Military Saves Week: Taking Advantage of the Financial Benefits of Deployment

By Carol Church

As every member of the military knows, being deployed can be stressful, intense, and difficult. However, it also comes with one advantage: increased pay. In some cases, service members may also experience a significant decrease in living expenses.

Extra money from deployment can get service members out of debt, dramatically bump up savings, and create financial security where there was none. However, handled imprudently, extra earnings from deployment can also set up a financial house of cards or disappear into unwise purchases. Here are some tips to help service members max out the financial advantages of deployment while also staying financially on track.

First, decrease expenses as much as possible:

–Cancel, suspend, or reduce car insurance on any vehicles (including motorcycles) that will not be used during a deployment. You will need to consider storage options; if the car will be exposed to the elements, there are special policies you can switch to that cover weather damage only (available through USAA).

— Cancel or suspend cell phone service, cable TV, and home phone (if applicable). Under the terms of the SCRA, service members who are deploying must be given a penalty-free exit from contracts like these. Of course, if you have a family at home using these, this may not apply!

–Reduce the interest on your mortgage and any outstanding credit card loans to 6% under the SCRA. Typically, the credit card debt must have been incurred or the mortgage initiated before entering service for this to work. Also, be aware that this does not happen automatically-you must file paperwork. To learn more, visit SCRA Questions and Answers.

Photospin/lev dolgachov

Second, put that money away:

–Save in SDP

One of the most amazing benefits available to deployed service members is the Savings Deposit Program. Service members deployed to eligible designated combat zones can put up to $10,000 per deployment in this account, tax-free, and it will earn 10% interest annually as long as you are in the combat zone. Funds will be returned to the service member after he or she returns (or before in cases of emergency). This is an incredible rate of return that no one should pass by.

–Save in the TSP or Roth IRA

When the new blended retirement system comes online, many service members will already be automatically contributing to and getting matched funds for TSP. However, it will still be possible for most to increase the percentage they contribute during this time period. Be aware that there is an annual limit for both TSP and Roth IRAs.

Third, don’t overspend:

A common but very dangerous error is to readjust the family discretionary spending upwards around the temporary additional pay, or to do something like building an addition, buying a brand-new truck, etc. The USAA recommends that service members put away a full two-thirds of their additional deployment pay, and strongly cautions service members against incorporating past earned deployment pay into new budgets when they return.

Deployment can be a difficult time for service members and their families, but it does come with the benefit of increased income. With care and forethought, service members should be able to make progress towards their financial goals during

From the Inside Out: Dr. Laura Hill’s Look at Eating Disorders

By: Caitlyn Brown

Wooden bowl with apples
Pixabay[WoodBowl by ponce_photography, May 16, 2016, CCO]
As human beings,  we rely upon fundamental necessities for our survival- shelter, water,and most importantly, food. Food is our sole source of energy and due to its necessity for every human, we often revolve areas of our lives around it. We plan our day around when we will eat, we make plans with individuals to meet to eat, we travel to new places to try new cuisines and experience different cultures- our relationship with food is one of the most significant ones we have in our lives.  Unfortunately, it is one we often take for granted until something impedes our ability to consume or enjoy food.

Diabetes, Gluten Intolerance, Food Allergies, Kidney Disease- there are numerous biological diseases that could impact an individual’s relationship with food. We view these as medical issues, something that an individual was born with or has a predisposition towards but overall, it is treatable, manageable and not the individual’s fault. However, we don’t see all food related diseases as biological. Often times, we view individuals with eating disorders as unhealthy or unable to eat by choice- that the individual made a conscious decision to not eat. Dr. Laura Hill is working on changing that perception of eating disorders because she contends that, in reality, eating disorders are just as much a biological disease as any other.

When an individual consumes food, there is a process the body and brain go through as we process and digest the food. Our gut sends a signal to our brain, which sends a message to other areas of the brain involved in our perception of hunger/fullness, whether there was anything in the food we should be alarmed or worried about and the degree to which we enjoyed the food. Every time we consume something we enjoy, our brain releases a spike of dopamine, the neurotransmitter for pleasure. This process happens for every individual, even those with an eating disorder. However, individuals with an eating disorder, don’t often enjoy food. They may try it or take a small bite of something in order to make those they are with feel better, but certain areas of their brain do not receive the messages required to register hunger/fullness. So, when an individual with an eating disorder consumes some toast, it is tasteless, and the stomach sends that information to the brain. The brain tries to make sense of the lack of taste and when it can’t it views the food as something to be concerned about, something alarming or worrisome. This alarm manifests as anxiety for an individual with an eating disorder. Dr. Hill compares the anxiety to a constant cafeteria noise that only the individual can hear and that becomes more intense around food. As you can imagine, this makes it very difficult for an individual to function on a daily basis- to complete their work, take tests, follow instructions, etc.

Through fMRI images or 3D scans of the brain, Dr. Hill aims to explain how eating disorders impact the brain by identifying the process and activity in certain areas of the brain when presented with food. She explores the impact that eating disorders have on an individual’s psychological well-being and presents ways for individuals to reframe their perception of food. Much like any other skill, learning to eat healthy both for individuals with and without eating disorders can take time and preplanning. Dr. Hill highlights that recovery will take practice and that implementing certain strategies can be easily done with support from family or friends.

If you would like to view Dr. Hill’s explanation through her TedX presentation, you can see it here. If you would only like to read the transcript, click here.

This post was written by  Caitlyn Brown of 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 websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Role of Anthocyanins in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Image by Mixed Berries

By Joanna Manero

What are bioactive compounds and what is their role in the prevention of Cardiovascular Disease?  This blog will only discuss anthocyanins but tune into Dr. Elvira de Mejia’s Free webinar, on March 15th at 10 am CDT to find out more about the health benefits of phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients and Cardiovascular Disease

To register:  

Anthocyanins are flavonoids found in a large variety of foods.  They are the most widely consumed flavonoid and are responsible for the beautiful red, purple, and blue coloring found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and flowers.  Aside from coloring our plate, they provide a large array of health benefits such as protection against liver injuries, reduction of blood pressure, improvement of eyesight, suppression of proliferation of cancer cells, and cardiovascular disease prevention (Novotney 2012; Knczak and Zhang 2004).   Anthocyanins have been used as traditional or folk medicine around the world. Only recently have we begun to research these health benefit claims.

The role of anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease prevention is due to their protective oxidative stress properties. They are believed to act on different cells associated with the development of atherosclerosis. An Iowa Women’s Health Study of 34,489 postmenopausal women found that eating strawberries and blueberries just once per week was associated with a significant reduction in death from cardiovascular disease over a 14 year period (Mink et al., 2007).  Similarly, a study of 93,600 healthy women from the Nurses’ Health Study II revealed a 34% lower risk of myocardial infarctions (heart attack) in women who consumed three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week (Cassidy et al., 2013).  Additionally, anthocyanins have been shown to lower systolic blood pressure and arterial pressure, which can result in fewer cardiac events, such as a heart attack (Jennings et al., 2012).

Anthocyanin-rich foods include:

  • Asparagus (purple)
  • Blackberries
  • Black Rice
  • Blueberries
  • Concord Grapes
  • Cranberries
  • Eggplant
  • Pomegranates
  • Purple Corn
  • Raspberries
  • Red Cabbage
  • Red Radishes
  • Sweet Cherries

There are still several aspects of anthocyanins that require more research.  Since anthocyanins are typically studied in fruit extracts, they are present in a combination of compounds and may not act independently.  In fact, when anthocyanins are studied in combination with other compounds, rather than in isolation, the effects tend to be greater.

Anthocyanin-containing foods are beautiful, delicious and nutritious.

What are your favorites anthocyanin containing foods?
Also, let us know what you would like to learn about anthocyanins and other bioactive compounds.


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.

Are You Covered? – Medicare Overseas

In our most recent webinar, Medicare 2017 & What it Means for You, there were some questions from participants concerning Medicare coverage outside the United States. Please read through the questions below to see what questions were asked and the resources that we’ve found to address them. Also, if it piques your interest to learn more, you can view the session at


Participant Question: Since Guam is a U.S. Territory, are Medicare beneficiaries covered by Medicare in Guam?

Answer: YES! US Territories are considered part of the US when determining Medicare coverage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has produced the following video to help clarify Medicare coverage abroad – Medicare & You: Traveling Abroad

For additional information about Medicare coverage when traveling outside of the U.S. please refer to this article: Travel (when you need health care outside the U.S.)


Participant Question: I am in the military with a dependent that has Medicare. If we get stationed overseas, is my dependent still covered by Medicare?

Answer: Yes, your dependent is still a Medicare beneficiary but it is unlikely that her/his coverage will be honored. Assuming you are not stationed in one of the territories referenced above and assuming the person isn’t a military retiree eligible for TRICARE for Life, Medicare may provide coverage for emergency treatment OCONUS (Outside Continental United States). However, the beneficiary will likely have to file the claim him/herself. Please note that Medicare will not pay for routine, non-emergency procedures. *


*We are gathering additional information to answer this question in more detail. Updates may be made to this post in the future. 

 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on February 24, 2017.

First Comes Play, The Rest Will Follow: A Four Part Webinar Series on Play

by Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, PhD

Image by BethL at, Licensed Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

When Fred Rogers and many of his predecessors, such as Maria Montessori, spoke of play, they did so with an understanding of the great importance it serves in human growth and development. Play is more than “just having fun,” and it is more than the outcomes that are achieved. It is through play that children experience the world. It is through play that neural pathways are created and strengthened.

Repeated opportunities to experience, explore, and interact with the world is necessary for developmental processes to unfold. In fact, researchers have provided “unequivocal evidence that the brain physically changes, increasing and strengthening the neural connections through repetitive experience” [2]. That means, through multiple opportunities to play, children are able to watch, copy, practice, and eventually learn….EVERYTHING.

In this webinar series, we will not only explore the importance of play, but we will deepen our commitment to fostering strong relationships with children and learn strategies to expand the richness and complexity of their play. Together, we’ll learn how children go from sensory exploration to developing highly complex and cooperative play skills. Together, we’ll learn how “[r]ather than detracting from academic learning, play appears to support the abilities that underlie such learning and thus to promote school success.” [1]

More specifically, in 1-2-3 Play with Me! Recognizing and Valuing the Power of Play, we will examine how children are naturally curious and learn best through practice and observation. A highlight from this webinar will be to gain strategies for being a strong play partner. In Have a Seat! Learning What Children Know Through Play, we will consider the advantages of assessing during play. A highlight from this webinar will be to learn strategies for engaging in authentic assessment practices as we aim to better understand what children know and can do. In When Play is More than Just ‘Playing: Delivering Intentional Instruction through Daily Interactions, we will focus on the importance of teaching the whole child and promoting emotional, social, motor, and cognitive skills through play. In this webinar participants will be to learn how to build upon children’s natural curiosity and embed instruction in a way that continues and extends vs. disrupts learning. Lastly, in Beyond the Shape Sorter: Playful Interactions that Promote Strong Academic and Social-Emotional Skills, we will examine the relationship between play and a child’s future success. A highlight from this webinar will be to explore how to support all children through play, even those who may be “stuck” and don’t seem to find new and more sophisticated ways to play.

Please join us for this four- part webinar series, as we explore how play is foundational to individual and collective growth in children ages birth to five. Learn more here.


[1] National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC]. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 [position statement]. Washington, DC: Author.

[2] Winter, P. (2010). Engaging families in the early childhood development story- Neuroscience and early childhood development: Summary of selected literature and key messages for parenting. Victoria, Australia: Education Services Australia Ltd., Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA).

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Don’t Over-Withhold Income Tax Money-Save It!

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

February is a “teachable moment” for military financial service professionals to “talk taxes” with service members. W-2 forms and statements from financial institutions have started to arrive and many people are looking forward to receiving an income tax refund.

Photo by stevepb via Public Domain CC0
Photo by stevepb via Public Domain CC0

Many people deliberately have extra federal and state income taxes withheld from their paychecks. Advantages of over-withholding are that there’s no access to this money and, therefore, it can’t be spent recklessly, and the refund makes a nice windfall once a year to pay off debts or buy “big ticket” items. Disadvantages of big tax refunds are that taxpayers must wait to collect their money and the government pays no interest.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage, however, of over-withholding is the risk of having a tax refund delayed as a victim of tax identity theft. This happens when fraudsters use stolen personal identification information (e.g., name and Social Security number) to file a fraudulent tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.

Victims can wait months for their money as they take steps to file paperwork to verify their identity with the IRS. Tax identity theft is the most commonly reported type of identity theft according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with more than $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds cited in a government GAO report.

A small refund, say $500 or less, may be fine, but if when people get back a lot more, they are losing foregone interest on money that could have been saved. They also run the risk of having to wait for a large sum of money if they are an identity theft victim. Social Security numbers are often obtained illegally through database hackings that people have no control over.

The amount of the income tax withholding is based on the number of allowances that a person notes on a W-4 form that is filed with their employer. Essentially, if income taxes are over-withheld, a paycheck is smaller, and a tax refund is larger. In simple terms, tax withholding can be explained this way:

  • More withholding = Smaller paycheck = Larger tax refund
  • Less withholding = Larger paycheck = Smaller tax refund or taxes owed to the IRS

W-4 forms are typically required the first day on a job. The Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate section on the bottom of the W-4 form tells employers how much tax to withhold based on a formula from the IRS. Anyone can change their W-4 form periodically with their employer and undo their over-withholding.

Just be careful not to overdo it. Essentially, taxpayers must pay 90% of their current year tax liability to avoid a penalty plus interest. However, there is a “safe harbor” exception rule: no penalties are due if a taxpayer paid at least as much (i.e., 100%) of their prior year’s tax bill (i.e., the tax due shown on their prior year’s tax return) or 110% of the prior year’s tax amount if adjusted gross income (AGI) was more than $150,000.

Conversely, service members can also request to have additional taxes withheld from their pay to cover taxes owed on taxable income such as interest and dividends, capital gains and self-employment. Another reason to have extra taxes withheld is the “marriage tax” where married couples with two employed spouses pay more tax together than they would if each spouse filed as a single taxpayer. This is especially true if each spouse has a similar income such as two spouses earning $35,000 for a total combined gross income of $70,000.

A helpful resource is the IRS Withholding Calculator ( Results from the calculator can help taxpayers complete their W-4 form to avoid having too much or too little tax withheld from their pay.

FD Webinar| On Solid Ground: Exploring Strategies to Help Clients Create and Maintain Healthy Relationships


On Solid Ground: Exploring Strategies to Help Clients Create and Maintain Healthy Relationships

Date: March 30, 2017
Time: 11:00am-12:30pm ET

Pixabay[ Balance by KarelZe, August 14, 2013, CCO]
As a society, we often get caught up in the “do not’s” rather than the “do’s” when it comes to education on anything to do with safety and health. But, what if we make a switch towards empowerment and the things that we can do to remain healthy and safe? Dr. Alaina Szlachta, Director of Training for the  National Domestic Violence Hotline, will guide us in an interactive and meaningful webinar on ways we can work with our clients on establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Join us as we discuss healthy relationships from an empowerment based perspective.

We offer 1.5 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click hereto learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2016 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

MFLN “Network News” – March 2017

Washington DC Snowstorm, Leckman, Flickr CC0

Members from across the Military Families Learning Network came together in our nation’s capital last month for our annual meeting. Our liaisons from the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy and USDA-NIFA joined us. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the work we accomplished in the past year and to look at the coming year and its opportunities. The nimble nature of our network was noted as well as the importance of incorporating community capacity building in all areas to ensure family readiness. The meeting left us energized and focused, poised for another year of collaborative programming.

From the new blended retirement system to play therapy, there are learning opportunities for all this month. View the upcoming professional development events at

Subscribe to our monthly email update to stay up-to-date with the Military Families Learning Network.

The Cooperative Extension System as a Force Multiplier for Communities

What is a force multiplier?

Force multiplication, in military usage, refers to an attribute or a combination of attributes that dramatically increases the effectiveness of an item or group, giving a given number of troops (or other personnel) or hardware the ability to accomplish greater things than without it. The expected size increase required to have the same effectiveness without that advantage is the multiplication factor. For example, if a certain technology like GPS enables a force to accomplish the same results of a force five times as large but without GPS, then the multiplier is five. Such estimates are used to justify an investment cost for force multipliers. 1 Examples of force multipliers in the military include: training/experience, morale, mobility, technology, and geographic features.

Although the term was coined for military use, force multipliers can come in many forms – such as a hammer multiplying a physical force, allowing a nail to be driven into something solid, or a social media platform that allows a voice to be heard by thousands of people for little to no effort. Force multipliers are often expensive, the more effective they are, the higher the investment to access the force multiplier. Factory production and distribution systems are large scale force multipliers that make it possible to deliver value to thousands of paying customers in a very short time.2 The costs to these systems are high but allow capabilities that would be otherwise out of reach. Investing in force multipliers often frees up time, energy and allows one to focus attention elsewhere.

In the realm of community capacity building, there are often organizations within a community that act or have great potential to act as force multipliers. Land-grant system and subsequently, the Cooperative Extension System, are great examples of this.

