Category Archives: military families

Military Families

FD Webinar: Wellness Strategies, Burnout Prevention, & Mindfulness

Two Part Series on Wellness Strategies, Burnout Prevention, & Mindfulness

Part One

Date: April 2, 2015

Time: 11am-1pm Eastern



Eric Thompson, PhD and Isabel Thompson, PhD,  will explore current research findings linked to burnout and wellness for mental health clinicians. The presentation will also include burnout prevention and wellness strategies utilized to promote a more mindful work-life balance.

We offer 2.0 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2014 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook Twitter)

Don’t forget to join us for part two of this Series

Date: April 23, 2015

Time: 11am-1pm Eastern



Latino Stressors and Adjustment

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Insignificance, February 24, 2008]
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Insignificance, February 24, 2008]
When cultural values (such as the importance of family) conflict with other demands, the resulting stress can lead to a mental health issue. Alamilla, Kim, and Lam examined ethnic identity, cultural change, and mental health in a group of 130 Latino/a students at a predominately European American university to determine what influence cultural change would have on symptoms of anxiety, hostility, and somatization (complaints about physical symptoms not caused by physical disease) [1].

The 130 students of Latino background (74 women and 56 men), 31% were first generation, 59% were second generation, 5% were third generation, and 5% were fourth, fifth, or did not report generation status. The students were assessed to determine:

  • Adherence to traditional Latino/a values such as an emphasis on family, respect, dignity, and cultural pride
  • Orientation towards a traditional Latino value system compared with a traditional Anglo culture
  • Ethnic/minority student stresses (e.g., social climate, interracial relationships, discrimination)
  • Perceived racism
  • Psychological symptoms

The results of the study indicated that the higher the perceived racism, the higher the levels of anxiety, hostility, and somatic symptoms, regardless of level of acculturation. Minority student stresses were also found to predict psychological symptoms. Interestingly, level of acculturation or type of values did not seem to predict adjustment. This means that, while level of acculturation and type of values might be important in some regards, sense of racism, or stressors relating to being a minority can have a much greater impact. As a therapist, it will be important to be aware of the role that these sorts of stressors can play for Latino clients.


[1] Alamilla, S. G., Kim, B. S. K., & Lam, N. A. (2010). Acculturation, enculturation, perceived racism, minority status stressors, and psychological symptomatology among Latino/as. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 32(1), 55-76. doi:10.1177/0739986309352770

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family evelopment (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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Ethnic Minorities in the Military

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Third Army celebrates start of Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15, 2011]
Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Third Army celebrates start of Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15, 2011]
By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 50% of the U.S. population will be made up of ethnic minorities. Are their social and psychological needs different than those of the predominately European American majority, particularly during family separations such as deployment?

In a 2010 article, Behnke, MacDermid Anderson, and Weiss published the results of a study comparing ethnic groups and their views of the resources available to them during times of stress (such as deployment or other separation from family) and their resulting intention to leave the military[1].

Of the 14,791 participants in the study (married with children), ethnic participant groupings were as follows: 10,829 European/American; 1,987 African-American; 1,111 Hispanic/Latino; 864 Asian American/Pacific Islanders. Resources considered included:

  • Material resources – pay grade and family income.
  • Family resources – personal time, family health benefits, support for children, child care, and military family support programs.
  • Work-related resources – satisfaction with workload, assignments, quality of leadership.
  • Social resources – military member support from the military community.

The researchers found that minority groups faced with family separation were almost twice as likely to consider leaving the military when compared with European Americans. The researchers also found important similarities and differences among minority groups related to separations (such as deployment) and available resources:

  • There were no differences among ethnic groups when considering the relationship between family separation and family or work resources.
  • For Latinos and Asian Americans the influence of material resources, pay grade or family income, was more significant than for other groups.
  • The relationship between family separation and social resources was almost twice as strong for Asian Americans than for other groups.

For all groups, the importance of family resources was as important as work-related resources when considering remaining in the military.

