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Surviving back handed gifts of the group project

By Amy Nielsen

It’s midterm week and we are starting to get underway with the dreaded group project. There are eight of us this time. Not only is it a group project, it’s an hour-long, live group presentation in guise of a court case. Did I mention there are eight of us on the team?

Sweet baboons on a brick if I make it out of this alive I will have earned my blankity blank Master’s degree.

I learned a very important lesson today. I was awoken to the fact, yes fact I think now, that I am completely not the person I once was. I met her face to face today and I think I am very definitely not there anymore.

This project is being coordinated long distance and then culminates with the live group presentation the last day of class on campus. For the majority of the time working on this we are at our remote locations scattered around the east coast. Which means all communication is done via this little box in front of me.

I used to work in a highly technical field, lighting design. I left the field just as a huge technology shift happened, the blue LED was invented and the Silicon Valley tech boom got hot. I am – now – a died in the thrift store wool sweater, mason jar tea drinking, rural woods living, luddite of sorts. Which is terribly odd.

One might think I am going to say that I left the field because the tech got away from me. But the reality is that I left because the art went out of it for me. I’m an energy freak. I dig vibrational energy, be it sound waves from a grooving drum circle, the tangible waves of light in incandescent bulbs or fire, the heat waves on a still August day. Lighting before LEDs was a very different art because the frequency of the light was different.

LEDs, the fixtures they are housed in, and the programs needed to control them, are so above my frequency now that my little ole central nervous system says no, Ma’am. It messes with my circadian rhythm. Too much time on the computer and I go tilt. Inevitably I end up on here a lot more than is healthy for me.

So I left the art I loved because the instruments didn’t sing to me the same way. I got too wrapped up in having to learn new tech. When I left the field of lighting design, it broke my heart. I found my heart in the human body, how it works, and how it is so very cool. I moved away from that higher energy because it didn’t serve me to one that does.

What does this have to do with this exercise in stamina of a group project? Eight means someone becomes the defacto team organizer. She is undoubtedly extremely efficient in her role of herding us cats. She is very tech savvy and very much of this new web-based everything world that I just shudder at. Her energy is about nine thousand times faster than mine.

Now I am by no means a complete computer neophyte. I do manage to write this weekly blog, I have a very active Facebook account where I am often reminded that I overshare and crosspost, and I can manage complicated EBSCO database searches. I cannot, however, produce anything more than a basic word document.

I emailed the gal in charge of the slides for the link to where she wants me to put what I have worked on for the last two weeks. To which, rather than just giving me the link, she replies with all of the places she has already posted the link and why haven’t I seen any of them and shouldn’t I know better?

Asking much forgiveness and with great noises that I do in fact get her 7,000 notices, emails, texts, and message board posts about what she is waiting on from us, I asked her to please give me the link so I can try to figure out how to copy a slide into the thing she has already set up for us to use.

I feel like I am getting a side eye with an exasperated humph from my gmail account as I open the reply to see the link.

I click. Something happens to my laptop and it magically opens a window into her world I guess. I click on the file she has labeled for me. I see a slide. Something I recognize. So I do as I do in my presentations and I copy and paste a slide from my computer into that place.

Somehow all 22 I have created appear in the new window. It looks like confetti appearing on the screen to me. Kind of pretty in a mesmerizing way.

Wait, I was trying to copy one slide. Do I dare try to delete a slide? On hell no. I got them there. No going back now. I’ll just blow it up. Never delete on someone else’s stuff.

I can’t find a save button. It’s nowhere. I cautiously explore a drop down box. Nope, not there. Decision time. I’m a big girl and I must trust in google docx. I send up a prayer to St. Bartholomew, patron saint of bookbinders, and close the tab.

I count to ten. Don’t ask why. You do it too.

I open the tab.

The slides are still there!


I am curtly informed by our defacto Capitan that I am going to have to up my power point game if I want my slides included in the presentation, and by the way I only get ten. They are due by Friday, midnight.

I sip my chaga tea from my mason jar and shift my thrift store wool sweater around. I enjoy not running at that frequency anymore. If I make it through this presentation, I will have earned my Master’s degree.

Competitive hiring in retail? Yes

Since Congress approved a tax cut in January that benefitted businesses, more employees are reaping the benefits in their paychecks.

At last count 15 national companies are giving thousands of employees up to a $1,000 bonus. Those companies include JetBlue, AT&T and American Airlines.  There are dozens more local companies across the country that have done the same.

Other corporations, both national and local, have announced increases to pay and 401K accounts.

 Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit created in 1985 at the request of President Reagan urges legislators to commit to opposing efforts to increase income taxes on individuals or businesses.

The ATR has compiled a list of every employer granting bonuses after January’s tax cut. Find the list here:

More money in employees’ pockets means better workers will stay and perform well. Poor wages mean less workers or no workers, a hard lesson learned by Toys ‘R’ Us this week as the retail giant announced that it will close after 70 years. The store had long paid just minimum wage with little extra incentive. Would-be employees found employment elsewhere with better benefits.

Now, with the national unemployment rate at a record low of 17.1 percent, many retail stores are desperate for good help, and they are willing to compensate to keep hard workers on board. Which means if you are looking for work in retail, it is a competitive market and you can use that to your advantage.

For military spouses, this is great news. As you conduct your job search in retail work, interview with a variety of locations and ask specific questions about the packages and pay being offered. You may find that a manager who recognizes the value of an experienced military spouse is willing to sweeten the hiring package.

On the road again, but this time without military orders - a chance to live the life we love

By Amy Nielsen

We made a huge decision as a family over the last week. We set the date to move into our RV and live on the road full time.

We have been working towards this goal since retirement from the Navy five years ago. We knew it would take a bit to organize ourselves and our stuff into a position where we could begin to think about this for real.

We knew we had to deal with some financial debt. Then there was the emotional leap from paying for a house with rooms we never go in and working a job he hates, to finding the right storage area for the heirloom family items we want to hold on to and deciding exactly what in the kitchen this active chef must have on hand.

Moving is a part of the fabric of our existence as a military family. For us, it’s exhilarating - a new place, new space, new friends, new shops, new everything. It is a chance to begin again, to try out a different way, an exploration of a different aspect of self. Some places we land are financially challenging, some socially challenging, and others are emotionally challenging, but each affords us a chance to delve deeply into a niche of our being previously undeveloped.

With a bit of personal fortitude and strength, new places become the stones to build a world from.

These kinds of moves always presuppose that one is moving to a stationary place, a new home, a new town. It is comforting to see a familiar supermarket or restaurant. Finding the local library and getting a card is a rite of passage for many. Registering for school or the town Little League means new roots are going in. Understanding what it is about these that are important to you makes the transition to mobility easier. Taking the kids to all of our local libraries in preparation for this trip means learning that every library has a librarian and that most are happy to help find your favorite book which means all libraries in the country become our hometown library.

The hardest part of getting to this decision hasn’t been the finances or the issues of the stuff we want to keep versus the stuff we can give back to the universe, it has been the emotional shift from living a traditionally rooted life, like the oak tree in the front yard watching the same community grow feeling the soil of one space to one more like a river wandering through the countryside up and down tributaries being replenished by experiences rather than material goods.

This move is the first we are making that is really truly for ourselves. When my husband retired from the Navy, we were flat broke, close to being evicted from our military housing, with two young children including one with multiple needs. His military certifications didn’t cross over to the civilian world so he had to go back to school to be civilian certified in the exact curriculum he had been teaching in the Navy for the last few years of his 20 year career. To say we took what we could get would be an understatement. The best option we could find was a fast track program back in the last place we wanted to be stationed again.

We moved to a place of relative sanity and security after the whirlwind of our first years in civilian life. We thought we were working toward the dream. We bought a house. We planned vacations. We put in a fence. But we had our eyes firmly planted on the open road. When we got our RV, that first family trip felt so much like a Frog and Toad story we laughed ourselves silly.

We are in the early throws of minimizing or as my mom says, “decrapifying.” I used to be the kind of person who had neatly organized boxes of pencils and note pads, spices grouped by sweet or savory, and color coordinated fabric tubs – so many fabric tubs.

Then I had kids and we moved three times in five years, twice with the Navy tossing everything in crates and once by ourselves in a hurry. My obsession with putting like things with like things has turned into a giant junk drawer of insanity in every closet, nook and cranny.

I am most excited to plan our first trip to see far flung friends across the country. It is still 18 months away, but we will be taking longer and longer trips as we work up to being on the road fulltime. Each step, each trip, is a chance to refine our understanding of our new existence. It is a chance to help our family and friends see that this allows us the ability to visit more often for better quality visits.

The shift is real and it is hard and it is a solid line in the sand. In the last week I have gone from thinking, oh I wanted to try that new toothpaste so I’ll pick it up while I am here even though I am still only halfway through the current tube to putting that same new toothpaste back as I really don’t need to store an extra tube of toothpaste in my house now. I can’t wait to see how many pairs of scissors we end up finding as we begin the process of going through every single item in our house to put it in one of three piles; RV house, storage house, or return to the universe.

When one moves from roots to rivers this notion of what is familiar and comforting is at the same time expanded to every strip mall in the country and shrunk to what will fit in the cubby by your bed. Exploring a town for the best pizza while knowing that there is only one perfect pillow and it’s on your bed and your bed is in the parking lot no matter where in the country you are. The wanderlust for many has been well worn out in the years of moving under orders at the whim of others. For us, the taste for travel was only whetted and never slacked.

Operation Purple Camp Registration Open

Operation Purple Camp has become a touchstone for many military kids dealing with deployment and injured service member parents.

Unfortunately, each summer as donors dwindle, the camps are held in fewer locations around the nation. The summer of 2018 is no different.

This year just 12 Operation Purple camps will operate in 11 states, down considerably from the program’s early years when local camps clamored to host the program.

It’s the same crunch that non-profit military and veteran organizations have been feeling across the nation. Last year the Washington Post reported that “the needs of the veteran population are increasing at the same time that the base of support for veteran services is shrinking. And it’s because of those trends that veteran nonprofits are evolving in ways that open them up to criticism.”

The Post’s special report, “Charting the Sea of Goodwill” showed how corporate, philanthropic and individual donations to the veteran and military-related nonprofits were overall on the decline. 

The staff at the National Military Family Association is careful to offer spots at Operation Purple Camp to children of military members who have recently, or are currently, deployed, and to children with injured parents. They are also careful to spread the love and not give repeat visits to the same campers every summer.

Each of my oldest children were granted a spot in different years during my husband’s deployments and the week long camp proved crucial in lifting their spirits and helping them to cope with the distance.

If you live close enough to a camp to attend, I highly recommend you apply.

And if your children have aged out or are no longer in need of the camp’s services, I highly recommend you donate to the NMFA to help fund the camps. Our military children need the support of their entire village. Let’s make sure they all have what they need.

Find locations and registration info for Operation Purple Camp at this link:

Work after retirement - the highs and lows of finding a job for life

I’ve applied for nearly 20 jobs in the past six months since we decided to live in Florida. Some I’ve even applied for twice.


I’ve had two interviews, but no offers.


My husband recently asked me how I deal with all that rejection. My reply?


“Welcome to my life. This is what I’ve been doing for 27 years.”


With each PCS, we military spouses reinvent ourselves. We fill new roles, either in the military unit or at our kids’ schools or in community organizations we join. And in our jobs.


Many of us, including me, start from the bottom each time we PCS and never really have much time to move up the career ladder.


We adapt. We overcome. We make it work.


But doing that after retirement seems harder and even more exhausting.


Since we won’t necessarily be moving every two years anymore, I won’t have that chance to reinvent myself. I potentially could be in a job for three, five, even 10 years. I will be expected to grow in my position and continue to contribute to the organization.


I won’t just be treading water, trying to keep my skills at least minimally fresh, until the next move and the next opportunity.


I might actually be able to build something. And while that’s exciting, it’s also incredibly intimidating.  


There are no more excuses.


Add to that the fact that I am 50 years old, and was told straight up by someone working in one office where I applied that the hiring authority was “looking for someone younger.”




I’m a journalist by trade. I’ve written for some of the largest newspapers in the country. I’ve covered everything from the local school spelling bee to war in a far-flung corner of Asia. I’ve been full-time on staff at several newspapers and one military public affairs office, and I’ve freelanced extensively between jobs.


I’ve also recently expanded my resume by getting a professional certificate in social media management, and volunteering for a local community organization to get more on-the-job experience in that area.


I’m good at what I do, but sometimes that’s hard to translate to a job application or interview, especially when you have been out of the workplace for a few years raising kids or moving across the country and the world.


My last full-time job was in 2012, and I didn’t really have to interview or apply for it. It just kind of fell in my lap.


My recent job interviews here were in November and January. I still keep going over the questions in my head, over and over, and laughing at some of my own answers. Here’s a sampling of interviewer questions, and a summary of my responses:


Interviewer: “Tell us about yourself.”


Me: “Well, you’ll notice some gaps in my resume. That’s because I lived all over the world as a military spouse. But my husband recently retired and we are settling down here now. As you can also see from my resume, my job experience includes …”


Interviewer: “What are your short term goals for this position?”


Me: “To become a subject-matter expert in the areas under my scope of responsibility.”


Interviewer: “What are your long-term goals for this position?”


Me: “Wow, I’ve never been anywhere long enough to set long-term goals before. I’m excited about that!”


Interviewer: “Describe a time when you did something “out of the box” at work.”


Me: “Hmmm … let me think about that one for a minute …”


Interviewer: “Describe a time when you collaborated with others, and highlight any projects where you took the lead.”


Me: “I often lead discussions in the workplace.”


Interviewer: “Describe your supervisory experience.”


Me: “I have none.”


Interviewer: “Why do you want to work for this organization?”


Me: “Who wouldn’t want to work for this organization!?!?”


Yes, I really answered that last question that way. 


After all this, I’ve decided to change my focus and be inspired by these interview questions. I’m taking all that rejection and pouring it into my growing freelance business.


I’m thinking out of the box by looking at different ways to make money through writing – last week I worked with a PR firm covering a big medical equipment convention near where I live. 


I’m setting both short- and long-term goals for my own business, and collaborating with peers, contacts and former co-workers and supervisors to make it happen.


And as for that last interview question, I thought of a much better answer 30 minutes later on my way home.

Isn’t that the way it always goes?

Money tops worries of military families

A new survey shows military families are worried about money.

No kidding.

The Military Family Advisory Network conducted a recent study that showed the stressors toping military families worry list are financial problems associated with health care, education, child care and frequent moves.

After my husband retired, multiple civilian friends asked us if we missed what they dubbed the “cash flow” from Uncle Sam – housing allowance, access to commissaries, discounts from retailers, deployment pay.

Yes, those are all very nice perks. And yes, it would have been very hard to live the military life without them. But that is the point. Life as a military family is expensive. Deployment, and keeping the home front running as we pay for extra childcare and professionals to fix broken items our spouses would normally handle, can be enormous.

If you have a child with health issues, it can be hard to find a doctor on base or in the military system that can treat them. There are often long waiting lines for appointments. We personally gave up on taking our son to a dermatologist when we were told the wait was over one year long. Visiting a doctor outside the military health care system is costly.

Some communities outside of military bases have the best schools, others have the worst. When you PCS, sometimes you suddenly have to find a way to squeeze private school tuition into an already squeaky tight budget.

The same with child care. It’s hard to find a place you trust, and that you can afford on short notice. The best child care facilities are often the most expensive. As this cost fluctuates with each move so does your stress level.

And with each move, there are added expenses the military is not going to cover. Simple niceties like curtains and rugs might have to be repurchased at each location. Furniture and belongings are ruined in moves and if you think you are really going to get those replaced at full price you are going to be disappointed.

Small costs add up as you make your way from one duty station to the next: snacks on the road, extra gas, flat tires, none of these are covered in the reimbursement costs. More than once we have begun our PCS journey with just enough money to make it to the next destination.  

Because of the extra costs of being constantly flexible and constantly able to move our lives at the drop of a hat are so high, many military families cannot afford to build a savings safety net or even buy enough food.

About 22,000 active-duty troops used food stamps in 2013, the last year for which data were available, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office Report.

This is not the way people defending a nation should live.

Military families are stressed about money. Yes we are.

New bill gives employers tax credit for hiring military spouses

Military spouses know employers are getting their money’s worth when they hire a spouse, but now the federal government may actually give employers a tax credit for giving spouses a job.

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Boozman (R-AR), are expected to introduce the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 next week. A key component of the bill would give businesses a tax credit for hiring military spouses, reports

Currently employers can receive up to a $9,600 tax credit for hiring veterans. The amount is calculated based on the number of hours the veteran worked and the veteran’s disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. reports that the spouse credit would work in a similar fashion.

“The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act encourages businesses to step up and play a bigger role in hiring military spouses who already sacrifice so much,” Kaine said in a press release. “And it further addresses a real obstacle to professional success for many military families: access to quality, affordable child care. Addressing these issues will help military spouses advance in their careers despite frequent moves.”

Another component of the bill would give a pre-tax savings account to military families for child care expenses. The system is already used by many employers to help workers save pre-tax pay for child care costs by deducting money from the employee’s paycheck and placing it in a special account. Employees are reimbursed when they submit receipts for child care.

The Salmon of Wisdom

By Amy Nielsen

Deep in the highlands of Scotland, in the streambeds and shallow river bottoms, in the chill of early spring, salmon spawn hatch. They begin to grow and learn this place they call home. Living in the rivers and loch of the highlands, feasting on a bounty seen few other places in the world.

Three years they are this salmon, they have territories of their own. They become aware of their place in this environment and are well in it. Then when they reach a size at a time only whispered to them among the reeds, the calling happens and they start to swim. In great numbers they are swept downstream in the beginning of an epic journey.

These parr navigate waters often slow and lazy, sometimes deep and cool, mostly rough and tumbling. They swim past windswept hills, through endless prickling moors, eventually to the more curated fish tunnels and loch ladders of the inhabited coastline. And then suddenly it is time.

In the lengthening days of May with the rivers warming, the parr begin to transform. The salmon’s thyroid is triggered by the change in salinity of the water, the change in day light, and the change in temperature to begin to smolt. The fish becomes a different fish by shedding its outer layer and recalibrating its gills for salt.

Once the transformation is complete and the new fish – the adult salmon - has emerged and cannot live in the brackish water and they move to open water. Swimming free of the coastline and out.

Out to sea. Into an immensity of a proportion so vastly different from where they started that they are made completely new for the experience. To spend a whole other lifetime in an exquisitely new environment at depths unknown in locations unfathomable. Salmon disappear while out to sea. No one knows quite where they go or what they learn, but we know they never forget how to return home.

So after a time spent living far and large, the adult salmon forego eating and swim hard, harder than they have ever swum before. Facing odds and obstacles beyond measure. Through that brackish water into the fresh, without wasting the energy or sparing a second thought to return to a freshwater fish. They have a drive to get home. To spawn.

If they make it to that place, the one they can only know by the faint echo of memory like so much a half remembered perfume, they finally come to rest.

Oh but what a frantic bash it is as they fight and slash, bite and slap for the bed in which to lay their so precious mother load. The boiling shallows writhe with flashing red and silver, white clouds billowing as the wisdom of the journey and the magic of transformation and secreted among the gravel and reeds.

Complete from the existence lived and emptied of the knowledge, this salmon move to another plane of existence on yet another epic journey into a new environment. One where they don’t even need gills to breathe.

In Scottish folklore, salmon are known as the fish of knowledge for they always know the way home again. They are the form that Taliesin, the greatest Bard ever to live and holder of the knowledge of Kings, took on his journey over the sea to return to Scotland as a babe on the shore with eyes of grey shining bright. Salmon are kept in sacred wells and fed on hand picked acorns.

I tell you this tale because it is not dissimilar to my own educational journey thus far. I won’t tell you where on the path I am, that’s for me to discover. My question to you is, where are you on your journey with the Salmon of Wisdom?

Running late but not behind

It was a cold and stormy night. The rain hammered on the RV roof. Slowly it gentled to a lulling pattern pushing her deep into much needed restorative sleep. Upon waking, she stretched, yawned, and heard the distinct toot of a car alarm – bolting upright she realized she had over slept and was late to class. How embarrassing since she got to park the RV overnight a few hundred yards from the classroom.

Nothing like waking up in the parking lot and still being late to class.

My master’s program is primarily online, but there is a physical campus and they do hold classes there so I am able to take both. In fact, for my state accreditation, I must take a certain number of credits on campus each term.

Campus is a leisurely five-hour drive from home through winding scenic byways skirting the major metro-centers along the east coast. It’s a drive I have done countless times in my travels along the eastern seaboard and one I love. There are good food stops, far flung friends, and beautiful vistas to be had.

There are actually several students from within an hour drive of my hometown who also commute to school these weekends we have to be on campus. Most of them choose to fly from one of two local airports. I find it interesting that we live in one of the few areas of the country where the rail system is actually very good, yet none of us opt to use it. I may have to explore that option one of these trips as I love train travel.

I see these five weekends each 15- week term as mini intensive educational vacations. Which, in turn tells me I have chosen the right career. Once this becomes the daily language and mode, I will feel like I am living a vacation wonderland. My eventual plan is to travel with my family in the RV teaching and seeing clients around the country who fit my very specific niche of integrative nutrition.

This is my second visit to campus. I have taken two other classes for the school, but they were held in a different location so this is the second time I am really on campus proper. The last time was a short one day visit, class was in the room we are assigned, and the professor lectured on his expectations and the major overview of the class.

I diligently checked the weather, being February in the northeast, and I decided it was going to be just warm enough to warrant pulling the RV out of winter storage for the weekend to blow out her cobwebs. Also being February in the northeast, I decided not to de-winterize the plumbing system for this short trip. To say it was colder and wetter than expected would be a bit of an understatement. I was glad to have left all of the extra blankets from our last chilly fall trip on board.

Next week my husband takes her out for his yearly training in Virginia. It will be his first solo voyage. In April I have two more school weekends and we have a short trip planned to visit a historical site for our daughter’s school. We already have our summer plans set up for travel to a new state.

We have this RV so we can use it for events and now classes at a distance from home where hotels charge center city rates even in the farthest burbs. This is exactly the kind of trip we want to be able to take as a family while one or more of us work through our educational trajectories, kids included.

I figure we are about two years out from living at least half time traveling in the RV from conference to lecture to clients. My career trajectory will take me to conferences and institutions for the next few years doing research and creating protocols with specific clients. We are hopeful that my husband’s career track will take a decidedly more parental tone after many years away with deployments and military life.

The ability to move from a tethered life to one of such freedom is intoxicating. It is becoming less of an oddity to be a traveler now. There are whole websites and blogs dedicated to “workamping,” travel nursing, and seasonal employment. Taking off and leaving the rat race behind to create your own yellow brick road is a growing trend. Just look at the proliferation of tiny house builders and young somethings eschewing massive material mansions.

The experiences we will gain and the friendships we can continue by virtue of our wheels is the whole reason we have this rig. By being truly dedicated to my master’s program and willing to work as hard as I play, I am hoping I create a dynamic career that leads to a life filled with experiences that my whole family can benefit from.

Next month the weather will be warmer, spring will have really sprung, I have plans in the works with local school friends to spend time with my kids. I just need to organize my husband’s time off from work so we can do a trial run with us all. This time I can guarantee I will not be late to class if my kids are in the RV with me.

Did you receive mysterious extra military pay? Let it be

Beware pay periods bearing gifts.

Occasionally, actually more than a lot, the gurus at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, the guys who pay military members each month, make a mistake.

And those mistakes can land an extra $20 or even $200 in your paycheck.

What’s the best advice I’ve ever heard as a military spouse? Don’t touch this extra money. Ever. Don’t spend it. Don’t assume it’s yours. Don’t assume it is back pay from something your service member did way back when.

Because, if you are wrong, Uncle Sam is going to take it back. They won’t give you a payment plan. They won’t let you choose the date to give it back. They will take it.

And if you’ve accidentally borrowed several hundred, or several thousand dollars from DFAS, that repayment is going to hurt.

In 2009 members of Congress introduced a bill that would limit the repayments of accidental overpayment.

H.R. 2771 read: “To amend titles 10 and 37, United States Code, to provide a more equitable process by which the military departments may recover overpayments of military pay and allowances erroneously paid to a member of the Armed Forces when the overpayment is due to no fault of the member, to expand Department discretion regarding remission or cancellation of indebtedness, and for other purposes.”

Language in the bill limited repayment to 10 percent of a military member’s pay, allowed for the debt to be erased if the military member was now a veteran who was living off of disability payments and put in place a 5-year limitation on collections.

The bill died in committee and never made it to a full vote of Congress.

Which means, if the military overpaid you by no fault of your own, and you didn’t notice or thought that you were due the money, they eventually will come for you.

Case in point, a friend of mine’s husband retired in 2012. They are now living off his VA disability check since his injuries in Iraq left him with a 90 percent VA rating.  In January of this year they received notice that in 2004 the military had overpaid them a monthly allotment. That allotment, over time and which they didn’t realize they were not due, amounted to over $6,000.

And, the military was writing to let them know they’d be taking their money back. Now.

They were on notice that his monthly VA check would be withheld, in full, until the debt was repaid.

It was 14 years later, a debt that took two years to amass, which they didn’t even realize they had, the DOD wanted paid in full, immediately.

My friends are scrambling to get the DOD to agree to a payment plan and find a way to buy groceries and pay rent during the next year when the DOD takes every cent they live off of.

We can talk at length about how despicable this treatment is. How the DOD should be better at fixing their mistakes and more lenient when correcting mistakes they make.

But frankly, that conversation ended when the bill to protect military members against DOD errors died in Congress. No one is interested in making sure service members do not lose their homes or go hungry because of a DOD accounting mistake.

So the best thing you can do as a military family to protect against this? Be vigilant. Check your service members’ pay every single pay period. If there is extra money, find out way. Be persistent.

Take notes when you speak to DFAS. Keep email trails. Be prepared to prove what you were told.  

If there is extra pay you can’t account for, sock it away. Make sure it is ready and waiting when Uncle Sam breaks down your door to take it. Because, he absolutely will.


For Military Spouses
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