Posts Tagged military family resources
By Lisa Daniel
Oct. 11, 2012
The Defense Department is taking internship applications for a program that expands the availability of child care and youth programs, while also giving a leg up to jobseekers in that field, especially military spouses.
DOD and the Agriculture Department formed the Military Extension Internship Partnership in 2010 in concert with a major construction project that started in 2008 to accommodate the growing requests for child care and youth programs, Barbara Thompson, director of DOD’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth, told me recently.
“We thought the program up because we had huge child care growth,” she said. “We were going through a big construction program and increasing the number of child development spaces and we knew we needed to do something on the employment side. We wanted to be grooming our staff along the way so we would have experienced people to take on the role of management.”
The MEIP is taking applications for summer internships between Nov. 30 and Jan. 31 on its website. Read the rest of this entry »
Guest blogger Air Force Maj. Nicholas Sabula is a communication plans officer at the Defense Media Activity. He was selected to a 10-member panel as part of the Defense Department’s Exceptional Family Member Program. He has a son with autism and, off-duty, is an advocate for military families dealing with autism.�
By Air Force Maj. Nicholas Sabula
Defense Media Activity
Recently I had the opportunity to serve on a Defense Department advisory panel dealing with special needs issues across the military.
The panel’s meeting last month in Alexandria, Va., was the third of its kind conducted by DOD’s Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs, or OSN, in the past year to address the Exceptional Family Member Program’s family support priorities.
The panel was comprised of family representatives from all services, including active duty and reserves, and addressed communication issues and concerns from military families. The event was chaired by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Charles E. Milam.
As the father of three boys, one with autism, I took my role in the process very seriously. In reaching out for input from families through networking, meet-ups and even an unofficial online survey, I found myself not only serving not only as the Air Force representative, but also as a joint representative to all our families.
EFMP impacts a lot of families, with enrollment mandatory for active duty families with a special need. As of December, total EFMP service member enrollment was projected at 93,706 with numbers of EFMP family members estimated at 126,153 across services.
The program becomes especially important when planning and making a permanent change of station move. Some families need support before the move to determine if services are available for their particular special needs. Some find that they need family support assistance to navigate the system when they arrive at a new duty station. Contacts must be made with new school staff, to locate medical providers and work with a variety of offices to support providers on or off the installation.
During previous panels, we presented families’ frustrations with accessing information and services and confusion about policy since each service implements a slightly different program. Lack of standardization and consistency at different installations were top priorities. The panel listed as its three key areas for improvement consistency of support, communication and health care.
What I found is that much of the work our panel initially identified and advocated for a year ago was taken to heart by leadership and we are seeing results. OSN recently completed the first phase of an analysis aimed at standardizing service support for special needs families across DOD. The analysis used a series of site visits to installation-level, headquarters-level and any centralized locations dealing with personnel, family support and assignment processes. The culminating activity was a review by the services to look at enrollment and identification; assignment coordination; overseas family travel; and family support.
Ultimately, the outcome is to consolidate these processes and make it easier for families to maintain support from location to location. Simple things like common forms, databases talking to each other, more user-friendly websites to help families as they transition from one location to another, accessibility of information to understand how to obtain care and support from available resources were all presented.
A TRICARE representative spoke about the health care management activity’s efforts to improve communication with families and collaboration with OSN, such as simplifying online navigation. The representative discussed TRICARE’s Patient Centered Medical Home, which the services are implementing and eventually will address many of the panel’s issues related to lack of consistency of medical providers and timely access to specialty care. It places emphasis on personal relationships, team delivery of holistic care, coordination across medical specialties and settings, and increases access to affordable care.
EFMP representatives from each service’s headquarters shared their efforts to improve communication and outreach, as well as awareness on adult-age children or spouses with special needs, respite care and other EFMP initiatives such as joint base support.
I was especially pleased to see that the services are working more closely together to build cohesion across the joint force. It might not sound like much, but as an Air Force family on an Army installation, such cohesion is important and reflects a readiness issue for the military community at large.
Perhaps the hardest part of participating in these panels has been the expectations of families after it ends. It’s hard to tell families that their concerns were presented, but won’t be fixed right now. As I’ve learned, the complexity of coordination and needed approvals at the department or service level means change typically gets accomplished at one speed: glacial.
