Casting Call for Military Families!


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Medical Care in a Foreign Land… Update

After seeing 4 specialists, and 2 family doctors, and getting no answers as to why young Bob has had a sore throat for going on 6 months, we are being medevaced to a US Military hospital.


Most likely, Bob will have to have his tonsils removed.  If the first doc we saw here had suggested it, we would have done the surgery here.  Sadly, the medical care does not follow the same philosophy as US medical care.  The Taiwan medical system seems to prefer a “wait and see” approach.  I’ve lost any faith I had in the local medical system.  I think 6 months is too long.  To hear a doctor, at a well respected hospital here, say Bob’s tonsils look fine, and maybe he just swallowed something sharp, like a fishbone, does not instil confidence.  I can see that the tonsils do not look “fine” and I have no medical training, whatsoever.  (Of course that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion about pretty much every medical situation.)

Medevacing is complicated.  We first had to get a recommendation from the primary doctor (no problem.)  Next, our medical insurance had to approve the idea.  Now, we have to make all of the travel and accommodation reservations and the military system does not make that easy.  Horatio has tried for a cumulative time of at least three hours to get us into the defense travel system, to no avail.  All official DoD requirements on the net are complicated.  Then, the time difference between here and DC make it so that if there is a problem, it’s an entire day before we can get guidance from DC!  Hopefully, we can get the paperwork worked out before we have to travel 3 weeks from now.


If Bob does have to have surgery of any kinds, we will be required to stay on location for two weeks post-op, meaning we will be away from home for close to three weeks.

These are the things that keep me up at night.


I try to look at the silver lining, though:  Quality time with just ONE of my four boys, and lots of shopping at the PX and commissary so we can bring home lots of US products upon our return.

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Fitness Nutrition Delivered Monthly

The founders of Fit Snack contacted me to ask if I’d like to try their product.  I am working out a lot and feel healthy, so I’d like to stay that way.  Fit Snack seemed like a good fit with what I stand for, so I happily agreed.

Fit Snack - ExplodingBox - withLogo

As my regular readers know, I love getting packages.  Mail is very hit or miss using our “special” mail system, so sometimes it feels like birthday/Chanukah/Christmas around here.  I was very excited to receive my first Fit Snack box and to see what is inside.

Fit Snack’s criteria is based on what we call “The Perfect 10″: High Protein | Complex Carbs | Low Sugar | GMO-Free | Paleo | Gluten Free | Clean Eating | Sustainable | Organic | Raw.

The box is the size of a large shoe box and it is packed side to side and top to bottom with healthy snacks.  Some are full of protein, some are naturally gluten free, some are dairy free, but they are all delicious!  I especially like, and was immediately hooked on an energy bite included the box.  It is now a part of my routine when I want to push myself on my morning run.

I highly recommend subscribing to Fit Snack.  It would also make a great gift for your military member loved ones and friends who are far from home.

what-in-a-box-imageIf you subscribe now, for certain subscriptions, you can get a free gift.


If you are eating healthy, or want to start doing so, Fit Snack is a great way to try new things and feed your fit lifestyle.

Fit Snack provided the product for me, but all opinions are my own.

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Do You Have a Battle Plan for Transition?

By Jen Pilcher Founder and leader of

From The Going Civilian Blog (From | ‎03-03-2015 07:30 AM



There is one guarantee about getting into the military, eventually you will have to get out.  Whether you are retiring, choosing to start a new career, or forced out due to sequestration, transition at some point is inevitable.

As you know, finding a job is a lot of hard work.  However, we can help relieve some of your stress.

Here are 5 steps to complete your battle plan for your transition.

• Resume Building with an Expert – Timeline: at least 6 months before transition. I firmly believe this is a time to bring in the “special ops team”… you need to seek professional resume services. Visit your local family support center on board your nearest installation for resume workshop classes and help from one of their employment readiness experts. Search for a company or organization that specializes in preparing resumes for the transitioning military and veteran population. Active duty members are required to attend TAP – Transition Assistance Program - and they will help you with resume preparation, however it is a general overview. Many military friendly organizations that help with resume prep are free; it’s a benefit included as being a member of their organization (MOAA). Always ask the organization if you will have to pay out of pocket. Whatever you decide, just make sure you have someone who can evaluate, proof read and edit.

• Maximize LinkedIn® – Timeline: at least 6 months from transition. Your professional profile is now just as important, if not more important, than your resume. You must have a clear image – it does not need to be a professional head shot, but please no, sunglasses, hat, or shirt off and don’t stand 500 feet away – this is a professional site. Recruiters are now going directly to your LinkedIn profile as soon as they receive your name and/or resume. Make sure this is filled out completely before you submit your resume or give a contact your business card.  Start building your LinkedIn profile now, well in advance of transition. Active duty members and Veterans can also receive a free LinkedIn upgrade services for a year.


• Professional Business cards – Timeline: at least 3 months from transition. I’m sure you are saying, “what business card – I am not even employed yet?”  Well, this is the way the networking world works, so you need a business card with your contact information. Go on-line to a site that prints professional business cards. has many designs; you can even select a patriotic type card and have your name, contact phone number, your LinkedIn profile link and a personalized email address FirstName.LastName@gmail.com

• Clothes Shopping –Timeline: 3-6 months out. As they say, you only get one first impression. It’s time to get rid of the suit that was created before 2012, trust me the gold buttons and wide lapels are a dead giveaway. You need to take the time to get fitted and invest in a new suit. Many of the men’s stores like Jos. A Bank offer military discounts and for women, you can find a great sale at Macy’s and other department stores to purchase a new suit.


 Hiring Fairs – Timeline: 3-6 months out. USAA and MilitaryOneClick® have teamed up with the US Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes Program® and they provide career fairs across the country.  Both USAA and MilitaryOneClick also serve on the Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Councils working with the best companies developing strategies to hire you!  Find and event near you and attend!

Your battle plan for transition is now ready – create your resume, fill out your LinkedIn profile, purchase business cards, buy a new suit, search for hiring fairs near you, and get ready to find your new career. We hope to see you out there networking!
Have something to add to this story? Share your insights below!

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Suddenly a Minority in the World of Anonymous Cyber Bullying

Any time we move to a new place, it takes time to find our way.  What I mean by this is making friends is a lot like dating.  Sometimes you know right away if you click with someone, while other times it takes a while for you to figure it out.

When we had kids in preschool, making friends was easier because the pool to draw from was bigger.  Now, with kids in grades 1, 5, 8 and 11, meeting people at school is harder for me and it is also especially hard for our 8th and 11th grade sons.  By middle school and high school, friendship circles are fully formed, and breaking in is not easy.

One thing I am finding that is different about the community in which we have been for going on eight months, is where you are from, what you do, who you know, and how much money you have, matters to some groups here more than I’ve ever seen; and the phenomenon does not end with the parents.  (I must be clear that this does not apply to everyone and I’ve founds some great people/friends here.)

In the elementary school the divide does not seem to extend to the kids.  Bob is the only visibly Western kid in his class, but he is fully accepted as one of the group.  His closest friends are in other classes, but there is no animosity amongst any of the kids.  It’s a sweet group.  Harold has the most diverse class of any of our kids.  There are at least six countries represented in his class of 19 first graders.

Middle school is an awful place pretty much anywhere you go, but I haven’t seen blatant racism like I’ve seen here, since I was in 1st grade and I heard one of my classmates repeating horribly offensive things about other races and religions.  I was shocked by it then but I was stunned and sickened when it happened to my own child a few months ago.

I’m only now ready to write about it with a relatively level head, since my child, the target, is happily settled and has a few very good, trustworthy, loyal friends.

Parents of teens are likely aware of an app called “”  If you haven’t heard of it, ask your child about it and be sure to keep an eye out for mood swings caused by this dreadful social network.  For those who don’t know, is a social media site that allows users to anonymously ask questions of other users.  As of late, though, I have learned that people also use it as a cowardly way of cyber bullying other kids.  They can be as cruel as they like, and no one knows who is behind the words.

I am grateful that I have a very open relationship with my boys, and that Dwight felt comfortable enough to show me a message that was sent to him via  He texted a screen shot of the post soon after he received it.  My heart dropped into my stomach when I read it:

blogI know that the sentiment does not represent the feelings of the majority of people at the school, but I cannot say it didn’t set a giant chip on my shoulder for a good length of time.

This incident happened back in November.  I let the administration know about it and they banned the app from the school during their internet safety seminar to the middle schoolers in January.  Of course that was completely ineffective because it is absolutely unenforceable.  The middle schoolers are forbidden from using mobile phones during school hours, thankfully.  They cannot even use them during lunch or free periods, but, as any parent of teens knows, social media is ever present in our kids’ lives.

The only way I see to combat the negative effects is to make sure our kids know they can tell us anything and that we will be open and not judge them, and then help them come up with a solution without us telling them what to do.  If we give our kids the chance to come up with a way to solve their problems, they learn an important skill that will serve them well into their future.  Jumping in to fix things for our children is a temporary fix and can do more harm than good by making them think they can’t fix them on their own.

Dwight is in a small elective class of about 18 kids.  He’s the only American in the class and while kids can choose to sit anywhere, there is one desk empty in every direction from his desk every day.  He has a good sense of humor about it; he tries to throw off the other kids by changing where he sits sometimes, but the other kids don’t change their ways.  He comes home from school on the days he has this class and tells me how it went.  He laughs, but I can see it bothers him.

I know it is a good lesson; he clearly sees what it is like to be a minority.  But he was already a kindhearted, empathetic child, and endured religion based bullying back in the U.S., so this is not a lesson he needed to learn… again.  What it has done, is make his friendships with his two closest friends stronger very quickly.  They have friends from many different ethnic, religious and financial backgrounds, to be sure, but they are guarded with people they don’t know well.

Middle school is a minefield wherever it is in the world.  If it wasn’t this complication, it would be something else, I am sure.  I am eager to see how it turns out next year, when he enters high school and his next younger brother enters the middle school battleground.


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Vote From Overseas!

The Federal Voting Assistance Program, FVAP, makes it easy to maintain active participation in the democratic process back home while we live abroad. As U.S citizens, despite living overseas, it is our responsibility to vote. I, personally, cannot imagine not voting, especially since we actively serve The United States of America, voting gives us a stake in the game.

Voting overseas is a very simple process. Just complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). This form acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form. To ensure that your ballot is received in time for each election, it is recommended that you complete a new FPCA annually whenever your mailing address changes or at least 90 days prior to the election your voting in.

FVAP is the Federal Voting Assistance Program, and on their website you will find everything you need to fill out the FPCA.

Follow these 4 simple steps and you will be ready to rock your vote no matter where you are in the world!

1) Go to the FVAP website for Absentee Voting
2) Select your State or territory of legal residence – here you will find all the information you need to vote absentee according to your State.
3) At the bottom of the webpage you will find a link to download the fillable FPCA
4) Remember! You must print the form, sign it, and send it to your State according to your State’s rules.

FVAP, is a nonpartisan Department of Defense component, works to ensure Service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote, and have the tools and resources to successfully do so – from anywhere in the world.
I am a voluntary member of FVAP’s Blogger Network and am not compensated for my posts. The thoughts presented here are my own and do not reflect the opinions of FVAP or any of its representatives.

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Organic Rosehip Oil Is Great


As a 40 something woman, I love to find products that keep my skin soft looking young.  I’ve used Valentia products in the past and really liked them, so I was glad to have the opportunity to try the 100% Organic Rosehip Oil to review.

Again, Valentia came through with a fantastic product.  My skin has been soft and smooth and looking fresher than ever while since I started using the Rosehip Oil from Valentia.  It absorbs very quickly and while the scent is not floral, in my opinion, it isn’t bad, as some other reviewers have stated.  If the scent bothers you, you can easily add an essential oil of your choice.  The rosehip oil can be used on its own or with other moisturizers and I find it makes my skin look and feel great all on its own.  I live in a very humid climate but have had no trouble, whatsoever, with oily skin while using this product.

I highly recommend the 100% Organic Rosehip Oil from Valentia, for soft, smooth skin.

I received a bottle of the product from the company to try and review, but the opinions are my own.

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Vaccine Debate Over: Vaccines Save Lives

The title of this piece seems to state the obvious, right?  So why are the numbers of anti-vaxxers increasing?

Fear.  Misguided fear, but fear nonetheless.


From the CDC

There is no dispute over the fact that vaccines save lives.  The inoculations developed and used over the past 40+ years had practically eradicated life altering, disfiguring and often fatal, diseases.  Some kids cannot get vaccinated, the herd immunity effect helps to protect those kids, as well as those for whom the vaccine was not effective.  So why, in recent years, have the numbers of parents who vaccinate their kids dropped?


Because anti-vaxxers think the risk of getting one of these now rare diseases outweighs the risk of having their child be injured by the shot meant to keep the illnesses at bay.  I see their point.  I’ve met families with kids who had terrible reactions and are permanently, severely, disabled.  These tragedies are rare, but tell that to a family affected by one of these occurrences and you’ll get a big reaction.  I often hear people trying to help parts of the community, saying, “If I save one life because of my actions, it will be worth it.”  So, how do you tell a family whose once healthy child is forever maimed that their one child is less significant than another? You can’t.

The fear of vaccines, though, does not seem to be about these rare events.  The idea that vaccines “cause” autism is still real amongst many communities and I hear this quoted as a reason to not vaccinate.

I am the mother of a child affected by autism.  While this does not, in any way, make me an expert in the vax or anti-vax world, I do feel it gives me a bit of credibility in speaking to the issue.

Many elements of this debate upset me.  I love my autistic son.  I loved him before his brain started making some things harder for him and I love him just as much now; but when I hear other autism parents say that they wouldn’t change their kid if they had the chance, or that they believe their child is exactly who he/she was meant to be, my heart flips.  I don’t get it.  Why would anyone want their child to struggle if they could prevent it?  I repeat, I love my autistic son as much today as the day he was born, and I adore the person he has become at age 16, but if there was any way at all that I could make his life easier for him, I would… without hesitation.

But, I don’t know what causes autism.  Do you?  I don’t know what doesn’t cause autism, either, and that, I think, is the more important part of this debate.  Speculation is wide spread and conflicting.

Do toxins cause autism? Is it genetic?  Is it a reaction in the gut that starts the process?  Is it injury during labor and delivery?  Does a change take place in the womb?

I’ll say it again, because my biggest peeve related this issue is when I hear people say that X (fill in blank) does not cause autism.  The fact is, we don’t know what causes it.

Good scientific research indicates that autism may be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors.  This makes sense to me, but the details are not clear.

So, how do I reconcile all of these conflicting forces of thought?

I 100% vaccinate my children in order to inoculate them against the harmful diseases the vaccinations protect us from, but I do not subject my children to more than one injection at each doctor’s visit.  There is no dispute that vaccines cause changes to our children’s bodies.  That’s the point.  What we don’t understand, though, is could there be unwanted effects if the immune systems of some more fragile kids are bombarded with too many toxins at a time?  Do the toxins build up in some children’s bodies?  It’s a tough question that is yet to be answered.

The cost of the extra, vaccine only, office visit is worth the peace of mind I get from taking a bit of precaution when it comes to the well being of my children.  My eldest son was vaccinated on the regular schedule, but my other three, born after their older brother stopped talking at the age of 13 months, had a more conservative vaccine schedule, slightly spread out, but close to on-time; and all were fully vaccinated by the time they entered school.


I hear the chatter on tv, online and in the papers.  I know there are strong opinions on both sides of this public health issue.  I know my path is different than most, but in my opinion, it was the right way to go for our family.  And, other than the scientific fact that vaccines help to prevent the spread of many terrible diseases, there are not facts to say what does, or does not, cause changes in our kids, only speculation and circumstantial anecdotes.

I’m ok with that for now.  I know that people, who are smarter than I, are scientifically studying autism and might figure it out some day.

I’m not ok with other people thinking that not vaccinating their kid at all, in order to prevent a possible consequence, is ok.  Anti-vaxxers are counting on my kids and others to shield their kids from exposure via herd immunity.  It doesn’t work when more and more people are going un-vaccinated, and the tactic is leading to illness and death from preventable illnesses.

This is an undisputed scientific fact.

The rest is pure speculation.

Posted in Autism, No Nonsense Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Delicious Valentine Craft and Treat

This is a fun activity to do on a cold or rainy day.  Colors can be modified for any holiday.  Kids of practically every age can get involved in making this fun treat.



These treats are salty and sweet and make delicious and cute Valentine treats to share and enjoy. Enlist the help of your kids.

What you’ll need

  • Bite-size, knot pretzels (they look a bit like hearts)
  • Hershey’s Kisses (you choose your favorite type)
  • M&M’s candy (valentines colors or other to suit the season)

How to make magic happen

  1. Heat the oven to 200 F. Set bite-size, twisted knot pretzels (one for each treat) in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss.
  2. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes until the chocolate looks shiny but retains its shape.  Kisses will feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and quickly press an M&M’s candy into the center of each Kiss.
  3. Allow the treats to cool for a few minutes, then place them in the refrigerator to set, about 15 minutes. Enjoy and Share! 


    We made half with classic milk chocolate kisses and milk chocolate M&Ms and half with dark chocolate kisses and dark chocolate M&Ms.  100% Delicious!


Posted in crafts and recipes, No Nonsense Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breaking News: MCRMC Recommendations Released

This is a great breakdown of the news, by Sarah Peachey of


The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission released its annual report today to “modernize the Uniformed Services’ compensation and retirement system.” The committee believes the following recommendations will help to maintain the all-volunteer force specifically through compensation, retirement and benefits modernization issues.

A hopeful point in the report said, “Our military pay and retirement recommendations grandfather the retirement pay of existing retirees and those currently in the force. They also maintain the majority of the existing retirement structure, which is an important retention tool, while allowing members of a younger, more mobile work force to begin investing in their own future.”

The following suggestions — at this point only suggestions — await debate and passage by the House and Senate:

Pay and retirement recommendations

  • Recommendation 1: Help more service members save for retirement earlier in their careers, leverage the retention power of Budget Cutstraditional Uniformed Services retirement, and give the services greater flexibility to retain quality people in demanding career fields by implementing a modernized retirement system
  • Recommendation 2: Provide more options for service members to protect their pay for their survivors by offering new Survivor Benefit Plan coverage without Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset
  • Recommendation 3: Promote service members’ financial literacy by implementing a more robust financial and health benefit training program
  • Recommendation 4: Increase efficiency within the Reserve Component by consolidating 30 Reserve Component duty statuses into 6 broader statuses

Health benefits

  • Recommendation 5: Ensure service members receive the best possible combat casualty care by creating a joint readiness command, new standards for essential medical capabilities, and innovative tools to attract readiness-related medical cases to military hospitals
  • Dentist StockRecommendation 6: Increase access, choice, and value of health care for active-duty Family members, Reserve Component members, and retirees by allowing beneficiaries to choose from a selection of commercial insurance plans offered through a Department of Defense health benefit program
  • Recommendation 7: Improve support for service members’ dependents with special needs by aligning services offered under the Extended Care Health Option to those of state Medicaid waiver programs
  • Recommendation 8: Improve collaboration between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs by enforcing coordination on electronic medical records, a uniform formulary for transitioning Service members, common services, and reimbursements

Quality of life

  • Recommendation 9: Protect both access to and savings at Department of Defense commissaries and exchanges by consolidating these activities into a single defense resale organization
  • Recommendation 10: Improve access to child care on military installations by ensuring the Department of Defense has the information and budgeting tools to provide child care within 90 days of need
  • Recommendation 11: Safeguard education benefits for service members by reducing redundancy and ensuring the fiscal sustainability of education programs
  • Recommendation 12: Better prepare service members for transition to civilian life by expanding education and granting states more flexibility to administer the Jobs for

Veterans State Grants Program

  • Recommendation 13: Ensure service members receive financial assistance to cover nutritional needs by providing them veteran_pledge_squarecost-effective supplemental benefits
  • Recommendation 14: Expand Space-Available travel to more dependents of service members by allowing travel by dependents of service members deployed for 30 days or more
  • Recommendation 15: Measure how the challenges of military life affect children’s school work by implementing a national military dependent student identifier




The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission released its official report Jan. 29, recommending several changes to current benefits. This nine-person commission, appointed by the president and majority and minority leadership of both levels of Congress, was established by the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to do a full review of all pay and benefits for service members, veterans and retirees to maintain an “all-volunteer force.”

The recommendations from the report came from the insight of more than 1.5 million people, including service members, veterans, retirees and their Families. The commission also worked with more than 30 military and veteran service organizations and received input from research institutions, private firms and not-for profit organizations.

The results are a combination of good news and bad news for service members and their Families. Some good news includes support for the current basic pay table and numerous allowances (Basic Allowance for Housing, Basic Allowance for Subsistence, etc.), suggesting that the current system is “an appropriate compromise” for service members. Some of the bad news includes a significant overhaul to the current TRICARE health care system, but offering a lot of choices for Families.

Here is a list of the recommendations and how they may be implemented:

Pay and retirement recommendations
Recommendation 1: Help more service members save for retirement earlier in their careers, leverage the retention power of traditional retirement, and give the services greater flexibility to retain quality people in demanding career fields
The current retirement system does not provide retirement savings to an overwhelming majority of service members. Under the current system, 83 percent of enlisted service members will never benefit from the traditional 20-year retirement plan, as they don’t stay in service for that time frame.
The suggestion: Those currently service will be grandfathered into the current plans. For those who come in later, there is a need to restructure the current system to provide retirement benefits to all service members regardless of their time in service with a modern 401(k)-type plan, with retention benefits of the current retirement annuity, lump sum career continuation pay, and retention bonuses paid at important career milestones in the lives of service members. This system would sustain and potentially improve retention and increase lifetime earnings of retirees.

Recommendation 2: Provide more options for service members to protect their pay for their survivors
The Survivor Benefit Plan is a low cost way to provide lifetime benefits to retirees’ survivors, but the Commission received complaints about the SBP because of an associated offset from VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
The suggestion: A new SBP should be implemented where service members would fully fund the SBP costs, but would no longer be subject to the DIC offset. The current SBP program with the DIC offset should be maintained for service members who want to retain lower-cost coverage.

Recommendation 3: Promote service members’ financial literacy
The Commission discovered that with a lack of choice in current pay and benefits programs, service members lack sufficient knowledge of finances. The 2013 Blue Star Families Annual Lifestyle Survey found that only 12 percent of service member respondents indicated they received financial information from their command or installation.
The suggestion: The Department of Defense should increase the frequency and strengthen the content of financial literacy training. This is especially important because the commission’s recommendations for retirement and health care will require financial decision-making on the service members’ parts. Additional financial education could help protect service members from predatory lenders and other financial manipulators.

Recommendation 4: Increase efficiency within the Reserve Component status system
The commission believes that the current Reserve Component system “is complex, aligns poorly to current training and mission support requirements, fosters inconsistencies in compensation and complicates rather than support effective budgeting.” The current system can cause pay and benefit disruptions as service members transition to different duty statuses.
The suggestion: Streamline the current 30 statuses to just 6 for simpler transition.

Health benefits

Recommendation 5: Ensure service members receive the best possible combat casualty care
Through the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the medical system grew and evolved to provide the best quality combat care. Evidence shows it may be difficult to sustain these combat medical capabilities with the typical mix of cases seen in the military health care system during peacetime.
The suggestion: The military should seek to enhance dedicated oversight of medical readiness through the creation of a joint medical component within a newly established joint readiness command. The commission believes that Congress and the DoD should define essential medical capabilities and continue to support a training platform for medical personnel.

Recommendation 6: Increase access, choice, and value of health care for active-duty Family members, Reserve Component members, and retirees.  The commission believes that TRICARE limits access to care by confining beneficiaries to a lengthy and frustrating process for specialty care and weak networks of civilian health care providers.
The suggestion: Active-duty service members should continue to receive their primary care through Military Treatment Facilities. Congress should replace the current health care program with a new system that offers beneficiaries selection of commercial insurance plans. The costs of these plans would be offset for active-duty families with a new Basic Allowance for Health Care as well as a fund to lessen the burden of chronic and catastrophic conditions to cover unexpected medical bills.
Mobilized Reserve component members would also receive BAHC to cover the costs of a plan from the new system. All reserve component members would be eligible to purchase a plan from the DoD program at varying costs.
Non-Medicare-eligible retirees should continue to have full access to the military health benefit program at cost contributions that gradually increase over the years, but remain over the average Federal civilian employee cost share. Medicare-eligible retirees should continue to have access to the current TRICARE for Life program to supplement Medicare benefits.
The TRICARE Dental Program and the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program should remain in place.

Recommendation 7: Improve support for service members’ dependents with special needs
Service members often lose access to state-based programs when they move between duty stations because of long wait lists in some states.
The suggestion: Benefits offered through the military’s Extended Care Health Option program should be expanded to include services provided through state Medicaid waiver programs.

Recommendation 8: Improve collaboration between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs
DoD and VA provide resources to ensure that service members and veterans receive the best health care, but there have been some issues with the transfer of information for effective care.
The suggestion: The current DoD-VA committee should be strengthened with additional authorities and responsibilities to standardize and enforce collaboration between the organizations to provide better care by enforcing coordination on electronic medical records, a uniform formulary for transitioning Service members, common services, and reimbursements.

Quality of life

Recommendation 9: Protect both access to and savings at Department of Defense commissaries and exchanges
The commission believes the commissaries and exchanges provide great benefits to service members and should be maintained. More than 90 percent of active-duty service members use commissaries and exchanges.
The suggestion: The commissaries and exchanges perform similar missions for similar patrons with similar staff using similar processes. The commission believes they should be consolidated to provide better for service members and their Families.

Recommendation 10: Improve access to child care on military installations
The commission found that the demand for military child care often exceeds availability, resulting in more than 11,000 children on waiting lists as of September 2014.
The suggestion: Congress should reestablish the authority to use operating funds for construction projects up to $15 million for expanding or modifying child development program facilities serving children up to 12 years old. The commission also recommended that the DoD should streamline child care personnel policies to help ensure proper staffing levels and update job descriptions to reduce staff turnover.

Recommendation 11: Safeguard education benefits for service members The commission found that there are currently duplicate and inefficient education benefits that should be either eliminated or streamlined to improve the sustainability of these benefits.
The suggestion: The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty and Reserve Education Assistance Program should be sunset in favor of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Service members who reach 10 years of service and commit to another two years should be allowed to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to dependents. The housing stipend of the Post-9/11 GI Bill should be sunset for dependents (beginning in July 2017), as should unemployment compensation for anyone receiving a housing stipend.

Recommendation 12: Better prepare service members for transition to civilian life
Unemployment is still a challenge for veterans ages 18-24, who had higher unemployment rates in 2013 (21.4 percent) than non-veterans of the same age group (14.3 percent).
The suggestion: DoD should require mandatory participation in the Transition GPS education track. The Department of Labor should permit state departments of labor to work directly with the state VA offices to coordinate administration of the Jobs for Veterans State Grant program. Congress should require One-Stop Career Center employees to attend the GPS classes to develop a personal connection between transitioning veterans and the career centers.

Recommendation 13: Ensure service members receive financial assistance to cover nutritional
The commission recognized that some service members will continue to need financial help to purchase food for their families. The Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (SNAP), better known as food stamps, is available to service members in the United States. The Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, the military’s alternative to SNAP, is currently a second option, but served only 285 service members in fiscal year 2013.
The suggestion: FSSA should be retained for service members in overseas locations where SNAP is unavailable, but should be sunset in the U.S. where SNAP is available.

Recommendation 14: Expand Space-Available travel to more dependents of service members
Dependents of service members who are deployed or more than 120 days can currently fly unaccompanied on military aircraft when there is space available; however, shorter deployments are becoming routine.
The suggestion: Dependents should be able to access Space-Available flights for deployments of 30 days or longer.

Recommendation 15: Measure how the challenges of military life affect children’s school work
Children of active-duty service members are not being identified separately in student performance reporting. Military children often experience unique stresses associated with deployments and frequent moves, which can adversely affect their academic performance.
The suggestion: Implement a military dependent student identifier through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This would provide consistent reporting on the academic performance of military dependents and identify any required support to meet their needs.

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