By David Vergun (ARNEWS)April 11, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 7, 2014) -- While the Army is aware of the status of every Soldier convicted of a sex offense, no such searchable database exists that identifies convicted sex-offender family members and Army civilians that may live and work on Army installations.
An individual stationed in Baumholder, Germany, in 2005, wondered why none existed, and submitted an issue to the garrison Army Family Action Plan conference. The issue sought to establish a convicted sex-offender registry for anyone holding a Defense Department identification card. The status of resolving the issue was reviewed by the AFAP General Officer Steering Committee, or AFAP GOSC, which met Feb. 19, at the Pentagon Conference Center.
One person can make the Army stronger, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell, who chairs the AFAP GOSC, which meets twice a year to discuss issues generated by Soldiers, Army civilians, retirees, survivors, and their family members.
"Our responsibility as a leadership group is to make sure that any issues are brought forward, that we provide some sort of answer," he said.
Campbell suggested that a good alternative to airing grievances to the civilian media would be to bring them to the attention of senior leaders for resolution via the Army Family Action Plan.
The way to do that is to visit the AFAP issue submission site, where the problem can be stated, along with a proposed solution. The site is: https://www.myarmyonesource.com/familyprogramsandservices/familyprograms/armyfamilyactionplan/default.aspx.
Christina Vine, program analyst, Soldier Family Readiness Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, explained what happens after the information enters the site.
Issues first surface at installations and non-installation-based units such as those in the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. Issues that cannot be resolved at the installation or unit level are submitted to Headquarters, Department of the Army. HQDA validates that the issue does not have a resolution already in place. These issues are then provided to select Army commands where a cross section of representatives prioritize the top issues. The issues are prioritized with no outside influence from senior leaders. The issues maintain their grassroots process from beginning to end as the voice of the Army.
There are currently 11 issues being actively worked by the Army staff. The status of the issues' resolution are reviewed by the AFAP GOSC. The AFAP GOSC is composed of representatives from Office of the Secretary of Defense, the sergeant major of the Army, and various members of the Army's primary staff, senior commanders and command sergeants majors, and corps command sergeants majors. The GOSC members review the slate of issues and determine if the issues will remain active or will be closed as complete or unattainable.
Some issues that are categorized as "active" require Congressional legislation and it can take more than two years for the law to pass, Vine explained.
Other issues are categorized as "unattainable." One issue put forward by the Army National Guard sought to authorize transportation and per diem for service members' families to attend family therapy sessions in residential treatment settings.
The Army's Office of the Surgeon General actively worked the issue, Vine said. However, OTSG determined that there was no definitive data to validate the recommendation.
But rather than just reject the issue, the vice chief directed the Guard to educate family members on other ways to mitigate financial issues such as using Army Emergency Relief loans, she said.
While not every issue becomes a reality, Vine said "you won't know unless you submit your issue."
Over the last 30 years, the AFAP process has identified Army constituent quality of life concerns and helped keep benefits, entitlements, services and programs in balance with changing times and needs.
Two issues were closed as completed actions by the February GOSC. One issue sought to authorize retirement service officers at regional support commands throughout the U.S. Army Reserve. While that would require funding in tough fiscal times, the vice chief and other members of the GOSC deemed it important to implement, since reserve-component Soldiers would have pre-retirement training assistance as they transition into the civilian sector.
Another issue actively being worked seeks to extend the time period from 12 months to 36 months for survivor investment of military death gratuity and Service members Group Life Insurance into a Roth Individual Retirement Account and/or Coverdell Education Savings Account. Vine said that senior leaders are actively engaging Congress to pass the needed legislation to make the issue a reality for Gold Star families.
An issue that affects Army civilians and family members being worked by Army Civilian Personnel involves increasing the 30-day creditable civil service career tenure break for all federally employed spouses of service members and federal employees to 180 days after resignation in conjunction with the relocation of their military or federal sponsor.
The issue requires no legislation or cost to implement. The Office of Personnel Management has submitted a public notice in the Federal Registry, which will be followed with changes to the Code of Federal Regulations. Resolution of this issue affects all federal employees, not just those in the Army. Vine said over 60 percent of AFAP issues reviewed at the GOSC benefit everyone in DOD at a minimum.
Another AFAP issue being actively worked seeks to implement a comprehensive source of behavioral health services -- to include psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers -- with "timely access to care" for children of all Soldiers, according to the Office of the Surgeon General's action plan that was briefed at the February GOSC.
Over the years, issues submitted to the AFAP and resolved through the AFAP process have resulted in touching the lives of every segment of the Army family in a positive way, Vine said. A total of 692 issues entered into the AFAP for resolution resulted in 128 changes to legislation, 184 Army and Department of Defense policies, and more than 210 programs and services initiated or improved, such as -- transfer of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to dependents; creation of family readiness support assistants; creation of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers or BOSS Program; TRICARE for Life for Medicare eligible retirees; the Military Thrift Savings Plan; dental and vision insurance coverage for federal employees; 100 percent of child development programs being DoD certified and nationally accredited; and more.
AFAP is a tool to voice issues to Army leadership. It alerts them to areas of concern and allows them the opportunity to quickly put action plans into place to work toward resolving issues. The Army does not want to put Soldiers in a position of having to choose between the profession they love and the quality of life of the Families they love, Vine said.