23 September 2010

Heads up!

I have an important PSA for anyone about to start the new DoD's online personal property shipping process over on move.mil. Ready? It is 100% NON COMPLIANT with a Mac. Like, you cannot use it. At all. From top to bottom the program does not work with any Apple based computer products.

Yes, it is obviously ridiculous that if you require everyone in the military to use this program in order to PCS and have it only work with PCs. No, it isn't a huge deal if you are on post because you can hop over to work or somewhere that has PCs. But when you are on terminal leave 1,200 miles away from post and all of your relation owns Macs? Bwahahaha. Watch Tucker grovel to everyone she knows to let them crash their house and steal their PC for an hour (yes, it takes that long). Thanks Aunt Jane for saving my bacon yet again!

In any event, we got it done. We have a pre-inspection scheduled, we have packing dates and move out dates and it is a done deal. Now? All that is left to do is finish up Swiss's VA appointments when we get back to post and clear the installation. Then, on to our new non-Army life.


Did I mention that we still don't have jobs or a place to call home yet?

I. Die.

Hopefully this job interview I have scheduled at the end of the month goes well and we get some of these details ironed out. But until then? Let's call this Tucker's crash course in how to be more carefree and less OCD.

20 September 2010

No, I'm not dead.

So yeah, with this terminal leave well under way, we have been bouncing around the countryside hopping from place to place doing mostly nothing to get ready for the looming PCS. Great plan, right? Hahahahahah!

We are currently hanging out in WI with my family, we leave for MN later this week to spend some time with them. Before we head home to Fort X, I get to stop in South Dakota (!?!) for a job interview. I'm nervous and excited and curious about this job, the employer is non-traditional (in a good way) and I've heard great things about the city despite it not being a place neither Swiss nor I would have chosen.

Swiss is still waiting to hear from the contractor job he's applied for. So yeah, we are still jobless and homeless and clueless.

And we don't have the move scheduled yet either. Yep, move.mil is still throwing roadblocks in our way. We finally got our password and now the system won't let us get to the DPS site to organize/schedule the move. Fun right? Me thinks I'm gonna get to be really good friends with the customer service folks.

Anywhoodles, that is mostly it from here. Thus far my stress level is super low (owing surely to the Wisconsin beer and baked goods) but I'm guessing the minute we hit the gates back at Fort X I'll be back into full-on panic mode. Thankfully there is a super OCD calendar and list system waiting for me on the wall.

So yeah, just thought I'd let you all know we aren't dead... we are just taking an inappropriately timed vacation when we should be getting ready to leave Army life for good. Blame Swiss.

Have a great week everyone! :)

13 September 2010

An open letter to the DoD.

Dear DoD,

At the risk of sounding like a stodgy, grumpy old man... please, please, I beg of you... ENOUGH WITH THE TECHNOLOGY ALREADY! And if you want specifics, may I please point your attention to your newest mess website: move.mil. But just be warned, should you take a moment to go check that link to be sure of what I speak, allow for 1-3 minutes for the page to load... and another 1-3 for every subsequent page. Just FYI.

It was bad enough having to apply for housing online while my husband (and personal Cliff Notes to the Military) was deployed. What with the obscure and non-conventional terminology, need for seemingly unrelated documents, and no less than 11 scanned copies of every legal and Army-based document I had in my possession (I wish that was an exaggeration, but it is not).  There was no way to contact someone if I had trouble, and there were no confirmations of receipt. Just me, hanging out in my house hoping that it went through and I didn't FUBAR it. I guess I did okay since I am now writing this from inside my on-post housing, but you sure didn't make it easy.

Now you've gone and taken a system that worked so well, and turned it into a gummed up, confusing, non-intuitive and completely un-user-friendly website that is painfully slow to boot. Rather than have us sit down with an experienced transportation counselor (With other couples no less! Multitasking!) to get briefed and have all of our forms (accurately) filled out and submitted with just a few hours of our time (scheduled at our and your convenience)... you have forced given us this new website in the name of making life easier for military families.

Pshaw! As if!

Please just call a spade a spade from now on. Rather than give us lip-service about this clumsy and difficult program being "for us, to make our lives easier", please just call it a money saving venture. What you are trying to do is downsize your offices and instead of hiring capable, experienced, HELPFUL actual people who can sit down with you and truly make the process easier (who, naturally cost money), you are hiring Tech Firms full of people who know nothing about the DoD or the PCS process and are now just frustrated and unhelpful despite their best intentions (hired, naturally, because they were the lowest bidder).

Instead, what you have left us with is a program that is so over burdened that when you apply to get accepted into the online program, I have to wait 6 hours to get my confirmation because the requests are too plentiful. Come on now DoD, if anyone in this world has a clear understanding of how many folks are in the military and on PCS/Retirement/ETS orders, it is you. And still you didn't think this program through well enough to accommodate us. Thanks. So here we sit, twiddling our thumbs for 6 hours, when, had you just kept things the way they were, we'd be done by now.

Furthermore, you have left no option for real, live help. Even here on post. So when our situation is complicated by non-temporary storage or potential changes in final destinations, and when we find out that there are steps we do or don't need to take because we are retiring... we find out about them only after wasting our time and ending up frustrated. Which may not be a big deal to you, but it is to us.

