2.27.2006

Can I cry now?

MacGyver calls me today. He has good news and bad news. The good news is two-fold but doesn't really outweigh the bad news.

The first bit of good news is that he is not going to NTC (actually I'm still not sure that is good news - he was kind of looking forward to going and it would have been good practice for him, and for us). Nice - a little less separation is always a good thing.

The second bit of good news is that our landlord called and our rent will only go up $100 when we renew our lease in May. Woohoo! That's still well below our housing allowance so that means more money to put toward bills. Cool!


The bad news...


The owner of the house we currently rent and live in is selling their house on the mainland and will be moving back into THIS house in March 2007.


Oh. Crap.


Not only does it suck that we're going to have to move (have I mentioned how much I HATE moving? I HATE moving.) What also sucks is the fact that the owner will be coming home pretty much right in the middle of MacGyver's deployment.


YIPPE SKIPPY.


I LIKE this house. It's just the right size for us. We have a lot of stuff and this house accommodates us perfectly. The backyard is great - walled in and secure. The neighborhood is wonderful - our neightbors are nice, the area is quiet, it's convenient to post, and the school that Princess Trouble will go to is one of the best on the island. And the rent is below our housing allowance. I don't think it could get any better than this.


We went to talk to housing today. We are in the top 10 on the waiting list but the house that they would offer us is significantly smaller than where we are now and has no garage. So we would be giving up our ENTIRE housing allowance, we'd have to rent a storage unit as well and they are NOT cheap around here. BUT, that is the only way to avoid having to pay to move ourselves (again, expensive).


Our landlord says he has something else for rent in the area but we'd have to move ourselves and we'd have to move prior to MacGyver deploying (or, try to coordinate a move with his mid-tour leave...ugh). Not sure where we would come up with the cash for that.


DAMNDAMNDAMN


I really and truly do not want to move. I like this house. My kids like this house. My husband likes this house. It doesn't get any better than this, does it? I am a firm believer that when God closes a door, He opens a window and that is what is keeping me from losing what is left of my mind right now.


We'll see what happens.




Pau.




- hfs

Look to your left (on the screen!)

If you will look to your left...
<------------------------------


You will see a new Google AdSense button. I have succumbed. Is that the right word? I have given in. Relented. Actually, I am hoping to take advantage of whatever meager traffic I get here to possible rake in a few pennies. By clicking on the ads to your left
<------------------------------

you will help me possibly pay off some bills. It's no skin off of your back...really. There's nothing to lose. So, feel free to meander your way on over to that beautiful blue button on your left
<------------------------------

and help a girl out! That is all.




Pau.




- hfs

2.25.2006

New pictures are up!

Head on over to A Princess and a Little Man for new pictures!




Pau.




- hfs

iPod Nano

It just stopped working...




Pau.




- hfs

2.24.2006

Now to lighten the mood a bit...

Top 9 Decisions That Would Be (Possibly) Worse Than Putting The UAE In Charge Of Our Port Security


My favorite...

6. Having Al Gore and Howard Dean co-facilitate an anger management class. In the Haliburton staff lounge. After watching both of Bush's inaugural addresses. While Rush Limbaugh and Donald Rumsfeld sit in the back of the room and heckle them.





Pau.




- hfs

Chickens and Hypocrites...

For the love of GOD...


Can we PLEASE stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off? I understand the concern over the Dubai Ports World deal. I get it. Initially, my reaction was similar to that of many other people. I wondered what the HELL the government was thinking when it "allowed" a deal like this to go through.

But the more I learned, the less uncomfortable (notice I didn't say "more comfortable"...I am not thoroughly comfortable with foreign companies or governments having a hand in the activities at our ports, borders, or airports) I became.

Before any of you decide to go running around like Chicken Little, proclaiming "THE SKY IS FALLING!", do a little digging yourself and THEN form an opinion. For those of you who don't want to dig, you can read my opinion instead. And here it is:

1. we are trying to slam a barn door shut after the cows have not only escaped but have made their way to California where all of the cows are happy. More than 3/4 of our port facilities ARE CURRENTLY UNDER CONTROL OF FOREIGN COMPANIES. And before you go spouting off about how Britain is a safe country and we don't need to worry about them, I will direct you to news coverage of the Londan bombings on July 7, 2005. Those were HOME-GROWN terrorists. Britain is no safer than any other country. The majority of our port facilities have been under foreign company control for a decade.

2. the Left is a bunch of flipping HYPOCRITES. The Left decries any attempt to focus security on those who fit a profile (i.e. males of Middle Eastern decent between the ages of 18 and 35) as they travel into our country. But it's ok to implement the knee-jerk reaction that we are now seeing when it comes to the Dubai Ports World deal. Hypocrites piss me off almost as much as blatant stupidity does.

3. The talking heads on TV (think Lou Dobbs...he's the one I've been watching today and the one who has caused my blood pressure to skyrocket) are the biggest bunch of idiotic nincompoops on the planet (along with the PR people in the Bush administration). I know...no surprise there, right? Ok, listen up people...

PORT SECURITY IS NOT - I REPEAT NOT - HANDLED BY COMPANIES RUNNING THE PORT FACILITIES. IT IS HANDLED BY THE COAST GUARD AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.


Dobbs sat up on his stage and blabbered on about how national security will be decimated by this deal.

NO IT WON'T!!!!!!!!!


The Coast Guard and DHS will continue to do the same stellar job they have been doing until now. Yes, in many ways our security needs improving and upgrading. But shutting out DPW on this deal is NOT going to make those improvements happen. Which leads me to my next point...


4. Shutting out DPW on this deal simply because they are Arab will cause us more harm than good. The UAE has been one of our biggest allies, and THE biggest Middle Eastern ally, in the War on Terror. Yes, there are security concerns. But I firmly believe that the meager security gains we might see by shutting out DPW will be overwhelmed by the loss of a good relationship with the UAE.

Monsoor Ijaz has a wonderful article detailing Why Dubai is Good for US Business. He addresses a lot of the concerns regarding UAE's past and their involvement with terrorist organizations as well as pointing out some of the benefits that we stand to recognize.

5. If this were not an election year, we would not be seeing this hypocritical tantrum that the Left is throwing. And the fact that many Republicans are also criticizing the Bush administration infuriates me. What a bunch of cowardly turncoats.

6. We would be better served to allow this DPW deal to go through and focus this energy and debate on the fact that our BORDERS with Mexico and (even more concerning, if you ask me) Canada remain WIDE OPEN. It drives me insane that 1/2 of Washington has their panties in a wad over the DPW deal while the backdoor stands WIDE OPEN.




Hypocrites. Every single last one of them. Running around like chickens with their little heads cut off.




Pau.




- hfs

Pity Party for me

This deployment isn't even HERE yet and I'm already hating it. We've been here just over a year and I've made some good friends. One of them leaves the island permanently in less than a month.

She's pregnant and has 2 other children ages 4 and 2 and is rightfully heading home to have the baby as well as slog through this upcoming deployment. I am thrilled that everything seems to be working out for her.

But I'm SO sad to be losing such a good friend.


So sad.


And in a few more months, another good friend will be heading home as well. I'm not going to have anyone to play with. *pout*




Leaving Alaska was hard. We made some lifelong friends there. Friends that I miss desperately to this day. Ditto Alabama. And, amazingly (since we were only there for 8 months) Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


And now, here I am again. Having to say good bye to good friends is one of those drawbacks to military life (along with having to say goodbye to babysitters and hairstylists!) that just SUCKS. I suppose it would be easier if I were near family or in my hometown but no, that is not meant to be either.


Pardon me for a bit. Just one of those days.




Pau.




- hfs

2.21.2006

Motorcyclists Roll to Soldier Funerals

Yahoo story


"I'm not sure anybody has gone to this length to stand in solidarity," she said. "It's nice that these veterans and their supporters are trying to do something. I can't imagine anything worse, your loved one is killed in Iraq and you've got to deal with Fred Phelps."




Awesome. If I were still there, I'd be standing right there beside them.




Patriot Guard Riders
Give them a little time. The story has caused their server to be swamped and they are working to fix it.




Pau.




- hfs

Remebering the Forgotten Mechanic

REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN MECHANIC

Through the history of world aviation
many names have come to the for...
Great deeds of the past in our memory will last,
as they're joined by more and more...

When man first started to labor in his quest to conquer the sky,
he was designer, mechanic and pilot,
as he built a machine that would fly...
But somehow the order go twisted,
and then in the public's eye
the only man that could be seen
was the man who only know how to fly...

The pilot was everyone's hero,
he was brave, he was bold, he was grand,
as he stood by his battered old biplane
with his goggles and helmet in hand...
To be sure, these pilot all earned it.
To fly you have to have guts...
And they blazed their named in the hall of fame
on wings with baling wire struts...

But for each of these flying heroes
there were thousands of little renown,
and these were the men who worked on the planes
but kept their feet on the ground...
We all know the name of Lindbergh,
and we've read of his flight to fame...
But think if you can, of his maintenance man,
can you remember his name?
And think or our war time heroes, Gabreski,
Jabara, and Scott...
Can you tell me the names of their crew chiefs?
A thousand to one you cannot...

Now pilots are highly trained people,
and wings are not easily won...
but without the work of the maintenance man
our pilots march with a gun...
So when you see mighty aircraft
as they mark their way through the air,
the grease stained man with the wrench in his hand
is the man who put them there

-Anonymous

Government and You E-News - February 21, 2006

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;
  • Helmets;
  • Ballistic eye protection;
  • Hydration systems;
  • Gloves;
  • 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.

(Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2006/20060217_4236.html)

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 midnight April 15, 2006.

2.20.2006

Committee Advises Pay Changes

Committee Advises Pay Changes

Chaired by retired Navy Adm. Donald L. Pilling, the committee is recommending many major changes to compensation. Its final report, to be released in April, will propose an overhaul of the military retirement system for future service members and new business-like incentives to reward performance and to lengthen service careers in high-demand specialties.



Interesting.




Pau.




- hfs

2.17.2006

More on the proposed TRICARE increase from NMFA

What is NMFA Saying?
"The NMFA Government Relations Department has examined the DoD health care cost increase proposals and believes them to be damaging both to current retirees and their families and to future retirees, their families, and their survivors. As an organization that strongly promotes the interests of active duty families, we recognize that preserving the health care benefit will require some reasonable increases in beneficiary cost shares. We want today’s servicemembers and their families to be able to count on access to a rich benefit now and when they reach retirement. Playing "ostrich" and simply opposing any increase is not neither practical nor beneficial for the long term.

However, NMFA is concerned that DoD’s proposed tiering of the fee increases may be too arbitrary and impose inappropriate charges on some of our most vulnerable beneficiaries, especially survivors and wounded servicemembers who were medically retired. For example, under the DoD proposal, the recent widow of an 0-2 killed in Iraq would face an enrollment fee of $700 per year by FY 2008—the same as the fee paid by a retired General Officer with thirty years of service—simply because her deceased spouse happened to be an officer. We’ve spent much of the past week in discussions regarding an alternative to the tiered system that provides equity between the various ranks, recent vs. longer-term retirees, and the more vulnerable beneficiaries, such as survivors and those servicemembers who have been medically retired. We believe the best approach would be for DoD to increase TRICARE Prime enrollment fees for retirees and their families in FY 2007 by the cumulative amount of the retiree COLA since the start of TRICARE in 1995. According to our calculations, this would increase the enrollment fee for an individual in Prime from the current $230 per year to approximately $303 and for a family from $460 to $606. Increasing the retiree Prime enrollment fee in this way brings the beneficiary cost back to what was deemed fair for all at TRICARE’s start.

NMFA also believes that, while reasonable annual increases in the TRICARE Standard deductible and Prime enrollment fees would probably be better for beneficiaries in the long run than dramatic increases imposed more infrequently, these increases should not be tied to increases in premiums for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), as proposed by DoD. We believe these raises should be no greater than percent of the annual COLA increase.

NMFA most emphatically opposes the proposed "enrollment fee" for TRICARE Standard. This fee is in actual fact a premium and would move the medical entitlement earned by those who serve and have served to an insurance program. Our belief that DoD now regards TRICARE Standard as “just another insurance plan” is further reinforced by its proposal to tie future increases in deductibles and enrollment fees to the increases in premiums for FEHBP. History shows that CHAMPUS (the forerunner of TRICARE Standard) was only implemented when the direct care system could not care for all eligible beneficiaries and relatively high deductibles and cost shares were included to preclude the indiscriminate use of CHAMPUS when care was available in the direct care system. However, CHAMPUS was simply an extension of the health care entitlement. Therefore, TRICARE Standard is that same extension and charging beneficiaries simply for using it makes the clear case that DoD no longer believes beneficiaries need an entitlement to health care, but only an ability to buy into an insurance plan. We believe enrollment fees for Prime are different from a Standard enrollment fee because additional benefits are given to Prime beneficiaries: access guarantees, lower out-of-pocket costs, additional preventative care, and management of the beneficiary's health care.

How Can Representatives and Volunteers Help?

URGENT!!! We need to know what you and others in your military community are thinking and saying about these proposals.


How do they think they will affect them? How do they think they will affect long-term recruiting, retention, military quality of life, and morale? We need to hear from both retirees and from active duty folks and their families on this issue because Congress needs to hear from them. Let us know how these proposals are being reported and discussed in your community. Are they a big issue? Do people know what DoD is proposing? Are your local newspapers writing about them? Look for the launch of our Advocacy web section in March. A sample letter regarding this issue will be the first to be available for folks to send to their Congressional representatives.

Obtaining this feedback is important to us as we schedule meetings about this issue on the Hill and prepare our Congressional testimony. Please send your comments to Joyce Raezer at: raezer@nmfa.org."





Pau.




- hfs
UAE Firm to Run 6 U.S. Ports


A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports, including Baltimore, as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.

The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which runs Baltimore's public terminals.




The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved tomorrow. The British company is the fourth-largest ports company in the world, and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia as well as in Baltimore.



Anyone else have trouble with this?




Pau.




- hfs

Johari Window

My Window


Those of you who know me (either having met me in person or talked with me enough on line and on the phone), I'm curious to know your responses.

I promise not to hold anything against you!


It's utterly fascinating!




Pau.




- hfs

2.16.2006

Arizona Fundraising Steaming Ahead

Arizona Fundraising Steams Ahead


"The USS Arizona Memorial reminds thousands of people every day of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make defending our freedom, not only at Pearl Harbor, but also today in Iraq and Afghanistan," said David McIntyre Jr., president of TriWest, which provides access to Tricare — the military's healthcare program — in 21 states including Hawai'i.



You can donate by visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial website.


Want to learn more?

Arizona Memorial Museum Association

The USS ArizonaMemorial

USS ArizonaPreservation Project 2004




Pau.




- hfs

2.15.2006

Abu Ghraib photos, again

For the love of all things holy, can't we get past this? Talk about beating a DEAD HORSE. And why is it that media outlets such as the Washington Post will publish pictures such as these but they won't publish the offensive Danish cartoons? Damn cowards. It's not about "respect for the Muslim community" as it is FEAR of the Muslim community.


Hypocritical cowards.


If you want to see the REAL photos out of Abu Ghraib, go check them out.


More here, here, here, and here.


I think I'd rather go back to hearing about the non-story of Cheney shooting his friend. Good grief.




Pau.




- hfs

My military ID

MacGyver enlisted in 1998. While he was at AIT, I trudged down to the LA Air Force Base and filled out all of the necessary paperwork to get my very first military ID. I had been a military spouse for about 4 months at that point and now I had the ID to prove it! The picture they took was great too - amazingly enough. And, because I did not have my social security card on me at the moment (no one should ever carry their social security card on their person on a regular basis), they typed in "000-00-0000" for my social security number. This was fine with me as I do not like to give out my SSN in the first place. But that's another thread...


Anyway, I didn't use my military ID much prior to 9/11. No need to. I rarely left post in Alaska late at night and during the day, the gates were unguarded. Obviously, all of that changed after 9/11 and carrying your military ID on you at all times became the norm. Having had my car stolen in 1999 with my purse inside of it, I knew better than to leave my military ID in my purse so I carry it on my person at all times (except when I don't have pockets).

On one of the chatboards I frequent, someone got their panties in a wad over the fact that they were not allowed into the exchange even though they were with their sponsor (i.e. the military servicemember) who had ID. I just laughed. In this day and age, people who try to get anywhere without their military ID will find it impossible. I chuckle at those who expect the rules to be bent for them.

I did have to agree with the part of the discussion that centered around the inconsistency that can be found when it comes to checking IDs. Sometimes it is asked for and sometimes not. Drives me crazy sometimes but then I just remind myself to plan to have it checked at all times and it's no big deal.

I am also quite protective of my ID. It bothers me to NO END when I am asked to "show" my ID and it is snatched out of my hand. Ask me and I will SHOW you either side but I'm not comfortable handing my ID over to anyone (other than law enforcement). The other day I was at the commissary and the checker asked to "see" my ID. So I took it out and she snatched it out of my hand. It's not like she was comparing my signature to tha ton a credit card (I was using a debit card) - she just wanted to see it up close. She didn't ask. She just snatched.

So I snatched it back.

Startled the heck out of her! I politely told her that I would appreciate it if she would ask me to hand it to her if necessary but, given the fact that I was using a DEBIT card, there was no need for her to take my ID at all. I'm more than willing to SHOW it to anyone but you may not HAVE it.

Silly, I know. Boundaries, people. Boundaries.



This leads me to another peeve - when I'm in the middle of unloading my overloaded shopping cart and trying to keep 2 ankle-biters in check, don't demand my ID. Either ask for it before I get started or wait until I'm DONE. Or, better yet, check the damn things at the door when I don't have 1000 items to off-load. I know this is a useless rant but it makes me feel better to get it out.


My military ID is probably one of the most important pieces of identification I possess. I tend to get a little territorial, I suppose...sue me.




Pau.




- hfs

2.14.2006

Government and You E-News February 14, 2006

Here’s the News!

1. DoD Continues its “Sustain the Benefit” Campaign to Justify Beneficiary Cost Hikes: During Congressional hearings last week and on its TRICARE website, the Department of Defense leadership continued to try to make the case for increases in fees paid by TRICARE beneficiaries. The Department has given this effort the theme of “Sustain the Benefit” and it has posted information on its website to support its case that beneficiaries, especially retirees under age 65 and their families, must shoulder more of the costs of their health care in order to preserve the benefit for everyone. BG Elder Granger, the Deputy Director of the TRICARE Management Activity, released a letter to beneficiaries this week highlighting both the increases in the Department’s costs and that beneficiary cost shares have not increased. While acknowledging the sacrifices of those who deserve the benefit, he called on these beneficiaries to accept the increases as the way to “make this great program available for generations to come.” To view General Granger’s letter and other information from DoD regarding the proposed cost increases, go to: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/STB/index.cfm

As we stated in previous issues of the Government and You E-News, NMFA has many concerns about DoD’s proposed beneficiary cost increases. While we accept that some fees may have to be increased—the TRICARE Prime enrollment fee for retirees has not been increased since 1995—we believe DoD’s proposal would raise fees entirely too high too quickly. The proposed "enrollment fee" for TRICARE Standard is in actual fact a premium and moves the medical entitlement earned by those who serve and have served to an insurance program. The belief that DoD now regards TRICARE Standard as “just another insurance plan” is further reinforced by its proposal to tie future increases in deductibles and enrollment fees to the increases in premiums for the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), the insurance program for federal civilian employees. History shows that CHAMPUS (the forerunner of TRICARE Standard) was only implemented when the direct care system could not care for all eligible beneficiaries and relatively high deductibles and cost shares were included to preclude the indiscriminate use of CHAMPUS when care was available in the direct care system. However, CHAMPUS was simply an extension of the health care entitlement. Therefore, TRICARE Standard is that same extension and charging to simply use it makes the clear case that DoD no longer believes beneficiaries need an entitlement to health care, but only an ability to buy into an insurance plan. We believe enrollment fees for Prime are different from a Standard enrollment fee because additional benefits are given to Prime beneficiaries: access guarantees, additional preventative care and management of the beneficiary's health care.

As an organization that strongly promotes the interests of active duty families, NMFA recognizes that preserving the health care benefit will require some reasonable increases in beneficiary cost shares. We want today’s servicemembers and their families to be able to count on access to a rich benefit now and when they reach retirement. Playing "ostrich" and simply opposing any increase is not neither practical nor beneficial for the long term. However, NMFA is concerned that DoD’s proposed tiering of the fee increases may be too arbitrary and impose inappropriate charges on some of our most vulnerable beneficiaries, especially survivors and wounded servicemembers who were medically retired. For example, under the DoD proposal, the recent widow of an 0-2 killed in Iraq would face an enrollment fee of $700 per year by FY 2008—the same as the fee paid by a retired General Officer with thirty years of service, simply because her deceased spouse happened to be an officer. We will be searching for another alternative to the tiered system that provides equity between the various ranks, recent vs. longer-term retirees, and the more vulnerable beneficiaries, such as survivors and those servicemembers who have been medically retired. NMFA also believes that, while reasonable annual increases in the TRICARE Standard deductible and Prime enrollment fees would probably be better for beneficiaries in the long run than dramatic increases imposed more infrequently, these increases should not be tied to FEHBP increases. We believe these raises should be no greater than percent of the annual COLA increase.

What do you think of DoD’s proposed increases? Let us know by e-mailing NMFA at families@nmfa.org.

2. Implementation of new TRICARE Dental Program Contract Begins: The implementation of the new TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) contract with United Concordia Companies Inc. (UCCI) began on February 1, 2006. Current enrollees in the TDP—active duty families, as well as members of the Selected Reserve and their families—will notice few changes from the former contract and should expect a seamless transition. United Concordia had administered the program under the previous contract and will continue to furnish worldwide, comprehensive dental coverage to include preventive, diagnostic, restorative, and maintenance services to all eligible uniformed services active duty family members and to National Guard and Reserve members and/or their eligible family members.

