Archive for June, 2012

The Focus Project: Help When a Military Family Member Deploys

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

It’s part and parcel with the package; you are a military family. Deployment is part of the job. In these troubled times, deployment (for active duty) and mobilization (for reservists) is almost inevitable. Fortunately, the armed services are providing more and better support for not only their service members but for those left behind; their spouses and children.

The FOCUS Project, Families OverComing Under Stress, is a family wellness program accessible to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps (it is currently unavailable to the Coast Guard). Available at approximately 20 bases in six states, three bases in Japan, and attached to multiple Wounded Warrior Regiments, this program is designed to incorporate the whole family; service member, spouse, and child(ren) all take an active part in developing effective and positive coping mechanisms in order to enhance family strength and prepare them for the myriad of challenges that comes with deployment.

FOCUS: Family Resiliency Training™ for Military Families speaks to issues unique to military families through education, counseling, workshops, and intervention. They do so by addressing what they call Five Key Skills; emotional regulation, communication, problem-solving, goal setting, and managing deployment reminders. Each family member (service member, spouse, and child) learns not only how to deal with their own concerns and anxieties but how to empathize, listen, and work together to come through whole and healthy on the other side of deployment. Skills building and maintaining family integrity are central to the FOCUS Project mission.

It also discusses what it calls the Deployment Spiral, breaking down deployment into five stages of emotional responses, much like the Kuebler-Ross five stages of grief that many people are familiar with. Like the Kuebler-Ross model, simply by having the knowledge that what you are experiencing is normal can be half the battle. By understanding these stages, which includes reintegration, the FOCUS Project hopes to alleviate many of the stressors that families like yours go through on a regular basis.

Visit the FOCUS Project Contact page to see if this program is available at your duty station. FOCUS headquarters can be reached by email at info@focusproject.org or via phone at 310-794-2482. FOCUS World provides on-line training and assistance for families unable to participate in person.

No more electronic goodies for military serving overseas

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

A recent law, signed by President Barack Obama, directs the Department of Transportation to bring its own regulations concerning lithium batteries in line with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Department of Transportation in turn, directed the U.S. Postal Service to enforce the directive against lithium batteries, which are designated as a Class 9 hazard, and banned from international mail.

What does that mean to servicemembers deployed the world over in service to our nation? Well, the U.S. Postal Service now prohibits shipment of laptop computers or anything else that contains a lithium battery to any APO, FPO or DPO addresses.

The rule went into effect on May 16th. However, according to a release by the U.S. Postal Service, they Service anticipates that by the beginning of next year you will once again be able to mail “specific quantities” of these batteries overseas. At that time, you can also send lithium batteries when they are properly installed in the electronic devise or equipment.

Is this “supporting our troops”? The U.S. Postal Service could not have been more forthcoming with their response. ““In order to be in compliance with [international] requirements, we had to put this prohibition into effect,” spokesperson Susan McGowan told two reporters from Military Times, helpfully. “I cannot answer the why question. Once they say there’s a new regulation, we have to follow it.”

Postal regulators are concerned that lithium batteries may overheat in transit, in the event of a fire, and cause a chain reaction as they combust, potentially spreading a fire. Lithium batteries have been implicated the destruction of one U.S. cargo jet every other year. Naturally, though, they are A-OK, certified Kosher for domestic air mail. It is only international traffic that poses the problem.

Part of the problem is that international mail routinely travels as cargo on passenger jets, and officials are concerned about fires on these passenger-carrying planes.

One is left to assume, however, that come January 1st, the laws of physics will change so that lithium batteries installed in electronics equipment won’t pose a threat.

Meanwhile, we can fly bulk fuel, mortar rounds, C-4, grenades, claymore mines and trip flairs into Afghanistan on military transports. But we can’t fly in Private Snuffy’s laptop.

Want to more about what’s included in the ban and some alternatives you have? Read the full article and then let us know what you think about this ban in the comments.

VOW to Hire Heroes Act benefits unemployed veterans

Posted by Charlotte Webster

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 amended the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to assist unemployed veterans and to extend the life of the WOTC to January 1st, 2013. It provides new benefits for certain unemployed veterans. Designed as an addendum to the WOTC, this act is made to not only lower unemployment rates of veterans but also to stimulate the economy by giving tax credits for businesses who specifically hire veterans.

Benefits for Veterans

  • Individualized counseling and support through Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or an Employment Coordinator
  • Easy to apply through the eBenefits website (for both programs listed below)

Vocational Rehabilitation

  • up to an additional 12 months of benefits for disabled veterans whose disability is related to their military service

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program

  • up to 12 months of retraining assistance

 

Benefits for Businesses

Through the WOTC

  • Up to $9,600 in tax credits for businesses ($6400 for tax-exempt organizations) who hire eligible veterans between November 22nd, 2011 and January 1st, 2013
  • Only two forms to fill out!
  1. IRS Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, and
  2. either U.S. Department of Labor form ETA Form 9061, Individual Characteristics Form or ETA Form 9062, Conditional Certification Form

Through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act-Special Employer Incentives (SEI)

  • Up to 50% reimbursement of employee’s salary for up to six months, including cost of training, supplies and equipment, and loss of production reimbursement during employee training
  • VA provides needed tools, equipment, uniforms, and other supplies necessary for the veteran to gain employment
  • VA supports related to training, accommodations, and initial placement of the veteran

 

Employer or employee, these programs are worth your while. The federal government has made an effort to help to both lower the unemployment rate for veterans and reward those to employee them. Each program has its own specific requirements regarding age, disability, and length of unemployment, as well as other conditions and provisions. Make sure you talk to your benefits counselor to ensure you have access to as much assistance as you qualify for; you’ve earned it.

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