Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Elizabeth L. Williams, Indianapolis, IN (Indiana National Guard Member and Spouse of Deployed Indiana National Guard Member)
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to testify on my views and experiences in regards to the Transitional Assistance Program and the ability of my family to cope with readjustment needs and the deployments of my spouse, CPT Christopher M. Williams.
My husband is scheduled to return this month from his second year-long deployment. In 2003, he deployed for approximately fifteen months. Then, he deployed for the second time in June of 2007 and is expected to return any day.
There has been significant progress in the efforts to provide transitional assistance to the soldiermembers and their families since my spouse’s first deployment experience. During his 2003 deployment, I can recall very little assistance available to support the families of the deployed soldiermembers, outside of the Family Readiness Group and Military One Source.
It appears as though the Family Readiness Group is often used as the primary source of communication and information dissemination, as it pertains to families and their available resources. Without the unit or servicemembers having a functioning Family Readiness Group, the soldiermembers and especially the spouses can often be left in the dark. I acknowledge that perhaps my testimony is also based on the fact that I am also a servicemember, as well as a spouse. Therefore, I have the advantage of understanding the military and how it functions, as opposed to a spouse that has no military background.
My husband deployed with a small detachment, which does not have a functioning Family Readiness Group. The little detachments can easily fall through the cracks, even with the wonderful system we have recently established. It appears as though our system may be designed for at least company sized units. When small units deploy, similar to my husband’s unit, they can be easily forgettable. Perhaps, those units could be assigned to a Family Readiness Group which has already been established or there could be a secondary means of communication, other than the Family Readiness Group, used to distribute information to the spouses and family members of deployed military members.
I have recently learned we now have many new tools and resources in place, such as the Family Assistance Centers and the Family Readiness Support Assistants. We could never have too many of these. We already have 15 Family Assistance Centers; however, we could really use more Family Readiness Support Assistants to ensure the Family Readiness Groups are functioning properly and the Transitional Assistance Program benefits and resources are communicated effectively.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or members of the Subcommittee might have.