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Deportation Fears for More Military Families

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By Debbie Gregory.

With a number of military spouses facing deportation, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would need to look into whether there may be additional protections for them.

While Mattis said he had reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that active duty forces, Reserve, Guard and honorably discharged veterans who are under the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be protected from deportation (as long as they didn’t have any standing court orders or serious felony convictions) it is not known whether those protections would be extended to their spouses.

“I’ll have to check on that and get back to you,” Mattis said.

Numerous military families, both active duty and veteran, are concerned about their undocumented spouses or dependents facing possible deportation.

The last thing deployed service members need to be thinking about is the deportation of their spouses while they are away. To that end, spouses of active-duty troops or veterans have been eligible for “Parole in Place,” or PIP, a relief that allows spouses, children and parents of active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops and veterans who entered the U.S. illegally to remain in the country and pursue a green card.

The law was put in place in 2007 to come to the aid of Yaderlin Hiraldo, the wife of Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez. Hiraldo entered the U.S. illegally, and Jimenez was killed in Iraq before they could complete her green card request.

In 2006, the couple was granted a deferment of immigration proceedings until Spc. Jimenez returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. However in June of that year, the government announced its intent to deport Hiraldo, despite the fact that her husband was declared missing along with two other soldiers. The case quickly received national attention and the involvement of influential U.S. Senators John Kerry and the late Ted Kennedy.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Majority of Young American Adults Are Unfit for Military Service

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By Debbie Gregory.

The failure of Americans from 17- 24 years old to meet weight and fitness standards, as well as issues with conduct, medical concerns, mental health, and substance abuse are causing significant recruiting problems for the military.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the prospects that are in college or the ones who have no interest in military service.

A big misconception is that military service disproportionately attracts minorities and men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many believe that troops enlist because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country.

But often times, military service is a family tradition. Some 80% of recruits currently entering the military have family members who served, with between 22% and 35% being the children of veterans.

As the veteran population shrinks, the obligation to serve is increasingly being shouldered by a small subset of multigenerational military families. A soldier’s demographic characteristics are of little importance in the military, which values honor, leadership, self-sacrifice, courage, and integrity-qualities that cannot be quantified.

There are a number of ways that the military is looking to beef up its numbers. Besides aggressive marketing, the service branches are offering incentives such as relaxed standards, monetary bonuses, sabbatical leaves, and of course, the great GI Bill benefits.

There is also a big push to recall veterans to active duty.

But will this be enough?

“If we don’t turn this around, where does the world’s strongest military recruit from?” asked Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican and former Air Force one-star general.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Website Helps Military Families Find Child Care Worldwide

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By Debbie Gregory.

MilitaryChildCare.com (MCC) could be a game-changer for military parents.

The online portal allows military parents to access comprehensive information on military-operated and military-subsidized child care options worldwide. It enables families to search for and request care, manage their requests, and update their profile online, making it easier for families to find the child care they need. MCC supports requests for full time and part time care.

The goal of the program is to reduce the wait time for child care, and to give parents timely information about the status of their care requests.

Since launching in January 2015, the number of families using the child care portal has grown steadily, with 141,287 families registered and using the system for their child care. The Navy is the executive agent for the program for all the services.

The central gateway allows parents to search online, from anywhere in the world, for military child care of a variety of types at multiple installations in any given area.

Previously, each installation maintained its own waiting list; the website means parents no longer have to sign up for waiting lists in person. If offered a space at one program, parents can accept while remaining on waiting lists for other locations they may prefer.

The Department of Defense provides child care through more than 700 child development centers, school-age care facilities and about 2,600 family child care homes. It services approximately 180,000 children each day, ranging in age from birth to 12 years. The system includes at over 230 locations worldwide. Fees are based on Total Family Income and apply to all children who attend the program on a regular basis.

The MCC help desk is available by calling the toll free number at 855-696-2934 or emailing [email protected], [email protected], or  [email protected].

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Proposal to Cut Housing Stipends For Dual-Military Couples

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By Debbie Gregory.

When it comes to finding ways to save money, the last place Congress should look is at military families, especially when both spouses are active duty service members.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering a proposal that would require dual military couples to receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipends at the “without dependents” rate, regardless as to whether or not they have children.

Currently, dual military couples without dependents each receive their respective BAH.  In dual military families with dependents, the higher ranking service member receives BAH at the with-dependent rate and the lower ranking service member receives BAH at the without-dependent rate.

The BAH allowance is determined by geographic duty location, pay grade, and dependency status. It provides uniformed Service members equitable housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets within the United States when government quarters are not provided. For servicemembers stationed outside the U.S. who are not furnished with government housing, there is Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA).

If enacted, this change would affect approximately 6.4% of active duty service members in dual-military marriages.

The proposed plan would save roughly $300 million over the next five years.

The Senate believes that the current BAH is too high, since the payout rates are typically higher than the cost of living in the areas where service members are stationed. But the Pentagon argues that BAH is a necessary part of military family compensation.

“While there would be some monetary savings in the BAH program achieved through implementation of a limitation of BAH payments for dual-military couples, the department objects to any limitation based solely on housing or marriage choices,” a DoD spokeswoman said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Family Vacations

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Make time to make memories! It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But Armed Forces Vacation Club knows how difficult it can be for military families to find time to take a vacation. So when the stars (and schedules) align and you’re able to carve out a week or even just a few days of time, we want to help you make the most of your vacation. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stick to a budget – Nothing adds extra stress to a vacation like being surprised by how much everything costs. Try to do some pre-planning to anticipate things like how many meals you need to eat out, which activities you’ll need to pay for and any other additional costs that could pop up. A little extra research can help remove the sticker-shock factor of your vacation.
  2. Look for accommodations with extra space – Spending time together is always special, but sometimes you need just a little added space to keep those happy feelings going. Traditional hotel rooms can tend to be a bit cramped, and make it feel like you’re on top of each other. Try out a vacation rental for some breathing room – accommodations typically separate living and sleeping spaces, so you can protect those sacred nap times!
  3. Don’t over plan – Vacation is meant to be at least a little relaxing! Don’t get us wrong, having a plan is ALWAYS a great idea, but know your families limits and don’t plan to push them beyond. Try starting with one planned activity per day and go from there.
  4. Capture the moment – Remember to clear out some space on your smartphone before you set off on vacation so that you’ll be ready to take lots of pictures of all the smiles, activities and more while you’re away. Grab a few disposable cameras for the kids to document the trip from their perspective too!

Remember these tips when planning, and the memories you make on your family vacation are sure to be your most valuable souvenirs.

Looking for more tips on how to plan the best possible Family Vacation, check our AFVC’s Family Vacations article and more in their Vacation Planning Resource Center.

P.S. Don’t forget that Armed Forces Vacation Club offers free membership for all active duty, guard, reserve and retired members of the Armed Forces, as well as civilian employees of the DOD. Join today!

Survey Reveals Many Mil Parents Don’t Want Their Children to Enlist

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By Debbie Gregory.

In what would have been almost unheard of in past decades, a new  survey of military families revealed that a majority of active-duty military families — 57 percent of them — said they were unlikely to recommend that their own children join the service.

In the past, military families tended to remain military families. But the Blue Star Families survey revealed a shift, which could be due to the multiple deployments faced by current and recent servicemembers. In the past 15 years, servicemen and women have been sent on multiple rotations to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another factor, according to Kathy Roth-Douquet, president and CEO of Blue Star Families, is the cuts in benefits.

“It’s the reductions in forces at the same time as we are increasing our mission,” said Roth-Douquet.

Blue Star said 72 percent of active duty personnel and their spouses found the rate of deployments created too much stress for them. “Among active duty and military spouses who indicated they planned to leave service in the next two years, deployment was the top stressor for both groups with 83 percent and 85 percent, respectively,” the report reads.

Repeated moves also have a serious effect on military spouse employment. Many spouses cannot get or keep jobs. More than 20 percent are unemployed, the survey found, and many more are underemployed.

Fewer than half of military families in which one spouse is a civilian earn two incomes, compared to 66 percent of non-military couples, the survey found.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Mil Families Await Action on Tricare Autism Coverage

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By Debbie Gregory.

Now that the 2016 presidential election is in the books, Congress needs to finish work on a fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill that is already overdue.

This unfinished business is of the utmost importance for military families who have children with autism.

Language in both the House and Senate versions of the defense bill orders the Department of Defense to restore TRICARE reimbursement rates for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder to the higher levels paid until last April.

Rate cuts to the benefit have spurred many ABA providers to discontinue their care for some 13,000 military children. The low fees make it impossible for these providers to run their businesses.

ABA therapists work with children, often in their homes, to increase or decrease targeted behaviors and to help them acquire language, daily living or play skills. It also can involve intensive behavioral interventions.

The managers of TRICARE autism care recently held their third “roundtable discussion” this year with ABA providers and regional contractors to discuss current operations and changes ahead.

TRICARE fees typically are set to match those paid by Medicare.  Because Medicare has no rates for ABA therapy, TRICARE decided to use local Medicaid rates plus 28 percent, which is the average difference between Medicaid and Medicare rates for other common mental health therapies.

Tricare had been reimbursing for ABA therapy at $125 an hour for providers with doctorate or master’s degrees, $75 for those with bachelor’s degrees and $50 for technicians with high school diplomas and ABA training.

The reduced reimbursement rate was cut to $114 for doctorates, $107 for master’s degrees, $67 for bachelor degrees and $40 per hour for technicians.

