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Veteran Care Next on the Budget Chopping Block

Drafters of the military budget have put military families squarely in the crosshairs. Now, they may do the same to veterans.

A cornerstone of the proposal to slim the military budget is the notion that military families should be paying more out of pocket expenses – everywhere. Housing costs will rise, long-time, all-inclusive fees such as monthly electric and water bills are now paid separately by military families. Commissary benefits are on the chopping block as is free medical care for military families who stay within the Tricare system.

This week an independent auditor told members of Congress that the Department of Veterans Affairs should scale back costs as well, by treating veterans only for specialized care, and sending everyone else to civilian providers.

The Stars and Stripes reports that the agency has commissioned 137 individual studies over the years to find ways to fix the agency. The latest report cost $68 million and outlined the changes that the VA should make in 4,000 pages.

None of this is a surprise. The Stars and Stripes also reports that on average, of the 5.8 million veterans who are VA patients, those individuals receive less than 50 percent of their care from the VA.

Our family has seen this trend among our veteran friends.

My husband cannot get an appointment. His friends cannot get appointments. They are sent to nearby civilian doctors and hospitals instead. For my husband’s most recent spinal surgery, there was not a VA facility within 500 miles that had the capability to do it. He was sent to a civilian instead.

Is sending veterans to civilian providers a good idea? As the spouse of an injured soldier, I say yes. Since he has been allowed to go to a civilian his care has been better and delivered faster.

However, I worry about the red tape that will come with this change. We have received bills from these civilian providers. Bills that are supposed to be paid by the VA. The VA has dragged their feet on handling the paperwork, even though we have repeatedly called and begged them to make arrangements with the hospital.

The bills have been reported to our credit bureaus. So now, the VA has created a credit problem for the veteran they were supposed to help.

What happens when doctors and hospitals begin to refuse to take VA patients because of the inability of the VA to process paperwork and payments? Tricare families already face this issue. We have been told more than once by a civilian doctor that they refuse Tricare because they simply never see the payment.

At that point, veterans will be left without care on the outside, or inside the VA. What do they do then?

The overhauling of the VA system is a process veterans and their spouses need to watch carefully. As leaders there try to walk a fine line between providing the best care and balancing an out of control budget, veterans may be the ones to suffer.

The Wandering Life: Childbirth Overseas, An Experience Like None Other

By Jan Childs

My son will turn 14 in a few weeks. He was born at the 121st Military Hospital at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea.

The staff was a mix of Americans and Koreans, and on that particular night – Oct. 10, 2001 – there were two Korean nurses on duty in the OB unit.

A note before we go further: Please keep reading. I am not going to bore you or gross you out with the details of my “birth story.” Those who have been through it know what it’s like. Those who haven’t shall remain blissfully unaware of the trauma and complete disgustingness that is childbirth.

He was born quickly, but not after some minor drama. At one point the nurses couldn’t hear his heartbeat any more and, in an attempt to shift him around they told me to change positions.

More specifically, they told me to “be a turtle.”

A turtle?

Having never birthed a child before and being more than a little freaked out, I tried my best to follow their instructions. I rolled on my side and curled up in a little ball, my hands and feet tucked inside what I imagined was my shell.

Nope. “Be a turtle! Be a turtle!”

I rolled as far as I could onto my stomach and tried to get in the same curled up position.

Still not right.

I flopped onto my back again, this time with my arms and legs curled on top of myself.

Exasperated, one of the nurses got down on the floor to demonstrate while the other jostled me around. The nurse on the floor was on all fours.

A dog. They wanted me to be a dog.

They probably had a good time later talking to each other about the crazy American lady who didn’t know what a turtle was.

That night was the beginning of a few mishaps we’d have with a newborn baby in a foreign country.

We didn’t realize, for example, that his eyes had to be open for his passport photo. He was less than a month old. What do little babies do? Sleep. A lot. It took quite awhile to get that photo just right.

Eight months later, when we were getting ready to PCS out of Korea, we realized we were missing a vital piece of paperwork. We had never gotten our son the required visa that allowed him to legally be in the country. They would not let us leave without it.

