Discussing military issues


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Last week, I decided to do my best to be a productive member of my military community. I participated in JBER’s Joint Family Action Plan (JFAP) conference.

The words “Joint Family Action Plan” don’t mean a whole lot to me. However, it’s actually a cool thing. JBER community members get to submit issues that they would like to see changed in military life. The issues are many and varied, including housing, schools, childcare, benefits, and on and on.

At the conference, other members of the community look at the issues, determine if a fix really is needed and then give recommendations to what that fix may look like. Then, the fixable issues go to the installation or the DOD to see what can be done.

The idea for the conference began 30 years ago in the Army. It was then the AFAP. The “A” was exchanged for a “J” three years ago when the DOD consolidated bases from different services into one, like Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson becoming JBER.

The big success story from the AFAP’s is the transferability of the GI bill from a service member to a dependent. The GI bill pays for service members to continue their education. Now if a service member does not want nor need that benefit, they can pass it to a family member.

I was placed in the family support services group. I was amazed at the great group of people I worked with. Everyone truly cared about trying to make life better for all on post.

Most issues submitted to our group were old. There had been problems in the past that needed attention, but that attention had already been given. Other issues resulted from lack of knowledge or misunderstanding current policy. I began to think that perhaps the biggest issue on post was a lack of communication.

The group tackling benefits had a very interesting topic: while the GI bill can now be transferred, at the time of transfer, the service member has to commit four more years to the military. For some, this is not an issue, but it excludes those who have already retired and may be problematic for those with less than four years until retirement.

This could affect my family in future years. Right now, my husband plans to continue his education after retirement, so he is reserving the GI benefits for himself. Who knows what the future will bring though? He may not need to go back school to do what he wants to after the Army, and that benefit could be used by our children or myself. We cannot tell today where the greatest need will be tomorrow. Unfortunately, by the time we know how the benefit could best be used, it may be too late to make that decision.

The conference got me thinking about things that I would like changed, both on JBER and general military policy. They are already looking for issue submissions to the JFAP in November. I will be writing down my ideas and submitting them soon.

 

Eagle River’s Lori Spears is the wife of a captain in the U.S. Army.

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