ARLINGTON, Va. — Extending the time allotted to invest survivor benefits and granting per diem for Families to attend therapy sessions were the top issues requested during the Army Family Action Plan conference.
After four days of workshop discussion, groups presented their top issues to senior Army leaders March 5.
“I’ve been told that since 1983 this forum has raised 501 issues that were resolved,” said Gen. Raymond Odierno, 38th Army chief of staff.
“Most importantly, 61 percent of those issues went across the entire Department of Defense. So you’re not only helping Army families, you’re helping Air Force Families, Marine Families, Navy Families, Coast Guard Families. And I know the Air Force has started this (type of forum) as well.” AFAP, Odierno said, is not just about the Army; it’s about military Families and the work delegates are doing to help military Families.
“But most importantly, you’re helping those who come behind us — those Families that are maybe just coming into the Army, who don’t understand the Army that much, and don’t understand what’s there. You are setting the stage for them, and reaching out to them, and making sure our Army is a better place for our Soldiers and our Families,” he said.
After opening remarks by senior Army leaders, members of the four working groups met in private to decide the priority of the top eight issues.
They also assessed which programs and services were more valuable. Last year, the delegates were asked to focus their assessment on programs dealing with mobilization and deployment. But with the constrained resources and troops coming home, this year they were asked to pick programs and services most important now.
The top five responses for programs that are most valuable, or critical, were:
- Army Family Action Plan - Survivor Outreach Services - Army Emergency Relief - Tuition Assistance - Fitness programs and facilities
Concurrent with the AFAP was a meeting chaired Feb. 28 by the Army vice chief of staff with the General Officer Steering Committee, consisting of about 40 general officers, senior executives and command sergeant majors.
They worked through 37 AFAP issues, and closed nine of them with 28 remaining open. The delegates were then asked to prioritize the current open issues, so they projected the top six as follows:
1. Issue 596: Convicted sex offender registry 2. Issue 670: Medically retired service member’s eligibility for concurrent receipt of disability pay 3. Issue 665: Formal standardized training for designated caregivers of wounded warriors 4. Issue 626: Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance for post-traumatic stress disorder 5. Issue 673: Space-A travel for survivors registered in DEERS 6. Issue 614: Comprehensive behavioral health program for children 7. Issue 629 (tied with Issue 6): 24/7 out-of-area TRICARE prime urgent care authorization and referrals
“What we’re trying to do within the Army now is not build dependency,” said Odierno, “but build resiliency. We want resilient families.
“What we ask our Soldiers and our families to do is difficult but it’s also special. So what we want to do is we want to make them able to be resilient, to prove themselves individually so they can add to what I call the collective good.
Odierno said that it is unprecedented for an all-volunteer force to still be involved in 10 years of war. “You have lived that. And many of you have seen some of the issues that we have to continue to work to make sure we’re providing for our Soldiers, our Families, our children, our extended Families, our Gold Star Families, all those that have contributed so much to what the Army and the full force has been asked to do over the last 10 years.
“So in my mind, this is even more critical than most. So I want to thank you for what you’ve done,” Odierno said.
The foundation of everything the Army does is based on trust. - Trust between Soldiers - Trust between Soldiers and leaders - Trust between Soldiers, leaders, Families and the Army
“This last point is why you’re here today,” he said.
“How do we continue to develop that trust between our Soldiers, leaders and our Army that they can know the Army will be here to do what’s right for them, that they can know that they will have programs in place to help them to be resilient, to help them build their Families, to help them to be more successful in their own individual lives.
Finally, he said, it’s about the trust between the Army and the American people.
“Inherently, I believe, today, more than ever, the American people have incredible trust in our military,” he said. “Well, we have to continue to earn that. We have to earn that by setting high standards, we have to earn that by our actions, we have to earn that by our moral values.
“That’s the essence of who we are, and that’s the essence of who you are.”
“You understand where we have to improve, what we have to adjust, and where we need to go to make ourselves a resilient Army with resilient Families, and children who are given the opportunity to succeed as they continue to support their moms, their dads in what they do,” Odierno said.