The American Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division continued its Operation Military Family Outreach (OFMO) initiative by attending a recent conference in Arlington, Va., that gave servicemembers a chance to voice issues and concerns that face them and their families. Army family members, community service staff and some top military brass met at the Sheraton Hotel from Jan. 11-15 in a joint effort to identify and address priority issues confronting military families. The conference was part of a continuous fact-gathering mission for OFMO, which the Legion uses to reach out to military families, identify their needs and advocate on their behalf.
Participants from most Army installations and units (including National Guard and Reserve components) attended. They were invited to break into nine works groups, which they used to discuss and identify priority issues facing their families and military families in general. The groups later presented these issues to The American Legion, other veterans service organizations and some top-ranking representatives from the Army.
The five priority issues were:
- Providing a monthly stipend to injured and ill soldiers for non-medical caregivers.
- Funding service dogs for wounded warriors.
- Eliminating behavioral health service shortages.
- Lifting of the Family Readiness Group external fundraising restriction.
- Offering exceptional family member program enrollment eligibility for reserve component soldiers' families.
The work groups also identified strengths and challenges that affect mobilization deployment and family readiness. The strengths were the Army Community services, the Wounded Warrior program and the Army Family Covenant/Community Covenant programs. Conversely, the work groups recognized the severe challenges of mobilization, deployment and family readiness, which need remedies, namely: the high suicide rate among U.S. troops, length of deployments and their impact on servicemembers' children, and funding for family and deployment support programs.
"Military family issues are wide ranging, from caregiver stipends to the impact of parents' deployments on their children," said Phil Riley, director of the Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division. "These work groups at this conference are very important, because they are the ones who make recommendations for the Army to act on."