Thanking our Military During the Holiday Season #MetLifeTDP

This post was sponsored by the MetLife TRICARE Dental Program as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central

As a military family being thankful for our military community is something that usually on our minds all time. We are right in the thick of things. During the holidays though, especially when we are fortunate enough to have our loved one home, we think about those that don’t. We know the pain and sadness of the empty chair. Its something that can be hard to deal with. But you make your own way. You fill your house with other people that also have empty chairs, or sometimes you just put your daddy pillow in that chair and power through. Sometimes thanking the Military isn’t actually thanking the service member. Sometimes its acknowledging the family that is left behind.

Checking in on our fellow Homefront people, inviting them over for dinner, game night, offering to watch the kids so the spouse that is at home can have some time to themselves. These are all ways that anyone can be a part of acknowledging their military community during the holidays, and anytime of the year. Because while the holidays may be some of the hardest times to not be with your family, service members are overseas and away from their families all year long. I make sure to send care packages as much as possible, and if my husband learns of someone he is with that is having a particularly difficult time, they get a care package too. Even a small letter is appreciated! Getting your whole family involved shows your children that they can make a difference, even in a small way. It helps us us cope in our own way,

Organizations and companies, like Metlife TRICARE Dental, also want to wish military families well during the holiday season. The Winter season can be rough when it comes to taking care of yourself. Sickness is going around, sometimes weather makes it difficult to get out, and you just want to stay holed up and cozy in your home. .,.

Metlife TRICARE Dental has some great winter health messages and ideas for us,
 to get us through, not only the holiday season, but the winter season as well.

It’s important during Pregnancy, to take of your teeth. In TRICARE’s Winter Dental Health Matters issue, they discuss this very thing. “According to the American Dental Association, the hormonal risk of developing gum disease, which can affect your health and the health of your baby.” Dental health during pregnancy is so important that TRICARE includes a third cleaning during a consecutive 12-month period at no extra cost. The fact that TRICARE sees the importance and backs it up by encouraging you to take care of your teeth without causing financial difficulties shows me what a great organization they really are.

Another important message this Winter is that of survivor benefits. This is another area in which TRICARE has seen a very real issue and is doing what they can to help during what is a very difficult time. There is no requirement to have been previously enrolled in TDP to utilize the benefit. Premiums are covered in full. And what really hits home for me is that Metlife TRICARE Dental extends this same benefit to those on Guard and Reserve duty, regardless of whether or not they were activated at the time of death. This coverage is made available for three years, and then surviving family is able to enroll in the Retiree Dental Program. This is what is so wonderful about the Military community. Even though things are never perfect, there are so many organizations, for profit, and non-profit, that are supporting you during your worst times.  And for that I’m very thankful. You can read more from their 2015 Winter Health Matters newsletter here.

And perhaps the most important thing to me, as an Air Guard spouse, is the quality of care that we receive from the dental program. I am thankful for the ability to get decent care and I really encourage any National Guard and Reserve family that doesn’t have dental, or perhaps only uses civilian, to either sign up for Metlife TRICARE dental or add it as an additional service as we do in our home. Then you will have access to a provider network of over 250,000 dental locations worldwide! And as a National Guard or Reserve service member, who is enrolled in TDP, you can have your network provider fill out the Department of Defense Active Duty/Reserve Forces Dental Examination Form (DD form 2813) at no cost. Hubby does this all time, at a dentist of his own choosing, without having to go on base. Its really awesome!

connect with them on social media!

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Military Compensation and Benefits – #KeepYourPromise

I’ve written a couple articles for Homefront United Network concerning big changes to military benefits and compensation. Last week the MCRMC (Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission) just release their final report. It is a length report but I feel it is incredibly important for everyone, military and civilian alike, to understand fully what is at stake here. Not all the recommendations are bad; and in fact there are some really good ones. Check out my latest articles….

Military Healthcare, the DoD’s Moneypit
Military healthcare; the earned and deserved benefit of our military force is under attack again. It seems as though we were just on this ride, a ride that is quickly becoming terrifying for military families to be on. Early last year we were battling a devastating commissary threat, cancelled pay raises, and other benefits that were on the chopping block. It is not lost on me, and perhaps most of us actually living the life of a military family, that almost all of the people doing the talking and decision-making are not those who experience the military lifestyle. It makes these commissions, panels, and councils seem grossly out of touch and a political version of the Wicked Witch of the West to our Dorothy.

Learn more about the National Guard/Reserve life. I believe a full understanding of all aspects of military life can create some really good conversation about how each of the recommendations in the MCRMC will affect different military families.

Suffering From Support Services Envy: National Guard Life Reality
It may not be a technical medical condition, but the side effects are real, make no mistake. As the spouse of a National Guard service member, it is a condition I have been faced with and felt frequently. There are times when I feel awful about it, selfish and ashamed that these feelings could have their way with me. But, it’s hard for a person to know how they will react until they feel utterly alone.
The HUN’s guest writer, Randi Cairns, recently addressed some of the side effects of “choosing” this life. Recounting almost verbatim many of my own feelings, Cairns story only goes to show that this life is far more common than it seems. Going from Active Guard Reserve to a somewhat “traditional” status is a difficult transition. We live the life of an active duty family, to a certain extent, and then are suddenly ripped from all the comfort (and apparent respect) of what that life brings. Sure, we have transitioned to a wonderful civilian career that is almost interchangeable with the military one, but it’s not the same.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the recommendations, or even your experience as a Guard or Reserve family.

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The Military-Related Post I Write Every Year…..

Every year I feel like I write a post like this, whether here or on other outlets that I write for (like this one on Homefront United Network).  Seriously, it boggles the mind that this is even still a discussion but it seems as if several times a year I come across someone saying, or writing, something about this topic that makes my blood boil.  Yet again I run across someone talking about how the National Guard isn’t the Military or “its just not the same,” or my absolutely favorite “there ARE some National Guard and Reserve spouses who qualify (as milspouses).”  What?!  I can’t even people, I mean seriously.  In this day in age, after this many years of war why say things like this? 

The last one most recently was a blogger.  There was so much within me that just wanted to word vomit all over this person.  Her struggle, while specifically her family’s transition from full-time to a traditional Guardsman, was real it just kept coming across terribly.  These are real people that are being talked about and the words can hurt.  It’s not even this specific case because I know it was part personal, and part a full lack of understanding.  But its this line of thinking that concerns me.  It’s what I constantly feel I am fighting in any advocacy I do.  If this is how people begin to view, or keep on viewing us, we will continue to be in serious trouble.  One of the most disturbing things about this is one phrase spoken to me, that continues to stand out to me this day.  “Well, when your husband deploys you’ll get lots of support.”  For one, that makes me laugh because if they don’t know I’m here when I’m actually here, how will they know I’m there when he’s gone?”  So many organizations are unaware or don’t know what to do with singular Guard families, or ones that are remotely located, who are seeking help.  This also bothers me because in the Active Duty world (that I had been a part of up until recently) you can receive support and help any day of the week, whether your husband deploys frequently, ever, or regardless of the type of job you have. For the most part I can access many things because I’m close to a base, but there are still lots of things that are unavailable to me.  And its not like I can get a “my husband’s civilian career is just like his military career” waiver.

It’s not even about the things.  I don’t need a baby shower, or a free Christmas tree, or school supplies for my kids.  It’s the respect and the understanding.  If you can so flippantly suggest that not all National Guard/Reserve Spouses are military spouses then that is concerning.  I can admit that I struggle with the transition myself.  I don’t see my husband in his uniform as often as I once did, and I don’t have “unit or squadron” friends.  But its still a part of my identity.  No one, even a full-time military spouse should let that be the only part of your identity, but no matter how big or little a role it plays it is still a part of who you are.

So, if you are reading this and struggling with this very thing, don’t.  YOU ARE a military spouse, no matter if he puts on that uniform every day, on a weekend here and there.  Whether he’s a pilot, in medical, admin or finance.  No matter what that is still a part of your identity and you should be proud.  This is something your spouse volunteered for, and you as well.  No matter the involvement your spouse is still important and is valued by many people.  You are valued, and so is your family.  Thank you for your service, no matter what that looks like.

One Fight, One Force
Go Guard!

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#MilitaryMonday – What’s the Deal with TriCare?

Happy Monday everyone!  I usually do a ‘Military Monday type post, but today is my first time linking up with Ashley over at Eights on the Move.  I’m super excited to have found Ashley’s blog because I’ve been thinking about an officially ‘Military Monday’ Link-up and low and behold there it was!  I’m thinking about re-visiting some of her previous topics and playing catch up, but first thing’s first.  This week’s topic is TriCare – dun dun duuuunnnnn!  Did you hear the creepy music?

As with all things in life there are multiple experiences.  Truth be told we’ve had an almost impeccable experience with Tri-Care and United Concordia one could have in an eleven year career.  The only problems that we’ve had was something that I don’t know that they necessarily had control over, and was mostly due to the oddity that is my husband’s job.  The other unique experience that we have had is the fact that we were remote.  Because of that we had TriCare Prime Remote.  TriCare Prime is the standard plan that most active duty people receive.  Prime Remote meant that standard of care was received by all civilian doctors since we weren’t anywhere near an MTF.  There is no cost for TriCare prime and we never had to pay a co-pay.  Our prescriptions were dirt cheap; and I had three babies, a wrist surgery and several specialty visits and paid not one cent!  The one thing that did cost us a bit was when there wasn’t a generic prescription for something, but then compared to what someone else might pay for name brand meds, it was nothing.

When we moved here to Virginia and my husband took a civilian contract we first took the insurance available through his work.  After one year we were like forget this nonsense!  A part of the decision to take the civilian insurance was because of our location.  There are about five military bases within a stone’s throw of us.  For us, personally, MTFs and military health care was not for us.  However, we had other options!   Currently we have TriCare Reserve Select, which other than the annual fee has been a seemless transition from active to traditional guard.

