Category Archives: military families

Military Families

Medicare Trivia!

How much do you know about Medicare?

Test your knowledge with our Medicare trivia questions!

TRUE or FALSE- (1)

  1. Did you know Medicare can pay for pregnancy tests? Medicare is not limited to people 65 and older. Those with certain disabilities could also be eligible for Medicare. Medicare is good about paying for services that are medically necessary.


  1. Medicare does not pay for long-term care. If you are in need of long-term care you might consider looking into private health insurance or Medicaid.


  1. Will Medicare cover you in a foreign country? No, if you are going to travel while on Medicare you will need an alternative health coverage.


  1. Medicare is the largest health care insurance program and the second-largest social insurance program in the United States. The Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) is the single largest payer for health care in the United States.


  1. President and First Lady Truman were the first Medicare Beneficiaries. President Truman received the first Medicare card.


For more information on Medicare, including what all it covers and what plans might be best for you, check out our Back to Basics: Medicare Webinar recording.

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published February 12, 2016.

Field Talk: A Q&A with Providers Supporting Military Families

Title Field Talk: A Q&A with Providers Supporting Military Families
DiPietro-Wells, R. (2015). Field Talk: A Q&A

Field Talk is a monthly blog post sharing the voices of early childhood providers who serve or have served military families of young children with disabilities (birth to 5 years old).  We hope you find it to be educational, personable, and encouraging.

This month we talked with Charles Morton, MD.  Dr. Morton is a Developmental Pediatrician at a major hospital in Urbana, IL. Dr. Morton retired as a colonel in the Air Force after over twenty years of service.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your current role.

I see children who have delays, autism, behavior issues, complex ADHD, Down syndrome, and other chronic and physical disabilities.

What’s your favorite part of your current job?

I really enjoy meeting with the families and interacting with the children.

Tell us about experiences you have had working with military families.

I spent 22 years active duty in the Air Force, so my heart is really with military families and the stresses they face.

How did you come to work with military families?

I got an Air Force Scholarship to medical school and stayed for a career. Now the closest military base is over a hundred miles away, but we have reserve and guard families and just some military families who live here in Central Illinois.

Describe a rewarding experience working with military families.

With every family with a direct military connection – they are dependents – there is an instant bond and feeling of well-being knowing they have a physician who has lived their life to some degree and understands their often-difficult situation. Because some families are so removed from the military, the spouse doesn’t often realize the benefits they can access, even TRICARE insurance in some cases.

Describe a challenging experience working with military families.

While TRICARE (military insurance program) makes it easy to access services, payment for TRICARE services is rather meager, which reduces the degree of access to some doctors. This makes me sad because these families are under a lot of stress that most civilians do not understand.

From your experience, how are military families similar and different from other types of families? How do you change your practice between families?

The similarity is that they have the same health concerns, but the difference is that they have specialized massive stress related to the actual or potential deployment of the military member. Sometimes military families have better access to healthcare than some families, but often theirs is more limited, and the families have little understanding of the different TRICARE health plans.

As providers, how can we support military parents who are deployed or away frequently due to trainings/school?  

It would be wonderful if we were somehow notified that the military member was going to be gone so we could find a way to ease the family’s access to our systems.

Describe a specific stressor that military families with whom you have worked have shared or experienced.

I saw a family here in the states that had a permanent change of station to overseas. This family had an Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) need that arose after they arrived overseas. They had to request an EFMP family reassignment, which was challenged within the service member’s chain of command, but was eventually allowed to occur.

What “insider” tips or advice do you have for service providers working with military families who have young children with disabilities?

Young military families are often as alone as their civilian counterparts and often just have to be pointed in the right direction to make something happen. More experienced families have learned a lot about networking,

If you could change or improve one thing for military families with young children with disabilities, what would it be?

When I left the military 10 years ago I was surprised by how little the civilian health care system worked together. The military is all about teamwork.  Individuals in the civilian sector are often left to their own devices to determine what they need and to procure those resources. That is not something military families have had to do within the military healthcare system.

The civilian population recognizes that military families are under extra stress and there is a strong feeling that resources should be provided to them. How military families are able to find those resources is a problem.  If those of us within the civilian health care system could establish a better network of care for our military families, including medical and community resources, then that might be a great help.  Networking is how a lot of services are found.

What types of resources have you sought out to feel more confident and competent at meeting the specific needs of military families? (e.g., trainings, blog posts, organizations, etc.)

I have a network of current and former military developmental pediatricians that I can tap when I have a question about a child, a parent, a service or a system. Of course there can be no HIPAA violations, but general information can be of great help. A more direct link that would allow for HIPAA information to be shared with the military EFMP or health care system would be helpful. However, this is perhaps impossible.

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 on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Savings Strategies for Military Families

By Molly C. Herndon

By alamosbasement
By alamosbasement

Join us Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. ET for a Military Saves-themed webinar “Savings Strategies for Military Families” with presenter Dr. Barbara O’Neill. This 90-minute webinar will focus on 16 specific solutions for meeting savings goals. Other topics that will be covered include the financial fragility of many U.S. households, types of savings accounts, advantages of saving money, barriers to saving, savings pre-requisites, research findings about savings behavior and characteristics of successful savers, savings motivational programs, and savings educational resources.

This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFCs through AFCPE  and CPFCs through FinCert.

Registration for the event is required. Register, view presentation slides and more here:

We look forward to seeing you online Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. ET!

Soul Care

iStock_000073618553_LargeIn an article entitled Soul Care written by Jane Riffe Ed.D., LICSW, LPC,  Dr. Riffe explains how we feel happier and at our best when we have a way to connect to our “Soul.” Dr. Riffe describes how reestablishing a sense of balance benefits your mental, emotional, and physical health. Through activities, exercises and better understanding, this article helps manage thoughts, stress and emotions which, in turn encourages a healthier and happier life. Read the article Soul Care to find out more about:

  • Why Struggling with Emotions Does Not Work
  • Mindfulness as an Alternative
  • How to Practice Mindful Awareness
  • How to Change to the Mindfulness Channel

For more information on practicing mindfulness to help reduce stress, control your present thoughts, and encourage a healthier and happier state of being, check out Dr. Riffe’s three-part caregiving audiocast series at Reflect! Keep Calm and Carry On.’

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published February 5, 2016.


Military Saves Week 2016 – Meet the Challenge in Three Steps

Visit for more information
Visit for more information

Military Saves Week 2016 is fast approaching! Every year, military installations and organizations around the world join forces to motivate, support, and encourage service members and military families to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth through a week of financial focus and education. Since 2007, more than 200,000 Savers have accepted the challenge of Military Saves Week. What is that challenge? The Military Saves Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment to exercise good financial habits, improve financial readiness, and encourage other Americans to do the same.

Military Saves encourages all service members, their families, and civilian employees to take the Military Saves Pledge, and to “Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.”

Step 1: Set a Goal

Why is a goal important? If you don’t know what you’re saving for, you haven’t established what you won’t spend it on.

By saving for a car down payment, you’ve established that you won’t spend that saved money on a new TV instead.

When you take the Military Saves Pledge, you’re asked to identify a savings goal. The top two goals selected by our

Savers are:

  • Saving for a rainy day with an Emergency Fund
  • Saving for Retirement

If you have another goal in mind, that’s OK – in fact, it’s GREAT! The important thing is that you have a goal, and that you commit to it. That’s what the Military Saves Pledge is about – deciding what’s important to you, and taking action. One small step can lead to another, then another, until your goal is met.

Step 2: Make a Plan

To take action, you need to save money. How do you go about doing that? This may be the most difficult part of the challenge – finding money to save. It’s most likely in your paycheck (somewhere) – the problem is that so many priorities are fighting over the same dollars. Housing, transportation, food – all are essential needs that MUST be met. However, when something is a priority, you plan for it. Plan to save for your goal, whatever it is, just like you plan for your rent, for your car, and for your groceries. To do that, create a budget or spending plan for your monthly expenses. Assign each and every dollar of your paycheck to a category – including savings. By including savings in your monthly spending plan, you’re committing to paying one very important bill – to yourself.

Step 3: Save Automatically

The theme for Military Saves Week 2016 is “Make Savings Automatic.” Automating your savings will allow you to save regularly without having to think about it. Here are four ways you can set it and forget it:

  • Contribute to the TSP, and have a portion of your paycheck transferred into your retirement account before you get paid. Many other employer retirement plans offer a similar option – simply decide how much you want to contribute each month to meet your savings goal.
  • Set up allotments via myPay. Designate an amount go to an account that is separate from a regular checking account – preferably a savings account! If you are paid through a different system, your employer may still allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts.
  • Set up regular transfers using your financial institution’s bill pay system. Automatically transfer money from a checking account to a separate savings account each payday.
  • Tax time is a great opportunity to save for those who receive a refund. Use Form 8888, Allocation of Refund, to direct deposit your refund in up to three different accounts – make sure one is a savings account! Another incentive to this option? Visit SaveYourRefund to learn how saving at least $50 of your tax refund could win you $25,000 in 2016!

