Foreclosure and Active Duty Servicemembers: Options Under the SCRA

This month we’ll present a webinar on the Foreclosure Process, on Tuesday, January 24, at 11 a.m. ET. Join this webinar and find supplemental resources here:

By Carol Church

Although the foreclosure problem in the United States has receded from the crisis levels it reached during the recession, thousands of homes across the county still are foreclosed every year. At times, the many changes and income fluctuations involved in a military lifestyle can endanger service members’ ability to pay their mortgages. Fortunately, the government, loan providers, and the military have worked together to create protections from foreclosure especially intended for those who serve. One such protection is folded into the SCRA, or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

What is the SCRA?

The SCRA actually protects service members in a variety of situations. Its purpose is to help those on active duty who may have a hard time meeting financial or legal obligations due to absence or changes in income. In addition to protecting against foreclosure, the SCRA also can lock in low interest rates, delay court judgments, and allow service members a penalty-free exit from loans and contracts, such as a lease or cell phone plan. Service members’ dependents may also be eligible for protections under the SCRA.

What are the Options if a Service Member is Behind on House Payments?

The options in this situation may be affected by the service member’s location. In general, however, this part of the SCRA may be able to delay foreclosure proceedings while members are on active duty and immediately afterwards. Some protections apply whether the service member took out the loan before or after going on active duty. (Note: the SCRA also applies to those who are absent from active duty due to injury or leave.) However, the protections for these two categories are somewhat different, with more offered for those who took out the loan pre-service.

Obtained from

If the service member bought the home before starting active duty

Under the terms of the SCRA, if a service member acquired the mortgage before beginning active duty, the home cannot be foreclosed or seized during active duty or one year after duty completes. The exceptions are if a court issues an order for the foreclosure (a judicial foreclosure) or the lender obtains a waiver from the service member permitting the foreclosure. It’s important to know that as of Jan 1, 2018, the one-year period is scheduled to be reduced to 90 days. However, Congress might alter this, so stay tuned.

Also, be aware that a lender can still ask to foreclose if the bank can prove that the service member’s financial status or ability to come to a court date has not been negatively affected by active duty (for instance, in the case of a reservist whose pay has not been affected by service).

If the service member bought the home after starting active duty

This situation is a little more complicated, but service members are often still protected against a default judgment (one ordered because of failure to appear or take action) being ordered against them, and can contest one if it is entered. The exact protection will depend on the state of residence and whether it has judicial (in court) or nonjudicial (out of court) foreclosures.

Be Aware

SCRA protections are not automatic and must be requested. To be protected, the service member must demonstrate that service had a “material effect” on their ability to pay or attend proceedings. Usually, protection must be requested during active duty or soon afterwards.

To use the protections of the SCRA, members first need to contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office. To find this office, visit this link.

If a service member is having difficulty paying his or her mortgage, there are many options, such as loan modification (changing the terms of the loan), forbearance (short-term suspension of mortgage payments), refinancing, or a repayment plan. Look for a future post on these options soon.


Info on the SCRA from HUD

Official SCRA website

Homeowners’ Protection Under SCRA

NOLO: Foreclosure and the Military

SCRA Questions and Answers

Freddie Mac: Military Relief Options for Service Members


How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions!


Flickr CC Navy NADAP Make a New Years Resolution taken March 5, 2013

by Joanna Manero

Happy New Year! With every New Year, come the return of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, 41% of Americans usually set a resolution. It is evident when you step into the gym or look at your social media that a large percent of these resolutions have to do with nutrition and exercise. Although those new gym-goers and social media enthusiasts may seem motivated and committed to their resolutions, most of them will drop their resolutions and return to old habits. So how can we help people remain motivated and committed to their health goals? Let’s look at a longitudinal study that examined fidelity and success of New Year’s resolutions.

