Category Archives: Resources + Information

2016 Presidential Election: There’s Strength in Numbers, Military Families!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, we’re in an election year. This November, Americans will take to the polls to elect a new Commander in Chief. Many of us have watched news coverage of the candidates’ campaign efforts and tuned in for one of the 22 presidential primary debates that have been televised since last August (TWENTY-TWO?!). Others have even showed up to rallies to support our favorite candidate.

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As military families, we’ve been briefed on the do’s and don’ts regarding political campaigns—the Department of Defense (DoD) even has well-defined directives for Armed Forces members:

No marching or riding in political parades.

No display of partisan political signs at one’s residence in military housing.

Don’t wear your uniform to, or be an official Armed Forces representative at, any partisan political event.

Don’t speak before any partisan event or gathering that promotes a specific cause or candidate.

Basically, don’t do anything except vote?

Well, not exactly. The DoD explains there are things service members CAN do:

Register to vote.

Express your personal opinion about candidates…just not as a representative of the Armed Forces.

Display political bumper stickers on your personal vehicle (but nothing bigger).

Attend partisan events, rallies, or other activities as a spectator not in uniform.

Though none of these rules apply to military spouses or family members, it’s smart to consider what you do and don’t share, participate in, and identify with.

So, with such a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, why should any military family give a hoot about this election? Why bother? Only 1% of the American population serves in the military…1% can’t make a difference.

That, my friends, is where you’re wrong.

Many elections in our nation’s history have been decided by a margin smaller than 1%. From presidential elections to legislative elections, every vote matters. And if it wasn’t a margin of less than 1%, it sure was close. Remember in 2004 George W. Bush won the popular vote and defeated John Kerry? That victory margin was a mere 2.4%.

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Military families SHOULD care about voting in this year’s Presidential election.

You have the opportunity to decide your next Commander in Chief. This person will have the final say on important issues, like Sequestration (remember when your commissaries closed, and your MTF doctors weren’t on call?), foreign war, and your service member’s earned benefits.

The next President will make the call on whether your loved one will deploy in support of continued war.

Sure, there’s been 22 presidential primary debates in the last 8 months, and I think I can speak for many of us when I say those debates have been…interesting. But regardless of how many rules and regulations the DoD has for participating in political activities, the one that matters most is that you CAN vote. And you SHOULD.

There’s a reason military units don’t go into battle alone. There’s strength in numbers, and though 1% seems small, if this community banded together, the impact will be huge.

Between now and November 8th–when voters will take to the polls–NMFA will be spending time making sure this message is loud and clear: your vote matters! We’ll be sending out helpful information to make sure as many military families as possible are registered to vote and who make their voices heard by choosing the next Commander in Chief in November’s election.

You are the 1%. The small, but mighty 1%. And just like we always say here at NMFA: TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER.

Do you have questions about voting? Not sure where or how to register? Leave your questions in the comments and we’ll answer them in upcoming blog posts!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Breaking Down Barriers for Military Spouse Mental Health Providers

Military life isn’t always easy on a spouse’s career. Heck, it’s rarely easy. No matter what you choose to do, you have to contend with the changes that this life brings to the table. We know what this military life brings, we adjust, we change, we move forward, even with those challenges. It certainly doesn’t make it any easier to maintain a career we love, but we find ways to make it work somehow.

For those of us who are in the mental health field, trying to find the right school, internship, supervision, getting licensed (or re-licensed) and finding a job can be a significant challenge. Add to this already difficult situation, a few PCS moves, deployments, and shifting licensing requirements from state to state and it becomes nearly impossible. When you realize we have spouses who are dealing with barriers to becoming mental health professionals, you have to wonder: why is this happening? Especially in light of the staggering suicide rate within our community, and the overwhelming shortage of providers in both the military and civilian world. To top this off, studies show there is a shortage of counselors who know the military culture. As spouses we don’t have that problem. We live it!

There’s a mental health crisis out there. So hiring our military spouse clinicians is practically a no-brainer, right? There are spouses ready and willing to serve. Why are there so many barriers in the way? Why can’t they get licensed? Hired? A foot in the door?

We wondered the same thing!

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That’s where the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network comes in. The National Military Family Association, along with its partners Give an Hour and the United Health Foundation came together to create this network in order to support the needs of our military spouse clinicians and our community at large. This network will help break down the barriers so our military spouses can help to tackle the mental health crisis in our community and beyond. It will support military spouses through the entire process of becoming a mental health professional and maintaining their license as they move from state to state or even around the globe.

How will this network do that? I’m glad you asked! The Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network will support each spouse’s journey in the process – no matter what phase they are in. If you are considering graduate school and need information on accreditation and resources for scholarships, we have that. Need supervision for licensure? We will have supervisors and resources available for you. Need licensure information? Re-Licensure information? Employment information and resources? We have that, too. As a military spouse clinician, you will find support every single step of the way through this network.

Additionally, this network will be supported with advocacy to ensure that the best interests of our community are served. The National Military Family Association will advocate on issues that impact our military spouse clinicians. This will include advocating for loan repayment and loan forgiveness, easing of re-licensing requirements, and more.

Military spouses give so much of their time and often have to sacrifice their careers in the process. It’s our hope that we can help to make this process easier for our military spouse clinicians so we can support the mental health of our entire community. Stay tuned, more information on this network will be announced here in the coming months!

Are you a military spouse with a goal to become a mental health provider? How has your journey been so far?

ingrid-yeePosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Professionals Pipeline 

3 Tips for Monitoring Your MilKid on Social Media

News feeds. Snaps. DM’s. Post notifications. Hashtags. Tweets.

It’s like a foreign language to most parents, but with so many acronyms, apps, and other accoutrements, how do parents keep tabs on their children’s activity on countless social media platforms? I know many parents are catching up with social media lingo, thanks to educational lessons and eyerolls from their Gen X kids. (Mooooom, a DM means ‘direct message!’ GOSH!)

And what about military kids? With Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) a well-known acronym in military households, what’s the best way to talk about social media with them? How do parents of military kids keep OPSEC a main focus when sending another Snapchat, or uploading another Instagram picture?

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Here are three tips that might be helpful when it comes to children and social media:

Consider what your child understands about each social media platform.
Have conversations with your child about what they know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms and find out what and who they want to engage with. Do they just want to take pictures and share them? Are they chatting with friends from school? Use age-appropriate conversations to educate your child about the vastness of each platform, and what they might encounter by creating a profile. And likewise, decide for your child what the best age is for them to start creating profiles on these platforms.

Sharon, a Navy wife and mother of 3 shared how she decided whether her kids were ready to join social media accounts. “Social media is a privilege not a right just because we give you a phone or a laptop. We wanted to know, ‘Can you follow the rules? Do you understand about predators that look for kids on social media? Are you responsible?’”

Create security boundaries for usage.
Most social media platforms give you security and privacy settings to adjust, so once you discuss activity with your child, think about some basic boundaries that will work for both of you. One simple security boundary to set is to make any profile private. Explain to your child that they should only accept requests from people they actually know in real life, and create consequences for rules not followed.

“We had to know their log in and passwords,” Sharon explained. “We helped them create secure passwords that they can take through life with them, and if they violated the rules we set, they lost their account.”

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Make sure your child understands OPSEC and PERSEC.
Though OPSEC has many layers, it’s important that your child understand what is, and isn’t, okay to share on social media. Just like many spouses, kids can also get excited for a service member’s return from deployment and want to share it with their friends. Explain to your child why it’s not okay to share specific locations, their school name, or even their last name, on the internet. It seems like a crazy idea that a terrorist would find their way to a military kid’s Facebook page, but that’s the thing: terrorists are crazy, and we shouldn’t expect any less from them.

Social media is a constant in the life of most people, and in a lifestyle where change comes with every PCS move, it can be a good way for your military kid to keep up with friends from other duty stations. Be sure to consider what works best for your family, and for your child, and monitor their activity frequently.

How do you monitor your kids on social media? Share your thoughts with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?

You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.

But something is still not right.

So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!

First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.

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The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.

This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially she should be kept at the same level as her last school.

If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to this interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.

Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.

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To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.

With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.

There is help out there.

For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.

Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.

Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!

Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.

The help is out there. Now, go use it.

Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws

Why Your MilSpouse Resume Isn’t Cutting It

You’ve PCS’d to a new location. You’re all settled in—boxes are (mostly) unpacked, kids are in school, dog has calmed down and gotten used to the new place, and you’re ready to start working again. But how do you make yourself stand out in the crowd? You have a beautifully designed resume that shows off your amazing skills. You have a new suit to wear to interviews. You have practiced all the tough questions, and even have a great answer to the dreaded “What are your weaknesses?” question.

So why isn’t anyone calling you for an interview??? It could be your cover letter.

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If you just said “What cover letter?” you’re not alone. Research shows only 50% of job applicants send cover letters.

But we have news for you: as a military spouse, you can’t afford to be part of the 50% who don’t send a cover letter. You must take this extra step to make yourself stand out in a crowd if you want to land that job.

The cover letter is Step 1. However, there are probably other things you’re doing that are keeping you from getting a callback.

The following are a list of job-seeking don’ts for military spouses. For each one you’re guilty of, bow your head a little deeper in shame. Kidding!

But be honest, have you ever…

Called the organization by the wrong name? This is an easy mistake to make when you’re filling in a cover letter template. Cover letters should be specialized for the position you’re applying for. They should highlight how your experience would benefit the company and show that you’ve done your research. Bonus: Don’t call an Association a “company,” or vice versa.

Addressed your cover letter “Dear Hiring Manager,”? That’s just plain lazy. It only takes 2 minutes to look at the organization’s website and find that Hiring Manager’s name. If it takes you any longer, just call and ask “To whom should I address my cover letter for this position?”

Focused too much on yourself? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” -JFK. Swap out “country” for “organization,” and this is your new mantra. The Hiring Manager (whose name you now know) doesn’t care if the office is really close to your house, or if the hours are convenient for you to get to your kid’s soccer practice. Those are great things, and you should high five your spouse about them when you get the job. Until then, focus on “what you can do for your country.”

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Tried to convince someone to let you work from home? We get it—you live in the middle of nowhere. We’ve been there. Unfortunately, when you see your dream job in New York City—now may not be the time for you. Many organizations are becoming much more open to telecommuting, but not every position is suited for telework. If a job description states you must work in the office (therefore, you must live in the area), that’s what it means.

Recapped your resume? Your cover letter should not recap your resume. This is especially important for military spouses because you have some explaining to do. You’ve moved, changed jobs (a lot), had gaps in your employment, and may have more volunteer experience than paid. Your cover letter is your chance to explain.

Sent something generic? Do your research. Besides explaining your spotty employment history, a cover letter is your chance to showcase what you can do for this organization. How can you explain that, if you don’t know what they do? Personalizing matters.

A few more things: remember, the interview starts when you hit send. Always follow up. End your cover letter with something like: “I will email/call on X date,” and then do it! Thank you emails are important, too. Keep those lines of communications open, and try to enjoy the journey. Ask for feedback and learn from each experience. Soon you’ll be standing with your head up high and enjoying lunch with your crop of new co-workers.

Did we miss any important tips? Let us know in the comments!

christinabesaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director, and Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Moving OCONUS with Pets: How Hard Could it Be?

“It’s cheaper to ship our car than it is to ship our dogs,” I relayed to my husband as we finalized preparations for our move overseas. New kennels and veterinary visits for mandatory health certificates, along with their airfare added up to just over $3,000. Our car could have made the trip for about $1,200.

Not all military families will face a bill quite so steep. Our move was stressful enough for me, between inaccurate information from the transportation office, booked flights on carriers that never accept pets as luggage, and driving our dogs to an airport with an airline that would get them overseas, then trying to connect my family back to our original government purchased airfare, it’s safe to say, we’d been through the ringer.

We have two dogs, both too big to transport in either the cabin, or as luggage on US flagged carriers. This meant they’d have to fly as cargo. The contracted airline for our move overseas never transports pets, so the dogs couldn’t travel on the same aircraft as us (typically a less expensive option). Further complicating the process is the fact that fewer US flagged carriers will even accept pets on board these days.

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Options are even more limited in the summer months (peak PCS season). Generally speaking, if temperatures exceed 80 degrees, pets can’t fly. What’s a military family to do? Our pets are a valued part of our family—they’ve helped my children deal with the stress of moving, among other things. And handing them off to someone else because we can’t afford their airfare would be heartbreaking. So, we chose to pay the fees and bring our dogs along on our overseas adventure. However, not all families can do the same and are left to find a new home for their pets.

Moving back to the US, we face a similar challenge. There’s not much information for pet owners. We haven’t been able to figure out if pets can fly unaccompanied as long as they’re met by someone in the destination city. I’ve been trying to connect with Ramstein AFB, but they keep referring me to their online brochure, which doesn’t give us any answers. Most families are getting their information from local Facebook groups. The question of flying pets unaccompanied is one that comes up over and over for military families, and for our family, has truly been one of the most stressful aspects of moving overseas.

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So, we’ve decided to get our dogs back to the States ahead of our move (thanks Mom and Dad!), but now must decide how we go about making it happen.

We have the option of using a professional pet shipper, who will collect our dogs and get them loaded as cargo on a flight out of Brussels. We could play “Space-A roulette” out of Ramstein when it’s time for our entire family to fly back to the states, or one of us can make the drive to Amsterdam to fly KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, with the dogs traveling as luggage (KLM has a higher weight limit than any US flagged carrier).

I’m not sure which option we’ll select, but the kennels have been hauled out of storage and the dogs know something is up. Our dogs are members of the family, and leaving them behind is not an option. And, these days, affordable transportation doesn’t seem to be an option, either.

Have you moved overseas with a pet? What tips could you share?

Posted by Kelly Henry, National Military Family Association Volunteer

The Benefit I Hope You Never Need to Use

Every time my husband got ready to leave for more than a few days, whether on a deployment or for training, we would have the same conversation.

“So,” I would ask uncomfortably, “are you sure your affairs are in order?”

The first time I asked, he was confused. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“You, know – the important stuff – if something happens to you while you are gone, how will I be able to take care of our kids?”

“Oh, you mean life insurance?” he asked.

Yes, I couldn’t say the words without a lump forming in my throat. Life insurance.

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No one wants to talk about life insurance, or spend any time thinking about why you might need it, but it’s an important conversation to have. Service members and their families need to think about what they would do if the worst were to happen. As the mom of two young children, I had to be sure I would be able to take care of them, no matter what.

Military members are automatically enrolled in the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) for the maximum amount of coverage of $400,000. Premiums are deducted from the service member’s base pay. A service member is automatically insured under full-time SGLI if he or she meets one of the following requirements:

  • Active duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard
  • Commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)
  • Cadet or midshipman of the U.S. military academies
  • Member, cadet, or midshipman of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) engaged in authorized training and practice cruises
  • Member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard and are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year
  • Service member who volunteers for a mobilization category in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)

If a service member would like to designate a beneficiary, reduce, or decline SGLI coverage, then a SGLV 8286 form (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Election and Certificate) must be completed. SGLI coverage may be converted after active duty to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, or to a commercial life insurance policy.

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What about family members?

Military families also have access to Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). FSGLI is a program providing term life insurance to a spouse and dependent children of an insured service member under SGLI. The service member pays a premium for spouse coverage in $10,000 increments up to $100,000. Dependent children are insured at no cost for $10,000. FSGLI coverage is automatic for $100,000, not exceeding the service member’s SGLI coverage, unless the spouse is a dual-service couple. FSGLI spouse coverage is not automatic for service members who married other service members on or after January 2, 2013. Service members in this category will have to apply for coverage using form SGLV 8286A. Spouse SGLI premiums are also deducted from the service member’s pay and the premium rate is based on age category of the spouse. Post-military service conversion options are available for spouse SGLI, but not for dependent children.

How much life insurance do you need?

This can be different for each family. Generally, financial planners recommend short-term needs to cover immediate expenses such as outstanding debts, and long-term needs of future income to sustain the household. Take some time to talk to your spouse about your short-term and long-term needs, and learn more about life insurance options available for service members and their families. It may be helpful to consider your life insurance needs after your service member transitions out of the military, as well. A financial counselor can help you plan for your needs, and counselors are available at your local installation, military banks, or credit unions, or via Military OneSource.

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist