Category Archives: military families

Military Families

Promising IPV Offender Interventions

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Battling PTSD, May 24, 2010]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Battling PTSD, May 24, 2010]
In a recent blog, we highlighted a study conducted by Dr. Taft and colleagues establishing the link between PTSD and relationship problems . But, are there effective treatment solutions for perpetrators of violence?  In an article published by Dr. Taft and colleagues [1], the researchers reported on preliminary findings from an intervention that shows promise.

The authors report that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant problem in military couples – the frequency of violence for military couples may be as much as 3 times the frequency of violence in civilian intimate relationships.  There is limited information on the effectiveness of interventions for IPV. When the preliminary study of the Strength at Home intervention was published, the authors indicated that there were no empirically validated studies of IPV interventions in military couples.

The Strength at Home model uses a cognitive-behavioral intervention in a group setting.  The 12-week program uses a closed group format, meeting weekly in 2 hour sessions.  Initial sessions focus on education on IPV and common reactions to trauma.  Weeks 3 and 4 provide conflict management and assertiveness skills. The third phase focuses on identifying negative thought patterns contributing to anger and IPV, relating thoughts to core trauma issues, and coping with stress.  The final sessions include instruction on a range of effective communication skills, capped by a session focusing on the gains witnessed over the past 11 weeks.

Participants in the intervention were included if they had been in a recent relationship, met DSM criteria for PTSD, had a self or collateral report of physical IPV, and provided consent to contact their female partner.  The study included 6 male participants after screening and excluding participants that did not complete the assessment, intervention, and/or follow-up.  Male physical and psychological IPV was assessed prior to initiating treatment and 6 months after treatment completion.  Their female counterparts were assessed prior to the military member’s treatment and 6 months after treatment.  Preliminary study results indicated that intervention participants:

  • Perpetrated significantly lower physical IPV,
  • Showed significantly lower psychological IPV, and
  • Displayed a significant decrease in the frequency of psychological aggression,

While this study is only preliminary, the results show promise of developing a practice for treating perpetrators of IPV.  It is notable that the sample size was very small, and there was a very high drop-out rate. A randomized controlled trial of the Strength at Home intervention is currently being conducted to more systematically assess the program outcomes on a larger sample.

For more information on the Strength at Home intervention, visit our website for information on Dr. Taft’s upcoming webinar.


[1] Taft, C.T., Macdonald, A., Monson, C.M., Walling, S.M., Resick, P.A., Murphy, C.M. (2013). “Strength at home” Group intervention for military population engaging in intimate partner violence: Pilot findings. Journal of Family Violence, 28(3), 225-231. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-013-9496

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Understanding FMLA for Military Families & Caregivers


When working with our Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Military Program at various installations across the state, it became apparent that many of our employees were unaware of the types of leave that are available. Approximately half of our Extension Military Program personnel consist of families of active duty service members, the other half are families of veterans. When we employ these types of individuals it is important that not only our Agency understand the types of leave available to the employee, but that our employees are also aware. If you are a military family member or a military caregiver currently employed, there is new legislation regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that could be beneficial to your family.

In 2010 FMLA was amended by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to expand leave rights to employees with family members in the military depending on the individual’s circumstances. Under the new legislation by NDAA, FMLA includes two new benefit entitlements for military families: (1) Qualifying Exigency Leave and (2) Military Caregiver Leave.

Let’s take a closer look at which type of leave would best fit you and your service member’s situation.

Qualifying Exigency Leave

Eligible employees who fall under the Qualifying Exigency Leave can take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave yearly for reasons related to the call to active duty of covered service member’s spouses, children, or parents. Qualifications for Exigency Leave include:

  • Service member has received a week or less for orders of deployment
  • Service member is involved in military events and/or related activities
  • Urgent child care or school activities is warranted
  • Financial and legal tasks related to family member’s active duty
  • Counseling for the employee or child who isn’t already covered by FMLA
  • Time spent with service member on rest and recuperation (R&R) breaks during deployment
  • Post-deployment activities
  • Providing care to parent of the service member when the parent is incapable of self-care and the service member necessitates a change in the existing care arrangement for the parent

If you qualify for Exigency Leave you must give reasonable notice to your employers upon seeking leave. Employers may require certification for Qualifying Exigency Leave, in which you will need to provide a copy of your service member’s active duty orders.

For more information on Qualifying Exigency Leave go to the Department of Labor’s, Qualifying Exigency Leave under FMLA fact sheet.

Military Caregiver Leave

If you are caring for an active duty service member or veteran that has been wounded, Military Caregiver Leave is available. Military Caregiver Leave allows employees up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for seriously injured or ill “covered” service members. However, eligible employees may take an additional 26 weeks of leave in a different 12-month period to care for the service member in the event another injury is sustained. Employees may also take Military Caregiver Leave to care for families members who sustained a qualifying injury for up to five years after they have been discharged from service. Eligible employees include the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or “next of kin” of the covered service member.

Service members who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness may be covered under the following qualifications:

  • Member of the Armed Forces
  • Discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable
  • Discharged within the five-year period before the eligible employee first takes FMLA military caregiver leave to care for the service member

If you qualify for Military Caregiver leave you may be required to provide certification by an authorized health care provider for employers to allow for leave to care for your service member. Health care providers can be from the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, or non-military affiliated providers. In addition to authorization from your healthcare provider, you may be required to submit documentation of family relationship in order to complete the certification process.

To see if you qualify for FMLA leave for your current service member or veteran check out the following fact sheets provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

By knowing the types of leave available to you, it will not only help alleviate the many emotions that come with being part of the military community, but it will help you to know your options as an employee in the event your service member is deployed or wounded.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on May 22, 2015.

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Early Intervention Matters: A Parent’s Perspective

By Robyn DiPietro-Wells

When I became pregnant with my first child I was full of hopes and dreams. I dreamt of all she would do, become, and accomplish. I envisioned her entire future and wondered which parent she might take after.  Would she love cheerleading and dance like me? Or would she take after her dad and play sports all her life? Maybe she’d play an instrument or be an artist. I dreamt dreams of all kinds. The future looked bright and I was excited. And isn’t that how a lot of moms feel during pregnancy?

Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells, August 7, 2005
Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells, August 7, 2005

Lily was born full term and was presented to me as a picture of health. However, when she was about five months old I noticed she was a bit behind on several of her motor milestones.   She wasn’t rolling over yet. She favored her left hand and never really used her right hand. She wasn’t sitting up…not even when I helped support her. I used some of my background as an elementary school teacher to informally assess her. I knew developmentally what she should be doing…and in some areas she was behind.

I initially went to our medical providers for help. I sought out a referral to a pediatric occupational (OT) and physical therapists (PT). At our very first assessment of Lily the PT and OT told me that Lily presented with symptoms typically found in infants who have had a stroke. It was as if all the air went out of the room. Never in all my life did I expect that! This was not a part of my dreams!

An MRI and a visit to a pediatric neurologist resulted in an official diagnosis of cerebral palsy due to a stroke in utero.  At that time, the best piece of advice I received was from our pediatric neurologists. They stressed the importance of starting therapy early due to the neuroplasticity of the infant brain. They never said what she wouldn’t be able to do. They simply pointed me in the direction of therapies and information! They gave me back my hope and dreams for Lily’s future by stressing the importance of early treatment and intervention.

In the first three years of Lily’s life we utilized both private therapists through our medical insurance, but also Part C Early Interventionists with the state of Virginia. Once Lily aged out of the Part C portion, at 3 years of age, we had her evaluated for Part B Special Education with our local school district. While she did not qualify for Part B, she continued to receive therapies through our medical insurance. She also participated in numerous special projects and programs at the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in their STEP Clinic.

Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells April 24, 2015
Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells April 24, 2015

Today Lily is almost 10 years old.  This spring she ran her first 5K and she loves to climb the rock wall at our local YMCA! She is a top-notch student at school and participates in nearly all of the same activities as her typically developing peers. I attribute all that Lily has accomplished to two things: One, her intense hard work and perseverance and, two, early intervention, both formal Part C Early Intervention, but also starting therapies of all kinds at an early age.