A sample of 213 men and women who made New Year’s resolutions were recruited. On average, participants made 1.8 resolutions which consisted of giving up smoking (30%), weight loss (38%), and relationship improvement (5%), among other resolutions. Researchers found that after just one week, nearly a quarter (23%) of participants reported failure in keeping their new year’s resolution. After one month, over half (55%) reported failure. And finally, after two years, only 19% of participants had kept their new year’s resolution. No effects were found for age, gender, or particular resolution. Furthermore, these numbers are likely elevated by the nature of the volunteer sample and participation in the study. When researchers asked about methods that led to a successful resolution, they found that multiple methods worked and were dependent on the stage of change of the person. Any single method had a moderate effect on success at best. Some of the successful methods were counter conditioning, in particular, using exercise, a gradual reduction in behavior rather than cold turkey elimination, stimulus control, and contingency management. When asked about what caused participants to fail, the most frequent response was the lack of will power. Finally, most participants experienced slip-ups on their journey. When asked about the cause of these slips, the top responses were a lack of self-control, stressful situations, negative emotions, and social pressures. (Norcross and Vangarelli, 1989) Although this study took place in the late 80’s, the factors affecting fidelity and success remain relevant.

Lack of self-control was the most frequent cause of slip-ups in keeping a new year’s resolution. In the past, self-control has been described as a limited resource, much like a muscle gets tired from exertion, and self-control becomes depleted and causes failure of a task. However, motivation can temporarily block the effect of ego-depletion that is associated with overused self-control (Roy et. al, 2007). Similarly, motivation was found to have a moderating effect on task completion when self-control was depleted. In particular, people with motivating thoughts that their efforts could benefit themselves or others had greater success in completing a task when self-control was depleted (Muraven and Elisaveta, 2003). This research suggests that although self-control may be a limited resource, motivation may aid in task completion. It is important to motivate your clients throughout their journey. Find out what motivates them; this can include positive feedback, reminding them of their goals, or even the act of overcoming a challenge.

Often the causes of failure and slip-ups can be just as important as the causes of success. By identifying past causes of missteps, you can help the client plan for triggering situations in the future.

Here are some quick tips to help keep to your new year’s resolution:

Stressful Situations/Negative emotions:

  • Become Aware of your Stressors- By recognizing what makes you stressed, you can better plan for the situation.
  • Attempt to Reduce the Intensity of Your Emotional Reaction- Ask yourself, “Am I viewing the situation in an exaggerated manner? Have I overcome a similar situation in the past?”
  • Build on your Social Circle- Seek support from close friends and family about the stressful situation.
  • Recognize What’s in your Control- What can you change about the situation? Can you attempt to tackle the problem little by little?

Social Pressures:

  • Practice the Buddy System- Find a friend who shares your goals for the new year and supports each other in social situations.
  • Practice saying “no”- Rehearse scenarios in your head and practice saying “no”, it will help your confidence.
  • Think of the consequences- Imagine giving in during a social situation, then image the consequences of your actions; do they outweigh the immediate pleasure?
  • Avoid stressful situations- If you can, avoid situations where you know you will be tempted to break your goal.


What are your with New Year’s resolutions?

Share what makes you, or your clients, more likely to achieve them.

What will you do to help your clients stay on track this year? Share with others your methods of encouraging motivation throughout the whole year.

Hope your 2017 is filled with joy!

This was posted 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.

