This article is a blog post

Passport Wait Times Expected to Lengthen

Need a passport, or need to renew? You might want to get that paperwork submitted ASAP.

U.S. officials warn that they expect passport processing to be backlogged through 2018. Why? A U.S. law in 2007, dubbed the western hemisphere travel initiative, required any U.S. citizen travelling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to hold a passport.

That year, U.S. officials issued 18 million passports because of the new law. Most of them are due for renewal in the next two years, meaning lines and waits are about to become longer.

If you do not plan to travel further than Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda you can opt instead for a passport card. These $30 cards are issued to U.S. citizens who currently have a passport. The cards can be issued much quicker than a new passport. Travelers cannot use them for international air travel, though they are good for those driving north or south of our borders, or venturing out via cruise ship.

To learn more about the passport rules, visit the Department of Homeland Security website at: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative

 

EFMP Screenings Required for Overseas Assignments: Here's What You Need to Know

By Tiffany Shedd

When I married my solider, I had to do a lot of military related paperwork and rigmarole very quickly. He was already on orders to go to Alaska, and because it’s considered an overseas assignment, I got the news that I needed to have an EFMP screening.

I had no idea what this entailed or why I was required to have it. Being an extremely new spouse, I didn’t even have anyone to ask. Today, I would have done what I always do when I am unsure about something: Google it.

Luckily for me, it ended up being a non-issue, and I was sent on my merry way to Alaska. Hopefully after reading this post, you won’t be as confused or concerned about your upcoming EFMP screening.

If your service member gets orders to an overseas assignment that can accommodate family members, every member of your family must appear in person and go through an EFMP screening. The first place to start (if you want to skip Google), is to check out your service branch’s EFMP website. For the Army, here is a link. This will give you a very broad overview of what the screening is and why it’s required.

This is just a screening, this means that you’ve filled out a questionnaire about your medical and health history and then you have an appointment with someone to go over that information. If you are an Army spouse/ family and want to get a look at the forms ahead of time, here’s a link with the forms available for download.

While for most people going to these appointments will be given a clean bill of health and sent on their way, during this process the Army identifies 12 percent of family members who qualify as having special needs during this screening.

This is only a screening, so if you or a family member is identified as having special needs for the first time, then you will likely be referred to your PCM for further screening. This can slow down your PCS process, so it’s important to get your EFMP screening done as soon as you can.

The screening process can sometimes take up to 30 days to complete due to a variety of factors, such as staffing and availability of appointments, issues that arise during screening, back up with paperwork (getting your medical records from previous duty stations can take a while if you don’t have hard copies already on hand), etc.

If you or a family member is already a part of the EFMP program, everyone, including your EFMP family member, will still need to go through this process. Overseas or OCONUS deployments add extra challenges to EFMP families, because your arriving duty station may not have the medical or educational resources that you or your family member(s) requires.

Even if you already have orders with family members on it, it’s possible that that could change after your screening. It can be frustrating and infuriating even, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a country far from home and find out the nearest pediatric neurologist was six hours away while my son was having a cluster of breakthrough seizures.

So, yes, this screening is another thing you have to fit into your already busy PCS schedule, but honestly, it’s for your own good. I went into my appointment not knowing what to expect. I didn’t know if there was an exam or if my history of migraines was going to prevent me from joining my husband.

I answered the questions honestly and waited to see how it was going to work out for me. For some of you who have been struggling to get resources for a family member, this may actually be a catalyst that spurs that into action.

Be honest and prepared. It may not work out the way you hope, but it will work out for the best care for you and your family in the end.

PCS, More than Planning, Preparing for Goodbye

PCS season is coming.

And leaving, is tough.

I’m not talking about prepping for the moving company, making that long drive or flight or collecting all the medical, school and military records. I’m talking about leaving.

Walking away from friends.

Visiting your favorite local restaurant for the last time.

Turning the key in the door to a house you may have felt the most comfortable in.

Looking around this small piece of the Earth and knowing that you may never step foot here again. Ever.

It’s hard.

I’ve had several friends PCS this month. Watching the feed on their Facebook page was heartbreaking. They loved where they lived. They logged every last meal, laugh, moment.

And then, the photo of the airport gate.

Military life is, I believe, one of the toughest lives for a family. The best military wives I know understand that nothing is forever, and they embrace every single place they live – the good, the bad and the horrible. They find something spectacular to love, even in the most difficult of places.

The most successful military wives find that there is always pain when they leave. They worked hard to build a life here and be happy. That is hard to leave behind. In other places, they literally feel they need to be dragged away because they just don’t want to go.

