Finding the solution
Col. James E. Saenz, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, discusses issues with volunteers from group one, which worked through housing, relocation, child and youth, and medical and dental issues during the 2014 AFAP conference.

VILSECK, Germany -- Over 80 volunteers spent two days discussing 72 issues submitted throughout the year by members of the Bavarian Military Community in Grafenwoehr at the 2014 Army Family Action Plan conference, Nov. 13-14.

Once again, the conference brought community representatives together as delegates, facilitators, recorders and experts to prioritize, discuss and offer recommendations on issues.

These individuals represent all walks-of-life from spouses to civilians, Soldiers and students -- rounding out the perspective of the issues and their potential resolutions.

Through 30 years of AFAP efforts, nearly 700 issues have been brought forward by the people of the Army to Army leadership.

Of the 72 issues submitted by our community for fiscal year 2014, delegates chose the top five issues to present to garrison leadership.

The first issue discussed was effective dates of command sponsorship for dual military newborns outside the continental United States (OCONUS).

According to AR 55-46, dual military couples must request command sponsorship for a newborn child, whereas, command sponsorship starts at the birth of the child for nondual military couples.

Command sponsorship is not backdated to the date of birth of the newborn child for the dual military couple. In the event the request for personnel action DA form 4187 is lost, sponsors have to reapply. Therefore, Tricare prime cannot be set up without command sponsorship.

After 120 days the couple will lose Tricare for the newborn if command sponsorship is not approved. COLA entitlements are delayed until command sponsorship is approved and are not back paid to the date of birth.

The next issue addressed the potential need for additional financial support for family members residing in government housing.

Reference to AR 608-99 (chapter 2, section II, Paragraph 2-6) which states, "while the Soldier's family members are residing in government family housing, the Soldier is not required to provide additional financial support. When the supported family members move out of government family housing, the Soldier will provide BAH II-WITH."

This regulation does not require the service member to provide any funds for basic needs of the children or spouse when they reside in government housing.

Often, the spouse has no employment and no income of their own and may not have the resources to immediately move out of government family housing, leaving the family in a situation where they are not receiving provisions for food and basic needs if the service member chooses not to provide support.

The third issue concerned Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) employment preference for surviving spouses.

At this time, surviving spouses do not receive hiring preference for the NAF hiring process under AR 215-3, paragraph 2-11. In accordance with Government Code Title 6 Subtitle B sec. 657.002(B), surviving spouses have a veteran's spouse preference for Appropriated Funds (AF) positions.

Instituting a NAF surviving spouse preference will enable surviving spouses to secure a means of support for themselves and their dependents, providing a sense of stability following the loss of the service member.

The fourth issue discussed inconsistent information and services from Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC).

Civilian employees are not receiving consistent and accurate information and services worldwide at the various CPACs.

Information found on the Civilian Human Resources Agency's (CHRA) website details all the benefits and entitlements for civilian employees; however, installation-level CPAC employees are not knowledgeable of the website's content.

The inconsistent and inaccurate information is creating problems for individual employees in areas such as benefits, entitlements and classifications.

The fifth and final issue addressed the desire for standardized child care fees for OCONUS Army families.

According to the delegates, the Child Development Center monthly fee chart is unfairly proportioned based on the total family income and there is a percentage disparity.

For example, Category 1 pays 12 percent of total family income versus Category 9, which would pay 6 percent; therefore, Categories 2 through 5 pay a higher percentage of total family income.

In addition to the percentage disparity, child care fees do not reflect less costly options available for military families serving in CONUS locations.

Army families assigned overseas are forced to use CDC and FCC services due to language barriers, shorter hours, culture, standards on the local economy, lack of FCC providers, limited child care slots and SOFA restrictions.

Since 1983, the AFAP process has provided an opportunity for community members to say what's working, and what isn't.

Most importantly, it has afforded the platform to allow those members to tell Big Army how they think those issues can be worked toward resolution.

Editor's Note: Andrea Hutchins is the Information & Referral Program manager at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria's Army Community Service.

Page last updated Tue November 19th, 2013 at 04:10