Town Hall Questions

Below, we have worked to answer all questions posed by participants during our COVID-19 Military Support Initiative Town Hall Series. Your questions may also be answered by The National Military Family Association on their webpage, What Military Families Need to Know.

Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Our Military

What financial resources are available for families uncertain about a PCS? For example - if a family has already sold their house.

The  National Military Family Association has the most recent guidance from the DoD regarding changes to pay and allowances for families affected by the stop movement order. Please visit their COVID-19 resource page to find that guidance. 

What does the screening/testing process look like for service members and families?

According to TRICARE’s Coronavirus FAQ: You only have to get tested if you show symptoms of COVID-19.  Your healthcare provider will make that decision based on your exposure risk, symptoms, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. There is a screening process to determine who should get tested.

If you have a civilian provider, TRICARE will cover the costs of the test if your provider determines it’s medically appropriate and the request meets the screening criteria.

The National Military Family Association has additional resources surrounding this question. That information can be found at: 

DoD recently announced reduced or changed functions at base hospitals or clinics. Do you see any potential for military hospitals and clinics to be stood up to do testing or treatment of infected individuals in defense communities?

We have seen several installations stand up additional screening and testing facilities to accommodate the defense community. Military groups have also been sent to New York and Washington to assist with building testing and treatment centers. 

The National Military Family Association has additional resources surrounding this question. That information can be found at: 

Is there a reason why military families would be sent off base instead of being seen at an on-base clinic?

The National Military Family Association has fielded questions around this topic and has collected answers and resources on their website. For more information, please visit: 

How is the issue of active-duty members continuing to work and potentially exposing family members being addressed?

The National Military Family Association has fielded questions around this topic and has collected answers and resources on their website. For more information, please visit: 

It has been reported that there are zero cases among military or dependants in Italy. What did they do to keep military families safe? Was enough testing done in that community?

While there is currently a case in Italy, the command teams there and in other OCONUS locations are being commended for their efforts to keep the community safe. Those efforts are being recognized by the DoD community and used as models for guidance here in the U.S. 

Is enough being done to be proactive in preventing the spread or do we as a community need to shift to a more aggressive approach?

An overview of the current efforts to prevent the spread of the virus can be found on the National Military Family Association website. The DoD continues to follow presidential guidance on the best approach to mitigate the spread of the virus and has urged all installations to be as proactive and aggressive as possible.

More information can be found here:

With the VA canceling appointments, will telehealth appointments be available to make sure vets are getting care they need and to make sure caregivers do not become overwhelmed with any anxiety?

Per The Elizabeth Dole Foundation: The VA will be providing more telehealth appointments during this time. Veterans and their caregivers will need to use MyHealtheVet to contact their providers and make appointments. There may be some delays in response due to the increase in requests. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the VA, and Philips will be hosting a call on April 16th to discuss everything related to telehealth during COVID. Please let us know if you have any other questions we can help you with.

Are there supports in place for single parents, dual military, dual working families with children who must be off from school?

As part of the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative, we have posted several resources surrounding childcare and homeschooling. Please visit our Resources tab for more information. We also answered many questions specifically related to childcare and K-12 education. Please visit that section of our Frequently Asked Questions page.

For more resources, the National Military Family Association has also listed several resources and support surrounding single parents, dual military and dual working families. Please visit the website below for more information: 

 

What role might the Centers for Child Development play in educating and aiding military families?

CDCs are remaining open for Mission Essential families. More information can be found by visiting the following website:

How is all of this going to affect the upcoming Permanent Change of Stations for military families?

Military families are currently on a stop movement through 11 May. We will continue to update families if that guidance changes. If your family is financially affected by a stop movement order, you can find available resources here: 

What is the best source for information pertinent to military families and military personnel?

Our goal with the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative is to be a central hub for accurate and up to date information pertinent to the military community. We will be posting updated resources, policies, and data weekly. Please continue to consult this website for up to date information. 

Please also visit the National Military Family Association’s website for resources specifically related to families. 

What is the best way to mitigate information that is incorrect or misleading on bases, where news can spread quite rapidly in neighborhoods or units?

Information hygiene is just as important as physical hygiene! Always double check any rumors against the Department of Defense guidance being distributed. If it has not been mandated by the DOD then it may just be a rumor. Follow your installations town hall meetings to get information directly from the Commanding General or other leadership.

How can we help our veterans since they are the most vulnerable?

Per MOAA: First and foremost for those who know veterans in your communities—work, church, other network circles, reach out to them via a call, text, video, email, letter, or whatever means to see how they are doing. Find ways to share the most current information available through VA.  Below are a number of links VA shared yesterday—the FAQs is a good source to help veterans navigate some of the issues they may be facing. MOAA website provides additional resources and information that may be helpful:  

Individuals may also consider writing letters or sending cards to VA facilities, medical centers, community/nursing centers, regional benefits or state veterans affairs offices thanking veterans, employees, medical staff, and frontline workers to thank them for their service and let them know you are thinking of them and appreciate them.

 Veterans are asked to call their VA medical center before going to an appointment if they are experiencing any symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, or fever.  Calling first helps us protect Veterans, medical staff, and other patients. Number of visitors will also be strictly limited to one per patient.

VA thanks you for your continued service to our nation’s Veterans.

Why are many installations and commands not following federal guidelines for social distancing and continuing to hold large-scale formations and briefings?

There has been a great deal of additional DoD guidance and Force Health Protection supplemental guidance that emphasizes social distancing the maximum extent possible while ensuring critical missions continue to be supported.  Recent guidance has also changed requiring military personnel wear cloth face coverings when on DoD property when recommended social distancing cannot be maintained during the conduct of mission critical activities.   

Will the military provide local, base communication format (phone/email/daily updates) to answer questions/concerns of military families?

It is one of the primary responsibilities of military installation commanders to maintain open lines of communication with the military families within their command.  Each commander retains the purview to design and conduct those programs according to the local needs of their installation. This has not changed during COVID-19, but I believe everyone would agree that these current times make it all the more important that commanders communicate effectively with everyone in their respective communities.

Are unit commanders being given clearcut guidance to respond to their troops and families and guide them through this crisis?

As Secretary Esper has said, DoD places trust upon our commanders and our senior enlisted personnel to make the right calls relevant to their situation to ensure that we protect our people while at the same time maintaining mission readiness.  DoD and Military Service leaders are providing guidance to those commanders — that guidance is being made publicly available at and other DoD, and Military Service websites.

What are we doing about COVID-19 in regards to mental health and how it may be affecting current Service Members and Veterans?

The Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program under the Military Community Support Programs (MCSP) will provide telehealth services for non-medical counseling where face-to-face support is restricted due to COVID-19. MFLCs and Child and Youth Behavioral MFLCs (CYB-MFLCs) is working towards implementing temporary telehealth services in the coming week, including telephonic and video non-medical counseling. Face-to-face non-medical counseling will continue in areas where Federal, state, and local COVID-19 restrictions allow. Family video non-medical counseling for minors 6 to 12 years of age requires parents to attend each session. Individual video non-medical counseling sessions for minors age 13 to 17 requires parents to give consent at the start of each video session.  

The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.

Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here. More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page.

Other free mental health support services: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans

You can also visit PsychArmor’s COVID-19 hub featuring mental health resources. https://psychhub.com/covid-19/

What, if any, support can the Department of Defense do to provide some relief for the capacity issues at community hospitals?

Per the DOD: “The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible with the direction of the president,” 

However, the DoD has only about 2% to 3% of the number of hospital beds that the private sector has. The department runs only 36 hospitals in the United States, Friedrichs said, many of which are ill-suited for caring for large numbers of contagious patients.

“Many of them are configured to support, as you might imagine, our immediate military needs,” Friedrichs said. “They take care of the active duty population and their families and some retirees. Some large facilities such as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, have much more diverse services,” he added. “

“Our doctors are, unsurprisingly, trained highly in traumatic injuries and [for] dealing with traumatic injuries,” he said. “We have a much younger population that we’re dealing with treating in our hospitals. And so all of these kind of factor into what is that capability we have for a potential outbreak that generally has been more devastating to older persons who require a different type of attention than we normally do.”

Even military tent hospitals that can be set up ad-hoc to respond to an emergency are designed for trauma care, not contagious diseases, Friedrichs said.

“Our fixed facilities are designed to the force that we have,” he continued. “There are not thousand-bed medical centers all over the United States. They are, for the most part, small community hospitals. Our deployable hospitals range in size and range in capabilities that are very much focused and designed to take care of those in combat.”

While both the National Guard and the Reserve components have medical doctors that can be called out to provide support, if needed, both Hoffman and Friedrichs noted that medical personnel in the Guard and Reserve are often also medical personnel in their private-sector jobs.

“If you mobilize the Guard and Reserve medical personnel from their civilian jobs, they’re no longer in their civilian jobs, and that directly impacts the community where they worked, and that’s the trade-off that — whether it’s a natural disaster, or the coronavirus or anything else — that’s part of the trade-off that we look at as we offer options going forward,” Friedrichs said.

 There are 50,790 DoD personnel supporting relief efforts including Some 30,000 National Guard service members are offering frontline care to community-based testing, distributing personal protective equipment, medical supplies, food and water, all part of the concerted national response to serve and support hard-hit communities, McCaffery said. 

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/military-coronavirus-defense-132801

What are some specific resources available to military spouses and their families to help combat isolationism?

Below are a variety of resources surrounding mental health, tips for preventing feelings of isolation, and virtual activities for children and adults.

Here are some tips and information about avoiding feelings of isolation:

The Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program under the Military Community Support Programs (MCSP) will provide telehealth services for non-medical counseling where face-to-face support is restricted due to COVID-19. MFLCs and Child and Youth Behavioral MFLCs (CYB-MFLCs) is working towards implementing temporary telehealth services in the coming week, including telephonic and video non-medical counseling. Face-to-face non-medical counseling will continue in areas where Federal, state, and local COVID-19 restrictions allow. Family video non-medical counseling for minors 6 to 12 years of age requires parents to attend each session. Individual video non-medical counseling sessions for minors age 13 to 17 requires parents to give consent at the start of each video session.  

The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.

Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here. More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page. 

Other free mental health support services: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans 

Virtual Activities – Kids and Adults:

How are military families dealing with this added source of anxiety and stress?

Below are a variety of resources and information regarding mental health and stress/anxiety during this difficult time.

The Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program under the Military Community Support Programs (MCSP) will provide telehealth services for non-medical counseling where face-to-face support is restricted due to COVID-19. MFLCs and Child and Youth Behavioral MFLCs (CYB-MFLCs) is working towards implementing temporary telehealth services in the coming week, including telephonic and video non-medical counseling. Face-to-face non-medical counseling will continue in areas where Federal, state, and local COVID-19 restrictions allow. Family video non-medical counseling for minors 6 to 12 years of age requires parents to attend each session. Individual video non-medical counseling sessions for minors age 13 to 17 requires parents to give consent at the start of each video session.  

The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.

Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here. More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page.

Other free mental health support services: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans

What role will military hospitals and health personnel play?

According to the DOD: 50,790 DoD personnel supporting relief efforts including Some 30,000 National Guard service members are offering frontline care to community-based testing, distributing personal protective equipment, medical supplies, food and water, all part of the concerted national response to serve and support hard-hit communities, McCaffery said. 

“We are putting all the best brains in our military medical research facilities, working in partnership with other federal agencies on future treatments and vaccines,” McCaffery said. “Our research experts are focusing in on diagnostic testing, … [using] robust laboratory networks to perform testing, and pursuing additional types of diagnostic capabilities to include serologic testing to assess the patients’ blood for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.”

DOD also has invested $75 million to research three vaccine candidates, McCaffery said, DOD is working hard to ensure its beneficiaries have continued access to the care they need by ramping up virtual health capabilities, establishing drive-up testing sites and putting the right protection measures in place to minimize exposure risk to patients and health care workers, McCaffery emphasized. The department has expanded its nurse advice telephone line to include over-the-phone screening tools to meet the surge witnessed just weeks ago, he said, noting that it now handles up to 9,000 calls a day from people who need medical consultation.

 

Managing the Impact of School Closures for Military Families

How are school districts handling new enrollments? How are districts going to handle promotion of grade level? Is this at the Federal, State or District level?

Generally, these issues can vary from school district to school district. We encourage you to reach out to your local school district. However, generally speaking, school districts are being asked to provide virtual learning to allow for the progression of the school year despite school buildings being physically closed.

What resources are available for those that have to telework and have kids at home? All ages*

We know that this is an incredibly challenging time for families who are juggling remote work and child care simultaneously. We’ve compiled some of the most helpful articles with “best practices” and resources for entertaining your kids while you work:

What is the difference between homeschooling and digital learning?

While there is some overlap in homeschooling and online schooling, here are some distinct differences:

  • Homeschooling: Parents buy or create educational curricula and serve as teachers.
  • Online Schooling: Parents (or designated adults) use a curriculum that has been made by an established school, and support the child’s learning alongside hired teachers.
  • Homeschooling: Socialization opportunities need to be created by the parent or designated adult.
  • Online Schooling: Frequently, schools incorporate socialization into their curriculum.
  • Homeschooling: Various states require assessment for homeschooled students but not all of them do.
  • Online Schooling: Public schools administer the standardized tests for their state.

For more information, please see this article:

What's being done to help English learners who have extra challenges with any kind of virtual education?

There have been resources made available online in order to provide learning materials aimed at students who are learning English as a second language. Several states have shared these resources on their department of education websites. Here are some free online resources geared towards students learning English as a second language:

What type of supports are available for families that don’t have access to WIFI or electronic decides for online instruction?

Thankfully, several companies in the private sector are stepping up to help families that cannot afford internet access. Here are a few of them:

  • Charter Communications announced on March 13, 2020 that for 60 days the company will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access to homes with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a subscription. Installation fees will also be waived for these households. Enroll by calling 844-488-8395. Charter will also continue Spectrum Internet Assist, a program offering low-cost broadband internet of 30 Mbps for low-income households without school-aged children.
  • Comcast, which owns Xfinity, will offer 60 days free and increased speeds for new families who join the Internet Essentials program, an internet access program for low income families that is normally $9.95 a month.
  • AT&T announced on Friday it would not cancel service and would waive late fees for any wireless, home phone, broadband residential or small business customer experiencing hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay their bills. Qualifying low income households can apply for $10 a month internet access through the Access from AT&T program. Fixed Wireless Internet and Wireline customers can use unlimited internet data. AT&T will also keep public Wi-Fi hotspots open.

What should we do if the school/teacher has not assigned any work or communicated any plans?

Please reach out directly to your local school district and the school’s administration. If you don’t receive an answer from the school district or administration, try contacting your state’s board of education.

For mission essential members and families, is schooling going to be recommended or required to be online?

Most schools have already moved to an online format in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is expected that more will do so in the coming days. For mission essential personnel, the Department of Defense has provided the following information:

Q4: What options are available for DoD civilian employees, whether in the United States or at an overseas location, if schools and child care facilities that their children attend are closed but the employees are healthy and their workplaces are open?

A4: Employees in these circumstances are not eligible for weather and safety leave. DoD Components may authorize telework participants to telework when there are young children or other persons requiring care and supervision in the case of an emergency. Employees under these circumstances must still account for work and non-work hours during his or her tour of duty and take appropriate leave (paid or unpaid) to account for time spent away from normal work-related duties (e.g., to care for a child or dependent). Employees who are not telework program participants may use annual leave or other paid time off, such as accrued compensatory time or credit hours. If authorized by DoD Component policy, supervisors may authorize alternative work schedules (compressed or flexible work schedules) that provide for flexible work days and/or work hours.

Additionally, here are other options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

Will the impact of school closures/virtual work be greater for military families? What information is available on the possibility of opening schools only to essential workers such as military families or sending those children to childcare facilities and rec centers?

It is very possible that the impact of school closures could be harder on military families. However, the military is taking steps to mitigate this process. Service members should communicate with their commands about child care needs and whether telework is a viable option. Many essential personnel have priority at CDCs now, so contact your CDC to find out about care options whether you fall into a higher priority.

Additionally, here are options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

How will these education gaps be filled due to frequent PCS moves? How will this work transfer interstate?

The DOD has issued a stop order for domestic and international travel.

While schools are closed, school districts are transitioning to coursework in an online format that will prevent the stoppage of schoolwork through the end of the year. Because many schools are in the same situation, this should allow the coursework being done remotely to transfer to another school.

How are school districts handling new enrollments? How are districts going to handle promotion of grade level? Is this at the Federal, State or District level?

Generally, these issues can vary from school district to school district. We encourage you to reach out to your local school district. However, generally speaking, school districts are being asked to provide virtual learning to allow for the progression of the school year despite school buildings being physically closed.

What resources are available for EFMP/IEP students? Will any virtual learning opportunities be available for special needs students?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to support students with special needs as they would when schools are open and functioning normally. Here are some online resources for special education students:

What policies and/or resources are in place to ensure students with disabilities don’t fall behind? What options are available for students who lack internet connectivity or devices for "virtual learning"?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to support students with special needs as they would when schools are open and functioning normally. Here are some online resources for special education students:

Thankfully, several companies in the private sector are stepping up to help families that cannot afford internet access. Here are a few of them:

  • Charter Communications announced on March 13, 2020 that for 60 days the company will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access to homes with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a subscription. Installation fees will also be waived for these households. Enroll by calling 844-488-8395. Charter will also continue Spectrum Internet Assist, a program offering low-cost broadband internet of 30 Mbps for low-income households without school-aged children.
  • Comcast, which owns Xfinity, will offer 60 days free and increased speeds for new families who join the Internet Essentials program, an internet access program for low income families that is normally $9.95 a month.
  • AT&T announced on Friday it would not cancel service and would waive late fees for any wireless, home phone, broadband residential or small business customer experiencing hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay their bills. Qualifying low income households can apply for $10 a month internet access through the Access from AT&T program. Fixed Wireless Internet and Wireline customers can use unlimited internet data. AT&T will also keep public Wi-Fi hotspots open.

Will the College Board be looking at adding additional summer test dates for the SAT, especially for our current high school Juniors?

Per the college board’s website:

“In response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19), the College Board is canceling the May 2, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled for March 28) are also canceled.

Students who already registered for May, whose March test centers were closed, or who do not receive March scores because of any irregularities will receive refunds. In the coming days, College Board will share additional information and details directly with registered students and test centers.

College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations. We’ll be as flexible as possible to give students the best chance to show their skills and stay on the path to college.

We have not yet canceled the June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration and will continue to assess its status, with the health and safety of students and educators as our top priority. We are also exploring the possibility of adding an international SAT administration later this school year.

The March 25 SAT School Day administration is postponed. The College Board is working with local partners, and we’ll soon share further information about weekday school-based SAT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 administrations scheduled for this spring.”

For more information, please go to the College Board website: https://www.collegeboard.org/

How will students with accommodations receive those accommodations for AP testing?

There have been a variety of changes made to AP testing, including some being offered online or from home. However, it is our understanding that students with accommodations are still entitled to those accommodations regardless of the format changes. Please reach out to your test administrator or school district.

Supporting Early Child Care and Education During the COVID-19 Crisis

What are the implications for the essential worker workforce with centers and schools closed? What are your thoughts on states that are opening schools only for essential workers children?

Service members should communicate with their commands about child care needs and whether telework is a viable option. Many essential personnel have priority at CDCs now, so contact your CDC to find out about care options whether you fall into a higher priority.

In case you’re an essential worker, here are options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

What support is available for small business owners or contracted workers who may not receive unemployment benefits?

Here’s information on obtaining government resource programs for workers:

The recently passed CARES Act which is the COVID-19 stimulus bill includes a variety of support to small businesses and individual workers, including those considered gig workers. This included the expanding on who could receive unemployment benefits so see if you have now become eligible. The details from the bill can be found here:

Information on how gig workers can get unemployment:

Additionally, individual states like MI have begun to take action and expanded unemployment to include a wider group of workers. Make sure to see if your state or municipality has expanded services during COVID-19.

Per the National Military Family Association:

If your family needs immediate assistance, the American Red Cross accepts applications on its website 24/7.

Army Emergency Relief has made provisions to be able to process claims remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more here.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance can process claims remotely and has outlined what extra assistance it can provide during this time. That support includes funding for child care or to supplement for a military spouse’s lost income.

For more information, contact your branch’s relief society. If not listed above: Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society. Relief societies may be the fastest way to get help since some are able to provide direct-deposit funds.Operation Homefront also offers financial assistance to families facing critical needs. You can apply online here.

Are the military included in the first responders for child care?

Generally, active duty military personnel are considered and granted the same benefits as other people considered as other types of first responders from businesses and services offering support to first responders but that could differ on a case-to-case basis. 

How will COVID19 distancing requirements affect military family subsidies?

Per the National Military Family Association:

For those families who utilize child care fee assistance programs, the Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) office has limited services and processing times may be delayed until they return to full staff. If you have pulled your children from child care due to center closure or coronavirus concerns, CCAoA will provide updates to families after they receive guidance from the services on how to move forward. When submitting documents for the fee assistance program, CCAoA requests that you state the reason why the child was not in care, the monthly child care cost, and the dates reflected on the attendance form. For example: “Child was not in care from 3/1/2020-3/19/2020 due to Coronavirus concerns. Cost of care for the month of March is $750.”

Should you have additional questions, contact CCAoA at 1-800-424-2246 or email at militaryinfo@childcareaware.org. In your email include your branch, family ID, and which program you are applying for. You can continue to check your status online at www.childcareaware.org by logging into your account.

Also, the DoD has released new guidance for pay and allowances affected by COVID-19 and the stop movement order.

  • New Hardship Duty Pay: A newly-authorized pay, Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM), is taxable pay that compensates service members who are ordered by their commander, in conjunction with health care providers, to self-monitor in isolation somewhere other than their home or a government-funded lodging facility.

HDP-ROM is only payable in situations in which the member remains assigned to the same permanent duty station at a rate of $100 per day, not to exceed $1,500 per month.

  • Family Separation Allowance: Military families who are in the midst of PCS and are now separated due to the stop movement order should receive Family Separation Allowance – Restricted (FSA-R) if the directed separation lasts more than 30 days.

Service members who are on TDY and receiving Family Separation Allowance – Temporary (FSA-T) and are now separated from their family due to the stop movement order will continue to receive FSA-T as long as the separation is 30 days or more.

  • Per Diem Allowances While Isolated or Awaiting Travel: The Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) have been updated to provide guidance on per diem affected by COVID-19. Service members who have been ordered to self-isolate and restrict movement while on TDY may receive extended orders from their command to authorize continued TDY travel and transportation allowances until able to return to the service member’s permanent duty station.

Military families in the midst of a PCS whose travel has been halted after checking out of their detaching command will likely be eligible for per diem to cover lodging, meals, and incidental expenses while awaiting transportation. Families are encouraged to maintain communication with both detaching and gaining commands.

  • Family Separation Housing: Military families who are not authorized on PCS orders to travel concurrently with the service member due to travel restrictions will be authorized Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the new duty station if ALL of the following conditions are met:
    • Government quarters are not available at the new duty station,
    • The member has obtained private-sector housing, and
    • The dependent(s) does not reside at or near the new permanent duty station.
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence for Enlisted Members: Service members who are self-monitoring and receive food (room service) from a government dining facility should not lose Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), but they will likely have to pay for those meals under the dining rate rules unless granted an exception by his/her commander. 

BAS II (twice the monthly rate) may be authorized for service members ordered to self-monitor in lodging that cannot store food, which in turn requires the service member to get his/her meals from a commercial source. However, BAS II may only be authorized in these circumstances if it is uniformly authorized for all enlisted members in similar situations or in the same geographic area.

Any recommendations for families with special needs? What resources are available?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to support students with special needs as they would when schools are open and functioning normally. 

Additionally, Tricare just announced that it will be covering  Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) teletherapy.

 Here are some online resources for special education students:

Are these resources also available to Coast Guard families?

Please see the Coast Guard’s website for more information on how they are addressing COVID-19: https://www.uscg.mil/Coronavirus/FAQ/

What are your suggestions to military families who need child care but Child Development Centers are closed?

Service members should communicate with their commands about child care needs and whether telework is a viable option. Many essential personnel have priority at CDCs now, so contact your CDC to find out about care options whether you fall into a higher priority.

Here are options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

What should we expect if we were on the waitlist for CDC child care?

Service members should communicate with their commands about child care needs and whether telework is a viable option. Many essential personnel have priority at CDCs now, so contact your CDC to find out about care options whether you fall into a higher priority.

Additionally, here are options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

If families begin to PCS again, what will childcare look like for them?

The DOD has issued a stop order for domestic and international travel. 

However, service members should communicate with their commands about child care needs and whether telework is a viable option. Many essential personnel have priority at CDCs now, so contact your CDC to find out about care options whether you fall into a higher priority.

Here are options for free or subsidized child care:

Communities, cities, and municipalities are taking steps to provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Please reach out to your local and/or city government to see if there are additional services in your area.

Understanding the $2 Trillion Cares Act: What’s in it for the Military and What Happens Next?

If/when help is available, would will people be expected to pay it back once every settles?

According to The College Investor, this stimulus check is a refundable tax credit for 2020, being paid to you early. You will have to claim in on your 2020 taxes, but there is nothing to pay back unless: 

  • You received an incorrect amount based on household or filing (such as you’re now divorced and should have received just a single check, etc.)
  • We are currently uncertain what happens if your earnings in 2020 exceed the AGI limits

https://thecollegeinvestor.com/33324/coronavirus-stimulus-checks/

Is there any chance of furlough of DoD civilians?

To date, we haven’t heard about any considerations of furloughing at the DOD.

How should a business or individual/family access the assistance available from the stimulus?

According to Business Insider: You do not have to sign up to receive a stimulus check. The process is automatic for most Americans who qualify. 

To get a check, you must have a Social Security number (nonresident aliens, people without a Social Security number, and adult dependents are not eligible). If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, that tax return must reflect an adjusted gross income below $99,000 for single filers, $136,500 for heads of household, and $198,000 for married filers.

Note that if you’ve moved, and you haven’t provided the IRS with direct-deposit information, you should make sure the agency has the correct address on file to receive a paper check in the mail. If you don’t file taxes but do get Social Security payments, the government will use that information for your payment. If you don’t file taxes and don’t get Social Security payments, the IRS has announced it will set up a “simple web portal” in order for you to submit your information.

Can the stimulus check be denied for those who don’t feel they need it?

According to ABC, the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury has not responded to questions around whether you can deny your check. However, the check will do more good if you put it back into your community, supporting local businesses and your local economy or donating it to charity or towards people who have been mostly adversely impacted by COVID-19.

Will there be any money given to DHS in addition to DOD?

The Department of Homeland Security: $45 billion for a disaster relief fund to reimburse state and local governments for medical response, community services, other safety measures. Extends federal deadline for people getting driver’s licenses with enhanced security features, called REAL ID, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.

Are the stimulus checks tax free?

Yes, the money is not taxable.

Is there any private student loan relief attached to the CARES ACT? When should we expect stop loss to go into effect?

According to Forbes, Under the CARES Act, there’s 0% interest on our federal student loans from now through September 30, 2020, but not for private student loans.

“For private student loans, depending on your lender, you can pause your private student loan payments, but interest will accrue on your student loan balance. Some lenders are allowing you to pause your private student loans for as long as three to 12 months (and potentially longer).”

Is there a timeframe for when the stimulus checks will be received by the public?

“If we  have your [bank] information you’ll get it within two weeks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a White House press briefing, covered by the Washington Post. “Social Security, you’ll get it very quickly after that. If we don’t have your information you’ll have a simple web portal, we’ll upload it. If we don’t have that, we’ll send you checks in the mail.”

For taxpayers who can use direct deposit, the payment should be deposited mid-April. As Business Insider’s Bryan Pietsch writes: “In early May, the IRS will send out paper checks to those without direct deposit, and it could take around 20 weeks to issue all of the checks, the report said. Those with lower incomes will reportedly be prioritized, and those on Social Security will receive their payments as they would their Social Security checks.”

If an AD spouse is a full time student, how does this affect the aid checks? Does the spouse have to be employed?

Per Business Insider, as long as your spouse is not claimed as a dependent on your tax returns, they will get a stimulus check of $1,200.

Does the cares act offer unemployment for spouses of AD who are now out of work?

According to CNBC: It depends on the circumstances but generally yes. At a minimum, newly eligible workers will receive half the average unemployment benefit in their state but it can vary state to state. 

In addition, under the CARES Act, unemployed workers will receive an additional $600 per week for dates of unemployment from March 27, the day the CARES Act was signed, until July 31. After that, individuals who are still unemployed will continue to receive their state-administered benefit for the remainder of their 39 weeks.

The CARES Act has also expanded the pool of workers who are eligible for unemployment benefits including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and freelancers.

The unemployed do get stimulus checks also as long as they’re not listed as dependents.

See if you qualify and for more information here:

What relief is available for families whose PCS was disrupted and will not have rent/mortgage in two locations?

The  bipartisan-supported letter started by Rep. Debra Haaland (D-N.M.), the group urges Defense Secretary Mark Esper to support military families forced to take on monetary costs because they cannot move to their next permanent changes of station (PCS).

The letter asks DoD to issue “guidance and resources needed to ensure care and support to every military member and family adversely affected by this order.”

We will continue to track policy changes surrounding this issue. 

How can we help military families experiencing food insecurity? Is there somewhere we can donate?

Food pantries operate on or near every military installation across the country, and Armed Services YMCA runs many. Find your local ASYMCA branch . Feeding America also has food banks across the country.

The Military Family Advisory Network, our partners in better understanding food insecurity in military families so we can advocate on your behalf, has compiled a list of resources that might help you.

Managing the Financial Impact of COVID-19 for Military Families

Would each aid society provide information on the lifetime number of requests a service member can submit?

There is no limit to the number of requests a service member can make to Army Emergency Relief (AER); additionally, AER supports Soldiers of all Ranks.  If it’s a valid need, AER will find a way to say yes. 99% of all requests for assistance are approved. “Soldiers Helping Soldiers,” it’s why we exist.

In regards to the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS), what kind of emergency assistance is available? Is it paid back? How can you apply?

The baseline of Emergency Assistance is financial.  There are generally two categories, no-interest loans and grants.  No-interest loans are further segmented into “Falcon” loans or “Standard” loans/assists.  The Falcon loan is up to $1,000 and intended as a quick assist to take care of an immediate problem (and reduce any inclination to use a payday lender).  “Standard” no-interest loans are shaped by the nature of the emergency and may be supplemented by a grant when the repayment itself becomes so large it’s not fixing but adding to the problem.  Airmen can apply in person or on-line when they need help.  We also have reciprocal agreements with our colleagues on the panel and the American Red Cross. Our Education and Community Support programs are given as grants (although there is a provision for parents of students to take out a $1000 no-interest loan to cover costs that can’t be paid with grant funds).  Every year we will have a few entering students receive our $4000, need-based, Arnold Grant, then compete and win a $5000 Arnold Merit Scholarship.  If their parents decide to take the $1000 no-interest loan, they will start their freshman year with $10,000!

Does AF Aid provide assistance to members of the National Guard not on active duty?

The short answer is yes.  Most know that we, like the other Relief agencies, service Guardsmen on active duty orders (Title 10orders).  More recently Air Force Aid has been working with the Air Guard to understand if there are Guardsmen not on Title 10 orders, but totally dedicated to the Air Force mission every day.  It took us close to a year, but on 1 Jan, 2020 we started providing Emergency Assistance support to Guardsmen on Title 32, USC 502(f) Full Time Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Orders.

Are these services for active duty only?

Army Emergency Relief Eligibility requirements:

  • Soldiers on Active Duty (including AGR) and their eligible dependents
  • Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers activated on Title 10 orders for more than 30 days and their eligible dependents
  • Exceptions to policy: AER Director approved the following COVID-19 assistance: non-Title 10 ARNG and USAR Soldiers are eligible to request assistance on a case-by-case basis when they are experiencing extreme or unusual financial hardship due to a canceled deployment or the current DoD travel ban.
    • Soldiers retired for longevity, medical, or upon reaching the age of 60 (reserve component) and their eligible dependents
  • Surviving spouses who have not remarried and children of Soldiers who died on active duty or died after reaching retirement eligibility

Are all societies including Reserve and Guard not on Title 10?

Currently Army Emergency Relief (AER) policy: The AER Director approved the following exception to policy for non-Title 10 ARNG and USAR Soldiers – they are eligible to request assistance on a case-by-case basis when they are experiencing extreme or unusual financial hardship due to a canceled deployment or the current DoD travel ban.

Are there plans to open the Army Emergency Relief (AER) up to guard members NOT currently on orders and NOT in line for deployment?

AER is exploring options to address the challenges non-title 10 Reserve Component Soldiers and their families are experiencing during these unprecedented times. We are working with the Army Staff and the USAR and ARNG leadership to determine the unique needs of these Soldiers and will announce any changes to our policy ASAP.

Do you know if any of the Aid Societies help Veterans or is it only Active Duty and Retirees? Do you know of any support services for Veterans?

The PenFed Foundation provides emergency financial assistance to disabled, post 9/11 combat veterans. Disabled American Veterans and Wounded Warrior Project are two other examples of national-level veteran service organizations. There is a list of resources and partner organizations on the PenFed Foundation website (www.penfedfoundation.org).

Is there any support to service members renting a house they own for which the renter is affected by reduced hours of over 50% due to COVID-19?

Federal, State, and local governments have implemented a number of programs intended to protect renters from being evicted for not paying rent during this crisis. For example, if the home has a federally-backed mortgage, the CARES Act prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for 120 days. It does not relieve tenants from the obligation to pay rent; it simply protects them against eviction during the period of this crisis. Military landlords and tenants should seek military or private legal assistance to answer questions like these.

Yes, Army Emergency Relief (AER) can help with *mortgage, rent, initial deposit, and temporary housing, and basic living expenses, etc.  We offer more than 30 categories of assistance – See:   www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistance for additional information (*AER offers a 1-time mortgage assistance to help homeowners in this type situation).

Are these resources available to veterans nationwide or do they have to reside in a specific area?

Any Soldier eligible for Army Emergency Relief (AER) can visit their nearest AER officer. Offices are located at over 70 Army installations around the world. Soldiers can also visit other Service military installations (Navy, Marine, Airforce and Coast Guard) and request AER assistance from their military aid society. **Local installation operations (office open or closed) may be modified due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, please see www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19 for additional information. If you’re not located within 50 miles of a military installation, the American Red Cross is authorized to provide financial assistance on behalf of AER. Call the American Red Cross at 1-877-272-7337 then select the option for financial assistance.

As many military spouses are becoming unemployed are you making sure eligible ones learn about MyCAA?

Army Emergency Relief (AER) is collaborating with many military support organizations and media outlets to inform the force on our capabilities, to include MyCAA.

AER’s media lead is COL(Ret) Shawn Woodbridge;  shawn.woodbridge@aerhq.org

Are any scholarships being used to help spouses get training that might help get them work from home careers?

Army Emergency Relief (AER) does not specify what programs the student enrolls in; if the program is offered by an accredited college or university dependents (Spouses and Children) are eligible to apply for our Scholarship Program. Certificate programs are also acceptable. For additional information on AER’s spouse education assistance program see: www.armyemergencyrelief.org/scholarships

When will the States have the unemployment benefits available for self-employed?

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions in the CARES Act expand State unemployment insurance coverage to include self-employed individuals. It also adds $600 per week to any amounts States typically pay.

Where and how can furloughed spouses request financial assistance?

Furloughed spouses should seek financial assistance through their State unemployment assistance offices.

See Army Emergency Relief’s (AER’s) COVID19 portal to apply for assistance. Loss of spouse pay is the most requested form of assistance, www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19

What policy recommendations are being suggested for Congressional consideration in future COVID-19 relief packages?

It is difficult to speculate about what might eventually be in a future COVID-19 relief package, but some of the possibilities are discussed at the following: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/what-could-phase-4-coronavirus-bill-include

What is the anticipated effect of financial stress on security clearances?

An article posted by Task & Purpose in August 2018 (https://taskandpurpose.com/military-benefits/security-clearances-background-check-change)  discusses the DoD’s stance on financial issues impacting security clearances.

In addition to that, it is also known that extenuating circumstances may be considered when evaluating new or current security clearances. Explanations like loss of job or health issues may be considered. COVID-19 related health and financial causes may be included. It is important to document the issues and causes. You should also document the actions you are taking, or have taken, to overcome the issues. If your security clearance is being reviewed or considered for downgrade be prepared to submit your documentation of extenuating circumstances and utilize the appeals process if necessary. This is not legal advice. Seek assistance from qualified professionals if your security clearance is at risk.

How is the Army/DoD handling retirements? Will there possibly be a stop loss?

Recently multiple media outlets have picked up a story about DoD considerations of a Stop-Loss due to COVID-19:

Since the articles do not confirm any official policy it is recommended that service members seek information directly from their chain of command.

Any policy pushes to help military families who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19?

The provisions of the CARES Act apply to military and non-military families equally. For example, military families who own and operate small businesses impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for financial assistance under the Paycheck Protection Plan. Similarly, military spouses who lose their jobs or are furloughed can apply for the enhanced unemployment compensation available under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions of the CARES Act.

Loss of pay is the most requested form of assistance, please see Army Emergency Relief’s (AER’s) COVID19 portal to apply for help. www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19 **This category of assistance currently applies to those who meet our normal eligibility requirements see: www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistanceeligibility

Some businesses/industries are experiencing furloughs, do you have any perspective on this? What will the impact be to military coverage, support and readiness?

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Eligible businesses can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020.

For more information: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp

With the percentage of the population who have already lost their jobs this week, how do we expect that to impact military spouses who often have trouble finding new jobs with each PCS?

The answer to this question depends greatly on the extent to which the American economy will return to “normal” following this public health crisis. The CARES Act will provide interim relief to military spouses who lost their jobs in the form of enhanced unemployment compensation. When the economy returns to normal, we hope jobs will also return and that military spouses will continue to qualify for them.

Loss of pay is the most requested form of assistance, please see Army Emergency Relief’s (AER’s) COVID19 portal to apply for help. www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19 **This category of assistance currently applies to those who meet our normal eligibility requirements see: www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistanceeligibility

How does a ceiling on income ($85K) disproportionately impact a military family's eligibility for the stimulus checks being considered by the White House?

The CARES Act provides that single taxpayers whose Adjusted Gross Income is less than $75,000 will receive $1,200, to be phased out for AGI over $75,000 up to $99,000. No payments are available to single taxpayers whose AGI exceeds $99,000. Married taxpayers whose AGI is less than $150,000 will receive $2,400, to be phased out for AGI over $150,000 up to $198,000. No payments are available to married taxpayers whose AGI exceeds $198,000. All military families whose incomes are within these ranges will receive stimulus checks. Additionally, Americans eligible for the Child Tax Credit will also receive $500 per dependent.

Is there any advice or is there anything being done to help families transitioning out of the military and now worried about finding a job/no longer collecting a paycheck?

Families retiring from the military will receive retirement benefits from the Federal Government. Families separating from the military will face the same employment gaps experienced by many other Americans during this crisis. Fortunately for all families, whether retiring or separating, the CARES Act’s enhanced unemployment compensation provisions will help bridge the gap.

Loss of pay is the most requested form of assistance, please see AER’s COVID19 portal to apply for help. www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19 **This category of assistance currently applies to those who meet our normal eligibility requirements see: www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistanceeligibility

The Impact of COVID-19 on Service Member Transition and Separation

What are we doing about COVID-19 in regards to mental health and how it may be affecting current Service Members and Veterans?

The Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program under the Military Community Support Programs (MCSP) will provide telehealth services for non-medical counseling where face-to-face support is restricted due to COVID-19. MFLCs and Child and Youth Behavioral MFLCs (CYB-MFLCs) are working towards implementing temporary telehealth services in the coming week, including telephonic and video non-medical counseling. Face-to-face non-medical counseling will continue in areas where Federal, state, and local COVID-19 restrictions allow. Family video non-medical counseling for minors 6 to 12 years of age requires parents to attend each session. Individual video non-medical counseling sessions for minors age 13 to 17 requires parents to give consent at the start of each video session.
The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.
Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here.
More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page.
Other free mental health support services: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans
You can also visit PsychArmor’s COVID-19 hub featuring mental health resources.

Could you provide the status of the USN credentialing process?

The Department of Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (DON COOL) remains operational and will continue to provide credentialing support.

Due to Navy COOL teleworking, the best way to contact us is by email: navycool@navy.mil.

NEW!! Navy COOL has suspended the 6-months remaining in-Service requirement for credential funding. You may receive credential funding support up to 60 days prior to separation. All exam requirements and reporting of results to Navy COOL must be completed not later than 60-days prior to end of Service obligation.

Important – Prior to submitting a voucher request for exam funding, please contact the testing agency/center to ensure they will be able to provide the exam. Once you have confirmed the ability to test, submit your voucher request for processing and funding.

For more information, please visit: https://www.cool.navy.mil/usn/

You mentioned Skillbridge, could you expand on that program?

The DoD SkillBridge program is an opportunity for Service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, or internships during the last 180 days of service. SkillBridge connects Service members with industry partners in real-world job experiences.

For more information, please visit: https://dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov/index.htm

Please clarify what is available for mil spouses from SkillsBridge?

Military Spouses can explore SkillBridge Partners that are available on DoD SkillBridge.  Many of our partners are now offering similar opportunities for Spouses as they are for Service members.  Many times Spouses can take advantage of these opportunities prior to the Service member’s separation or transition.

Steps:

Explore SkillBridge Locations and Partners: https://dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov/locations.htm

Reach out to the SkillBridge Provider POC provided and start with your local or regional MYCAA Career Coach.

MYCAA Link:

https://www.militaryonesource.mil/education-employment/for-spouses

Can we expect the pandemic to impact educational and credentialing benefits?

Educational and Credentialing programs are key  programs that support  Service members and families.  We modified our delivery model in some places, however, for the most part we have not seen any disruption to the DoD programs.  Significant consideration needs to be taken with regard to Academic and Credentialing partners and their availability along with mitigation plans.  Recommended course of action is to reach out to the Service Department Education Office and Credentialing Office.

Are there any other free credentialing programs for transitioning vets other than IVMF?

Yes.  Most of the Service Departments offer complimentary refresher education, certification and licensure courses.  For the most up to date listing of available resources, reach out to the Service Department Credentialing or ESO Offices.

https://www.oreilly.com/online-learning/government.html

  1. Navigate to the Safari Books Online (O’Reilly Learning Safari) DoD Registration page.
  2. Enter your First Name, Last Name, and your .mil email address.
  3. Click “Set Up My Account” and follow the registration process.
  4. Once you have a Safari (O’Reilly) account you can access it directly from work, home, or with a mobile device.

USO Pathfinder: https://www.uso.org/campaign/usopathfinder

Will Skillbridge offer more opportunities for Veterans now with COVID-19 affecting current Service Members?

SkillBridge is a DoD program, however, many of the SkillBridge partners can be contacted by Veterans and explored to see if there are options for post service members utilizing VA benefits and/or employer programs.

Can you complete a Skillbridge through CSPs and other organizations (i.e. HireMilitary) or just choose from one?

Career Skill Programs (CSP) is SkillBridge.  Army CSP, thus is SkillBridge.  All the other Service Departments refer to the Employment Training program as SkillBridge today.  To know if an organization is an approved provider i.e. HireMilitary or any other to include HoH, always refer to the DoD SkillBridge site or Service Department program representative.

For more information, please visit: https://dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov/index.htm

Is Booz Allen Hamilton supporting upcoming corporate fellowships?

Yes!  We have renewed our corporate sponsorship of the program for 2020, and plan to host fellows all year wherever we have appropriate positions for them.  We are currently reviewing resumes and profiles for the current cohort.

What was the 1st recommended group of industry for hiring during this time that was mentioned?

I recommended reviewing industries that had been deemed Mission Essential by the federal government.  The list can be found on the Department of Homeland Security/Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s website, here.  NOTE:  This list is being interpreted slightly differently by each governor, so please also search your state’s website for further details.

Does Booz Allen Hamilton offer any Apprenticeship Programs?

We currently do not participate in apprenticeship programs, as a rule.  We are working with Hiring Our Heroes’ corporate fellowship program and the spouse fellowship program.  If you are interested in those please visit https://hiringourheroes.org.

Are the Booz Allen Hamilton programs available if you have or are going to transition soon?

Booz Allen does not have transition programs per se, but we continue to hire for essential positions during the crisis, in many different skill sets and career fields.  We do have helpful resources on our Careers page for transitioning service members and spouses – go to https://Careers.boozallen.com for more details.

Can we expect to see HOH events again in NY?

Yes! While we are uncertain as to when in-person events will resume, we will continue to hold events across the Northeast.

How do those of us that specifically want remote/teleworking positions best seek those positions out?

Create an account with Blue Star Families and you will be connected to the variety of resources Blue Star Families offers including employment opportunities, career training, and coaching. We have a variety of remote positions available through our portal:

Most job descriptions will specify if it is a remote/teleworking position. Pay close attention to such details in a job posting.

How will our transitioning service members get the local information they need if they are transitioning to our local area?

We encourage service members to connect with the local Chamber of Commerce and service organizations with regional offices such as the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program Managers across the country and USO Pathfinders.

Do other Services offer similar programs to Soldier For Life, and if so, what are they?

Each service executes the transition process based on the unique characteristics of their population, service member lifecycle and post service requirements. Because the Army is the largest service and makes up nearly half of the transitioning population each year, Army senior leaders believed it was valuable to create and sustain a separate Soldier for Life office to help connect and synchronize the efforts of government and non-government organizations to create more opportunities for our Soldier and Families. Other services support this requirement through existing service member and family resource offices and agencies within their formations but do not have a specific office that performs the function of the Army’s Soldier for Life program. The Marine for Life program is the closest functionally to our office, and provides highly effective employment and community connections to transitioning Marines, with regional Marine for Life partners across the United States.

How do programs like Soldier For Life (SFL) benefit the Service in terms of recruitment and retention.

Our vision is that Soldiers and families embrace the totality of their positive Army experience and return to their communities as leaders of character, commitment and service, where they inspire others through their personal example.  Preparing for meaningful employment or higher education is a process that starts well before a Soldier attends TAP.  Being aware of, and taking advantage of, the opportunities the Army provides throughout the Soldier Lifecycle is one way Soldiers can embrace that experience. Soldiers who transition properly and gain an post-service economic advantage from their time in uniform, set an example for others that the Army is a pathway to meaningful employment, not an impediment. The same holds true for higher education. Nearly half of the Soldiers that receive an undergraduate degree, either while in service or with VA education benefits, are the first in their families to go to college. The Army is a pathway to higher education for many, not an “either / or” decision. The same vision holds true for retention. Once Soldiers understand the economic value of continued service, or the value of opportunities they may have access to during additional years of service, they can make an informed decision on whether to stay or to transition.  People join the Army for a lot of reasons but we know those who are influenced by a Veteran are more likely to join. Our goal is to create those Veteran ambassadors that tell the Army story and inspire others.

Can Soldiers who are at their mandatory retirement date (30 years) extend to delay transition?

The short answer is yes. I highly recommend all service members check with their chain of command or servicing human resources section for the latest developments and policy changes.  The Army released guidance early on in the COVID19 process that provided for a number of authorities including the option to extend enlisted ETS dates from 3-11 months, an officer’s ability to withdraw their separation actions, and for all to withdraw voluntary retirement requests/extend retirement dates.  Soldiers may also apply for a deferment or deletion of PCS orders based on hardship.  The issue of extending past an MRD is a bit more challenging. According to HRC, an officer’s request to extend retirement past MRD must include a valid and compelling reason that the Soldier should be retained. The approval authority to extend a Soldier’s service past MRD is much higher than to withdraw an approved retirement date, there are additional entitlements that accrue post-MRD, and other factors to consider.  As with any questions on continued service, extensions, withdrawing of separation actions or stabilization, all Soldiers should discuss with their chain of command and unit S-1 for the most recent policy and processes.

Is there a plan to find another way to complete certification exams while the sites are closed?

Every certifying body for all of the industry certification exams that the O2O program aligns with typically require in-person testing; in response to the COVID-19 situation, contingency plans are now being offered. The certifying bodies themselves have collaborated with their exam administrators (primarily Pearson Vue) to make exceptions to the standard operating procedures and have made the information surrounding those exam-related exceptions available to the public on their websites. The following links are just a few examples of how varying certifying bodies are responding to the COVID-19 situation: Project Management Institute (PMI),* Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI), ISC², Cisco, and CompTIA. Most of these certifying bodies and Pearson Vue are offering extensions of 180 days on exam eligibility windows for exam vouchers already purchased and are waiving any rescheduling or cancellation fees for those who cannot test at this time. This support will allow the participants whose exam appointments have been impacted by site closures to wait for their nearest site to reopen and to sit for their exam at that time without any additional financial investment.

*Update: Effective April 14, 2020 – the Project Management Institute is now offering the ability for individuals to take their certification exam virtually. Administered on a secure platform using proven exam delivery technology, the online version is exactly the same as the in-person exam…there’s even a live proctor. This format requires individuals to have a computer with a webcam, reliable internet connection, and a quiet space where they can spend a few interrupted hours. (source: PMI.org). The link has been updated in the previous paragraph to reflect this announcement.

Additionally, a number of these certifying bodies are working diligently to begin offering their exams that were typically required to be taken in an in-person, proctored environment to instead be shifted to an at-home, online environment. This shift will allow exam candidates the ability to take their exam as soon as they are ready and would not require that they wait for testing sites to reopen.

If any current O2O participants have questions regarding the status of their exam appointment or previously purchased voucher, please contact your assigned Advisor or IVMFadvising@syr.edu.

If you are honoring the date for the intent to file, will service members still be able to receive Benefits on Delivery even though their claim is past the 90 days submission date due to COVID?

Per the VA Coronavirus FAQs page:

What if I need to turn in paperwork for my claim or appeal?

As of April 3, 2020, we’re providing extensions for any claim or paperwork deadlines.

You can submit your paperwork late to:

  • Perfect a claim
  • Challenge an adverse decision
  • Submit a Notice of Disagreement
  • Submit a Substantive Appeal
  • Respond to a Supplemental Statement of the Case

If you need a claim extension, you can simply submit your extension with any late-filed paperwork. You don’t have to proactively request an extension in advance. We’ll also accept typed or digital signatures instead of wet signatures (meaning signed in ink) on forms. If you have any questions, please call us at 800-827-1000. We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

Has the timeline for applying for VA benefits prior to retirement changed? Will the VA still conduct exit medical exams?

Per the VA’s press release from March 31st:

Many in-person services are already available via the phone or online through virtual options like VA Video Connect. VBA has and continues to adjust to ensure the safety and well-being of its clients and staff. The changes include:

Conducting examinations for disability benefits using tele-compensation and pension or “tele-C&P” exams. If an in-person examination is required, Veterans will be notified for scheduling. To see the full list of included services:

Are the VA claims process and/or C&P exams being backlogged due to COVID?

We know that the VA is seeing higher than usual volume for a variety of services and processes as they’ve made more available online because of the restrictions put in place during COVID-19.

For more info, please see the VA Coronavirus FAQs page:

Could you please provide contact information for the Veterans Benefits, Medical Review for the Ft. Belvoir Area?

