Benefit News

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11/24/10

Chaplain urges military spouses to avoid 'compassion fatigue'

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., Nov. 23, 2010 -- With almost all the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Afghanistan, military spouses here have their hands full taking care of each other. Day in and day out, they're called on to help a suddenly-single parent juggle work, kids and household chores, and set aside time to visit with the lonely wife who needs a friend. Too often, they find themselves consoling a widow who has just learned of her husband's death as they quietly wonder if they'll be the next to receive that dreaded knock on the door. Maj. Stanley Arnold, a family life chaplain here, praised the outpouring of family support that's become a hallmark of the 101st Airborne Division's "Screaming Eagles" and nearly every other military organization. But he's also concerned he's seeing signs of "compassion fatigue," with spouses already laden with their own responsibilities and burdens giving so much of themselves that there's sometimes little left to draw on.

11/18/10

Program Easing Medical Separation Rolls Out Forcewide

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2010 – A pilot program that eases medical separation and speeds benefit payments for servicemembers too wounded, sick or injured to stay in the military will soon roll out to the entire force. “We are proud that the disability evaluation system is making progress,” a senior defense official said this week. “Our people are committed to not only expanding this faster disability system, but we are just as committed to making it even faster and fairer for our transitioning service men and women - our work here is not done.” John R. Campbell, defense deputy undersecretary for wounded warrior care and transition policy, said the Integrated Disability Evaluation System is a joint effort between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. “The events in February 2007 around Walter Reed … triggered the DOD and the VA to really take a look at what they had been doing,” Campbell said during an interview this week. “That process then continued … to where we are today.” The program will expand to all military medical sites across the services by October 2011, he said.

11/18/10

Groundbreaking for new medical center set for Dec. 6

FORT HOOD, Texas -- Groundbreaking for Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center's new hospital is scheduled for Dec. 6, signaling the start of a $534 million project that will consolidate services and enhance access to medical care for thousands of Fort Hood Soldiers, family members and retirees. Construction of the 947,000 square-foot facility is slated to begin in April just south of the current medical center on the site of the old Fort Hood stadium. It is expected to be open for patients in late summer 2015. "We're excited to see the project begin as it brings us one step closer to providing increased access to care and more health care services in line with the 21st century warfighter," said Col. (Dr.) Steven Braverman, CRDAMC commander. The original Darnall hospital opened in 1965 to serve 17,000 Soldiers, with an addition in 1984 added to serve 39,000 troops. Today, the hospital serves roughly 45,000 Soldiers, as well as nearly 125,000 family members and retirees within a 40-mile radius.

11/17/10

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness now more accessible to families

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2010) -- Army family members can now use the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness global assessment tool and all its online self-improvement modules without having a sponsored Army Knowledge Online account. While family members have been able to participate in CSF for the past nine months, program participation required them to have AKO accounts. These accounts needed to be sponsored by a military member, which was cumbersome, according to the program's director, Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum. She said that's all changed now.

11/09/10

Army launches new website for wounded warriors

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Nov. 9, 2010) -- The Army Warrior Transition Command launched a new website covering issues identified in feedback from wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans. The new site, www.WTC.army.mil, was designed to be a comprehensive source of information on Army warrior care for more than 16,000 wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans.

11/03/10

Warrior Care Month - 'Army Strong - Family Strong: caring for warriors by supporting Soldier Families'

Warrior Care Month - initiated in 2008 - is a month-long program to highlight the many ways the Army is and will continue to make available meaningful programs for the care and well-being of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and their families and caregivers. At installations throughout the Army, celebrations of families, information sharing about what the Army can do for these families, and what the Army has planned for the future will be told in a wide-variety of ways. Warrior Transition Unit leaders and Army Wounded Warrior Program advocates will be spreading across their installations, and to the communities within which Soldiers and their families live to let everyone know how committed the Army is to making life as comfortable as possible.

11/01/10

President proclaims November as Military Family Month

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2010 -- President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation designating this month as Military Family Month. Here is the text of the president's proclamation: We owe each day of security and freedom that we enjoy to the members of our Armed Forces and their families. Behind our brave service men and women, there are family members and loved ones who share in their sacrifice and provide unending support. During Military Family Month, we celebrate the exceptional contributions of our military families, and we reaffirm our commitments to these selfless individuals who exemplify the highest principles of our Nation.

10/30/10

Disability Pilot Program Going Global

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation met this week in Washington and heard from the VA's Executive Director of the VA-DoD Collaboration Service, Mr. John Medve, who announced that the Disability Evaluation System (DES) pilot program will be expanded worldwide to replace the existing DoD legacy program over the next twelve months.

10/29/10

Army working to improve care for families of fallen

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 29, 2010) -- Nickayla Myers-Garner and her husband Capt. Mark Garner discussed his final wishes before he deployed to Afghanistan ... wishes she hoped she'd never have to carry out. But on July 6, 2009, Mark was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy in the Agrandab District of Afghanistan. "Mark planned his funeral, I only implemented it at a time when I was so stressed out that it was hard to even think straight," Myers-Garner said, now thankful that he had left such detailed instructions. "I'm lucky I had that ... it was a gift Mark gave me." Myers-Garner explained during a Family Forum on military survivors at the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, that discussing final arrangements with loved ones is an uncomfortable but necessary task to carry out before deployments. She said that without her husband's directions, she would have been overwhelmed during her time of mourning.