Military Saves Week 2016 is February 22 – 27th – one week out of the year to focus on paying yourself first by saving.

Your installation or an organization near you may be participating in the Week, offering educational workshops, events, and resources to help you meet the challenge of saving. Take advantage of these opportunities and build your financial knowledge and ability. Only you can accomplish each step of the challenge: it all begins with the Military Saves Pledge and making the commitment to save.

Military Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), seeks to motivate, encourage, and support service members and military families to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at

Financial Planning for Military Caregivers Webinar Discussions

Financial Planning DiscussionsBelow are questions and discussions from our Financial Planning for Military Caregivers Webinar. 

Caregiving may involve…

  • Less personal time
  • Less family time
  • Need for work-life balance
  • Financial issues
  • Physical and emotional stress

Thought from audience member: It can be difficult sometimes for a caregiver to openly acknowledge those costs.

What are the most common issues families face?

Audience member #1: Many of our soldiers are overwhelmed by the idea that they can no longer do what they know and they have to figure out another direction. I often have to use MRT to help them look past this concern and find the answers within themselves.

Speaker: Where are the jobs in the whole bubble of your experience? There are plenty of jobs around what you’ve done. Where can you use your experience in the bigger picture.

Audience member #2: Being a MFLC counselor referrals are made to financial consultants at the installations.

What are the most common questions military family caregivers ask?

Audience member #1: Most of my families are looking at when their payments will begin – there are so many different sources of income that come from different pots they may become overwhelmed. They have a hard time creating a budget without absolute answers

Audience member #2: I like that “you have two choices, to know where your money is going or wonder where it went.” Unfortunately a lot of people live by wondering where their money went

Audience member #3: We call it a spending plan

Audience member #4 to audience member #1: yes, task & info overload is a common challenge. Sometimes the support we can offer is to help families to sort and manage the info & tasks. When we’re under physical & psychological stress, it can be a challenge to remain objective, focused, prioritized, etc…

How do you get service members & caregivers to open up about their needs?

Audience member #1: Taking the time and making the effort to build rapport/relationship with clients can help them to feel safe about talking.

Audience member #2: flexibility and active listening skills are very important

Speaker mentioned humor was very helpful when done respectfully.

Good Resources suggest by speaker and participants:

Audience member question:

Do you have any opinion of leading military caregiver families through Dave Ramsey’s class?

Answer from audience member: I usually encourage clients to study personal finance resources beyond the popular financial gurus. I think it helps clients build a better understanding of the important fundamentals involved in effective personal finance. I also think it helps them to develop their own understanding grounded in their own study and experience.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published January 29, 2016.

Resource Discovery: Online Training For Early Intervention Professionals

screen shot
Screen shot from EITP’s winter webinar series posting

The Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) at the University of Illinois exists to support early interventionists in their work with families by providing professional development opportunities in a variety of formats. EITP also collaborates with the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention (FDEI) team by co-sponsoring and providing continuing education credit for the MFLN FDEI webinars.

This winter EITP has many course offerings that cover a wide variety of topics, many in which the MFLN FDEI audience has expressed interest. Supporting social-communication skills, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and early motor delays for children with cerebral palsy are just several of the suggestions our team heard from you last year. EITP’s winter calendar offers webinars on each of them. To see the full winter webinar schedule for EITP click here.

The MFLN FDEI team is very thankful for the collaborative relationship with EITP. We hope you will find their webinars and trainings useful to your practice.

Note: There is a small fee for these trainings. The CE credits EITP supplies are recognized in Illinois for state licensure credit and EI credit hours. If you are not an Illinois licensed provider, please check with your licensure agency as your state may recognize the credit EITP supplies.

This post was written 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 on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Stretch Your Food and Beverages to Save

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

Many people, including service members and their families, make resolutions in January to improve their health and personal finances. While most people think of health and financial resolutions as separate decisions, they are, in fact, strongly related. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the relationship between eating/drinking and spending.