Under the new contract, TRICARE has added a few new benefits to the dental program, including dental implants and related prosthetics, and extended restorative services to teeth affected by attrition, erosion, abrasion, and congenital or developmental defects. The TDP will continue to offer a comprehensive dental benefit package that includes dental X-rays, periodic examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatment, fillings, root canals, dental crowns and bridges, and orthodontics. The annual maximum coverage limit remains at $1,200 per enrollee and the lifetime maximum for orthodontia remains at $1,500 per enrollee. While this limit does not by any means completely cover an individual’s orthodontia costs, it is a higher level of coverage than almost all other civilian plans with similar premiums.

Eligible beneficiaries may enroll in single member plans or family plans. From February 1, 2006 through January 31, 2007, the monthly enrollment premium for an individual active duty family member or member of the Selected Reserve will be $10.51, with the active duty family premium set at $26.27 per month. Family members of Selected Reserve members not on active duty pay a higher premium. Specific information on enrollment, premium costs, and benefits can be found at http://www.tricaredentalprogram.com/tdptws/home.jsp.

The TDP encourages diagnostic and preventive care for children ages one to four. Sponsors are encouraged to enroll their children at age one to ensure a good foundation for dental health and thus reduce future costs later for dental care. Cost shares will continue to be reduced for families of servicemembers in pay grades E-1 to E-4 for some dental services under the new contract. The reduction in cost-shares is provided to encourage these families to seek appropriate dental care and improve their dental health. All current TDP-enrolled members should have received a new personalized TDP Identification Card and benefit booklet prior to the new contract taking effect. TDP enrollees and providers will be sent regular updates on benefits and coverage. New enrollees will be sent a personalized TDP Identification Card and benefit booklet.

United Concordia accepts and enrolls new members by phone or on their website. For more information to include enrollment, beneficiaries may access the TDP online at http://www.tricaredentalprogram.com/, or by calling toll-free 1-800-866-8499, 24 hours a day. Members residing outside the continental U.S. should dial their country code followed by 888-418-0466 (toll-free). Beneficiaries may also access the TDP Fact sheet at: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/Factsheets/viewfactsheet.cfm?id=320. (Source: http://tricare.osd.mil/News/news.aspx?fid=8)

3. DoD Announces Multi-pronged Approach to Child Care Shortages: The Department of Defense (DoD) acknowledges that child care is a critical issue in maintaining the readiness of our military families. Through its current facilities DoD services 200,000 children daily. These children range in age from six weeks to twelve years. Despite the inventory of 800 Child Development Centers (CDC) in 300 locations, the DoD Office of Children and Youth estimates there is a shortage of approximately 31,000 child care spaces for military children throughout the world. Adding to this concern is the global rebasing initiative, which is shifting military population centers from Europe and Asia back to the United States. The impact on facilities at these new duty stations has not been overlooked. In the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress approved funding for additional construction and the purchase of modular buildings, which will provide an additional 4,000 spaces in the near future.

In addition to the creation of additional spaces in installation child care centers DoD has partnered with contract agencies to help meet this critical need. Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, Operation Military Child Care, and Operation Child Care are programs sponsored by DoD and managed by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). These programs help military families who do not have access to a DoD Child Development Center (CDC) find affordable care in their local communities. The goal of Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood is to bring child care fees on the local economy in line with the fee scale established by DoD for CDC programs. This goal is established through referrals to local civilian care centers and some subsidies paid to civilian centers for children enrolled in the program. There are Service-specific guidelines and policies for this program. Operation Military Child Care is available to families of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers who are activated or deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This subsidy program is intended to help support military spouses’ employment, education, or special medical circumstances. Operation Child Care is a voluntary program designed to support the short-term child care needs of National Guard and Reserve members in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. Through this program child care providers across the country have donated a minimum of four hours of child care services to these members who are home on rest and recuperation leave. For complete details on these programs please visit the NACCRRA website, http://www.naccrra.org/MilitaryPrograms/.

In addition to installation Child Development Centers and contract programs DoD operates Family Child Care programs and School-age Care programs. Family Child Care (FCC) provides in home care by certified providers. Recently the FCC program was expanded to include military families living in civilian communities. Previously FCC providers were required to operate from on base or government leased housing. All FCC providers complete comprehensive background checks, are required to obtain licensure, and receive training and support through the local Child and Youth Programs Office. FCC providers are also encouraged to complete accreditation through the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). School-age care (SAC) programs provide care for school-age children age six to twelve. These programs complement the regular school schedule and operate before and after school as well as on school holidays.

NMFA is gratified to see the recognition from both Congress and DoD being placed on this critical issue. Our surveys indicate that high quality, accessible and affordable child care is a primary concern for our military families. This need becomes even more pronounced during deployments when the non-military parent is functioning in the single parent role.

4. Georgia House Approves Bill Benefiting Military Students: On February 9, the Georgia House unanimously passed HB 984, which benefit military families facing the deployment of a servicemember. The bill would amend state elementary and secondary school attendance regulations to grant excused absences for up to five days so that military children may be with their parent prior to the servicemember’s deployment or while on leave associated with the deployment. To view the bill, go to: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/search/hb984.htm. A similar bill, SB 424 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/fulltext/sb424.htm), has been introduced in the State Senate, but has not been acted upon yet. (Source: http://www.wtvm.com/Global/story.asp?S=4496635&nav=8fap)

5. 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 midnight April 15, 2006.

6. Sound Off About Military Pay! In recent years, Congress—thanks in part to the work of NMFA and other military associations—has increased servicemembers’ pay and compensation benefits, including deployment pays and housing allowances. Proposals are continually being floated by policymakers that could change how servicemembers are compensated. What does your family think of current pay and benefits for uniformed services members? How much does the level of pay and other compensation benefits influence your servicemember’s decision to remain in the military? Do military pay and compensation benefits provide an income better than what your family could receive from private sector employment or do the benefits still miss the mark with military families? Would your family like larger pay raises now, more bonuses, or a steady rate of compensation and continued benefits in retirement?

Log on to www.nmfa.org/surveys today and tell us what you think!




Pau.




- hfs

Gym dedicated to injured soldier

Wolfhounds dedicate gym to injured Soldier


In honor of the valor he demonstrated in Iraq, Wolfhound Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment recently dedicated their new weight room to Cagle.
A squad leader in Co. A, 1st Bn., 27th Inf. Rgt., Cagle deployed to Iraq in Feb. of 2004.
In Oct. that same year, on what seemed like a normal day in Iraq, Cagle was severely injured when his squad's convoy was hit with an improvised explosive device.






Pau.




- hfs

2SBCT gets new MEV

New MEV arrives for 2SBCT


A new medical evacuation vehicle made its way into the hands of 2nd Stryker Brigade, Monday, paving the way for the arrival of several Stryker vehicles later this year.
The MEV, a variant of the eight-wheeled Stryker, was sent on loan from the Project Manager Stryker to the 1-14th Infantry for training purposes.
The vehicle is designed to evacuate up to six ambulatory casualties from the battlefield. Its crew includes two medics and one physician, and the vehicle can also carry up to four litters.



Sweet!




Pau.




