Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Autism Awareness

Untitled-4Did you know that the month of April is set-aside as ‘Autism Awareness Month?’ In today’s blog we highlight Autism Spectrum Disorder, its potential effects on military families and resources for military helping professionals.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is mostly commonly known and referred to as Autism. Individuals with ASD may display either high-/or low-functioning Autism. There are several distinct diagnoses and symptoms for ASD as it relates to social communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, unusual responses to sensory input and intellectual skills.7

 Causes of Autism

You may find that ASD occurs more often in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions.13 If you are working with a parent who has a child with ASD, there is a 2-18 percent chance their second child may also be affected.6,11  Studies show that among identical twins, if one child has ASD, then the other will be affected 36-95 percent of the time. However, if the twins are fraternal the chance of the other child having ASD reduces to 0-31 percent.4,8-9,12

 Autism in the U.S.

Autism affects many Americans across the country. In fact you, yourself may know of individuals with ASD. Let’s take a quick glance at ASD in the U.S.

  • ASD’s prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births (CDC, 2014).
  • ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups (CDC, 2014)
  • More than 3.5 million Americans live with ASD.2
  • ASD is almost 5 times more common among males (1 in 42) than among females (1 in 168) (CDC, 2014).
 Cost of Autism

ASD can be costly for families, accounting for approximately $236-262 billion annually.2 On average, medical expenditures for children and adolescents with ASD were 4-6 times greater than for those without ASD.10 In addition, rigorous behavioral interventions for children with ASD cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.1

 Autism and Military Families

For military families, dealing with the stress of relocation, deployment and the culture itself can put an added amount of stress on families, compared to civilians. However when the military family has a child with special needs, more specifically a child with Autism, stress can be even greater for the family. There are many issues that these families are faced with when their child has ASD, such as:

  • Emotional distress when a parent or family member is deployed.3
  • Availability of services when relocating to a new installation.3
  • Schools not having the services to meet the needs of ASD children, which may lead to possibly filing for mediation and due process if the caregiver feels the school is not meeting the Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) law.3
 Resources to Support Families with Autism

To learn more on how you can help support your military families and caregivers on ASD check out the resources below.



[1] Amendah, D., Grosse, S.D., Peacock, G., & Mandell, D.S. (2011). The Economic Costs of Autism: A Review. Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1347-1360. Retrieved March 10, 2016

[2] Buescher, A.V., Cidav, Z., Knapp, M., & Mandell, D.S. (2014). Costs of Austism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States. JAMA Pediatrics JAMA Pediatr, 168(8), 721.

[3] Davis, J.M., & Finke, E.H, (2015). The Experience of Military Families with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders During Relocation and Separation. J Autism Dev Disord Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(7), 2019-2034.

[4] Hallmayer, J. (2011). Genetic Heritability and Shared Environmental Factors Among Twin Pairs With Autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry Archives of General Psychiatry, 86(11), 1095.

[5] Is it Autism? What Should I Do? (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://autism.about.com/od/whatisautism/u/symptomsdiagnosis.htm

[6] Ozonoff, s., Young, G.S., Carter, A., Messinger, D., Yirmiya, N., Zwaigenbaum,L., Stone, W.L. (2011). Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study. Pediatrics. Retrieved March 10, 2016

[7] Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010. (2014). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1_w

[8] Ronald, A., Happe, F., Bolton, P., Butcher, L.M., Price, T.S., Wheelwright, S., Plomin, R. (2006). Genetic Heterogeneity Between the Three Components of the Autism Spectrum: A twin Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(6), 691-699. Retrieved March 10, 2016.

[9] Rosenburg, R. E., Law, J. K., Yenokyan, G., Mcgready, J., Kaufmann, W.E., & Law, P. A. (2009). Characteristics and Concordance of Autism Spectrum Disorders Among 277 Twin Pairs. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 163(10) 907.

[10] Shimabuluro, T.T., Grosse, S.D., & Rice, C. (2007). Medical Expenditures for Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Privately Insured Population. J Autism Dev Disord Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(3), 546-552.

[11] Sumi, S., Taniai, H., Miyachi, T., & Tanemura, M. (2006). Sibling risk of pervasive developmental disorder estimated by means of an epidemiologic survey in Nagoya, Japan. Journal of Human Genetics J Hum Genet, 51(6), 518-522.

[12] Taniai, H., Nishiyami, T., Miyachi, T., Imaeda, M., & Sumi, S. (2008). Genetic influences on the broad spectrum of autism: Study of proband-ascertained twins. Am. J. Med. Genet. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 147B(6), 844-849.

[13] Top 10 Easy Autism Facts to Share with Friends and Family, (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://autism.about.com/od/whatisautism/tp/topfacts.htm

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on April 1, 2016

New Chip Cards

By Travis P. Mountain

Millions of U.S. households have received new credit and debit cards in the mail over the past several months. If you haven’t already received yours, you will. These new cards come with an embedded computer chip that adds extra security to your card purchases. Not sure if you have one of these new chip cards? The chip is a small, metallic- looking square object embedded in the front of your card.

Living on Credit Cards by Images Money

Eventually this chip will replace the magnetic stripe that we are accustomed to seeing on the back of all of our credit and debit cards. Until then, these new cards will have both the chip and the stripe. A primary reason that the new cards still have the magnetic stripe on the back is that not all retailers have updated their card readers for the new chip technology. Thus, even if you have a new chip card, you may still have to swipe your card the “old fashioned way.” What if your retailer has the updated card reader and you have a chip card? Instead of swiping the card, you insert the card into the reader, similar to how you would insert your debit card into an ATM machine. Once the transaction has been approved, the machine will prompt you to take the card out. This will take several seconds.

Why is the “chip” better than the “stripe”?

The chip technology allows for a safer transaction. The chip creates a unique code for every transaction. If someone were able to copy the information from your card, they would only have copied the latest transaction code. When someone then tries to use this copied information, the old code would be rejected and the transaction would not go through. The magnetic stripe, on the other hand, does not have any information that changes between transactions. If someone was able to copy the information from this stripe, they would be free to make purchases until the card owner contacted his or her card company or fraudulent purchases were flagged.

While the new chip technology is safer than the old magnetic stripe, it is not perfect. The added safety is only in place if you insert your new card into an appropriate card reader. If you make an online purchase or over the phone purchase, there is no added security. Similarly, if someone has your credit card, there is nothing in place to prevent the use of your card. Eventually, U.S banks are likely to move to “Chip and Pin” technology like many European banks have. Chip and Pin would require you to insert your chip card and also enter a pin (just like we currently do when withdrawing money with a debit card). The pin feature would prevent someone from using a stolen card. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

Your new Chip card may or may not have the same account number on the card. However, the 3-digit security code on the back of a credit card as well as the expiration date has likely changed. For these reasons, you will want to confirm and update any automatic payments that you have established.

When you get your new Chip card, you will likely have to activate it by calling a 1-800 number which will be on a sticker on the back of your new card. Once your new card is activated, shred and dispose of your old card. Never give out personal and financial information to someone who calls you claiming to be from your financial institution. Phishing scams have been on the rise surrounding these new cards and unsuspecting individuals have been targeted. If someone does call you and asks for this information, hang-up and call the 1-800 number on the back of your card to confirm that you are speaking with your financial institution.

Travis Mountain is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech University. Mountain’s area of concentration as an Extension specialist is the financial and economic well-being of the households and communities of Virginia. 

Resources from Military Caregiving Webinar: An Introduction to TRICARE®

Below is a selection of the resources from our February, Introduction to TRICARE®, webinar. If you would like to watch a recording of this webinar, or download a copy of the PowerPoint and other event materials for this webinar, visit the Learn Event Page.

TRICARE® Resources:

TRICARE Web Site: Landing page for TRICARE that will keep you up to date with TRICARE news, and help you through finding a plan or when something changes.

TRICARE’s Beneficiary Web Enrollment: Enrollment website for TRICARE® benefits.

TRICARE Formulary Search Tool: Tool to determine the coverage available for prescriptions

TRICARE Stateside Regions: To find your region for TRICARE coverage

TRICARE Health Plans: Descriptions of health care plans

TRICARE Prime – Moving Made Easy Fact Sheet: Transferring your TRICARE® Prime Enrollment by phone, online, or by mail.

TRICARE® Standard and TRICARE Extra: A fee-for-service option that allows beneficiaries to see any TRICARE-authorized provider

TRICARE Publications You can view, print, and download TRICARE fact sheets, handouts and other educational materials.

TRICARE4u Your online resource for TRICARE For Life beneficiary and provider populations

TRICARE Young Adult is a plan that qualified adult children can purchase after eligibility for “regular” TRICARE coverage ends at age 21.

Filing Claims: On some occasions you will need to file your own claims.

TRICARE Special Needs: TRICARE offers several services under the basic TRICARE benefit for beneficiaries with special needs.

TRICARE Contacts: Different methods of contacting customer service as well as other useful services.

TRICARE University: offers public courses to learn more about the basics of TRICARE, or certifications courses for a more in-depth review.

TRICARE Social Media: The Multimedia Center delivers critical content through social media, educational videos and podcasts, and external outreach.


Mark your calendars for our next webinar entitled ADHD, Anxiety, and Autism: Practical Approaches to Child Psychiatry. This free learning opportunity will be April 27, 2016 at 11:00 AM Eastern. To find out more and register please go to: https://learn.extension.org/events/2492.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published March 25, 2016.



Tax Information for Members of the Military

By Dr. Martie Gillen

The IRS web site has a wealth of tax information including tax information for members of the military and tax information for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Some tax laws may provide special benefits for active members of the U.S. Armed Forces including those serving in combat zones.

The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, addresses a wide range of issues that may affect members of the military including gross income; adjustments to income including armed forces reservists and moving expenses; combat zone exclusion; alien status; sale of a home; foreclosures; itemized deductions; tax credits such as the earned income credit and the child tax credit; forgiveness of a decedent’s tax liability; filing returns including same-sex marriage, where to file, when to file, and signing returns, and extension of deadlines; deferral (delay) of payment for income tax; maximum rate of interest; and how to get tax help.

Watch the recording of the 2013 MFLN Personal Finance webinar “Tax Planning Updates for Military Families.”

The questions and answers on combat zone tax provisions offers guidance on the tax relief provided for U.S. military and support personnel involved in military operations in a combat zone.

Check with the legal services assistance office at your military installation to see if they offer free tax assistance. According to the IRS, you can also find free options to prepare and file your return on IRS.gov or in your local community if you qualify.

  • Go to IRS.gov and click on the Filing tab to see your options.
  • Enter “Free File” in the search box to see whether you can use brand-name software to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free.
  • Enter “VITA” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call 1-800-906-9887 to find the nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) location for free tax preparation.
  • Enter “TCE” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call 1-888-227-7669 to find the nearest Tax Counseling for the Elderly location for free tax preparation.

Once you have filed your taxes, you can check the status of your refund by going to www.irs.gov/refunds; downloading the free IRS2Go app to your smart phone and use it to check your refund status, or calling the automated refund hotline at 1-800-829-1954.

Equine Therapy to Combat PTSD


Equine therapy has become a unique practice in helping service member and veterans who may be experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, research has shown improvements within the family structure through this therapeutic approach to combating PTSD.

Horses are prey animals responding to new and potentially dangerous situations with a flight or fight response, most often flight. Due to their natural instincts and intuitiveness, horses can sense the anxiety, frustration, and stress of someone approaching them. They are considered mirrors to your current emotional state, meaning approaching a horse in a calm and relaxed manner; the horse will remain calm and relaxed. However, if a horse is approached by someone that is tense and unsure the horse becomes tense and unsure, then responds by their natural instinct of either flight or fight.

Horses pay attention to our body language, and react accordingly. One of the strategies for helping service members with PTSD through the use of horses is to help them understand the way they are approaching others and relate their experience back to themselves. Another method is for individuals to learn through the use of therapy horses how to recognize their current emotions and change them. In order to approach the horse, the person has to calm themselves and relax so that the horse will follow suit. Although in the exercise the service member’s goal is to approach, ride, or take care of the horse. They can then apply these goals from the exercises in other areas of their life.

Watch and listen as veterans provide testimonials on the use of equine therapy to heal their invisible wounds at the Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont, VA.


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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published March 18, 2016.

National Consumer Protection Week

Military Families Learning Network – Personal Finance Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft, and scams? Maybe you’re wondering about the best way to use credit, how to shop for a used car, or maximize your security online.

Credit Card Theft by Don Hankins
Credit Card Theft by Don Hankins

MFLNPF has information for you during National Consumer Protection Week — March 6-12, 2016 — and any time of the year.

We will be hosting a webinar today, Tuesday, March 15 at 11 a.m. ET. The topic will be Identity Theft: How to Reduce Your Risk.

Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Carol Kando-Pineda, of the Federal Trade Commission, will present this 90-minute webinar on behalf of the Military Families Learning Network. This 90-minute webinar will include two sections: a general overview of identity theft and discussion about military-specific scams. Topics covered during the first section, presented by Dr. O’Neill, include a definition of identity theft, signs of identity theft, an identity theft risk assessment quiz, types of identity theft, how identity theft occurs, ways to reduce identity theft risk, phishing scams, proactive and reactive identity theft actions, and identity theft resources. Ms. Kando-Pineda plans to discuss getting help for identity theft victims, including the steps they need to take immediately, walking through the new features for consumers on Identitytheft.gov and how they help victims develop a recovery plan, get a heads-up on the latest “imposter” scams, and an update on the Military Consumer campaign and new resources on the way for the military community.

Go to https://learn.extension.org/events/2326 for more information. Also, visit www.ncpw.gov to learn how to get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.

TBI at a Glance

As we highlight Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) awareness month for March, there may be a few things that might surprise you about the injury that you didn’t know.

TBI occurs when there is a sudden trauma causing damage to the brain. This can be from the head suddenly or violently hitting an object, or when an object pierces the skull – entering the brain tissue.

tbi-facts_block_1 tbi-facts_block_2 tbi-facts_block_3 tbi-facts_block_4 tbi-facts_block_5 tbi-facts_block_6 tbi-facts_block_7

TBI is known as the “signature wound” during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and between 2000 and 2012, more than 266,000 service members sustained a TBI (BrainLine Military). If you are caring for someone who is experiencing a TBI learn how to help and cope during this journey. According to the article, Caring for Those with Traumatic Brain Injury, it is important to:

  • Identify inappropriate behaviors and outbursts.
  • Educate children in the home about potential behavior changes.
  • Avoid activities that could lead to another brain injury.
  • Be patient.
  • Join a support group for caregivers in similar caring situations.

For more facts and resources for TBI visit brainline.org. Also, contact your state affiliated Brain Injury Association of America and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center to learn more about caring for those with a TBI.

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published March 11, 2016.

5 Easy Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate

Identity theft is referred to as the “fastest growing white collar crime in America” by the Office of the Inspector General. Having your identity stolen can result in your hard earned funds being fraudulently withdrawn from your account and it can also have serious implications for your credit report and score, negatively impacting your eligibility for employment and favorable loan terms. The following methods outline some basic ways you can protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands:

  1. Learn to identify phishing scams: Phishing requests are emails or other electronic correspondence you may receive asking for your personal information. Such requests are made to seem like they are being sent by a legitimate organization that you are affiliated with such as a bank, department store, or email-hosting service. Phishing requests are notoriously difficult to identify and often even the most Internet-savvy of us fall victim to these elaborate schemes. Learn how to tell if an email is a phishing scam by using CIO.com’s very useful guide or take the phishing IQ test to see if you can distinguish a phishing scam from a legitimate request.
  1. Secure your personal information: At home, make sure your personal information is stored in a secure location or is password-protected on a secure computer. Do not carry your social security card in your wallet and only provide your social security number when absolutely necessary. It’s also a good idea to shred any documents you don’t need–such as credit applications and offers or bank statements–that contain sensitive information. If you are required to provide an organization with your personal information, ask them what exactly they need it for and what measures they have in place to protect it.
  1. Check your Credit Report: Obtaining a free credit report once a year is an effective way to make sure that your identity has not been stolen. Identity thieves often open accounts or obtain loans using your personal information, and these activities will show up on your credit report. You may even consider implementing a credit freeze which restricts access to your report and makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts under your name.
  1. Monitor your statements: A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that in 2012, more than 70 percent of consumers in the U.S. had at least one credit card. Unfortunately, the ease and convenience of using a credit card comes with the additional risk of having credit card information stolen. It is important to routinely monitor your credit card statements to identify any unauthorized activity on your account. If you discover that your credit card information has been compromised, use this helpful guide to learn what to do next.
  1. Guard your mail: Identity thieves often obtain personal information by stealing your mail and/or responding to pre-approved credit offers you receive in the mail. Avoid falling victim to mail fraud by checking your mail frequently and shredding any financial offers/documents you receive in the mail. To learn more about identity theft through mail, visit the S. Postal Inspection Service website.