What’s Ailing Us: Things to consider when a loved one has a chronic illness

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Woman thinking
pixabay[ thoughtful woman by Unsplash, February 2016, CCO]
Connie is sitting in the lobby of her doctor’s office waiting for the door to open and her name to be called. In reality, she is waiting for so much more than that. Connie is waiting for her husband to come back from the longest deployment they have ever experienced as a family. She is waiting for her 2- year old son to start using more words so that his tantrums will decrease. She is waiting for the phone call from her realtor that their house has finally sold so that they can prepare for their next move. She is waiting to find out why her body doesn’t seem to function like it did last year.
This has been the hardest year of Connie’s life. In addition to all of the daily stressors of being a full-time working mother with a husband who has been deployed for most of the year, Connie has been experiencing a multitude of unexplainable symptoms. She has been referred to countless specialists who all seem to be just as mystified as she is about the decline in her health. Because she lives in a rural town, she has had to travel to be seen by most of the specialists only to be poked, prodded, and sent home with no answers again.
Connie can’t sleep. Her hair is falling out. She is in pain more often than not. It appears as though none of her doctors have communicated with each other, as she has to repeat her story at each new visit. Her sick leave is running low at work and her desk is piled high with endless tasks that need to be completed. As she sits in the lobby today, Connie thinks about her children and her job and her husband and her friends. She closes her eyes tightly and uses her last ounce of hope on the thought that this may be the time she finally gets an answer.
The diagnosis process for Connie is familiar to many people with chronic illness. Oftentimes, it is neither a simple nor quick process. Here are some things to consider when you have a family member or friend with a chronic illness:
They may not look sick: If you don’t remember anything else from this list, remember this. Many chronic illnesses are invisible; meaning you are unable to see them from the outside. This does not make the illness any less significant or serious.
Don’t ask them how they are doing unless you really want to know: This applies to everyone you ask, but especially those suffering from chronic illness. While you are certainly trying to sound considerate and supportive, this question can actually have the opposite effect if you really don’t want to know the answer. Many times, the person you ask is trying their very best to make you comfortable with their answer by saying that they are fine. The truth is, though, they are probably not “fine”.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice: Telling a person with a chronic illness that they should try the latest and greatest remedy for their condition can be insulting. It can also be frustrating. What if they have already tried that remedy and it didn’t work? What if they just can’t muster up the energy to try anything else at the moment? What if they don’t want solutions, but just a place to vent or find support? So, unless someone asks you directly for advice, try to keep it to yourself.
Offer support: While you may not be able to help “cure” your loved one, you can certainly be supportive. Ask them what you can do to help support them. Offer to go with them to an appointment, pick their children up from school on an especially hard day, etc.
Remember that they are a person first: Before any illness comes the person. When your loved one is suffering from a chronic illness, remember this! They may not want to talk about their diagnosis or their symptoms. Perhaps they just want to tell you about something funny they saw on tv or an interesting meeting they had at work. Always keep the person and the illness separate.
Be empathetic: No, you can’t put yourself in their shoes. It’s impossible to do that. Even if you had the exact same illness, your experience would be different. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be empathetic to their situation. Don’t compare their illness to someone else’, don’t tell them you know how they feel. Do validate what they are feeling and do encourage them to talk to you.
Next time you decide to reach out to someone with a chronic illness, try to consider these things. If you would like more information on ways to empower families in their journey surrounding chronic illness, join us on January 19th and January 26th here.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the Social Media and Programming Coordination 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 concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

What is One Thing Nobody Told You About Being a Family Caregiver?

When you embark on the journey to be a caregiver of a loved one, there are many obstacles and challenges to face and overcome along the way.

Role Shift

Before becoming a family caregiver you have an established role with your loved ones. You are a parent, spouse, sibling, or child. However, when you become the caregiver you take on a new role that can shift your current role. Although this role shift is often necessary, it can be difficult.

If you are caring for your child, you are a parent as well as a caregiver and an advocate. As a spouse to your loved one you are a husband or wife but also a caregiver. Learning to balance the different roles can help you effectively provide care for your loved one while still maintaining your identity as their spouse, parent, child, sibling or even friend.

For more information about role shift, explore our ‘Caregiver Identity Discrepancy & Implications for Practice’ course.


What is one thing nobody told you about being a family caregiver? 

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 13, 2017.

Assumptions of basing our work on diffusion of innovation

In our last post, we asked you to think about why, as an adult educator, you do the things you do. We suggested that for many of us, especially those working in Cooperative Extension, the “why” was based at least in part in diffusion of innovation theory. Unfortunately, diffusion of innovation theory and the assumptions it leads to are causing us to fall short.

Most of the foundation of diffusion of innovation theory was established more than 50 years ago. In 1941 Bryce Ryan began studying how the innovation of hybrid corn, released in 1928, spread across Iowa. His 1943 study with Neal Gross showed that the adoption of hybrid corn began with a small number of farmers and diffused from there, implying that targeting innovative farmers to adopt innovation would speed up the adoption among all farmers (Stephenson, 2003).

The work of Ryan and Gross led to further studies, most notably by Everett Rogers, who developed the classic adoption curve and the categories of adopters in 1958.

Innovation Adoption Curve
Image by Jurgen Appelo, Flickr, downloaded 12/5/2016,

These categories and the resulting focus on innovators and early adopters have led to serious questions about Cooperative Extension’s reliance of diffusion of innovation theory, including Garry Stephenson’s question, “By Utilizing Innovation Diffusion Theory, have we caused harm in some way to the population we serve?”

Stephenson points out that a focus on innovators can widen gaps in equity. Innovators in agriculture tend to have higher incomes and larger operations than non-adopters. By marketing innovations first to innovators in hopes of influencing others, we may be widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. In agriculture, non-adopters can be further hurt when bigger operations adopt innovations that increase yields which lowers crop prices.

The focus on innovators is especially concerning in light of the work of Duncan Watts and his colleagues suggesting that under most conditions, social change is driven not by “influentials” (opinion leaders) but by easily influenced individuals influencing other easily influenced individuals (Watts and Dodds, 2007) (Thanks to reader Kevin Gamble, @k1v1n, for pointing out Watts’ work).

Watts says a trend’s success depends less on the person who starts it and more on whether the conditions favor that trend (Thompson, 2008). Creating the right conditions is complex. What makes not just one person, but a majority of people ready for change? It’s complex, and our reliance of diffusion of innovation theory leads us to simplification.

Cooperative Extension tends toward a one-size-fits-all approach that better aligns with our reliance on mass media. If we think of our audience as a homogeneous group, all equally ready for change, we can rely on a single message delivered on a limited number of channels to reach them.

Relying on diffusion of innovation theory also simplifies how we look at problems. It leads us to assume problems can be solved by innovations, especially those devised by “experts,” and especially those “experts” at our land-grant universities. However, not all problems can be solved by innovations. Cooperative Extension is being called upon to help address “wicked problems,” complex social issues that cannot be “solved.”

As we said in our previous post, diffusion of innovation theory is implicit in the logic model which in turn guides our program planning. But, as Thomas Patterson pointed out, our planning model has “failed to result in programs capable of solving ill-defined, complex human problems where there’s disagreement on the desired outcomes” (Patterson, 1993).

We need new theories that support our work in the areas where diffusion of innovation leads us to fall short.

Readers suggest alternate theories

In addition to Kevin’s suggestion that we look at the work of Duncan Watts, readers of our last post also suggested Embracing Chaos and Complexity: A Quantum Change for Public Health (thanks Peg Boyles @ethnobot), the Unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (thanks Jared Decker @pop_gen_JED), Extension 3.0: Knowledge Networks for Sustainable Agriculture from UC Davis  and Adaption – Innovation Theory from Virginia Tech (both thanks to Jeff Piestrak @Jeff_Piestrak). Each of these theories/efforts can serve to complement (and sometimes contradict) the theory of the Diffusion of Innovation.

If you are familiar with any of these theories, or others, which do you think holds the most promise for Cooperative Extension?

Authors: Bob Bertsch (@ndbob), Karen Jeannette (@kjeannette), and Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on January 11,2017.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

25 Personal Finance Improvement Strategies

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

The first month of the new year is a great time to help service members develop New Year’s resolutions; a.k.a., financial action plans. Take the time to review their progress toward future financial goals and make recommendations to enhance their overall financial security. Below are 25 personal finance improvement strategies to discuss with military families:

  1. Set Specific Financial Goals– Determine what you want, when you want it, and how much it costs (e.g., $14,000 for a car in 2020). Once the goal is specific, divide the time frame into the dollar cost to determine the required savings.
  2. Calculate Your Retirement Savings Need- Use a tool such as that includes factors such as age, life expectancy, sources of retirement income, and the value of existing savings (e.g., IRAs).
  3. Increase Retirement Savings– Save at least the amount of employer match and more, if possible, up to the IRS limit. Matched savings is “free money.” Savings of 1% more of pay can grow to thousands of additional dollars later.
  4. Live Below Your Means- Spend less than you earn and use the difference to reduce debt and/or save and invest for emergencies and future goals. Track expenses to see where money goes and adjust spending to free up cash.
  5. Build Liquid Cash Reserves- Calculate a liquidity ratio, a measure of the adequacy of emergency savings, by dividing liquid assets (from a net worth statement) by monthly household expenses. The ratio should be 3:1 or better.
  6. Pay Yourself First- Treat savings and investments with the same priority given to a mortgage, rent, or car loan payment. Save and invest automatically through an employer retirement savings plan and other automated deposits.
  7. Invest for Long Term Growth- Put history on your side. Past investment performance data show a higher return in stocks, or growth mutual funds that invest in stock, than for any other asset class (e.g., bonds) over the long term.
  8. Harness the Power of Compound Interest- Calculate the number of years to double a sum of money by dividing 72 by the rate of return (example: 72 ÷ 6% = 12 years). The longer and more frequently money compounds, the better.
  9. Keep It Simple– Consider a “total stock market” mutual fund that tracks U.S. companies and a “total international” fund that provides exposure to companies overseas and the TSP lifecycle (L) fund for “low maintenance” investing.
  10. Develop an Asset Allocation Strategy– Split money among asset classes. An example is 50% stocks, 30% bonds, and 20% cash assets. Keep the portfolio close to its target allocation and rebalance when target weightings shift.
  11. Keep Good Financial Records- Prepare a file folder for each stock or mutual fund owned. Save annual summary statements that list deposits and investment earnings to help calculate your capital gain or loss when shares are sold.
  12. Review Your Insurance- Contact an insurance agent to make sure you are adequately covering “big ticket” risks, such as liability, disability, health care expenses, loss of a breadwinner’s income, and destruction of your home.
  13. Revise Your Tax Withholding- Consider revising your W-4 form to increase take-home pay and minimize potential tax refund delays resulting from identity theft. Use the extra income to save and/or reduce debt.
  14. Maximize Tax Breaks – Consider strategies such as deposits to tax-deferred retirement savings plans, tax-free municipal bonds, tax credits and deductions, and long-term capital gains taxes on investments held more than a year.
  15. “Bunch” Itemized Tax Deductions– Shift payment of tax deductible items (e.g., charitable donations) from one calendar year to the next to be able to itemize every other year if you are close to the standard deduction limit amount.
  16. Calculate Your Net Worth– See where you stand financially at year’s end with a net worth statement. Subtract the amount that you owe (debts) from the value of everything you own (assets). The difference is your net worth.
  17. Take the Wealth Test- Use the formula from The Millionaire Next Door with two key factors: age and gross income. Multiply these numbers together and divide by 10. The result is what your net worth should at least be equal to.
  18. Shop Smart- Question your motives before spending money. Ask yourself “Do I really need this?” When you purchase a product or service, follow the “Rule of 3” and get price quotes from at least three stores or professionals.
  19. Borrow Smart- “Shop” at least three lenders before applying for credit. Compare the annual percentage rate (APR), various fees (e.g., late fee), and other features (e.g., rewards programs) and repay the amount owed quickly.
  20. Check Your Credit– Review your credit report annually from the central site that allows consumers to request free credit reports from the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion):
  21. Get Educated About Money- Take time to learn about personal finance. Suggested learning methods are briefings, webinars, financial books or magazines, CNBC, and financial Twitter chats and websites.
  22. Plan Your Estate– Prepare key documents including a will, living will, and power of attorney. Remember that everyone has an estate plan: either one they prepare themselves or one established by their state of residence.
  23. Develop Financial Resilience – Build financial resilience with adequate savings, low household debt, marketable employment skills, and a social support system. Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” when bad things happen.
  24. Take Care of Your Physical Health- Practice good health habits (e.g., diet, physical activity) to decrease the frequency of having to spend money on doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other health care expenses.
  25. Think Positive- Believe in the saying “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” Positive people generally experience greater success than “naysayers” because they see a connection between what they do today and what happens in the future.

Wait… What?| Questions to regularly ask yourself and others

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

While we are transitioning into this New Year, why not try adding 5 truly essential questions to your life? Dr. James Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education offers us these 5 questions plus one bonus question at the end. You can watch the video below to learn more:


  1. Wait… what? (At the root of all understanding) A very effective way of asking for clarification which is crucial to understand. It’s a question you should ask before drawing conclusions or before making a decision.
  2. I wonder… which can be followed by “why” or “if” ? (At the heart of all curiosity)  Asking I wonder why is a way to remain curious about the world and asking I wonder if is a way to start thinking about how you might improve the world.
  3. Couldn’t we at least? (At the beginning of all progress) This is a question to ask that will enable you to get unstuck as they say; it’s what enables you to get past disagreement to some consensus. It’s also a way to get started when you’re not sure where you’ll finish.
  4. How can I help? (At the base of all good relationships) How we help matters as much is that we do help. If you ask how can I help you’re asking with humility for direction; and you are recognizing that others are experts in their own lives and that they will likely help you as much as you help them.
  5. What truly matters (to me)? This is a question that forces you to get to the heart of issues and to the heart of your own beliefs and convictions.

If you ask these questions regularly, especially the last one, you’ll be in a great position to answer the bonus question, which is, at the end of the day, the most important question you will ever face:
And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so? The “even so” part of this captures perfectly the recognition of the pain and disappointment that inevitably make up a full life, but also the hope that life, even so, offers a possibility of joy and contentment.

If you regularly ask these questions, when it comes time to ask yourself, “but did you get what you wanted out of life even so”, your answer will be, “I did”.

What did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel beloved on this earth. To feel beloved is to feel not only dearly loved but also cherished and respected.

If we all follow the advice of Dr. Ryan and start asking these questions more regularly, is it possible that we can all answer “yes” to the bonus question? We may be able to answer  even more than that if we all give it a try!

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 website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Expert Advice Series: TRICARE® Autism Care Demonstration (ACD).

In a recent webinar entitled “TRICARE® Autism Care Demonstration” participants were provided an overview of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), in addition to advice for service providers and military families on how best to assist beneficiaries under the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD).

Question: What training are you requiring pediatricians providing services at military medical facilities to heave in terms of understanding Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the challenged of the referral system?

Advice: Pediatricians are educated in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as part of their medical educational training. Pediatrician state licensure includes the scope of practice to diagnose ASD. The education and training of developmental pediatricians and behavioral-developmental pediatricians includes specialized education and training on the diagnosis and treatment of developmental disorders, to include ASD. This is why the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) diagnosing provider within two years of diagnosis by a Primary Care Manager (pediatricians, family medicine and internal medicine physicians). Specialized ASD diagnosing providers under TRICARE includes developmental pediatricians, doctoral level licensed clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists, child neurologist and doctors of nursing practice meeting certain criteria.


 Question: Would you please give more detail and clarify what is involved in the 2-year review?

Advice: Every two years from the initial authorization, the Managed Care Support Contractors (MCSC) conduct a clinical review to review clinical necessity for continued ABA services under the ACD. The clinical review takes into account the beneficiary’s current ASD status and treatment needs, to include progress towards meeting ABA treatment objectives and goals, referring provider input and parent/caregiver input. Outcome measures will be required at baseline and every two years as part of the ‘every two-year review’ once the revised ACD policy goes into effect in January 2017. Three outcome measures will be required: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2nd edition (ADOS-2), the appropriate Wechsler Intelligence Scale, and the Vineland 3 which is a global measure of functioning.


Expert: Theresa A. Hart, RNC MS, Nurse Consultant/Program Manager, Perinatal, Pediatrics and Special Medical Programs Defense Health Agency Clinical Support Division

For more advice from Ms. Hart, watch and listen to the professional development training on TRICARE® Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) or download our Questions and Response page from this webinar.

This blog series provides advice from subject matter experts on issues surrounding military caregiving for service providers and families. We take questions and concerns from military helping professionals and families and provide the necessary feedback from credible experts in the field of study. Whether you are a provider or a caregiver, what questions do you have? We want to hear from you.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 6, 2017.


Campaign to build awareness of Community Capacity Training Modules



This week’s Friday Field Notes feature a campaign plan to promote the Community Capacity Training Modules on the Fort Drum installation in Jefferson County, New York. The goal of the campaign is to better connect the military service professionals on the installation to the resources offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Jefferson County (CCE). It is our aim that this campaign serve as a model to be used by installations across the country. 


Campaign Plan Steps:

1.) Conduct a targeted outreach event for the Fort Drum community to educate stakeholders about the Military Families Learning Network. CCE collaborated with the Family Advocacy Program at Army Community Services (ACS) to host this event. This will allow advertisement through all the on-post human service Facebook pages and other communication networks to include child care, ACS, TAP (Transition Assistance Program) and MEDDAC.

This outreach event introduced an audience of professionals (primarily Military Family Life Consultants) working with Fort Drum Families to the MFLN, provided a brief history and purpose of MFLN, reviewed the primary concentration areas, with focus on Community Capacity Building including local programs that exemplify CCB at Fort Drum. There was also a review of the resources available and educational opportunities (webinars, trainings, etc.,). Participants were invited to contribute to conversation and networking.

2. Prepare a press release for the region – This included Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence County newspapers and detailed the resources available. A modified version of the press release was also distributed to the North Country Council of Social Agencies and linked to their Website and Facebook.

3.) Distribute Infographic – Investigate options with Fort Drum Public Affairs to advertise through Fort Drum venues.

