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National Military Family Assn. - Government and You E-News

For the week of February 19, 2008

1. Online Course for Educators of Military Children Available

2. Illinois Launches Warrior Assistance Program

3. TBI Compensation by the VA Questioned by Senators

4. DeCA Patron Council Rides Again

5. DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards

6. NMFA Participates in APA Roundtable

7. Military Child Education Coalition Contests

1. Online Course for Educators of Military Children Available:The first online course addressing the needs of military students iscurrently available for registration through the University of Hawaiiat Manoa Outreach College. This ten week, three credit course is aproduct of the Military Child Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.The original author, Dr. Lynne Michael Blum, who wrote "BuildingResilient Kids", will instruct the course at the University of Hawaiiunder the course name, "Field Studies in Educational Foundations EDEF469."

This course addresses the message that militarystudents face special challenges of mobility and parental deploymentand how educators are uniquely positioned to help students overcometheir challenges with resilience. Course participants will increasetheir skills of school connectedness, parent partnerships, and socialand emotional learning. The "look and feel" of the course is engagingwith learning games, case studies, and practical strategies and ideas.The course features exemplary programs across the U.S. and video clipsof students, parents, teachers, counselors and administrators. Thecourse also features video lectures from leading university experts.The course is accompanied by an extensive bibliography and resourcelist.

How do you register? Go to http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/myuh/quick_guide.asp,click on the Outreach College Web page, click on Credit Courses, clickon Spring 2008 Extension and follow the links to register. Needassistance? Call UH Outreach College at 808-9567221 or email theinstructor, Dr. Lynne Michael Blum at michael-blum@msn.com.

2. Illinois Launches Warrior Assistance Program:The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program is a first in the nationprogram that will screen returning Illinois National Guard members fora traumatic brain injury (TBI) while offering TBI screening to allIllinois veterans, and a 24-hour toll-free psychological helpline forveterans suffering from symptoms associated with Post Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD).  The Illinois Warrior Assistance Programprovides confidential assistance for Illinois veterans as theytransition back to their everyday lives after serving our country.  Itsgoal is to help service members and their families deal with theemotional and psychological challenges they may be facing.  The programhas three major parts:

  • First, it offers a 24-hour, toll-free helpline at 1-866-554-IWAP(4927), which is staffed by health professionals to assist veterans,day or night, with the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD).
  • Second, it provides Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)screening to all interested Illinois veterans over the phone via thehelpline or through the State of Illinois Department of Veterans'Affairs (IDVA) Veteran Service Officers (VSOs).
  • Third, it makes TBI screenings mandatory for all returning members of the Illinois Army National Guard and Air National Guard. 

If a veteran has a positive screening for PTSD or TBIand is uninsured or underinsured, he or she could be eligible foradditional diagnostic review and treatment for PTSD or TBI through theProgram.  The hotline and the network of providers will be operatedthrough Magellan Health Services, Inc.

The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program is jointlycoordinated by the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, theDepartment of Healthcare and Family Services, the Governor's Office andthe Illinois Department of Military Affairs.

Services covered by the Illinois Warrior AssistanceProgram include: referral to appropriate service provider; carecoordination; counseling; psychotherapy; prescriptions for behavioralhealth pharmaceuticals; intensive outpatient services; and referral toan IDVA Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to help the veteran apply for allapplicable state and federal benefits.    To be eligible for these services, a veteran must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of the State of Illinois;
  • Be no more than 64 years of age, unless uninsured;
  • Have served for at least 180 days of duty after initial training;
  • Is not an inmate of a public institution;
  • Is not a resident of a nursing facility;
  • Does not have healthcare coverage or does not havecoverage for diagnostic review and treatment for PTSD or TBI includedin their healthcare coverage; and
  • Is not eligible for USVA services or is eligible for USVA services but such services or coverage is inaccessible because the:
    • Nearest site providing necessary services is more than 75 miles from the veteran's home;
    • Veteran does not have transportation to a covered provider; or
    • Veteran must wait more than three months for an appointment with a covered provider.

Illinois veterans who do not meet the eligibility requirements will be referred to an appropriate source of follow-up care. Ifyou are a veteran or service member suffering from symptoms associatedwith PTSD, or if you think someone you care about may be experiencingpost-deployment stress or other combat-related emotional issues, callthe Illinois Warrior Assistance Program confidential 24-hour toll-freehelpline, 1-866-554-IWAP (4927) for more information and help. You can also visit http://www.illinoiswarrior.com/ for more information about the program.

3. TBI Compensation by the VA Questioned by Senators:On February 4, 2008, the Chairman of the Senate Veterans' AffairsCommittee, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and fellow majority Committeemembers submitted a letter to the Director of Regulations Managementfor the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urging the VA to improveregulations proposed for compensating veterans for Traumatic BrainInjury (TBI). According to the letter, the new rules must provide for afair evaluation of the veteran's disabilities. Under the currentregulations, compensation for symptoms attributable to TBI, such asheadaches, dizziness, or insomnia is limited to 10 percent and no more.The VA has acknowledged this is an outdated rule; however, it hasremained in effect pending release of the new rules. The letterrequested VA to withdraw the outdated rule immediately. The Senatorsalso objected to the fact the proposed rule does not consider severityor frequency of TBI symptoms, only the number of symptoms.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year2008 included the provision for a TBI Center of Excellence. This newCenter will provide a rich environment for research and the developmentof evidence-based treatment for TBI. The Senators called for the VA toinclude an ending date in any adopted regulation to ensure the VAreviews the TBI criteria on a more frequent basis; therefore, allowingthe VA to incorporate these new findings. The entire letter can beread: http://veterans.senate.gov/public/media/Letterfeb508.pdf.

The VA's "Schedule for Rating Disabilities; Evaluationof Residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)" regulation can be foundat: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20081800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E7-25522.pdf. To view comments already submitted go to: http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp and search: RIN 2900-AM75 Schedule for Rating Disabilities; Evaluation of Residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury. 

4. DeCA Patron Council Rides Again:After a nearly three year break, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)has reconstituted the Patron Council and held its annual meeting lastweek. DeCA Patron Council members represent active duty, Guard, Reserveand retired service members and their families. The Council meetsannually to share views and recommendations. Members also workthroughout the year to provide commissary information to theirconstituents. Council membership is comprised of people nominated asofficial representatives of their respective Service or association andselected by DeCA's director.

Acting Director and CEO, Rick Page, provided councilmembers with a comprehensive DeCA brief and shared plans for newcommissaries opening in FY 2008 and 2009. Randy Chandler, SalesDirector, shared an update on future trends and exciting new changes toDeCA's product mix. Members were also introduced to the new "GreenGrocery Bag". These reusable cloth bags are currently available inlimited distribution at commissaries world wide. They have been sopopular DeCA's supplier has had difficulty meeting the demand. Inaddition, DeCA is "Going Green" in a variety of other areas such asrecycling and promoting compact fluorescent light bulbs. The DeCADietician, Major Karen Fauber, presented outreach programs designed toencourage good nutrition and healthy choices. DeCA is also very focusedon outreach to traditionally underserved beneficiaries, those who donot live near a commissary. Through commissary "road shows" DeCA isworking with the Guard and Reserve chiefs to identify locations for 100sale events in 2008. Other programs like the "Virtual Commissary" alsoextend the benefit beyond the installation.

Mr. Page began his brief with this quote from VinceLombardi, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection wecan catch excellence." As stated by Mr. Page, DeCA is not interested inbeing "just good". Military patrons deserve excellence and DeCA strivesto provide it every day. If it's been awhile why not visit your localcommissary and rediscover this wonderful benefit. Complete detailsabout all of the exciting programs DeCA offers are available at theirwebsite, http://www.commissaries.com/.NMFA is proud to serve on the Patron Council. We welcome your feedbackand ideas regarding the Commissary benefit. Please contact JessicaPerdew, Deputy Director of Government Relations at jessica.perdew@nmfa.org to share your views.

5. DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards:Thomas F. Hall, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs,hosted the 2007 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awardslast week. First established in 2000, these awards recognize NationalGuard and reserve units with the best family readiness programs.Representatives from each of the seven reserve components were on handto receive a commemorative plaque from Secretary Hall. Each unit alsoreceived a cash award from the Military Officers Association of America(MOAA) to further their family support programs. This year's winners were:

  • Air Force Reserve - 944th Mission Support Flight, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona;
  • Air National Guard - 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno, California;
  • Army National Guard - 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
  • Army Reserve - 108th Training Command, Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Coast Guard Reserve - Port Security Unit 308, Gulfport, Mississippi;
  • Marine Corps Reserve - 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Chicago, Illinois; and
  • Navy Reserve - Naval Air Systems Command (NASC-6066), Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

NMFA was pleased to attend and wishes to thank all thevolunteers and Family Readiness Coordinators for helping to strengthenour reserve component families. (Source: DoD Office of the AssistantSecretary of Defense for Public Affairs: http://www.defenselink.mil/advisories/advisory.aspx?advisoryid=2950)

6. NMFA Participates in APA Roundtable:NMFA, along with the Iraq-Afghanistan Veterans Association, theNational Rural Health Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs,Mental Health America and congressional staff, participated in aroundtable discussion on the needs of military personnel, veterans, andtheir families at the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) 5thAnnual Advocacy Day Program.

APA's theme for this year's program was "ImprovingAccess to Mental Health Systems of Care for America's Veterans, theirFamilies, and Other Underserved Groups." Panel participants and 100 APAmembers discussed issues such as TRICARE, access to VA mental healthservices for families, and mental health services for active dutyservice members and veterans.

For more information on APA's efforts on behalf of veterans and their families go to Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives. at http://healthyminds.org/miaw2007.cfm.

7. Military Child Education Coalition Contests:The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) is currently sponsoringtwo separate contests. The first is to encourage the submission ofchildren's artwork, poems, short stories, and films. Selectedsubmissions will be featured in art exhibits at the MCEC 2008 AnnualConference. Film entries will be considered for the "Reel Military"Youth Film and Video Festival which is also scheduled to air during theconference. Deadline for submissions are due no late than March 3.

The second contest sponsored by MCEC is for ascholarship to attend Space Camp. The eight-day program, which isdesigned to give young men and women firsthand experience in what ittakes to be an astronaut, is offered each year in Huntsville, Alabama.The scholarship covers full tuition, round trip transportation to SpaceCamp from the student's home base, meals, lodging, and programmaterials.   

Each student applicant must:

  • Be a child of an active duty military parent or activated Guard or Reservist;
  • Be enrolled in grades 6 through 9;
  • Submit hand-written essay which includes why he orshe should be selected, evidence of patriotism, future goals, communityservice, and "after camp" intentions;
  • Submit two letters of recommendations with contact information; and
  • Complete and submit the application no later than the March 10th deadline.

For more information on both contests, please visit MCEC at http://www.militarychild.org/ or call (254) 953-1023.

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