Despite more work to be done, military families like mine with special needs should see some direct benefits from the recommendations brought forth through this panel, indicating the importance DOD is putting on listening to families’ concerns and working to act on their issues.
There’s still going to challenges with support and services in the short term, but the ball is rolling on lasting improvements to make things better for all our families.
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 12, 2012
With Election Day just seven weeks away, federal voting officials want to ensure that service members and their families are prepared for their votes to be counted.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program has made the voting process easier than ever for Americans serving overseas, Pam Mitchell, the program’s acting director, says. The website includes a tab for each state’s deadlines for registering to vote and casting absentee ballots. It also has online registration and absentee ballot assistance, and includes a mobile app and a widget.
“We firmly believe that voting assistance for our absentee voters is absolutely the best that it’s ever been,” Mitchell said at a Sept. 5 Pentagon news briefing. “There are a lot of tools in our arsenal to help those voters both register, get an absentee ballot and to exercise their right to vote.”
If you prefer to go in person, there are 221 installation voting offices, all of which the program supports. “We’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to every single one,” Mitchell said.
The Military Postal Service Agency provides free, expedited ballot delivery and ballot tracking to your local election office for overseas-based service members and their families. Go to your local post office or postal clerk, use the Label 11 DOD form on your absentee ballot envelope and mail it. Go to www.usps.com to track the status of your ballot, according to the program’s website.
If you haven’t received your ballot by Oct. 6, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, available on the website, as back-up. For each office for which you vote, write in either a candidate’s name or their party designation, the website says.
For additional help with the absentee voting process, contact FVAP at email@example.com or call 1-800-438-8683, DSN 425-1584 (CONUS)/312-425-1584 (OCONUS). It also is available on Facebook and you can follow on Twitter at @FVAP.
“Our goal is to make sure that anyone who wants to vote has the resources and tolls they need form anywhere in the world to successfully exercise that right,” she said.
Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, a volunteer online resource for military families in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information and pet policies in state and federal governments. She partners with nonprofits that specialize in service members and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots.
By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
Aug. 13, 2012
As my military family prepares to move to San Diego next year after almost seven years of Hawaii duty, we are dealing with what many military families endure – how to find a rental that allows our big, goofy well-behaved boxer dogs.
Our society loves pets, with most Americans owning at least one. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of all households have pets, but owners struggle to find affordable and safe rental properties. The National Council on Pet Population and Research found that moving is the most common reason owners give up their dogs, and the third most common reason they give up their cats.
Some of the hardships faced by families with animals are restrictive pet policies, which occur in privatized military housing, off-base rentals and city and state governments. These policies also prevent some pet owners from obtaining insurance when purchasing a home. It’s unfortunate that irresponsible pet owners have caused property owners, rental companies and even city and state governments to adopt such policies, but there are resources to help military families overcome the challenge.
If you’re not ready to buy a home, but determined to find a rental where you can keep your pets, here are some tips to help ensure all members of the family can stay under one roof:
– Check with other military families to find out what’s worked for them. “I have two large dogs, and I started looking early, not because I want to choose a place early, but because sometimes you notice patterns in which rental management companies are more pet friendly. I’ll contact people that say, “no pets” but then offer a larger pet deposit if it’s a house I really like,” said Kristen McDeeLite, a military spouse stationed in Hawaii.
–As soon as you know the location of your next duty station, start looking online. A great resource is the Automatic Housing Referral Network. Sponsored by the Defense Department, this free service lists off-base rentals, privatized military housing, temporary lodging, military-shared rentals, and allows property owners to list their homes for rent. On the listing, there is a paw print next to each rental and information on banned breeds as well as weight, size and numeric limits.
–Contact your sponsor, the base family service center and a local animal shelter. Your sponsor may have a newcomer’s packet with housing information. Talk to families already living there and ask them for recommendations. See if local shelters have a housing pet program or other referral services.
–Call properties that state “no pets” and find out why. Perhaps you can build a rapport with the property owner and better understand their negative experiences. Maybe your family can help them overcome the negative stereotypes caused by irresponsible pet owners.
