Archive for November, 2012

Black Friday Cage Match: Retailers vs. USMC

Posted by Kelli McKinney

iStock 000017149417XSmallOne week from today, after spending a day with family and friends, reflecting on our blessings and good fortune, shoppers will be rushing the gates of stores nationwide to nab cheap television sets, discounted Furbys, and whatever else they can get their tired hands on.

Last year 226 million shoppers did their part to try and boost the sagging economy, bless their hearts. We all know someone who braves the crowds and does their best to get a great deal on a gift or two. Some families make a day of it; others, however, prefer to shop when the stores aren’t so crowded.

Whether you think Black Friday is a cherished holiday tradition or you believe it’s a trumped up blitz designed to shore up somebody’s stock options, one thing’s for sure: It’s coming.

If you’re a shopper who plans to research sales, set your alarm and elbow jab your way into a good deal, here’s a training video to get you in the shopping frame of mind.

If your idea of Black Friday is more in line with that of the United States Marine Corps, this gem will get your blood rolling.

In the USMC, Black Friday is the point within basic training at which recruits meet their permanent Drill Instructors and their Company Commander. The DIs, as you would expect, physically, mentally, and psychologically challenge the fresh-faced recruits, confusing and disorienting them. It’s intense, and it’s inspiring, and it’s done to help them break those pesky civilian habits and prepare them for Marine Corps discipline.

That, my friends, is hard core.

Whether your preference is for the physical and psychological challenge of waiting in line at Best Buy in the 4 a.m. darkness, or if you’re more inclined for the rigors of USMC basic training, that special day called Black Friday holds a precious meaning for every American.

But here’s what I can’t help thinking about:

A Black Friday Face Off: Retailers vs. USMC. A sort of Black Friday Cage Match. Put an obstacle course in the middle of a big box retailer, line up the interested competitors before daybreak and when it’s all over, the toughest person wins flat screen, or an X-box, or whatever the object of their desire may be. That might be worth getting up early for.

Here’s my last thought before I go make my shopping list. If Retail Black Friday faced off with USMC Black Friday, I don’t think there’s any doubt who would win. My money’s on the Marines. Every time. Semper Fi and Happy Thanksgiving.

Military Spouses Speak Out on Infidelity – A MilSpouse Blogosphere Roundup

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military infidelityDavid Petraeus, the retired four-star general and now-former Director of Central Intelligence is not the first flag officer or former flag officer to have succumbed to Zipper Failure Syndrome. And he will not be the last. In fact, as I write this, the investigation that exposed his infidelity to his wife of 37 years now threatens to take down the current Afghanistan/Pakistan theater commander, Marine General John R. Allen.

Infidelity has been with our military since the founding of the republic. Author and military wife Siobhan Fallon explored it deeply in her recent collection of fictional short stories, entitled You Know When the Men Are Gone.

There is, in some circles, an unwritten understanding among deployed troops that “what happens on deployment stays on deployment.”

Let’s address the omerta code of silence among those who deploy, right off the bat. From an anonymous commenter posting on the blog of Wayne Perry, the husband of an Army medic stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas:

“Based on my 25 years of experience of being a military wife, it has a profound effect on everyone, including those of us who lost their long lasting marriages to adulterous men…. military or not. In my experience, the code of silence between the military personnel is outrageous as I have seen first-hand over those twenty five years… and it not only sickens me but reminds me that we are all human and if it’s not acceptable to you it shouldn’t be for anyone else either. I rarely, if ever, post on blogs… but this just has my blood boiling and thought I’d just chime in for those of us who tried so hard to keep it together only to have the code of silence be an acceptable form of just “doing your job”. Needless to say, I’m now single after all those years of sacrifice because I no longer found it acceptable for myself but for anyone else in my circle. It’s now been three years since my marriage ended due to infidelity and regardless of the situation, I don’t wish that on anyone… military or not!”

Infidelity? “I’m not here for that,” adds Jacey Eckhart, a long-time writer on military affairs and a Navy spouse herself. “I’m not here for that. Neither is he. My sailor does not have direct deposit so that I can take my boyfriends to dinner. He doesn’t spend his weekends painting our kitchen so I can entertain some other guy. He isn’t scrimping on himself to send our kids to college so that another man can have his picture with them at graduation.”

Bri Thomlin, the “Tiny Texan” and the wife of a Marine stationed in Hawaii, writes:

Yes, I do get very lonely. It sucks when he’s away. Sometimes I am strong and can make it through a week as easy as a breeze; however, some days I break down and cry, sometimes it’s when I’m not supposed to like when I’m on the phone with my husband or Skyping him when there is an ocean or entire continent between us. Though the days are long, distance is far, and the nights get very lonely, I love him. That’s the bottom line, I love my husband. Loving him means, I wait. It really is that simple.

Charlie Sherpa writes: “I’ve seen too many families ended by infidelity – and not enough careers.”

Another commenter shares her story:

“I was an active duty female officer (pregnant) when my husband cheated on me. He was also active duty and paraded his lover all over the base. Ironically, the one that lost their credibility was me, because I allowed this behavior because I am Christian and tried to work the marriage out. I was severely depressed and alone, as I had just lost both parents in the year prior to this and had no other relatives. Anyway, the military found a way to turn it around on me, the woman, and when I was heart-broken I was dubbed weak and sensitive.”

Another anonymous guest commenter from the same thread writes:

Adultery is destroying the moral fabric of the military. The younger enlisted find it so commonplace that they don’t see wrong in doing it. With so many Senior Enlisted and Officers doing it, they think “why shouldn’t we?”

Now, clearly, there is selection bias at work in these samples. These are people writing in to a community of like-minded people. Those who self-select to write military blogs are likely to take the role of a military spouse very seriously – as are their readers. Nevertheless, there was no dissent in the comment threads I found discussing infidelity in the military. It didn’t matter if it happened before the news about Petraeus’s affair broke or after. Everyone commenting in the military spouse blogosphere I found stated unequivocally that infidelity is unacceptable to them. A few stated they caught their spouse cheating and forgave them – some multiple times.

Did Petraeus know better? Absolutely. He is the guy primarily responsible for writing the current U.S. military counterinsurgency doctrine, or COIN. The governing document outlining COIN contains an entire chapter dedicated to the vital importance of personal integrity at every level to ensure the success of American arms against insurgencies.

On a more personal note…

That said, a hallmark of Petraeus’s leadership style was the forgiveness of human failures as well. “People make mistakes,” he wrote. It’s clear he made a big one.

Few go into a marriage intentionally planning to cheat. Those that do are at least borderline sociopaths. But the insidiousness is this: plenty of people fall into the trap without planning to in advance. They wouldn’t call it “temptation” if temptation were easy to resist.

Petraeus spent nearly ten years constantly away from his wife. When he finally returned to CONUS as the CENTCOM commander, his job still required a lot of traveling and relentless focus. When President Obama sacked General Stanley McChrystal, then the Afghanistan theater commander, he tapped Petraeus who promptly left his wife almost overnight to go back to war. 

Petraeus spent a longer time away from his wife than Eisenhower, Patton, or General Lee (who could sometimes make it home between battles to visit his ailing wife).

Few marriages could survive that – and our country perhaps abused that marriage. But Petraeus, at the time, was the man for the job.

Nevertheless, Petraeus could have declined the CIA Directorship and went back home to heal his marriage after nearly ten years (and more!) of his duty, honor and country coming first. He took the CIA directorship anyway – and behaved recklessly.

I cannot judge what people separated for ten years do. Every marriage has its own internal logic and set of ground rules, both spoken and unspoken, and I don’t second-guess what good people feel they need to do.

Do you have an experience with infidelity in military life? Share in the comments.

 

 

 

Get TRICARE Prescriptions Via Cell Phone App

Posted by Charlotte Webster

tricare appTRICARE officials recently announced an enhanced mobile phone application. The new additions allow beneficiaries to manage their TRICARE pharmacy benefits via a secure cell phone connection. New features include medication reminders, which allows beneficiaries to set up daily alerts to make sure they take their medications as prescribed and don’t skip a dose.

The new app also includes an account registration feature, which lets beneficiaries create their ESI account right on their smart phone.

“The Express Rx mobile app gives beneficiaries access to their prescription information anytime, anywhere,” said Rear Adm. Thomas J. McGinnis, chief of TRICARE Pharmacy Operations.

Currently, the Express Rx app and mobile-optimized website allow beneficiaries to register for TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery and change current prescriptions over to home delivery. They can also order home delivery refills and check order status. Another feature lets beneficiaries look up information on their current prescriptions. For GPS-enabled smart phones, the app can direct beneficiaries to the nearest network retail pharmacy.

Smartphone users can download the app for free by going to www.express-scripts.com/mobile or using services like the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace. The mobile-optimized pharmacy website is accessible at http://m.esrx.com

Other available free apps to download through the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace are the TriWest mobile app and the Defense Manpower Data Center’s milConnect mobile app. Beneficiaries in the South Region can make use of the mobile Humana Military website, https://m.humana-military.com/ while beneficiaries in the North Region can use the mobile Health Net mobile site, https://m.healthnet.com.

For more information about TRICARE pharmacy program, visit www.tricare.mil/pharmacy. Learn how to switch to TRICARE pharmacy home delivery at www.tricare.mil/homedelivery.

Pentagon: The First Rule of Book Club is “We Don’t Talk About Book Club”

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageThat’s how the DoD threads the needle on how to deal with “No Easy Day,” former SEAL Matt Bissonette’s account of the raid that killed Osama Bin Ladin. Bissonette has landed in hot water because the book gets into classified or sensitive information, and he was still subject to a non-disclosure agreement, even after leaving active duty in the Navy.

The Pentagon book club wanted to read and discuss the book, as they routinely do with other professionally relevant books. But the DoD is concerned about additional leakage of classified information, or that hostile or careless parties might be able to use aspects of the book to further their knowledge of how the U.S. conducts special operations.

The ruling: The Pentagon decided not to prohibit DoD employees from reading the book – a fool’s errand, in any case. But DoD employees are prohibited from discussing the book with individuals who don’t have the proper security clearance.

According to the DoD, federal employees are not prohibited from purchasing the book. Furthermore, it is not necessary to store unmarked copies of the book in classified containers. (However, if you’ve been going through it with a red pen underlining the classified or sensitive information, you’ll need to keep that book secure and store it according to classified material handling procedures.)

You also can’t go yapping about it on Facebook or blog about it. The DoD is slapping a gag order on discussing potentially classified parts of the book via social media.

However, they’re not saying what they think the classified or potentially classified sections of the book are.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Navy announced that it had given Article 15s to seven active duty SEAL NCOs because of their moonlighting as consultants for the video game industry. According to reporting by Military Times, the seven sailors received letters of reprimand and forfeited half a months’ pay for two months for their work as advisors for Electronic Arts, the company that developed the popular Medal of Honor series of video games.

Honoring Veterans This November 11

Posted by Kelli McKinney

veteransA time to honor our former and current service members, Veterans Day was originally set aside as an American holiday to commemorate the ending of World War I on November 11, 1918. Originally called “Armistice Day,” November 11, 1938 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace, and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.”

In the years that followed, American soldiers served in the Second World War and the Korean War. The 83rd U.S. Congress changed the Act of 1938, replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” at the suggestion of veterans’ service organizations. When it was approved in June of 1954, November 11 became Veterans Day: A day to honor American veterans, living and deceased, who served our country in all wars.

The distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is one that many Americans struggle with, according to the VA. Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor military service members who died in service or as a result of war-inflicted injuries. The Veterans Day holiday is set aside to thank and honor both living and deceased veterans who served honorably in war or in peace.

Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs hosts a national celebration ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as several other regional ceremonies across the country. The national service begins each November 11 at 11 a.m. by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A parade of colors by veterans’ organizations progresses the service into the Memorial Amphitheater, where typically there are remarks by dignitaries to honor and thank all those who served and serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Over the past few years, a program launched by the History Channel has garnered popularity: Take a Vet to School Day created to bridge veterans and students across the country. Schools are encouraged to invite veterans to visit, share their stories, and receive thanks for their service. These events provide a unique way for students to hear real stories from real veterans, express their gratitude and show support. The veterans’ stories help connect generations and help young people learn about the past.

Whether or not you know someone who is serving or has served, taking time to honor and remember veterans is something that demonstrates respect for their service to our nation. Below are some ways that you can celebrate veterans this November 11.

Visit a Battleground: Most battleground memorials are managed by the National Park Service, and offer thoughtful, often poignant insights into the lives and circumstances of the people involved. There are battle sites in nearly every state, and they offer a variety of opportunities to teach children of all ages about history, war, and the sacrifices of veterans and their families.

Communicating With the Troops: Send a soldier a care package to say thank you. This is a wonderful way to show appreciation and to bring them a little bit of the comforts of home.

Learn Flag Etiquette: Far too often, our flag is displayed incorrectly or goes neglected, which is something that most veterans find offensive and disrespectful. One of the simplest ways to honor a veteran is to be respectful to the United States flag. Read about proper treatment, care, hanging and flying of our flag and teach your child proper flag protocol.

Volunteer at a VA hospital: If you have a VA hospital in your community, call them or stop by to find out what kind of volunteer opportunities they have available. Whether you can spend an hour a week or several hours a day, any amount of time you can devote to serving those who have served us is a fantastic way to honor our nation’s veterans.

This November 11, take time to reflect on the heroic men and women who have fought to secure the freedom we enjoy today. Whether you participate in a formal ceremony or simply say “thank you” to a uniformed service member, show them that their sacrifices are not taken for granted.

More Veteran’s Day Discounts

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Veterans Day discountsAs is tradition, every year businesses pay tribute to military service members and veterans on Veterans Day by offering discounts on their products or services.

Not all franchises participate in their corporate programs, so before you get your heart set on something you see below, make sure to call your local shop to verify their participation. And speaking of verification, make sure you bring proof of your military service: a VA Universal Access Card, Military I.D., Veterans Service Organization Card (VFW, AmVets, DAV, FRA, American Legion or MOAA), or discharge papers.

Below is a list of restaurants offering free or discounted meals for Veterans Day:

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012:

Applebee’s – Free meal; Choose from 7 entrées; beverage and gratuity not included.

Bar Louie America – Free meal up to $10 in value, and a free non-alcoholic beverage.

BD’s Mongolian Grill – 1/2 off Stir-fry

California Pizza Kitchen – Free meal and non-alcoholic beverage

Champps Americana – Free Pepperjack Bacon Stack Burger or free Kobe Burger

Chili’s Restaurant – Free meal, choose from one of  7 meal options; available 11 am – 5 p.m.; beverages and gratuity not included.

Famous Daves – Free or discounted meals; varies by location.

Hooters – Get 10 Free Wings – Boneless or Regular, drink purchase required

Krispy Kreme – free doughnut

Longhorn Steakhouse – free Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage

Max & Erma’s – free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo, which includes tortilla soup or side Caesar salad, seasoned fries, and chocolate chip cookies

McCormick and Schmicks – free lunch or dinner entrée. Reservations highly recommended.

On the Border – mention the “Sizzling Salute to Veterans” special and On the Border will donate 15% of your purchase to Carry the Load, a non-profit military organization. Veterans and Service members with ID receive a certificate for a free entree (up to $10) valid from 11/12/12 thru 11/30/12.

Outback Steakhouse – free Bloomin’ Onion and a Coca-Cola product during the week leading up to Veteran’s Day; receive 10% off your purchase from Nov. 13-Dec 31, 2012

Red Lobster – free appetizer (from a select list of appetizers)

Subway – Free Sandwich

Texas Corral – Free entrée (dine-in only). All Texas Corral locations also regularly offer a 50% discount to military personnel dining in.

The Olive Garden – Free entrée from a special menu; all entrées inlcude freshly baked garlic sticks and choice of soup or salad.

Tim Hortons – free donut

UNO’s pizza – Free individual pizza or entrée with the purchase of a pizza or entrée of equal or greater value

Monday, November 12

Cheeseburger in Paradise – Free meal from select menu; Beverages and gratuity not included

Denny’s – Free all you can eat pancakes from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Golden Corral – The 12th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation dinner

Hy-Vee – Free Breakfast 7am – 11am at all Hy-Vee supermarkets with in-store dining

Little Caesars Pizza – free Crazy Bread®

Lone Star Steakhouse – free entrée from the Stars & Stripes Menu

Red Robin – Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries

Sizzler Restaurant – Free lunch served until 4pm. Choice of 3 entrees.

Texas Roadhouse – Choose from one of 10 free meals, plus sides and a drink

T.G.I.-Fridays – Free Lunch

Election Day in Douglas County, Nebraska

Posted by Kelli McKinney

thank a servicememberIt’s a chilly fall morning in Elkhorn. The sky is a brilliant blue, the grass is still green, and the trees that still cling to what few leaves they have are showing off their jewel-inspired colors. The air smells vaguely of campfire. It’s a great day to be out and about.

Along with thousands of people in my county of residence, I lined up at the polling place bright and early this morning, wearing my patient pants and excited about participating in the democratic process. My polling place is the chapel of a sprawling retirement home, the kind at which I can only dream about residing some day. I follow the directions on my yellow voter’s card and walk toward the main entrance, where I am greeted by a smiling older woman with kind face. She points me down a hallway to my right, where I am immediately greeted by two more sweet older ladies. They’re standing by a thick wooden table that’s covered with coffee urns, trays of muffins and stacks of fruit, napkins, and assorted coffee sweeteners. “Help yourself to refreshments now or when you’re done,” say the guardians of the goodness. I look to my right at the growing line of citizen voters and abandon the refreshment table. Afterward, I decide. I have a feeling these ladies keep the table well stocked at all times.

I take my place in line, where I am one of only a handful of people who are not dressed smartly in either corporate or military uniform. There are at least 45-55 people ahead of me, and I noticed that across the hall from me was a barber shop, complete with striped pole and red curtained windows when I heard a strange electronic beeping noise coming from somewhere in line. I looked around and noticed the source of the sound:  an elementary aged boy waiting with his mother, playing a handheld game console, and if my hands hadn’t been full with my wallet and polling card, I would’ve smacked my forehead. I say to no one in particular, “Aw, I should have brought my son so he could see this.”

To my surprise, the woman standing in front of me in line turned around and said, “I was just thinking the same thing. How great would that have been, for kids to see what democracy is about.”

We made small talk for a bit, the kind where you ask about the kids’ ages and schools they attend. The conversation was pleasant and quiet and it certainly helped the waiting time pass more quickly. We steered clear of sensitive subjects like who we would vote for and political platforms, and I couldn’t help notice that when people passed by us on the way out of the polling booth, my conversation partner smiled broadly and proudly at them. I asked, “Is it just me, or do you want to cheer for people when they’re done voting?”

She laughed, “I do!  The fact that we are able to participate is very special to me,” she said. Her words humbled me as she went on. She described how ever since she was a kid, she has cried each time she’s voted. “When you think about it, thousands of people died so I can stand here. People today are dying to protect us as we stand here.”  Her eyes welled with tears and I could see that she was reflecting on someone in particular. “It’s silly,” she said, wiping her eyes and opening her purse to dig inside. “It’s not silly at all,” I replied.

We waited quietly for only a few minutes more until she was administered her ballot and moved into the private voting area; I followed another few minutes behind.

I’ve voted in nearly every election I could since I turned 18. I’m not proud to tell you that this year I’ve become a little jaded, what with the onslaught of obnoxious advertising, campaigning and armchair quarterbacking of every candidates’ move. Before I stood in line on this beautiful morning, I was mostly grateful that we would soon be rid of that aspect of the process, at least for a little while. But that conversation in line reminded me of something I should have been mindful of from the beginning: That voting is a sacred act, a privilege paid for by the blood and effort of thousands of people. I cast my vote, and with it I gave thanks for all who made my voting possible.

Upcoming Veterans Day Offers

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military discountNovember 11th is Veterans Day. And every year, there are more and more special deals for veterans. Veterans get a free meal or at least an appetizer out of the deal – and the businesses themselves get to generate some brand goodwill for themselves – and reach customers they might otherwise never see. It’s a win-win. 

Our colleague Ryan Guina at TheMilitaryWallet does a great job of doing the roundup every year. He’s been at it since 2008, so full credit to him.

A few highlights:

  • Applebee’s offers a good selection of free entrees each year. This year you can choose from seven of them.
  • The Golden Corral Veteran’s Day buffet I went to last year was fantastic. In that Air Force chow hall kind of way. Golden Corral does a first-rate job – and has donated more than $6 million to Disabled American Veterans over the years. 4 to 9 p.m. only.
  • Hooters. God bless America. Ok, all you get are 10 boneless wings. And you have to buy a drink first. But hey! Hooters!
  • McCormick & Schmick’s. Free lunch or dinner. This one is more upscale than the others. This is probably the most upscale offer on the list. You’re going to have to wear a shirt for this one.
  • Sizzler. Vets eat free until 4 pm. Great way to boost the lunch crowd. And what warrior doesn’t appreciate a steak.
  • TGIFriday’s. Free lunch on Monday! That’s the 12th! The day after Veterans Day! That means you can take advantage of two lunch offers! Smart move on their part, too!
  • Olive Garden. Free entrée.
  • Red Robin. Like TGIFriday’s, they are doing their offer on Monday the 12th, not the 11th. They’re also donating $10,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.
  • Outback. Free “bloomin’ onions” and Cokes. I’m including this offer as a highlight because it’s good all week long. Also, they’ve donated some $2 million to Operation Homefront over the years – a great charity that helps veterans in need nationwide.
  • Denny’s. Get an early start – free all-you-can-eat pancakes from 6 a.m.

You should bring a military ID or other proof of service. Also, be sure to tip your waitress as if you were paying full price. Don’t be “that guy.”