The application process was at an office of the U.S. embassy and we were told it was pretty straightforward. After taking the train there, then waiting in line for over an hour, we handed the clerk our paperwork. He looked at it, looked at us, and asked why we hadn’t gotten the visa immediately. We told him we weren’t aware we needed it.

He said the process might be complicated. He acted like it could take a long time, and in my still-hazy state of new parenthood I thought he might have implied that it might not happen at all.

Then he handed us a pen and paper and told us we must write a letter of apology to the official in charge.

Ten minutes later, we had our visa.

When he was younger my son would tell people he was a mix of Korean, American and German. Now he usually says he’s from Florida, where my husband and I grew up, where his sister was born and where he lived in the first house he remembers.

But I will always think of him as my Korean Turtle Boy who was nearly detained for being an illegal immigrant.

Websites we love: Math help!


Just saying the word makes some students shudder.

But, you have to take it to graduate. And, yes, believe it or not, you might just use those equations, or at least the math processes, in real life.

So, if you are sitting at your kitchen table until the wee hours of the morning scratching out problems over and over again, and find you just can’t figure it out, you may want to check out some of these free math help sites online. Each is designed for advanced high school math courses and beyond, so don’t worry about tripping over the little kid stuff. – Designed and maintained by a professional mathematician, the site offers example problems and a very long list of formulas and how to use them. You can also email the mathematician if you have questions. He includes a link to online calculators and practice tests so you can master your new found skills. – If you are a visual learner, this site is for you. This site, also free, was designed by mathematicians who have created videos of teachers demonstrating how to work through advanced math problems. The videos take you step by step through each math equation. And, if you don’t understand the way one teacher explains it, there are videos of the same problem, taught by different teachers. You do have to sign up for the site, but joining is free. – Of the three this site is the least easy to navigate. The page is much more jumbled and not as professional looking as the first two. However, you can click on the topic and the page gives a very boiled down, simple explanation of how to work the problem. You just have to ignore the advertisements that frame the page.

When Unaccompanied Duty Separates A Military Member From Their EFMP Family

By Tiffany Shedd

School has started. The temperatures are dropping and the leaves are changing. Starbucks has Pumpkin Spice Latte for sale. So that means two things: fall is here, and PCS season is ending.

If you made a move, you’re probably starting to feel a bit more settled. Maybe you didn’t move but your spouse did. I know anytime I hear that my service member will be out of town for an extended training, I get anxious and start trying to plan for my mom to come visit.

I am lucky to have that option. I know some of you probably are not as lucky, but enduring an unaccompanied assignment doesn’t have to be horrible.

Being part of an EFMP family sometimes means making hard choices in order to to best take care of your special needs family member(s), and that could mean that you find yourselves in a Geographical Bachelor situation.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it just means that the service member gets orders for an unaccompanied tour, outside of a deployment or TDY. Any situation that causes your family to be apart is stressful, but when you are an EFMP family, there are extra levels of stress involved.

Military life is tough. Military life with family members who require extra services and attention can be extremely tough, but once you get past the initial shock and awe of being without your spouse, you might see that your time apart may not be the worst thing ever.

Most likely if you are making this adjustment it could mean a few different scenarios. One is that you choose to stay at the installation your spouse was previously assigned. You likely have been here for several years, so you know the area. You probably have friends and a support group already in place. You know your family member(s) doctors and specialists. You have routines and schedules that make your day less stressful. These are all awesome things. The only thing that really changes is adjusting to not having that every day support of someone coming home to help with things.

Scenario number two is that you chose to move closer to family. This can be great. You have the built in support of being close to loved ones. You probably are familiar with the area. But, you may be far away from a military installation, so you may not get the support that you are used to from other military spouses. You most likely don’t know the doctors or specialists that would be responsible for taking care of your family members.

If you didn’t check the area before you left your installation, you may find it hard to find the care you need without the military support system and EFMP program behind you. If you are just finding out how hard it is, don’t be afraid to contact the EFMP office that you left behind and ask them for advice on finding services, specialists, etc to make your family’s transition smoother.

Even though both of these scenarios have pros and cons, ultimately you need to make the decision you feel is right for your family, and make that situation work for you. Here are some ways to help you along your way.

If you stayed at your previous installation, look into respite care. Talk to your EFMP program directors and find out if your family is eligible. This can be a welcome break for you that you can take advantage of just to get some errands run or even just go to the gym and relax by yourself. If you aren’t eligible for respite care, talk to Child, Youth and School Services and see if your children/family member can use hourly care. If you have a family member over age 18, this may not be an option, but perhaps EFMP or CYSS can help point you toward community resources to fit your needs.

If you chose to move back home, hopefully you are able to recruit family members to give you some time away from your family. Taking care of yourself, especially when your spouse is away, is incredibly important. You can’t take care of your family if you are constantly rundown and stressed out. If your home town is not near a military facility, figure out exactly how far you are from one and become familiar with it. Look for military support groups online, specifically EFMP groups. If you were a part of a group on your old installation, stay in touch with them if you are feeling disconnected from the military aspect of your life.

Sometimes it’s hard for family members who aren’t affiliated with the military to get exactly what you’re going through. They mean well, but there are just things that other military spouses and members will understand implicitly.

Though both situations are going to be difficult, they are not impossible. You will still be able to communicate with your spouse. Try to stay connected to one another in fun ways. Make a Facetime or Google Hangout date to watch your favorite show together. Send each other funny texts. There is also a lot to be said for sending and receiving handwritten letters.

Communication is key in helping your family make this separation work. It is ok to vent to your spouse. I know if the past we’ve been advised against this, but keeping things bottled up and then unleashing a year or more worth of grievances is going to do a lot more harm than a 10-minute rant about how hard it is to get an appointment for your kids.

It will be tough, but you can do this. You are a smart, independent, resourceful military spouse.

Remember that you’re only one person, so don’t beat yourself up for not being able to be in three different places at once. Figure out what is important to your family’s happiness and well being and focus on those things. This assignment isn’t the end of the world, and it won’t last forever. Your family will be back together before you know it.

Almost Everything You Need to Know about Headhunters

Also known as recruiters or search consultants, headhunters have a lot to offer certain groups of professionals. For the most part, they work with employers to find the perfect match for high paying and hard-to-fill corporate jobs. They specialize in certain industries or career fields and are very familiar with the employers' needs, company and culture, and they get plenty of insider information. The main thing they have to offer job hunters is access to job openings that will never be advertised.

If you are considering using a headhunter, you should understand that in most cases, headhunters are paid by the employers. In fact, they may collect as much as 25 to 33 percent of your first year's pay and possibly a percentage of your expected bonus or commission. That being said, their goal is help their clients, not you.

'If you are really clear about what you want and have researched and tailored your resume, you may find opportunities with headhunters," said Dr. Barbara Reinhold, independent executive and career coach.

Headhunters aren't going to help write your resume or help you figure out what type of job you want to land. So, if resume writing and career counseling is what you need, connect with the career center at your alma mater or the local Department of Labor office for free job search help.

Headhunters are also not likely to interview you for specific jobs. Instead, they may conduct an interview to learn as much as possible about your background, skills, etc., so that they can present you as a candidate to an employer when they receive a request or when they uncover a vacancy through interacting with their many contacts.

Headhunters network extensively to build and nurture relationships with employers who hire professionals in specialized careers or industries and to find great candidates that those employers may want to hire. And, they network in some of the same places in which job seekers should be networking, like events hosted by professional and alumni associations. They also network with their fellow headhunters, sometimes lending a helping hand and sometimes receiving one. Finally, many headhunters scour LinkedIn profiles and reach out to professionals online to add to their pool of contacts for future openings.

It is relatively easy for job searchers to find headhunters too.

"You can start with the internet to find executive directories or simply google headhunters, executive search firms or even staffing agencies, depending upon your level," said Reinhold former director of the Career Development Office and Executive Education Programs at Smith College. "Always plan to interview them too."

Whether you decide to research potential headhunters or they find you, be careful not to enter into a 'relationship' without gathering some information about their credibility. Read online reviews, verify their success rates and ask people you know and trust for referrals.

Very small numbers of job hunters get jobs with the help of headhunters so don't get discouraged if working with one is not working for you.

"Headhunters tend to use the line 'You're not marketable' but what they really mean is 'My database doesn't have any of the jobs you would be good at," Reinhold said.

End of Pregnancy Blues

The end of pregnancy is wrought with exhaustion and constant urination.

Insomnia coupled with intense sweating.

Cramps and pain and waddles.

It’s not a miracle; it’s a nightmare.

I crave things I’ve run out of room to eat.  I’m cranky and irritable.  I just want a nap and a marathon of some cheesy reality series and cheesier snacks.

But my children don’t care or humor me in the least, and neither does the Navy.

My husband isn’t home to help anymore.  And this baby is coming soon.  Very soon.

But not soon enough.

It’s not fall down here in the South yet.  My legs sweat like sausages in a pan when I leave the house wearing anything but maternity underwear. Not to mention that nothing fits.

And the crying.  Oh, the crying.

My daughter is doing a school lesson on sea turtles, and we watched several YouTube videos of the hatchling turtles digging out of their beach nests and wiggling their tiny turtle bodies down to the sea foam before being swept up by the ocean waves.

And I cried the tears of joy I couldn’t control because they were just so cute.  And little.  And they were trying so hard to beat it down to that surf.

My hormones are out of control.

So, in fact, a total nightmare may be an understatement.

I’m just grateful it’s almost over.  But I’m also scared of what this birth will look like.

Without my husband’s support and the added burden of my daughters.

Plus, because it’s my third baby, I am simply not ready.  Tiny onesies aren’t folded.  Blankets aren’t washed.  I need a little more time.

It’s enough to bring on the tears again.  It makes me thoroughly confused and emotional.

It’s all very muddy these days, these end of pregnancy days.

So I may be miserable, but it’s true.

 I’m not ready yet.

Hurricanes are Coming, Are you Ready?

Tropical Storm Joaquin has become a hurricane and is barreling towards the east coast today. Eleven  states, stretching from Appalachia to New England are under flood watch.

And in those states there are likely thousands of military families, who PCS'd there this summer and have never had to prepare for a hurricane. If this includes you, you should start preparing, now. provides a complete checklist of everything you need to know about hurricane preparation and evacuation. The site even provides a list of what you need to be doing when the hurricane is 36 hours from arriving, 18 hours from arriving and six hours from arriving.

The organization's most basic preparedness tips:

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  • Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan that includes discussing a safe place everyone will head to during the storm and how your family will keep in touch if communication systems are out.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”

You can also follow the progress of storms by visiting the National Hurricane Center's website at

The PCS move is over, now it is time to prepare for any emergencies in your new region. Don't wait to prepare for major storms. Hurricane season runs until the end of November. There is a lot of time left for a major storm to hit.

When Bad Books Happen to Good People

So, I’m in this microeconomics class.

You may have taken a microeconomics class before, and you may read this and think that I am a whiny, self-pitying pain in the butt, and that is occasionally true.  At any rate, I’m going to give you a rundown of the first two chapters of my lessons:

Nebraska and Iowa grow corn and wheat, right? (Understand that this scenario may or may not have any kind of basis in reality, but I don’t care.)  Anyway, they grow corn and wheat, and they each grow specific amounts. But who grows corn better? Who grows wheat better? Why? Could one grow corn or wheat better than the other if they stopped growing the other crop? What if they only grew part of the other crop? What are they each missing out on by taking the time and money and resources it takes to grow the amounts of corn and wheat that they grow? What if they combined forces and became some kind of Midwestern corn/wheat superpower? Or what if they both stopped all growing of any kind and started making Blu-ray players?

Yes. These are all actual questions. And if all these questions seem crazy or boring (or crazy and boring), you are not alone, my friend. Now obviously there’s a lot of math involved with answering these questions. Frankly, it’s a lot like easy algebra, which should make life easy as well, right?

Unless the book sucks, and the formulas in it suck.

It’s not so much that the information is wrong, but that it’s oversimplified. It’s oversimplified to the point that you can use any of the formulas the textbook provides, and get the same (super wrong) answer!

Have any of you had this kind of problem with a textbook? What did you do?

Help me!                    


Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example from my book:

                      E=  %  Change in Qd

                            % Change in P

Seems simple, right? Well, it is. Anyway, here’s the second example that can be found everywhere else:




So technically it’s the same thing, but the textbook version is so oversimplified that it makes it almost impossible to get the right answer.

One thing I do know, after this, I have no interest in eating, buying, selling or seeing wheat or corn.                      

How to Be a Great Reference for Job Hunters

It's down to the wire. Resumes were reviewed. Interviews were conducted. Thank you cards were received. All the top contenders are great candidates for Company X. But, there's only one position to fill. Let the reference checks begin!

How many times have you been holding your breath, hoping your references will get you over the top?

What happens when you are that hope for someone else?

When a friend asks you to be there reference, you might want to just say, “She's awesome! Hire her.”

Well, don't. That's not what the employer wants, and, it could cost her the job.

Great references are a must for job hunters. Be great by using these tips to validate the strength of her hard skills, soft skills and enthusiasm for the job.

Hard skills

Nothing is more important than having relevant technical skills to do the job because it conveys that one needs minimal training and orientation to hit the ground running. As a reference, take time to review the resume and the job description so you can hone in on whether that is the case.

If you don't know much about the field, call the job candidate or a colleague in the field and discuss with them the day-to-day work of a person in that job. It only takes a few minutes to gather the information that would make it an easy conversation with the employer.

After all, the employer's goal at this point is to confirm a match, not to be convinced of one.

Soft skills

Also known as people skills, soft skills involve managing people, including oneself. These general work characteristics make employees who have job-specific skills even more valuable to the team.

Since proof of people skills doesn't always come through on paper or in an interview, the employer and the job seeker are counting on you to turn the words into a living, breathing, get-the-job-done employee. Your interactions with the candidate can give you instant credibility as to why she is a great person for the job.

Use examples to put relevant people skills into context. For example, you might say, “I have worked with her on three complex projects and no matter how tough it got, she kept the team calm and focused on the priorities. Therefore, we always met timelines and our work products were error-free. To me, that is a sign of a great leader and she was widely recognized for it.”

Enthusiasm for the job

In a tough job market, people tend to apply for jobs even when they aren't excited about them. However, employers want candidates who want the job because they love it, or at least strongly like it.

Get this point across by mentioning what the person has done to prepare herself for such a job. Has she volunteered for assignments, attended training or engaged in professional opportunities?

If you aren't sure, ask the candidate, “What excites you about this job? Why do you think you are a good match for it? What have you done professionally to prepare for this job? How does it connect with your career goals?”

You don't have to spend a lot of time preparing to be a great reference. Just stay focused on information that makes you comfortable enough to have an honest, accurate conversation that will confirm your candidate is the right one for the job.

Sitting Alone at Lunch? Reach Out To Your Co-Workers

Walking into the lunchroom on the first day of a new job can feel a bit like being the new kid at school.

You don’t know who to sit by. Or where.

For those of us with the slightest bit of an introverted personality, sometimes it is easier to sit at our desk and read a book. Or just keep working as we munch on our sandwich.


One of the most important career moves you can make for yourself is to take the time at lunch to get to know your co-workers. Ask them about their lives, tell them about yours.

If you are uncomfortable talking about your personal life, find out about their professional life. How did they come to this company, what have they learned, what are their goals?

As we have PCS’d from place to place my first friends have almost always been those I’ve made at work. This year our office hired an intern from across the country.

I remember my days as an intern fondly. Lots to do, lots to learn, lots of mistakes. But it was a glorious time of learning and exploring and reaching out beyond my boundaries. I made lifelong friends and mentors. I loved it.

But for our new intern, the Deep South is a tough transition from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She was stunned. She was homesick. And rather than reach out to us, every day at lunch she shut her office door. She left early. We barely heard her at all.

Rather than learn about her new environment, she made fun of it. Our pleasant small talk was met with ridicule and attitude.

And suddenly, she was alone.

When she needed help, the tight-knit office that had worked together for a decade wasn’t interested.


Another employee and I who had only started in the last year approached her to talk about how important those professional relationships are and how she could work toward building them with her new co-workers.

She roller her eyes slightly. Oh, that’s going great. I think I’ve done a great job of that. We talk all the time, she told us.

The icy reception she receives every time she walks through the lobby tells us otherwise.

She is going to have a very long, lonely year.

Reach out to your co-workers. They are your friends, your confidantes and your biggest supporters for eight hours of the day, or more.  When you shut them out, you intentionally make every day on the job much harder than it needs to be.


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