It wasn’t easy. My husband was active duty Army until November 2012 and worked 125-140 hours a week. We have three children younger than Lily, one who also has special needs. I know the challenges of being both a military spouse and the mother of children with special needs. I know how hard it is to persevere with Tricare (military medical insurance) and to advocate for your child’s needs. I want MFLN readers to know that there are answers for parents, there are ways to help the children with which you work, there are ways to support the parents, and that ANYTHING is possible. Great things can happen. Great things happen when children with developmental delays receive help, therapy, and treatment early through both Part C Early Intervention and private medical insurance.

The entire MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team is here to enable service providers to help military families with children with special needs reach their highest potential.   We are dedicated to, not only your success as a provider, but also the success of the families with which you work. Please feel free to reach out to us ( and utilize the resources found within the MFLN Family Development webpage.

This post was written by Robyn DiPietro-Wells, the Social Media Specialist for the MFLN FD Early Intervention (EI) team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTubeand on LinkedIn.

Motivating Service Members to Adopt Positive Financial Behaviors

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

Motivating clients or students to adopt and maintain positive financial behaviors is one of three topics included in this year’s three day Virtual Learning Event (VLE) sponsored by the MFLN Personal Finance team. The hard reality is that getting others to change their behavior is difficult and counselor/educator goals and client goals are often not the same. In addition, many people have internal (e.g., emotional) and external (e.g., lack of transportation) barriers that interfere with goal attainment. To change financial behavior, practitioners must know where clients want to go, identify barriers, avoid judgement and assumptions, and provide realistic and do-able options.

Lori Mann (right) an Army Career and Alumni Program counselor offers career guidance to a Soldier at the ACAP center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo courtesy of Installation Management Command
Lori Mann (right) an Army Career and Alumni Program counselor offers career guidance to a Soldier at the ACAP center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo courtesy of Installation Management Command

Research theories can help inform behavior change efforts. One commonly cited theory is the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM), which states that people go through five stages of change ranging from being unaware of the need to make a change (precontemplation) to continuing to perform an action that was previously taken (maintenance). Change processes such as learning new facts about a behavior change (e.g., saving money), called consciousness-raising, and helping relationships with others help people progress through the five stages.

Personal qualities also affect how people behave financially. Locus of control refers to whether people attribute their successes and failures to their own efforts or forces outside of their control. Time preference refers to people’s desire for current spending or future wealth. People with a present bias have a short time horizon and are less likely to save for retirement. Conscientiousness refers to the degree to which people follow rules and expert recommendations, are careful, thoughtful, and organized, and make well-considered decisions. How can these concepts be applied to financial counseling and education practice? Consider these suggestions:

  • Assess clients’ readiness for change using the TTM. For additional information, including suggested questions to ask click here.
  • Provide assistance with goal-setting by turning goals into a series of steps using this Rutgers Cooperative Extension Financial Goal-Setting Worksheet. Also, people may have a “goal behind the goal” (e.g., saving money to avoid being a “bag lady”) so gently probe to determine their underlying desire and motivation to change.
  • Help clients simplify their finances with practices such as direct deposit, mutual fund automatic investment plans, stock dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs), automated credit union savings, retirement plan (e.g., TSP) deposits, and bill-paying, checking to savings account transfers, and stop-loss orders on stock.
  • Address obstacles to adopting recommended practices (i.e., anything that blocks progress). For example, let’s say someone has not prepared a will. Obstacles could be financial (perceived high cost of lawyers), social/emotional (choice of a guardian for children), or logistical (don’t know how to find a lawyer).
  • Identify client “hot buttons” (i.e., issues that cause people to feel strong emotional responses) to facilitate personalizing the delivery of financial information. Good probing questions to assess financial hot buttons include “What makes you happy?,” “Where do you want to be in 3-5 years?,” “What worries you the most about money?” and “Tell me about your family.”

To join the Motivating Clients to Develop Positive Financial Behaviors, webinar on Tuesday, June 2 at 11 a.m. ET visit:

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 19, 2015.

PTSD and Attachment Styles in Romantic Relationships

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Argument, January 1, 2009]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Argument, January 1, 2009]
Military deployment can lead to challenges in maintaining healthy relationships with spouses or partners.  In this preliminary study [1], researchers examined the relationship between a military member’s symptoms of PTSD and the couple’s attachment styles.

A total of 20 heterosexual couples (18 of whom were married) were recruited from the Army and National Guard as part of pilot study of stressful couple interactions.  To be included in the study, the military member had to have experienced at least one deployment and the partner had to be in a committed relationship with the military member at the time of deployment.  Participants (both the military member and their partner) completed surveys to measure PTSD symptoms of the military member and the Multi-Item Measure of Adult Romantic Attachment (MIMARA).

In this study, attachment style is considered “the attachment bond that exists within a relationship”.  Of 3 attachment styles (secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent), the researchers examined avoidant and anxious/ambivalent styles. Analyses suggest the following:

  1. The spouse’s report of the service member’s PTSD symptoms was related to the military member’s avoidant attachment style.
  2. The spouse’s report of PTSD symptoms was related to their own avoidant attachment style.

While this was a small and preliminary study, it might be helpful for clinicians treating military service members with PTSD to keep in mind the role of attachment behaviors in the relationship, and how this might intersect with both symptoms and treatment.


[1] Frey, L.M., Blackburn, K.M., Werner-Wilson, R.J., Parker, T., & Wood, N.D. (2011). Posttraumatic stress disorder, attachment, and intimate partner violence in a military sample: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 23(3/4), 218-230. doi:10.1080/08952833.2011.604530

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN FamilyDevelopment (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.


Target Date Fund Basics for Financial Counselors

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

The May 26  2015 MFLN Personal Finance webinar is about target date funds (TDFs), including the L fund investment option available in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal government employees and service members. Also known as lifecycle funds (that’s what the “L” stands for), target date funds are “all in one” portfolios that typically include three types of investment categories known as asset classes: stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents (e.g., money market funds). Their asset allocation weightings (e.g., 50% stock, 30% bonds, 20% cash) automatically adjust and become more conservative (i.e., lower stock percentage) over time.


Target date funds typically have a date in their name such as the “2050 fund” and investors chose a fund with a date that is close to their expected year of retirement. Dates are spaced out at 5- or 10-year intervals (e.g., 2030, 2035, etc.). Most TDFs are “funds of funds” with underlying funds from the same fund family. Examples include Fidelity Freedom Funds, Vanguard Target Retirement Funds, and T.Rowe Price Retirement Funds.

TDFs were created in 1994 and have gained popularity in the last decade as a qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) for tax-deferred retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s and, starting in October 2015, TSP accounts for new federal employees. Some employees who are enrolled in employer investment plans fail to provide instructions for investing their deposits. In these cases, employers invest their plan contributions in the default investment. Investors also like TDF’s “low maintenance” style for savings outside of workplace plans.

Below are key facts about target date (lifecycle) funds that investors and those who counsel them need to know:

  • TDFs generally only make sense if they include the bulk of someone’s retirement savings. Otherwise, their asset allocation is altered by “outside” investments, which contradicts the whole premise of using them.
  • A defining characteristic of TDFs is their glide path, which determines the asset allocation mix over time. Pictured as a descending staircase, the glide path indicates how the stock percentage decreases over time.
  • Glide paths are a critical factor in TDF performance and investment companies use several types of glide path methods. Glide paths are used in both TDFs and age-adjusted portfolios in 529 college savings plans.
  • “To” glide path TDFs assume that retirement age is the target date and, at that point, the portfolio’s stock % weighting and investment mix remains static. “Through” glide path TDFs continue to decrease the stock percentage for a designated number of years after the target date before leveling off.
  • The “landing point” is the point in the glide path where a TDF reaches its lowest stock % allocation. Not surprisingly, TDFs with different glide paths and landing points have very different risk profiles.
  • TDFs are not without controversy. Performance issues during the financial crisis brought to light the fact that many TDFs were not as conservatively positioned as their names implied. This led to new disclosure rules by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010, including better disclosure of TDF glide paths.

To this webinar on May 26  at 11 a.m. ET or to view the recording,visit

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 12, 2015.

MFLN Community Capacity Building Kicks Off


Building community capacity is defined as increasing the ability of people to take care of each other and take care of their community (Bowen et al. 2001).