Let’s hope that this issue receives top priority.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

The Top Ten Financial Benefits for Military Families

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By Debbie Gregory.

Are you taking advantage of some of the best financial benefits afforded to military families? A quick review of the following list will help you answer that question:

  1. Tuition-free college-Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges are covered for up to 36 months, or up to $21,970 per year for private colleges and foreign schools. Another added bonus is the housing stipend and money for books and supplies. Choosing a yellow ribbon school will stretch the benefit even farther.
  1. Veterans Administration loans – VA loans allow you to buy a house with no money down, and without having to purchase private mortgage insurance.
  2. Tax-free BAH- The monthly subsidy covering all or part of your monthly rent or mortgage payment as long as you’re in the military is tax-free.
  1. Low interest loans- Each branch of service has its own emergency-relief fund that offers small, interest-free loans for emergencies.
  1. Low-cost life insurance- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance costs a mere 7 cents per $1,000 of coverage/ month. This totals $336 a year for the maximum $400,000 coverage.
  2. Legal protection- The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides special legal benefits, including an interest-rate cap of 6% on any loans you took out before you were called to active duty and the right to terminate a lease due to PCS.
  3. Guaranteed return- The military’s Savings Deposit Program lets deployed servicemembers invest up to $10,000 in the program each time you are deployed. You receive 10% annual interest, compounded quarterly; the program lasts for up to three months after your return.
  1. Tax-Free Roth IRA- Servicemembers who are receiving tax-free combat-zone pay can deposit up to $5,500 into a Roth IRA, tax-free, and earnings come out tax-free as well.
  1. Low-cost retirement savings plan- The Thrift Savings Plan charges an annual expense ratio of just 0.029% of assets — whereas annual fees and expenses for 401(k) plans average between 1% and 2%.
  2. State tax breaks- If your legal residence is in a state that has no income tax, you can be shielded from taxes if you move to another state while on active duty.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

What Does Clinton Have Planned for Military Families?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton plans to strengthen services and support for military families who serve alongside our service members.

“It is little wonder that service members’ concern for their family’s well-being is a top consideration in whether troops stay in or leave the force,” according to Clinton’s military families agenda.

Mrs. Clinton said that members of the military should be able to easily switch between active-duty, National Guard and reserve service in order “to make decisions good for their family and maintain a career with the military.”

She believes nobody should have to choose between serving their country and taking care of their family.

Hugh Rodham, Mrs. Clinton’s father, was a chief petty officer at Naval Station Great Lakes during World War II. He instilled in her, at an early age, the importance of supporting our men and women in uniform, military families, and veterans, and empathy for the challenges that many service members and veterans face.

Additionally, since the number of married couples who both are in uniform has vastly increased, Mrs. Clinton wants the duty assignment process overhauled so that more spouses can serve near each other without either of them losing ground in their careers.

Several other elements of her military family platform include improved child care, both  on and off base; expand maternity and paternity leaves; and expanded employment assistance for civilian spouses of service members.

Mrs. Clinton wants to ensure that the men and women who risk their lives for our country have access to a good education and good jobs when they come home by solidifying services and programs that connect veterans to jobs after their service.

“I believe in making sure that people who sacrifice for us are given all the care and the benefits and support that they need. And I believe strongly that taking care of our veterans is part of our solemn duty as Americans.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Study Reveals Huge Economic Loss Due to Unemployment of Military Spouses

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By Debbie Gregory.

Military spouses have been and continue to be the backbone of military families. Unemployment and underemployment of military spouses not only affects individual families, but it’s costing the U.S. economy — to the tune of about $710 million to $1 billion a year, according to a new report

The cost is calculated by adding up lost federal income tax, unemployment benefits, and health care costs.

Military spouses face hurdles in their job search that their civilian counterparts do not.

There are those who think that military spouses don’t need to work. Some do. Some want to. But that should be their decision.

They move. A lot. The average military spouse will move 8-12 times over the span of a 20 year career. This could easily be seen as a problem when an employer looks at a resume.

Often times, military bases are in the middle of nowhere, making jobs scarce. Remote military locations have limited types of jobs, not all of which are suited for military spouses.

Military spouses are often filling the role of both parents.

It doesn’t get much easier post-transition. As the drawdown continues, transitioning military families need new incomes. In some cases, transitioning military families need dual incomes to replace the pay and benefits from the military service, and in others, the service member may not be able to work, due to school attendance, disability, addiction or PTSD.

The answer to this problem? For starters, employers need to be educated on the qualities that military spouses and veteran spouses have, and the skills they bring to prospective employers.

Employees who are part of the Military Spouse Employment Program understand the added benefits that military spouses can bring to the table.

If you are in a hiring position, we hope that when military spouses and veteran spouses come across your radar, you give them a fair chance.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.