Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Financial Planning at Divorce

 By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Military families often experience many stressful events (e.g., PCS moves and deployments). Another one is divorce. The period of time before and after a divorce is especially difficult because people are expected to make rational and far-reaching decisions at a time of emotional turmoil. This may also be their first experience with the court system and hiring an attorney. In addition, expenses often increase when a spouse moves out and sets up a separate household.

Below is some key information to share with military families to help them cope with the financial stresses of divorce:

  • Do not sign a property settlement agreement, or any divorce-related document, that you do not understand or you feel contains unfair terms. Consult your own attorney – not your spouse’s attorney – before signing anything
  • Estimate the dollar value of household property. Fair market value is the price at which a willing buyer will buy an item and a willing seller will sell it. Replacement value is the cost of replacing an item (e.g., refrigerator) at current prices. As spouses discuss how to divide property, the one who plans to keep property may think in terms of fair market value, while the other (who will be replacing property) may think in terms of replacement value.
  • Determine who will pay debts incurred during a marriage. List all debts including a home mortgage, car payments, and credit card accounts. Usually, one spouse or the other will assume an obligation and agree to “hold harmless” the other party. However, it is important to note that, if either party doesn’t pay a jointly held debt, creditors may collect from either spouse. Creditors are not bound by the terms of a divorce decree.
  • Plan for future retirement income. A divorced person is eligible for Social Security benefits based on former spouse’s earnings, even if the former spouse is not yet retired. In order to qualify for benefits, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years. For questions about division of military Retired Pay and the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), seek assistance from an attorney who is well versed in military divorce issues.
  • Know the tax consequences of divorce decisions. Marital status on December 31 determines tax-filing status for the year. Usually, the custodial parent claims a couple’s children as dependents. However, a custodial parent can waive the right to claim dependents as part of a divorce settlement, thus allowing the other parent to do so. A signed waiver statement (IRS Form #8332) from the custodial parent is required to be attached to the non-custodial parent’s tax return. Child support is neither deductible by the spouse who pays it nor included in the income of the recipient. Alimony, on the other hand, is taxable to the recipient and deductible as an adjustment to the payor’s gross income.
  • Recognize that 50/50 splits of assets are not necessarily equal. For example, if one spouse takes sole possession of the family home, he or she also shoulders the burden of future property taxes and repairs, as well as possible capital gains taxes. The other spouse, who receives the same dollar amount in cash, has an asset that will continue to grow. Clearly, this property distribution is not equal even though the dollar value is the same.
  • Encourage divorcing couples to consider hiring a professional mediator to resolve issues related to divorce. Mediators are trained not to “take sides” but, rather, to work out a settlement that is fair and equitable for both spouses. This includes both financial issues and other considerations such as child custody. Once these issues are resolved, each spouse’s attorney can assist with a final agreement. This is usually a far less expensive and time-consuming process than letting lawyers negotiate a settlement.

For further information about military family divorces, view the 2012 eXtension MFLNPF webinar, Financial Implications of Divorce. Additional information can be found here.

Why is a Support System Important During the Recovery Process?

“When families and spouses are involved, whether mental health or medical diagnosis, that person is being setup for success.”  – Courtney Wilson, U.S. Air Force Mental Health Liaison

The recovery process is never a “one size fits all” approach for wounded warriors and varies depending on the severity of their condition(s). While the military provides a continuity of care to the service member during the medical and/or physical evaluation process, it is the level of involvement from families that has shown positive effects during the recovery of wounded warriors. Evidence exists that family members, especially spouses, may offer important social support, including help, emotional encouragement, and compliance with therapeutic instructions [1].  Similarly, a nonsupportive family context may be associated with a lack of treatment recommendations and result in poor recovery [1].

In the video below Captain Courtney Wilson, an Air Force Mental Health Liaison describes the importance of involving a support system in the recovery of mental health patients. While the service member’s continuity of care is maintained, Capt. Wilson said the family provides an outlet so the warrior doesn’t have to take on everything by themselves. Listen below to Capt. Wilson’s response on the importance of a support system.


[1] Tsouna-Hadjis E, Vemmos KN, Zakopoulos N, Stamatelopoulos S. First-Stroke Recovery Process: The Role of Family Social Support. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2000; 81:881-7.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 17, 2015.

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Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event…Coming Fall 2015


We are getting a jump start on the planning process for the MFLN Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event (VLE), happening this fall. Mark your calendars for a three-part series for military service providers that will focus on an integrated approach to professional development. The VLE will highlight the core competencies to working with military family caregivers of wounded service members and caregivers of special needs individuals.

The three-part series includes topic areas in Building Trust and Credibility (October 28); Cultural Competencies (November 4); and Compassion Fatigue (November 18). Each event encompasses the overall theme of the professional development training – targeting the “core competencies” of our professional work with clientele.  Our goal is to re-energize the working environment and inspire personal and professional growth in order to better serve our service members and their families.

The VLE is so unique from our normal professional development webinars because participants can gain a more engaged training that is similar to a professional conference but in a virtual format. The events are also more compatible with the busy schedules of military helping professionals and provide training on a virtual level to alleviate the travel restrictions and budget cuts that many of us are faced with.

Oh and did I mention this is a FREE training that is open to the public, not only military professionals, but to all who may be interested?

Be on the lookout for more details to come. In the meantime, begin penciling in the VLE trainings into your calendar.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 3, 2015.

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Where is the Salt (Sodium)?

Flickr, Sodium Chloride Crystals (NASA, International Space Station, 05/13/03) Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Flickr, Sodium Chloride Crystals (NASA, International Space Station, 05/13/03) Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Robin Allen, MSPH, RDN, LDN

The 2010 US Dietary Guidelines recommends a reduction in sodium intake to less than 2300 mg a day and to 1500 mg for persons who are 51 and older, African American, have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. At that time I was an Administrative Dietitian for a large multi-unit college food service. When these guidelines came out I immediately and naively went to my Chefs (yes they were all trained certified chefs) and asked them to decrease the amount of salt being used.  From the horrified expressions and anguished protests you would have thought I was taking away their first born!  

I started looking into our recipes and menus, which thankfully were all in our menu management system with the nutritional analysis.  Now I began to understand the magnitude of the problem!  Reducing the use of salt was only the tip of the ice berg!  Many foods, not naturally high in sodium, became so because of soup base mixes, seasoning mixes, and use of processed foods. Even some chicken breasts, my go to “healthy meal”, may contain excessive sodium due to a process called “plumping”.  Plumping is the injection of a saline solution into the chicken breast during processing to enhance flavor , and add weight. Changing over 1500 recipes which fed up to 20,000 students per day was massive and monumental undertaking!  This would also involve a change in purchasing products, food preparation, such as making soup base from scratch, changing the Chefs’ attitudes and changing our entire taste profile.  And finally our customers would complain and add salt!  It is no wonder that consumers are confused and have difficulty controlling their sodium intake.

So where so we get the most sodium in our diet if it not just salt? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the following is true about sodium content of the diet:

  • Americans get 75% of the sodium from restaurants, prepackaged, and processed foods.
  • Salt added during cooking at home is only 5% of the intake of sodium.
  • Some foods naturally contain sodium which makes up the remaining 12%.
  • Many processed, packaged food are high in sodium but do not taste salty.
  • Bread and rolls, luncheon meat, cured meats, and pizza top the list in sodium.
  • Bread can contain anywhere from 80 to 230 mg of sodium per slice.
  • 1 serving of lunch meat can contain 750mg of sodium, half of some peoples’ daily allowance.