Here they are broken down for you:

TriCare Standard and Extra – This plan provides so much flexibility to its users.  You are allowed to see any authorized provider whether they are in your network or not.  When you see a non-network provider (standard option) you will pay a little bit out of pocket.  You will not need a referral but some appointments might need prior-authorization.  For example when I decided to see someone for my depression I called and made an initial appointment and the doctor submitted the paperwork.  I then received a letter from TriCare stating that I was approved to see this doctor for a certain number of visits.  There is a small deductible based on your rank..  This plan is available to all the eligible beneficiaries except the active-duty service member.  ** if your sponsor is National Guard or Reserve, the deductible is waived if they were activated in support of a contingency operation.

TriCare Standard and Extra info page

US Family Health Plan – This is an additional Prime option.  It is available through networks of community-based, not for profit health care providers.  There are designated areas that this option is available, and it is available for a wide variety of people including the following – active duty, retired families, active guard and reserve families, non-activated guard and reserve families who qualify for Transitional Assistance Management Program, survivors, Medal of Honor recipients and their families, and qualified former spouses.  Like I mentioned before this plan is available only in certain areas, mostly on the East Coast.  You can view the areas and the areas on the TriCare info page.  There is no enrollment fee for active duty families and transitional survivors.  Other families pay an enrollment fee of of a little over $500.00 (which can be paid quarterly or monthly).  There are no other fees as long as you see an approved provider.

TriCare Prime – Here’s a great article about Prime from

TriCare Reserve Select – This is for my National Guard and Reserve peeps!  This is very similar to the Standard and Extra plan.  When you see a network provider it costs less, then if you see a non-network provider.  There is a small enrollment fee of just under $200.00 for a family.  Deductibles vary based on the sponsor’s rank.  After the deductible is met there is a percentage that is paid for outpatient visits.  Learn more by visiting the info page for TRS.

When you visit the TriCare main page you can answer questions about who you are, where you live and your service member’s status.  It will pull up available plans for you and break them down even further.  I have to say the TriCare website has come a long way in being way more user friendly.  It is explained clearly and is very easy to navigate.

I guess the final question would be “how do I get this insurance?”  In order to receive this you must be enrolled in DEERS.  Service members are automatically enrolled in DEERS.  In order for family members to be enrolled you have to go on your base or armory.  The service member will take his/her spouse to the local ID office to get your ID as well.  You will a birth certificate and/or marriage certificate.  You can locate the nearest office here.  Unfortunately our guard/reserve families may have to travel further to get this done if you are not near your unit.  The good part about those that are far (and close as well) is that if you can’t make it with your service member that’s okay.  My husband enrolled me right after we were married without me being there.  He just took my birth certificate and our marriage certificate with him.  And all children can be enrolled without you lugging them out to the office.  The service member will just take the birth certificate to the office to get them officially enrolled.  TriCare does make allowances for new births and the initial pediatrician visits before you have the official birth certificate, just make sure you have your information (tricare card and the id) when you go to the office.

We are huge fans of TriCare in the Cammo Style Love house.  Do you use TriCare?  What’s been your experience?

If you have any other questions please ask here or email me!!

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Summer’s almost over…have you gone to the museum yet?!

Summer is well under way.  Time for family vacations, weekend getaways and days with no school where mom is endlessly searching for ways to fill the time.  I can assure that is me, sitting at my computer, finding ways to frugally shake things up on the very hottest of days.  thankfully the Blue Star Museum’s program is around this summer!  In May I attended the event launch for this wonderful program for military families, which is available to all Military families – Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve – available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  I especially appreciate that the folks at the National Endowment for the Arts have gone out of their way to include ALL military families!!!  This warms my heart.  Blue Star Musuems is a made possible through a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, Joining Forces, MetLife Foundation and all the wonderful museums that are participating in this great program.  The program has tripled in size, which means so many more experiences for families all over!  

me and fellow Millie, Jen, who is our Social Media Manager (Blue Star Families)
 Listening to Commander Leslie Hull-Ryde inspire our young guests!
Blue Star Musueums provides the opportunity for many military families to experience things they might not be able to.  Experiencing the arts can be expensive, and I know for me personally that has been the reason why we have put off visiting these types of places at all, or as frequently as I might like.  While many of the museums in my area are free, they have still made it a point to be a part of this initiative to spread the arts to military families, by providing special programs and assistance to them.  The Smithsonian in particular has created an educational program that video conferences to children stationed at military installations all over the world.  They have also created a reintegration program for Wounded Warriors.  Tours and outings to art programs and events are provided to get them out in public settings that are safe and relaxing.

Read more about the launch (and see another picture of me!!  LOL) on the Blue Star Museum’s Blog.

I challenge you to check out this program and make it a part of your summer vacation.  It is invaluable experience for the whole family.  While this program is geared towards families, the hubby and I have been known to visit museums on date night once or twice.  This program is for everyone.  
Visit the National Endowment of the Arts’ website and click on your state for a list of museums in your area, and enjoy your summer with the arts!
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