Category Archives: military families

Military Families

Beware of Holiday Frauds

Photo by karenwarfel via CC0 Public Domain
Photo by karenwarfel via CC0 Public Domain

Military families are a frequent target for holiday scams. With the holiday season in full swing, so are various frauds associated with it. Frauds tend to follow current events whether they are natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornados or seasonal events like income taxes and end-of-year holidays. Unfortunately, the holidays can bring out the worst, as well as the best, in people as thieves, both in person and online, steal victims’ money and/or identity.

Below are some common holiday scams to caution service members about:

Online Scams

  • Beware of e-mails asking you to provide personal information to receive a package. These are often phishing schemes to obtain personal identification information (PII) to commit identity theft. Don’t click on links from unknown sources.
  • Beware of “too good to be true” sales offers for relatively inexpensive high-end goods and electronics that request personal identification information. Fake retailer websites, may send shoddy merchandise or nothing at all and steal victims’ PII.
  • Beware of phony web sites with “off” logos and spelling and grammar mistakes and sales offers that require wire payment.
  • Use an application like Norton SafeWeb to warn you about unsafe websites.
  • Look for contact information on retail websites. For example, a phone number and physical location rather than a PO box or sole e-mail address. Another indicator of a reputable retailer is a “Terms and Conditions” link for return policies.
  • Beware of offers for “too good to be true” holiday season travel. The accommodations that are offered may be substandard or non-existent. Always deal with reputable travel agents and tour package providers.
  • Make sure that online orders are secure by looking for https:// in the website URL of an online merchant.

Postal Scam

  • Beware of postcards for “undeliverable” packages. Some of these scams request PII or are a ploy to make expensive phone calls. For example, callers may be directed to the “hotbed” fraudulent area codes of 284, 809, and 876 in the Caribbean.


  • Use a credit, instead of a debit card, for large purchases. Not only can you receive rewards, but the credit card company may be able to reverse charges for shoddy or damaged goods. With a debit card, check, or cash, your money is gone.
  • Carry a minimum amount of cash, plastic, and personal information when shopping or traveling during the holidays and make sure that your wallet or purse is secure at all times and not left unattended (e.g., on the back of a chair).

Charitable Donations

  • Never provide donations and/or credit card information to telephone charitable solicitations. Some are outright scams and many have such high administrative expenses that very little money actually goes to the charitable cause.
  • Donate money only to charities you know that are registered with the IRS. Check their 990 form at
  • Beware of phony charities that sound like legitimate ones (e.g., National Cancer Society instead of American Cancer Society).
  • Beware of phony charities that make highly emotional appeals for disabled police, firefighters, and military veterans.

Package Delivery

  • Avoid having unattended packages left for delivery on your doorstep. Some criminals actually follow delivery trucks to steal victims’ holiday packages.
  • Require a signature for package delivery. If no one is at home, request that the package be given to a trusted neighbor or held at the nearest package pick-up depot.

Gift Cards

  • Inspect gift cards before you buy them to make sure that they have not been tampered with (e.g., having the activation code scratched off). Thieves who steal these codes can often use a gift card before the rightful owner.
  • Buy gift cards that are kept behind a store counter or near the cash register so clerks can keep an eye on them to discourage tampering.
  • Get a gift card receipt for each gift card that you buy and include the receipt with gift cards as proof of activation and payment so recipients can obtain a replacement, if necessary.

Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event #2 – Don’t miss it!

VLE Image Event #2

VLE Session #2: Challenges Facing Families in Crisis

Join the MFLN Military Caregiving team as we focus on learning new skills and strategies for improved communication in times of crisis in the second session of our three-part Virtual Learning Event (VLE) beginning at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 19.

In session two of the VLE entitled, Challenges Facing Families in Crisis, we will address some of the unique challenges military families face and examine ways to support them. Throughout this event, our speaker, Michelle Lewis MSW will focus on risk factors that increase military families’ vulnerability during crisis, resources for military families in crisis, as well as ways mental health concerns increase challenges for military families.

The VLE is centered on the theme of Sensitive Topics in Caregiving: Tough Questions and Complex Answers. Our goal with this VLE is to address military family service providers’ tough questions with our expert presenters’ complex answers.

We hope you join us for the second session of the 2016 VLE, October 19th. To learn more about this VLE and the other sessions, click on 2016 MFLN Military Caregiving VLE.


CEU Credit Available!

The MFLN has applied for 1.5 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?

To join this event, simply click on Challenges Facing Families in Crisis. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense APAN system, but is open to the public.

If you cannot connect to the APAN site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on YouTube Live. Mobile options for YouTube Live are available on all Apple and Android devices.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on October 14, 2016.


Reflections on the RBI: Part Two

Last week, the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team brought you a blog with three perspectives on the routines-based interview (RBI).  This week, we offer you a short video of one parent’s experience and thoughts.  Joy’s two children were in Early Intervention at different times.  As a result, one of her children completed a RBI.  However, for the other, they did not.  Joy offers providers a powerful perspective from a parent’s point of view.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration area on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Join us at the AFCPE Symposium

We’re looking forward to meeting many of you next month at the AFCPE Symposium in Louisville, KY. We hope to engage with many financial educators in the Pre-Conference sponsored by the Department of Defense.

Later in the week, we’ll talk about the process of creating our webinars. We hope financial educators will takeaway valuable lessons that will allow them to incorporate some of our methods in to their own curriculums.

Most of all, we are excited to meet you! One of the hundreds of webinar participants, Facebook followers, retweeters – we are excited to meet our virtual community in person. Please stop by our table, stop us in the hall, introduce yourself!

Exploring the Impact of Moral Injury on Military Families: Follow- Up Q&A with Dr. Brock

Dr. Rita Brock
was the presenter for the 4th and final session of our 2016 Virtual Learning Event. Session 4, entitled Exploring the Impact of Moral Injuries on Military Families provided insight and knowledge in helping guide work surrounding this important topic. At the end of the webinar, some of the participants had lingering questions for Dr. Brock. Below, we have provided the questions and answers.

Q: You mentioned a resource throughout the webinar on helping children through deployment. Would you mind sharing that with us?
A: This Guide to Deployment for Families can be found under resources for congregations at

Q: Do we know why moral injury affects some, but not everyone? Is the research pointing to anything there?
A: There are no data on moral injury per se that I know of. However, studies show that a previous history of trauma (esp. PTSD) makes a person more susceptible to further trauma. Since PTSD is not a fear-based trauma, it is not clear whether one instance of moral injury would make one more susceptible to another. It might be different for moral injury: if a person had been able to process a morally injurious experience and begin recovering, he or she might have greater resilience for handling future incidences.

Here is one study:
Harris, J.I., Erbes., C.R., Engdahl., B.E., Thuras, P., Murray-Swank, N, Grace, D., Ogden, H., Olson, R.H.A., Winskowski, A.M., Bacon, R., Malec, C., Campion, K., & Le, TuVan (2011). The effectiveness of a trauma focused spiritually integrated intervention for veterans exposed to trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 1-14.

Q: Do you have suggestions for preventative strategies, if there are any?
A: The only person who is inoculated against moral injury is a sociopath. As to normal people with moral consciences, moral injury is related to a number of factors, such as the developmental stage of young adults and their inability to handle moral ambiguity, that may be involved. Jonathan Shay believes that military unit cohesion has protective value against isolation and that better leadership in the command structures also can prevent a sense of feeling betrayed. One of the other student projects (which we hope to have posted on our resources website by the end of October), was a youth minister guide for young adults considering military service. It is based on input from a veteran in his congregation who suggested that having a clear sense of purpose for enlisting was important to not getting lost and disoriented in service.
Helping people stay in touch with their humanity in inhuman conditions is crucial, a role military chaplains play, so training chaplains in understanding moral injury is also important. I’ve been working with chaplains on this since we opened in 2012, and Brite includes a course on moral injury in our military chaplain certification program.
Q: You mentioned Trauma Release Exercises. Do you have a resource that you would like for us to share for that? A website or a particular person?
A: Here are two videos that explain and demonstrate how and why it works on trauma:
We use Michael-Phap Nguyen-Uyen, a US Marine veteran and Zen teacher, at our events.

Here is his story:
I think there is value-added because he uses mindfulness meditation practices with the TRE process. There is MRI research on meditation and its value to restoring thinking capacity. But there are many teachers of TRE.
I have downloaded the TRE phone app, which guides me through the process. I find it a useful way to relax and release stress from work.

Q: You mentioned a friend of yours, Lisa Dunster. Do you have more information on her story?
A: Here are some sources about her. She’s a National Guard veteran, a high school English teacher, and a remarkable person. This story is about how she almost slit her husband’s throat:

This is about the retreat program she runs for veterans and families. After becoming a speaker for us, she added moral injury into the work they do and regularly has a chaplain create programs for her retreats.
This is one of her public talks about her military experience. She always says something new and important, and I skype her into my classes.

If you were unable to participate in VLE 4: Exploring the Impact of Moral Injury on Military Families or any of the other 2016 VLE sessions of Strengthening the Family CORE, they are all available for archived viewing.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the social media and programming specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on our websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Financial Preparation for the Holidays

Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

When the leaves continue to fall and the nightly temperature drops, we know that the holiday season will soon be upon us. This season is often a special time for families as loved ones gather near and far to celebrate. However, holiday expenses can sometimes threaten the joy that we experience during this season. Getting an early start will reduce holiday stress and your after-holiday bills, often known as the holiday financial hangover.

Before the holiday season moves into high gear, take the time to get prepared. Review your

Photo of shoppers on street with holiday decorations
Grafton Street Christmas Shopping Dublin by Ben and Kaz Askins

current financial situation and determine a holiday spending limit that works for your family budget. To make certain you are not tempted to increase that limit as the season progresses, develop a budget for gift-giving, food, travel and entertainment expenses. Additional expenses that are often left out of a holiday budget include gasoline, babysitting fees, and eating out more often.

As you work on the budget, start by making a list of everyone you plan to give a gift, including children, loved ones, teachers, babysitters, hair stylists, etc. Identify a realistic spending limit and a possible gift for each person on your list. It is important that you do not feel pressured to give anyone a gift. If your finances are right this year, consider a hand-written note expressing thanks or appreciation. Continue to work your way through your holiday budget by estimating other anticipated expenses. If you have receipts or credit card statements from last year, you may be able to use them as a guide in developing a realistic estimate for travel, entertainment, and food expenses.

As you are preparing for your budget for the upcoming holidays, think about how you will pay for holiday shopping and expenses. You are less likely to overspend if you pay with cash, as opposed to using a credit card. If you are using cash, once all of your cash is gone, you are finished with your holiday shopping. Another option to consider is that many stores now offer store layaway plans. If you decide to use store layaway options, be certain to check their return policy and keep track of all payments.

Plan holiday shopping trips ahead of time, review store ads, and know exactly who and what you are shopping for prior to entering the store. Impromptu shopping trips and wandering around a store looking for gift ideas can lead to impulsive purchases, which were not part of your original budget. Do your window-shopping at home online, or with catalogs so that you know exactly what you want when you are at the store. Finally, remember that holiday sales can be tempting, so once you are in the store, stick with your original budget.

Contact Jennifer at 

Small Steps to Improve Health and Wealth

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

People don’t have problems any more. They have “issues” and sSmall Steps to Health & Wealth logoome of these issues (e.g., obesity, diabetes, lack of savings, and high debt) affect their health and personal finances. Service members and their families, of course, are not immune. The Cooperative Extension Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) program encourages people to make positive changes to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. Below are specific steps:

  • Convert Consumption Into Labor- Research how many hours of exercise, gardening, house cleaning, or other physical activity are needed to burn off a certain number of calories. A comparable financial example is “converting spending into labor” by calculating how many hours of work are needed in order to buy something.
  • Meet Yourself Halfway- To lose weight, decrease portion sizes by one-half. For example, eat one cookie instead of two. A comparable financial example is to reduce spending on “discretionary” expenses such as meals eaten away from home, lottery tickets, clothing, and food. Don’t cut out spending on these items completely but spend less than you do now. Plans to change are more likely to succeed when people don’t feel “deprived.”Downsize Eating and Spending- Buying less food saves calories and cuts costs. For example, eat lunch portions or appetizers at restaurants and/or take food home for another meal. Household spending can also be downsized. Simply figure out ways to purchase items for less (e.g., thrift shops) or buy fewer of them.
  • Say No to Super-Sizing- No matter how much of a “deal” upgrading a meal’s size may be, don’t be tempted. Rather, eat fewer calories by ordering smaller portions. Ditto for non-food spending such as “buy three and save” offers when you only need one item. Avoid “deals” that require you to spend more to “save” more.
  • Track Eating and Spending- Most people don’t know how many calories they consume daily or how many dollars they spend monthly on “incidentals” such as snacks, beverages, children’s expenses, and gifts. One of the best ways to increase awareness of current practices is to record foods eaten and dollars spent for a typical month or two. Then analyze relationships between eating, spending, and emotions and make needed adjustments.
  • Photo by Alan Cleaver. CC BY 2.0
    Photo by Alan Cleaver. CC BY 2.0

    Compare Yourself with Recommended Guidelines- A nutrition example is body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy, 25 to 29.9 overweight, 30 to 39.9 obese, and 40+ morbidly obese. A comparable financial example is a person’s consumer debt-to-income ratio, which is calculated by dividing monthly consumer debt payments by monthly take-home (net) pay. The recommended ratio is 15%-20% or less.

  • Start Small- Simple behavior changes, such as drinking an small can of soda instead of a large bottle (or, better still, water!) or using less butter, salad dressing or other spreads, can help people lose weight. The same is true for small financial changes. Two examples are saving a dollar a day, plus pocket change, in a can or jar and adding $1 a day (about $30 monthly) to the minimum monthly payment required on a credit card.
  • Follow Nutrition and Personal Finance Standards-People often understand portion sizes better when they are compared to common objects. Three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards and one cup of rice or pasta looks like a tennis ball. A common standard for personal finances is saving three to six months expenses for emergencies. This means an emergency fund of $6,000 to $12,000 for a household that spends $2,000 a month.
  • Control Intake and Outgo- For weight loss and improved health, this means reducing the calories you consume, increasing exercise to burn off more calories, or doing both. For improved finances and positive cash flow, increased income, reduced expenses, or doing both, are the keys to success.

For additional ideas about strategies to improve health and personal finances, visit the SSHW web site at For a personalized assessment of personal health and financial management practices, take the Personal Health and Finance Quiz at and save the date of October 11 for a webinar on this topic. Health & Wealth Relationships will be presented by the MFLN Personal Finance and MFLN Nutrition & Wellness teams. This 90-minute presentation will focus on the correlations between positive financial behaviors and positive health behaviors.


Resource Discovery- Families Under Fire: Systemic Therapy with Military Families

Families Under Fire book cover
Everson, R.B. & Figley, C. (2011). Families Under Fire: Systemic Therapy with Military Families. Routledge, New York.

Are you a civilian clinician working with military families? Do you sometimes feel that you are missing the proper training to work with this population? Do you feel overwhelmed and stressed by your workload because you are unable to provide the very best treatment to your clients? If you said yes to any of these questions, this book is for you!

Families Under Fire: Systemic Therapy with Military Families is a collection of examples, suggestions, and gap-fillers written by well -known and well- versed clinicians that aims to provide assistance to you in your work with military families. When working with military families, it is of utmost importance that you recognize that their experiences are oftentimes unique to any other population with which you work. This book will assist you in understanding the diverse needs of the military family and ways in which you can provide the best treatment. This “guidebook” is written in terms of systems-based practice with the assumption that there is already a clear understanding of systems theory.

Blaine Everson, Ph.D is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is in private practice and an instructor in the Department of Child and Family Development at the University of Georgia. He specializes in military families and readjustment issues associated with military families.

Charles R. Figley, Ph.D is the Associate Dean for Research, a Professor, and Director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute. He is a former Marine Sergeant who served in the Vietnam War. He has published more than 200 scholarly works.


Everson, R.B. & Figley, C. (2011). Families Under Fire: Systemic Therapy with Military Families. Routledge, New York.

This post was written by a member of the MFLN Family Development Team. The MFLN Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on ouwebsite, Facebook, and Twitter.

Project In Sight: The Joys and Challenges of Reintegration after Deployment

Date: October 27, 2016

Time: 12:00 pm-1:00 pm Eastern

Location: (Registration is FREE)


The MFLN Family Development Team and Family Transitions Team have partnered to provide a brand new programming format for Military Service Professionals. We understand many of the challenges faced in the important work with Military Families. We want to provide you with a private space to discuss those challenges. At each session, we will have a moderated discussion about a topic that is specific to work with military families. We have decided to call each meeting an AIM Session, as we will be offering a chance to Absorb, Ignite, and Maximize through the discussions offered. Materials on a various topics will be given prior to the AIM Session to absorb. On the day of the AIM Session you will join a private chat room with other Military Service Professionals to reflect on thoughts and strategies that we hope will ignite inspiring conversation. After the session, we will provide platforms to share how the AIM Session has maximized your work with military families with others.

Our first AIM session will focus on The Joys and Challenges of Reintegration from Deployment. We will provide you with a short collection of videos capturing some responses from family members who have experienced of deployment before starting the discussion.

Bari Sobelson of the MFLN Family Development Team will be moderating the session. Please feel free to come with resources and information on the topic of reintegration.

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 12pm ET. You can learn more and register at our Learn Event page.


Measuring Your Financial Health

By Kristyn Jackson, LMFT and Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Have you ever heard someone discussing their “financial health?” Financial health refers to how well you are doing financially and is based on a number of factors. Much like you go to your family doctor for yearly check-ups, it is a good idea to perform a financial check-up from time to time.

Unfortunately, many families often find it overwhelming to measure their financial health because of all of the factors included. What further complicates measuring your financial health is the fact that financial advisors and firms often recommend different ways of doing so. You can use more subjective measures of financial health such as your personal satisfaction with your financial status, the amount of financial stress you experience, and how financially independent you feel. However, you can also measure your financial health through more concrete measures.

Capt. Pedro Rodriguez gives two thumbs up while running the 26.2 mile course of the Marine Corps Marathon Forward at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan Oct. 27. Rodriguez finished second with a personal record time of 2:47:11. This was Rodriguez's second marathon. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
Capt. Pedro Rodriguez gives two thumbs up while running the 26.2 mile course of the Marine Corps Marathon Forward. Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

Provided below is an overview of the various measures that a financial advisor may suggest calculating in order to measure your financial health. It is a good idea to calculate these values on a fairly regular basis, such as the beginning of a new year. If you have questions, do not be afraid to reach out to a professional advisor who can answer them.

  • Liquidity ratio. Liquidity ratio refers to your ability to meet your necessary expenses when you are faced with an emergency such as an unexpected home repair or medical bill. It is recommended that you keep a 3 to 6 month emergency fund, meaning that an ideal ratio is between 3 and 6. To calculate this ratio: LIQUIDITY RATIO = CASH OR CASH EQUIVALENTS ON HAND / MONTHLY COMMITTED EXPENSES
  • Asset-to-debt ratio. This ratio compares your assets to your total existing liabilities. Liabilities include home loans, car loans, credit card debt, etc. It is always desirable to possess more assets than debt. To calculate this ratio: ASSET-TO-DEBT RATIO = TOTAL ASSETS / TOTAL LIABILITIES
  • Current ratio. The current ratio refers to your ability to meet short-term liabilities which include all of your debt repayments to be made in the current year. CURRENT RATIO = CASH OR CASH EQUIVALENTS/SHORT TERM LIABILITIES
  • Debt-service ratio. This ratio refers to the percentage of your income that is designated to debt repayment and the percentage of income remaining for other mandatory household expenses and savings. Lower ratios represent better financial management. DEBT SERVICE RATIO = SHORT TERM LIABILITIES / TOTAL INCOME
  • Saving ratio. The saving ratio is perhaps the easiest to calculate and will provide you with insight as to how well your finances are managed and how likely it is that you can achieve your saving goals. SAVING RATIO = MONTHLY SURPLUS / MONTHLY INCOME
  • Solvency ratio. This ratio refers to your ability to repay all existing debts using your assets in the case of an emergency. You may wish to use a net worth calculator prior to calculating this ratio. SOLVENCY RATIO = NET WORTH/TOTAL ASSETS

Do not worry if these ratios seem complicated. There are numerous resources available to you that can help you to understand what each of these ratios mean. What is important is that you are aware of what you need to be considering when measuring your financial health!

Being aware of your financial health will help you to meet your short-term and long-term financial goals while avoiding unreasonable amounts of debt. Financial experts recommend calculating your financial ratios on a yearly basis and making any adjustments to your spending and saving patterns that you deem necessary.

Contact Jennifer at