Tagged: military benefits
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If you’re a father on TDY in Texas and you need to travel to New York because your child or wife is in the hospital, you have to take leave out of your allotted 30 days per year. That’s what it’s for.
If you want to marry your same-sex partner, however, you don’t have to charge leave against your 30 days. Instead, the DoD, at taxpayers’ expense, will grant you an additional, free 7-10 days of military leave – a benefit the DoD does not grant under any circumstances to heterosexuals, single or married.
That’s the end result of the DoD’s announcement yesterday that they will grant 10 days leave to any servicemember who wants to marry a same-sex partner if that servicemember is not stationed within one of the 13 states that grant same-sex marriage licenses, or within 100 miles of one.
The decision sparked applause from advocates of gay/lesbian rights within the military, but also criticism from some circles for granting a special benefit to gays and lesbians that is not available to heterosexuals.
What Does This Cost?
The DoD estimates that as many as 18,000 active-duty servicemembers are gay or lesbian. If a third of these take non-chargeable leave to get married, and we assume a standard planning factor of $250 per servicemember per day, a 7-day leave for all 6,000 results in a total cost to the taxpayer of approximately $10.5 million. And that’s just to get wedding rings on their fingers.
This is not counting the additional outlays the taxpayer must fund as thousands of servicemembers qualify for the higher Type II ‘with dependents’ BAH rate, nor the cost of adding six thousand more enrollees in TRICARE.
The announcement comes even as the Secretary of Defense and other Pentagon leaders are cautioning military families that funding for basic services such as schools, commissaries and day care is in jeopardy due to sequestration.
Supporters of the additional non-chargeable leave available only to same-sex couples argue that the leave simply addresses the additional hardships and inconveniences that same-sex couples have because they cannot get married in every state.
Opponents argue that that is an issue for state legislators to address, and should not be the DoD’s problem, nor should taxpayers in other states
Opponents also argue that the announcement amounts to special treatment of a favored group, and will serve to undermine resentment of servicemembers in same-sex relationships as other troops make up their workload.
They also argue that in today’s austere budget environment, benefits granted to same-sex couples will squeeze out benefits for traditional families, and that the money committed to providing these benefits is better spent elsewhere.
On a personal level, the idea that we could lift the ban on gay or lesbian servicemembers serving openly without quickly granting full spousal benefits to same-sex dependents was never realistic. You cannot have a military with an apartheid-like system of family supports and services, with some spouses eligible for full benefits and other spouses not even allowed to live in military housing. To do so would be rightly perceived as an insult to those same-sex couples assigned to 2nd class status. You cannot have a functional family support group, or a functioning community, if you do not include the lawful spouses of all servicemembers.
That said, granting the additional 10 days leave to gay and lesbian servicemembers while denying the same benefit to other service members who have family emergencies, for example, or who simply want to get married in their home of record, is a bridge too far. It will be widely perceived as a $10.5 million-plus sop to political correctness and as special treatment for the new protected class.
The resentment will be particularly acute as money is found to provide this leave, plus additional benefits for same-sex couples, even as services for traditional families, such as DoD schools, face cutbacks and furloughs. This will be especially true in inevitable cases where soldiers taking emergency bereavement leave, or leave to witness their children being born, for example are forced to charge their leave while gay or lesbian coworkers at the next desk are not. There is no way to cover or paper over that absurdity, and that’s what it is – an absurdity.
If everyone can’t use an additional 7-10 days of non-chargeable leave for major family issues such as births and deaths, as well as marriages, then it should apply to no one.
Put another way, the same leave policy should apply across the board. Period.
That is what is best for gay and straight troops alike.
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you agree with Jason that it is unfair to grant a special benefit of extra leave to gay servicemembers? Or do you think this is one small way to make up for the discrimination gay servicemembers have endured up to this point? Tell us in the comments.
As deep cuts in defense spending continue to take hold, the Secretary of Defense has notified Congress that the DoD will be forced to take some draconian measures come fiscal year 2014.
With an ongoing war in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense must find an additional $52 billion in cuts to make, hopefully without harming the war effort. As part of that plan, the Secretary of Defense told Congress, through a letter, that the combination of cutbacks could include some items that are deeply painful for military servicemembers and their families. For example, the Secretary said cuts could include:
- A freeze on all promotions
- A freeze on permanent-change-of-station moves
- A continued freeze on civilian hiring
- Halting all discretionary bonuses, such as reenlistment bonuses
- Stop taking in recruits
- 20 percent reductions in procurement, construction and R&D
Secretary Hagel sent the letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and James Inhofe (R – Oklahoma). The Senators had asked the Secretary to lay out the effects that planned budget rollbacks and sequestration measures would have on military personnel and readiness.
Hagel also said the DoD would be forced to make deep cuts to weapons programs and put off needed facilities and infrastructure maintenance. However, the law does not allow the DoD to shut down unneeded posts.
Hagel also called for caps on military pay increases, and increases in TRICARE fees for retirees.
The Secretary also said that if sequestration remains in effect as it currently stands, there would possibly be a round of involuntary discharges.
All told, unless Congress takes action, the Department of Defense must find over half a trillion dollars in savings vis. Previously planned baseline spending over the next 10 years – while at the same time successfully prosecuting the Afghanistan war and satisfying its normal peacetime missions such as guarding key shipping lanes and deterring aggression from rival nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
However, the funds specifically allocated to support the Afghanistan warfighing mission have thus far been protected from sequester.
Secretary Hagel would also like to eliminate unneeded bases, ships and weapons. However, this is always an uphill battle for the Department of Defense, because every unneeded program is all too often some Congressperson’s pet project.
Ready, Fire, Aim!!! Secretary of Defense Has No Idea What Expanding Benefits to Same-Sex Partners Will Cost DoDPosted by Jason Van Steenwyk
Just a few months ago, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his predecessor Leon Panetta were pounding the table for TRICARE fee increases and pension reforms, arguing that over time, personnel costs would overwhelm the DoD.
Now the Secretary of Defense, having supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, has pledged to make the full range of lucrative benefits available to same-sex spouses of service members that are available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from the widely understood Tricare health insurance benefit to qualification for military housing, a significantly higher housing allowance (BAH Type II), free PCS moves and family separation pay.
So what’s this going to cost?
Well, the Secretary of Defense doesn’t know. Having advocated the policy change, the Administration had no idea what the fiscal effect on the Department of Defense was going to be.
The concern over the significant cost burden of paying benefits to the families of servicemembers is not new. In the early 1990s, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Mundy, proposed saving money by prohibiting married individuals from joining the Marine Corps. This policy would have echoed the military practice of prior generations: In the 1950s, anyone below sergeant in the Army required the company commander’s permission before getting married.
As it stands now, the DoD estimates that there are about 17,000 military members with same-sex partners in marriages recognized by at least one state. That’s about a division equivalent.
You’d think that with the repeal of DOMA on the horizon for years, that the DoD or the Administration would at least come up with a ballpark budget-impact estimate. After all, local commands in the Reserve component have to come up with a cost-estimate worksheet just to hire a few people for a week to help prepare for an inspection.
The DoD, however, will apparently be blindsided by the cost of their own favored policy.
However, any cost estimate would have to include the difficult-to-predict impact that human responses to incentives will create. For example, how many gay troops over and above the 17,000 estimated will now get married in order to collect military benefits? Are there others who have not been identified? If the 17,000 estimate is low, then costs will be higher than projected. If they bothered to project them in the first place.
Will we see healthy partners of HIV-positive individuals join the military to give their partners access to Tricare benefits, and what will that cost? Will we see retired servicemembers come out and enroll their partners? Will we see same sex roommates engaging in sham marriages to get a higher BAH payout? How will we police that? Or will we?
A big part of the budget impact of the expansion of military benefits will have to do with how the DoD (and to a lesser extent, the Veterans Administration) defines what will and what will not count as a marriage for the purposes of DEERs enrollment. For example, will the DoD grant benefits to those servicemembers in domestic partnerships that aren’t formally marriages? If it does, will it grant the same benefits to heterosexuals in domestic partnerships? Will the state laws governing same-sex marriages have any bearing on the status of marriages within that state? How will the DoD treat servicemembers wishing to marry in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages? Will same-sex partners still have to show marriage certificates as heterosexual couples do in order to qualify?
