06.12.2011 Story by Sgt. Jessica Barnett TOPEKA, Kan. - Serving in the military is more than a service member’s job; it’s their family’s duty, as well. Being part of a military family is a unique lifestyle. It can seem complicated and daunting at times, but there are many programs available to help.
One of the many people available to help military families is the Family Assistance Center Specialist. The FAC specialist provides assistance services for all military members, families and veterans regardless of service component. They help serve as a liaison between the chain of command and families.
“The FACS job is to find the answer. We are on call 24/7 and our focus is on making sure families get the information they need to relieve the stressors of deployment,” stated Cherie Herlinger, Kansas National Guard Family Assistance Coordinator. “We continue to work with the FRGs to maintain updated information on families and to relieve the workload of their volunteers.”
The FACS will provide assistance on six essential services:
Crisis Intervention and Referral
Provide assistance and referral with the following:
• Domestic Abuse
• Child Abuse/Neglect
• Danger to Self and/or Others
• Abuse/Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult
Legal Resource/Information and Referral
• Assistance with Power of Attorney/Wills
• Information and assistance with Service Members Civil Relief Act
• Assistance with referral for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
Financial Resource/Information and Referral
• Understanding Military Pay
• Assistance with financial assistance and loan application through the American Red Cross and other agencies
• Referral to the availability of outside grants
• Provide referrals for budgeting classes
TRICARE Resource/Information and Referral
• Provide general information on insurance benefits
• Assist with TRICARE Medical and Dental Applications
• Assist with finding local participating providers
• Assist with challenging claim denials
ID cards and Defense Eligibility and Enrollment Reporting System information and referral
• Provide information on DEERS Rapids centers
• Assist with obtaining an ID card
Community Information and Outreach
Provide a list of local community resources including but not limited to the following:
• Assist with child care resources and referral
• Assist with referral to local financial resources
• Assist with finding a local Family Readiness Group to assist with Family Readiness
• Assist with finding community specific services (i.e., food pantry, car repair, etc.)
Family Assistance Centers are often staffed with contract employees and are responsible for providing assistance to military families in their designated FAC, or in other locations as needed. They assist service members and families with pay and financial issues, military medical benefits, legal issues, ID cards, DEERS enrollment, ESGR, in accessing benefits and services on a wide variety of other family-related issues. This list is not all-inclusive. All family problems and concerns of service members will be effectively and appropriately addressed.
FAC employees are responsible for maintaining and updating the directory of resources, agencies and organizations available to assist military families. They are also responsible for becoming familiar with, and accessing, all regulations and guidance that are applicable to the operation of the FAC.
Upon request, FAC employees are responsible for providing advice and guidance to Family Readiness Support Assistants as well as assisting them in gathering, collating, maintaining and disseminating information to families.
Comparatively, the Family Readiness Group is an official Army organization sponsored by the command. FRG membership includes soldiers assigned to the unit, civilian employees, family members (immediate and extended) and volunteers. Its purpose is to provide functional, social, and emotional support. In addition, the FRG helps keep families informed via a structured communication network between the command and family members. This support is designed to sustain families and ease the stress associated with military life.
“The FRGs work with a commander to execute the commander’s readiness plan,” said Michelle Williams, senior Family Readiness Support assistant for Joint Forces Headquarters. “FRGs also collaborate with the FACs to ensure resources are provided to serve members and their families.”
Traditionally, an FRG is organized at the company level with guidance and support from the battalion. The organization serves as a conduit for information, mutual support, and concern. The type and scope of activities conducted by an FRG depends on the commander’s budget for FRG activities, identified needs, command interest and emphasis, number of FRG members, time available for planning and execution, creativity of FRG membership, makeup of the FRG (i.e., soldier and family demographics and geo-dispersion) and the unit’s training and deployment schedule.
The FRG leader role is held by a family member of a service member from the unit appointed by the unit commander. FRG leaders are responsible for supporting the commander’s family readiness goals; providing overall leadership of the FRG, which includes planning, running, and supervising FRG activities; ensuring that the FRG’s communication systems are effectively keeping families informed, providing timely, accurate information from the command to families; recruiting the volunteers needed to conduct required FRG activities, including activities requested by command; ensuring families are referred to appropriate FAC for needed assistance; identifying important FRG issues and informing the command of them and attending training provided by the State Family Program Office to ensure volunteer regulations are followed.
In short, the Family Readiness Group is there to provide support to members and family members of the unit while Family Assistance Centers provide subject matter experts that can help with specific situations.
For further FAC information please contact the Kansas National Guard Family Assistance Coordinator, Cherie Herlinger, at 785-806-1761/785-742-5652 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
To find out more on FRGs please contact the Family Readiness Assistant, Michelle Williams, at 785-274-1173 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .