Here’s the News!
1. Last Week to Sound Off About Military Pay!
The NMFA Pay and Compensation Survey will close on February 28. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to tell us what your family thinks of current pay and benefits for uniformed services members, log on to www.nmfa.org/surveys today and tell us!
2. Senior Enlisted Advisors Testify on Quality of Life, Housing, Health Care
On February 15, the Senior Enlisted Advisors of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force testified before the Subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans’ Affairs of the House Appropriations Committee. As always, this hearing covered the broad range of quality of life issues, including: single servicemember and family housing, education, child care, operations tempo, predatory lending practices and their effect on servicemembers, health care, and care for wounded servicemembers. As expected, Members of the Subcommittee questioned the Senior Enlisted about DoD’s proposed health care cost increases, most of which would affect military retirees under the age of 65. The Senior Enlisted Advisors generally echoed DoD officials’ statements on the need to address the rising DoD health care budget in order to preserve the benefit and sustain the quality and availability of care. While accepting the general outline of the proposed increases, they did voice concern about the impact of these cost increases on injured servicemembers who are forced to retire before serving twenty years. They also praised the improvements made in TRICARE over the past few years. They noted they heard few complaints about TRICARE other than concerns in some areas about the willingness of civilian providers to accept TRICARE or about the reduced availability of appointments at some military hospitals due to the deployment of health care professionals.
When asked to name the top quality of life issues for members of their Services, each advisor had a slightly different list. Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston listed child care, adequate housing, and pay. He also referenced health care and retirement as the top concerns of servicemembers in the Army National Guard and Reserve. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John Estrada spoke of pay, single servicemember housing, and health care. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Terry Scott listed housing, child care, and health care, but also noted that he believed the number one item influencing morale among Sailors is their perception of the opportunity for off-duty education. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray also cited the importance of education opportunities for servicemembers, as well as pay and housing. He also noted the changing environment of the Air Force, which is downsizing, as a factor influencing the quality of life of Airmen.
In his testimony, MCPON Scott also highlighted the need to enhance servicemember’s financial readiness and end the practices of predatory lenders. While he reported success in the Navy’s efforts to encourage junior Sailors to participate in the Thrift Savings Plan, resulting in a 51 percent rate, he explained tactics of an industry that preys upon military members who lack savings in the bank or a credit card to absorb unexpected expenses, often charging interest rates above 700 percent a year. Quoting from a recent survey conducted in San Diego among military members, MCPON Scott stated that 21 percent had turned to a predatory lender for a short-term loan. Mid-grade enlisted members (pay grades E-4 to E-6) represented 80 percent of that total. Members of the Subcommittee agreed with the MCPON’s call for better financial education and increased efforts by commanders to help servicemembers avoid the predatory lenders in favor of other sources of short-term financial assistance such as credit unions. (source: http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=22333; http://preview.afnews.af.mil/afmil/news/story.asp?id=123016409)
3. Initiatives Unveiled to Enhance Military Families’ Savvy:
At a Capital Hill event last week, DoD officials joined with Congressional Members, NMFA leaders, and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Investor Education Foundation to highlight initiatives to improve financial education for servicemembers and their families. The event launched a comprehensive new campaign to deliver financial education tools and training to members of the military and their spouses. The campaign is designed to help military personnel and their families manage their money with confidence by providing financial education programs, information and publications, as well as a new website, http://www.saveandinvest.org/, which includes financial information of use to military families.
Many servicemembers report difficulty covering expenses and saving for the future. Research conducted in June 2005 found that only 29 percent of military personnel who currently invest received a passing grade on a quiz about basic financial knowledge. However, 58 percent of survey respondents said that it was very important to them that they become more knowledgeable about saving and investing. Sixty-two percent indicated that they plan to increase their investment levels in the next year.
The Foundation's military financial education programs are funded by fines levied against First Command Financial Planning, Inc. for misleading sales practices related to the sale of systematic investment plans to military personnel. Over $5 million in restitution was paid to individual investors and the remaining funds are being used to fund education and training programs for military personnel and their families. The NASD Foundation has joined forces with NMFA and other organizations and agencies, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE), the InCharge Education Foundation, the National Endowment for Financial Education, the American Savings Education Council, CincHouse.com and the Consumer Federation of America to develop programs, provide training, and distribute information and resources to the military community. Programs and services are aimed at both servicemembers and their spouses.
"Our collaboration with the NASD Investor Education Foundation will expand and enhance the opportunities we offer our military families," said Tanna Schmidli, NMFA Chairman of the Board. Among the programs is the Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor™. NMFA is working with the AFCPE to launch this fellowship, which will provide military spouses with the education necessary for entry into the financial counseling and education field. NMFA has seen tremendous interest in the program and has received several thousand applications for the fellowships.
To help military families financially prepare for moves or deployments, NMFA has joined with the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®), and the NASD Investor Education Foundation to create an updated version of the Money and Mobility publication. The new version of this popular publication, published several years ago by NMFA and NEFE, includes more information on investing. Much of this publication is written for married and single active duty servicemembers with children. The first chapter contains information for active duty servicemembers on deployment and for National Guard and Reserve members called to active duty. The final chapter, on investing, may be helpful to all servicemembers. The publication is available from many military family centers. An electronic version is available at: http://www.saveandinvest.org/microsites/moneymobility/000100.asp.
(Source: http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=35119; http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2006/20060216_4226.html; http://www.nasd.com/web/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&ssDocName=NASDW_015982)
4. DoD Revises Equipment Reimbursement Policy:
The Defense Department announced last week it had revised the memorandum on the policy and procedures for the reimbursement of privately purchased protective equipment for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The new memo, which was signed February 10 by David S.C. Chu, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, incorporates the original guidance published on October 4, 2005, expands the list of reimbursable equipment, and extends the eligible purchase period for reimbursement. This policy update incorporates changes included in the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It also comes soon after recent media reports, which indicated that very few servicemembers had taken advantage of the reimbursement program first mandated by Congress after Members heard how servicemembers and families were purchasing protective gear because of Service shortages of this equipment early in the war.
The full reimbursable equipment list now includes:
- Complete ballistic vests;
- Most component parts of ballistic vests, including side-plate body armor;
- Ballistic eye protection;
- Hydration systems;
- Knee pads;
- Elbow pads;
- Bed insect netting;
- Insect repellant; and
- Reflective vests.
The eligible purchase period is now September 11, 2001, through April 1, 2006, as required by the fiscal 2006 National Defense Authorization Act. The previous memo only covered purchases from September 11, 2001, to July 31, 2004.
To be reimbursed for equipment, servicemembers must complete DD Form 2902, "Claim for Reimbursement for Privately Purchased Protective, Safety or Health Equipment used in Combat." This form must be submitted to the servicemember's chain of command or, for former members, to an authorizing official designated by their former Service at an address on the form. All claims must be submitted by October 3, 2006. The form is available for download at: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd2902.pdf.
The military will reimburse servicemembers for the cost, including shipping, of any protective, safety or health equipment that was purchased by the member or by another person on behalf of the member for the member's personal use during deployment. To be eligible for reimbursement, the equipment must be on the approved list of shortage equipment, and the member must not have been issued equivalent government-provided equipment before they engaged in imminent danger or hostile fire operations. Reimbursement for any one item is limited to $1,100, and any equipment that servicemembers are reimbursed for becomes the property of the U.S. government and must be turned in to the unit logistics officer. (Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2006/20060214_4201.html)
5. Is a new Child Development Center or More Family Housing Coming to Your Installation?
As part of its FY 2007 budget proposal, DoD included several housing and other quality of life projects. Many of these projects are intended to ready installations preparing to receive servicemembers and families due to Service-mandated changes or global rebasing. While some units have already returned from overseas installations, DoD officials have noted that most moves from installations in Germany back to the installations in the United States will be made in 2007 and 2008. Other installations are also seeing changes in population because of Service transformation initiatives, such as the Army’s creation of new combat brigades. The military construction funding proposed in the FY 2007 request will not meet the immediate needs facing these installations, but will provide much-needed enhancements to the quality of life of servicemembers and families in the future.
Among the construction projects proposed by the administration for FY 2007 are:
Family Housing Replacements: Fort Richardson, AK (162 units); Fort Wainwright, AK (234 units); Eielson AFB, AK (129 units); Fort Huachuca, AZ (119 units); Pine Bluff Arsenal, AR (10 units); Navy, Barstow, CA; Mountain Home AFB, ID (457 units); Whiteman AFB, MO (116 units); Malmstrom AFB, MT (493 units); Seymour Johnson AFB, NC (56 units); Minot AFB, ND (575 units); Dyess AFB, TX (199 units); Defense Logistics Agency, Richmond, VA (25 units); Fort McCoy, WI (13 units); Ramstein AB, Germany (101 units); Spangdahlem AB, Germany (60 units); Navy housing, Guam; RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom (74 units)
Chapel Center: Eielson AFB, AK;
Fitness Centers: Eielson AFB, AK; Vicenza, Italy
Single Servicemember Housing: Elmendorf AFB, AK; Camp Pendleton, CA; Pensacola, FL; Eglin AFB, FL; Hurlburt Field, FL; MacDill AFB, FL; Scott AFB, IL; Fort Riley, KS; Fort Campbell, KY; Fort Leonard Wood, MO; Fort Drum, NY; Fort Bragg, NC; Camp Lejeune, NC; Fort Hood, TX; Quantico Marine Corps Base, VA (student quarters); Fort Lewis, WA; F.E. Warren AFB, WY; Grafenwoehr, Germany; Vilseck, Germany; Vicenza, Italy; Camp Humphries, Korea; Kunsan AB, Korea;
Medical facilities: Fort Richardson, AK (health clinic); Fort Irwin, CA (dental clinic alteration); Jacksonville, FL (hospital alteration); MacDill AFB, FL (clinic replacement); Great Lakes, IL (parking structure for Federal Health Care Facility); Fort Drum, NY (dental clinic); Fort Hood, TX (women’s health services); Vicenza, Italy (enhanced health service center)
Child Development Centers: Fort Richardson, AK; Fort Stewart, GA (2 centers); Schofield Barracks, HI; Fort Riley, KS; Fort Campbell, KY; Fort Drum, NY; Fort Lewis, WA
DoD Schools: Fort Knox, KY (high school replacement); Camp Ederle, Italy (new elementary school); Vicenza, Italy (new middle school); Osan AB, Korea (high school addition); Rota, Spain (high school addition)
Proposed FY 2007 funding to meet upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) needs is $6.9 billion. Total proposed funding for military construction within the United States is $4.694 billion, $896.8 million of which is for family housing. Total proposed funding for overseas areas is $1.018 billion, of which $246 million is for family housing construction. Other items funded in the family housing accounts include support for housing privatization, utilities, maintenance, and leasing costs, which brings proposed family housing funding for the Army to $1.3 billion; Navy, $814 million; and Air Force, $1.9 billion. As more housing has been turned over to private developers under the various Service privatization projects, the family housing operational accounts have declined. The revenue stream for operating costs and future construction and renovation for privatization projects comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing paid by servicemembers living in the housing. For more details on the FY 2007 budget proposal, go to: http://www.dod.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2007/index.html.
6. Administration Submits Another Emergency Supplemental Request:
President Bush recently submitted a request to Congress for $72.4 billion in supplemental funding to tackle the global war on terror and other ongoing international activities for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends September 30. The largest amount in the request, $65.3 billion, funds the Defense Department's missions. The remaining $7.1 billion contains funding for the State Department, the intelligence community, and other government agencies.
The request includes:
$1.5 billion for enhanced benefits for all survivors of all active duty deaths and to assist wounded servicemembers’ recuperation;
$8.3 billion to refurbish or replace equipment worn out or damaged through use in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom;
$2.6 billion to improve the force protection by deploying improved vehicle armor, night-vision equipment, sensor capabilities and helicopter-survivability systems;
$3.4 billion to restructure the Army into more agile, self-sustaining units;
$1.9 billion to buy, develop and sustain technologies critical to defeating the threat posed by improvised explosive devices;
$340 million for bonuses and incentive pay for the Army and Marine Corps;
This supplemental is the sixth such stand-alone bill to fund the Global War on Terror since its start September, 2001. War funding was also included as a part of the annual DoD Appropriations Acts. Total DoD funding for the war on terror so far has been $334.1 billion. News reports indicate that Congress will likely begin action on the request in about a month. (Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2006/20060217_4228.html)
7. DoD Honors Guard and Reserve Family Programs:
The top family readiness programs in the National Guard and Reserve for 2005 were honored recently during the Defense Department's 5th annual awards ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. The DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards were established in 2000 to recognize the top unit in each reserve component that demonstrates outstanding family readiness while maintaining superior mission readiness. Officials at the event noted the critical role the reserve components are playing in the global war on terrorism and the unprecedented need to deploy them far from home for long periods. Improved family readiness programs and command emphasis are essential to ensure Guard and Reserve families are prepared when the servicemember is called to active duty.
