DECEMBER 13, 2016, Washington (AFNS) – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James held a Facebook townhall to address concerns from Airmen and their family members have, about spouse and family programs, Dec. 12.
The townhall meeting provided an update to concerns and issues brought to her attention during the Air Force Spouse and Family Forum in October.
“I told you we would make best efforts to identify some areas where we can make immediate impact and others where we would get the ball rolling for long-term impact,” James said.
Exceptional Family Members
The first area addressed was Exceptional Family members.
“I am pleased to announce that we will hire 44 additional family support coordinators so that every base with more than 200 exceptional family members will have a dedicated coordinator,” James said. “We are also increasing the number of respite care hours that our EFMP families can receive; currently it’s 12 but will be going up to 40 hours per month.”
James said that in order to ensure EFMP families are aware of all the support available to them, quarterly webcast events will be held to address these issues and answer questions. The first of these events will take place Jan. 12, 2017.
Spouse Employment and Child Care
Another area of concern expressed by families during the October forum was employment, licensure and credentialing portability for spouses.
“We heard you loud and clear that moving from state-to-state presents some major issues for family members,” James said. “Some spouses, like nurses, teachers, and lawyers, have a lot of difficulty transferring their licenses from state-to-state.”
These issues were raise by the Air Force with the Office of the Secretary of Defense so that all the services and other Federal Government agencies can coordinate and align in the same direction on these issues.
Additionally, these issues were presented to the Council of Governors meeting in November. The Governors agreed to place these concerns on their agenda for February and provide state-level support.
Currently the Air Force has a policy that authorizes 12 months of leave without pay for spouses of military members who leave a Defense Department position. James announced that because of the feedback from the Spouse and Family Forum in October, spouses are now authorized 24 months of leave without pay to help spouse transition during a move.
Another topic addressed was child care options for families and the requirements for child care providers.
James said, “We are going to conduct a study on the requirements that stand today which is that family child care providers sleep on the same floor as all children under 8 years of age in the home. We’re going to do this study and see if we need to change this going forward.”
Furthermore, James discussed expanding parental leave. Under the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 – which passed congress last week and is now awaiting the President’s signature – 12 weeks of parental leave is granted to the primary caregiver in the family and three weeks to the secondary caregiver when they become biological parents. Additionally, it gives six weeks of leave to a primary adoptive parent and three weeks of leave to the secondary parent.
“These are increases in parental leave and these categories are now gender-neutral, meaning more flexibility for our families,” James said.
All of this is good news, said James, as is the fact that there will be no changes to Basic Allowance for Housing for our dual-military families.
By Maj. Ethan Stoker, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs