we are a Veteran family. My husband is no longer active duty and he is not retired. He was medically separated after going through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), along with a medical board. The entire process took about 12 months. IDES was complicated to navigate on its own, but add in my husband’s various medical appointments to the mix, and I’d say our transition out of the military was complex. We encountered many highs and lows during the entire process; it would have been awesome to have more resources or peer support to help me, as a spouse, help my husband and our family navigate through our transition.

With 1.5 million service members leaving the military in the next 5 years, transition from military to civilian life is, or will become, a reality for many military families.

halloween-katie-2And transition is hard–both emotionally and physically draining.
In fact, our Association hosted a Transition Roundtable event to talk about the needs of families during the transition process. We fielded a survey asking military families who have transitioned, or who anticipate transition, to share their top concerns.

Three out of four are stressed, or very stressed, about transition. They identified their top concerns as: being financial prepared, finding employment for the service member, accessing post-military health care, finding behavioral and emotional support, and understanding Veteran Affairs’ benefits and the claims process.

Our roundtable was the beginning of a conversation about transition. We’ll cover your top concerns, identify gaps, and develop resources to help YOU and YOUR FAMILY successfully transition from military to civilian life.

This year you won’t find our Jake, Izzy, or Cubby on your military base, but instead you’ll find a family of Super Heroes creating new memories in our hometown bravely navigating our transition from military to civilian life.

Has your family transitioned out of the military? Is transition around the corner? What are your top concerns?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Transitioning Out of the Military: Are You Ever READY?

saluting-spouse-at-retirementThe prospect of leaving military life can produce a wide spectrum of feelings.

Some are ready to have a break from the op tempo. They are ready to leave deployments, TAD/TDY trips, long field exercises, and frequent moves in the rear view mirror. They are eager for their lives to be their own again. Perhaps they are excited about moving back to their hometown.

Others are not ready to enter the civilian world again.

They miss the adventure of moving to new places, having a secure paycheck, and the camaraderie of the military community. The thought of having to figure out what they want to do in their “second life” can be daunting.

Then there are those who feel all of the above.

They may flip-flop between being ready to leave one day to experiencing anxiety about it the next. To throw another twist into the situation, the servicemember may feel one way about it while the spouse feels another.

In short, transitioning out of the military is a big life change and one that can be full of a variety of emotions for all members of the family.

My husband was ready to retire.

He had his eyes set on the horizon and was ready to leave his military career behind. He was finishing up his MBA degree in preparation for employment in the civilian world and was eagerly networking for a job.

Me? I was not ready to go. I loved our military life.

Serving military families is my passion. The majority of my employment and volunteer activities have revolved around the military, to include working and volunteering for the National Military Family Association. My husband’s new job moved us away from a large military community to an area where most people cannot even relate to us.

To be honest, I have been “home sick” for our military community and feeling very displaced. And my husband, who was originally ready to leave, misses being in the Marines.

Emotionally, our transition out of the military has been harder than we expected. It may sound odd, but we are almost having a bit of an identity crisis.

Financially, we thought we were prepared.

We had figured out how much my husband needed to earn to replace his base pay and BAH while allowing me to remain a full-time mom to our children. When he was offered a job, my husband spent hours reworking our family budget with his new income, the rent and utilities for the house in our new location, gasoline for the mileage he’d have for his new commute, our expected taxes and so forth.

After we moved, two things caught us off guard:

  • The first was something we should have predicted but didn’t… our grocery expenses increased because we no longer had access to a commissary.
  • The second was something we had taken for granted until we moved to a non-military area… the savings we had received from military discounts came to an end. For example, while living in a military community, we had been getting discounts from civilian businesses out in town for our son’s toddler gym classes and our children’s haircuts. The same companies that provided those services are located in our new non-military area, but they are owned by different franchisees who do not offer military discounts. It did not even occur to us that we would lose those savings after we moved.

Is your military family transitioning to civilian life in the next 2 years or have you transitioned in the past 24 months? What did you wish you would have known? The National Military Family Association has launched a Transition Survey and wants to hear from YOU!

We know service members have transition support, but spouses do not. We are creating a military Spouse Companion to the Transition GPS program. Help us help military spouses like YOU! Hurry the survey closes on June 4. Oh, and by the way – for taking the survey you’ll be entered into a drawing to win one of three gifts cards! Don’t delay – take the Transition Survey today!

Mary-Cisowski-headshot-1Posted by Mary Benbow Cisowski, National Military Family Association Volunteer, USMC Spouse, Mom

Preparing to Return to Civilian Life: A spouse’s perspective

crossroads-sign2With small budgets and shifting priorities, the mission for the U.S. military is changing. An estimated 123,900 service members will leave the Services within the next five years. Some folks signed up for one tour and only intended to stay in for that enlistment. Others joined knowing they wanted to make this a career. Regardless of the reasons for separating from the military, a significant number of current service members will not make the military a career.

When I read articles about downsizing, I immediately think about how this would impact our family; specifically what happens to our pay and benefits. Any entitlement to pay and benefits after your service member leaves the service will depend on the circumstances of separation.

For example, if the service member retires; he or she is eligible for retirement benefits. Unfortunately, most folks who are separating due to the drawdown are not eligible for retirement benefits. If you fall into the later category, here are some tips to help you prepare for life outside the gates:

Pay: This is a big one. You and your service member will need to decide how you will earn an income. It may be helpful to consider the following:

  • Your taxable and nontaxable income (i.e. allowances such as a housing allowance (BAH) are not taxable)
  • Your current and estimated expenses (i.e. if you are living on the installation now and will move back to your home town, check out the local rental rates, property values, utility costs, etc.)
  • The cost of living in your projected job market
  • Your estimated income needed to meet or exceed your current standard of living

Health Care: Health care is the largest non-monetary part of the service member’s benefit package. While the service member may be eligible for service-connect health care for life through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), your family generally loses coverage once the service member separates from the Service.

You may be able to receive health care coverage in the individual market, a health care exchange, or through an employer’s plan. Your family may be eligible to participate in TRICARE’s Transitional Assistance Management Program for 180 days of premium-free transitional health care benefits after regular TRICARE benefits end. After this coverage ends, your family may be eligible for the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP).

CHCBP is a premium-based program offering temporary transitional heath coverage from 18-36 months after TRICARE eligibility ends. A family premium for 2013 is $2,555 per quarter.

Life Insurance: Whether you are separating from military service or retiring, you will need to decide what to do with your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage. SGLI stays with you for an additional 120 days after you leave the service, and then it stops for good. You need to decide to either take Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or get your own individual life insurance.

For those who sustained injury or have chronic conditions, it is imperative to look at whether or not outside insurers will cover you. You can convert to VGLI in the specified time period without proof of good health. After that time period, you will have to prove you are in good health.

Keep in mind that Family Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) provides coverage for your spouse and children. It may be converted to an individual policy, but not to VGLI. Companies listed on the VA website will convert spouse health coverage without proof of good health during a specified time period.

Ancillary benefits: Ancillary benefits may include the Commissary, Exchange, reduced child care fees, or discounts in your local community – all part of the overall military lifestyle and some elements of the military compensation package.

In most cases, you will not be able to continue to access these privileges; however, some communities may provide benefits for veterans. It is recommended you ask each establishment to determine what type of documentation you need to show if you are eligible to participate. You may find there is another type of discount, such as a community membership, for folks who live in a specific neighborhood, which is available to you instead of a military discount.

This is the first of a blog series discussing transition from military life to civilian life. What other transition topics would you like to see? Leave a comment below!

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager