Archive for July, 2013

In Conflict with Parents of Autistic Children, Defense Department Blinks

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com military families autistic childrenThe Department of Defense has canceled a controversial plan to restrict access to applied behavior analysis approaches to treatment for military children with autism.

The DoD planned to begin requiring parents of autistic children to have them tested every six months in order to continue receiving treatments under TRICARE, and show military doctors that they were demonstrating “measurable progress” under the therapy. After two years of therapy, after age 16, the Department of Defense proposed granting access to therapy only after the child had been granted a waiver.

The DoD actually planned on requiring two separate assessments – the Vineland and ADOS-2. Meanwhile, military families had been encountering long waiting lists just to get an assessment. In some cases, waits were as long as six months. In the meantime, access to health care services for autism spectrum disorder could have been cut off.

The decision sparked a firestorm of protest among autism activists and military families alike, and attracted Congressional attention from Senators Kirsten Gillebrand (D – New York), Patty Murray (D – Washington) and Mark Warner (D – Virginia), who put pressure on the Administration to roll back the contemplated changes.

“Your new policy also requires a patient show progress to receive continued care. This is a significant shift in how TRICARE covers all other medical service,” wrote Senators Murray and Gillebrand in a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. “Military children with developmental disabilities such as autism often experience periods of regression due to life events (such as deployment, relocation, change in school, change in medications, etc.). Coming back from those periods of regression often takes significant time and effort (months and sometimes years), and sometimes progress may simply be the absence of regression. During these challenging times of need, discharging an individual from care is inappropriate and will have long lasting results on patient outcomes.” 

And just to drive the military bonkers, the Senators signed their letter in blue ink. 

It is unclear how many children the measure would directly affect: The Department of Defense estimates that there are approximately 8,500 children of active duty servicemembers with a form of autism; Autism Speaks, Inc., a prominent support group, says that there are 23,000 military children with autism.

On July 19th, the Defense Department blinked, however, and announced that there would be no changes to current access to care for active duty military members under either TRICARE Basic or the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) program.

ECHO is a program under TRICARE that extends access to additional benefits for certain beneficiaries who are enrolled in the DoD’s Exceptional Family Member Program. Beneficiaries must be enrolled in DEERS to qualify.

In addition, the Department of Defense has announced a congressionally mandated 1-year pilot program to extend services to the children of retirees and survivors of deceased servicemembers. The pilot program begins July 25th, 2013, and is called the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration.

 

Current eligibility

The platform that the DoD and TRICARE have established to provide services to children with autism-spectrum disorders is called the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Autism Services Demonstration. It covers any beneficiary registered under ECHO and who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Services include access to an expanded network of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and non-certified tutors. The demonstration is not available outside the United States.

To enroll, you must submit your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) to your TRICARE regional contractor.

Children who are being homeschooled where the state does not require an IFSP or IEP should provide a letter from your child’s primary care doctor or a specialized professional in the field of autisms spectrum disorder. The letter should verify that the child’s autism-related disability results in impairment severe enough that it requires special education and other support services.

The services aren’t completely free of charge: Servicemembers must pay a portion of the monthly expenses, called a “cost share.” However, services provided for autism spectrum disorder count towards the annual coverage limits under ECHO.

 

Monthly Cost Share

If you use ECHO benefits during any calendar month, you must pick up a portion of the cost. The amount you must pay depends on the TRICARE sponsor’s rank. The higher the rank, the more you must pay. The breakdown is as follows:

 

Sponsor Pay Grade

Monthly Cost Share

E-1 to E-5

$25

E-6

$30

E-7, O-1

$35

E-8, O-2

$40

E-9, W-1, W-2, O-3

$45

W-3, W-4, O-4

$50

W-5, O-5

$65

O-6

$75

O-7

$100

O-8

$150

O-9

$200

O-10

$250

Source: TRICARE

 

Costs are not shared between family members.

The total cost share for all ECHO benefits combined (not including ECHO Home Care) is $36,000 per year. As you can see, it is pretty rare for a family to reach the full cap!

National Guard TA Benefits

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com national guard tuition assistanceIt’s not just the active duty guys that get tuition assistance benefits from their service. National Guard and Reserve members also qualify, in many cases. The National Guard frequently offers the sweeter educational package, however, since many states supplement federal benefits with additional educational benefits for members of their Air or Army National Guard. These benefits are over and above the federal benefits package, and are especially attractive in states with strong public university systems.

Every state’s benefit package is different, however. Information in this post is believed current at press time, but the benefits offered change from time to time. Also, these benefits are typically supported by limited pools of allocated funds. If you apply late in the fiscal year, you may find that funding has dried up, and you’ll have to wait until the following fiscal year for these benefits.

 

National Guard TA Benefits

  • The National Guard TA program provides up to 100 percent of tuition costs, up to a maximum of $250 per semester credit hour, or $167 per quarter credit hour.
  • There is a maximum tuition assistance cap of $4,500 per year per soldier or airman.
  • The Guard will pay up to $500 per term of eligible fees. Authorized fees covered by TA are mandatory fees that are associated with an individual course enrollment. Non-refundable fees and fees that are not linked to individual course enrollments (e.g., application fees, graduation fees) are not covered by TA.

The National Guard TA program covers costs, up to the maximums described above, for a high school diploma or GED, for professional licensing programs and certificates, for associates degree programs, bachelors’ degree programs, and for masters degree or professional degree programs. Doctoral programs are not covered by the TA program, though some states may offer state university tuition waivers for PhD students serving in that National Guard.

 

Eligible Individuals

The National Guard TA program is offered to enlisted ranks, noncommissioned officers, warrant officers and commissioned officers alike. Some states restrict or prioritize their state funding programs to lower ranking servicemembers, such as captains or below.  However, officers who use the National Guard Tuition Assistance Program will incur an additional four year obligation upon completing the course of study. If the officer doesn’t complete the course, he or she may have to reimburse the government on a prorated basis.

ROTC cadets who are receiving scholarships under that program cannot simultaneously use TA benefits, though they may use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Stay tuned to MilitaryAuthority.com for a state-by-state breakdown of educational benefits extended to National Guard members. 

Webinar: Health Care Options After Losing TRICARE Eligibility

Posted by Charlotte Webster

militaryauthority.com tricare optionsMark your calendars now. This webinar is only a few days away!

If you are transitioning out of the military – whether because of ETS, retirement, divorce from a servicemember or death of a TRICARE sponsor, TRICARE is offering a one-hour Webinar, or online seminar, on August 15th  from 1 to 2PM Eastern time to walk you through your options.

To register, visit this page. Enrollment is limited because of the Go2Meeting software used to conduct the webinar, which imposes a maximum number of participants.

The webinar will be hosted by Mr. Mark Ellis, a senior health program analyst with the TRICARE Management Activity. He manages the Continued Health Care Benefit and TRICARE Young Adult programs, which offer premium based health care coverage to former service members and their family members when they are no longer eligible for TRICARE benefits.  He has 35 years of DoD health care experience.

Lost TRICARE: What Are My Options?

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com_losing-TRICARE-benefitsUnless you die in service or you retire and enroll in TRICARE for Life, sooner or later you will lose access to TRICARE and transition either to Medicare, private pay, private insurance, COBRA or the VA. But most people leaving the active duty military have little experience navigating the complex health insurance system outside of the military.

If you are transitioning out of the military – whether because of ETS, retirement, divorce from a servicemember or death of a TRICARE sponsor, TRICARE is offering a one-hour Webinar, or online seminar, on August 15th  from 1 to 2PM Eastern time to walk you through your options.

To register, visit this page. Enrollment is limited because of the Go2Meeting software used to conduct the webinar, which imposes a maximum number of participants.

The webinar will be hosted by Mr. Mark Ellis, a senior health program analyst with the TRICARE Management Activity. He manages the Continued Health Care Benefit and TRICARE Young Adult programs, which offer premium based health care coverage to former service members and their family members when they are no longer eligible for TRICARE benefits.  He has 35 years of DoD health care experience.

Field Guide to the Army National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com army national guard student loansNot everyone joins the military right out of high school. Some people come to the military later in life – after they’ve already taken out a significant amount in student loans. With student loan debt approaching $1 trillion nationwide, this is fast becoming a serious problem for Americans in their 20s and even ‘30s.

The military Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is designed to appeal to recruits who have already invested in college, and perhaps have already received a degree. It’s a good deal for the military, because the get an older, more mature and seasoned recruit, and they get the benefit of that soldier, airman, marine or sailor’s education. The servicemember gets a good deal because the military is still picking up the tab for his or her education.

 

How the Student Loan Repayment Program Works

 

Eligibility

There are three basic tiers of eligibility for the Student Loan Repayment Program: one for non-prior service troops (NPS), one for veterans and one for current members of the Army National Guard.

If you have not enlisted before, eligibility criteria is as follows 

  • Minimum six-year enlistment.
  • You must enlist in military specialty designated as a critical skill (CS).
  • You must enlist in the grade of E-4 or below.
  • You must score a minimum grade of 50 points on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
  • You must not be an 09R Simultaneous Membership Program cadet. That is, you cannot be both an ROTC cadet or midshipman and simultaneously an enlisted member of the reserve component, including the Army or Air National Guard, enrolled in the SMP program. You can still join ROTC – you just cannot be an SMP. That is, you must drill as an enlisted servicemember and not as an ROTC cadet.
  • You must not be in the RFP or Active First Program
  • You cannot be Glossary Non-Prior Service, an Army designation that includes soldiers who served not more than 180 days and never completed any MOS-qualifying school, or advanced individual training (AIT).

 

Prior-service

For those who are prior service, SLRP eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • You must enlist for a term of six years or longer.
  • You must enlist in the grade of E-7 or lower.
  • You must enlist into an MTOE or medical TDA unit.
  • Army troops must have already completed Army basic training or Marine basic training within 1 year of the date of enlistment, if your prior service was with the Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard. Soldiers enlisting in the Army who are prior service with special operations units in Air Force or Navy are exempt from the requirement.
  • You must have a score of 31 or better on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
  • You must be DMOSQ’d (duty MOS-qualified) for your position
  • You can only receive the SLRP benefit once.
  • You cannot have already received a guaranteed reserve forces duty ROTC scholarship.
  • You cannot be enlisting as part of a conditional release from a Select Reserve component other than the U.S. Army Reserve.

 

Current Members of the Army National Guard

  • You must meet all normal enlistment/reenlistment requirements for service in the National Guard.
  • You must extend your obligation for an additional six years.
  • You must reenlist as an E-7 or below. However, you can still get promoted if eligible, during the enlistment.
  • You must be MOSQ’d for your duty position.
  • You must have less than 13 years’ time in service as of your current ETS date. That means you can’t contract under the program to get 20 years!
  • You must not be a military technician.
  • You must not be AGR (Active Guard/Reserve)
  • You cannot receive the benefit as an officer if you already contracted for it as an enlisted servicemember.

           

Student Loan Repayment Amount

The student loan repayment plan repays up to $50,000 in student loans for qualifying servicemembers. This is substantially more generous than the Air Force National Guard’s program, which limits the SLRP to $20,000.

The loan must be not currently in default, and cannot have a zero balance. This means the military is not going to pay off loans for you you’ve already paid off yourself.

The loan must already be disbursed at the time of the contract, and must be a qualifying Title IV federal loan. Generally, the loan must also be at least one year old at the time of the contract. 

The SLRP payments don’t go to you: The military sends the money directly to the lender.

If there is a break in service, your eligibility for the SLRP will be permanently terminated. Furthermore, any enlistment for a period of less than six years will terminate eligibility for the program.

As always, benefits in the Army and Army National Guard are subject to change. For the latest, visit the official website for Army education programs, www.goarmyed.com, and subscribe to our blog.

Transitioning Veterans: How to Buy a Home at 50 Percent Off

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com good neighbor next door sales programLooking to get a big leg up in your post-military career? The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a little-known program that may help some of you buy and own a house at 50 percent off.

 

The Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program

The Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program (GNND) was designed to get good people into struggling neighborhoods. The program provides a subsidy to any qualifying law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter or emergency medical technician who wants to purchase a one-unit, single-family home in a specially-designated “enterprise zone.”

For law enforcement officers, you can qualify if you are a full-time officer of a state, local or federal agency sworn to uphold the law and empowered to make arrests.

For teachers, you can participate if you are a full-time teacher at a state-accredited public or private school teaching grades Pre-K through grade 12.  However, the school must serve students from the area in which you are buying your home.

 

The Benefit

If you fall into one of the categories above, you can get a 50 percent discount on the appraised value of the home. You must, however, commit to living in the home for at least 36 months.

If you qualify for any FHA-insured mortgage program, all you need is a $100 down payment. That’s a far sight less than the 3.5 percent down payment usually required on FHA loans, though, admittedly, the loan-to-value on the program is only 50 percent, so it’s not like they’re taking a huge risk. 

However, you do need to make an ‘earnest money’ deposit of 1 percent of the purchase price, not less than $500 and not more than $2,000. If your offer is accepted, this money is credited to you at closing (so in reality, you need to have a bit more than $100 in cash to close on a home under this program). 

If your offer is rejected, your earnest money deposit is returned. However, if your offer is accepted, but fail to close the sale on your end, you forfeit your earnest money.

You can also use a VA loan with the GNND program, if you like, or a conventional mortgage, or just buy the home for cash.

 

How it works

If you buy a home worth, say, $100,000, you will actually sign two notes for $50,000 each. One you pay off. The other one you make no payments on as long as you live in the home. After 36 months, you have no further obligation on the 2nd mortgage.

 

What homes are eligible?

Eligible homes are any single-unit family residential home located in a Revitalization Area designated by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This includes stand-alone houses, condos and townhomes. It doesn’t include a duplex or quad designed for you to live in one and rent out the other units, though.

To find a revitalization area near you, visit this page. Or you can use this interactive map. There are hundreds of designated revitalization areas from coast to coast.

 

Any other criteria? 

Yes. You cannot own another piece of property during the 36-month residency period. You cannot have owned a home for a one year period prior to your move-in date.

 

Caveat

There’s no price haggling. You must offer the HUD list price to qualify for the 50 percent discount offer under the Good Neighbor Next-Door program.

 

Do you have to stay on the job?

No. Once you close on the loan, there’s no requirement on HUD’s part for you to remain in the profession that made you eligible. You just have to keep living in the home for 36 months.

If you move out, you’ll have to repay a pro-rated amount. 1/36th of the second mortgage – the one on which you make no payments – is forgiven for every month you live in the home. 

Does a Common Anti-Malarial Drug Cause Psychosis and Paranoia?

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com does Mefloquine cause psychosisFollowing the case of former Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who pled guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians – many of them women and children – to avoid the death penalty – reports have been circulating of a possible negative side effect of the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine, or Lariam. This drug is widely given to U.S. servicemembers deploying abroad as a prophylactic measure against malaria, and has also been demonstrated to be effective as a treatment for an active malarial infection as well.

However, some studies predating even the Iraq War have found that there does appear to be a link between the drug and severe episodes of paranoid psychosis, including this Israeli study from 1999. Further anecdotal evidence of Mefloquine-related psychosis is here, here, and here. CBS News took a closer look at the possible connection between violent psychotic episodes and Mefloquine in this 2009 article. And the United Kingdom news outlet, The Guardian, published this story in 2002.

Roche, the company that manufactures the drug, has acknowledged that the drug could cause serious psychological side effects on one individual in 10,000: A negligible percentage for any individual, but perhaps high enough for a large institution such as the U.S. Army requiring tens of thousands of troops to take the drug at a time. However, one study, published in the British Medical Journal in 1996, indicated that the negative side effects could affect as many as 1 in 150.

It is very difficult from a limited sample size with few meaningful opportunities for a controlled study with placebos to demonstrate a meaningful increase in problems among those taking the drug compared to those without it. Nevertheless, there are newer drugs available that seem to have fewer side effects that could be used in place of Mefloquin.

Indeed, the Army has severely rolled back its use among deployed troops, and issued guidance saying those with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) should not be taking the drug at all. Military doctors and commanders had been forcing troops to take the drug even where it was contraindicated.  

Homeschooling in the Military 101

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com homeschooling in the militaryMilitary schoolchildren have a lot of challenges. They are frequently forced to relocate every three years or so, thanks to PCS moves. They also, however, have access to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) the federally-run school system that provides K-12 education for military families both in the U.S. and OCONUS.  These can be terrific alternatives, but they aren’t for everyone. Some military parents choose to homeschool their children.

 

 

Is it legal?

Yes, homeschooling is generally legal, though some states impose more regulation and oversight on homeschooling parents than others. Some host nations may have laws concerning homeschooling that you should be aware of, as well.

 

Are their subsidies available? 

While the vast majority of active-duty military family’s children live on or near a military installation served by a DoDEA school, there are occasionally situations where this isn’t the case. If that describes your family, you may be eligible for a subsidy to help support your homeschooling efforts, via the NDSP, or Non-Defense Schools Program. This program provides financial assistance to military families outside Canada and the United Kingdom whose children don’t live within a reasonable commuting distance from a DoD school. You can use the money to enroll your children into a local private school, an approved virtual school, or you can use it to finance a home-based education program for your children.  The subsidy can be as much as $5,700 for grades K through 8 and $7,700 for grades 9-12.