A small change that people can make to improve their health and finances is to “stretch” food and beverages so that they simultaneously consume fewer calories and buy things less frequently, thereby saving money. Below are seven examples:

  • Water Down Juices– Mix juices with water in a 50/50 or 2:1 juice to water ratio, depending on personal preference. Not only will you cut calories according to the mixing proportion that you select (there are 112 calories in 8 oz. of orange juice and 107 calories in 8 oz. of apple juice), but you’ll buy juice less frequently. If you purchase 52 fewer cartons of juice at a cost of $3 each, that’s $156 in savings over the course of a year.
  • Stretch Wine and Cocktails– Order one drink, instead of several, along with a large cup of ice if you’re going out with friends. Your drink will last a lot longer with the ice to refill it and you won’t need to order another one. This strategy will save both money and calories (a 5 oz. glass of wine has 100 calories) and reduce the chance of a DWI. If someone does not buy 104 glasses of wine (two a week) at a cost of $6 apiece, at a bar or restaurant, that’s $624!
  • Order Water- Order free and zero-calorie tap water, perhaps with a lemon or lime, for even more savings. You can also “ice down” soft drinks consumed at or away from home to stretch them out, similar to the juice example above.
  • Photo by Katherine Johnson
    Photo by Katherine Johnson

    Incentivize Your Children– Consider paying children $1 for drinking water, instead of soda, at restaurants. Like the above examples, the calorie and cost differential savings (e.g., $2.50 for a soda versus the $1 payment) can be substantial over time and you are fostering a positive lifetime habit.

  • Bring Home Leftovers– Take half to two-thirds of restaurant food (depending on portion size) home for future meals. You’ll save a significant number of calories by spacing out large food portions over several meals. Assuming someone eats out once a week and takes enough food home for two additional meals, that adds up to104 meals that don’t need to be purchased because food from a restaurant or cafeteria is already available. At a conservative estimated cost of $4 per meal, that’s $416 in annual savings.
  • Split an Entrée or Dessert– Split the calories and cost of an entrée or dessert. Even including restaurant “plate charges” for shared food, the cost savings can be substantial compared to the cost of ordering two separate meals. In addition, two people eat a half portion instead of a full one, thereby halving the calories. Follow this strategy 52 times a year and save $15 and you’ve saved $780 annually.
  • Downsize Food Portions– Order smaller size and lower cost half-size portions when eating out or use appetizers as a meal. This strategy especially works especially well when you are traveling and taking food home, or even to a hotel room, is not an option.

There are many relationships between health and personal finances including the fact that eating patterns affect food and beverage expenses. This article has identified potential annual cost savings of almost $2,000 from “stretching” strategies that affect both calories consumed and dollars spent. Perhaps you can think of others.

Want to lose weight and save money? You may not need to look any further than your refrigerator.

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) program encourages people to make positive behavior changes to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. Information about SSHW can be found at, including monthly health and personal finance messages and a 132-page SSHW workbook that is available for free downloading.


Resource Discovery: Power and Control Wheel Models

By Christina Herron, MS

Understanding the patterns and dynamics of a domestic violence relationship can be challenging. One resource that may be helpful to service providers and mental health clinicians is the Power and Control Wheel. Power and Control wheels are tools used to help individuals explain and understand the different tactics an abusive partner can use to control and manipulate a relationship.

The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence has created a resource page titled, “Wheels Adapted from the Power and Control Wheel Model,” with different variations of the Power and Control Wheel. There are approximately 70 Power and Control Wheels that range in topics from domestic violence, abuse later in life, child abuse, bullying, advocacy empowerment wheel, equality wheel, police perpetrated domestic violence, immigrant power and control, alcohol and other drug abuse, etc.  Be sure to check out all of the useful resources this website as to offer.

Below are a couple of Power and Control Wheels that could be useful for your work with Military personnel and families.

Military Power and Control Wheel by National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
Military Power and Control Wheel by National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

This post was written by Christina Herron, MS, a member 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 TwitterYouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Would You Like to be Happier?

Now this is relaxing!There are two definitions of happy: feeling good, and the sense of contentment from living a full, rich, and meaningful life. Connecting with what’s happening right now is the best way to experience contentment.

Here are some ways we can affect our happiness:

Be here now-Focus on the present moment. Thinking about the future and what is to come can produce anxiety, while thinking about the past can bring feeling of guilt and regret.

Move your body-Your brain is very active, constantly producing thoughts that can interfere with the present moment. By moving, dancing, stretching and wiggling you interrupt the brain and help balance the chemicals in your brain to feel better.

Thoughts are not the truth-“Thoughts are nothing more than words inside our heads.” Sometimes our thoughts are true, making them facts, other times our thoughts are false. It’s important to remember that thoughts:

  • May or may not be true
  • May or may not be important
  • Are definitely not orders
  • May or may not be wise
  • Are never threats to us

Try some of these exercises to increase your happiness today!

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The information in this blog post is from “Would You Like to be Happier?” written by Jane Riffe Ed.D, LICSW, LPC, WVU Extension Specialist, and can be found at

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 23, 2016.