For March 10, 2009
1. Coalition Asks Treasury Secretary to Ease Financial Burden on Military Credit Unions:TheMilitary Coalition (TMC), a consortium of 34 nationally prominentmilitary and veterans associations, sent a letter to the HonorableTimothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury Department, asking him totake immediate action to ease a significant financial burden beingimposed on America's military credit unions by the National CreditUnion Administration (NCUA).
A group of 28 "corporate" credit unions (the "credit unions for the7800+ member-based credit unions") invested in mortgage-backedsecurities that ended up getting them into financial trouble. And now,the individual credit unions are being assessed billions of dollars tobail out the corporate ones.
The Coalition argues this poses an unfair penalty on militarymembers and families by robbing essential resources from the roughly 90military credit unions, including some of the world's largest, thatprovide low-cost financial services to military members and familiesaround the world. Credit unions play a crucial role in the militarycommunity by giving hard-pressed families much-needed options forfinancial literacy and alternatives to usurious payday lenders.
The NCUA's unfair requirement would force almost half of allmilitary credit unions into the red, which would mean degradedservices, reduced loan opportunities, reduced savings returns, andhigher loan rates for millions of military families who depend on theirlocal credit unions for essential financial services.
The Coalition asked Secretary Geithner to use the authority of hisoffice to prevent imposing this unfair burden on blameless creditunions and their military family "owners", who already have had to beara grossly disproportional share of national wartime sacrifice. Theyshould not be forced to assume this extra measure of financialsacrifice to bail out other institutions' bad investments.
A further explanation of the dilemma can be found in Tom Philpott's Military Update http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,184923,00.html.
2. DeCA and AAFES to Continue to Honor CertifiChecks Gift Certificates:Due to the current economic downturn, CertifiChecks, Inc., thethird-party provider of commissary gift certificates has ceasedoperations. As a result, all sales of CertifiChecks have halted. TheDefense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will accept outstanding CertifiCheckgift certificates from authorized customers through July 31, 2009.AAFES will also continue to honor CertifiChecks for the foreseeablefuture. In addition, customers with CertifiChecks can submit forpotential reimbursement to: CertifiChecks, Inc., Attn: RedemptionDept., 1435 Shoup Mill Road, Dayton, Ohio, 45414.
When AAFES' troop support initiative, "Gifts from the Homefront,"was initiated nearly six years ago, CertifiChecks allowed moreflexibility than a traditional gift card due to the fact that theycould be redeemed at other exchange systems, regardless of branch ofservice. Today, an AAFES gift card is also accepted at any Navy orMarine exchange, thus making it a more convenient option.
DeCA also entered into an agreement with CertifiChecks, Inc. toprovide gift certificates redeemable in commissaries. Anyone couldpurchase the certificates which ranged from $5 to $100, but onlyauthorized customers could use them. Since 2002, more than $17.5million in gift certificates have been purchased for authorizedcustomers. The certificates have also been a major part of commissaryvendor giveaways at store grand openings and other customer outreachevents.
DeCA says that they will look for an alternative solution to provide commissary gift certificates.
3. Scholarships for Computer Literacy Courses:Operation Life Transformed and Military to Medicine are offeringscholarships for introductory computer literacy courses to eligiblemilitary spouses, military members and caregivers caring for injured orwounded service members.All courses are offered online and areself-paced. For more information or to apply for a scholarship, pleasecontact Operation Life Transformed at: email@example.com or visit them online at http://lifetransformed.org/ to fill out an application.
4. VA Announces Pilot Programs to Address Claims Processing:The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is piloting two new programs.The first program involves a comprehensive checklist that lays outinformation and evidence veterans and families need to support theirdisability compensation and pension benefits claims. Four regionaloffices were selected for the pilot. They are: Cleveland, OH; Boise,ID; Waco, TX; and Louisville, KY.