- hfs

2.13.2006

NMFA Pay and Compensation Benefits Survey

The National Military Family Association is one of the stongest voices for military members and their families. Currently, they are conducting a survey regarding military pay and compensation benefits. You can access the survey HERE.


This is YOUR chance to make your thoughts and opinions known. Don't just bitch...DO SOMETHING.


Was there an aspect of pay and compensation that was not addressed in the survey? Make it known via the comments section at the end of the survey. NMFA uses these surveys to determine which issues to address and take to higher levels of the government, such as Congress.

Hopefully, some attention will be paid to the fact that the Army does not handle the ACIP (Aviation Career Incentive Pay) as it is supposed to nor as the Air Force does. And this discrepancy is costing the Army pilots.




Pau.




- hfs

Ukes for Troops

'Ukes For Troops' a big hit


For $25, they will send an 'ukulele to a soldier, together with songbooks, a tuner and extra strings. Their Web site is www.ukesfortroops.org

A decent 'ukulele costs $75 and up. But Orlando contacted a manufacturer in Hawai'i who agreed to provide them for $21 each.

Orlando and Coyoli-Cullen didn't know which unit should get the first batch. "We picked a (Hawai'i) National Guard unit because we knew they would appreciate it," Coyoli-Cullen said.

They did. As soon as the ukes arrived, the e-mails followed.

"Our soldiers are not strangers to this instrument, but rather talented music entertainers who've learned how to play the 'ukulele from their 'ohana and our tutus," wrote Lt. Col. Norman Saito, commander of the 29th Support Battalion of the Hawai'i Army National Guard.

"For just a brief moment while playing the 'ukulele and singing happily along, it brings out the best of ourselves; and reminiscing (about) our islands and families back home that we miss so much."



That is just too cool!





Pau.




- hfs

2.10.2006

Don Young is an ass...again

Three More Lawmakers Tied to Lobbyist


Two of the elected officials referred to in Friday's filings have been identified in published reports as Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Don Young, R-Alaska. According to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, the two representatives wrote to the GSA in September 2002, urging the agency to give preferential treatment to groups such as Indian tribes when evaluating development proposals for the Old Post Office.



Surprise, surprise, surprise.



Once again, Don Young is an ass. I can't wait to see him get voted out of office next go-round.




Pau.




- hfs

What do you make?

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued: "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: "Those who can: do. Those who can't: teach."

To corroborate, he said to another guest: "You're a teacher, Susan," he said. "Be honest. What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation of honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make? I make students work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face if the student did not do his or her very best.

"I make students wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them think. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them spell 'definitely' and 'beautiful' over and over again, until they will never misspell either one of those words again. I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their final drafts in English.

I elevate them to experience music and art and joy in the performance, so their lives are rich, full of kindness and culture, and they take pride in themselves and their accomplishments. I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart...and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you pay them no attention."

"You want to know what I make? I make a difference. What do you make?"




Pau.




- hfs

Sour grapes make crappy wine

Lone Gun in War Reporting


Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know the admiration I have for Michael Yon. I think he is incredible and his reporting from Iraq (and the U.S.) invaluable.


The LA Times did a piece yesterday on Michael Yon that reminded me a lot of my 4 year old daughter's preschool class in terms of its tone (see link above). I'm not going to pick the piece apart - Greyhawk has already done a perfectly fine job of that, as has ROFASix.

But the Times sure does do a good job of showing itself to be nothing more than a bunch of 4 year olds in terms of their maturity. And that, I believe, is almost insulting to my 4 year old.




Pau.




- hfs

Coach Carter

Ok - this tells you how much time I spend watching TV. I've had the movie "Coach Carter" sitting on top of my TV (via Netflix) for a month now and FINALLY got around to watching it yesterday. Aside from the fact that the movie portrayed teachers as unmotivated,pessimistic, and lazy, I liked the movie. And there was a quote that struck me :


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were all meant to shine as children. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”



Just struck a note, if you know what I mean.




Pau.




- hfs

NMFA - MTV Documentary

Got this in an e-mail today from the National Military Family Association:



Hello I am casting for an episode of MTV¹s award-winning documentary
series, ³True Life². For this particular episode we will be documenting
soldiers who are between the ages of 18-28, are returning home from Iraq or
Afghanistan, and will be re-entering their civilian lives.

I¹m not sure if your organization would be interested in helping me find
stories for this documentary, or if you even have access to servicemen or
women who will be going through this experience in the next few months. If
so, I would love to talk to someone about this show in more detail. Please
feel free to email or call me anytime. Any suggestions or help is greatly
appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

Paulette




If anyone is interested, drop me a line via e-mail at : homefrontsix @ yahoo.com (no spaces) and I'll give you her contact information.




Pau.




- hfs

Army Retuns to Makua Valley

Not Quite Live


In the latest twist to the long-running legal dispute between the Army and both environmentalists and Hawaiian practitioners over live-fire training in the 4,190-acre Wai'anae Coast valley, the Army has returned foot soldiers to Makua — but left out the live fire.





Pau.




- hfs

2.09.2006

Score one for our side

Bush Says Cooperation Thwarted 2002 Attack


President Bush said the U.S.-led global war on terror has "weakened and fractured" al-Qaida and allied groups, outlining as proof new details about the multinational cooperation that foiled purported terrorist plans to fly a commercial airplane into the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast.
ADVERTISEMENT


"The terrorists are living under constant pressure and this adds to our security," Bush said. "When terrorists spend their days working to avoid death or capture, it's harder for them to plan and execute new attacks on our country. By striking the terrorists where they live, we're protecting the American homeland."



Exactly.


Instead of recruiting Arab hijackers, Hambali found Southeast Asian men who would be less likely to arouse suspicion and who were sent to meet with
Osama bin Laden, Bush said.



This scares me. They are evolving.


Under the plot, the hijackers were to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door of a commercial jetliner, take control of the plane and crash it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, since renamed the US Bank Tower, Bush said. In his remarks, Bush inadvertently referred to the site as "Liberty Tower," and immediately afterward, the White House corrected him.


Ok, either the would-be hijackers are dumb and didn't realize that our security measures already screen for shoe bombs OR they knew how weak our security screening was and knew they could get past it. I'm hoping it was the former and not the latter.




To all of our couterterrorism people out there and the guys on the ground, rounding up the bad guys...keep up the good work!




Pau.




- hfs

Thoughts...

Soldier Charged for Armor


I'm glad this is being taken care of. Snafus like this happen when you're dealing with a behemoth bureaucracy like the government. Not that that makes it right or excuses it but I doubt, seriously, that the Amry or the DoD set out to screw THIS soldier.

That being said, someone needs to go have a "chat" with said battalion commander that refused to sign the waiver. I mean, c'mon. Where is the common sense? They guy just about had his arm blown off and the battalion commander is going to ping him for not having the wherewithall while he's trying NOT to bleed to death to hang on to his armor? Please.

However, I don't know that General Schoomaker needed to be dressed down on this one. I'm definitely not one for Chain of Command procedures (want it done right? go see the mucky-muck) but taking this all the way to Schoomaker makes me think that they used a sledgehammer to kill a fly.


Overkill, people. Overkill.


And shame on Senator Byrd...for many things, but primarily for using this situation and this soldier as a means to assail the Army Chief of Staff.