Each reserve component selected its winner from among a large pool of deserving nominees. The nominees were forwarded to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs for final approval. This year, for the first time, the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) joined Reserve Affairs in honoring the outstanding family readiness organizations and presented each recipient with a $1,000 check.
This year’s award winners are:
Army National Guard: 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Brigade Separate (Light) from Appleton, WI. This unit has been deployed to Iraq since June of 2005. Approximately 620 members are currently deployed. The award citation noted that “the Family Readiness Group has helped to ease the uncertainties and concerns of families by providing information support, quality of life programs and assistance in personal matters." The group established an effective phone-tree notification process and ensured that families were enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). The group also created an e-mail database and an interactive website.
Army Reserve: 10th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 108th Division, from Jacksonville, FL. This unit, a health services training organization, demonstrated mission and family readiness during the 2005 mobilization and deployment, by ensuring 100 percent of all soldiers' spouses were contacted and provided with all pertinent information. The Family Readiness Group also helped ensure that all families had individual family-care plans prior to deployment. The unit's Operation Yellow Ribbon program has been a tremendous morale boost for the soldiers and their families, ensuring all family members of deployed soldiers receive all the necessary care and help while the soldier is deployed.
Naval Reserve: Electronic Attack Squadron 209, based at Andrews Air Force Base, MD. The squadron's members provide more than 45 percent of the total deployed man-days per year and are committed to ensuring the families are ready for deployment. The ombudsman plays a significant role in developing and fostering family readiness and is fully engaged with the command. The unit's strong family readiness program keeps all families informed and updated, and a comprehensive sponsor program highlights the squadron's efforts.
Marine Corps Reserve: 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Alameda, CA. This command has units in seven different geographical locations, covering ten states and members and families speaking more than ten different languages. Every unit reinforces the same core values and enthusiasm for the family readiness program, with particular attention for pre-deployment preparation. Less than 1 percent of the battalion could not deploy due to insurmountable family circumstances. The unit has an active relationship with Military OneSource for interpreter needs, including translation of newsletters, web pages, and live telephone interpreters.
Air National Guard: 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, CA. The wing's family program coordinator and the numerous volunteers have provided a reliable resource for all wing members and their families during both combat and peacetime missions. The wing Operation Ready Families program is dedicated to ensuring the availability, coordination, preparation, and dissemination of relevant and reliable information to ensure all unit and family members are knowledgeable and prepared.
Air Force Reserve: 315th Airlift Wing based at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. The wing’s Family Support Office supports more than 2,500 reservists and their families 365 days a year, 24 hours a day with a staff consisting of one director and five reservists. The office goes above and beyond, ensuring all servicemembers returning home from deployments are met upon arrival, briefing family members at the airport or airfield on reunion issues, and making follow-up contact within 30 days. The “Hearts Apart” program helps families stay in contact while deployed to keep lines of communication open and lower the stress of separation.
Coast Guard Reserve: Port Security Unit 307 from St. Petersburg, FL. This is the second consecutive year and the fifth time PSU 307 has received this award. The unit credits its family support and ombudsman program with contributing positively to both retention and readiness. The unit's efforts to minimize the impact of mobilization on families included quickly resolving pay and benefit issues, providing routine legal assistance, holding a family day for members and family members, and preparing a monthly newsletter. While deployed in response of Hurricane Katrina, they used e-mail and voice mail to communicate current information directly to family members.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas Hall called the awards ceremony "one of the most important events that I go to, because it honors volunteers, honors people that care for our families and are an immense help." Calling the seven award recipients "the best of the best," Hall said, "we think family readiness, support of our families and support of the troops is one of the most important things we do. So we look nationwide in all seven components and all the family readiness programs throughout, and these seven are truly the best of the best."
Tanna Schmidli, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of NMFA, attended the event and extended the congratulations of NMFA to the winners.