10/27/10

DOD unveils smart phone mental health application

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2010 -- A free smart phone mobile application that will help servicemembers, veterans and family members track their emotional health is now available, Defense Department officials announced this week. The application was developed at the National Center for TeleHealth and Technology at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "Our mission here ... is to leverage technology to support the behavioral health needs of servicemembers and families," Perry Bosmajian, a psychologist with the center, told American Forces Press Service.

10/22/10

Program links reservists, guardsmen, families to jobs

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2010 - A program that links reserve and National Guard members, their families and veterans with civilian employers has reached a milestone, with more than 1,000 employers now signed on to hire qualified job-seekers. The Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, originally an Army Reserve initiative that has expanded militarywide, is growing by leaps and bounds as it helps both the military and civilian employers tap into the same talent pool, reported Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, who founded the program.

10/22/10

SecDef changes discharge authority for 'Don't Ask' law

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2010 -- Given the uncertainty over the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has directed that any discharges under the law be made by the service secretaries in consultation with the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the defense general counsel. More uncertainty over the law looms, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals approved a stay of an injunction issued October 12 on the law. The court's action means "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is once again the law of the land after eight days of the injunction.

10/20/10

Electronic options move the vote

All voters have at least one option for getting a blank ballot electronically Voting for military members, their families and overseas citizens is easier now than ever before. More than half the States post absentee ballots online for military and overseas voters. Additionally, voters from all 55 states and territories can use the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) online Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot automated assistant to vote for at least all federal candidates. For specifics of what each of these states has available including links to the state specific sites, see the attached Electronic Voting Systems Fact Sheet.

10/20/10

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness looks at one-year milestone

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 20, 2010) -- Just one year after the Army first implemented the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, its director is impressed with the number of Soldiers who have participated in the program and with how many have said it is effective. The CSF program was designed to enhance the "five dimensions of strength" -- the physical, emotional, social, familial and spiritual, said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the program's director. She has also said she hopes the Army will come to culturally view mental toughness in the same way it expects physical toughness.

10/13/10

Stigma for seeking mental health decreasing

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 13, 2010) -- Openly discussing the damage stigma does to Soldiers in need of mental health services is a step toward eradicating the problem, said an Army suicide-prevention leader Tuesday. Stigma and fear of career repercussions are top reasons Soldiers are reluctant to seek mental health assistance, said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director of the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Council and Task Force. "The issue of stigma in the Army is real," Philbrick said and explained that while the culture of the Army seems to be changing in regards to mental health, the 'tough guy' mentality has not disappeared. Philbrick said that today, Soldiers are expected to deal with traumatic events and "drive on." And while that attitude is still necessary to accomplish missions, Philbrick explained that leaders now recognize that some Soldiers need to get help in order to successfully return to their units.

10/07/10

Military launches domestic violence awareness campaign

The Defense Department is observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by reminding the military community about resources and programs to help in preventing or stopping domestic violence. President Barack Obama issued a National Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation Oct. 1, emphasizing the U.S. government's commitment to reducing its prevalence, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.

10/05/10

Army creates new scenario-based suicide-prevention video

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 5, 2010) -- In an effort to re-vamp the Army's suicide-prevention program, a new scenario-based video has been created to supplement the growing arsenal of training aides which promote life preservation. "The Home Front," which has not yet been officially released, will feature six scenarios that focus on difficulties Soldiers face both at war and at home. It is a sequel to last year's "Beyond the Front," and a third video is planned for next year.

10/05/10

New website offers public health, healthy living info

The U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional) launched its new website today, making Army-related public health information more accessible to Soldiers and retirees, their families, Army civilians, and medical and other professional colleagues. "Our mission is to promote health and prevent disease, injury and disability in the Army family," said Shawn Bowman, site content manager. "To that end, we've reorganized our content to help our users get to public health information in a more ordered fashion than our old site did, and to encourage them to communicate with us about what they need."

10/04/10

Commentary: Army seeks end to domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is like toxic mold - it thrives in hidden, dark corners, but dies when exposed to open air. This used to be a hidden crime, if it was taken seriously at all - either viewed as a normal part of family life, or as too shameful to be mentioned publicly. Many people even thought domestic violence was funny - any of you remember Ralph Kramden, on the old "Honeymooners" TV show raising his fist and promising, "One day Alice - pow - right in the kisser?" One of the great, positive changes in Army culture over the years is the ever-increasing willingness to acknowledge and talk about domestic abuse in Army families. There are resources available for families seeking assistance, places for victims to go for help, advocates and counselors to monitor the situation. It hasn't always been that way.

10/02/10

Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay extended

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 1, 2010) -- The deadline for eligible servicemembers, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay has been extended to Dec. 3. The change allows personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned, officials said. To apply, or for more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to www.defense.gov/stoploss. Soldiers can also go directly to the Army's website at www.stoplosspay.army.mil. The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Barack Obama yesterday, providing funding for federal government operations through Dec. 3, 2010.

09/20/10

Suicide Prevention - we don't have to be experts, we just have to care

FORT POLK, La. -- Suicide. In 2006, it was the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 33,300 deaths, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And in the Army population, this year suicide has become the third leading cause of death. But statistics are too sterile. They do little to depict the tragedy, the ugliness, the shocking brutality of suicide ...

09/17/10

Gates: Nation will bring home missing troops

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2010 - Standing in front of rows of sharply dressed troops today, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates underscored the Defense Department's commitment to bringing every missing servicemember home. "For our nation's missing, we must close the gap," the secretary said. "We must find the fallen. Your love for them will never die, and their country's efforts to get them home will never cease." Gates joined a group of military and civilian leaders, veterans and families on the east side of the Pentagon for a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony. A sea of family members and supporters filled several rows; their badges prominently displaying a missing or recovered loved one's name.

09/15/10

President's new video encourages troops to claim 'stop loss' pay

WASHINGTON (Sept. 15, 2010) - The White House, Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs jointly released a new web video today in which President Obama encourages active-duty troops and veterans to apply for special retroactive stop-loss pay, if entitled. Under legislation signed into law last year, servicemembers may be eligible for $500 per month in retroactive pay for each month their service was extended under "stop loss" between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009.

09/13/10

New resiliency center in Iraq to help Soldiers relax

CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2010) - The Taji Warrior Resiliency Campus held its grand opening Sept. 7, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a lecture on resilience by the director of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. "This is my first trip to Iraq since 1991, and I can think of no better reason to be here than for this ribbon cutting," said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, a Desert Storm prisoner of war. "This resilience center is exactly what CSF was intended for; it is an opportunity to make good people better."

09/09/10

TRICARE Retired Reserve launches

FALLS CHURCH, Va. - For the first time, members of the Retired Reserve who are not yet age 60, the so-called "gray area" retirees, can purchase TRICARE health coverage for themselves and their eligible family members with the Sept. 1, 2010 launch of TRICARE Retired Reserve, or TRR.

09/09/10

New clinics bring health care to families

Active-duty family members who live near some Army installations soon will have an additional option for health care, without traffic, waiting time, expense and frustration that may sometimes be involved with going to on-post medical facilities or TRICARE network providers.

09/07/10

Home again: service members and reintegration

STUTTGART, Germany -- When a deployment ends, service members and families may feel like their troubles are finally over. However, it takes time to recuperate from spending months to a year in a combat zone. And, the adjustment isn't always easy.

09/03/10

'The Warrior Pose': Army considers yoga to treat Soldiers' pain

FORT MEADE, Md. -- Sgt. 1st Class Felicie Spencer takes medication for the pain she experiences from an injury. But for a few months this spring, Spencer attended yoga classes at Gaffney Fitness Center. A member of Fort Meade's Warrior Transition Unit at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, Spencer said the practice soothed her discomfort.

09/02/10

Army launches 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' online inbox

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 2, 2010) -- The Army launched a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' online inbox today specifically available for Soldiers worldwide to share comments and opinions. The inbox is accessible via the Army Knowledge Online homepage. The intent of the inbox is to help the Army assess and consider the impacts, if any, a change in 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law would have on operations, readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and family readiness.

08/23/10

New address for paperwork of retiring officers

The Officer Retirements and Separations Section of the Human Resources Command will be operating from two locations for the remainder of the summer because of the phased move of HRC to Fort Knox, Ky.

08/23/10

Thousands strain Hood mental health system

FORT HOOD, Texas — Nine months after an Army psychiatrist was charged with fatally shooting 13 soldiers and wounding 30, the nation’s largest Army base can measure the toll of war in the more than 10,000 mental health evaluations, referrals or therapy sessions held every month.

08/20/10

Commissaries not affected by egg recall

Commissaries have not carried any of the 380 million eggs affected by a nationwide recall, Defense Commissary Agency officials announced. An outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis has sickened hundreds of people around the country, leading to the recall of certain shell eggs. DeCA officials will continue to monitor the situation, and if the egg recall expands to commissaries, officials will place signs in stores and post alerts on the commissary system’s Facebook page, and through its website’s food safety alerts.

08/19/10

20 senators form Military Family Caucus

Like their counterparts in the House, senators have formed a bipartisan military family caucus to focus on issues facing military families, and improve programs and services for them. The group of 20 senators is led by co-chairs Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Richard Burr, R-N.C. According to a statement issued by the co-chairs, the caucus will focus on child care, education, spouse employment, health care, and the effects of multiple deployments on the mental health and well-being of spouses, caregivers and children.

08/19/10

Advocates push changes in VA service dog policy

An inconsistent policy that can sometimes bar a veteran from entering a Veterans Affairs Department hospital or clinic accompanied by a service dog — even one approved by VA — has prompted a Florida lawmaker to demand a change in regulations. The problem, according to Rep. Ron Klein, D-Fla., is that current law and policy prohibits animals other than guide dogs for the blind from entering VA facilities without written permission. Rules require exceptions to be approved on a case-by-case basis, and some medical centers and clinics have been reluctant to provide permission.

08/02/10

DOD Announces School Year 2010/2011 Child Care Fee Policy

The Department of Defense announced today the school year 2010/2011 child care fee policy. The policy will adjust fee ranges in child care programs across the services and will be implemented no later than Sept. 30, 2010. Changes will impact families who have children enrolled in DoD child development centers and school age care programs.

07/29/10

Bill to change new GI Bill coming Thursday

A compromise veteran’s education bill that would modify the year-old Post-9/11 GI Bill could be introduced in the House of Representatives as early as Thursday by an Idaho lawmaker. Sponsored by Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, an Army veteran, the bill represents an agreement between major veterans’ service organizations and the Veterans Affairs Department on ways to fix, improve or otherwise modify the benefits program that was launched Aug. 1, 2009.

07/29/10

Oct. 21 is last day to apply for stop-loss pay

Time is running out for current and former troops involuntarily held on active duty beyond their service commitments to apply for retroactive $500 monthly payments. The wartime special pay program applies to all service members who served from Sept. 11, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2009, and were kept on duty beyond their original separation, resignation or retirement date under the military’s stop-loss policy.

07/27/10

Panel votes to ease income rules on VA pensions

A House subcommittee has expanded the types of income that would not be counted in determining eligibility for pensions aimed at veterans with low incomes, and has found a way to pay for the change that improves its chances of becoming law.

07/27/10

New Campbell building serves wounded warriors

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A $6 million center to serve the needs of wounded soldiers and their families at Fort Campbell opened its doors Tuesday. The Soldiers and Families Assistance Center, which has been in operation since 2007 and was previously housed in an older building, now has 15,000 square feet of offices, computer labs, a child care center, a recreation room and other services to assist soldiers who are ill or injured.

07/24/10

1 Soldier in 9 exits Army for mental disorder

The number of soldiers forced to leave the Army solely because of a mental disorder has increased by 64 percent from 2005 to 2009 and accounts for one in nine medical discharges, according to Army statistics.

07/23/10

Revised NCO course will begin on Oct. 1

After several years of design, development and testing, the Army will launch a totally revamped version of the Warrior Leader Course on Oct. 1. The new program of instruction will apply to soldiers of all components — the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.

07/23/10

Advisory board urges DoD civilian staff cuts

An influential Pentagon advisory board will recommend that Defense Department Secretary Robert Gates slash the civilian work force by more than 111,000 people and drastically pare the military’s combatant command structure as ways to save billions of dollars. The Defense Business Board task force also will urge Gates to initiate a hiring freeze for the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD), all Joint Staff directorates and all combatant commands. It also is calling for DoD to shut down OSD’s Networks and Information Integration (NII) directorate and the contractor-heavy U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM).

07/21/10

Iraq deployments could drop to 9 months

U.S. planners in Iraq are considering cutting troop unit deployments from 12 months to as low as nine months some time after the force falls to the 50,000 mark, the top U.S. commander there said Wednesday. “I think nine months would be reasonable,” Army Gen. Ray Odierno said during a Pentagon news conference. But he cautioned that there is no certainty such a change will take place during the period between September and Dec. 31, 2011, by which time all major U.S. military units must be withdrawn.

07/21/10

Officers group objects to new MyCAA limitations

The Defense Department’s revised policy for the My Career Advancement Account program “yanks the rug out from under career spouses yet again,” said Steve Strobridge, government relations director for the Military Officers Association of America. MOAA has expressed strong disagreement with the Pentagon’s decision to severely limit military spouses’ eligibility for tuition funding through the MyCAA program, announced Tuesday.

07/21/10

Hold off on new GI Bill changes, VA urges

The top education official for the Veterans Affairs Department is asking Congress to delay until Aug. 1, 2011, any significant changes or improvements in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

07/20/10

Gray-area reservists’ Tricare wait

Tricare health benefits for so-called “gray area” reserve retirees remain elusive, with signs the Defense Department won’t keep a promised Oct. 1 start date. Aimed at National Guard and reserve component members who have earned retirement benefits but are not yet eligible for health care or retired pay because they have not reached retirement age, the Tricare Retired Reserve Program was authorized by Congress last October.

07/20/10

GI Bill stipend make-up checks coming in August

Underpayments of living stipends to 153,000 veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill will be corrected in August when the Veterans Affairs Department issues one-time catch-up checks to anyone who has received the stipend since Jan. 1. The checks represent a fix to a problem caused when VA did not update living stipends in January after military housing allowances, on which the stipends are based, increased.

07/20/10

DoD officials explain new spouse tuition rules

The My Career Advancement Accounts tuition program for military spouses will reopen to new enrollees Oct. 25, with some major restrictions on eligibility and funding, defense officials announced Tuesday. The popular MyCAA program’s tuition assistance will be open only to spouses of junior service members in paygrades E1 through E-5, W-1 and W-2 and O-1 and O-2, said Clifford Stanley, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Spouses of National Guard and reserve members in those paygrades are eligible if their service member has been activated on Title 10 orders.

07/18/10

$1.2B medical complex will replace Landstuhl

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A $1.2 billion hospital complex is being planned near here to replace the aging Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is a 30-minute drive from where the C-17s and KC-15s carrying wounded combat troops land. Since 2003, Air Force aeromedical evacuation teams have flown more than 65,000 wounded Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen from Afghanistan and Iraq to Germany for medical care. The hospital, scheduled to be complete by 2018, will be at the U.S.-controlled Rhine Ordnance Barracks, adjacent to Ramstein. It will replace the base clinic as well as Landstuhl.