A Brief History of Land-Grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension System

To provide some background, in 1862 under the Morrill Act, each state was given public lands to be sold or used for a profit to create at least one land-grant college. The college would specifically focus on teaching agriculture and mechanical arts. In 1890, the Second Morrill Act was passed, which provided that federal funds be appropriated annually to each state to support their land grant college. Today, there is a land grant college or university in every U.S. state, territory and even the District of Columbia. The philosophy behind the appropriation of these funds is that each state would hold an institution that could act as the backbone of scientific research and at the same time disseminate the most current information through its educational programs.

In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was passed, which allowed the colleges to take on another function, the “extension”, which was designed to further extend the knowledge generated by the college out to the farms and consumers around the state. Extension was to be a cooperative activity between the federal government (through USDA) and the states. 3 The extension agents of this time could be found educating farmers on improved techniques to increase farm productivity, and investigating issues that were a risk to U.S. agriculture. It is also worth mentioning that a decade earlier (1902), 4-H was founded, and became a national organization with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act. The activities conducted by 4-H mirrored the education provided by the extension agents, extending the research based practices to youth in counties across the U.S.

Cooperative Extension System, by County

Extension Today

Today, the land-grant system and cooperative extension system continue to lead the way in providing access to current research and information across federal, state and county lines. The Cooperative Extension System has evolved significantly and may operate differently on the individual, local level, but their mission is the same: Extension provides non-formal education and learning activities to people throughout the country — to farmers and other residents of rural communities as well as to people living in urban areas. It emphasizes taking knowledge gained through research and education and bringing it directly to the people to create positive changes.4 The role of Extension agents & educators has expanded beyond agriculture and mechanical arts, the Cooperative Extension System now has the resources and capacity for education in many content areas.

Capacity Pools of Cooperative Extension

Translating Research into Action

University faculty members, who are disciplinary experts, translate science-based research results into language — written, verbal, and electronic — appropriate for targeted audiences. County-based educators work with local citizens and interest groups to solve problems, evaluate the effectiveness of learning tools, and collect grassroots input to prioritize future research. By living and working in communities, county educators are able to rely on existing relationships to respond to local needs, build trust, and engage effectively with citizens.5


So there you have it – the opportunity offered by the land-grant system and Cooperative Extension System are too great to pass up! Contact your county extension office today to find out how you can utilize this system as a force multiplier in your community!





Medicare & Medicaid Resources

Medicare and Medicaid services can be confusing, no matter what stage you may be at in your caregiving journey. As we prepare for next week’s webinar, ‘Medicare 2017 & What it Means for You!,’ it is important to highlight past presentations to help set the stage for the training. Think of these past presentations as a “refresher course,” before learning about changes to the Medicare system that will take affect this year.

Our MFLN Military Caregiving concentration has several trainings geared to provide basic educational information related to Medicare and Medicaid for providers and family caregivers. In addition to increasing your knowledge of the healthcare insurance programs, the trainings also offer certificates of completion for service providers.

Introduction to Medicare

Back to Basics: Medicare

In this webinar we provided a broad overview of Medicare program’s Part A and Part B as well as introduced CMS National Training Program. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for adults over age 65 and other qualified individuals, accounts for more than 48 million Americans through expenditures of more than $545 billion. Check out the Back to Basics: Medicare webinar recording today!

Medicaid and Military Families Series

In this three-part series, an overview of the Medicaid program is provided along with information covering options for children with special needs as well as adults with special needs.

An Introduction

This module will provide an overview of the Medicaid program. You will have the opportunity to learn about the overall purposes of the Medicaid program; its relevance to military families, especially those with family members who have special needs. Additionally, this recording will discuss the manner in which Medicaid is implemented and variations among the states.

Children with Special Needs

This module will concentrate on Medicaid options for children with special needs. The overall purpose of this module is to assist family support providers and others with a general knowledge of Medicaid and to provide some guidance on where to turn for resources and further information.

Adults with Special Needs

The final module in this series examines Medicaid options for older family members, such as spouses and adult children. This webinar and the others in this series offer a certificate of completion.

We hope to see you at our “Medicare 2017 & What it Means for You” webinar on February 22, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. This webinar will offer 1.0 CE credit from the UT School of Social Work as well as a certificate of completion. To register for this webinar please go to

 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on February 17, 2017.