8. February Focus on Children’s Dental Health:
February is National Children's Dental Health Month, which is dedicated to promoting children’s oral health. Now is a good time for all parents to learn more about preventing cavities in their children’s teeth. Here are some tips to ensure good oral health for your child:
Get your child's teeth checked by his or her first birthday: though it sounds young, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a thorough dental checkup by the age of 1. If you don't want to take your child to the dentist at that time, make sure the pediatrician peers at your child's newly "sprouted" teeth during his one-year-well-child visit. Dental problems can begin when the first teeth erupt, at 6 to 9 months. Clean teeth daily with a washcloth or a soft brush. To prevent decay, avoid putting infants to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or any other liquid except water. Encourage an infant to drink from a cup beginning at nine months of age. Reduce mouth injuries by always using car seats.
Don't let your child brush solo until age 7: brushing your child’s teeth is your job until his coordination and dexterity are up to standard. A recent study found that among 534 5-year-olds, those whose brushing was supervised had 32 percent fewer cavities than those left to brush on their own. Place the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle where the gum and teeth meet and use circular massaging motion around each tooth. Be sure to clean the back teeth, which are especially susceptible to plaque build up and consequently cavities. Make sure you use only a pea-size amount of tooth paste. Use a soft-bristled brush: hard bristles damage your child's gums.
Toss the bottle by age 1 and the “sippy cup” by age 2: Studies show that as many as 11 percent of preschool children have cavities caused by sucking on a bottle, which basically bathes the teeth in sugary liquid. If your child is bottle-fed and the mouth is not properly cleaned afterward, plaque accumulates on the teeth and can cause cavities. Baby bottle tooth decay is a serious problem that is totally preventable. If you feel your child must have a bottle at bedtime, give her or him one filled with water. If you breast feed your baby to sleep, at least clean her mouth afterward by gently rubbing a damp washcloth over teeth and gums.
Know which fruit snacks can cause tooth decay: Anything sugary or acidic that stays in the mouth for a long time or adheres to teeth is bad (such as rolled fruit snacks, gummy fruit candies or dried fruits). These kinds of food feed bacteria, which promote decay because they can't be cleared from the mouth quickly, unlike, say, ice cream. Try to give sugary treats with meals. When your child eats these sticky treats, try this trick: follow up with a bit of cheese. The calcium in the cheese counteracts the damage caused by the sugar and bacteria mixture.
Consider a dental sealant: A sealant is a liquid that is brushed onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth that hardens into an almost invisible plastic like barrier that typically lasts several years. This coating protects the grooves and depressions (where the food gets trapped) of the teeth from bacteria.
Make sure your child is enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP): Children of active duty servicemembers are automatically enrolled at age four in the TDP, the dental insurance program for active duty family members, Selected Reserve members, and their families, if another family member is enrolled. However, children under age four may also be enrolled in the program at any time to begin their dental coverage. For more information on the TDP, go to: http://www.tricaredentalprogram.com/.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has many information resources for parents to assist them in protecting the dental health of their children. Go to: http://www.aapd.org/pediatricinformation/brochurelist.asp. (Source: http://dcmilitary.com/army/stripe/10_56/health/39668-1.html)
9. How to Help Children Cope With Grief:
Millions of children—military and civilian--across in the United States are affected by the loss of a parent. The adults who love them are often at a loss about how to help. Grieving children often feel different from other children. Academic challenges may continue for several years following a loss. Intense grief and subsequent difficulties can show up years after a loss, even when a child does not remember the parent. The Children's Grief Education Association (CGEA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing grief education and support to bereaved children, their families and professionals. The association accomplishes this through schools as well as through local, national, and international outreach and training. Additionally, the organization offers online courses for a fee. The proceeds from the courses help support their website, pro bono professional support, and other work with grieving children. CGEA's website is full of useful information about children's grief for professionals and families and offers activities for both children and teens. To take advantage of this free resource, go to: http://www.childgrief.org/.
10. Military Spouses: NMFA Scholarships are for You!
The National Military Family Association is now accepting applications for the NMFA Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Any uniformed service spouse—active, retired, National Guard, Reserve or survivor—studying toward professional certification or attending post-secondary or graduate school is encouraged to apply. Scholarships are normally in the amount of $1,000, and the number awarded each year varies depending on funding. Scholarship funds may be used for tuition, fees, books, and school room and board. Applications can be found at www.nmfa.org/scholarships2006.
Scholarship selection is based on completion of some survey questions that will help NMFA advocate for education changes on your behalf, short-answer questions, and an essay question. Applications will only be accepted online and must be submitted by