06/01/10

DoD launches personalized quit tobacco training

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The Department of Defense has announced the launch of Train2Quit, an innovative web-based tobacco cessation training specifically designed for military personnel and families. Train2Quit is a step-by-step process with proven methods and interactive activities and tools to help tobacco users quit for good.

05/27/10

Troop care tops nation's obligations, Biden says

Caring for troops is the nation's "one truly sacred obligation," Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday during a dinner for wounded warriors. "We have one truly sacred obligation: to prepare and equip those in harm's way and to care for them when they come home," Biden told about 50 wounded warriors and their families who gathered here for a poolside barbecue at the U.S. Naval Observatory, the official home of the vice president.

05/26/10

States Prepare to Assist Louisiana in Oil Spill Response

ARLINGTON, Va. (May 25, 2010) -- The National Guards of several states are closely watching Louisiana this week and are prepared to assist in its oil spill operations if needed, a senior Guard leader said today. "We've been asked potentially to assist Louisiana with helicopter support, and if they need that then we will provide that," Maj. Gen. Abner Blalock, the adjutant general of the Alabama Guard said during an interview with the DoD Bloggers Roundtable.

05/26/10

600 Museums Free to Troops, Families

More than 600 museums across the country will offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Sept. 6.

05/26/10

Wilson: Concurrent receipt buried in bad bill

One of the staunchest supporters of ending the so-called “disability tax” on retirees eligible for both military and veterans benefits said he will not vote for a House initiative to help retirees who were unable to complete 20 years of service because of a service-connected disability. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, ranking Republican on the House military personnel subcommittee, said he will not vote for HR 4213, an almost $200 billion package of tax extenders, economic stimulus measures and fixes to a variety of laws. He called it “a trick, a political trap, to get people like me who want to help the military to vote for bloated spending and tax increases.”

05/25/10

House passes VA chiropractic care bill

The House and Senate have both approved the expansion of chiropractic care at veterans medical centers, but disagree about how widely available the treatment should be. The Senate passed a bill earlier this year to require chiropractic treatment at a minimum of 42 locations, an increase from the current 36, but legislation passed by the House on Monday by voice vote requires every Veterans Affairs Department medical center to provide the care.

05/25/10

'Army Strong' blog opens to world

FORT KNOX, Ky. (May 25, 2010) -- Armystrongstories.com, an Army blog previously limited to Soldiers and civilian employees, is now open to anyone who wants to tell an Army story. Launched in January 2008 by Army Accessions Command as a social media outreach effort, Armystrongstories.com also has an updated look, easy-to-navigate layout, and greater integration with video and Facebook.

05/25/10

Gates can accept 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' amendment

WASHINGTON (May 25, 2010) -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates can accept a proposed congressional amendment overturning the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, but would prefer that lawmakers wait until a Defense Department review to assess its full impact is completed, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

05/13/10

Bills cover service dogs, chiropractic care

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to require a major expansion of chiropractic care for veterans, and also approved a pilot program where veterans with mental health problems would train service dogs to assist other disabled veterans. Also approved was a bill increasing reimbursement for Veterans Affairs Department health care workers who take continuing professional education courses. The Chiropractic Care for All Veterans Act, HR 1017, would expand access to care and services that are now limited to about 25 locations where VA has chiropractors either working at medical centers or under contract to provide care. The goal is to have chiropractic care available at all medical centers in the future, with phased expansion. A similar but less ambitious expansion was approved by the Senate earlier this year as part of a package of veterans health care legislation.

04/30/10

Military Pay Competitive

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2010) -- Military compensation is competing well against the private sector, as evidenced by the high rate of recruitment and retention, a Defense Department official told a Senate subcommittee today. Therefore, the department is focusing on targeted special pays and bonuses as an efficient means to give incentives for people to sign up for hard-to-fill and hard-to-retain specialties, William J. Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel subcommittee.

04/28/10

Military pay competitive with private sector

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2010) -- Military compensation is competing well against the private sector, as evidenced by the high rate of recruitment and retention, a Defense Department official told a Senate subcommittee today. Therefore, the department is focusing on targeted special pays and bonuses as an efficient means to give incentives for people to sign up for hard-to-fill and hard-to-retain specialties, William J. Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel subcommittee.

04/28/10

Puerto Rico hosts first IRR muster outside CONUS

FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico (April 28, 2010) -- After completing a 16-month mobilization and one-year tour to Iraq in 2007, Spc. Juan J. Perez figured he should say goodbye to his wife and three kids again when he was invited to attend an Individual Ready Reserve muster. But after signing in, Perez quickly realized he was not being mobilized for another combat tour. Instead, he and other IRR Soldiers spent the day recently updating their records and learning about their benefits and entitlements, including promotion, schooling, health care and civilian job opportunities.

04/27/10

Surgeon general: Nothing to hide at WTUs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 27, 2010) -- The Army surgeon general invited members of the press, politicians and especially parents and families of Soldiers now assigned to the Army's "Warrior Transition Units" to see for themselves what conditions exist there. "Come and visit. Spend a day, a week, go to formation with them. Go to treatment with them," said Surgeon General of the Army Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker. "There is nothing being hidden here."

04/23/10

Better prosthetics coming for wounded warriors

FORT DETRICK, Md. (April 22, 2010) -- From developing a new microprocessor-controlled prosthetic leg to a non-chafing socket device, the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center here is making big strides in advancing prosthetic science to improve wounded warriors' quality of life. The center, tucked away at this western Maryland post, reaches out to a broad spectrum of researchers at universities, hospitals, and small businesses to promote next-generation, cutting-edge prosthetic technologies. "The objective is to help amputees and traumatically wounded servicemembers return to the highest level of functionality that they are capable of," said Troy Turner, who manages the center's advanced prosthetics and human performance portfolio.

04/23/10

Official urges Gulf War vets to seek VA care

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2010) -- Gulf War veterans with medical symptoms should seek treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs in light of a recent study that says Gulf War service is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder, a senior Military Health System official said yesterday. In an interview, Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System, said that if Gulf War veterans seek care through VA, rather than private doctors, researchers can continue to track their data and search for causes of their symptoms. Congress has ordered that Gulf War veterans still qualify for high-priority care through the VA, and Kilpatrick urged them to use it.

04/22/10

Selective Service expands alternatives for conscientious objectors

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Back in the 1960s and 1970s, compulsory military service - "the draft" - was much more in the forefront of public consciousness. Vietnam War protestors used tactics such as draft card burning, deserting to Canada or even violent civil unrest to get their points across. While the Selective Service System has been around since 1917 and a draft has been activated and deactivated several times since then, it's been almost 40 years since the last time it was necessary to conscript men between the ages of 18 and 35 into involuntary military service. And as long as there's been Americans fighting in wars, there have been those who do not object to the idea of serving their country, but do object to the idea of directly killing another human being or being involved in that act.

04/21/10

Troops take advantage of GI Bill transferability

WASHINGTON (April 21, 2010) -- More than 100,000 requests from troops desiring to transfer their unused education benefits to family members have been approved under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a defense official said today. Signed into law in June 2008, the new GI Bill is a Department of Veteran Affairs-sponsored program that provides the most comprehensive educational benefit package for veterans since the original GI Bill -- the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 -- was authorized toward the end of World War II.

04/15/10

Surgeon general says new centers to help with blast injuries

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 15, 2010) -- The Army surgeon general told members of Congress, April 13, that the Defense Centers of Excellence, especially for psychological health and traumatic brain injury, provide great promise for wounded warriors.

04/13/10

Education Activity Launches Interactive Resource

ARLINGTON, Va., April 13, 2010 – The Department of Defense Education Activity’s educational partnership has launched an interactive educational resource for military families, military leaders and school leaders. The resource, “Students at the Center,” provides information on important policies, procedures, and best practices that are critical to supporting the needs of military families’ education.

04/13/10

Wounded warriors encourage paratroopers to help stop Soldier suicides

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (Army News Service, April 13, 2010) -- Eight battle-wounded veterans of the Iraq war shared lessons learned from their recovery processes with paratroopers here April 6, including advice on suicide prevention. Part of the fifth Operation Proper Exit rotation of Soldiers returning to the battlefield to find emotional healing, the wounded warriors engaged in a town-hall discussion at Al Asad's Camp Ripper with paratroopers of the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade). "If anyone in your unit unfortunately commits suicide, it's kind of on you guys," said retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Schlitz, a 33-year-old Ranger-qualified Soldier who was severely burned by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad in 2007.

04/09/10

Automation to Improve Post-9/11 GI Bill Processing

WASHINGTON (April 9, 2010) -- With 153,000 veterans enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill this semester, and new automation tools to arrive this month to improve processing procedures, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki declared the program "on track" and headed toward greater efficiency. Shinseki acknowledged during an interview with American Forces Press Service that the Post-9/11 GI Bill got off to a rocky start after it took effect Aug. 1, 2009.

04/08/10

Lynch: 'We know the stress, strain our Army family is going through'

FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX -- "The Army isn't going to break because of its Soldiers, but it may break because of our families," said Lt. Gen Rick Lynch, commanding general of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command and assistant chief of staff for installation management, to the crowd at the Sam Houston Club, March 31. "The stress, the strain, that we are having as an Army family is unbelievable, almost unbearable," Lynch continued. "As the commanding general of IMCOM, I have the opportunity to take the resources we have to truly focus on the family. It's our commitment to the Army family to make sure they know that we know the stress and strain they are going through... that they know our dedication to the families we've made over the past two years under the Army Family Covenant."

04/08/10

Army public health strengthened by transformation

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD -- The Army's public health capabilities are being integrated to form a new U.S. Army Public Health Command. The integration is part of the Army Medical Command's transformation from a "sick-care" system to a "health-care" system -- one that emphasizes prevention and sustaining good health.

04/08/10

AER helps Soldiers, families in multiple ways

In tough economic times, Soldiers can be blindsided by unexpected medical and dental expenses, emergency transportation, money for school, or the most unexpected - funeral expenses - for which they are not financially prepared. The Army Emergency Relieft has helped Soldiers in these situations since 1942 when the organization was incorporated. As the Army's own emergency financial assistance non-profit organization, it helps Soldiers and their families through interest-free loans, grants and scholarships for school.

03/24/10

IRS tax tips can save Soldiers money, time

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 24, 2010) -- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides additional tax refunds for some servicemembers and their families. Internal Revenue Service spokesman Mark Hanson shared tips, facts and recommendations to help Soldiers and families get the most back on their return as they file from both home stations and overseas. "Soldiers should pay close attention to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was passed last year," said Hanson. "[There are] lots of new tax provisions that could impact their returns."