As clinicians working with ethnic minority groups in the military, it is important not only to consider that a client is part of an ethnic minority, but that their individual mental health needs may vary according to their particular ethnicity. For all ethnic minorities, working with the family is particularly important – insuring that there is adequate and stable support from home. Family support may have a large part to play in a military member staying in the military and providing a stable livelihood for the family.



[1]Behnke, A. O., MacDermid, S. M., Anderson, J. C., & Weiss, H. M. (2010). Ethnic variations in the connection between work-induced family separation and turnover intent. Journal of Family Issues, 31(5), 626-655. doi:10.1177/0192513X09349034

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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Income Tax Tips for Military Families

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension 

At the height of income tax filing season, it is appropriate to examine special tax benefits for military families. Military personnel and their families face unique life challenges with their duties, expenses, and transitions and, because of this, the following special tax benefits are available:
U.S. Army photos by Pfc. Ma, Jae-sang
  • Moving Expenses: A service member on active duty who moves because of a permanent change of station (PCS) may be able to deduct unreimbursed moving expenses.
  • Combat Pay: If a service member serves in a combat zone as an enlisted person or warrant officer for any part of a month, all military pay received for service during that month is not taxable. For officers, the monthly exclusion is capped at the highest enlisted pay, plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay received. Service members can also elect to include nontaxable combat pay in their “earned income” for purposes of claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Extension of Deadlines: The deadline for filing tax returns, paying taxes, filing claims for a refund, and taking other actions with the Internal Revenue Service is automatically extended for qualifying members of the military.
  • Joint Returns: Generally, joint income tax returns must be signed by both spouses. However, when one spouse is unavailable due to military duty, a power of attorney may be used to file a joint return.
  • Travel to Reserve Duty: Members of the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves can deduct unreimbursed travel expenses for traveling more than 100 miles away from home to perform Reserves duties.
  • ROTC Students: Subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay—such as pay received during summer advanced camp—is taxable.
  • Transitioning Back to Civilian Life: Service members may be able to deduct some costs incurred while looking for a new job. Expenses may include travel, resume preparation, and agency fees. Moving expenses may be deductible if closely related to the start of work at a new job location and certain tests are met.
  • Tax Assistance: Most military installations offer free income tax filing and preparation assistance during and/or after the tax filing season.

IRS Publication 3: The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide is an excellent resource because it summarizes many important military-related tax topics. Publication 3 can be downloaded from or may be ordered by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Another helpful resource is this list of federal income tax brackets. When someone knows their tax bracket, they can calculate the benefit of taking actions such as making charitable gifts and saving for retirement. For example, a $4,000 Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contribution will save $1,000 in taxes for someone in the 25% tax bracket ($4,000 x .25).

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on March 2, 2015.

This America Saves Week: Take Your Financial Future into Your Own Hands

By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director

America Saves Week, February 23 – 28, 2015, is the perfect time to review your finances, set your savings goals for the year, and set up a system that will allow you to save automatically. That’s why the America Saves Week theme is – Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

ASWDid you know that only half of Americans report having good savings habits? Even if you are already saving, it’s good to take a look at your greater financial picture and decide whether there’s potential to save more or set a new savings goal. Join thousands of others who are pledging to pay down debt, save money, and take financial action during America Saves Week.

Not sure what to save for or what to save for next? Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:

  • Save for Emergencies – Research has shown that low-income families with at least $500 in an emergency fund are better off financially than moderate-income families with less than this amount. Nearly a quarter of savers who have taken the America Saves pledge have chosen “emergency savings” as their first wealth-building goal. Learn more.
  • Save for Retirement – Retirement savings is a top priority for many savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work. Learn more.
  • Save for Education – Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves. There are many different things to factor in when saving and paying for college. Learn more.
  • Pay Down Debt – Getting out of debt is the #3 goal savers select when they pledge to save. The good news is that there is hope. With planning, discipline, patience, and maybe some outside help, almost anyone can reduce their debts and start to accumulate wealth. Learn more.
  • Save for a Home – For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity – the market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans – represents more than four-fifths of the typical family’s wealth. Learn more.

 Not sure how to save for your goals? Here are some saving strategies to help:

  • Save Automatically – The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. Learn more.
  • Save at Tax Time – Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow? Many people view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses. They see the money as a gift from the government, to use for splurges or treats. But a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation. Learn more.

Take the America Saves Pledge, or re-pledge, today to set your savings goal and make a plan to save. When you take the Pledge, you can also choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save for your goal. And don’t forget to follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter.

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on February 23, 2015.

Suicidality Among Veterans after Surgery

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Suicidal ideation and behavior is a critical topic for the U.S. military.  According to a recent Huffington Post article, 185 active-duty Army soldiers committed suicide? in 2013 – more than the number of Army soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan in that year [1].    However, much still needs to be learned about what increases risk of suicide, and the role that ethnic status could play in suicide risk.

Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, White Wreath Association, May 29, 2009]
Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, White Wreath Association, May 29, 2009]
Copeland and colleagues researched suicidality in Hispanic and African American veterans [2] to determine if there was a relationship between suicidal behavior and ideation (SBI) in post-surgical patients who had a history of severe mental illness. This analysis included 89,995 veterans who had undergone surgeries such as bone or joint surgery, vascular surgery, or amputations.

Of the 89,995 VA patients (with an average age of 64) in this sample, 2,836 were found to have suicidal behavior and ideation in the 3 years following surgery.  Consistent with previous research (Prior suicide attempts, Oct 2014), the researchers concluded that veterans with a previous history of severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or depression) experienced a significantly increased likelihood of SBI.

However, the results of the study were not as clear when examining different ethnicities – African Americans showed an increased likelihood of SBI while Hispanics did not, and it was not clear why this was the case. It was noted that both African-American and Hispanic surgical patients reported higher rates of severe pain after surgery, but received lower doses of medication than White, non-Hispanic pain patients.  More study will be required to determine the influence of ethnicity on   the risk of SBI following surgery.

While this study had a number of limitations, (the study used archival data and was limited to veterans, there were few women in the study) the importance of mental health care following surgery was clear.  Pre-operative and post-operative mental health monitoring is important to achieve a positive outcome for the patient.

When working with minority groups in the military, consideration should be given to the individual client’s environment – family, work, and community – and the influence of culture in these groups.

In an upcoming webinar Dr. Andrew Behnke will focus on current issues and implications for clinical and advocacy work with Latino military families.


[1] Wood, D. (2013, September 25).  Tragedy of military suicides will ‘go on for many years,’ army chief warns. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from:

[2] Copeland, L. A., McIntyre, R. T., Stock, E. M., Zeber, J. E., MacCarthy, D. J., & Pugh, M. J. (2014). Prevalence of suicidality among hispanic and african american veterans following surgery. American Journal of Public Health, 104, S603-8.

 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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Service Professionals Offer Advice for Military Caregivers

What advice can you offer families of wounded service members? In the latest Military Caregiving, ‘Professionals Helping Professionals’ video, military helping professionals from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor in Washington state offered their advice to family caregivers of wounded service members on various issues.

Watch and listen as each professional provides key tips and strategies for caregiving, especially if the service member is currently going through the medical evaluation process.

After listening to the military helping professionals, what advice can you offer that you think is beneficial for military caregivers to be aware of?


The ‘Professionals Helping Professional’ video series was developed in order to highlight various military service professionals and their work with wounded service members and families throughout the branches of service. The goal of the video series is to enhance the work of military helping professionals and provide educational development to better support our service members and their families.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on February 17, 2015. 

Adapting Care to Culture

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, 35th CSSB hosts Hispanic Heritage Month observance, October 9, 2014]
Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, 35th CSSB hosts Hispanic Heritage Month observance, October 9, 2014]
What are the most important factors in creating a culturally competent mental health practice?

In a recent article published in Advances in Social Work, Christi Luby reviews cultural competency literature related to the military and provides a framework for increasing cultural competency [1].  The framework for developing cultural competency is an ongoing process, beginning with a self-inventory to evaluate office or individual prejudice on military issues.  Next steps include: 1) Adapting care to the military culture; 2) Increasing personal or office involvement by attending military activities; and, 3) Encouraging military member’s participation in community activities.

Luby, 2012, p. 69

Adapting care to the military culture may include the following steps:

  • Consider the military mission and values. For instance, in the military culture the mission may be the most important aspect in the military member’s life.  This attitude will influence the military member’s view of his/her role in the family.
  • Organizational structure and rank hierarchy play an important role in success of the military member at work. Providers may benefit by understanding rank and how rank influences an individual’s behavior at work, in the family, and in the community.
  • Consider the demographics of the individual military member’s unit. Characteristics of the work group surrounding the military member may influence the available support for the individual.
  • Become familiar with terms and idioms that are specific to the military. Communication on the client’s level is important to building a strong therapeutic relationship.
  • Include the family when considering the culture. For instance, the family may be experiencing the stress of deployment differently than the military member and the stressors experienced by the family and their ability to cope will affect the performance of the military member.

A large number of active duty military members and reservists seek mental health care in the community away from base.  By developing and maintaining cultural competency, a community clinician can develop the communication skill and knowledge to build a trusting relationship with the client that can help achieve successful outcomes.


[1] Luby, C.D. (2012). Promoting military cultural awareness in an off-post community of behavioral health and social support service providers. Advances in Social Work, 13(1), 67-82.

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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Asset Allocation in Real Life

By Michael Gutter, Associate Professor, Interim FCS State Program Leader, and Family Economics Specialist, University of Florida

Photo Courtesy of DVIDSHUB
Photo Courtesy of DVIDSHUB

Marcus, 27, and his wife of five years Stephanie, 26, have a three year-old son, Alexander. Marcus is a proud member of the Army, his wife Stephanie is just thinking about going back to work now that their son has started going to daycare. They recently decided that they wanted to do a better job of managing their finances.

First, they met with a counselor who helped them to create and write down their goals. So they worked together to identify several SMART goals; that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Adaptable, Realistic and Time-bound. They came up with:

  1. Payoff their $3,900 in credit card debt in the next 3 years.
  2. They want to payoff Stephanie’s $16,000 in student loans in the next 10 years.
  3. They want to be able to fund their son’s college education in 15 years, for four years, assuming $12,000 per year in today’s dollars.
  4. They want to be able to retire in 34 years and afford a similar lifestyle to what they have now.

Their counselor worked them on a debt repayment plan and budget. They were able to determine how much money they could afford to save for their last two goals.

For Alexander’s education savings, they chose their state’s 529 plan, which happened to be Florida. The Florida state 529 plan allows for 11 different investment choices. This was a bit overwhelming for Marcus and Stephanie who have very little background in investing. Their first thought was to take little or no risk. However, when they looked at this option, and used the online estimator, they found they would not be able to save as much money as needed to reach their goal for Alexander’s education.

They asked some questions and learned about the relationship between risk and return. They also learned how the amount of ups and downs differed between different types of investment assets. Stocks had a higher return in the long run but had a lot more ups and downs. On average, the risks and returns tend to work out over time, with stocks doing well for long-term goals that are more than a decade away, but bonds were more stable in the intermediate terms. Short-term goals, within the next year or so, would require cash and fixed income. So different time frames required different weighting for each of those areas; stocks, bonds, and cash. They settled on a mutual fund whose allocation to these asset types changed over time as the child aged; it was timed to his high school graduation year.

This same information was helpful as they looked into Marcus’ Thrift Savings Plan that he was eligible for, Marcus is a Sergeant in the Army. He looked at the different fund options. They also looked at the Lifecycle Funds.

What would you pick if you were Marcus?

Stephanie decided to open an account herself. She went with a Roth IRA. She had to build her asset allocation in this account, too. Using the same concepts, she learned about screening mutual funds from the MFLN webinar on Asset Allocation. She was able to find a mix of funds that gave her a lot of growth potential over the decades she still had until retirement.

Asset allocation can make a difference in how much we need to save to reach our goals. Asset allocation can also be a tool to diversify or manage the risk of the portfolio. It is an important decision most of us will face as we seek to save for our goals! For more information on asset allocation in personal portfolios, check out a recorded web conference by the Military Family Learning Network Team.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on February 16, 2015.