The Broader Picture
To be fair, there are some early indications that the repeal of DOMA will cause a net increase in federal revenue, because of the marriage tax penalty that will be imposed upon married same-sex couples, and because married couples with combined incomes would be less likely to qualify for public assistance programs than two unmarried individuals with separate incomes. The Congressional Budget Office concluded in 2004 that same-sex marriage would have the effect of actually decreasing the federal deficit, because of these effects. However, this would not benefit the Department of Defense directly. To pay for these benefits, the DoD has a few options:
- Slash benefits across the board for all families to pay for the at least 17,000 new partners and counting.
- Increase TRICARE fees.
- Cut operational, maintenance, physical plant and spare parts budgets
- Cut a couple more brigade combat teams, ships, or aircraft programs or some combination of the three.
These cost saving measures are already well underway – prompted by the twin engines of a natural post-war cyclical drawdown and the additional requirements of sequestration. The DoD is already complaining that the sequestration requirements will force them to cut bone. The additional benefits paid will force further cuts in an already austere fiscal environment for the U.S. military.
‘Kaitlyn’s Law’ to Authorize TRICARE Reimbursement of Horse and Other Physical Therapies Introduced in CongressPosted by Jason Van Steenwyk
A law requiring TRICARE to fund or reimbursed certain therapies for individuals with disabilities and the severely wounded or injured was introduced this week in the House of Representatives. The Rehabilitative Therapy Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act, dubbed “Kaitlyn’s Law” by supporters, seeks to amend Title 10 with the following language:
(g) Rehabilitative therapy provided pursuant to subsection (a)(17) may include additional therapeutic exercises or therapeutic activities if such exercises or activities are included in the authorized individual plan of care of the individual receiving such therapy. Such exercises or activities may include, in addition to other therapeutic exercises or therapeutic activities, therapies provided on a horse, balance board, ball, bolster, and bench.
The law has received bipartisan sponsorship from Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas), its primary sponsor, and from cosponsors Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Marc A. Veasey (D-Texas).
The bill has come to pass largely because of the efforts of the parents of a child named Kaitlyn Samuels, the 17-year-old daughter of a Navy officer.
Kaitlyn has severe scoliosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and some cognitive disabilities that render her unable to speak. She requires regular physical therapy sessions to help her develop and strengthen her back and abdominal muscles to help support the weight of her spine and upper body. If she does not regularly exercise these muscles, it is possible that she could slowly suffocate herself.
Her physical therapists had trouble finding a therapy that she would tolerate. She has limited insight into her condition and had not been cooperative with standard modes of therapy, such as benches and balance balls. But when therapists tried the same exercises on horseback, Kaitlin responded very well. According to the family, since she does not tolerate the other forms of therapy, her horseback therapy is the only thing preventing her scoliosis from curving her spine to the point where her internal organs are crushed.
Unfortunately, TRICARE officials didn’t care. At least for long. They covered the horseback therapy for a while, and then changed their minds about it, demanding over $1,300 in reimbursements from the family for payments already made.
While the standard therapies were readily approved under existing TRICARE guidelines, the same therapies done on horseback were deemed non-reimbursable. Horse therapy, or hippotherapy, as it’s called in the medical profession, was considered “unproven” by TRICARE, even though it was already proven in Kaitlyn’s particular case. The family appealed the decision through several reviews, but TRICARE ultimately ruled against them.
As we reported here last year, TRICARE officials overruled the recommendation of the hearing officer and denied the benefit – putting the government in the absurd position of approving therapies that are proven not to work while specifically denying the one therapy that was effective.
The Samuels family fought back – contacting their Congressional representatives, networking with the tight-knit community of parents of special needs children (who have some PR skills of their own!), starting a Facebook page and leveraging social media to get the word out about their private foundation.
Kaitlyn has been able to continue her therapy, thanks to generous private donations.
Meanwhile, the bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.