And bring some family members who aren’t freebies. Like the food? Go there the rest of the year, too! The more successful these events are for restaurants, the more of these offers we’ll see.

Also, keep in mind that some of these restaurants may have independently-owned franchises, which may or may not participate. So you may want to call ahead and confirm.

There are lots more discount offers, including theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Anhauser-Busch theme parks, as well as special offers from regional restaurants at the link.

Happy Veterans Day.

USAA Expands Outreach to Storm-Ravaged Northeast

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageUSAA has expanded its outreach to the storm-ravaged areas of the Northeastern United States. The number of field offices assisting members with claims and other financial services has been increased from two to five offices.

The original two offices in Vienna, Virginia serving the DC area and in Atlantic City are still in operation. In addition, the company has established four new offices.

The new USAA field assistance offices have been established at these addresses:

Here is a list of USAA’s field offices as of 4:27pm, 2 November 2012:

  • BMW of Atlantic City. 2037 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
  • Kennedy Restaurant, 406 Bayside, Breezy Point, New York
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, 85 Port Terminal Blvd, Slip 6, Bayonne, New Jersey
  • Traynor Collision Centers, 901 Bridgeport Avenue, Milford, Connecticut
  • Embassy Suites, Tyson’s Corner, 8517 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, Virginia

Locations and hours are potentially subject to change. You can, however, get the latest locations by typing the text command LOC to MYUSAA.

Additional Assistance

We contacted USAA to ask what they were doing to assist members. USAA spokesperson Rebecca Hirsh informed us that USAA was ready to help members in storm-affected areas in the following ways:

  • Discounts on auto loans
  • Discounts on credit card rates and personal credit lines
  • Forgiveness on late fees and finance charges in some circumstances
  • Possible increased credit lines on credit cards and personal lines
  • Discounts on car rentals via Hertz and Avis

USAA declined to give specifics over the phone, but instead urged members affected by the storm to call for assistance. For flood insurance questions, however, call 1-800-427-4661 or contact your insurance company or agent.

Streamlining Claims Processing

USAA also made it possible for members to initiate the claims process online, or even via mobile applications available at the USAA Web site. Applications are available for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows 7 Phone.

600 Adjustors, USAA Customer Service Workers Descend on Storm Area

According to the USAA spokesperson, the company now has some 600 workers on the ground in the storm-affected areas – mostly adjustors. The assistance centers are also staffed with employees who can help members initiate a damage claim on site, or do even more mundane things like initiate a checking account or arrange for replacement checks or credit/debit cards to be sent.

Check Your Text Messages and Emails

USAA has already emailed tens of thousands of members in the area with specifics on what programs they may qualify for to help get them through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. For more information, contact USAA at www.usaa.com or call them at 800-531-8722.

Afghanistan Military Ballots Delayed – For Five Weeks!

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military ballot boxA box of absentee military ballots mailed from Afghanistan more than a month ago was hung up in the military postal system for up to five weeks. According to reporting by Army Times, the Postal Service’s mailing tracking number places those ballots at a postal facility in New York City. The tracking numbers were updated to reflect an arrival at New York City on Friday.

At least one of those ballots was mailed on September 27th, and placed in a special box with an unknown number of other ballots. The tracking code on at least one of the ballots in that box listed the ballot had not cleared Bahrain until Friday, November 2nd, which means there was a delay of nearly five weeks between the time the ballots were mailed and their arrival at New York City.

This delay is substantially longer than the delays anticipated by the Military Postal Service Agency’s own published plan, which specifies a mailing date of 17 or more days prior to elections from most APO codes in Afghanistan, and 25 days for those deployed aboard ship in the U.S. Pacific or Atlantic fleets.

The Military Postal Service Agency has primary responsibility for all mail issues affecting U.S. servicemembers outside of the U.S. When letters and parcels arrive within the United States, they become the responsibility of the U.S. Postal Service.

The news comes just days after a Russian plane carrying 4,700 pounds of mail crashed and burned at Shindand Air Field in Afghanistan (the aircrew all walked away from the crash.) An unknown number of military ballots may have been on board. Although elections officials are required by federal law to mail absentee ballots to overseas servicemembers at least 45 days prior to the election, many jurisdictions failed to meet that deadline. In some instances, the Department of Justice filed suit against some states, including Vermont and Michigan, to force state and local elections officials to comply, or to extend the deadline to receive absentee ballots.

Several calls to the U.S. Postal Service, the Military Postal Service Agency, and the MPSA’s own Postal Voting Program Manager, Vardar May, were not immediately returned.

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