–Demonstrate to your landlord that you consider your pet a cherished, lifetime, indoor family member. Offer to bring your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet to an “interview” with the property owner and have letters of reference from previous landlords, neighbors, obedience instructors and your veterinarian attesting to the good behavior of your pet(s). Have all veterinarian records handy and offer to sign a pet addendum making you personally liable for damage to property and injury to others.
Moving rarely is a smooth, stress-free process. But preparing early, putting aside savings and planning smartly will help alleviate some of the hassle and help ensure your furry family member arrives at your next duty station happy and healthy.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 6, 2012
Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.
By Theresa Donnelly
With the uncertainty in military families due to constant moves and deployments, our four-legged family members provide comfort and stability in stressful times. These loyal, furry companions not only help those serving our nation, but are ideal friends to anyone in need.
In fact, a growing body of research is backing up what pet lovers already know – canines provide therapeutic benefits for those suffering from life’s invisible scars.
In the U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, Canine-Assisted Therapy in Military Medicine April –June 2012, authors retired Marine Corps Col. Elspeth C. Ritchie and Army Col. Robinette J. Amaker write that the “acceptance of canines in Army medicine and in the civilian world has virtually exploded.” They are the chief clinical officer of Washington, D.C., Department of Mental Health, and the assistant chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps and occupational therapy consultant to the Army Surgeon General, respectively.
The authors cite several examples, such as canines being used to help children cope with autism, shelter dogs trained as services dogs and therapy dogs that help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Now, there is a difference between animal-assisted therapy dogs and service dogs. In 2010, The American with Disabilities Act revised its definition of service animalsto be “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
This regulation on service animals contains no stipulations on breed and even allows miniature horses under special circumstances. There’s no regulatory body for certifying service animals, nor can businesses ask for medical paperwork and/or an identification card for the dog. They can ask if the dog is required because of a disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.
According to the American Humane Association, an animal-assisted therapy dog is designed to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Pet therapy is used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mental institutions and prisons. It also is used in wounded warrior clinics, and veterans’ centers.
Researchers have documented the positive benefits of animal-assisted therapy. In a 2005 study, the American Heart Association found that a 12-minute visit with a therapy dog reduced blood pressure and levels of stress hormones and eased anxiety among hospitalized heart failure patients. There have been additional studies with Alzheimer’s patients, school children in reading programs and even an ongoing study at The Department of Defense’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence where at least 100 service members have participated in the canine therapy program.
Susan Luehrs is the founder of Hawaii Fi-Do, a not-for-profit that sponsors trained therapy dogs’ visits to troops at Marine and Army Wounded Warrior battalions. Here’s how she describes the dogs’ healing effects when asked about the program.
“It’s the unconditional love of the dog that makes this all possible,” Luehrs said. “They don’t care what color you are, if you can read, if you have a missing limb — they’re just there for that touch and [the dogs] give that back.”
Many organizations provide a qualifying process for pet owners to begin therapy work. One example is Tripler Army Medical Center’s Human Animal Bond Program, which collaborates with The American Red Cross and Army Veterinary Services to screen dogs through a series of temperament and health tests to verify that they’ll make good candidates for visiting hospital patients.
The growing field of pet therapy shows that professionals are seeking alternative therapies to help patients deal with stressful circumstances. As this treatment gains acceptance, more pet owners can enjoy pet therapy as a way to bond with their pets and the people they’re helping.
If you’re interested in having your family pet become a therapy animal, ask your military veterinarian if they know of any local programs or contact a few hospitals, schools, the local Humane Society or a veterans’ center. There may be several programs to choose from for just the right fit.
Posted by in Family Matters on August 1, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Aug. 1, 2011
Last week I sat down with Holly Petraeus, wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, to discuss her role as chief of the new Office of Servicemember Affairs, which officially opened for business last week as the military arm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The office is intended to protect service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls through education and enforcement of state and federal laws. Mrs. Petraeus, an Army spouse and longtime financial advocate for military families, was tapped to head up the office earlier this year.
As we talked, Mrs. Petraeus’ passion for the topic of families and finance was evident. Helping troops and their families is more than just a job to her, she told me — it’s personal.
