FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson Army Community Service recently started a program to provide services to surviving family members of service members. The Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, program is available to families of service members who died either while on active duty or from a service-related illness or injury obtained while on active duty.

Leslie Smith, SOS outreach support coordinator, said the program targets survivors who have already received initial consultation from the Casualty Assistance Center.

"We have an agreement and a working team with CAC," Smith said. "The survivors have received services (from CAC) before, but they may have some additional questions or concerns about what happens in the future with these benefits."

One of the most critical services provided is assistance in financial matters, said Christina Clark, SOS financial counselor.

"My job is to sit down and sort of help the family members come up with a plan - or at least an initial plan - on how they want to use the (financial) benefits," Clark said.

"What we don't want to see happen is that their money for the future disappears. If you have a surviving widow of 25, then she's got a good 40 to 50 years that that money needs to last her."

The program is available to eligible family members regardless of how long ago the death occurred.

"In fact, we just had a widow of over 20 years stumble into this program," Clark said. "She is looking for some financial guidance and some financial counseling. So, we're here. ... We're here for the long haul."

Similar services have been available to surviving family members in the past, but for the first time, the services are offered locally. The Fort Jackson SOS program covers the entire state of South Carolina and all service branches.

The Fort Jackson office is working in cooperation with other SOS programs, which allows continued service to family members regardless of their location.

"There can be closer monitoring, closer contact, because people move and they get kind of lost in the system," Clark said. "This is a proactive way of following up with families who want that continued contact."

The program has been in full swing for one month and the reaction from family members has been overwhelmingly positive, Smith said.

"I think they're happy to hear that we still care," Smith said. "We want them to know that we're here and they're always part of the Army family."

Page last updated Thu July 23rd, 2009 at 08:08