The best way of preventing identity theft is educating yourself on how you can best protect your personal information. Read up on what to do if your identity is stolen and monitor your credit card and bank account statements routinely to identify and unauthorized transactions soon after they occur.

A photograph of a man wearing fake glasses, nose and mustache.
Photo by Jeff Turner

To learn more ways to protect yourself and empower your clients against identity theft schemes, join our webinar on Tuesday, March 15 at 11 a.m. ET. Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Carol Kando-Pindea of the Federal Trade Commission will present a 90-minute webinar that identifies new ways thieves are stealing personal information and ways to prevent becoming a victim.

Audiocast Trans Fat Update with Dr. Kristi Crowe-White and Dr. Karen Champman-Novakofski

Flikr The US Food and Drug Assoc Avoiding Trans Fat, June 11, 2015

Blog by Robin Allen MSPH, RDN, LDN

Click here for the audio cast Trans Fat Update with Dr. Kristi Crowe-White 

More key take aways from the Trans Fat Update webinar according to Dr. Crowe-White:

Trans Fats = partially hydrogenated fats which negatively influence HDL and LDL among other adverse health effects

Fully hydrogenated fats contain no double bonds which mean there is no place for a trans bond.  Thus, these act like saturated fats in the body.

Do not focus on the word hydrogenated but rather on the adjective preceding it.  Partially hydrogenated fats are TRANS FATS.  Fully hydrogenated fats act just like saturated fats in the body.

I hope this webinar and audio cast clears up any confusion about trans fat, sources of trans fat and implications for health and nutrition in your practice.


This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that 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 Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.



4 Very Serious Implications of Identity Theft

By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate

Credit Card Theft by Don Hankins
Credit Card Theft by Don Hankins

Despite the attention that identity theft has received over the past few years, many of us still view it as a minor crime that happens once in a blue moon. While we take measures to protect ourselves from burglary, theft and other more “threatening” crimes, many Americans lack the awareness or resources to protect themselves from having their identities stolen. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that financial identity theft is the most common type of theft, followed by government and medical identity theft. Furthermore, a 2015 Gallup poll reported that while the incidence of credit card fraud in 2015 declined by 5% last year, the incidence of identity theft among Americans increased by 4% and that 16% of individuals interviewed had been victims of identity theft. Identity theft has been called the fastest growing white collar crime in America by the Office of the Inspector General and, with more than 1 in 10 Americans being targeted, it is crucial for you to learn how identity theft can affect you and your family.

  1. Your Credit Report/Score: The financial consequences of having your identity stolen are far-reaching and may have long-term implications. A thief can use your identity to apply for credit, open additional accounts and access a host of other financial resources. These activities can impact your credit report – a resource that is used by employers, insurance agencies, and potential lenders to assess your financial well-being.
  2. Access to Credit: Identity theft can have a long-term effect on your credit score if the thief obtains new loans or accounts under your name. Your credit score is used by banks and other institutions to assess your suitability for a loan and also to determine what interest rate to charge you. Frivolous activity on your account as a result of identity theft is likely to result in your being denied access to funds, or in your being charged a higher interest rate.
  3. Bank account: Given access to a few key pieces of personal information, an identity thief can obtain access to the funds in your checking, savings and investment accounts. Your funds can be used to purchase goods, obtain cell phones or utilities in your name, or the funds can be drained from your account.
  4. Terrorism: While the relationship between identity theft and terrorism may seem a bit far-fetched, the reality is that identity theft has played a major role in many terrorism incidents, including 9/11 and the recent attacks in Paris. Nefarious individuals can use your identity to create fake IDs that allow them to cross borders undetected, or purchase resources in your name that cannot be traced back to them.

Identity theft is slowly but surely becoming the most common white collar crime of our time. The above list addresses just a few of the ways that you and your family can be impacted by having your identity stolen. Be proactive in protecting yourself and your assets against identity theft by following these 10 simple steps.

For more ways to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft, join our March 15 webinar, Identity Theft: How to Reduce Your Risk with Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Carol Kando-Pineda, Counsel in the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education division.