I hope the people they leave behind, the neighbors who worry about the impact of the military on their quiet lives and the naysayers who believe we are all trouble, understand that we take a piece of them with us everywhere we go. That we have happy memories. That they are part of the stories we tell, the laughs we share and the memories we tell our children when they can’t quite remember a name or place.

They have helped create the fabric of our life and we are forever grateful.

So as you PCS this year, stop amid the craziness of the preparations. Walk to your favorite place in town. Have lunch with a friend you are leaving behind. Take a deep breath and look around. Soak it in.

You may never see this place again. Take a moment to make sure you carry it with you. Always.

The Wandering Life: Moving Overseas This Summer? Start Planning, Now

It’s only January, but it’s never too early to talk about PCS’ing.

Moving overseas brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Chances are, if you are moving abroad, you are going somewhere you’ve never been. Where they speak a different language, have different holidays and religious customs and eat foods you’ve never heard of before.

But before you even worry about all that, you’ve got to get yourself and your family and your pets packed out of your current duty station.

The to-do list is even longer for an OCONUS PCS than it is for one stateside. There are so many questions and so many things to consider that even a seasoned military family might not know where to start. After moving across oceans 10 times in the past 25 years, there are a few things I’ve learned:

Pack light. No one wants to take you to or from the airport with a dozen suitcases. And trust me, you don’t have to carry those dozen suitcases through security, customs and an unknown airport.

Find out all the benefits available when moving overseas and use them. For example, in most cases you can mail items to yourself at your new address and be reimbursed, as long as you are still under your weight limit. I usually send ahead two or three boxes with extra clothes, and when my kids were little I let them each pack a small box of toys to send ahead. Actually, this benefit usually applies to stateside moves, too. I once mailed 42 Rubbermaid totes to myself from Florida to Kansas. No lie.

Pack a bottle opener and corkscrew.

If someone on the other end has offered to help you, take them up on it. Most overseas units will assign you a “sponsor” before you arrive. Hit them up with all your questions and don’t hesitate to ask them to pick you up at the airport, get you a Post Office box on base and help you to settle in smoothly. Someone likely did the same for them when they arrived.

Many places offer sponsors for kids as well. Information is usually posted on the garrison or school liaison websites.

If you are taking classes or need steady Internet access for work while you travel, research your options and make sure you have what you need to make that happen. Don’t assume that all hotels overseas will have WIFI.

Search Facebook for local pages geared toward military in the area where you are moving. For example, there are at least three pages here in Stuttgart where newbies are encouraged to ask questions. Of course, don’t take those answers for gospel - you are likely to get several different opinions on some things. But asking on the pages can be a good place to start your research and help make a list of questions you need to ask as you are out-processing/in-processing.

Ask friends to hook you up if they know anyone in the area currently or who has been stationed there in the recent past.

Make a calendar. Whether you have six months or one week to prepare for your move, set deadlines and make notes of what needs to be done, and when.

Carry a list of important phone numbers, family contacts and addresses you might need when you arrive. Be prepared to be without cell phone service for at least a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks, until you can get that all set up at your new location.

Depending on where you are going, the size of housing might be smaller than what you are used to in the U.S. The military will generally store all or some of your household goods for the duration that you are overseas. I recommend bringing the basics and then enough extra to make you feel at home. Furniture can sometimes be hard to find overseas in styles that most of us are used to, or it may be expensive. On the other hand, your giant sectional sofa may not fit in a German (or Japanese or Korean or Belgian) living room. This is a judgment call on your part, and one to talk about with your sponsor or any other contacts you have at the new location.

Have at least a three-month’s supply of prescription medicines. The last thing you want to do when you get to a new duty station is figure out the medical/pharmacy process right away. Also, have a copy of the prescription so when you do go to a new doctor you know exactly what it is you need.

If possible, take advantage of any newcomer’s classes and briefings offered to you. Some bases provide free child care along with these sessions.

Hand carry shot records and birth certificates.

If possible, have a little extra money saved up. Moving overseas is expensive. While many of those costs are reimbursed by the military, you may have to pay hotel bills and other expenses up front.

If you will have to take a driving test at the new location, start studying.

Try to learn a few basic phrases of your host country’s language. Honestly, so many people here speak English that I rarely need much German to get by. But I find it makes me feel more comfortable, and breaks the ice, if I at least try.

Make a list of fun things to see and do after you arrive. If you have kids, get them involved, too. Start small - local tourist attractions, parks and restaurants. Once you arrive, make your dream sheet of exotic locations to visit.

Don’t stress. It won’t help and it won’t get things done any faster on either end. Everything is harder overseas - setting up a household, enrolling kids in school, transporting pets, driving, you name it and it seems like it’s 10 times for difficult to accomplish.

I’ve had mixed feelings at first about every place we’ve moved. I’ve cried. I’ve been homesick. I’ve wanted to leave. But after a couple of months those feelings go away, if you let them.

Remember, sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Spouse Only Hiring Fairs in February

It’s cold and dreary outside, but inside these hiring fairs, it is warm, cozy and the perfect time to find a job!

These military spouse only hiring fairs, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation are held monthly across the country. National and local businesses attend specifically because they know the skills that military spouses bring to the table.

Be sure to click on the website for the individual location and register. You must be pre-registered to attend and spots fill up quick! Bring a stack of copies of your resume and dress for success!

You’ve got this!

Feb. 3

San Antonio, Texas

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/san-antonio-hiring-expo-san-antonio-spurs

 

Feb. 9

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/minneapolisst-paul-hiring-expo-minnesota-wild-0

 

McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/joint-base-lewis-mcchord-military-spouse-2-day-event

 

Feb. 17

Camp Pendleton, Calif.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/camp-pendleton-military-spouse-2-day-event

 

Feb. 29

Denver, Colo.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/denver-hiring-expo-denver-nuggets

 

March 2

Houston, Texas

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/houston-hiring-expo-houston-rockets-0

 

March 5

Detroit, Mich.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/detroit-hiring-fair-1

 

When Military Life Ends, Spouse Builds Photography Business and Fulfills Dream

Editor’s Note: Please Welcome Army spouse Nadia Hurtt to Salute to Spouses! The self-made photographer is building a business she started while her family was stationed in Hawaii. Now, while her husband attends college fulltime, she is supporting her family and growing her business, learning all about success and setback along the way. Check in every month to follow Nadia and learn more about the art of being a small business owner

Being a business owner is great, exciting and awesome.

And then, some days, it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be. 

Everyone loves the idea of being their own boss. Everyone dreams of doing something they love every day instead of slaving away at work for someone else. It’s pretty much the American dream to make it big with something you built with your own hands. 

At least that’s what I thought when I first started this journey five years ago. 

I worked for the government in some way, shape or form over the last 10 years while my husband was in the Army, but, always had a love for photography.

I dabbled in it here and there and my friends knew I enjoyed taking pictures. While my husband was on a 12-month deployment, my friend asked me to take some maternity pictures of her. Of course I said yes but never realized this would be the first stepping stone in launching my business.

She posted the images on Facebook and within days, my message box was full of people requesting sessions of their own, some even willing to hand me $20 for it. 

Wow! So this is how photographers are made, I thought.

Except, it’s not. 

I quickly realized that photography, like any other business you choose to run, requires you to have a solid head on your shoulders and some tough skin if you want to make it work. No one ever told me about taxes, the cost of goods calculations, the cost of doing business analysis, projected sales, marketing plans and all the other menial, difficult tasks you do after you do the fun part you love! 

Being your own boss and running a business is stressful. It’s an 80-hour work week, dealing with unhappy clients, making sure you are operating correctly in the eyes of the law, and not really knowing when your next paycheck will come.

But, it is also one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. You can make time for your family and loved ones, you can run a business the way you see fit and change what you don't like about it. You can choose who you want to do business with.

But the biggest perk, owning your own business gives you an immense sense of accomplishment. 

My business went from making a few hundred dollars a year allowing us some family extras like a nice dinner out to now supporting my family of three while my husband attends college fulltime after serving in the military.

It’s amazing to know that my heart, sweat & tears has allowed my family to live a pretty nice life after the military. 

It can be done. It can provide you with the job you have always wanted to do, whether its photography or opening up your own clothing boutique or selling your handmade creations online. Building a business properly from the ground up can lead you to success. 

State Issued IDs May Not Be Sufficient to Visit Base, or Fly

Did the gate guard stop you from entering base over the weekend? If so, it may be because of your driver's license.

As of this month, all military installations will no longer accept driver’s licenses from Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington and American Samoa as proof of identity.

The ban is due to the REAL ID Act of 2005.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress began examining how states issue driver's licenses and ID cards when they realized most of the terrorists involved had licenses issued from Virginia and Florida.

Legislators put security measures in place that make the new licenses harder to duplicate or tamper with. The new licenses can also be read by machines that are now located at all DOD facilities and airports. While states do not have to comply with the new rules, if they do not, their citizens may run into headaches, especially when they travel.

Residents of the five states that have yet to comply will not be able to board a flight without an alternate form of identification. The same is true for friends and family of military members who try to visit a military facility. Without an alternate form of ID, such as a passport, they will be turned away at the gate.

Service members, family members, DoD employees, and federal employees with the DoD common access card, DoD uniformed services identification and privileges cards, federal personal identification verification cards or transportation workers’ identification credentials are not affected.

For a full list of facts regarding the new IDs, visit the Department of Homeland Security facts page at: http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs

 

Snow day! Not for grownups

Are you snowed in? Did you go to work anyway?

When you look across the spectrum of employers, there are few that will shut their doors due to weather. Big box stores such as Walmart and Target will be operating, as will gas stations, banks and any other business that depends on customers walking through the door to make money. Many professional offices will remain open as well.

So, what do you do?

First, don’t call it before it happens. This week Fort Bragg and many school systems declared Friday a day off before the first flake fell. The administrators there have that power. You do not. Wait until the next morning to see just how bad the storm is and if you really cannot make it to work without risking serious injury.

Second, know your employer’s bad weather policy. Some employers may say that work is required unless the county is placed under a state of emergency. At this point, emergency officials require all unnecessary travel to end, meaning you cannot travel to or from work.

Also, some employers may allow you to use a vacation day if you feel the weather is too dangerous to drive in. Again, check your company policy.

And, some lucky employees may have an option to work from home in miserable weather. If your company allows this, be certain to pack accordingly and bring your work home each night if you know the forecast calls for questionable conditions in the morning.

A deep snow forecast is fabulous, when you are 8-years-old. When you are 28, and above, it just means a long, cold, miserable commute. Be prepared to don that hat and gloves, stock up on the coffee and get going.

Hopefully, it will also mean a quiet day on the job while everyone else waits it out at home.

Self-Employed? Join the Club!

Thousands of military spouses are slowing growing their own businesses. They are crafting, selling, marketing and counting. They offer a full range of services and products.

And when they face a challenge, often they face it alone, especially when their spouse is deployed or training.

What many of them don't know, is there is an organization to help them grow their business, offer advice and an ear to listen.

The National Association of the Self Employed was created to help entrepreneurs manage their businesses, seek advice and have a voice in Washington D.C.

The annual fee,$120, gives members access to the organization's professional consultants who can advise them on topics such as taxes, finances, retirement plans and general questions about running their business.

Members can also apply for health insurance plans through the NASE, apply for credit cards, order office supplies, get help with website design and receive discounts on business travel. 

The NASE also gives members grants and scholarships to help with business expenses. You can apply for up to $4,000 to attend training, educational seminars, purchase business supplies, licenses or other needs that will make your business grow.

For military spouses who move every few years, this is a solid organization that can help you stay grounded through each move.

Check out their website here: https://www.nase.org/become-a-member,

Want to Start Your Own Business? Learn How, Here!

You can go back to school to learn your craft.

You can spend years perfecting your skills.

An employer will hire you to run their business, their way. And a good employer will not just ask you to work, but will challenge you to expand your skillset and improve every single day.

But what if you want to start your own shop? Where do you learn how to do that? You may know the basics of setting up the storefront, working the cashier and bringing in customers. But what about managing taxes, finances and setting up a business plan?

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities can help teach you all of that.

The organization, a division of Military One Source, is hosting a series of webinars to teach spouses the ins and outs of starting their own business.

The series stretches from February to October and is held the first Wednesday of each month at noon.

Sessions are:

February 3: Is Entrepreneurship for You? - Questions to Ask Yourself

March 2: Business Plan Basics

April 6: How to Finance Your Business

May 4, 2016

Legal Structure, Legal and Tax Issues

   

June 1, 2016

Success Stories - Tips from successful military spouse business owners

July 6, 2016

Marketing and Social Media for Small Businesses

Aug. 3, 2016

Relocation of Your Business and Overseas Assistance

Sept. 7, 2016

Government Contracting

Oct. 5, 2016

Series Finale and Next Steps

You must register to attend the webinars. You can do that, and learn more about the series by visiting,

https://myseco.militaryonesource.mil/Portal/Content/View/2791

If 2016 is the year you want to get your own business up and running, make sure to register and learn from the pros how military spouses can grow a successful business!

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