Michelle Villarreal Zook commissioned in the Air Force in 2006, earning her wings as an air battle manager and serving as a squadron executive officer, a group executive officer, and a squadron section commander. After leaving the Air Force in 2011, she pursued a graduate degree in public policy, focusing on those policies that affect the military, veterans, and military families.
Surprise military homecomings have become such a phenomena in recent years that there’s even a website called “Welcome Home Blog” dedicated to it. The videos can coax tears from the most stolid; Chuck Norris might even cry if he watched a few. But before you hire a hidden camera crew to film your reunion with your kids (or your spouse reuniting with the kids), it might be worth considering many mental health experts are concerned that this might be confusing — and even potentially harmful — to those most vulnerable after a deployment.
The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act coming out of the Senate has a controversial proposition: eliminate base allowance for housing for the junior-ranking spouse of a dual-military marriage and reduce allowances to 75% for military service members who choose to room with their fellow military. Currently, service members in dual-military marriages each draw their own housing allowance at the non-dependent rate. Once a child is born, the higher-ranking member draws at the dependent rate, while the junior ranking continues drawing his or her own allowance at the non-dependent rate. If the Senate is successful with this proposition, at least 40,000 service members in dual-military marriages, plus the ones who choose to room with fellow military, could be affected.
The question was inevitable; my kids are far too observant to not notice that the cemetery we pass at least once a week had changed. And sure enough, as we passed by, I heard my three-year-old son pipe up, “American flags!” and then his five-year-old sister asked, “But why?”
At the end of 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provision waiver that extends food stamps benefits to single, able-bodied adults without dependents for more than three months will expire. This particular provision waiver kicked off in 2008 as a result of the worsening economy and high unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate has dropped and federal government spending has increased, Congress has started eyeing the waiver’s end as a way to save money. However, according to one policy group, this could affect an estimated 60,000 jobless veterans and cause them to lose their benefits, putting them at the mercy of food banks or risking food shortages. But, like most things that affect the military and veterans’ communities, this issue isn’t as clear cut as it seems.
Photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal Jeffers (U.S. Air Force)
During my college years, I worked for a urologist. If there was one lesson I learned, it was that while there are many conversations we don’t want to have, some of them are absolutely imperative. Ignoring problems — whether it’s an elevated prostate specific antigen or low sperm count — no matter how embarrassing, doesn’t make them go away and can often make them much worse. One problematic fact that is likely both embarrassing and not going away is that sexual dysfunction within the military is on the rise, and those dealing with the issue are often left with little recourse.