Homeschoolers are not eligible, however, in the following cases:

  • K-5 in the United Kingdom 
  • K-12 in Canada and Australia 
  • Areas served by a DoDEA school

 

Eligibility

Basic eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Sponsor must be a military service member serving on active duty and stationed overseas on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, or
A civilian employee of the Department of Defense who is employed on a permanent full time basis, assigned overseas, and is either a citizen or a national of the United States;
  • Sponsors must be authorized to transport dependents* to or from an overseas area at government expense, and
  • Sponsors must be provided an allowance for living quarters in that area.
  • Sponsors must be assigned to a location outside the commuting area of a DoD school.

*School-aged dependents are defined as an individual:

  • Who is the child, stepchild, adopted child, or ward of a DoD sponsor, residing with the sponsor, and is eligible for other command sponsorship services, postal services privileges, and
Who meets the host nation age requirement for kindergarten, and
  • Has not completed secondary school and will not reach his or her 21st birthday by September 1 of the current school year (or February 1 in the southern hemisphere); or

Between 3 and 5 years of age with developmental delays and disabilities may be eligible for services if they meet the DoDEA special education criteria.

 

What expenses are reimbursable?

The DoD allows you to use NDSP money towards the following expenses:

  • Traditional curriculum textbooks and other supplemental materials as may be appropriate for math, science, language arts, social studies, and other subjects on a grade/age appropriate basis.
  • Instructional CDs/software, curriculum guides, and manipulative materials for math, etc.
  • Fees charged for access to libraries and group participation in athletic, extracurricular, or music activities that are normally free of charge in U.S. public schools. Group participation is defined as a lesson or activity with enrollment open to the public, not a lesson provided exclusively for a family group (see Non-Allowable item h).
  • Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post associated with these activities are not allowable.
  • Fees for curriculum-related on-line Internet services such as study programs, library services, and distance.
  • Required testing materials by either the formal home-study course or other authorized program.
  • Advisory teaching service affiliated with the selected formally recognized home-study course.
  • Tuition charges, shipping costs, lesson postage, on-line Internet and facsimile charges associated with formal recognized home-study course or other authorized program.

 

What Expenses Are Not Reimbursable?

The general rule is that if an educational expense is ordinarily and customarily borne by parents outside of the Department of Defense in America, then these expenses are not reimbursable under NDSP auspices. Here is a list of expenses that are not authorized for reimbursement, and parents must pay them out-of-pocket:

  • Equipment such as: computers, keyboards, printers, televisions, facsimile and scanning machines, and furniture.
  • Non-course specific CDs, videos, DVDs;
  • General reading materials, reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias, globes), etc.
  • Purchase or rental of items that have broader use than the course being studied (i.e. computers/laptops, computer hardware, calculators, band instruments except noted above).
  • Expendable supplies (paper, pencils, markers) that are normally purchased by parents in the U.S.
  • Parental training in home-study private instruction.
  • Any form of compensation to the parent such as childcare or supervisory costs.
  • Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post.
  • Personal telephone, Internet, satellite, cable or other available communication subscription fees.
  • Fees for museums, cultural events, or performances that would normally be paid by parents in the U.S.
  • Private lessons.
  • Membership in gymnasiums, cultural clubs, spas, and other private clubs.
  • Textbooks, Bibles, workbooks, daily devotionals, or any material primarily for religious instruction.
  • Insurance associated with shipping charges. (Do not elect the optional insurance.)
  • Fees to an independent agency for posting credits and issuing transcripts.

 

Applying 

To apply for the subsidy, fill out this brief spreadsheet, describing what materials you plan to be using for each child. 

Next, register with the NDSP program here.

Those interested in home-based education under the NDSP program can find more program information here. A digital brochure of the NDSP program is available here.

 

State-By-State Homeschooling Laws

Home Education Magazine maintains a state-by-state breakdown of laws as they apply to home education. Note that it is not your home of record that governs your requirements for homeschooling documentation and other regulations. It is your current location or duty station.  

Stay tuned to MilitaryAuthority.com, as we’ll be posting updates and additional information on homeschooling specific to the military community here!

In Fight Against Backlog, VA Shows Signs of Progress

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com department of veterans affairsThe Department of Veterans Affairs is finally starting to show signs of progress in reducing the stubborn backlog of claims pending for 125 days or more. As of last week, the VA was reporting a backlog of 536,400 cases. That is still much higher than it was when Eric Shinseki took the Secretary of Veterans Affairs job in 2009. But at least the number is beginning to decline: The VA reported a backlog of 608,000 claims in March.

The Secretary has established an ambitious goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015. That looks like it’s not going to happen. But the recent progress is encouraging – and is the result of a monumental commitment of both human and technological resources. 