****************************************************

On my way to take Princess Trouble to ballet class, I was listening to Laura Ingraham who is over in Iraq at the moment. She was talking with a Chaplain and he made a comment that I had not given thought to prior to today. He said that, for the most part, the entire community of junior enlisted personnel in the military today enlisted after September 11, 2001. That most of them volunteered to join the military in a time of war.


Think about that.


Would YOU? If it were your spouse, would you object if he/she chose to enlist, given the current world political climate?




When MacGyver enlisted, the concept of war/deployments/etc. was there but it was a distant, foggy, far-off possibility. The worst thing that I thought we would face as a military couple was a 1 year unaccompanied tour in Korea.


Then September 11th happened. Instantly, literally instantly, our life as a military family changed. I honestly did not expect my husband to come home that night. I expected him to deploy - somewhere, anywhere, with a weapon to defend our country. I did not expect him to be there for the birth of our daughter a few days later. I did not expect him to be home for Christmas that year. Instantly, a 1 year unaccompanied tour in Korea was looking like the EASY way.


Less than a year later, MacGyver got ready to apply to flight school. He could have served out his enslitment term and been done with the military. But he didn't. Instead, he chose to extend his committment by 6+ years. And he did so without hesitation. WE did so with out hesitation. I may not wear rank but the military is as much a part of MY life as it is a part of his.

How many other men and women have recommitted to the military since September 11, 2001? Those who have done so, and those who have come into the military since then, have done so for one reason and one reason alone: to serve their country.

They did not do so for the college money. They did not do so for the job training (though both of those are perks). They did so in order that my children may never HAVE to.


And for that, I am eternally greatful.




Pau.




- hfs


(open posted at Mudville Gazette)

2.08.2006

Government and You E-News

February 7, 2006


Here’s the News!

1. DoD Budget Request Calls for Targeted Pay Raises for Some, Increased Health Care Costs for Others: The administration released its FY 2007 budget proposal February 6 with a variety of briefings on proposed funding changes. At the Pentagon, officials discussed pay and quality of life proposals, in addition to funding for weapons systems, operations and maintenance, and research. The DoD budget request totals $493 billion. At Monday’s press briefing, DoD Comptroller Tina Jonas stated the administration proposed to increase pay by only 2.2 percent in 2007 (after 3.1 percent this year), which would be the smallest military pay raise since 1994. Military pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI), the measure of wage grown in the civilian sector. The DoD budget request would also provide an unspecified targeted pay raise for certain warrant officers and senior enlisted members in mid-2007. The proposal includes $1.9 billion for bonuses and incentives to recruit and retain personnel. It would increase funding available for Basic Allowance for Housing by 5.9 percent. In addition, the budget would provide funding to eliminate the remaining 49,000 inadequate housing units on military installations. It would provide other quality of life investments, including $1.5 billion for the construction of living quarters for unmarried enlisted personnel, new child development centers, and for new educational schools and projects. Details of the exact construction proposed will be released soon.

Ms Jonas also referenced the Department’s proposed changes in health care cost shares for many beneficiaries (see item #2 in this newsletter for details on the specifics). She stated DoD’s goal “is to continue to provide the highest quality care to our military personnel and their family by placing the program on a fiscally sound foundation for the long term.” To accomplish the goal, the budget proposal includes $39 billion in 2007, which is an increase of $2 billion over this year. Ms Jonas discussed in general terms the proposed cost shares for retirees under age 65 and their families and survivors. She also emphasized that the increases would not affect active duty members.

DoD budget materials will be posted at: http://www.dod.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2007/index.html.

2. Officials Share Details of Health Care Cost Increase Proposals: As some DoD officials were conducting the press briefing Monday afternoon at the Pentagon on the FY 2007 budget proposal, other officials were briefing military association representatives on the exact details of the proposals affecting out-of-pocket costs paid by military beneficiaries. NMFA’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Tanna Schmidli and Joyce Raezer, Director, Government Relations, attended the briefing hosted by Dr. Stephen Jones, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and BG Elder Granger, Deputy Director of the TRICARE Management Activity. These officials shared the rationale for the increased enrollment fees, TRICARE Standard deductibles, and pharmacy co-payments, aimed primarily at the 3.1 million military retirees under age 65, their families, and survivors. Both Dr. Jones and BG Granger emphasized the quality of the benefit and the quality of the beneficiaries, stating the increases were needed to sustain the benefit in the future for those who had earned it. They highlighted recent expansions in the benefit and stated that beneficiary costs needed to be brought in line both with increases in civilian plans and with the original division of costs when TRICARE began. In 1995, they said, beneficiaries paid 27 percent of the total health care costs, but are paying only 12 percent today. They noted there has been no change in TRICARE premiums in the past 10 years, even as the DoD health care budget has doubled in the past 5 years, going from $19 billion in FY 2001 to $38 billion this year. Internal efficiencies, they claimed, are not enough “to stem the tide of rising health care costs.” They stated that beneficiary behaviors also needed to change, but acknowledged the Department needed to give a higher priority to preventive health programs after association representatives noted that preventive health programs such as smoking cessation are not TRICARE benefits.

As part of the FY 2007 budget proposal, DoD is seeking the following changes:
  • Create a three-tier TRICARE Prime enrollment fee system and increase these fees substantially in FY 2007 and FY 2008, before setting future increases to average changes in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP). Currently all retirees under the age of 65 pay the same annual enrollment fee for TRICARE Prime: $230 for an individual and $460 for a family.
    • Retired junior enlisted members (E-6 and below) would see Prime enrollment fees increase to $275 for an individual and $550 for a family in FY 2007 and $325 and $650 in FY 2008.
    • Prime enrollment fees for retired senior enlisted (E-7 and above) members would increase to $350 and $700 in FY 2007 and $475 and $950 in FY 2008.
    • For retired officers, Prime enrollment fees would increase to $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a family in FY 2007 and $700 and $1,400 in FY 2008, more than triple the current annual fee.
  • Create a first-time-ever enrollment fee for TRICARE Standard, the basic health care benefit to which military servicemembers, retirees, their families, and survivors are entitled. The annual fee would only be charged to retirees under age 65, their families, and survivors.
    • In FY 2007, retired junior enlisted members in Standard would pay $75 for an individual and $150 for a family. In FY 2008, they would pay $140 and $280.
    • Senior enlisted retirees in Standard would pay $100 for an individual in FY 2007 and $200 for a family and $200 and $400 in FY 2008.
    • Standard enrollment fees for officer retirees would start at $150 and $300 in FY 2007 and rise to $280 and $560 in FY 2008.
  • TRICARE Standard annual deductibles would also increase in two tiers over the next two years from the current $150 for an individual and $300 for a family.
    • For all retired enlisted members, they would rise to $175 and $350 in FY 2007 and $185 and $370 in FY 2008.
    • For retired officers, deductibles would increase to $225 for an individual and $450 for a family in FY 2007 and $280 and $560 in FY 2008 (NMFA note to those of you who are shaking your head in wonder as you’re reading: yes that’s right—under this plan, an officer retiree and family would pay an enrollment fee of $560 and then have to pay out of pocket to meet the $560 deductible before DoD would begin paying anything for the benefit they earned!).
  • Change pharmacy co-payments slightly for all beneficiaries, except active duty servicemembers who pay no co-payments. Medications obtained in military hospitals and clinics would remain free. The co-payment for generic medications obtained through the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP) would be eliminated (it is currently $3 for a 90-day supply) and the co-payment for brand-name and the third-tier (non-formulary) drugs would remain $9 and $22 for a 90-day supply obtained through the TMOP. The elimination of the mail order co-payment for generic drugs is one way DoD hopes to persuade more beneficiaries to use the TMOP rather than retail pharmacies. Co-payments for generics in the retail pharmacy will increase to $5 for a 30-day supply and $15 for a 30-day supply of a brand-name. The third tier price of $22 would remain the same.

What will remain the same under DoD’s proposal?
  • The catastrophic cap of $1,000 per year for active duty family members and $3,000 for retirees. The catastrophic cap is the maximum out-of-pocket amount beneficiaries must pay in one year for covered costs.
  • TRICARE Prime co-payments for retirees will remain at $12 per medical visit. There are no co-payments under Prime for active duty members and their families.
  • No cost changes for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries other than the increases in retail pharmacy co-pays.
  • No co-pays for medications obtained in military hospital and clinic pharmacies.

DoD will have to seek legislative approval from Congress for what will probably be the most controversial of its proposed changes. While it has the authority to increase TRICARE Prime enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays, it will need permission from Congress to create the tiered system and institute the TRICARE Standard enrollment fee.

Now that the details of DoD’s proposals are known, NMFA will examine them closely and consult with other military association members of The Military Coalition and with Congressional offices to raise beneficiary concerns. Our initial review of these proposals has left us most concerned about the proposed Standard enrollment fee. We believe the establishment of such a fee destroys the status of TRICARE Standard as an earned benefit and puts it on the same level as any other employer-sponsored insurance plan. Also, officials at the Monday meeting with the association representatives did not have a clear answer to NMFA’s question of what value the Standard beneficiary would receive for their premium other than the “opportunity” to pay a 25 percent cost share (plus an additional 15 percent if seeing a non-participating provider), an increasing deductible, an inpatient hospital cost share of more than $500 per day, and—because of these potential high costs—premiums for a TRICARE supplemental insurance policy.

NMFA will provide more information on actions taken regarding these proposals in future editions of this newsletter.

3. DoD Releases QDR: The Defense Department has unveiled the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), charting the way ahead for the next 20 years. The 92-page report, sent to Congress on February 3, was driven, managed, and authored by senior leaders throughout the department. Its release corresponds with that of the fiscal 2007 DoD budget request, sent to Congress on February 6.

The QDR aims to shift military capabilities to fight terrorism and meet other threats, while shaping a defense structure better able to support and speed up this reorientation. It incorporates lessons learned from operational experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as experience gained in other operations associated with the so-called "long war" against terrorism in places like the Philippines, Horn of Africa, Georgia, and Northern Africa. It promotes more special operations, intelligence gathering, language and cultural capabilities, improved communications and enhanced security-cooperation activities.

The report calls for a transformation in health and health care parallel to other transformation efforts. It acknowledges the Department’s “lifetime relationship with the entire Department of Defense family” and emphasizes the importance of “prevention, wellness and personal choices and responsibility.” It praises the ongoing implementation of DoD’s electronic medical records system. Regarding the health care benefit, the QDR states: “Above all, the Department’s military and civilian senior leaders endorse the need to modernize the TRICARE benefit structure for those customers who are not on Active Duty” in order “to achieve the longest, healthiest lives at the lowest cost.” The report discusses the need to change legislation and rules “to adjust TRICARE cost-sharing features so that they restore the balance Congress created in establishing the TRICARE program in the 1990’s and also to seek authority for Health Savings Accounts.” (p. 73)

The QDR’s limited discussion on what is needed to recruit and train the force focuses on education and training, so that servicemembers have the skill sets them need to meet evolving requirements. The report also discusses the future of the Guard and Reserve, stating the goal that select Guard and Reserve members and units must be more accessible and readily deployable today. The QDR is very much an operational document and so there is scant mention of families in the report other than the statement: “Increasing the adaptability of the Total Force while also reducing stress on military personnel and their families is a top priority for the Department.” (p. 75) Unfortunately, the report does not go into details about how that stress will be reduced. In his “Chairman’s Assessment” of the QDR, General Pace does emphasize the need for a force with enough “depth and critical skills to allow sufficient time for rest and refit between combat assignments.” General Pace also states the importance of “more fully integrating support systems to deliver first class administrative services, supplies, and support programs for our professionals and their families.” The Chairman also emphasizes the importance of providing increased educational opportunities for servicemembers as a part of the quality of life package. (p. A-6).

For more information and to download a copy of the report, go to: http://www.defenselink.mil/qdr/.

4. More Changes Coming to Pharmacy Formulary: DoD recently released the minutes of the December 16, 2005 Uniform Formulary Beneficiary Advisor Panel (BAP) meeting, which highlight the next round of changes to the list of drugs available at certain co-pays for military patients. The BAP reviewed four classes of drugs to include: Alzheimer’s Drugs, Nasal Steroids, Antidepressants (Part 1) and Macrolide/Ketolide Antibiotics. The members of the BAP continued to express their concern to DoD officials that beneficiaries are not receiving timely information on which medications are to move to the third co-pay tier (or non-formulary status). In addition, the entire BAP membership expressed the belief that deployed troops or troops preparing to deploy should be immune from the implementation of any changes, especially for mental health medications such as the antidepressants. NMFA has two members on the BAP, Sydney Hickey who serves as the Chairperson and Debbie Fryar, Deputy Director, Government relations.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, section 701, mandated that the Secretary of Defense establish a Uniform Formulary Beneficiary Advisory Panel to comment on the recommendations for the uniform formulary made by the DoD Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee (P&T Committee). Currently, medications are available under one of two co-payment tiers: generic ($3) and brand name ($9). Any drug in a therapeutic class determined to be either not as clinically effective or as cost effective as other drugs in the class may be recommended for placement in the third co-payment or non-formulary tier ($22). Any drug placed into the third tier will still be available to beneficiaries in retail pharmacies or through the TRICARE mail order pharmacy program but at the higher co-payment. Non-formulary tier drugs will not be available in MTF pharmacies unless the prescription was written by an MTF provider and medical necessity for the drug has been established.

The BAP recommendations were forwarded to Dr. William Winkenwerder, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, who made the final decision in early January. To view a chart summarizing the most recent approved formulary changes, go to: DocServer/Pharmacy_Formulary_December_Minutes.pdf?docID=4461. To read more about the Pharmacy and Therapeutics or the BAP click here: www.pec.ha.osd.mil/. You can review the BAP minutes in their entirety, at: www.tricare.osd.mil/pharmacy/BAP/default.htm.

5. Heads Up! Drugs Moving to Third Tier on February 15: On February 15, 2006, several drugs will move to the third co-payment tier of $22 for a 30 day supply at network retail pharmacies and $22 for a 90 day supply through the mail order pharmacy. Third tier drugs are not available at military treatment facility (MTF) pharmacies unless the prescription has been written by an MTF provider and medical necessity is established. The drugs moving to the third tier are:
  • Alpha 1 Blockers (for prostate hypertrophy): Flomax
  • ACE Inhibitor/Diuretic (for high blood pressure): Accuretic, Uniretic
  • ACE Inhibitor (for high blood pressure): Aceon, Accupril, Quinapril, Altace, Univasc

For more information on the Uniform Formulary and drug tiers, go to: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/pharmacy/default.cfm.

6. What’s in Store for the VA in FY 2007? Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson announced February 6 that President Bush will seek a record $80.6 billion in the fiscal year 2007 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The overwhelming majority of the resources are targeted for health care and disability compensation. The FY 2007 proposal represents an increase of $8.8 billion, or 12.2 percent, above the budget for 2006. The FY ’07 budget proposal calls for $38.5 billion in discretionary funding, mostly for health care. For health care alone, the President’s request is an increase of $3.5 billion (or more than 11 percent) over the FY 2006 level. The budget proposal also would provide $42.1 billion in mandatory funding, mostly for compensation, pension, and other benefit programs.

The budget proposal recycles two provisions from last year. In an effort to help the VA care for those veterans who count on it the most—those with service-connected disabilities—the VA is again asking non-disabled, higher income veterans (Priority 7 and 8 veterans) to pay a $250 annual enrollment fee and higher pharmacy co-payments (from $8 to $15). Priority 7 and 8 veterans were not eligible to receive VA medical care at all, or only on a case-by-case space available basis, until 1999 when new authority allowed VA to enroll them in any year that resource levels permitted. VA officials state these veterans typically have other alternatives for addressing their medical care costs, including third-party health insurance coverage, TRICARE, or Medicare, and thus believe it is acceptable to ask Priority 7 and 8 veterans to assume a modest share of the cost of their care. Secretary Nicholson stated that under no circumstances will a veteran make a co-payment of any kind for the treatment of a service-connected condition.

The FY ’07 budget request is also intended to provide the resources necessary to make servicemembers’ transition from active duty military status to civilian life is as smooth and seamless as possible. Men and women still on active duty should find it easier to access VA benefits when they near the end of their military service because of a program that allows early application for disability claims and other benefits. To read the VA Press Release regarding the budget proposal, go to: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=1075

7. Is a Virtual Career the Right Job for You? Military spouses know that career portability and progression are always a challenge in a military lifestyle. With many spouses moving every two to three years, being “the new person in the office” is not an unfamiliar feeling. Aware of these sacrifices and difficulties military Family Support Centers have teamed up with Staffcentrix, a company that provides training to military spouses in the form of a 14-hour seminar on how to use their computer and business support skills to find home-based jobs.

The seminar, known as The Staffcentrix Portable Career & Virtual Assistant Training Program for Military Spouses™, trains military spouses to build successful businesses that are financially viable, portable, and personally gratifying. Successful candidates are persons who do not require much supervision, are disciplined, “go-getter”, and are able to set their own work schedule and stick to it.

The average daily salary of a virtual assistant can range from $25 to $50 per hour. Virtual employers save on traditional operating costs, employment taxes, and benefits since virtual assistants are independent contractors and are responsible for paying their own employment taxes.

Working as a virtual assistant might not be for everyone, but for those spouses trying to bridge a gap with career progression and a military lifestyle, it is certainly a good start. For further information and a complete list of military installations that have spouse employment professionals on staff who have been certified by Staffcentrix to deliver the program, go to: http://www.msvas.com/MSVATraining.htm

8. Congress Passes Student Loan Relief for Deployed Troops: A bill to provide student loan relief for servicemembers whose college educations were disrupted by deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan has cleared both Houses of Congress and will be sent to the President for signature. A provision of S. 1932, the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, passed on February 1 by the House of Representatives, would defer student-loan payments and the accrual of any interest on student loans for troops deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Such protection was routinely provided to mobilized reservists before a 1992 overhaul of federal education law eliminated the mandatory deferral of student loan payments. The Military Coalition, a group of 36 military-related associations including NMFA, has been asking Congress to provide student-loan relief, including mandating full refunds of tuition paid by anyone called to military service before they are able to earn the course credits. Refunds are not part of S. 1932, however.

Under the bill, student loan payments can be deferred for up to three years for someone who is mobilized during a war, military operation or other emergency. Mobilization in either federal or state status could qualify a servicemember for deferred payments on loans and interest accrual. While mostly aimed at National Guard and Reserve members, active-duty members temporarily assigned away from their permanent duty station also qualify for the loan deferments. The legislation applies to loans made since July 1, 2001. (Source: http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1506966.php)

9. Military-Related Bills Clear Kentucky Senate: The Kentucky Senate recently passed three bills of interest to local military families. Senate Bill (SB) 2, also known as the “Military Families Benefits Bill,” focuses primarily on National Guard and Reserve families, but also has a provision to assist some active duty families. The bill would create a Military Family Assistance Trust Fund. When a Kentuckian is deployed as a member of the regular military outside the United States or a member of the National Guard or Reserve on any federal active duty, the servicemember's family may apply to receive a grant from the trust fund to pay for necessities such as housing, utilities, groceries; health insurance co-pay, and child care.

The Senate also passed SB 47, which would expand to elementary and middle schools what is currently the law for high schools, that one class period be devoted to Veterans Day observances on or near Veterans Day.

Finally, the Senate passed SB 30, which would enable TRICARE-eligible state employees to choose to remain in TRICARE and receive a state-funded TRICARE supplemental insurance policy for themselves and their family members rather than using Kentucky’s public employee health insurance program. This move by the Kentucky Senate is similar to actions by several other states and private employers to encourage military beneficiaries to use TRICARE as their primary insurance rather than using their employer-sponsored insurance. DoD officials cite these actions and the increasing numbers of military retirees opting to remain in TRICARE instead of using their employer-sponsored plans as a major reason for its proposals to increase beneficiary fees and cost shares. (Source: http://news.communitypress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060202/EDIT/602020467/1076/Local)

10. Navy MWR Provides Advise to Military Families Going to Asia: Through a new series of interactive CD-ROMs, Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) can now provide Sailors and their families with a sneak peek of what foreign lands, such as Japan and other parts of Asia, have to offer. The CDs contain informative and entertaining videos about quality of life resources. The interactive function allows Sailors and their family members to link directly to websites containing valuable information on travel, culture and other practical topics.

Topics include housing, currency rates and language. Links in the CD-ROM easily direct Sailors to apartment floor plans or convert dollars to yens. To make shopping and traveling less challenging, the CD translates frequently used phrases from English to Japanese. Phrases range from “thank you” to “where’s the restaurant?” On the CDs, Sailors, family members and civilian employees stationed in the selected overseas locations provide comments and recommendations regarding their experiences at duty stations in Asia.

Although the CDs are primarily focused on Japan, they also contain information about Diego Garcia, Guam, Korea and other countries in the region. CD-ROMs for Europe and the Middle East are also in production. Sailors can request copies to learn more about Rota, Sigonella, Naples, Bahrain, Dubai and much more in Summer 2006. While the CDs are currently out of stock, Sailors can complete information to receive one soon by going to: http://www.mwr.navy.mil/. (Source: http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=22172)

11. 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 midnight April 15, 2006.

12. Sound Off About Military Pay! In recent years, Congress—thanks in part to the work of NMFA and other military associations—has increased servicemembers’ pay and compensation benefits, including deployment pays and housing allowances. Proposals are continually being floated by policymakers that could change how servicemembers are compensated. What does your family think of current pay and benefits for uniformed services members? How much does the level of pay and other compensation benefits influence your servicemember’s decision to remain in the military? Do military pay and compensation benefits provide an income better than what your family could receive from private sector employment or do the benefits still miss the mark with military families? Would your family like larger pay raises now, more bonuses, or a steady rate of compensation and continued benefits in retirement?

Log on to www.nmfa.org/surveys today and tell us what you think!




Pau.




- hfs