The Airing of Military Family Grievances: Festivus 2017

(Military.com illustration/stock image)
(Military.com illustration/stock image)

In general we try to keep things positive here on SpouseBuzz. And when we talk about things that are wrong with military life, we offer suggestions for fixing them. We're doers.

But once a year, we let the fixing stuff slide and, in the spirit of the Dec. 23 "holiday" Festivus, we air our grievances.

Don't know what Fesitvus is? Here's an important tutorial.

Full disclosure: it's become tricky to come up with new grievances every year. Our grievances, rather, have remained mostly unchanged since we started this tradition several years ago. But that's OK. We can air them again.

Topping the list yet again is Tricare.

Tricare and the Defense Health Agency. Guys. I know you're faced with managing a program that provides benefits to more than a million people. But I'm sitting over here trying to keep track of all of your coverage changes and what those mean for military families and, well, you haven't made it easy. I don't need a festivus list. I could just dedicate the entire airing of grievances to you.

Here are two of the woes brought me and Tricare users this year:

  • Dental contract change and all the dentists that no longer take your plan. You farmed out dental coverage for active duty families to United Concordia. Awesome. But then the contract you worked out gave them leeway to pay dentists so little that they no longer wanted to be in network. And while, yes, the contract is still meeting the requirements of having the bare minimum number of dentists and appointments in any given region, those requirements don't apply to pediatric dentists. So that puts people with kids up a creek, so to speak.
  • Misinformation on the changes hitting Jan. 1. You decided to delay the contractor change to Jan. 1 so everything could be done at once. That would be more simple, you said. But it's not. Instead there are so many changes that even your own officials have no clue what is happening. Your website has been unclear at best and, at worst, has given wrong information. Your officials confirm details, only to call later to say they were completely wrong. Policy details buried deep in the federal register surface slowly, but in the meantime incorrect information is reported. This has been insane.

Delayed orders. Ever tried to pack up a family quickly? It can be done, but it's not fun. Thanks to budget cuts many military families continue to experience a delay to their orders. In the Navy sailors were warned orders probably wouldn't come with more than two months notice. But even that seems long for some people. And, yes, most know where they are going before that -- but without those orders they can't book movers, secure housing or start terminating leases and other contracts where they are currently stationed. We live and die by that paperwork. Let's step it up, folks.

Congress. Ah yes, another regular on our Festivus list. All y'all -- I just cannot. Yes, you've done some really snappy work this thing, shoving things through the legislative process like an improved GI Bill, help for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the most recent National Defense Authorization Act. But all of that is nothing if we're not getting a paycheck. These annual threats of government shutdown -- and the resulting lack of pay -- are uncool. Oh, and stop trying to jack with Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). It's part of the compensation package. Leave it alone.

The President and the Transgender Ban. Mr. President, there's a whole hill of stuff that I don't understand about your decisions, but we're just going to focus on this one thing. I don't get it. How, exactly, do transgender troops hurt the military? And why is banning them necessary? Let's enjoy the glorious diversity of our country and military and not drink the hateraide, please.

Military spouses behaving badly. Social-media base spouse bashing groups. People who insist that unless they experienced it, a problem or feeling doesn't exist. You guys, help me help you. I assume if you're mean that you're dealing with something deep down that I know nothing about. But maybe you're just, well, mean for no reason. If that's you remember: most of us are just doing our best with this military or veteran spouse life. Can't we just support each other? Please?

Civilian government employees. Now, I know there are some good eggs out there. I'm not talking to you guys. I'm talking to your coworkers -- you know, the ones who act like they are doing everyone a favor by simply doing their jobs. The ones who won't smile. The ones who are enjoying doing the bare minimum because they know they won't be fired. THOSE ones. Many of them appear to work at the Army's CIF. Some of them work in the DEERS office and the commissary. As a first step towards not being rude and mean, try smiling.

Government website developers. This might seem like a very minor thing, but it's not. How is it that Defense Department websites suck so very much? Why don't the links work? Why is information so old and out of date? And why in the world did Military One Source and the Defense Commissary Agency do a website update that did not include redirects? Thanks to those changes many of the things I've written are full of bad links. Oh, the links used to work great. But when the website updated and they killed the old page and moved the information to some new page without putting in a redirect, they made everyone's lives worse instead of better. So good job on that.

Thus concludes my 2017 airing of grievances. Have some grievances of your own? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Next year we'll consider adding "feats of strength," to our festivities, but only if a Defense Health Agency representative is interested in a CrossFit-style throwdown.

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