All of the military services are engaged in some form of community capacity building. Everyone has widgets, applications, and websites to reach the target audiences, but social learning needs to be integrated, and results need to be captured and evaluated. One of the challenges is to be where the customers are – and it isn’t always on a military installation.

The Department of Defense sets policy for service providers to link formal and informal networks to promote a sense of community and optimize Service member and family strengths and capacity to demonstrate resilience. Promoting inter-agency collaboration and service coordination within and among Federal and non-Federal entities to identify and achieve common family readiness goals and improve communication among service providers and with Service members and their families is also a requirement.

Therefore, the focus of community capacity building must not only include installation and surrounding communities, but also the geographically dispersed.

As a part of our “kick-off” of the new Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Community Capacity Building (CCB) concentration area, primary Department of Defense (DoD) and Cooperative Extension community capacity building stakeholders came together with the goal of sharing CCB efforts from a DoD perspective with the MFLN Leadership team and to help increase awareness of Cooperative Extension within DoD.

May 19 MFLN Community Capacity Building Webinar

As an outcome of this effort, the MFLN CCB team will put together a webinar to exchange information on available programs and services with both the military and civilian communities.

This will be an opportunity to introduce new military service providers to the Military Families Learning Network, and more broadly to Cooperative Extension.

Join us for our kickoff webinar Military Family Readiness webinar on May 19!


Bowen, G. L., Orthner, D. K., Martin, J. A., & Mancini, J. A. (2001). Building Community Capacity: A Manual for U.S. Air Force Family Support Centers. Chapel Hill, NC: A Better Image Printing.

Resource Discovery: PTSD Monthly Update

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Are you a practitioner who serves active duty military members, veterans and/or their families? Then it would be great to learn about recent developments in research, particularly on the topic of PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs now provides their PTSD Monthly Update in an email format.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD Monthly Update]
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD Monthly Update]
The newsletter provides updates from the National Center for PTSD on topics related to the military and PTSD, including helpful information and tools for service providers.  When signing up for the newsletter, you will also be offered an opportunity to sign up for a wide range of email news. Some of the other topics that might be of interest include Health and Wellness, VA resources, Research and Development, and Military Families.


This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN FamilyDevelopment (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Q&A with #MFLNMC: How is Medicaid affected by the Affordable Care Act?

Senior Man in a Wheel ChairAre you a military service provider or caregiver to a family member whose medical coverage falls under Medicaid? Are you unsure how their coverage may be affected by the Affordable Care Act? In today’s caregiving post we take a brief look at the impact the Affordable Care Act has on Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to expand Medicaid based on the percentage of the federal poverty level. About half of the U.S. has opted to do this as of early 2015. These states have expanded Medicaid eligibility to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The ACA also creates incentives for states to further develop Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and to incorporate the programs into their state Medicaid programs, making services more widely available. HCBS are provided under federal waivers that allow states to provide services to qualified individuals. As a result, the scope of services may be limited, the populations served may be specified, and the approval to operate the waiver time may be limited.  Medicaid is and remains a federal-state program that is administered by state governments.

To learn more about Medicaid check out our Medicaid and Military Families: An Introduction training.

Have a question for our military caregiving team? Let us know! We want to hear from you.

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Twitter Cohort Lite

By Molly C. Herndon , Social Media Specialist

The Personal Finance and Network Literacy teams will again be joining forces to create a learning opportunity for folks interested in Twitter. The 2-week event will begin May 18.

This year’s event will focus on asynchronous activities that participants can complete at their own pace. The event’s guides have assembled resources and homework for participants that will teach new skills and broaden existing networks. Watch videos and view last year’s syllabus here.

The Twitter Cohort Lite promises to be an easy way to get your feet wet and start tweeting with a supportive and encouraging network of professionals. By participating in this year’s event, you will:

  • Twitter-CohortBuild your Twitter personal learning network centered around your interests.
  • Engage in conversations with a Twitter community that starts with your fellow cohort members and reaches across the world.
  • Start online relationships that will last into the future.
  • Begin to see how Twitter can be used for teaching, learning, and connecting.

So if the Twitterverse seems intimidating or if you’re just learning to enhance your own personal learning network, register today for this immersive learning opportunity.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 5, 2015.