03/22/10

Tricare meets health care bill's standards, Gates says

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2010) -- The Tricare military health plan meets the standards set by the health care reform bill the House of Representatives passed last night, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a statement issued yesterday. Calling their health and well-being his highest priority, Gates reassured servicemembers and their families that the legislation won't have a negative effect on Tricare, which "already meets the bill's quality and minimum benefit standards."

03/22/10

DoD authorizes non-chargeable recuperation leave for Iraq and Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2010) -- Some deployed servicemembers will not be charged for rest and recuperation leave under a new Defense Department policy. The new policy allows servicemembers in designated areas to go on rest and recuperation leave without charge to their leave accounts. "So in a sense, it is an administrative absence and that's up to 15 days," said Sam Retherford, the Defense Department's director of officer and enlisted personnel management

03/17/10

Army to reach 1:2 dwell in 2011, vice says

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 17, 2010) -- The Army's vice chief of staff said by 2011, Soldiers should find themselves spending twice as much time at home station as they do deployed. "2011 is definitely a transition year for the U.S. Army -- that is a year we see ourselves getting back into balance," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli. "We define balance as 12 months deployed, 24 months or greater at home. That's the interim goal for us in 2011." The general told the House Armed Forces Committee readiness subcommittee March 16 that it will likely be the larger part of the Army that will reach that goal next year, but Soldiers with some military occupational specialties, such as Soldiers in aviation, might reach it later.

03/17/10

Social Media Sites Provide Morale Boost, Official Says

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2010 – A newly introduced Defense Department social media policy opens doors that can provide a morale boost for families and troops serving in a war zone, a senior official who helped to design the policy said this week.

03/16/10

Fort Bliss Soldiers have integrative medicine options

FORT BLISS, Texas -The Army remains committed to providing the best Soldier care by staying on the forefront of new medical research and procedures. It has also expanded its spectrum of care to include integrative medicine or holistic healing. More than six years ago, the first physical health and integrative medicine clinic in the Department of Defense opened at Fort Bliss. It offered chiropractic services and acupuncture, which is a procedure that is used to relieve pain by inserting filiform needles into different points of the body. Since then, programs that feature integrative medicine have spread across the Army and are utilized in combat environments to relieve the pain associated with minor sprains and help alleviate combat stress.

03/16/10

Defense Department Notes Rise in Sexual Assault Reporting

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2010 – Reports of sexual assault involving servicemembers rose by 11 percent in fiscal 2009, a senior Defense Department official said yesterday. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 3,230 reports of sexual assault were filed. An increase in reporting was a goal for the department, said Kaye Whitley, director of the Defense Department’s sexual abuse prevention and response office. “Research in the civilian community shows that sexual assault is widely underreported, and we believe that is the same in the military,” she said in an interview. “As a result, increasing reporting has been one of our key goals. We want people who are victims of sexual assault to come forward so they can get the help that they need.” The department’s goal is to create a “climate of confidence” so that people will come forward to report, she added.

03/16/10

New Protocol to Provide Early Brain Injury Detection

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2010 – The Defense Department is rolling out a new set of guidelines for the treatment of mild traumatic brain injury among servicemembers in combat areas. “We’re morphing from a symptom-based approach in theater to an incident-based approach,” a senior official said yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

03/15/10

Guard strives to improve medical readiness

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Army News Service, March 15, 2010) -- The percentage of Army Guardsmen who are medically deployable is below the 75 percent goal set by the Department of Defense, and the Guard's Office of the Surgeon General is determined to improve it. "We consistently run anywhere between 45 percent and 50 percent," said Maj. Gen. Deborah C. Wheeling, the deputy surgeon general for the Army National Guard. "There are challenges, but there is the capacity to do it if we can get senior leadership -- line leadership -- involved and emphasizing medical readiness."

03/12/10

2010 Army Emergency Relief Opens

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Soldier whose son was diagnosed with cancer. The retired Soldier who found himself in a financial bind. They were among those who shared their personal stories on a videotape about Army Emergency Relief assistance. It’s Soldiers helping Soldiers. The video was shown during the 2010 AER campaign kickoff March 3 in Heiser Hall. “AER is here to help,” Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli said. The annual fund-raising drive continues through May 15 with a $215,000 goal. AER helps active duty and retired Soldiers and their family members with financial emergencies. The fund provides loans or grants and also gives scholarships.

03/11/10

Army Master of Social Work degree program open to enlisted Soldiers

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G1 approved Feb. 26, the Army Medical Command's request to allow all active duty enlisted Soldiers to apply for the U.S. Army Master of Social Work program hosted by the Army Medical Department Center & School and affiliated with Fayetteville State University. Soldiers accepted into the program earn an MSW degree in 14 months or less.

03/11/10

Employment Program to Resume for Enrolled Spouses

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2010 – The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program, commonly known as MyCAA, will resume March 13 for the more than 136,000 spouses who already have established an account, the defense official who heads up the program announced today. Officials announced a temporary halt in the program Feb. 18, pending a top-to-bottom review, after a six-fold spike in enrollments in January, a surge that overwhelmed the system and caused the program to nearly reach its budget threshold.

