From Kristine M. Sturkie, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

Virginia Beach, Va. (NNS) -- As part of the Navy Exchange Service Command's (NEXCOM) We Believe! holiday events, more than 30,000 deployed and forward-deployed Sailors and Marines will receive either a free $10 prepaid card or virtual calling minutes using a virtual personal identification number (VPIN).

Both the card and VPIN can be used aboard U.S. Navy ships or via shore-based telephone systems in the US and overseas.

By Katie Lange, Defense.gov

ARLINGTON, Va. -- National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it's hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill -- who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans -- got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.

Federal Commission on School Safety Releases Comprehensive Resource Guide for Keeping Students, Teachers Safe at School

WASHINGTON—After months of research, visiting successful programs around the nation, and receiving testimony from experts and concerned citizens, today the Federal Commission on School Safety (Commission) released a 177-page report detailing 93 best practices and policy recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country.

Utilizing the information gathered, the Commission report offers a holistic approach to improving school safety, ranging from supporting the social and emotional well-being of students to enhancing physical building security. Acknowledging there can be no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem, the final report serves as a resource guide for families, educators, law enforcement officers, health professionals, and elected leaders to use as they consider the best ways to prevent, mitigate, and recover from acts of violence in schools. The recommendations are based on efforts that are already working in states and local communities.

The Department of Defense released the 2019 Basic Allowance for Housing rates today. BAH rates will increase an average of 2.55 percent when the new rates take effect on January 1, 2019. An estimated $21 billion will be paid to approximately one million service members.

The 2019 BAH program expands the member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense) while continuing to balance the growth in compensation costs. Based on the authority provided in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the cost-sharing element was increased to five percent. For 2019, a typical member will need to absorb five percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. The out-of-pocket amounts incorporated in the 2019 BAH rates vary by grade and dependency status and range from $66 to $149 monthly. This rate computation change balances the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefits package remains robust and healthy.

By Gary Sheftick, Army News Service

WASHINGTON -- Less than a month remains for Soldiers to opt into the Blended Retirement System and so far only 19 percent of those eligible have switched to the new plan.

Pentagon officials are concerned many Soldiers will be missing out on benefits under BRS that they can take with them if they leave the Army before serving 20 years.

By Ed Barker, Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors planning to take college courses in the new year using Tuition Assistance (TA) should submit requests before the holiday stand-down period to get a head-start on the review and approval process.

According to counselors at the Navy College Virtual Education Center (NCVEC), the primary reason for problems with TA requests is late applications, and Sailors who get an early start on their applications have the best chance of having their requests approved. Service members are required to obtain approval for TA funding before the official start of a course.

By Jenny Hale

The Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) launched its first edition of a new Army magazine called Hire a Soldier on Nov. 29. The online publication features advice, tips, and stories for transitioning Soldiers who are planning for life after Army service.

The first edition features Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey and his advice for transitioning Soldiers. "At the end of the day, transition is a process and it's something every Soldier will go through. We all must transition at some point and from every rank in the Army. There are a lot of resources out there and starting early is key to properly preparing." Dailey said.

From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Applications are now being accepted for enlisted information warfare community personnel to attend the National Intelligence University (NIU), the Navy announced in a message, Dec. 10.

According to NAVADMIN 299/18, active-duty Sailors in the cryptologic technician (CT), intelligence specialist (IS) and information systems technician (IT) ratings can now apply for enrollment in NIU for Bachelor of Science in intelligence, Master of Science of strategic intelligence and Master of Science and technology intelligence degree programs.

MYTH 1:
My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy authorized special leave accrual (SLA) for Sailors who had leave either canceled or disapproved in support of humanitarian and emergency assistance for Hurricane Florence, in NAVADMIN 294/18, Dec. 7.

Commanding officers and officers in charge may approve SLA for Sailors whose leave was canceled or disapproved between Sept. 14-30, 2018. SLA approval is limited to the amount of leave that was canceled or disapproved, up to a maximum of 14 days.