You might know the American Red Cross as “those people who do the blood drives,” but like the military, they have a rich history of service. A national service organization for more than a century, the 700 locally-supported chapters of the American Red Cross has helped more than 15 million people each year people mobilize to help their neighbors. These volunteers learn valuable skills to prepare for and respond to emergencies in homes, communities, and around the world. In addition, almost four million people also donate blood each year through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States.
The American Red Cross also maintains a strong commitment to serving all members of the military, whether active-duty, Guard, and Reserve service members or their immediate family members. They are an important resource for our service members and those they love.
American Red Cross services for military members and their families include:
Communicating important news with family members is one area the Red Cross supports. Whether it’s to share the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one, the immense worldwide network maintained by the Red Cross helps keeps military personnel anywhere (including on ships at sea, at embassies, and in isolated military units)linked with their loved ones.
If you need to send an emergency message, contact the Red Cross and have the following information on hand:
- service member’s full name, rank, Service branch, Social Security number, and military address
- information about the deployed unit and the location of the rear detachment unit (for deployed service members only)
- name, phone number, and relationship of person in the city or town where the emergency occurred (to provide more information if required)
- name and contact number for hospital or funeral home to verify the emergency
Social services and disaster assistance
The Red Cross provides counseling, family support and help with VA appeals for service members and their families. There are some chapters that offer special courses or support groups for military families to help themselves and others deal with the psychological challenges of the deployment cycle.
Direct support to service members
Red Cross staff members deploy overseas to provide direct emergency communications. In overseas locations, the Red Cross may offer respite from harsh conditions and bring a little bit of home to the troops by operating a twenty-four-hour canteen service with coffee, cold drinks, snacks, games, videos, and books. Red Cross teams also visit patients in clinics and hospitals.
Military family members who wish to volunteer with the Red Cross can also find opportunities such as:
- positions as greeters, hospital guides, wheelchair escorts, patient chaperones, and pharmacy aids working at medical facilities in areas such as physical therapy, the emergency room, pediatrics, dermatology, and radiology
- volunteer caseworker positions at Red Cross locations
- a Dental Assistant Program (DENTAC) for training as a dental technician
- pet-therapy volunteer positions to cheer up patients in military hospitals
- blood donation center positions to assist with blood drives
- disaster-response positions to provide relief support
The American Red Cross is accessible in a number of ways:
- Active-duty service members stationed in the US and their immediate family members may call the Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Service (AFES) Centers for help at any time 877-272-7337.
- Members of the Guard and Reserve, retirees, and extended family members can access services through their local Red Cross Chapter, listed in local telephone directories and in the chapter directory.
- Overseas personnel stationed on military installations may call installation operators or the on-installation Red Cross office.
Service members whose active duty was involuntarily extended beyond their original agreements are facing an October 21st, 2012 deadline to apply for stop loss pay benefits. The Department of Defense increased the use of stop loss after the advent of the terrorist attack of September 11th. It reached its highest use in 2005, and the policy is slated to discontinue in 2011 by a 2009 directive of the-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
This is not an automatic benefit; those who experienced stop loss must apply to receive the funds. You must have served under stop loss between September 11th, 2001 and September 30th, 2009. For each month served under stop loss, veteran service members will receive a bonus of $500.
Your application must include:
- DD 2944, Claim for Retroactive Stop Loss Payment; and from the DD2944 form
- DD 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and/or DD Form 215, Correction to DD Form 214;
- Personnel record or enlistment or reenlistment document recording original expiration of service date;
- Approved retirement memorandum or orders establishing retirement prior to actual date of retirement as stipulated on DD 214 or DD 215;
- Approved resignation memorandum or transition orders establishing a separation date prior to actual date of separation as stipulated in DD 214 or DD 215; and
- Signed documentation or affidavit from knowledgeable officials from the individual’s chain of command acknowledging separation/deployment, etc.
Your branch of service may request more information and documentation after receiving your application. Each branch of service processes its own stop loss claims; the address for each service’s claim processing is located on the DD2294.Veterans who voluntarily reenlisted after being told they were to undergo a stop loss and received a bonus for that reenlistment are ineligible for this program.