Distribute Infographic at local events, such as:

  • Fort Drum Career Fair
  • Youth Services Network
  • Youth, Family and Community Development Program Advisory
  • AG Extravaganza
  • Environmental Awareness Day

4. Distribute at Cornell Cooperative Extension Staff meeting to be passed along to a wider network (schools, community centers, businesses) – approximately 40 staff in attendance received the infographic for distribution.

5. Appear on local news channel to share information about MFLN resources: featured on Chanel 7 News on December 9th, 2016.


An after action report was generated upon conclusion of this campaign, here were some suggestions and insights as to how this campaign could be improved:

  • Keep presentations about MFLN resources short and to the point. Don’t spend a lot of time clicking around to show an overwhelming amount of resources. Let the audience practice navigating the website by making directional choices within each content area.
  • Emphasize that this is an online learning community. Reviewing resources such as the webinars tends to be most helpful and is the primary interest of military family service professionals.
  • Attend other group meetings and make presentations to multiple groups. Suggestions included superintendents of schools, community organizations and volunteer groups, and agency staff meetings on local installations.

Financial Planning Metrics

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

Happy New Year! During January, many military families, like all Americans, make resolutions to improve their personal finances and other aspects of their lives (e.g., health habits). They may be especially interested in tools and techniques that help them assess their financial strengths and weaknesses.

Happy New Year by amorimbiotec is licensed Public Domain CC0 via
Happy New Year by amorimbiotec is licensed Public Domain CC0 via

The word “metric” is used a lot in both the health and financial fields. According to an online dictionary, “metric” can be defined as “a system of measurement that facilitates the quantification of some particular characteristic.” Many people are interested in measuring their progress or status and tools with which to do it. Whether it is financial literacy, or school test scores, or health and lifestyle habits, people want ways to determine how they “measure up.”

Following are some commonly used financial planning metrics:

Consumer Debt-To-Income Ratio- Monthly consumer debt expenses (excluding a mortgage) should not exceed 15% of take-home pay. This includes payments for credit cards, car loans, and student loans. A debt-to-income ratio of 20% or more is considered a “danger zone” and a red flag for financial distress.

Credit Score- The higher the number, the better. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 with those in the 760+ range considered the best evidence of creditworthiness. People with high credit scores generally pay lower interest rates to borrow money than others.

Emergency Fund– Financial experts generally recommend having access to enough cash to cover household expenses for at least three to six months. This money can be a combination of liquid assets (e.g., money market fund) and lines of credit (e.g., home equity line).

Expense Ratios- An expense ratio is the percentage of mutual fund assets deducted for management and operating expenses. The lower the expense ratio percentage, the less investors pay; for example 0.20 (1/5 of 1%) versus 1.5%. High expense ratios are a drag on investment returns and should generally be avoided.

Inflation Rate– Some people use the annual inflation rate (measured by the Consumer Price Index or CPI) as a benchmark and try to have their investments outpace it by a certain percentage.

Investment Returns on Specific Securities– Investment performance is generally tracked against market indices. Indices are portfolios of stocks or bonds that are tracked to monitor investment performance. Some common indices used to measure personal investment performance against include the Standard and Poor’s 500 (tracks 500 large U.S. company stocks), Wilshire 5,000 (tracks all U.S. stocks), and MSCI EAFE index (tracks the performance of stocks issued by overseas companies).

Net Worth- Net worth is calculated by subtracting household debts from household assets. A benchmark for net worth, described in the book The Millionaire Next Door, is calculated by multiplying your age by your pre-tax (gross) income, excluding inheritances, and dividing by ten. This number, or higher, is what your net worth should be. For example, if you are age 35 with a $40,000 gross income, 35 x 40 = $1.4 million, divided by 10 = $140,000 for an adequate net worth.

Retirement Savings– A general guideline is to save $300,000 for every $1,000 of monthly income needed to supplement a pension and/or Social Security needed in retirement. For example, $2,000 of supplemental monthly living expenses would require about a $600,000 nest egg. This calculation is based upon the frequently cited “4% Rule” for retirement asset withdrawals. Four percent of $300,000 is $12,000 per year or $1,000 per month. Studies have found that portfolios of 50% stock and 50% fixed-income and cash assets will generally last 30 years with a 4% withdrawal rate.

U.S. Household Financial Data– Statistics from federal government databases, such as the Survey of Consumer Finances and Bureau of the Census data, provide useful financial benchmarks. Average household expense figures, asset holdings, and net worth can all be used for comparison purposes.