WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 29, 2010) -- A proposal to grant installation access to the family members of Soldiers killed in action was among recommendations that will go forward to Army senior leaders from the Survivor Outreach Services summit Oct. 25.

It was the third annual SOS summit, but for the first time surviving family members were there to work on the development of issues for the Army Family Action Plan. Free grief counseling for survivors was another recommendation family members sent forward.

"Caring for our survivors is one of the most honorable things anyone can do," said Maj. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, commander of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. "We're so proud to build a program that aids in healing as the survivor honors their fallen Soldier."

"Although we've had two annual summits where we discussed the issues faced by survivors, this is the first time SOS has brought members from all over the country to identify, prioritize and develop issues that strengthen and improve the Army's standard of support to survivors," said Donna Engeman, SOS program manager at FMWRC.

Modeled after the AFAP, the Army's "grass roots" system for collecting and responding to issues identified by Soldiers and their families, survivors world-wide submitted recommendations for changes to be prioritized at this forum.

Five working groups-Entitlements, Geographically Dispersed, Soldier Support, Family Support and Parent Support-were faced with 55 issues submitted by survivors from installations, the National Guard and the Reserve components.

By Tuesday afternoon, each of the groups, with the help of subject matter experts, had whittled their 10 to 16 issues down to one or two, creating a short list of eight topics to present to senior leadership at the out-brief concluding the summit.

The issues will also be presented at the 2011 AFAP Department of the Army Headquarters Conference held by the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management in the National Capital Region.

ACSIM provides policy formulation, strategy development, enterprise integration, program analysis and integration, requirements and resource determination, and best business practices for services, programs, and installation support to Soldiers, Families, and Civilians.

Jones and Sheila Casey, wife of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., were both in attendance at the out-brief.

"IMCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch and I promised Army leadership you would be working hard for our survivors," Jones said. "Were we right."

Sheila Casey thanked the participants for taking on the daunting task of reducing the 55 suggestions into a manageable number of issues to present to the ACSIM.

"I thank you for your hard work, your service and your sacrifice," Sheila Casey said after the presentations.

"So often [those managing these programs and services] think they are doing the right thing, but they have not walked in your shoes," Casey said. "So keep at it and keep sending me and my husband your emails. I look forward to the work you're going to do."

The eight issues prepared for inclusion in the 2011 AFAP conference are:

From the Entitlements workgroup: "Federal Tax Credit for Survivors' (Eligible Relatives) Non-Reimbursable Expenses" and "Dual Service Surviving Spouse Survivor Health Care Entitlement Deferment."

From the Family Support workgroup: "Communication from Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) Program to Survivors (including Non-Beneficiaries)" and "Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO)/Casualty Notification Officer (CNO) Expanded Training."

The Geographically Dispersed workgroup selected one issue: "No Cost Access to Specialized Emotional/Grief Counseling for Survivors including Non-Beneficiaries."

The Parent Support workgroup selected two issues: "Department of Defense (DoD) Installation Access for Survivors without DoD ID Card" and "Servicemember's Designations and Terminology in DD Form 93 (Record of Emergency Data)."

From the Soldier Support workgroup: "Additional Skill Identifier for Casualty Notification Officers and Casualty Assistance Officers."