What’s helped? First of all, the Department has been increasingly successful in digitizing the claims process. This is a huge issue, as the old paper-based system was slow cumbersome and prone to routine errors such as transcription problems and lost documents. Merely storing the huge number of records in paper files was becoming an increasingly unmanageable problem for the VA.

Last month, though, the Veterans Administration completed its roll-out its new electronic platform – the Veterans Benefit Management System (VBMS) – in all 56 of its regional offices. Despite some significant hiccups, the rollout was completed six months ahead of schedule.

“This is a big cross-over year for us,” Shinseki said recently to a gathering of VA claims-processing employees in Manchester, New Hampshire. “We have for decades sat astride rivers of paper. Now we are in the process of turning off paper spigots and turning on electronic ones.”

This is an auspicious event for a couple of reasons:

First, the electronic system makes the claims-tracking process itself more efficient. So even if the original file is still on paper, fewer additional man-hours need be spent on the process of entering data into a system to track progress.

Second, the new electronic system means that fewer paper applications are coming in. The process on new claims becomes much more efficient.

Additionally, veterans in the backlog have benefitted from an end to the war in Iraq, which had tragically been contributing a steady stream of new combat and deployment-related claims. Furthermore, the flood of newly-initiated coming from Agent Orange-related incidents has subsided, reducing the new-claims workload. The VA had experienced a surge in claims from Vietnam War veterans once the Obama Administration indicated that they were looking favorably at Agent Orange-related claims. The VA also expanded benefits eligibility for conditions related to service during the Gulf War.

Technically, a claim is categorized as “backlogged” if it is still pending adjudication after 125 days. Appealed claims that receive an initial adjudication are not considered “backlogged.”  In September of 2009, when Shinseki came on the job, the backlog stood at 180,000 claims. Since then, the VA has been processing claims at a higher rate than ever before – but the furious pace was still not enough to keep up with the new claims piling in. 

The Veterans Administration also sought to enlist the support of organizations like Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion to help veterans in the process of documenting and preparing their claims. This led to fewer incomplete applications and quicker processing times, because these claims tended to be more complete and more fully-documented prior to even reaching the VA processing center.

Spousal Employment Problems Still Huge Issue for Military Families

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com military spouse unemploymentSpouses of military servicemembers continue to face significant professional challenges due to their military affiliation, according to a newly-released survey. In the 2013 Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report, published by Blue Star Families, military families overwhelmingly reported that spouses had faced severe problems in finding and keeping jobs, and in keeping up professionally with non-civilian peers. Furthermore, survey response results indicated that lack of access to quality employment opportunities for spouses is the number one driver of financial stress for military families undergoing financial problems.

All told, more than two thirds of all spouses surveyed – 68 percent – reported that being a military spouse had a negative effect on their ability to engage in careers of their own. Only 8 percent reported that their careers benefitted from their military affiliation.

58 percent of military spouses surveyed – easily a majority – believed they had not been hired or had been treated negatively in the workplace specifically because they were military spouses. Only 7 percent reported benefitting in their job searches from being a military spouse. 

39 percent of military spouses are employed, while 61 percent of military spouses do not work outside the home. Of these, 52 percent of them report that they want to work, and another 21 percent reported they were not sure.

26 percent of respondents reported that they were self-employed.

Only 7 percent of military families have been able to supplement retirement savings through a spouse’s 401(k), and only 5 percent report spouses with a defined benefit (traditional) pension plan.

80 percent reported that the reason they are not working is because of poor ‘alignment.’ That is, there is very little demand for their skill set near their military installations where their sponsors are stationed. In some cases, Status of Forces agreements with host nations prohibit them from gaining formal local employment.

39 percent of those surveyed reported that spousal unemployment was the reason they were unable to save, and 13 percent reported frequent moves as the reason.

28 percent of those responding say they are not working because of a recent or imminent PCS move. Interestingly, 13 percent report that they have not seen any improvements in reciprocity even though they lived in states that had passed legislation to make it easier for military spouses to import their professional licenses from one state to another via military spouse license portability laws.

16 percent of spouses report problems with transferring licenses, credentials or certifications to a new state. 

53 percent of respondents indicated lack of access to affordable, quality child care options was a reason they were not working. Blue Star Families reported that some spouses are caught in a Catch-22: The shortage of child care available on post means that only spouses with employment can place their children in child care; but many spouses report that they cannot even obtain employment without first having access to child care.

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