Sodium intake is not just a problem for Americans.    Excessive sodium intake is a key factor contributing to prehypertension and hypertension all over the world.  Identifying food sources of sodium is critical.  Using data from the  INTERMAP Study to define major food sources of sodium in diverse East Asian and Western population samples, researchers set out to discover the source of sodium in the diets of these countries.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the world’s population consumes 2,300 mg to 4,600 mg sodium per day.  Where is this sodium coming from?  In Japan, China and Southern China, salt added during cooking, soy sauce and salted vegetables were the main source of sodium.  In the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US), breads, grains, cereal, salt from restaurants, fast food and processed foods at home,  and red meats, poultry and eggs were the primary source. The conclusion of the study indicated that China should focus on reducing salt in cooking and Japan, the UK and US must reduce sodium in processed food.

So how do Dietitians and Health educators help their patients/clients lower their sodium intake?  The following steps are outlined by the CDC.

  • Eat more fresh or frozen (no sauces) fruits and vegetables.
  • Look for no salt added or low sodium versions when using canned vegetables, or choose frozen varieties without sauce.
  • Read the nutrition labels on packaged foods. Compare sodium in different brands.
  • More home cooked meals prepared without using processed or packaged foods.
  • Use salt free herbs and spices rather than processed sauces, packaged broths, packaged seasoning mixes or condiments.
  • When you do go out to eat, ask restaurants not to add salt to your meal. Use condiments in small amounts; ask for lemon, vinegar or other condiments to help with flavor.
  • Ask your favorite restaurants, stores, and food manufacturers to offer more low-sodium options.
  • You CAN re-train your taste buds. Over time, the less sodium you eat, the less you’ll want.

What are you doing to help your patients/clients reduce their sodium intake?

Are you looking at your facilities’ menus and recipes to see if adjustments can be made to food preparation and purchasing?

Are you educating your staff of the importance of sodium reduction in the diet and food supply?



ANDERSON,CA, APPEL,JA, OKUDA, Dietary Sources of Sodium in China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Women and Men Aged 40 to 59 Years: The INTERMAP Study.  J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110:736-745.


This post was written by Robin Allen, member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter and on LinkedIn.


Key Takeaways from Respite Training

In this month’s MFLN Military Caregiving webinar, the topic at hand was “Respite,” with an emphasis in understanding the value of respite care for family caregivers. As the month of June draws to a close, let’s recap some of the items and key takeaways you can use in your work with clientele from ‘The Value of Respite for Family Caregivers’ training.

Respite care is a term used by professionals who work with family caregivers on finding ways to care for themselves. This month’s webinar presenter and caregiver consultant, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D. defined respite in her training as essentially “having ME time.” No matter if we are professionals or family caregivers, we can all use a little “me time.” The question is, “Do we really understand the importance of caring for ourselves and alternative care solutions?”

If we look back at Dr. Brintnall-Peterson’s presentation, she identified potential benefits to using respite such as, reduce caregiver stress, improve health and well-being, minimize precursors to abuse and neglect, and strengthen marriages and family stability. She also discussed the two types of respite care: (1) home-based respite and (2) out-of-home respite. If we break down the two types of respite care further, examples include:

  • Home-based respite: professional services; sitter companion services; family and friends
  • Out-of-home respite: Assisted living facilities; residential facilities; camps; retreats, hospital type programs

The June caregiver training also increased awareness of available respite resources for both caregivers of wounded service members and those caring for individuals with special needs. What was so unique about this particular professional development webinar was that the presenter engaged participants with thought-provoking questions and scenarios on how they would respond to their particular clientele using the information they learned in the training. Dr. Brintnall-Peterson left participants with six key takeways to use when reflecting on their caregiver clientele and caseload. Review the image below and think about your own caregiver clientele and how these tips can be helpful as you work through your cases.

Respite Recap

If you missed this month’s caregiving webinar, The Value of Respite for Family Caregivers, there is still time to watch the recording and receive continuing education credit or a certificate of completion.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 26, 2015.

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Meet our Newest MFLN Military Caregiving Special Needs Team

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration is rolling out new educational programming geared to not only caregivers of wounded service members but to those caring for individuals with special needs. The Special Needs area delivers research-based training, information and learning tools for family support providers who work with military families who have special medical and educational needs.

Delivering quality professional development opportunities, this online learning community provides individuals with access to webinar training sessions, social work CEU’s, fact sheets and a variety of learning resources.   Family support providers will connect with experts via Twitter, Facebook and online blogs which highlight best practices and key issues in effectively serving military families.

To meet our newest team members of the MFLN Military Caregiving Special Needs concentration, click on the video below. Alicia Cassels, 4-H Extension Specialist and Christopher Plein, Ph.D., Professor of Public Administration, from West Virginia University talk a little about the introduction of special needs within MFLN and project initiatives currently underway.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 19, 2015.

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Chaplain’s Advice on Responding to Severe Stories from Warriors

“We practice how to tap into emotions and use it to help us understand and reflect back to the Service Member.”  – Captain David Reedy, U.S. Air Force Chaplain

As a caregiver, your service member may open up to you about really severe stories or memories that have impacted them while serving. This can also hold true to many military helping professionals as they work with their clients. You may be thinking internally that the information the loved one or service member is sharing is hard to hear, but know it took a lot for that individual to really divulge. In those moments of deep conversation, barriers that once held him or her back are beginning to breakdown and you can get a sense of what their needs may be in regards to care management.

Watch and listen as Captain David Reedy, Air Force Chaplain at Joint Base San Antonio offers tips and benefits to handling emotional stories from service member’s military experiences.

How do you feel about Captain Reedy’s response? What are some things that you have found with regards to your wounded warrior’s stories?

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 5, 2015.

June Caregiving Webinar: The Value of Respite for Caregivers


Remember to join the MFLN Military Caregiving team for our upcoming, monthly professional development webinar on, ‘The Value of Respite for Family Caregivers.’ Event details are below.

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2090

As a military helping professional working with family caregivers, it helps to understand that not all caregivers know what respite is, nor do they understand the importance respite plays in their health and well-being. In some cases, caregivers may even be reluctant to use respite services. During the presentation, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., will identify ways respite can and cannot benefit family caregivers and help professionals identify respite options for caregivers to match their individual needs. Dr. Peterson will also share respite resources with professionals for family caregivers of wounded service members and caregivers of children with special needs.

Dr. Peterson comes to us from the University of Wisconsin where she is a Professor Emeritus in Extension education. She also has over 25 years of experience as an educator of family caregivers and shares both personal and professional caregiving experiences.

CEU Credit Available!

The Military Families Learning Network has applied for 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit for credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions. 

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

*No registration is required; simply go to, The Value of Respite for Family Caregiver, the day of the event to join. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system to open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

For those who cannot connect to the DCS site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on May 29, 2015.

Financial Therapy Insights for Financial Counseling & Education

By Molly C. Herndon

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson will deliver the second session of the Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event. This 90-minute webinar on June 3 at 11 a.m. ET will focus on the psychology that promotes changes in behavior through financial counseling.

The image 14296 counseling & psychology by Texas A&M University Marking Communications Photography for this webinar is licensed Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Photo by Texas A&M University Marking Communications Photography (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.)

This session will explain what financial therapy is and how it differs from financial counseling, coaching, and planning. Attendees will learn some of the specific techniques and models used in financial therapy and tips on how to incorporate some of these techniques into financial counseling sessions to help facilitate the opportunity for lasting financial behavior change.

Financial therapy focuses on client behavior, and combines the often overlooked aspect of spending: emotion. By tackling underlying issues, financial therapists can often help clients make behavior changes that have positive impacts on their finances.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson is a is a leading researcher in military financial behavior and the principal of Silverbell Solutions, L.L.C., a financial therapy and consulting firm based in Arlington, VA. She’s a Certified Financial Planner® and holds both the Accredited Financial Counselor™ and the Certified Retirement Counselor® designations.

To join this session on Wednesday, June 3 at 11 a.m. ET, and for more information visit: https://learn.extension.org/events/2019

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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