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PCSing? Make Sure Your EFMP is Cleared to Travel

By Tiffany Shedd

One of the first things I had to do as a brand new Army wife was get paperwork (quickly) for an overseas assignment. My husband had been assigned to Fort Wainwright, AK, which while technically is still the US; it really is like a foreign country.

In the process of getting my new military id card, enrolling in DEERS, and applying for my government passport, I also had to clear the EFMP office. I had not a clue what this was. Once I figured out that EFMP stood for Exceptional Family Member Program, I became a bit nervous. It was vaguely explained to me that it had to do with family members and medical issues. If those medical issues were severe enough, they may not allow me to travel with my brand new husband.

I got a little worried. I had recently had a fluke result pop up on a female related test and I also have suffered from migraines from a very young age. Needless to say, neither of these issues was of any importance when I went in for my quick appointment. The nice lady tried not to laugh as she assured me that these were not the issues that they were worried about. She signed my paperwork and sent me on my way. I didn’t think about EFMP again until six years later when my son’s PCM told me we needed to enroll in the program.

Hopefully, your first experience with EFMP is not as you’re trying to get yourself ready to undertake the mammoth challenge of an overseas PCS move. If it is though, try to get into your local EFMP office pronto.

If your military spouse already has orders and they are for the continental US, then you should be ok. If those orders are for overseas and your family member(s) were not already enrolled in EFMP, their needs were not taken into consideration when those orders were cut and the duty station may be unsuitable for your family member(s) needs.

Alert your family member’s PCM that your family has come up on orders and you need to get the EFMP process going as quickly as possible. On smaller bases, this may not happen as quickly as you’d like. We currently are assigned to a base where the EFMP program has no dedicated staff, just a nurse who does EFMP part time, which means that getting into the program takes some time. Even on larger bases, the process can take a while, so be sure to start it sooner rather than later.

If your orders are approaching quickly, you may not be able to travel with your military spouse to the duty station. You will have to stay behind until you entire family medically clears. I know that sounds like some worst nightmare type stuff, but stay calm and vigilant. You need to stay on top of your paperwork and in contact with your PCM and the EFMP liaison.

You are your family member’s biggest ally and advocate.

Once you’re enrolled in EFMP, or if you’re already in the EFMP program, you still have to be medically cleared before you are allowed to make the move overseas.  If you were enrolled in EFMP prior to PCS orders being cut, your family’s medical needs have already been taken into consideration. So, if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), that is something that can be accommodated at your new duty station. If you had type 2 diabetes, they have made sure that there are specialists either on that base or within a short distance that can accommodate your health needs.

Unfortunately, there is no quick way to explain how you become medically cleared as it depends on which branch of service your family is a part. Fortunately, there are online resources that will give you a good overview of what to expect out of the process. I personally like to know what to expect before I even talk to someone, so I tend to Google things before doing anything else.

Here is a link for a Quick Reference Guide that discusses the medical clearing process for each specific branch of service: https://www.hanscomservices.com/Downloads/EFMP_Quick_Reference_Guide_May2013.pdf

There is also some very useful information about the EFMP program in this guide. It’s a good place to start if you’re just coming into the program or if you’re a seasoned spouse who is moving OCONUS for the first time as part of the EFMP. Another good place to look for information is with your PCM or the local EFMP office. They will know exactly what paperwork you will need and help you with getting any appointments that may be necessary.

I know that this can be intimidating and stressful, but once you’re done with the process, think about the adventure you’re about to embark on. This may be the first time you’ve travelled abroad or the first time you’ve been to this specific place. Make the most of this new place and opportunity.

I know it can seem overwhelming, but most moves seem that way while you’re in the process of doing it. Take it one step at a time. This is a big step, so once it’s done, you’re ready to tackle the next challenge that pops up. Good luck and bon voyage, my EFMP friends.

Websites we love: Freecycle.org

It’s PCS time. The movers are here. You are still weeding through a pile of stuff in the middle of your garage floor. No time for a yard sale. But you don’t want to throw it all away either.

Can’t someone just come haul it off?

In fact, they can.

The website, www.freecycle.org, allows users to post their unwanted goods so that other people who need those items can come and take them.

The nonprofit has one goal, keep useable goods out of landfills. And with more than 8 million members around the globe, they are working hard to meet that goal.

At their online site you can type in your zip code, find the free cycle group closest to you, register as a user, for free, and then begin posting your unwanted items. You will receive responses from people who would like to have them and then you pick who gets it, they pick it up and ta da! That pile of stuff on your garage floor is gone.

The groups are run by volunteer organizers who insure that rules are followed and the goods flowing on the site are actually useful and not just trash.

And once you move to your new duty station, freecycle can help you fill your new quarters. Not only can you browse the items that are already listed, you can post an item that you are in search of. If you need a desk, post it. Someone may decide they have one that they are willing to give you.

Many users have bragged on the site that they have been able to furnish entire houses from the gently used goods they have been given by freecycle users.

Good for the environment, good for your pocketbook, good for your aching back.

Now, go clean out those closets! That stuff has new homes waiting for it!

Clutter-Free, If Just for a Moment

When my husband is home, I have all sorts of time for things I enjoy.

Like organization.  Color-coding.  Labeling things.

It’s a sickness, really.

Making lists and checking them twice.  Compartmentalizing everything.

My kids’ toys.  Clothing.  Arts and crafts supplies.  Papers and files and office necessities.

None of it is safe.

During his time at home, we always spend time working on re-organizing a lot of things in our lives.

One of us can play with the kids, while the other person gets down to business.  Because I’m pregnant this time, it’s even more of a time crunch.

I’ve re-done our office, our garage, my children’s bedroom, our file cabinets, and the play room.

I’m on a certified rampage.

And I’m miserable and enjoying myself all at the same time.

Last night, I sat in the newly cleaned, purged, re-organized and re-labeled office after the kids went to bed, and I breathed deeply.  I inhaled the smell that only the lack of clutter can bring.

And then I teared up.

Because I know that tomorrow, in will come the kids.

They’ll squeal with delight at the chalk and the crayons.  They’ll clamber for all the books I categorized by subject and title.  They’ll pull out the puzzles and the scissors and the paper, and, well, there goes my comfort and joy.

Most of the time, we are good at maintaining our organization.

Until life hits.

A vacation. A sick kid.  A deployment.  A new baby.

Or, you know, more than one at time.

Then things fall apart. 

The house stays clean.  We can still find most things.  But the colored pencils end up in the crayons bin, and my organizational masterpiece starts to crumble.

It’s inevitable.  It’s part of having kids.

It is also one of my least favorite part of having children.  Or a husband, who, if it’s possible, understands my “systems” even less.

So right now, we live in the cycle.  Savoring the organization and cuddling my much beloved label-maker.

Knowing that just about the time we add this newborn to the family, things will start to look a little less orderly around here.

And then, we embrace the chaos until my husband comes home again.

A Tale of Two Moves: Part 2

Last month we profiled two military wives and their cross-country and international moves. They may have mastered the logistics of these giant moves, but when they arrived at their new duty stations, there was still more to do before they could relax and unpack.

Here is quick look at their must do list as soon as you arrive at your new duty station.

Medical

Transfer your Tricare to your new region about a week before you move.

“At my last location, I waited until we got there and it was a three week wait on doctor appointments for school physicals,” said Army spouse Juanita Klemm.

Visit Tricare’s site to make your transfers on the go:

http://www.tricare.mil/About/Regions.aspx

School

School requirements for physicals for just school, or sports participation may vary, but earlier transfer seems to still be best. Klemm, a school administrator, also suggests first calling the new school district to ask about required forms and always have the child’s birth certificate and shot records with you.

“Do not let the movers pack your records,” Klemm stressed.

“I couldn’t believe how many people would show up at school and say their documents were in a box on a moving truck,” she said.

She also suggests calling the clinic on your new base to see if they have a walk-in service to transcribe shot records that need to be turned in to the school.

Before moving, the ever-organized Klemm made a binder for each of her children with all necessary school paperwork like shot records, birth certificates and any test scores.

“Those are the most generally required documents. I carried the binders with me in the car in a tote, along with other important papers such as passports, our birth certificates, social security cards and marriage license. I never let movers pack those,” she said.

Shipping Furniture and Cars

As Army spouse Kim Carlile prepared to move to Germany, she learned as much as she could about the living quarters there before packing.

 “Since the living quarters are smaller over there, I had yard sales and got rid of tons of our stuff,” Carlile said.

And, since the Army only pays to ship one personal vehicle overseas, the family sold one of their cars before they left.

Carlile attributes much of the assistance she received in her relocation prep to her installation’s transportation office.  There, she learned that household goods go into three different shipments: the main household goods (furniture and large items) and the unaccompanied baggage, such as pillows,  dishes, pots, pans and blankets.

“The unaccompanied baggage consists of basic needs for your house and usually gets there quickest,” Carlile said.

The third shipment is what she calls storage items, like grills, washers and dryers. These all get picked up by the movers.

Upon arrival, getting settled involved budgeting and utility start up, and learning how the procedures worked in Germany.

“One of the hardest things to learn was the financial stuff,” Carlile said. “It was hard to figure out our budget between euros and dollars. But once we got our budget in euros established, we just padded our account with extra money due to the fluctuation of the exchange rate.”

The cultural and the language barrier made setting up new utility accounts a challenge.

“Establishing telephone service had extra steps just due to translation issues,” Carlile said.

“With electricity, they read your meter once a year and they estimate your payment based on your family size. We paid based on an estimate then when they actually read the meter at the end of the year, it was adjusted,” she said.

Navigating the ins and outs of everything from school requirements to international procedures, these two ladies succeeded in their moves. If you want a PCS Happily Ever After, make sure you use the resources on base and online to navigate your move smoothly.

Gun Violence, When Will We Stop It?

A poignant post on Twitter today:

USA Fill in the blank daily news report:

A  __­­______ entered a _______ and opened fire with a ______. __________ people were killed. Pray

for ___________.

Before yesterday’s attacks at a movie theater in Louisiana there were 203 mass shootings in the United States. Since Jan. 1.

In 2013, there was a shooting in which more than one person was injured or killed every. Single. Day.

We will leave flowers. We will gather by candlelight. We will shake our heads in disgust.

And then we will go home. And do nothing.

And tomorrow, it will happen again.

Why is this an acceptable way to live?

Why is going to the movies dangerous? Why can’t children sit in a classroom without fear of being killed?

These atrocities will not stop until we stop them. Sometimes, that means limiting the guns.

No one needs a weapon powerful enough to mow down dozens of people in a matter of seconds.

No civilian needs the same amount of firepower that a soldier on the field of battle is armed with.

Think long and hard about your love for guns, America. And then make the right choice.

Or will it take burying your own child, who was shot while doing math homework in their tiny desk at school, before you see the senselessness?

Military Spouse Job Fairs in August

The kids will be heading back to school and you may be looking to fill those day time hours. Start your job search at a military spouse job fair.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosts fairs around the nation that are open only to military members and their spouses. The fairs host employers who not only are willing to hire military families but who specifically seek out the unique skill sets and experience that military spouses bring.

Check out the list of job fairs in August. Remember to click on the site and register. They do limit the number of participants. For a full listing of fairs for the entire year, visit http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs

Aug. 12

Little Rock, AR

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/little-rock-hiring-fair

Salt Lake City, UT

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/salt-lake-city-hiring-fair

Aug. 13

Farmingdale, NY

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/farmingdale-hiring-fair

Aug. 20

Detroit, MI

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/detroit-hiring-expo-detroit-tigers

Aug. 25

San Francisco, CA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/san-francisco-hiring-expo-san-francisco-giants

Aug. 26

Fort Drum, NY

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-drum-transition-summit

Fort Polk, LA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-polk-military-spouse-networking-reception

Aug. 27

Tucson, AZ

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/tucson-hiring-fair

Fort Polk, LA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-polk-military-spouse-hiring-fair

Sept. 3

Washington D.C.

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dc-hiring-expo-washington-nationals

Sept. 9

Los Angeles

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/los-angeles-hiring-fair

Sept. 10

New York City

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/new-york-city-hiring-fair

 

Military Discounts Can Save You, Especially During PCS

By Mandy Rebmann

The U.S. military used to be a lot bigger.  A period of military service was once a reality for many young men, even celebrities (Think about Elvis being in the military. Elvis!).

However, since the draft ended and the U.S. military became 100 percent volunteer, fewer families are faced with the burdens of that sacrifice, making it less universal, and more acute.  Many in the business world try and give back and give thanks by offering special discounts to members of active duty and National Guard/ Reserve and their families.  Not only is this an acknowledgement of their service, but it also helps ease some of the financial burden associated with life in the military.  And the good news is that it’s easier than ever to take advantage of these discounts!

One of the biggest financial pressures placed on military families is frequent PCS moves.  Although compensated for these moves, they can put a strain on anyone’s budget.  Finding out which businesses along the way offer military discounts can really add up.  Many businesses offer 10-20 percent discounts.  While sometimes the saving are only a few dollars, sometimes it’s much more substantial, and even small discounts add up over the course of a PCS move.

Businesses offering discounts can range anywhere from food and hotels, to movers, groceries and dining, among many others.

As discussed in some of my previous pieces, we recently PCS’d and purchased our first home.  Although we took advantage of the VA Loan and didn’t have to come up with a down payment, the closing costs took a big bite out of our savings.  Since we didn’t have a clear idea of exactly when we would be PCS’ing, we had planned a trip to Orlando, now taking place a few months after getting settled in the new house.  Without the help of the military discounts offered by the theme parks we’ll be visiting, we would have had to cancel our plans, disappointing a lot of youngsters.  Both Disney and Universal Studios offer substantially discounted tickets and hotel rooms for members of the military.  Recently, Disney has even upped the number of tickets a military member or their spouse may use from six to 12!

When it comes to entertainment discounts, a good place to visit is your post’s Travel and Ticket office.  Not only can you obtain high-demand tickets for attractions in advance, they can also assist booking hotels and tours.  Bigger posts’ offices are usually set up like a travel agent office, so it’s also a good place to go, browse, and get some vacation ideas. 

It’s easier than ever to learn about these deals and take advantage of them.  Most of the individual business websites will have information on the military discounts offered.  There are also compilation sites listing multiple deals.  One app I recently put on my phone is SCOUT, which shows me the businesses offering military discounts in around me, organized into categories.  Full disclosure: I am not a couponer. I’ve always been just a little too unorganized to take advantage of all the discounts, sales, and specials out there.  But it’s getting so easy to find coupons and discouts, even I keep seeing the savings coming in!

Want Employers to Look Past Your Baby Bump? Show Them You Are the Best

Ashli Teeman was 35 weeks pregnant when she applied to work for a child and youth program at the NSB Kings Bay Child Development Center in Georgia.

While she didn’t have any teaching experience, she had a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and she got the position.

She was required to do a routine drug test, but she went into labor before she could take it, and she was still in the hospital when the test was scheduled.

“Because I missed the drug test, they had to withdraw the job offer,” Teeman said. “We tried seeing if there was anything that could be done because I was in the hospital, but it came back that they couldn’t do anything.”

Teeman had to wait another six months before she was even allowed to re-apply for the job.

She ended up getting the job after the waiting period.

“There are some people that may be turned off by a potential employee being pregnant, but some are very supportive and willing to make things work,” she said.

Lindsey Savage, a lawyer and mother in Washington, married to a Navy sailor, agrees that you have to be pro-active when applying for jobs while pregnant.

“I think the best way to combat pregnancy discrimination is to educate and be a leader,” she said.  “This goes for women and men.”

She said maternity issues are often amplified when it comes to military dependents seeking employment.

“When I am faced with the ‘Oh, you’re going to be leaving soon, anyway’ issue, I combat it with ‘There is no guarantee that the non-military-affiliated person you hire instead will last longer than me,’” she said. “And it’s rung true.  I’ve outlasted several colleagues over the years.”

Savage recommends being honest with all potential employers during any interview.

Tell them when you are due; tell them when you’re available to start work, and highlight that you’ll be able to do quite a bit of good work before you have the baby, she said.

 

Emphasize how good you are at your job, Savage adds.  They need to know why it’s worth it to hire you, even if you do take paid or unpaid maternity leave.

“Stress why it’s worth it to them to give you a chance or if you’re already employed, to give you maternity leave,” Savage said.

If your potential employer doesn’t have a maternity-leave policy, question them about why and suggest one.

“If you present them with, why it’s worth it to them, they might consider implementing it,” she said.

Maternity and paternity leave policies help families, she said.

“If you’re a father, push for paternity leave,” she said.  “And if you have it, take it.”

She encourages women in positions of power to help support other mothers with good maternity policies.

“Line others up behind you and support other women in their efforts to succeed,” she said.

Federal protection can be provided through the Family and Medical Leave Act, in which companies who have more than 50 employees must offer 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave when an employee has a new baby, though you’ll need to be employed for at least one year, be employed by a qualifying business, and be able to afford 12 weeks without pay.

In addition, look up the state laws regarding medical family leave; they do vary from state to state.

Savage’s son was born in California and her daughter in Washington.

In California, the law said pregnancy and birth is a “short-term disability,” so she was allowed to take 12 weeks of partially paid time-off for “family-bonding time.”

In Washington, however, she had no state policies in place to protect that time, so she had to use vacation and sick days. She never took any maternity leave.

She had pre-arranged with her employer to work from home while taking care of a new baby.  When she had to go to the office, she brought her daughter with her.

Her husband used his paternity leave, plus extra leave he had saved up, to help Savage so she could continue to work.
 
“Not all military families have the luxury of getting pregnant at the most convenient times, and sometimes you have to PCS and search for a new job when pregnant,” she said.  “It is hard.”


As an attorney, with a career that isn’t “naturally portable,” Savage understands, having to be a licensed attorney in three states thanks to her husband’s military career.

“But I have also found employers who were willing to give me a chance,” she said. “And it worked out.”
 

No Words

There are no words.

What could we possibly say to comfort you? To give you peace? To make this right.

There are no words.

When we send our service members overseas to fight, we internally prepare ourselves for the worst.

When we receive stateside orders, that placement is our safe time. Our break from the risks of war.

To lose a spouse, father, son, friend in war is heartbreaking.

To lose them here at home, to a wartime act, where we expect to be safe, where life is supposed to be ok, that, is agonizing.

There are no words to make this heartache stop. To undo the horror.

Please know, we are grieving with you and you are in the thoughts and prayers of each and every one of us.

Semper Fi.

Websites We Love: Free M&Ms for the Troops

If you don't have anyone stationed overseas right now, you can still send a good wishes and candy to those that are.

Mars Chocolate has partnered with Operation Gratitude and NASCAR to ship care packages to troops in combat zones. While families are not allowed to send letters or packages addressed to "any U.S. soldier," they can slip a note into the boxes sent by Operation Gratitude.

Visit: http://signup.operationgratitude.com/mars

There, you can write a thank you note, message of encouragement or a simple hello. That message will be printed by Operation Gratitude and sent in a care package to a service member overseas.

And, every message entered will be attached to a package of M&Ms, donated by Mars Chocolate.

So, get the kids together, have them write a note to someone overseas. It will make a service member's day and give your kids a fun summer activity to do, for a few minutes at least!

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