The VA’s phone number for the Ft. Belvoir Area is 571-231-2408. If you can’t reach someone through that number, try the VA’s toll free number at: 800-827-1000.

I have a Vet that is trying to enroll in school for the GI Bill income. They will be enrolled in virtual class, will the BAH be affected if they were not already enrolled prior to COVID?

If you have specific questions, you can contact the Education Call Center toll-free at 888-442-4551, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET.

I'm 180 days from my RET day and our local rep is expressing that I should put my claim after my RET date. His reasoning is that the local VA office is not open for me to take my medical records. What do you recommend?

The VA is still doing exams to rate potential disabilities, diagnose health conditions, and determine service-connected disabilities. They are doing many exams virtually by phone, videoconference, or online. Thay are  also doing more records reviews using Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE). This means they will review your existing medical records instead of requiring an in-person or telehealth exam.

If your claim requires an in-person exam and they  can’t conduct the exam in person: They will  contact you to reschedule the exam for a later date. Please make sure they have your up-to-date mailing address, phone number, and email address.

If you have questions or would like to proactively reschedule your exam, please contact your VA medical center or health facility, or send a secure message to your health care provider through MyHealtheVet as soon as possible.

If you have an in-person exam scheduled with a non-VA provider we’ve contracted with to do your exam: In order to increase our ability to do more claim exams, they have contracted with certain trusted health care providers across the country to conduct exams in non-VA locations.

If you have an exam appointment with a contracted provider, the provider may still conduct the exam while taking added steps to ensure your safety and the safety of the clinical staff. If you feel unsafe going to an in-person exam at this time, we can put your exam on hold until it can be rescheduled. We won’t deny a claim solely for failure to report for an exam at this time. If you have questions or need to request a hold on your exam, please contact the non-VA provider directly.

If you’ve completed your claim exam you can sign in to track the status of your claim online.

I have been told that my mental health C&P exam will not be rescheduled until after July 1st. I've seen emails that there will be virtual exams, how do I get shifted to that program?

Per the VA’s press release from March 31st:

Conducting examinations for disability benefits using tele-compensation and pension or “tele-C&P” exams. If an in-person examination is required, Veterans will be notified for scheduling.

Here’s the VA’s Coronavirus FAQs page:

This includes the question: What should I do if I have an upcoming VA health appointment?

For routine appointments, we recommend using telehealth (phone or video) for your scheduled appointment. You can also cancel and reschedule your appointment for a later date.

If you have a non-urgent elective procedure scheduled, we may contact you to cancel or reschedule for a later date. Note: Urgent and emergent procedures will continue as scheduled.

To change your in-person appointment to a telehealth visit:

Use Secure Messaging through My HealtheVet to send a  message to your provider.

Use the VA appointments tool to request a telehealth appointment online. (Available only for some types of health services.)

Once your provider schedules a telehealth appointment, you’ll receive a VA Video Connect link (or another approved video meeting tool). Learn more about VA Video Connect

What about transitioning services members who haven't started school at this point? How will their BAH benefits be affected?

If you have specific questions, you can contact the Education Call Center toll-free at 888-442-4551, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET

Is the BDD process impacted?

Per the VA Coronavirus FAQs page:

Will my benefit payment be delayed because of COVID-19?

We’re currently processing all benefit payments as normal. Benefit payments include payments for disability, pension, education payments to your school, and more.

How is the VA completing their mandated Veterans Benefits and Services briefs? Who is the contact to enroll in this course?

Effective March 30, VA will discontinue VA benefit briefings and services on military installations for transitioning service members and their families through the interagency Transition Assistance Program (TAP) until further notice. However, VA will provide virtual briefings and individualized counseling for transitioning service members where possible.

What was that VA phone number for intent to file a claim?

Call 800-827-1000. or visit explore.va.gov/intent-to-file

VA’s Coronavirus FAQs: https://www.va.gov/coronavirus-veteran-frequently-asked-questions/

Can you provide more details on Heroes Linked?

Please find more information for Heroes Linked at their website: https://heroeslinked.org/

For clarification: there are two C&P exams being scheduled at this time?

Per the VA’s press release from March 31st:

Conducting examinations for disability benefits using tele-compensation and pension or “tele-C&P” exams. If an in-person examination is required, Veterans will be notified for scheduling.

Here’s the VA’s Coronavirus FAQs page:

What if you have a MRD?

All Services allow transitioning Service members to submit applications to withdraw separations or retirements to their Commander for recommendation and approval by their respective Personnel Center.  Policy concerning Mandatory Retirement Dates (MRD) and other special transition categories are Service dependent.  The answer to a specific Service member’s request depends on individual circumstances and the respective Service’s policy.  The first step is a discussion with your personnel officer or TAP counselor to determine the appropriate application process for your specific transition circumstances.

What out processing can be done virtually? What guidance do you have for soldiers who are meant to transition, but are unable to start out processing due to closures and are now unsure of when they will be on terminal leave?

Service members transition from over 180 locations around the world.  This outbreak is dynamic and manifests differently by location, setting, population and individual. As a result, responses to COVID-19 are and will be flexible, tailored and incremental for each installation.  Transitioning Service members who are in the out-processing window should contact their supporting installation personnel center for out-processing guidance.

What resources are available for veterans now unemployed due to COVID-19?

There are a number of resources being made available to veterans who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19. Visit our partner agencies’ websites, such as the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov) to speak with an employment counselor about your options and to identify additional resources.

Will the Stop Movement order keep transitioning service members from taking terminal leave and moving to their desired retirement location?

No. In accordance with the SecDef memo dated 13 Mar 2020,  “Stop Movement for all Domestic Travel for DoD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019,” separating and retiring  Service members are exempt from Stop Movement Orders.

Is there anything that is replacing the TAP transition in class course?

Across the Military Departments, TAP classes have been moved to a virtual environment. The congressionally mandated requirements for TAP are still being met across the Services through the use of the Army Virtual Platform, Joint Knowledge Online, and other virtual interactions such as one-on-one telephonic support; virtual meetings, Defense Collaboration System (DCS), etc….

Additionally, transitioning Service members will have access to transition resources both pre- and post-separation. If a Service member requires or needs follow on assistance post-transition, a warm handover will occur between the Service and the appropriate partner agency.

As an additional resource, all Military OneSource capabilities are available to veterans for 365 days post transition. Additionally, the Services have specific policies that allow recently separated transitioning service members to utilize TAP services post transition.

For clarification: The extension for service does NOT include statutory retirement?

All Services allow transitioning Service members to submit applications to withdraw separations or retirements to their Commander for recommendation and approval by their respective Personnel Center.  Policy concerning statutory retirement and other special transition categories are Service dependent.  The answer to a specific Service member’s request depends on individual circumstances and the respective Service’s policy.  The first step is a discussion with your personnel officer or TAP counselor to determine the appropriate application process for your specific transition circumstances.

Who maintains JKO in the TAP capacity?

Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) is a Department of Defense platform.  The Military-Civilian Transition Office maintains a contract JKO to host TAP curriculum.  The TAP Interagency partners (Department of Defense, Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration) each retain individual responsibility for their respective curriculum hosted by JKO.

Does the delay to end-of-service apply to retirements as well?

All Services allow transitioning Service members to submit applications to withdraw separations or retirements to their Commander for recommendation and approval by their respective Personnel Center.  The answer to a specific Service member’s request depends on individual circumstances and the respective Service’s policy.  The first step is a discussion with your personnel officer or TAP counselor to determine the appropriate application process for your specific transition circumstances.

Will the JKO courses be updated with the new curriculum for career readiness standards?

DoD’s Military to Civilian Transition Office is finalizing development of a new online learning management system (LMS).  The new LMS will be available in summer 2020 and will include new curriculum from each TAP Interagency Partner (Defense, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Small Business Administration).  Currently, there are no plans to further update the JKO hosted TAP curricula prior to the summer 2020 implementation of the new LMS

Working as One Community - How the Military, States, and Local Government are Working Together to Respond to COVID-19

Younger Soldiers and Family Members have asked for more virtual delivery of services through APPS on their phones or devices. Has the Pandemic helped steer the Garrisons to be more virtual friendly services after the crisis is over?

It is too early to give a definite answer to this question. What we can say is that even before the pandemic, the DoD and Services were constantly working to provide online and other tech-enabled delivery of services — Military OneSource, web-enabled services for childcare and moving, and the expansion of telehealth are good examples.  This continuous effort to improve and adapt the delivery of services will continue. As for exactly what services, apps, and virtual friendly services will continue post crisis, at this time we can’t provide definite information.

Have the garrison commanders found that any of the new ways to deliver services they’ve been more or less forced to adopt are actually potential improvements in providing services?

It is too early to give a definite answer to this question. What we can say is that even before the pandemic, the DoD and Services were constantly working to provide online and other tech-enabled delivery of services — Military OneSource, web-enabled services for childcare and moving, and the expansion of telehealth are good examples.  This continuous effort to improve and adapt the delivery of services will continue. As for exactly what services, apps, and virtual friendly services will continue post crisis, at this time we can’t provide definite information.

How are the communities handling internet access for education for those who cannot afford it?

Companies in the private sector are stepping up to help families that cannot afford internet access. Here are a few of them:

  • Charter Communications announced on March 13, 2020 that for 60 days the company will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access to homes with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a subscription. Installation fees will also be waived for these households. Enroll by calling 844-488-8395. Charter will also continue Spectrum Internet Assist, a program offering low-cost broadband internet of 30 Mbps for low-income households without school-aged children.
  • Comcast, which owns Xfinity, will offer 60 days free and increased speeds for new families who join the Internet Essentials program, an internet access program for low income families that is normally $9.95 a month.

AT&T announced on Friday it would not cancel service and would waive late fees for any wireless, home phone, broadband residential or small business customer experiencing hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay their bills. Qualifying low income households can apply for $10 a month internet access through the Access from AT&T program. Fixed Wireless Internet and Wireline customers can use unlimited internet data. AT&T will also keep public Wi-Fi hotspots open.

Has Fort Meade, Fort Hood and Redstone Arsenal seen an increase in soldiers needing assistance from Army Emergency Relief (or other branch relief societies)? Does the command continue to brief on the Aid Societies as a resource for financial hardship?

Fort Meade: Yes, but not a significant amount. We have seen those affected by the stop movement order applying and we are encouraging that. Anyone in need is able to virtually apply to keep with social distancing efforts. 

Redstone Arsenal: We have not seen growth and that is most likely because of our demographic here. 

Fort Hood: We have not seen a growth, we do have families impacted by the stop movement order, but we have also found that many families and soldiers are spending less with the stay at home order.

Our community was struggling to meet the demands of Veterans under the Mission Act and our local base medical center is on the list to be closed to Veterans and military families. Is there any effort to work with VA and DoD to make sure our local communities are not further disadvantaged?

Per the Department of Defense: 90-day pause for MTF transition activities:  To allow the military Services and the DHA to focus efforts on the COVID-19 response, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist approved a 90-day pause in activities to transition military treatment facilities to the DHA. The decision will be assessed again after 45 days. Service medical organizations are required to extend their Direct Support to DHA for a period beyond Sept. 30, 2020 equal to the total number of pause days.  The decision puts on hold the transitions of the next five Market offices (Tidewater, San Antonio, Colorado Springs, Puget Sound, and Hawaii). The transition implementation will continue as soon as is practical, and will occur as conditions allow over the next 1-5 years.

How can the civilian world best offer help to the military family when businesses start functioning again?

Many businesses recognize the service and sacrifice of military service members but may be unsure how to leverage their philanthropic resources to support our neighbors in uniform and their families. That’s why USAA and Blue Star Families created “Corporate Citizens: Supporting Today’s Military Families.” This easy-to-read guidebook has practical advice to help companies contribute to the strength, well-being, and resiliency of military families. To access the playbook visit: 

How do we tie into a Blue Star Families chapter if one does not exist at our military installation?

If a Blue Star Families chapter doesn’t exist at your installation, you can still join Blue Star Families nationally as a Blue Star Family and receive access to many of our resources. You can join now at bluestarfam.org

We also have a number of chapters that exist because of the efforts of volunteers in that area. If you are interested in volunteering and potentially starting a chapter near you, please visit https://bluestarfam.org/volunteer/

Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have shifted all chapter events to a virtual  platform. Anyone is welcome to join those events.

Securing Basic Needs During COVID-19: Food & Housing

Does the CARES Act have mortgage and rent protections built into it?

Per the National Military Family Association:

U.S Housing and Urban Development HUD guidance and resources are available to provide immediate housing support during the outbreak. Find current updates and information on their website.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Mortgage Help for Homeowners Impacted by the Coronavirus Special mortgage help is available for homeowners affected by COVID-19. Learn more about mortgage loan assistance.

FINRED Blog: Options for Borrowers Under Federally Backed Mortgage Forbearance Programs You may have questions about the effects of COVID-19 on your mortgage payments. Find information about federally backed mortgage payment relief.

How do we help connect military families with government and community safety net programs available to all Americans? And, how do we reduce the stigma that still exists about seeking help?

Per the National Military Family Association:

Food pantries operate on or near every military installation across the country, and many are run by Armed Services YMCA. If you need help feeding your family, please reach out to your local ASYMCA branch to confirm their pantry’s operating hours. Feeding America also has food banks across the country. You can search for one near you  here.

Many public school districts are still providing two meals to-go per day and some are expanding the free and reduced lunch program to include free meals for all students. You may also be able to pick up meals from the school you live closest to instead of the school you attend. Visit your local school district’s website for updates.

For overseas military children conducting virtual learning in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Europe, and Guantanamo Bay, Exchanges have implemented grab-and-go meals for school-aged children. More than 10,000 meals have been served during the pandemic. Please reach out to your local exchange for exact times and pick up locations.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) can help low-income families pay for food. Eligibility is based on your household’s size, income and expenses. To find out more about SNAP, or to apply for the benefit, contact your state office. Find your state’s office online, or call 800-221-5689 to hear the toll-free number for your state’s program.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods and nutrition education to low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, and infants and children up to age five. Learn more online at the USDA’s WIC website.

The Military Family Advisory Network, our partners in better understanding food insecurity in military families,  has compiled a list of resources that might help you.

PenFed Foundation offers grants to military families seeking financial assistance due to loss of income or increased financial burden as a result of the pandemic. For more information, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit the website.

Utility Bills Comcast is offering free internet for low-income households, free Wi-Fi hotspots for all, and eliminating data caps nationwide. Utility companies around the country are suspending service disconnections and waiving late fees for customers struggling to pay their electricity bills, including Consolidated Edison, Georgia Power, Green Mountain Power, NV Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. Almost half the states in the country have imposed a moratorium on utility terminations.

Municipal water companies across the country, including in Detroit, New Orleans, Phoenix, Salinas, Seattle, St. Louis, and the state of Connecticut, have suspended service shut-offs—some will even reinstate your service if it was previously shut off, though service restoration may take a few days. Many states prohibit utilities from shutting off the water during a state of emergency.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have agreed for at least the next 60 days to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers, waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur, and open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Call the number on your utility bill to discuss options if you are having difficulty paying or you need service restored.

Banking Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and others are responding to the needs of their customers struggling to make payments by waiving late fees, providing payment relief and offering other assistance. Goldman Sachs announced it will allow Apple credit cardholders who ask for help to skip their March payment, interest-free. American Express (credit cards) and Capital One (credit cards and auto loans) will also allow customers to skip their monthly payments, interest-free. If you have a problem paying your credit card bill or loan payment, call your loan servicer and ask if they will waive your monthly payment temporarily, without a late fee, and interest-free.

When counseling military families on resources available when feeding their family becomes a struggle due to financial hardship do you refer them to the branch relief societies? Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance?

Per the National Military Family Association:

Yes, we recommend you counsel military families on resources available to them and refer them to the Relief Societies. Below are links to each of them.

Army Emergency Relief: Financial Assistance Army Emergency Relief is ready to serve. Visit for financial assistance information and resources.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has your back. Learn about its financial assistance and education programs.

Air Force Aid Society The Air Force Aid Society is here to help. Find relevant information on emergency assistance, education support and community programs.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance is here for you. Discover helpful resources when adverse life events happen.

What is being done to help us who will be forced to pay mortgages on two homes due to not being able to move to our next duty station as planned?

Per the National Military Family Association:

We suggest reaching out to your losing and gaining location commanders to request a waiver to the stop movement order if your family is experiencing personal hardship. Additionally, we encourage you to work with your mortgage lenders to request assistance that they may be able to provide you doing this time. Here are some additional resources:

What resources are available to the military unable to sell their current homes before a move due to the declining market and the loss of jobs?

Per the National Military Family Association:

We suggest maintaining contact with your chain of command if your family is experiencing personal hardship due to the pandemic. Additionally, we encourage you to reach work with your mortgage lenders to request assistance that they may be able to provide you doing this time. Here are some resources:

Programs You may have questions about the effects of COVID-19 on your mortgage payments. Find information about federally backed mortgage payment relief.

If you need further financial assistance in due to loss of income, please contact your branch’s relief society and/or other resources that you may be eligible for listed here:

  • Army Emergency Relief: Financial Assistance Army Emergency Relief is ready to serve. Visit for financial assistance information and resources.
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has your back. Learn about its financial assistance and education programs.
  • Air Force Aid Society The Air Force Aid Society is here to help. Find relevant information on emergency assistance, education support and community programs.
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance is here for you. Discover helpful resources when adverse life events happen.
  • PenFed Foundation offers grants to military families seeking financial assistance due to loss of income or increased financial burden as a result of the pandemic. For more information, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit the website.

Is on post housing secure for families of deployed soldiers?

Per Hunt Military Communities:

If any family is stuck in the Stop Move Order (whether deployed or not) and has provided a move out notice date, we are just extending as needed. In addition, for planned moves onto base that may be delayed, we are working with those dates as well. It may require some shifting of addresses, but we are accommodating the adjusted move dates.

Regarding safety and security; while we can’t guarantee someone’s personal safety, most base housing is behind the gate, and monitored/patrolled by Security Forces.   Where not behind the gate, in most areas that housing is under the jurisdiction of local PD, with Security Forces supplementing that with additional patrols.   I can’t speak for all bases, but those at Hunt.

What are the requirements for veterans to get help in terms of food and financial assistance? Any specific information on the Groton CT area? Where can we get help for this?

Per Operation Homefront: The Critical Financial Assistance program is available. Operation Homefront provides help to military families with rent/mortgage payments, food and utility bills and home/car repairs.  Other than food assistance, we help with overdue bills. There is a process by which we work with applicants to determine: 1) eligibility (DD214) and 2) need.  We are accepting and processing requests for assistance from military families from across the country so are open to all (even those in Groton CT).  We are processing a huge surge in requests but are still able to have a quick turnaround time from receipt of an application to payment of about 5 days.

For more information and to apply, please visit operationhomefront.org

Will commanders be provided this information about the movers that Michael Reese is discussing?

Per American Moving Inc: Our company has only been contacted by one installation commander at Fort Polk.  I believe good communication between the military installations, bases and their service providers would be very beneficial.

DITY Move Survey: A survey is being circulated among families with scheduled PCS moves and those affected by the Stop Movement Order. This survey intends to gauge what incentives would encourage military families to use the DITY move option to help alleviate the transportation concerns and backlog.

How have Yellow Ribbon Program events been impacted by limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yellow Ribbon events have been postponed for returning service members and families.  Deploying service members are being offered remote training.

Will National Guard members currently mobilized for the COVID-19 response efforts be included in Yellow Ribbon Program reintegration events?

At this time, no.  Most of the organizations have rescheduled drills and are allowing Commanders flexibility in determining how and when they are made up. In some cases units are doing virtual drills and online professional development training

Will there be a town hall explaining how mobilization works for Utah guardsmen and families?

Not that we are aware of but will share the idea with leadership.

Regarding the Utah survey, do you track the Guard and Reserves, and report their needs separate from the Active component? Who do you report that to?

We track guard, reserve, veteran and component separately.  The data will be shared with military leaders and will be released to the public as well.

What is the difference in the roles of a FRSA and a FAS?

Both FRSA and FAS fall under family programs and are committed to the resilience, combat readiness and wellbeing of our Soldiers and their families. Both programs are to ensure the Soldiers and their Families are entitled, informed, educated, assisted, and made ready for the unique demands of military life. That being said, both roles play a unique part in the overall goals of Family Programs.

FRSA: works in support of their assigned MSC Commander to assist with the execution of the command’s Family Readiness responsibilities. They provide information, support, and connect resources to unit level commander, rear detachment commanders, unit POCs and FRG Volunteers by providing training, administrative and logistical support. They assist with connecting the Families to the Unit, through the FRG Volunteers.  FRSAs have a proactive role in Family Readiness.

FAC: Provide support of “essential services and referrals” directly to Soldiers and Families, retirees and veterans within each of their Regions. They connect with local community resources to broaden the access of services. Their services include: information and referral, outreach and referral, ID cards and DEERS enrollment, TRICARE, Financial and legal services, Crisis intervention and Referral, Monthly outreach calls to families of the deployed, and employment. Their services are reactive to the needs of Soldiers and Family members.

What is the appetite on Capitol Hill to provide National Guard T32 Activated Soldiers with Transitional Tricare upon coming off of orders?

We are in the early stages of the TAMP issue. The current law/policy allows for interpretation by DoD. We have initially approached DoD with the issue this week, but have not got an answer back yet. WRT the Hill we have several offices that are open to taking this issue up and introducing legislation that would eliminate any interpretation. Personally, I think the right long term answer is to put a legislative fix in place. Regardless, this event has exposed a number of shortcomings that will help drive the conversation.

Supporting the National Guard During the COVID-19 Crisis

Are there safety steps in place for guardsmen and women who will be deploying this year?

If you are talking about our COVID-19 response, absolutely. Service Members are being briefed about the precautionary methods they need to take and then when they arrive on site, they are being provided specific safety instructions by the local health agency personnel on site.

What is the process for those dependents, or family survivors of the fallen that need IDs?

USID cards will remain valid that expired on or after January 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020 if eligibility can be verified by another DoD source, database, or system. This does not apply to children turning age 21 or 23.  Full-time student or secondary dependency will need to be updated if applicable. All stakeholders, i.e., Security Forces, AAFES, and DECA commissaries are notified from DoD ID Card Policy. USID will not be reissued for sole purposes of changing information printed on the card such as rank or last name changes due to marital status. The minimum age for initial USID card issuance is increased from age 10 to 16. Continued use of the Reserve USID card to obtain active duty benefits is authorized for mobilized Reserves (includes ANG) and their eligible dependents. Please see the attached trifold for further instructions.

How can reservists and Guard members continue to perform duty if their units are cancelling unit assemblies and drill weekends?

There are options for use of alternate duty locations for performance of some reserve and National Guard duties in lieu of performing duty at the primary drill location. Where possible, military commanders will issue guidance to continue performing certain Reserve and National Guard duties via alternate duty locations. In situations that do not allow alternate duty locations, commanders will reschedule Inactive Duty Training (IDT) or grant authorized absences for the period in which drilling is limited. Commanders will need to be mindful of the minimum service requirements each member of the Reserve and National Guard needs to perform to achieve a creditable year of service toward retirement, and considerate of the anniversary dates for their members.

Is there a single place where all of the National Guard financial support relief societies are listed? (one-stop-shop where Commanders can direct their personnel in need?)

Since the Guard is in all states and territories, the best way to find local and national financial support is through our Airman and Family Readiness Program Offices at each Air National Guard wing and the local Family Assistance Center for the Army National Guard. Check out the below link to locate your nearest Family Assistance Center:

If a family needs financial counseling support, they should call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

How is NGB ensuring that both DOD and the public get an accurate grasp of the virus' actual impact on Guard personnel?

The National Guard is issuing frequent and up to date press releases about the work that the National Guard is doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also broadcasting these press releases via social media. You can find them here: www.nationalguard.mil/coronavirus/

How is COVID-19 impacting Guard recruitment and retention thus far?

Per ABC News: As the coronavirus pandemic worsens and the country turns increasingly to the military for help, America’s armed services are struggling to get new recruits as families and communities hunker down. Recruiters scrounging for recruits online are often finding people too consumed with their own financial and health care worries to consider a military commitment right now.

The services, as a result, could fall thousands short of their enlistment goals if the widespread lockdowns drag on, forcing them to pressure current troops to stay on in order to maintain military readiness.

“This is going to have somewhat of a corrosive effect on our ability to have the numbers of people that we really need,” said Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, director for personnel for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The concern, it is growing.”

He said the military is watching this day-to-day and knows that it could take “a very long time” to rebuild the force.

abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/military-recruiting-struggles-enlistment-stations-close-69973543

Is NGAUS supporting increased military leave for federal employees?

The military has taken several steps to ensure military members have enough paid leave during COVID-19 including:

“The Defense Department told commanders to use their own judgment and act liberally in supporting remote telework and granting leave during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commanders also are encouraged to grant leave “liberally” to service members if they or a family member is affected by COVID-19. “Members who exhaust their annual leave may be granted advance leave, with pay and allowances,” the guidance states.

U.S service members can now carry over up to 120 days of unused leave until September 2023 under a new change announced by the Pentagon on Thursday. The move is meant to ensure that troops do not lose any of their accrued leave time due to the travel restrictions imposed amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to an April 16 memo signed by Matthew Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.”

Psychological Effects of COVID-19 on Military Families

What industries did you find were projected to be the most impacted by the pandemic?

Per the Bob Woodruff Foundation: This information has been taken directly from our paper, which you can access here.

“According to an economic analysis published by Moody’s Analytics in March 2020, the five industries most likely to witness immediate layoffs as a result of COVID-19 are:  1. Mining, oil, and gas extraction (establishments that extract naturally occurring mineral solids); 2. Transportation and warehousing (establishments that transport goods or passengers, warehouse goods, or provide scenic and sightseeing transportation); 3. Employment services (establishments that list employment vacancies or refer/place people in employment); 4. Travel arrangements (establishments that provide travel arrangement and reservation services, excluding travel agencies or tour operators); and 5. Leisure and hospitality (establishments that meet cultural, entertainment, and recreational interests of their patrons, like museums or spectator sports, or that provide customers with lodging, like hotels, or prepared food/beverages for immediate consumption, like restaurants or bars).”

What is the biggest barrier(s) that vets and military families have to accessing your resources/services right now? How are you remedying this?

Accessing resources that are online can be a barrier for Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) without technology or without internet capability.  There are several companies that responded to this quickly.   Comcast Internet Essentials extended free service to those without (See Comcast Internet Essentials for Details).  Facebook donated tablets to organizations providing tele-services (American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network for example) and there are several community initiatives addressing technology barriers during COVID.

Understanding, if no wifi, how do you find resources to obtain wifi?

Local installations & community social services organizations are the best first step.

Has there been an increase in suicidal ideations or suicide during COVID-19?

The best data on suicide ideation and attempts nationally are tracked via  the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (latest report is from 2018). Crisis call centers have reported some increases in call volume according to a recent report. In addition, historically, there is a correlation between high unemployment and suicide.

Who is responsible for advocating for families of veterans?

The VA is involved with Veteran families as it pertains to caregiving and other services available for the Veteran and their family member (ie: counseling at Vet Centers).  There are community-based advocacy organizations across the US helping veterans and veteran families. In San Diego for example, there are multiple agencies such as S.T.E.P., San Diego Veterans Coalition, and San Diego Military Family Collaborative.  Please reach out to these agencies directly or contact your Blue Star Families Chapter Director in your local community for a connection to these or other resources.

Can you give an example of Evidence Based programs (Hope For the Warriors)? Are they family oriented?

Resilient Warrior and Resilient Family are evidence-based programs – see Global Advances in Health & Medicine 2015 Nov; 4 (6): 38-42.  Yes, the Resilient Family program is family oriented. It is customized for adult family members of military and veterans.

I believe I saw on the Blue Star Family Survey Poll that parents would like more support with education services, what would that look like?

The COVID-19 Military Support Initiative also has several resources for education services listed on the resources page of the website found here. PsychArmor also provides an array of courses.

Have all of your organizations seen a rise in request for services?

At Hope for the Warriors, we’ve seen a rise in requests in our virtual services in Sports & Recreation through our 30×30 Challenge-Be Active for 30 minutes-30 days leading to Memorial Day.  Similarly, we’ve seen an increase in requests for Health & Wellness virtual programs such as Resilient Warrior, Resilient Family and Financial Wellness Workshop Series: Coping with Financial Stress During COVID-10 Pandemic.

At PsychArmor, we have seen a rise in requests for education related to self-care, mental health, employment (USERRA course), and community resources.

What information do your panelists have about mental endurance for stress? What recommendations do you have to help get over this downturn and psychological fatigue?

While not an endorsement, I like the resource page provided by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. It’s easy to navigate and covers a range of resources so you can find the solution that works best for you.

Hope for the Warriors recommends leaning on your inherent resilience skill set — revisit your skills training in stress management, keep to healthy lifestyle & behaviors, learn emotion regulation and cognitive reappraisal skills.  If you need a skills-booster session or are interested in learning new skills, enroll in a resiliency course such as Resilient Warrior (for service members and veterans) or Resilient Family (for service members and/or veteran adult family members, spouses, and caregivers).

Hope for the Warriors – Apply For Services to be contacted by an Intake Coordinator to learn more and register for a course.

Are the courses mentioned by Hope for the Warriors free for any Service Members in the US?

Yes, all courses are free for any service member and adult family member of a service member.  Courses are also free for post 9/11 veterans, their families and families of the fallen.  Apply for services at hopeforthewarriors.org – an intake coordinator will contact you within 1-2 business days.  It’s not a traditional intake but a conversation about your needs and your goals.

For those of us who live in civilian communities and do not have the resources to support children, what is available for us (reserve family, 70-90 miles from nearest installation)

There are several organizations that represent military / veteran children offering their services online during COVID.  Many of them are a part of the BSF COVID initiative and are listed on our resource page.

What are your organization's plans to prepare for the influx of mental health issues that are to come?

At PsychArmor, we are evaluating our existing courses available online and creating a curriculum to offer webinars, training, and supportive learning to address the educational tools and resources needed for mental health along this COVID journey.  We are currently working with military medical professionals, National Guard units, and civilian hospitals providing webinars on resilience and coping strategies.

Do any of these organizations support surviving military family members? (widows, children?)

Yes, Hope for the Warriors supports Gold Star Families and Families of the Fallen.  Apply For Services to talk to an Intake Coordinator to learn more.

Is anyone tracking grading policies and the long term effects on GPA?

Schools/institutions are moving quickly to implement changes and adapt to the COVID-19 era. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers released this article regarding Guidance on Grading and Transcript Notations from  COVID-19.

PBS also released this article looking at the long term effects on students from shifting to a pass/fail grading method during COVID-19.

What kinds of options and services are available for veterans with substance abuse disorder?

Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) has shifted all of their clinics and services to a virtual platform. Veterans with substance abuse disorder can start by going to CVN’s website to find resources available.

Many military families have a service member who is currently deployed. They are having to deal with both the deployment stress and pandemic stress at the same time. How will this affect them long-term and what are some ways they can cope with this huge amount of stress?

This is a stressful time for so many people as the pandemic has compounded with already stressful components of our lives. Please see our resources below that allow access to mental health resources including therapy options via telehealth and covered by Tricare.

Mental Health:

Addiction:

1-800-662-HELP (4357) – National Helpline

The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.

Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here. More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page.

Other Free Mental Health Support Services:

What does a telehealth mental health session look like?

There are a variety of different ways to take advantage of mental health resources via telehealth. One of the options could be to see a therapist through telehealth. This could be done in the exact same way a typical counseling would take place but via a video call instead of in person. Here are some mental health resources:

Mental Health:

Addiction:

1-800-662-HELP (4357) – National Helpline

The Military Health System has established www.tricare.mil/coronavirus as the primary information resource for MHS beneficiaries.

Military OneSource is hosting daily Facebook Live events at 12pm EDT Monday-Friday to highlight resources available to military families. Watch them here. More information is found on the Military OneSource’s COVID-19 resources page.

Other Free Mental Health Support Services:

Hero to zero mentality in the oil and gas industry, hugely staffed by prior military members, is of significant concern. Any tips or thought on how to help those who have now been financially displaced from mass layoffs among the oil and gas industry - especially when these folks are now moved from very well-paying positions to zero income?

There are a variety of resources available for people who have been laid off or have found themselves in a difficult situation financially. Please see the resources below for financial support, unemployment, and career resources:

Financial Support:

If your family needs immediate assistance, the American Red Cross accepts applications on its website 24/7.

Army Emergency Relief has made provisions to be able to process claims remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more here.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance can process claims remotely and has outlined what extra assistance it can provide during this time. That support includes funding for child care or to supplement for a military spouse’s lost income.

For more information, contact your branch’s relief society. If not listed above: Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society. Relief societies may be the fastest way to get help since some are able to provide direct-deposit funds. Operation Homefront also offers financial assistance to families facing critical needs. You can apply online here.

Foundations offering financial assistance for veterans and military families:

Unemployment:

Career Resources:

Create an account with Blue Star Families and you will be connected to the variety of resources Blue Star Families offers including employment opportunities, career training, and coaching:

Self Care and Resiliency for Military Families During COVID-19

I am a Resiliency Training Assistant with the Air National Guard. Are there any Master Resiliency Training courses happening that are open to spouses?

Our resiliency facilitators are all licensed mental health providers. Anyone with a current license can apply to be a facilitator for Red Cross resiliency courses. In terms of who can take the resiliency courses, anyone connected with the military or veterans can take the courses. They are not equivalent to the Master Resiliency Training offered through the military.

With the shortage of supplies like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, both in store and online, are there organizations on installations like Red Cross who are thinking about being able to provide these items to military families?

The American Red Cross maintains a limited inventory of PPE to maintain readiness to respond to disasters across the country and to support collection of about 40% of the nation’s blood supply. Additionally, we are managing numerous offers from partners and corporations to provide goods and services, and directing them to the appropriate agencies for distribution. We have primarily supported military members and their families with items such as hygiene kits during quarantine and continue to discuss needs with our partners in military commands.

Red Cross Virtual Resilience Model - is there a youth or teen version?

We are working now to adapt several of our workshops into virtual offerings. We are reviewing our youth resiliency programs to determine if we can safely deliver them in this environment.

Healthcare for Military Families During COVID-19

It seems that telehealth changes (crossing state lines, reducing copays, etc.) would offer a solution for portability in the military post COVID. Is there any discussion of using this patient satisfaction effort after the pandemic to promote continuity of care?

Ms. Regina Julian: The direct care system has had great success in providing medically necessary care to its empaneled patients during this pandemic and plans to continue using virtual health using the telephone and video visits in primary and specialty care, when it is clinically appropriate to do so and the patient agrees. Plans are underway to not only use these tools locally, but to expand the availability of specialty care regionally and globally using virtual health.

CAPT Ed Simmer: At this time the changes in the recently released Interim Final Rule (allowing audio only telehealth, relaxing state licensure requirements, and waiving most co-pays and cost-shares for care provided by telehealth) expire when the public health emergency declared by the President ends. However, TRICARE is reviewing the impact of the COVID-19 related changes to determine whether any should be continued after the public health emergency has ended.

Is there an estimated timeline for veterans getting access to OT and PT?

Julian: Access to Physical (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) at MTFs is based on capacity and priorities for care. Priorities for care in MTFs are governed by federal law in 32 CFR 199.17. Active duty personnel followed by TRICARE Prime Active Duty Family Members (ADFMs) empaneled to the MTF have highest priority followed by retirees and their family members empaneled to the MTF in Prime or TRICARE Plus. Other categories of beneficiaries, including ADFMs and retirees and their family members are eligible for care in the MTF on a space-available basis.

During this pandemic, MTFs with access to video capabilities have been able to provide some PT and OT through virtual health. The DHA recently released guidance for a phased approach to resuming full operations, including providing more face-to-face care. The decision on when to resume full operations will be made locally by individual MTF/Market Commanders or Directors based on area pandemic conditions, staffing, installation rules and other factors. Once full operations resume, MTFs will provide PT and OT care based on capacity and priorities for care.

Simmer: TRICARE covers medically necessary Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) when prescribed by an authorized provider. However, since the question refers to Veterans, it is important to note that not all Veterans are eligible for TRICARE. Veterans who are not eligible for TRICARE may wish to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.

Given the financial strain on the civilian health care system, do you have any concerns about the viability of the network? What steps are you taking to ensure the TRICARE network remains robust?

Simmer: We are committed to ensuring our beneficiaries have access to great care when and where they need it. TRICARE private-sector care network is robust in most areas, but we recognize that the current crisis has placed a financial strain on some civilian providers and facilities. We greatly value TRICARE network providers and facilities and the work they do caring for our beneficiaries. Our Managed Care Support Contractors are working with providers and facilities to ensure we continue to ensure timely access to high-value care for our beneficiaries.

Have any of the panelists read the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) piece released yesterday entitled "Ignored Warnings Left the Military Health System Unprepared"? If so, how much truth is in the report?

Julian: As reported by the GAO, there is a shortage of providers in some key specialties, which affects the ability to provide timely routine care; however, in most cases, routine care is available within the MHS access standards. That said, shortages are expected to increase and access to care may be negatively impacted if the 16,000+ military department-catalyzed manpower reductions take place and if those positions are not fully funded to hire government employees or contractors. To resolve some of these shortfalls, the DHA is taking measures to establish standards on expected provider availability and numbers of appointments per provider to optimize direct care system capacity.

Simmer: We are committed to ensuring our beneficiaries receive great care, and that the TRICARE Networks are ready to provide that care when it is not available at the MTF. The ability of the TRICARE Network to absorb the extra workload is a part of decisions regarding changes to direct care. Our purchased care Networks are standing ready to provide care whenever needed to augment our MTFs.

Are ECHO yearly renewals being extended since most families are not receiving services due to the pandemic?

Simmer: There has been no change to Extended Care Health Option (ECHO)  renewal policy at this time.

Would the panelists consider making a "cheat-sheet" section on their website with a brief overview of the latest pertinent CDC/DHA recommendations?

Julian: We are working to update TRICARE.mil with more recent information, especially on plans to resume full operations in a safe, phased way. We will work to develop a “cheat-sheet” summarizing CDC recommendations and DHA efforts/things to know about seeking care.

Simmer: We appreciate the suggestion, and there is a link on the front page of the tricare.mil website that takes you to lots of great information about COVID-19 and also using your TRICARE benefit during the crisis. In addition, we always recommend the cdc.gov website as the best source of reliable information about COVID-19 and how to stay healthy during the crisis.

Since some ID card offices are closed during this pandemic, is there an exception for enrolling newborns within 90 days of birth in DEERS?

Julian: The 90-day requirement has not changed; however, the DoD has authorized on-line DEERS enrollment through September 30, 2020. Please see instructions in the link below by selecting “Enrolling in DEERS and receiving first military ID card” at: https://www.militaryonesource.mil/family- relationships/family-life/covid-19-resources/military-id-updates-during-covid-19

Are any resources available to help cancer patients who are not allowed care at the local base to navigate treatment & coverage options during these pandemic changes?

Julian: If a beneficiary is enrolled to a MTF in TRICARE Prime or Plus, the MTF will provide medically necessary care, which cannot be delayed either in the MTF or will arrange the care in the network. If necessary, MTF case managers/care coordinators can help you navigate your health needs. Please contact your healthcare team at the MTF to which you are empaneled by calling the MTF appointment desk and they will enter a telephone consult for you. You also may send a message to your healthcare team via secure messaging. If you need additional assistance, please find your MTF Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator (BCAC) at https://tricare.mil/bcacdcao. If you are enrolled in TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life, please contact your usual source of care in the private sector for assistance.

Simmer: Yes, we are very focused on ensuring our beneficiaries, especially those with a serious illness like cancer, receive the care they need and understand their options. Please contact your Managed Care Support Contractor, and ask for assistance. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be eligible for a case manager from the contractor who can help with many of these questions.

I am assisting a Gold Star minor child who lost his father in Iraq in 2007 and just lost his mother to cancer. Due to COVID19 the legal process to put a guardian in place could take a couple months. He now has no one who can schedule an appointment for him or communicate about his care due to HIPPA. Is there a policy in place that could assign an advocate or temporary guardian before all legal filings are complete?

Simmer: Laws about guardianship differ in each state, and TRICARE follows guardianship laws in the state where the child is located. Please contact your local officials or an attorney for more information about how this would apply for your particular situation. The base Legal Assistance Office may also be able to provide assistance.

Can a prescription that normally requires a signature when picked up at a MTF be changed to Express Scripts?

Col Mark Gmhelin: Any prescription at the MTF that still has remaining refills may be filled at the mail order or retail point of service. You can contact your MTF to have it transferred to mail.

Will TRICARE cover behavioral health appointments accessed via telehealth?

Simmer: Yes, with the requirements for social distancing, many of our beneficiaries are successfully using telehealth for their mental healthcare needs. So long as the care is medically necessary and provided consistent with TRICARE requirements for telehealth, behavioral health appointments are covered when provided by telehealth. In order to maximize access to behavioral health services, TRICARE covers behavioral health assessments, individual and group psychotherapy, medication management, and during the COVID-19 crisis, intensive outpatient programs when provided by telehealth. In addition, co-pays and cost-shares are waived for the duration of the crisis for care provided via telehealth.

Right now, no care is covered by Tricare for my daughter's Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provider to give her therapy directly. Is there a plan to allow my autistic children to receive the therapy in the near future?

Simmer: We are committed to ensuring our families with a child with autism receive the support they need during this crisis, which has disrupted in-person care. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, unlimited applied behavior analysis (ABA) family guidance and training is covered under the TRICARE Autism Care Demonstration via telehealth. This exception to policy allows parents to work with their child’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or assistant behavior analyst to ensure work toward treatment goals continues during the crisis and to maintain a level of consistency for the beneficiary during the crisis. This is intended to serve as a bridge until regular in-person services can resume. Direct ABA services to the beneficiary are not covered via telehealth because these services require close in-person interaction between the ABA provider and the child of a nature which is not reasonably feasible using telehealth.

Addressing Caregiver and Wounded Warrior Needs During COVID-19

How can someone access Carelinx through their insurance? Does the insurance pay for the caregiver, or does the family pay for the caregiver?

Currently the majority of all personal care services in our country are paid for privately unless the family has long-term care insurance or qualifies for state Medicaid Programs. Fortunately, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have made several positive regulatory changes over the past year to encourage insurance to invest in these valuable in-home care support services. While CareLinx is working with several of the largest insurance companies to demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs, most of these programs are limited in scope and reach. I am very encouraged by the success of these personal care programs to help reduce overall cost of care while improving health outcomes. Over the course of the next few years, I believe insurance companies will start offering personal care services as part of their insurance plan designs but today most of the personal care services are paid for privately through personal funds.

Are there projected launch dates for the CareLinx or any other programs that have been mentioned today for caregivers?

CareLinx will be working closely with our partners to define scope and plans for our Caring for Caregivers backup care program. We look forward to announcing the details of Caring for Caregivers in the coming weeks.

Will this caregiver support services with Carelinx be available nationwide or only in specific locations?

While CareLinx is available nationwide, we will be taking a regional rollout approach for our Caring for Caregivers program. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

The virtual programs that WWP offers have been great! We would love to see this continue for families! How long do you foresee this type of modality available?

As a result of COVID-19, we had to adapt our program delivery to meet the need. I mentioned during the town hall that many of our teams (Physical Health and Wellness, Independence Program, Combat Stress Recovery Program- Project Odyssey) had to pivot from face-to-face services for the moment. Two of our cornerstone services, WWP Talk and our outpatient mental health therapy through our partner eHome have always been delivered virtually/remotely and they scale to meet the additional need. What we found with our pivot to a virtual platform is that the services were received very well by Warriors and their families.  This pivot allowed us to maintain Warrior/Family connection with WWP programs, deliver our quality programming virtually, scale our program delivery to those who generally do not have access to face-to-face (rural locations) and most importantly, maintain the sense of community and connections between Warriors and Families via platforms like Zoom. Everyone can see each other and interact. We are looking to incorporate virtual programming as part of our core services for the near future because of the successes realized.  We are also looking forward to resuming our face-to-face programming in the near future (while following all health guidelines!) as we feel this is vital to assuring that connection and healing is maintained.

Has Respite Care funding been increased or are there plans to increase the funding?

Respite services funding have not increased but are available and have been meeting the requested needs. As part of existing VA services, caregivers can access the following respite services per Public Law 111–163, May 5, 2010, Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010:  (III) respite care of not less than 30 days annually, including 24-hour per day care of the veteran commensurate with the care provided by the family caregiver to permit extended respite. In addition, caregivers enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) have access to enhanced respite services. Caregivers enrolled in the PCAFC can speak with their local Caregiver Support Coordinator (CSC) to learn more about enhanced respite services. In-home respite services are also available through the Homemaker/Home Health Aide and Veteran Directed Care programs. Respite care is an integral part of the services offered under the Caregiver Support Program (CSP). Currently, resources for respite are sufficient as the CSP has received no indication from Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) CSP Leads that additional respite services are needed at this time.  The National CSP Office will continue to monitor and reevaluate the availability of respite services including any indication that increases may be needed.

Operation Family Caregiver is a nationwide free and confidential evidence-based coaching program from Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving that serves military and veteran family caregivers. How do we create an effective referral system that gets resources to caregivers?

The VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP) currently partners with Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) (https://www.operationfamilycaregiver.org/how-it-works/) providing referrals nationally to coaches across the country, using the online referral form (https://www.operationfamilycaregiver.org/ofc-internal-referral-form/). Caregivers may also self-refer (see attached flyer).

Additionally, OFC coaches are located at the following VA medical center sites: El Paso (New Mexico), Central Texas and Fayetteville (North Carolina). Prior to COVID-19, these coaches were on-site at these three medical centers, available to provide in-person support to caregivers. They currently provide this support virtually.

OFC will be providing an upcoming training on a VA CSP national education call, to increase awareness of CSP staff regarding this valuable coaching program. Finally, regular communication between OFC and the CSP National Office occurs regarding program updates and to discuss new opportunities for caregivers.

Addressing the Needs of Veterans During COVID-19

Does the 2 month extension of payments after they have graduated also apply to the Dependents Education Assistance Program?

No. There is no 2-month extension of payments available to beneficiaries using Dependents Education Assistance Program (Chapter 35).

Do you know if the Grant Per Diem grants have been awarded and if the program will start for the new grantees on October 1, 2020?

This program awards grants to community-based agencies to create transitional housing programs and offer per diem payments. The purpose of the program is to promote the development and provision of supportive housing and/or related services — with the goal of helping homeless Veterans achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels and/or income, and obtain greater self-determination. Grant Per Diem (GPD)-funded projects offer communities a way to help homeless Veterans by providing housing and other services and at the same time assist VAMCs by augmenting or supplementing care.

  • Grants from the GPD program usually consist of a capped per diem payment from VA to community organizations to provide transitional housing and supportive services to Veterans.
  • VA allocated $88 million in CARES Act funding to this program and waived per diem limits during the crisis to empower GPD grantees to provide all needed emergency housing and supportive services for Veterans who need to be isolated for their safety or the safety of others.
  • Program Highlights (FY 2019):
    • 23,300 Veterans entered GPD transitional housing.
    • Over 29,600 Veterans were served by GPD grants.
    • 69% of Veterans exited GPD to permanent housing (11,949 housed out of 17,242 exits during the period).

Would it be possible to have cases assigned to case workers?

In 2016, VBA transitioned to a national workload distribution model, called the National Work Queue (NWQ).  NWQ distributes claims to each Regional Office (RO) based on their capacity to complete the work.  To ensure timely processing, ROs are given only the amount of work that their employees can complete in a reasonable timeframe.  Prior to implementation of the national workload distribution model, ROs received work based on their jurisdiction’s Veteran population, which frequently exceeded their capacity to complete it, causing slower service delivery as measured by the average days to complete claims.  Nationally, VA has completed claims in an average of 100 days.  In FY 2015, prior to NWQ implementation, claims completed in an average of 184 days.

I Chair the NAACP-DC Veterans Affairs Committee. How can there be a partnership for services and information?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) looks forward to any opportunity to partner with the DC Chapter of NAACP in providing information to its members on benefits and services offered to Veterans and their family members.

VA’s Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) is responsible for working with organizations that support and assist Veterans in minority communities.  In addition, CMV has oversight of the Minority Veterans Program Coordinators (MVPCs) who are responsible for increasing local awareness of Veteran-related issues in minority communities as well as developing strategies to increase the dissemination of information on VA benefits and services to minority Veterans.  MVPCs partner with organizations that serve Veterans from the following groups: African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Alaskan Native.  MVPCs are located at VA regional offices, medical facilities, national cemeteries.

The DC Chapter of the NAACP can contact OUTREACH.VBACO@va.gov to discuss opportunities to partner and work together.

What data trends are you currently seeing with the impact related to the needs of our veterans (biggest and smallest needs) since the COVID-19 began?

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has implemented procedures to ensure Veterans and claimants will not be penalized for their inability to respond within the standard timelines due to the nationwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  VA has the authority to extend filing periods on a case-by-case basis for good cause under 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.109(b), 20.203 and 19.53.  To that end, if a Veteran or claimant requests an extension for filing based on the COVID-19 pandemic, VA may grant the extension under the good cause provisions provided the time limit would have expired on or after March 1, 2020.  VA will presume that the required action could not have taken place during the original time period and could not have been taken sooner than it was taken due to issues related to the pandemic.  Since there is no specific form to request a good cause extension, VA may accept and grant any COVID-19 pandemic-related extension request on any form or correspondence.

 

Effective May 28, 2020, VBA has authorized its C&P examination contractors to resume conducting in-person examinations for Veterans and Servicemembers residing within the geographical jurisdiction of 20 VA Lead Facilities.  Veterans who reside in those areas and have examination requests pending with one of the C&P examination contractors will be contacted by the contractor to schedule any appointments.

For Veterans not residing within the geographical jurisdiction of one of the VA Lead Facilities, VBA has temporarily suspended in-person Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations until further notice.  If a Veteran previously was scheduled for an in-person examination, VBA is actively working to determine if our contract examination vendors or the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can complete already pending examination requests through options that do not involve in-person communications (such as virtual or telephone options).  Where possible, as claims are received and require C&P examinations, VA also will seek to schedule and conduct examinations via the telephone or virtually.  Claimants will receive instructions if they have been scheduled for a virtual C&P examination appointment.  If a telephonic or virtual examination is not possible, or the claimant does not want to engage in one, VBA will take no final action on their claim(s) until we can safely schedule and complete an in-person examination.  Please check www.va.gov regularly for updates as we continue to adapt this policy based on CDC guidance.  Please note our most recent update issued here: https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=5458

 

COVID-19 has impacted VBA’s ability to process VA’s inventory of rating claims that require an examination. VA is continuing to review the current inventory of claims to issue decisions if we are able, as well as shifting focus to other areas to improve service levels across our entire portfolio. All available rating work is being reviewed, particularly our oldest claims, and any actionable work is being completed.

Beginning in March 2020, VBA’s Pension and Fiduciary Service (P&F) implemented several strategies to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on Veterans and beneficiaries.

In the Fiduciary program, approximately 70 percent of field examinations are normally conducted through face-to-face meetings.  To ensure we can continue to appoint fiduciaries and provide oversight of our most vulnerable beneficiaries in the fiduciary program, VBA deployed the use of VA Video Connect, Skype, and telephonic contact in lieu of face-to-face meetings.

VA home loan activities include eligibility determinations, loan guarantees, appraisals, loan servicing, home adaptations, and property conveyance for terminated VA loans.  Although slight adjustments have been made to program operations, most VA Home Loan program activities are occurring as usual. Current VA home loan data trends show that most VA Home Loan program operations were trending steady with respect to eligibility determinations, appraisals, loan guarantees, and home adaptations.  Loan servicing staff provide VA borrowers in default with guidance regarding loss mitigation options and ensure VA servicers comply with the CARES Act.  VA has noted a decrease in foreclosure sales and properties transferred to VA as a result of terminated VA loans. These decreases can be attributed to requirements stipulated by the CARES moratorium on evictions.

Many VA Home Loan program processes can be conducted electronically; as a result, VA anticipates these activities to remain steady.  However, ongoing COVID-19 economic effects and emerging industry practices may impact overall homebuying activities.  More significant data impressions can potentially be inferred in the upcoming quarter, as there will be additional months of data to review.  

VBA’s Education Service is currently processing all claims in a timely fashion and exceeding timeliness targets of 28 days for original claims and 14 days for supplemental claims. There has been an uptick in school closures related to COVID-19; however, those claims are being adjudicated according to the recently enacted legislation (Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-140).

What funding will be available in the Heroes Care Act?

The Heroes Act has not yet been enacted, but VA will provide updates on funding upon enactment. Please check VA’s webpage and social media for updates.

What is VA doing to improve VHA doctors to help fill out forms/documents for vets requesting them to do so?

VA is changing to phone or video visits instead of in-person visits for most routine appointments. My HealtheVet for secure messaging and VA Telehealth for remote video visits are being used by social worker and patient aligned care teams to assist Veterans, as needed.  Messaging is being provided to Veterans via numerous channels to ensure patients know how to contact their care teams and are aware of VA Video Connect, Virtual Care Manager, My HealtheVet, Rx Refill, Annie App, and Home Telehealth.

Are Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) still available?

VBA continues to use DBQs during C&P exams conducted by VHA and VA’s contracted vendor clinicians.  There are several reasons why VA decided to discontinue making DBQs available for public use.

  • We have modernized. VBA is currently more than half-way through the process of updating all body systems in the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities (VASRD).  This is the first complete update of the VASRD since the 1945 Schedule.  As each body system is updated, so are the corresponding DBQs.  For DBQs used internally by VA, the updated forms are available immediately.  However, for DBQs available publicly, VA must engage in the formal process required any time a public-facing form is modified, which can take more than a year.  This has resulted in outdated forms being available publicly, which can result in a Veteran submitting a DBQ from a private doctor and then being scheduled for a VA C&P exam to gather more information.
  • We have increased our capacity to conduct C&P exams. To supplement VHA’s internal capacity to conduct C&P exams, VBA has contracted with three primary vendors to provide exams across the country.  This has expanded the agency’s ability to conduct exams in more places than just traditional VA Medical Centers and Outpatient Clinics.  The contracted clinicians can provide wider coverage, especially in rural areas and in conducting exams in federal and state prison facilities.  Also, one of VBA’s contract vendors conducts C&P exams in 33 countries overseas, where VHA does not have a presence.
  • We are safeguarding against fraud. In the past few years, we have seen a growing industry of individuals and companies marketing the service of completing DBQs for Veterans. Some have provided honest, valuable service to Veterans.  However, VA has made hundreds of referrals to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) of individuals and companies who are engaged in questionable, even fraudulent, practices that include charging high prices for completing DBQs or submitting DBQs with findings that are vastly different than the other evidence in the Veteran’s claims folder.  Also, it is a requirement that DBQs submitted by a private provider must be based on an exam conducted in person.  VA’s OIG recently issued an audit report about providers who were completing DBQs for Veterans remotely and recommended that VA revisit its practice of making public-facing DBQs available.

VA continues to accept private medical evidence

VA accepts any evidence that a Veteran or his/her accredited representative chooses to submit in support of a claim.  Once all evidence is received, VBA claims processors review and weigh the evidence overall as part of the decision-making process.

  • Veterans may submit private treatment records or request that VBA obtain those records on their behalf in support of their claims.
  • Key methods of submission/receipt for private medical records are as follows:
  • Veterans/Private treatment providers can send medical records directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Claims Intake Center, P.O. Box 4444, Janesville, WI., 53547-4444 or submit to a VA regional office.
  • VA will request records with a VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a signed by the Veteran.
  • Private treatment records can be uploaded as part of an on-line submission of a claim at https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/.

We encourage all Veterans to work with an accredited organization for assistance in completing claims for VA benefits. The accredited representative can help in guiding the Veteran in submitting applicable medical records for consideration in his or her claim.

What happens when a Veteran is never contacted by the VA when they get out?

In close partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD), VA begins communicating with individuals upon their accession into military service and throughout their military life cycle to include engaging with them though the transition assistance program, which has been mandatory since 2011.  Additionally, VA makes every effort to contact newly separated Veterans via Solid Start, a program that was launched in December 2019 to contact Veterans by telephone up to three times in the 1-year period following their separation from military service.  During that year, Veterans receive important information on health care, mental health, and help returning to the civilian workforce.  In addition, VA’s Veterans Assistance Discharge System sends welcome home letters to Veterans that were recently discharged and six months after discharge.  VA also partners with DoD to provide separation information to local and state government partners, so they may contact new Veterans as well. Veterans may also contact VBA directly by calling our National Call Center at 1-800-827-1000 for assistance.

What is the VA doing about the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Public housing authorities (PHAs) are operating at varying levels throughout the country. However, HUD has provided statutory and regulatory waivers to help PHAs’ operations adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the continued ability to issue new HUD-VASH vouchers, to the extent possible. For example, in PIH Notice 2020-05, HUD waives Housing Quality Standards initial inspection requirements to ensure delays in inspections do not prohibit a Veteran from receiving and using a HUD-VASH voucher. While PHAs update their operating procedures to include these new flexibilities, medical centers should continue sending referrals to PHAs. Moving Veterans into HUD-VASH opens up valuable capacity in shelters and transitional housing units, as well as providing Veterans a safe place in which to isolate, maintain appropriate hygiene, etc.

The Homeless Program Office is currently working with multiple partner offices to ensure telehealth capabilities exist for both case managers and Veterans participating in HUD-VASH.  Current efforts are focused on the following:

  • Identifying HUD-VASH case managers who lack telehealth capabilities due to lack of equipment (phones, tablets, laptops), and working with OIT and within the Veterans Health Administration to secure equipment where possible.  There are many obstacles to this effort, and VA currently lacks this capability for many HUD-VASH case managers.
  • Identifying Veterans participating in HUD-VASH who lack telehealth capabilities due to lack of equipment (phones, tablets, laptops), and working with Voluntary Services and the Office of Strategic Partnerships to secure donated equipment for these Veterans.  This effort has just begun and will require significant contributions beyond those made to date to meet the estimated demand.

What is the plan for the VA assisting Veterans seeking employment assistance in this difficult job market?

VA partners with Veterans Service Organizations, Veteran Advocacy Organizations and other Veteran-focused organizations to assist Veterans in the job market and share information on VA benefits, services, and employment opportunities. As an example, VA is working with the Student Veterans of America to connect with their talent pool of over 20,000 veterans through social media outreach and advertisement on the SVA website and the Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn platforms.  Additionally, VA continues to be innovative by increasing our virtual platforms, through virtual Town Halls, Hiring Fairs, and Stakeholder Roundtables.  These virtual platforms are intended to connect our transitioning, Servicemembers, Veterans, their families and Caregivers to benefits and services we promised.

  • For Veterans participating in VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program, Public Law 116-140, the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, provides VA the authority to extend the limited period of employment services beyond 18 months, if a claimant is unable to seek employment during the period from March 1, 2020 to December 21, 2020. This allows VA to add this time to the claimant’s period of seeking employment.
  • In addition, if a VR&E program participant continues to satisfactorily follow a program of employment services during the period from March 1,2020 to December 21, 2020, Public Law 116-140, Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 grants VA the authority to provide additional payments of the Employment Adjustment Allowance, This allows VR&E to continue to provide claimants with additional funds while seeking or maintaining employment that has been recently secured.
  • VBA is continuing to allow Veterans payment of work-study allowances. For as long as the claimant meets these criteria during the covered period, he or she may still receive work-study allowance at the rate of 25 hours per week.
  • VBA has enhanced its collaboration with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service to expand paid apprenticeship opportunities for Veterans participating in the VR&E program.
  • VBA’s VR&E Service has accelerated its employment modernization efforts, establishing eight national account managers to coordinate with national and regional employers and help VR&E counselors across the nation in finding jobs for Veterans.
  • VBA’s VR&E Service is offers Veterans opportunities to participate in virtual job fairs.

Do you foresee the backlog of unadjudicated claims growing rapidly while the face to face C&P exams are held in abeyance? If so, how do you plan to quickly work through the backlog?

Due to COVID-19, there is a pending backlog of medical exam requests that are delaying claims decisions. VBA is proactively working with its contract exams vendors on a plan to increase the volume of exams once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Is the Solid Start program voluntary? Is it offered everywhere or just in certain locations?

VA Solid Start is voluntary and offered everywhere. VA seeks to make early and consistent, caring contact with transitioning Service members and Veterans in order to establish their relationship with VA and ensure their awareness of services available to them, lower their barrier to entry into VA mental health care, and support their successful transition into civilian life.

VA launched the Solid Start program in 2019 to call all Veterans three times after separation (e.g., 90-, 180-, 365-days after military separation).   VA representatives provide Veterans with information on access to peer support, eligibility for health care, eligibility for VA benefits, availability of mental health care after separation, a list of available local and national resources, and a name and a point of contact for any immediate needs.  In addition to calls, recently transitioned Veterans receive information on benefits and eligibility in written format (i.e., by email or mail) about the variety of VA benefits and health care resources available, including mental health care and a caring contact with each Veteran regardless of VA eligibility. Site: https://www.benefits.va.gov/transition/solid-start.asp

Is there any assistance available for the Army Reserve who have lost all income because of no Military Funeral Teams and No Drill?

VA may pay disability compensation to a Reserve or Guard Service member, if the Service member was disabled from a disease or injury that incurred or was aggravated in line of duty. However, VA has no authority to pay disability compensation for the purpose of recompensing service members for lost potential income as the result of changes in Department of Defense policies, such as the suspension of training assemblies, drill team duties, or funeral details.

I was told that the VA vetting process has become more stringent for backing veterans on VA Home Loans, because of mass furloughs and layoffs. Can you provide any insight into this problem?

VA does not make VA-guaranteed home loans directly. Instead, VA guarantees a portion of the loan for the originating bank or lending institution.  The lender is responsible for determining if the Veteran meets income and credit underwriting requirements.  Due to the COVID-19 national emergency, lenders may have amended their FICO score criteria, now requiring higher FICO scores to originate loans.  Ultimately, because the lender is the entity that is lending the funds for the home loan, the authority to approve/deny a particular loan rests solely with the lender, not VA.  While VA does have credit and income requirements, VA does not impose restrictions to credit scores, but lenders have the ability to impose more stringent underwriting standards to satisfy either their internal risk requirements or requirements set by their investors. However, VA encourages Veterans and eligible surviving spouses to work with several lenders before finding one that will approve a loan. Talking to several lenders will ensure that the best terms are being offered.

What is the process for currently scheduled VA claims hearings at the regional offices? Are they being postponed, conducted over-the-telephone, some other process?

Previously, as part of VBA’s efforts to continue processing claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have offered claimants the opportunity to have informal conferences in lieu of formal hearings for their appeals.  However, for other situations, where an informal conference is not possible (such as pre-decisional hearings), or where claimants continue to desire the opportunity to appear in person for a formal hearing, they have been informed that their hearing will be postponed pending stabilization of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic has continued, VBA has been actively looking for solutions to allow claimants the opportunity to participate in a formal hearing while still adhering to COVID-19-mandated health and safety precautions that restrict direct face-to-face communication.  To meet this need, for formal hearings on both claims and legacy appeals, claimants may choose to waive their right to an in-person hearing and elect to conduct the hearing virtually or telephonically via Skype.  However, if the Veteran, claimant, or representative is not comfortable with a virtual/telephonic hearing, no action may be taken to decide the claim or appeal until the in-person hearing is conducted at such time as regional offices reopen and resume normal operations.

In March, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) suspended all in-person appeals hearings, including video hearings conducted at VBA Regional Offices or VHA facilities. Those Board hearings that were scheduled to take place in VBA Regional Offices have either been (at the Veterans request) transitioned to virtual tele-hearings, or postponed until it is safe to resume in-person hearings.

As a university staff member I would love to hear any recommendations on what colleges should focus on when bringing veterans back to campuses?

The schools should determine what safety precautions are appropriate given their specific geographical location and circumstances. Educational institutions can look towards general governmental guidance, such as the White House’s guidelines “Opening Up America Again” (www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/), for guidelines on resume business operations safely.

With more individuals seeking one-on-one meetings with VBA representatives on installations, what is the caseload or wait time looking like for soldiers and their families? Are efforts being made to ensure timely response?

Due to COVID-19, one-on-one in-person meetings with VBA representatives on installations have been paused; however, Military Service Coordinators are currently performing interviews by phone to continue conducting ‘virtual’ meetings and ensure current caseload is addressed in a timely manner.  VBA continues to process all pre-discharge and Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) claims; however, as noted above, claims may not be completed due to COVID-19 impacts to examinations.

VA has also discontinued in-person benefit briefings and services on military installations for transitioning Service members and their families through the interagency Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  The VA Benefits and Services course may be accessed through the DoD Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) platform and by registering for “TGPS-US006: VA Benefits and Services.”

If you have questions about VA benefits and services or preparing for transition, reach out to your Defense Department (DoD) TAP Manager. Your DoD TAP Manager can connect you with a VA Benefits Advisor for a remote One-On-One Assistance session who is able to answer your questions and connect you with resources over the phone.

Why doesn't the VA offer small business loans like VA homes loans to Veteran-owned businesses?

VA does not provide direct loans or guaranty loans for small businesses because VA does not have statutory authority to do so.  At one time, VA was charged with providing small business loan guaranties, but the law was repealed after the program fell into disuse.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (commonly known as the GI Bill) directed the Veterans Administration to guaranty loans for purchase of real property and certain supplies and equipment, to support a Veteran’s small business.  This was expanded in 1958 to include working capital.

However, the Small Business Administration’s loan programs proved to be more popular.  By Fiscal Year 1973, the Veterans Administration reported that it had only guarantied 3 small business loans the entire year.  As a result, in 1974, Congress repealed VA’s small business loan program.

Is there a way to create a program that is like Solid Start but for Surviving Spouses? When our spouses pass on we are hit with all kinds of information about services and programs when we are in the fog of grief. It is difficult to process and retain the information for later when the services and programs might be needed.

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VA appreciates the recommendation as we are always looking for ways to enhance the level of service we provide to Survivors.  Currently, VBA’s National Call Center provides priority service to Survivors reporting the death of a Veteran. Call agents have received extensive training for all survivor benefits and can provide information about and access to any benefits or services to which the Survivor may be eligible. Survivors have the option to discuss their benefits during the call or call agents can provide a package of information on Survivors benefits for their review. When ready to discuss available benefits, the Survivor can contact the NCC for immediate assistance.

Can the legion change their financial support program to support Guardsmen, not just Title 10 personnel?

The American Legion provides a single one time non-repayable Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) grant of up to $1,500 for the minor child(ren) of a qualifying veteran in need. This includes members of the United States Armed Forces serving on federal orders currently under Title 10 of the United States Code, OR any veteran possessing an up-to-date membership in The American Legion. Currently serving National Guardsmen are eligible to join The American Legion and upon doing so would be eligible for the TFA grant. To learn more about our TFA program, please visit our website at the link provided below.

Does Wounded Warriors help with TBI resources?

Yes WWP does assist with TBI’s. This link will provide you with information on the Warrior Care Network.

How can some of the local 501c3 veteran service providers get connected together?

Wounded Warrior Project: WWP is a major advocate of collaborating with other organizations. Reach out to our Resource Center to get connected.

 

American Legion: Oftentimes, members of Veterans Service Organizations are affiliated with multiple organizations and organizations even share posts in some communities. The best way to get connected with your local post is to utilize the “Find a Post” feature on The American Legions website, the link is provided below. If you are looking for assistance with your VA disability benefits, we encourage you to utilize the “Find a Service Officer” feature on our website.

Many veterans are informing us that their VSOs are no longer working. Where should we refer those vets? Is there a central call line to get them connected?

Wounded Warrior Project: The VA can provide you with a list of accredited VSO’s that are still working. Wounded Warrior Project, VFW and American Legion are all definitely still working and have adjusted efforts to work within this new environment.

American Legion: The Services Officers of The American Legion are currently working from home and continuing to assist veterans with their claims. You can find a Service Officer in your local area by utilizing the “Find a Service Officer” feature on our website.

Veterans of Foreign Wars: While our service officers are no longer allowed to meet face-to-face with veterans, they are still assisting veterans remotely. Email is the best way to reach out advocates while offices are closed to visitors. You may receive an out-of-office message, but they are regularly checking email and assisting veterans. The VFW has a button to find a local service officer on our website, www.vfw.org/nvs, and of course, if you don’t hear back from them in a timely manner, you can contact our national office at vfw@vfw.org or 1-800-VFW-1899.

What national resources are available for Veterans needing financial assistance for Veterans and their homes and loans in Alaska. Is there a one stop resource or lots of places to check for this?

Wounded Warrior Project: You can seek financial assistance through the Wounded Warrior Project by contacting the Resource Center.

American Legion: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) allows individuals using VA loans to place them in forbearance for up to 180 days if they have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Provided below is a link that discusses this provision in more detail.

Veterans of Foreign Wars: I can’t speak to Alaska specifically, but if veterans experience unexpected financial hardships connected to their military service, a service-connected disability, or other unexpected hardship that is not through the fault of their own, the VFW Unmet Needs emergency grant program may be able to assist. Details about the program, including eligibility criteria and ways to apply can be found at www.vfw.org/unmetneeds

How are the VFWs reaching out to members, especially the at risk community?

As part of the VFW”s #StillServing campaign (www.vfw.org/stillserving), VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz called on VFW posts to fully engage with their communities to support those affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and called on VFW members to check in on their fellow veterans. On www.vfw.org, we’ve highlighted dozens of examples of VFW Posts stepping up to fill in the unique needs of their communities during this crisis. Of course, different Posts will have different tools at their disposal. Some are distributing meals to their communities, checking in with elderly Post members, and others are able to offer emergency assistance to those in their community. Of course, our veteran support programs, like disability benefits assistance or Unmet Needs emergency grants remain available to assist veterans.

Strategies for Resuming K-12 Education

Has tutor.com considered tutoring for parents who need to learn what their kids are learning?

Tutor.com understands that many parents struggle with remembering and explaining concepts, most are not trained educators, and that homework and at-home learning can be stressful for everyone. We have 3,000+ tutors, but not one of them is an expert in every academic subject for every grade level…and no one expects a parent to be, either. 

Our tutors, using the secure Tutor.com online classroom, help reduce the stress around learning for the child and parent by providing on-demand, one-to-one, anonymous expert academic support and encouragement. We know many parents will either observe in real-time what their children are learning during a Tutor.com online tutoring session, review previous tutoring sessions in their child’s account, or log into their child’s Tutor.com account to ask their own questions and work with a tutor so they (the parents) can help their children. 

Aside from tutoring, Tutor.com offers parents free resources, such as our recent three-part webinar series on Common Core Math. Webinar recordings and other resources are available at tutor.com/clientcaremil/outreach. Webinar announcements and the latest Tutor.com news are available at facebook.com/TutordotcomForMilitary.

Is tutor.com a free service for everyone?

Tutor.com is free for elementary through college and adult students who are funded and specified as eligible to use Tutor.com’s services. For U.S. military families worldwide, the Tutor.com for U.S. Military Families™ program (tutor.com/military) is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) General Library Program and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA).

As of the June 11, 2020 CMSI Town Hall, all current DoD and Coast Guard service members, civilian personnel, and all dependent family members are eligible to access and use the DoD- and CGMA-funded Tutor.com/military program at no cost for homework help and tutoring in more than 100 subjects and test prep.

Those who fund the Tutor.com for U.S. Military Families program determine eligibility for its use, and eligibility can change. Visit tutor.com/military for program and eligibility information. Questions about the Tutor.com for U.S. Military Families program can be emailed to militarysupport@tutor.com.

Non-military and other students not eligible to use the DoD-funded program who are interested in using Tutor.com should contact their local libraries, K-12 school districts or colleges to ask about available online tutoring services.

Are any of the companies/organizations hiring educators?

  • Tutor.com –  Tutor.com recruits expert tutors year-round. To apply, visit tutor.com/apply. Also note that Tutor.com is a Department of Defense (DoD) Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) Enduring Partner. MSEP is a career partnership that connects military spouses with employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses. Tutor.com is committed to recruiting military spouses, especially as tutors who can choose their own schedules and work remotely.
  • MIC3Schools are always looking for educators, especially in schools that are heavily impacted with military children. Inquire locally with the school or at the district websites for postings and employment opportunities
  • Partners in PROMISE is a private organization currently operating with an all-volunteer force.  We would be delighted if you would like to lend your expertise as an educator and become a Strategic Partner with us on our mission to advocate for military children with special needs and their education.  Please join at www.thepromiseact.org/get-in-touch.  
  • All of DoDEA‘s positions are advertised on USAJobs, including substitute teachers and classroom aides.    https://www.usajobs.gov/.    As of June 11, 2020 there are currently 87 positions advertised at various levels of education expertise in diverse global locations.  Our demand changes regularly so those interested in working for DoDEA are encouraged to check the site periodically. 
  • Blue Star Families – https://bluestarfam.org/about/job-opportunities/
  • Tutor.com – https://www.tutor.com/apply
  • DoDEA – https://www.dodea.edu/offices/HR/employment/vacancies.cfm
  • Edmentum – https://www.edmentum.com/about/careers
  • GreatSchools.org – https://www.greatschools.org/gk/careers/
  • Partners in PROMISE – https://thepromiseact.org/get-involved/
  • Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission – https://www.mic3.net/index.html
  • Military Child Education Coalition – https://www.militarychild.org/careers

How much time during the summer day should a child spend in "at home summer school"? Like a 3rd grader? Or a 6th grader? What is a good expectation each day? Section

  • Tutor.com – Tutor.com’s Learning Services team of education and curriculum experts—many of whom are former teachers—recruit and oversee Tutor.com’s 3,000+ tutors. These experts recommend, depending on the child’s age and attention span, no more than 30-120 minutes per day. They also recommend splitting the total daily structured learning time into smaller increments of 15-30 minutes and alternating days. 

During the summer, experts recommend focusing on reading (vocabulary building), writing (there are great prompts that are easily “Googlable”), and math (either remediating or previewing skills). Schools often provide summer reading suggestions, and parents can typically find curriculum information on district websites.  If parents are struggling to find grade-appropriate writing prompts or sample math problems, eligible military families can log into their no-cost Tutor.com accounts and ask a tutor for suggestions. Tutors are also available to review a student’s work, alleviating the pressure on parents to be subject-matter experts and the pressure on students to quickly master concepts and skills. 

Tutor.com’s Learning Services team also encourages parents to blend structured learning activities with other activities such as cooking, scavenger hunts, board/video games and crafts. These activities–all of which children are likely to consider more entertaining–also provide opportunities to practice academic skills such as reading, math, and writing, plus other essential meta-cognitive skills such as observation, critical thinking, and using a growth mindset. Activities might also include virtual zoo and museum visits, such as those offered online by the National Aquarium, San Diego Zoo, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, NASA, and The Louvre. Tutor.com resources such as parent webinars explaining Common Core Math and summer project ideas are available at tutor.com/clientcaremil/outreach.

An example schedule for a 6th grader might include two 30-minute learning activities per day, with workbook lessons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and reading and writing on alternate days, with other “fun” activities incorporated into each day.

Tutor.com’s experts also remind parents that stress impedes learning and the brain loves novelty; just like adults, children need occasional breaks from structured activities and the opportunity to experience relaxed “fun time” in order to better (re-)focus. Consider how to be flexible and modify your schedule and learning activities if the plans are causing stress for your family.   

  • Partners in PROMISE – If a child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), they may be eligible for Extended School Year (ESY) services conducted during the summer.  This depends on the needs of the student and whether the state has set guidelines for local education agencies regarding the implementation of Extended School Year (ESY) services.  

An IEP Meeting should be held to determine if ESY services are necessary. The amount of time for services needs to be whatever that student requires to implement their ESY IEP goals. There is no cookie-cutter answer, as there are no cookie-cutter students. 

  • DODEA – When determining the best course of action of at-home summer school, start with your goals for your students learning.  Some reflective questions to ask yourself before you prepare a schedule:  What is the purpose of summer school this year?  What do I hope my student accomplishes during this extended learning time? Is this for skill maintenance and/ or refinement?  Is this for “catch-up growth” (fill in a few areas we missed during the traditional academic year)?  Is the reason for at-home summer school annual growth (we’re behind, and we want to start on grade-level)?  Also consider: what would your student be doing if they were not at-home this summer due to COVID-19, and would that activity meet your goals?  Is there a way to creatively recreate that experience so that it doesn’t feel the same as the last 12 weeks?  All of these answers will help determine the amount of time needed.   

In the broadest general terms, school systems typically offer summer school academic programs (excluding all wrap-around services) for about 4-6 weeks, about 4 hours/day at a minimum of four days per week.  Students pack their own snack and are dismissed for lunch at home. There are two popular approaches: a single session schedule for summer learning typically begins after July 4th and ends at least two – three weeks before the start of the next school year. This is most often used for elementary students.  A two sessions approach is typically three weeks long/session and is most often used for middle and high school students because it is course specific.  Students offered a dual schedule approach may enroll for one or both sessions.  

A rising 3rd grader should be engaged in reading for 30 minutes every day.  If read-aloud time is consistently available that increases to at least 30 minutes of independent reading and 20 minutes of read aloud, or about 50 minutes each (or most) days.   This does not need to be in one sitting.  It is recommended that a rising 3rd grader engage with non-fiction text for at least 25-30% of their reading diet (science, math, history, the arts etc). 

We recommend struggling readers who are attempting to accelerate skills before the start of the school year add an additional 15 minutes to their reading diet, and change the emphasis.  Thus a struggling reader would receive reading instruction for about 20 minutes daily, and read independently for about 25 minutes daily. If adding the read aloud time nearly every day, we recommend a struggling reader engage with daily reading instruction for about 20 minutes/day, independent reading for about 25 minutes and then enjoy a read aloud for an additional 20 minutes (just over an hour a day).  The research on this is indisputable:  struggling readers, on average read less than 15 minutes per day, and on an irregular schedule.  Students that spend time reading 30 minutes a day or more make the greatest gains. Struggling readers who add 15 minutes /day to their reading diet are able to make gains and most catch-up, especially if 3rd grade or lower. This does not need to be in one sitting.  

The same organization of reading time applies to a rising 6th grader, increasing to 45 minutes/day of independent reading and increasing the read aloud time to about 30 minutes, making the total time 95 minutes, over an hour, or more.  This does not need to be in one sitting.  We recommended that a rising 6th grader engage with non-fiction text for at least 50% of their reading diet (science, math, history, current events, the arts, etc.) and begin to explore technical reading and writing such as: directions for furniture assembly, manuals (ex: washing machine operations, bicycle repairs, digital devices), recipes, sewing patterns; all in a non-video format. 

All readers are encouraged to seek and be led to text that is a mix of fiction and non-fiction genres to include:  stories, poetry, dramas, comedy’s, read-aloud stories, informational texts (historic, scientific and technical text), and informational read-alouds.  All reading material is beneficial: magazines, newspapers, charts, graphs, articles, journals, books, letters, literature, poetry, classics, recreational and significant texts.  All formats are acceptable: print in all forms and digital.  The requirement is that it be text, not visual.

Public libraries nationwide, along with most school systems offer summer reading lists that include a variety of recommended materials and topics.  If your school system (sending or receiving) does not offer suggestions, please consult the DoDEA summer learning program for ideas and suggestions https://www.dodea.edu/summerLearning/index.cfm or one of the other summer learning resources offered in this webinar.  

Hawai’i eligibility for kindergarten. Past duty station had child on track for kindergarten but Hawai’i says he misses their cutoff date. Now he would have to do a third year in preschool. He can read. What can we do?

  • MIC3 – The Interstate Compact for Educational Opportunity for Military Children does cover public school Kindergarten transfers, however to be eligible, the child must have enrolled and attended KIndergarten in the sending state in order to continue Kindergarten in the receiving state.  Perhaps the family could inquire with local private schools on  eligibility for Kindergarten. For example, Navy Hale Keiki Preschool, located near Pearl Harbor, and primarily for military families, the eligibility for Kindergarten is aged 5 by September 30 or a child who has successfully completed a comparable prekindergarten in another state.  Another option is to check with the service school liaison officers who can assist families as they transition into Hawaii at http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/ParentsAndStudents/MilitaryFamilies/Pages/Home.aspx
  • MCEC – From the MIC3 Rules, SEC. 3.102 Application for Transfer of Student Records and Enrollment Kindergarten and First grade entrance age – Students shall be allowed to continue their enrollment at grade level in the receiving State commensurate with their grade level (including Kindergarten) from a LEA in the sending State at the time of transition, regardless of age. In the case of a Kindergarten student, the student must have been enrolled and attended class in the sending State in order to assure continued attendance in Kindergarten in the receiving State. A student that has satisfactorily completed the prerequisite grade level in the local education agency in the sending State shall be eligible for enrollment in the next highest grade level in the receiving State, regardless of age. A student transferring after the start of the school year in the receiving State shall enter the school in the receiving State on their validated level from an accredited school in the sending State. http://www.mic3.net/assets/rules-2018-revised-9-nov–2018.pdf (INTERSTATE COMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR MILITARY CHILDREN COMPACT RULES pg.9)

ny advice for the active duty families who are on remote duty station orders away from major installations? We are concerned about when we do arrive back around large bases and frankly better schools. Our schools here just stopped all additional learning while others have continued.

  • MIC3 – In addition to the resources shared by the panel, such as Tutor.com, I would connect with Military One Source for virtual resources and support available for your area and perhaps, state. Service school liaisons may be helpful in providing state specific opportunities or resources. Perhaps connecting with homeschool organizations or families in your area as well. Lastly, seeking other academic programs in your area such as Kumon or Mathnasium – sometimes they offer a military discount or scholarship.
  • MCEC – Get together with your student and emphasize subjects where you know (or foresee) there may be challenges during the next school year.  Several tools that can help are:
    • Learning Heroes.   This is a great site to let your child do their “readiness check” to find out what subjects need to be addressed (https://bealearninghero.org)
    • We also suggest that you check out your state’s department of education website and look at their grade level expectations.  Other websites like Parent Toolkit and Milestones by Great Schools are also useful to find out grade level expectations, especially if you have a move coming up and are unsure if your child is going to be ready for the new grade AND the new school’s expectations.(https://www.parenttoolkit.com and https://www.greatschools.org/gk/milestones/)
    • Tutor.com has recently expanded eligibility opportunities for all ages and is now available at no cost to any adult or child in a DoD Civilian, Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve or Wounded Warrior Military Family.  Your student can have one-on-one tutoring support with a live, certified tutor. (www.tutor.com/military)
    • Consider also some online enrichment or educational websites. You can find a list of grade-level resources on our MCEC website under COVID-19 Support. Select “For Parents”  In the accordion. (www.militarychild.org/covid-19)
    • Lastly, you can utilize the SLO at the nearest installation even if you do not live on or near a  military installation when you return. https://www.dodea.edu/Partnership/schoolLiaisonOfficers.cfm
    • Each location has handled student learning differently during COVID 19.  Teachers are equipped to assess students when they return to school in order to identify and address any potential learning gaps.  Parents can help by being  open to the teacher’s recommendations about remediation if a specific deficits arises.  Partnering with the school will be essential.

I appreciate that the Education Secretary has said that schools are required to meet terms of IEPs and 504s. What does that look like in practice when a student is required to receive X hours of counseling or one-on-one support that is no longer available in the pandemic setting? Concrete advice is essential, yet seems to be missing.

MCEC

Our best concrete advise on this topic would include the following courses of action:

  1. Contact the school or district to ask about receiving required services outlined in the plan. 
    1. Ask when required services will resume; even if teleservices?
    2. Ask if your child will be provided with compensatory services to make up for lost service hours due to school closures?  This should be in writing and would require an amended IEP.
    3. If live therapy is not an available option, ask about teletherapy services to start immediately.
    4. If your child experiences a hard stop on required therapy services from the school and now has come into summer break, contact your primary care provider to get a referral for insurance funded teletherapy over the summer; provide interventions for your child now to reduce gaps and reinitiate the conversation regarding compensatory services at the start of next school year.
    5. Document all correspondence and changes made.
    6. Additional Resources:
      1. Is the School Required to Make Up Missed Services? https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/fape.svcs.covid-19.htm
      2. Special Education During a Pandemic https://drroseann.com/special-education-during-a-pandemic/

Partners in PROMISE

The answer to this is not simple. In order for a student to receive a FAPE, the IEP must be appropriate and implemented as written. The issue is what happens when schools are not in session. 

If a nondisabled student is afforded an educational benefit, the disabled student must also be afforded the benefit. If a state’s government has stated that no face-to-face instruction is allowed and has put other restrictions in place that would prevent the implementations of some special education services, then the school district would have a compelling reasonable argument as to why they were not implemented. 

However, services such as counseling are not required to be conducted in-person. The argument for refusing these services is much weaker. These services can be provided telephonically or by video conference unless there is some restriction based upon the service provider’s credentials, rules and regulations governing the practice of their discipline (Speech Language, Occupational Therapy, etc.).  Some school districts have successfully contracted with private providers for those services so those options should be considered.  Each case is different and there must be a case-by-case analysis within the context of the Local Education Agency and the State Education Agency.

All statements have been reviewed by Partners in PROMISE’s co-founder, Grace Kim, a special education attorney based out of Virginia.