03/11/10

Morphine May Reduce PTSD Risk, Study Shows

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2010 – Injured servicemembers who receive morphine during trauma care are about half as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder as those who are not administered the drug, a Navy study has revealed. The study found that the use of morphine directly after injury during resuscitation and early trauma care was associated with a reduced risk of PTSD, Troy Holbrook, one of the study’s authors, said. The study was conducted by researchers from the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 14.

03/09/10

VA seeks fast track for Agent Orange claims

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 9, 2010) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today a new initiative to solicit private-sector input on a proposed "fast track" veterans' claims process for service-connected presumptive illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

03/08/10

Family Matters

FORT HOOD, Texas- As some First Team Soldiers and their Families rack up second, third and even fourth deployments, the Army is continuing to adapt new ways to help them cope with the increased operational tempo and the stop-and-start transitions between life deployed and life at home. Soldiers and Families of 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have sought assistance from Military Family Life Counselors to help married and single Soldiers adjust to life following a long deployment. "A year of separation from loved ones creates challenges," said Maj. James Lee who helped coordinate the family life counselors for the brigade. "Soldiers and families are the Army's number-one resource, it is imperative that we assist the Soldiers and families through the reintegration process."

03/08/10

New Health System Site Makes Information Accessible

FALLS CHURCH, Va., March 8, 2010 – The Military Health System has launched a new Health.mil Web site that provides a single point of entry to military health news, information and resources. The site is part of the Defense Department's continued commitment to make health information available and easy to find, officials said. Content is categorized by topic or audience, including servicemembers, retirees and families; health care providers; educators and researchers; Military Health System staff; Defense Department leaders; and the media.

03/05/10

State income taxes due? There's a wrong way to pay

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. — During income tax season, a concern for some military members is where to file state returns. Some are confused after they have moved from another state because of military duties. Filing a return in a state other than one’s legal residence could have costly consequences. People could eventually discover they owe back taxes to the states that are their legal residence. They might also owe interest on the unpaid taxes. They might also be fined for failing to file. This article is not a comprehensive legal analysis of state tax law. Rather, it provides basic information about states that levy taxes on earned income. Military members should seek legal advice if they are uncertain about where to file their state returns.

03/05/10

Concern for fellow Soldier prevents suicide

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A chance phone call late one evening, coupled with prompt actions of personnel at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, helped a Soldier in crisis on the other side of the world. A chaplain was trying to reach the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and instead reached Bryant Hall at SWCS. "I don't know what's up with my phone, but I get calls for the 82nd all the time," said the plans and operations officer. The chaplain had been contacted by a young specialist who was worried about a friend - a fellow Soldier currently serving with the 82nd in Afghanistan. Convinced that the Soldier had been "unequivocally talking of committing suicide," the chaplain was trying to reach someone at the 82nd.

03/04/10

Research Shows Promise for Wounded Warriors, Public

FORT DETRICK, Md., March 4, 2010 – A sign on the highway identifying the exit ramp for Fort Detrick gives little indication of the revolutionary science being advanced behind its gates – aimed at unlocking everything from cures for breast and prostate cancer to new ways to treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is overseeing these and dozens more innovative projects through its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

02/04/10

Military OneSource offers free tax filing

WASHINGTON (Feb. 4, 2010) -- Defense officials encourage military families to once again take advantage of the free electronic tax filing services offered through Military OneSource. People can access the H&R Block at Home program by going to Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.com/ and clicking on "Tax Filing Services."

01/05/10

Stop-loss payments continue, but some no longer eligible

WASHINGTON (Jan. 5, 2010) -- The fiscal 2010 defense budget extends payments to servicemembers involuntarily extended on active duty under the so-called "Stop Loss" program, but those who received a bonus for voluntarily re-enlisting or extending their service after being involuntarily extended no longer qualify for retroactive Stop Loss pay.

01/05/10

Observing tax relief rules helps buyers avoid potential problems

HEIDELBERG, Germany - Thinking of using a value added tax relief form to buy a house or maybe to buy your Host Nation landlord a nice gift. Wrong. VAT relief doesn't do that.

01/04/10

Evolving wounded warrior program returns to Iraq

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 4, 2010) -- Five severely-wounded veterans returned to Iraq just after the 2009 Christmas holiday as part of the third installment of an evolving program to help wounded warriors heal from traumatic combat injuries.

01/04/10

Servicemember voting laws reflect changes

WASHINGTON (Dec. 31, 2009) -- Laws have changed and servicemembers who want to vote need to be aware of these changes, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program said.

12/29/09

Military partners with communities to extend services

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 29, 2009) -- As a result of multiple deployments over nearly nine years of war in two theaters, many families of servicemembers are choosing to remain in their established neighborhoods or return to a relative's hometown when their Soldier deploys.

12/22/09

HooahMail continues to grow in popularity

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 22, 2009) -- Since the start of HooahMail just 21 days ago, more than 3,540 accounts have been set up by families and friends of Soldiers in Afghanistan, and some 1,690 letters delivered.

12/19/09

Recognizing problem biggest step toward fixing suicides

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2009) -- In 2008, the Army experienced for the first time, suicide rates higher than the civilian population. In the same year, the Army entered an agreement with the National Institute of Mental Health to find out why.

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