If you were planning on taking advantage of the temporarily extended Homeowners Assistance Program, or HAP, it’s time to get a move on. The deadline to apply is September 30th.
HAP provides financial assistance to homeowners who are upside down in their homes because of base closures or realignments. The term ‘upside-down’ means the homeowners owe more on their homes than their homes are worth.
The Homeowners Assistance Program actually consists of two distinct parts: The first part, Conventional HAP, dates back to 1966, and was specifically designed to help federal and military workers sell their homes where housing prices were depressed because of base closures. The Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 expanded the program to include disabled members of the military and spouses of deceased servicemembers.
The September 30th deadline applies specifically to those going for benefits under conventional HAP.
To qualify for these benefits, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have been the home’s owner and occupant on 13 May 2005,
- You must have taken a hit of 10 percent or more on your home because of a base realignment or closing.
- You had to relocate more than 50 miles to your new post, or you were forced to retire because your job or post no longer exists.
- You must sell your home between 1 July 2006 and 30 September 2012.
- To claim HAP PCS benefits, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your PCS orders must be dated between 1 February 2006 and 30 September 2010.
- You must have been required to move at least 50 miles.
- You must have closed or committed to close on the property prior to 1 July 2006.
- The property must be the primary residence of the owner.
- You must not have received benefits under Expanded HAP Benefit Payments previously.
The HAP may compensate you with the appraised value when you actually sell it. The government reimburses closing costs for private sales.
Those applying under PCS or BRAC 2005 auspices (those whose positions were eliminated or they were forced to move because of a base closure) must sell their houses by September 30th to receive assistance, though a 1 month extension was recently granted for Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and NAS Brunswick, Maine. So things are down to the wire for that group.
Extended HAP Benefits
Extended HAP benefits go to wounded or disabled servicemembers with a VA disability rating of 30 percent or higher, or those whose military doctors certify are likely to receive a 30 percent or higher disability rating. However, there must be a specific reason why the servicemember must relocate (and sell the home). Examples of valid reasons include to obtain better access to treatment, be closer to caregivers or to find work that you can do with the disability.
The following groups do not qualify for HAP benefits:
- Those who retire prior to the federal mandatory retirement dates.
- Those who are entering active duty (these people may fall under the Soldiers and Sailors Act to ward off foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings, though).
- Service members who leave or are discharged voluntarily.
- Servicemembers who request voluntary release from active duty (REFRAD).
- Servicemembers released for substandard performance or misconduct.
To apply for the HAP program, you’ll need the following documents:
- DD Form 1607, Application for Homeowners Assistance
- The deed to your dwelling with recording information such as book, page number, date of recording of deed; or bar code.
- Transfer orders, or amendment orders; DoD civilians provide a copy of a SF50.
- Retirement orders or separation letter. This will provide further evidence of your relocation.
- A statement from utility company indicating occupancy dates.
- DD Form 1300 Report of Casualty, if applicable.
Sponsored by the USO, Pimsleur is offering free MP3 downloads of their Dari and Pashto language programs. These two languages account for the majority of languages spoken within Afghanistan and are its official languages. Dari is used in education and business with approximately 50% of the people speaking it. Pashto is spoken by approximately 35% of Afghanis. Pashto is also spoken in northern Pakistan. There are 30 lessons available in Dari, and a total of 60 lessons (two 30 lesson courses) in Pashto. These courses retail for $120 each.
Pimsleur Language courses are known the world over for giving users the ability to begin speaking effortlessly with near-native pronunciation, using common, everyday vocabulary.
Pashto Levels 1 & 2, and Dari Level 1 all-audio MP3 programs are easy to download for use in the field or on a base. Upon completion, each learner will have attained intermediate proficiency in speaking and understanding Pashto or Dari, and in reading the Pashto or Dari alphabets.
Expanding your language skills can help beyond your military deployment. Civilian corporations need employees who can communicate across the globe, as interpreters, stateside liasons or in offices located overseas. With more companies diversifying their business plans and with growing opportunities in the Middle East, pursuing a business degree with your military education benefits along with learning a new language can solidify your chances of securing a civilian job once you leave the military.