Blog Briefs: Military spouses, Hollywood actors, health IT and vets debriefed

A roundup from the blog rolls of the federal government

Family Matters
Dec. 17, 2009

Fear is a little more manageable when it is brought out into the open, writes Vivian, a Navy veteran and military spouse, in a post at "Family Matters," a blog dedicated to military families.

When Vivian’s husband left for Iraq, she tried to cope with her fears — fears about him not coming back, about them growing apart, about the effect on the family — by keeping a journal. But she soon discovered it helped to talk with other military spouses who might share her fears.

“It is liberating, if a bit terrifying, for those of us who like to be in control to share these uncertainties, get them out in the open and air them out a bit,” Vivian writes. “Because communicating these deep, dark fears [and] discussing them with others facing the same issues who might feel alone or embarrassed in their doubts might just be the best way to begin to deal with them. Sometimes it isn’t about a perfect solution, it’s about the camaraderie.”

Health IT Buzz
Dec. 18, 2009

Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, is looking to drum up interest in a new program designed to fuel relentless innovation in health IT.

At present, most people in the field are focused on laying the groundwork for electronic health records and health networks. But that is not enough, Blumenthal writes, “because it’s important to simultaneously address both the present and the future as we establish a new paradigm for health IT.”

The Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects program, named SHARP, provides $60 million to fund work in key technology areas, including security, patient-centered cognitive support, health care applications and network architectures, and secondary use of health records data.

Social Security News
Dec. 23, 2009

The Social Security Administration pulled off a nice trick, giving a new and informative twist to an otherwise routine Hollywood-actor-runs-afoul-of-the-law story.

The case involves Raymond Franza, the actor who played Donald (Donny K) Cafranza on "The Sopranos." The SSA blogger picked up a New York Daily News article that reports on how Franza swindled the agency out of $13,000 by applying for federal disability benefits while also receiving payments from his auto insurance policy — a real no-no.

The blogger adds insight by explaining some nuances of disability benefits and even determines that the reporter got a few numbers wrong. How wonkishly entertaining.

Returning Service Members
Dec. 22, 2009

The Veterans Affairs Department is looking for feedback on its current process for briefing service members returning home after deployment — what’s known as demob, or demobilization.

At present, VA gives veterans an overview of its services and benefits and enrolls them in the VA health care system. Vets are also assigned to a program manager who will help them make their initial health and dental appointments.

VA’s primary concern is getting veterans enrolled so they can start receiving benefits. As of November 2009, according to the blog, VA had briefed more than 73,000 veterans returning from operations in the Middle East, 95 percent of whom enrolled.

VA officials are wondering if vets have found the demob events useful and how the transition support might be improved.




Elaine Wilson
Family Matters

Elaine Wilson, who helped launch the “Family Matters” blog in August 2009, might be a civilian now, but she has firsthand experience of the struggles of the military families who read the blog looking for insights and resources for coping with their sometimes topsy-turvy lives.

She knows what it’s like to be a military spouse — and to be a single mother in the military. She spent eight years in the Air Force and additional time in the Air Force Reserves. Five years ago, she joined the civilian ranks, first working for the Army and now for the American Forces Press Service (AFPS).

When AFPS decided to make a foray into social media, she knew that a family-oriented blog would have a ready-made audience, and she was eager to do it. “I felt I had a lot to say, a lot to offer people,” she said. “It is something I was, and am, very passionate about.”

Wilson often writes the blog herself, but she also has had several readers contact her offering to write about their experiences. One example (highlighted elsewhere on this page), is Vivian, who wrote about the fears that arose when her husband was deployed. “I thought it was very courageous of her,” Wilson said. “I think it will help a lot of spouses out there going through the same thing.”

About the Author

John Stein Monroe, a former editor-in-chief of FCW, is the custom editorial director for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group.

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