“I’ve lived in this military community my whole life; I have a real heart for these people,” she said. “They’re all raised their hand to do what they do, often at the risk of their lives.”
The office will work to ensure service members and their families receive the financial protection and education they deserve through a threefold mission, Mrs. Petraeus explained. First, it will ensure military personnel are given a quality financial education, she said, “so they’re wise to consumer issues and can avoid the pitfalls out there.”
The office also will monitor consumer complaints and the response to those complaints, she said, and work with other federal and state agencies to help resolve issues.
Although the office is new, Mrs. Petraeus already has taken steps to help families. She recently signed a statement of principles with the judge advocate general of each branch of service to open the lines of communication and to ensure every financially related complaint is addressed. She also has established an informal partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department to help address mortgage and foreclosure issues. People who call her office with mortgage troubles will be referred to a VA home loan assistance program counselor for advice, even when it’s not regarding a VA loan.
Mrs. Petraeus told me she’s thrilled to be in a position where she can help military members and their families.
“My ultimate dream is that no service member signs a contract that they end up regretting for years or signing one that isn’t fair,” she said. “We can write rules and enforce at CFPB, and I’d love to see the real bad actors that go after service members — break the law to harm them financially — I’d like to see them enforced against.”
For more on my interview with Mrs. Petraeus, read my American Forces Press Service articles: “Holly Petraeus Works to Protect Military Families’ Finances” and “New Office Aims to Strengthen Families Financially.”
And please don’t hesitate to write in if you have a lesson learned or tip to share on finances for military families.
Guest blogger Lisa Daniel is Elaine Sanchez’s colleague at American Forces Press Service. – Elaine Sanchez
By Lisa Daniel
May 16, 2011
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this spring along with other service leaders to report on the military’s state of readiness, including the health of the troops. The news mostly was good (see my article “Caring for People Aids Readiness, Official Says”). Despite 10 years of war, recruiting, retention and morale remain strong.
But Bostick’s assessment came with a warning of a troubling trend. The obesity crisis sweeping America has gone beyond health problems for individuals to threatening our nation’s military readiness. That’s because fewer than 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are eligible to serve because they can’t meet physical or educational requirements, Bostick said. A big reason for that: one in five young people are overweight, compared to one in 20 in the 1960s, he said.
“As a nation, together, we must continue to address these concerns,” he said.
Bostick is not the first leader to sound alarms over America’s obesity problem. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has brought the issue into the national spotlight, as well as publicity from doctors, dieticians and others who share their concerns with the media.
There is no shortage of resources aimed at helping people maintain a healthy weight. Many volumes have been written on the values of counting calories — or, more recently, counting carbohydrates — and maintaining regular exercise. Weight loss clinics make millions of dollars by helping people manage their food, drink and exercise.
Even with all this, we remain a nation overweight. Unfortunately, knowledge of a problem isn’t always enough to effect change. Sometimes it takes an emergency.
My family discovered this in January when my 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1, or “juvenile,” diabetes. Unlike Type II diabetes, or “adult-onset” that can be caused by obesity, Type I is an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Natalie was not overweight; as she lamented in the hospital, she eats healthier than many children her age. Read the rest of this entry »
Guest blogger Carol L. Bowers is Elaine Sanchez’s colleague at American Forces Press Service.
By Carol L. Bowers
May 6, 2011
Just as service members serve our nation every day, so, too, do their military spouses.
In recognition of their significant daily contributions, President Barack Obama has proclaimed today Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
“On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we have an opportunity to not only honor the husbands and wives of our service members, but also thank them by actively expressing our gratitude in both word and deed,” Obama said in the proclamation. “We can show our appreciation in countless ways, from offering to help with household maintenance and childcare to encouraging the community involvement and career development of military spouses.”
Here at Family Matters, we encourage you to reach out to military spouses not just today, but every day. We also invite you to send us suggestions about ways to provide support and encouragement to military spouses throughout the year.
Robert L. Gordon III is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. In this blog, Mr. Gordon writes about the partnership that helped launch the 2011 Family Resilience Conference and encourages families to engage a worldwide network of support professionals.
By Robert L. Gordon III
Military Community and Family Policy
May 5, 2011
Last week nearly 2,000 professionals who support family programs gathered in Chicago for the 2011 Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Agriculture Family Resilience Conference.
The conference theme, “Forging the Partnership,” acknowledges DOD’s close relationship with USDA. They have a number of programs that benefit military families and we’ve had a robust working relationship with them for more than 25 years.
This is the first co-sponsored conference to integrate the knowledge, experience, and innovation within USDA’s Children Youth and Families At Risk program, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, and the Department of Defense’s community and family support programs.
This biennial event is a premier professional development opportunity for our world-wide network of military practitioners and their key local partners.
The conference was officially launched when Dr. Catherine E. Woteki, USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics, and I signed a proclamation to formalize the partnership between the Defense and Agriculture departments to better families’ lives.
Sesame Workshop’s CEO Jeanette Betancourt provided the opening address for the conference, with some energetic help from Elmo. Attendees chose from more than 200 seminars that covered the full spectrum of family readiness and resilience programs and practices.
I was continually reminded of the passion for military families as I observed the discussions between our attendees and our speakers, expert panels and workshop leaders on promising tools and practices focused on military families.
Your opportunity to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook continues, even though the conference has concluded. This is an amazing opportunity to engage a worldwide network of family program professionals with your questions, observations and suggestions. I welcome you to take advantage of this opportunity.
In today’s complex social environment surrounding military families, it’s impossible for DOD to provide families with all the support they need to cope with life challenges without active coordination with civilian communities. To address challenges, the DOD must continue to create partnerships with agencies such as USDA, land-grant universities, and the Cooperative Extension Service in providing joint programs in support of military children, youth and families.
Posted by in Family Matters on May 3, 2011
By Deborah Mullen
May 3, 2011
Deborah Mullen, a Navy wife and mom and a military family advocate, has been married to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for 40 years.
During the Month of the Military Child in April, there were picnics and parades, fairs and festivals in communitiesacross the country — all to recognize and honor military children for their special contributions to our nation.
There is no issue nearer or dearer to my heart than reinforcing to our military children that they are, indeed, a key part of the military community and how equally important it is to recognize the sacrifices they make every day.
It’s one thing to be a military child during peacetime, quite another during a time of war. Every day, these young ones shoulder worry, stress and responsibility far beyond their years while mom or dad is deployed. It’s not just the missed birthdays and soccer games or helping mom with extra chores that dad would normally do. It’s the fear that their world can crumble at a moment’s notice.
When their parent comes home, the stress and challenges don’t necessarily disappear. It’s a safe bet dad didn’t return quite the same guy he was when he left. He, too, may have emotional and even physical challenges to face. And he, too, may be afraid … and perhaps even afraid to admit it.
Many of these kids have known only war … only worry.
Dealing with these things months and years on end, demands resilience and toughness – qualities innate to military children and something most are particularly proud of to be sure.
I can personally attest to the inner strength military families develop through deployments, frequent moves and new cultural experiences. There is, of course, much to love about a military life and a lot to value about the richness and diversity it brings to our children’s perspectives.
But as I meet with military families across the country, it is clear to me that a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has challenged them, stretched them, and tested their resilience and strength in unprecedented ways.
That reality isn’t always readily seen or understood by the rest of America.
My husband Michael speaks frequently on this topic. He notes that today, less than 1 percent of our nation’s population serves in uniform.
We are concerned that people who used to have day-to-day connections with military men and women and their families may not know much about them anymore, so they are simply unaware of the stress and challenges these families face — a situation compounded by the fact that most military families bear their burdens quietly.
It is evident to me that people care and want to help. Often, they just don’t know what to do to support our military families in the ways they need it most, particularly as they transition back to their communities and to civilian life.
That’s why April’s Month of the Military Child and May’s Military Appreciation Month are important efforts that help us get moving in the right direction. They keep us talking. They offer avenues for appreciation and action. These things can only strengthen the connections between communities and our military. I also believe they can only strengthen our country.
There are many ways, big and small, to get involved. However people choose to support, the concept is straightforward. Our military men and women and their families do so much and sacrifice so much to take care of America. This is about doing everything we can to — together — take care of them … not just in April or May but year round.