Tag Archives: wounded warriors

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

Honoring Military Caregivers

caregiver1Each November the military Services observe Warrior Care Month to honor the service and sacrifice of wounded, ill, and injured service members, and their families – the caregivers who support them. This year’s theme is Warrior Care – Building a Ready and Resilient Force. The National Military Family Association believes there is a wounded family behind every recovering warrior or veteran. In honor of Warrior Care Month, we are pleased to release Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers. The first compilation of its kind, a resource from seasoned military caregivers for new military caregivers, shares advice and insights to help guide new caregivers.

Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers was made possible through an inaugural Innovation Grant from Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation. With the support of this grant, we asked experienced caregivers what advice they would give to a new caregiver. One caregiver noted, “There are two types of support I need as a caregiver: me dealing with my spouse’s injury and me dealing with me dealing with my spouse’s injury.” This is sound advice and emerged as a theme for the tips that fell into two categories: Taking Care of your Recovering Warrior and Taking Care of Yourself.

In addition to Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers, our Association incorporated the information we received from caregivers into the Caregiver Life Path of our MyMilitaryLife mobile app and our website’s caregiver section. We appreciate the support of Caring for Military Family: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation in helping us gather the insights of experienced caregivers for the purpose of helping others. We are honored to release these resources to assist military caregivers as they care for their recovering warrior or veteran.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

My Experience at Operation Purple Healing Adventures

op-healing-advLast month, I had one of the best experiences of my service so far here at the National Military Family Association: I shadowed and assisted our Youth Initiatives team at North Bay Adventures Camp during Operation Purple Healing Adventures, a retreat put on by our Association to support wounded service members and their families.

I had a great time on the giant swing, the zip line, and the ropes challenge course. But the most memorable and rewarding part of the camp was being able to interact with the military families we serve, learning their stories, hardships, and strengths.

Our Association always says that military families are courageous and resilient. At the retreat, I saw, firsthand, just how true that is. The families spoke of their wounds, some visible, many invisible, and how those wounds have affected their lives. Some of the service members had physical scars, but none let those scars stop them from taking part in all the activities the camp had to offer. I saw how the families worked together to assist their service member with everyday tasks, some that I take for granted, which required a little extra effort because of the service member’s wounds.

Many of the service members had the trademark invisible wound of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was clear in some cases, that PTSD had an impact on the entire family. The families talked about the tension between them, caused by living with a loved one who has PTSD. In some of the families, the children shared how they felt a disconnect with their service member parent, because they had a difficult time adjusting to the new personality changes that PTSD caused.

On the final night of the camp, we had a campfire on the beach. It was then that I saw the true healing and transformative effects of the weekend. Family members, who up until that point had been shy, finally opened up. It was as if all the participants had become one big family, sharing stories and laughter.

I could see the transformation from the anxiety and tension in the families upon their arrival, to this new comfort and closeness. The kids were able to connect with their parents in ways that I hope will continue once they are home.

I am truly thankful for the chance to take part in such a great weekend serving military families with our Association.

Would you like to know more about the Operation Purple Program? Visit our website for details about Operation Purple Camp, Operation Purple Family Retreats, and Operation Purple Healing Adventures.

natePosted by Nate Parsons, Americorps Member

Help Therapy Animals Heal Military Families Today!

therapy-dogs-webAnyone who has ever loved an animal knows how powerful and healing its presence can be.

Specially-trained therapy animals are a tremendous help to military families recovering from war and separation at our Operation Purple® camps and retreats. These families have sacrificed so much, and they struggle with uncertainty and other stress.

Therapy animals—including cuddly cats, loving dogs, gentle horses, and others—help military families break down barriers they can’t themselves. These nurturing animals provide a sense of calm for adults and kids often surrounded by stress. And they lend a feeling of “home.” They allow service members to reconnect, talk more openly about their fears and needs, and solidify fragile bonds with their spouses and children at our camps and retreats.

Please help more military families heal from the physical and emotional wounds of war through the comforting presence of therapy animals today. Donate now!

Has an animal or pet ever helped comfort you through a difficult time?

Military and Veterans Caregivers Week: America’s hidden heroes

Military and Veterans Caregiver Week: America's hidden heroesMore than a million military caregivers serve our Nation every day by helping their Wounded Warriors do things many of us consider simple: eat, bathe, dress, and more. They are America’s hidden heroes.

Military and Veterans Caregivers Week is a time to turn the spotlight on these heroes. It is a week when Americans recognize and honor military caregivers’ sacrifices and successes.

In honor of this week, the National Military Family Association is asking caregivers for their best tips. Knowledge is a powerful guide, especially the knowledge gained from the real-life experiences of someone who has already walked the road to recovery.

Please take our survey and share your wisdom. What was most helpful to you as a caregiver? What advice do you want to share? What would you avoid? You’re the expert—your recommendations can empower other caregivers and their families!

This survey is open to all caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members or veterans and made possible by a grant from Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

By taking the survey, you will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card and other prizes!

We know you are busy. Thank you for your time and support helping us help our community. Take the survey now!

Posted by the National Military Family Association

20 years of the Family and Medical Leave Act – are you covered?

20 years of FMLA - are you covered?When you are welcoming a new baby, caring for an ill family member, or struggling with an illness yourself, your job is probably the last thing on your mind. Family challenges sometimes require our undivided attention, even if that means taking some time off work. This reality was addressed twenty years ago, when the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law. Since 1993, the FMLA has helped thousands of American workers by allowing them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves and their families, secure in the knowledge that their jobs would be waiting for them when they came back.

In 2008, the FMLA was expanded to cover the families of service members. The new provisions allow family members of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans to take unpaid leave to care for them. Families of service members deployed overseas are also eligible to take unpaid leave in some circumstances. The expansion of the law has benefited many military families. As one spouse of a wounded veteran says, “It has been really a huge relief to know my job is protected but I can use the days as needed for his care.”

However, not every military family affected by deployment, illness, or injury is able to take advantage of the FMLA. To be eligible, an individual must have been employed by his or her employer for at least 12 months. Smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the Act. And some families of seriously wounded service members find that recovery takes longer than the 26 weeks of unpaid leave allowed under the FMLA, which forces them to quit their jobs.

February 5 is the 20th anniversary of the passage of the FMLA — a chance to look back on how the law has helped families and where it has fallen short. The National Partnership for Women and Families is collecting stories from people who have used leave to care for a new or adopted child, a sick family member, their own serious health condition, or to address a family member’s military deployment. They also want to hear from people who haven’t been able to rely on the FMLA’s protections because they weren’t covered by the law or couldn’t afford to take leave without pay.

Do you have a story to share about the FMLA? Visit the National Partnership for Women and Families’ Story Collection Survey and tell them about your experiences – or leave a comment below.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association