The second pilot program is designed to help reduce the claimsprocessing time. The VA will accept certified, fully developed claimsand place them into a separate process. This alternative process isexpected to provide results within 90 days after the claim wassubmitted. According to the VA, the definition of "fully developed" iswhen the veteran submits a certified statement that he or she does notintend to submit any additional information or evidence in support oftheir claim, and it will not require any assistance. The 10 regionaloffices selected for the one-year pilot are: Montgomery, AL; Columbia,SC; Boston, MA; Manchester, NH; Providence, RI; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee,WI; Boise, ID; Denver CO; and Portland, OR.
5. Democratic Steering Committee Welcomes Veterans and Military Organizations:On March 4thin the Capitol, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) chaired agathering of Senators and leadership from organizations representingVeterans, Service Members, Families and Survivors. Joined by SenateMajority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Armed Services CommitteeChair Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee ChairDaniel Akaka (D-HI) and 16 other Democratic Senators, they spent anhour listening to the concerns of the joined organizations.
Organizations addressed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, VA healthcarefunding, suicide prevention, improved screening processes atdemobilization sites, and survivor benefits.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) spoke of ground breaking caregiverlegislation that he is introducing. Joyce Raezer, Executive Director ofthe National Military Family Association, thanked Senator Durbin forintroducing the legislation that provides training, compensation, andrespite care for caregivers. She spoke of the sacrifices caregiversmake and how this legislation recognizes all that they do. She askedthat the VA create a broader definition of a family support network.There is a shared responsibility between DoD and VA to work thetransition piece so families and vets don't fall through the cracks.The wounded, ill, and injured need benefits through the entire spectrumof wounds and continued oversight by both DoD and VA. She alsoexpressed hope the GI Bill transferability implementation will beconsistent through the Services. There are still a lot of questions tobe answered.
Our Association thanks the Democratic Steering Committee forcreating the opportunity for organizations to elevate their concernsand issues in an informal forum.
6. First Lady Honors Women in the Military and Families:First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a gathering of women who had servedand were still serving in the military to recognize the beginning ofWomen's History Month on March 3rd. The event was held at the Women inMilitary Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.Mrs. Obama recognized the contributions of women serving in themilitary from the days of the Revolutionary War to today. She applaudedtheir service to their country, securing our liberty and providing thesecurity that allows us to live in peace and continue with our dailylives. Of special note to the National Military Family Association wereher references to military families.
"Members of the military and their families have a special courageand strength" she said, reminding the group of President Obama'sremarks the week before, when, at Camp Lejeune, he said "Servicedoesn't end with the person wearing the uniform."
"And I have been honored and deeply moved to meet many militaryfamilies over the past couple of years", she continued. "They aremothers and fathers who have lost their beloved children to war. Theyare husbands and wives keeping the family on track while their wivesand husbands are deployed, on duty.They are grandparents, aunts anduncles, sisters and brothers who are taking care of children whilesingle moms or dads in uniform are away".
"See, military families have done their duty, and we as a gratefulnation must do ours. We must do everything in our power to honor themby supporting them; not just by word but by deed", Mrs. Obama concluded.
Our Association thanks Mrs. Obama for spotlighting the service ofour military men and women, and especially the sacrifices and pride oftheir families who also serve.
For the full text of Mrs. Obama's remarks visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/FLOTUS-Pool-Report-and-Remarks-from-Arlington-Natl-Cemetery-Womens-Memorial-Event/
7. Win Free Gasoline!: The Army& Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and ConAgra Foods, Inc., oneof North America's largest packaged foods companies, are puttingmilitary shoppers in the driver's seat as they give away $20,000 infree fuel, March 13th-19th. Entry forms for AAFES' ConAgra Foods, Inc.sweepstakes will be available at BXs and PXs worldwide. Prizes includeone hundred and fifty $100 AAFES gift cards, as well as five $500exchange gift cards to be awarded as "grand prizes".
Prizes for the AAFES/ConAgra Foods, Inc. sweepstakes will be awardedon or about April 16, 2009. This contest is open to all authorizedexchange shoppers including National Guard and Reserve personnel,active-duty Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines, military retireesand their families. Shoppers with exchange privileges can find thePX/BX nearest them by logging on to the "Store Locator" link at http://www.aafes.com/.