In case you didn't get the point already, this program has done absolutely nothing to make our lives and this process any easier. Oh, and one other thing, when you decide to go paperless and want all documents scanned and e-mailed to the appropriate offices, it would behoove you to also increase the attached file size allowances. Hotmail lets me download up to 10MB of scanned documents, AKO however wouldn't even let me attach 4 scanned pages despite reducing the scan quality to almost unreadable. Does this mean maybe some guys will get more bandwidth of p0rn somewhere in Afghanistan? Probably. But for those of us doing official business, you know- like moving when you tell us to, it would make us a lot less frustrated.

Really, all we are asking of you, DoD, is that you actually think about the military families that are going to be effected by the changes in programs you want to make... not just your bottom line. We all understand that money is tight, but making us all suffer through poorly thought-out and clumsy programs just to PCS (which, in case you forgot, we do quite often) isn't the answer. I'm all for technology, but even if it makes me sound like an old man, computers and HTML code can't always replace real live people.

Tucker (and Swiss)

Retirement, Part Deux.

So, are y'all ready for part two? Well, ready or not, here it comes... (and if you missed part one, check it out)

Okay everybody, here's the gist of it: there are things you should do, things you must do, and things that are way more complicated than they should be that often you don't/won't get told about. Is it annoying? Of course. But the main thing is (hopefully) that you get the nitty gritty list from someone who has just gone through it (because we all know in 5-10 years this process is going to be totally different) and make sure you do the things that aren't on the official list. Here is my list.


  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if your spouse should have any ailments, any at all, go to sick call and get it documented! This might require multiple trips (I'd suggest multiple trips with similar ailments bundled into each visit) but it is a very important step that is not written down anywhere. Apparently, the VA reps who review your medical records are mostly trained to hone in on sick call forms... not official medical records. The more of the sick call forms you have, the more accurate their summary of your medical records will be. Otherwise you have to do it and make sure your MDs know about it.
  • Also, be aware that these MDs doing the VA physicals are booked. Always. Expect a 5-6 week wait for your first appointment. This is where the planning ahead and allowing time for this stuff will really work in your favor.
  • Be warned that there WILL be extra appointments. While you are allowed to do these appointments while on terminal leave, the 2 or so appointments they first schedule you for aren't the last ones you'll be doing. Most of these will be scheduled only after the first round. Be sure to leave wiggle room in your schedule for these!


  • Get with housing and transportation. Here, housing told me in January that they were okay with only 2 weeks notice for retirements, which was awesome. Turns out that isn't the case (thankfully we have more than enough time to schedule it). However, since transportation requires the usuall 30 days, it is sort of a moot point. Your post might be different so check in to it early and often! Ask lots of questions and if something sounds hinky, ask again!

  • Be ready to be flexible with every aspect of this last PCS. Assuming that you have left yourself tons of time to complete this, it shouldn't be an issue. However, given how fickle things can be with theses processes, be sure to give yourself enough of a window. And, unlike some more traditional PCS scenarios (assuming you are moving to a location not near your current duty station and not near another military installation), plan to stay a night or two on post after you clear housing. This will allow you to get registered with the VA and tie up any loose ends that you may be used to tying up before moving out of housing.


  • Be mindful of the documents you will need in your new non-Army endeavours. Mainly your retirement orders, your DD-214, and any documentation supporting preferences given in hiring (Purple Heart, 30+% disability, etc). These documents can help you quite a bit, but anyone who is willing to help a Vet wants documentation, so have it in a handy place.
  • Did I mention something last time about getting organized? At this point, if you haven't done it, sit down and do it. You should have files for the medical records, files for the VA, files for clearing, and the ever-important file for all the papers and orders you need to get anything done on post.


  • This is one of those things that they give you pamphlets on and let you figure out the rest. Fun, right? I'll give you the run-down: Your spouse will automatically be removed from TriCare Prime when they get their new card and status change to "Retired", though they will still be covered under Standard. At this point, you get to choose what insurance you want, assuming you are not eligible for the VA insurance. TriCare Prime is really only going to do you any good if you end up living relatively close to a major military installation. The enrollment fee is cheap ($400 per family per year), and the co-pays are wonderfully awesome, but you are mostly limited to in-service providers (like a HMO) which are only going to be present in helpful enough numbers near a military base. But FYI- Prime Remote is no longer an option when you transition to retired status! TriCare Standard or Extra will likely serve you best if you are going to move somewhere less close to military medical care/military installations. This is still a pretty cheap option, but you will be required to pay a little bit more as a dependent than you used to (something like 5% more). Either way, you have to re-look at your insurance situation with a new set of eyes, be aware of your final location, costs and physician availability.

  • Be cognizant of the fact that you are paying for insurance out of pocket. When you get offered your next non-military job, be sure to keep this bargaining chip in mind. Most employers pay some or all of your enrollment fees and whanot. Be sure to let them know you won't be participating (unless it is way better/cheaper than TriCare) and see if they will pony up extra money for your salary or extra vacation days. This goes for you too spouses!!!

So, there you have it, the latest and greatest hits from the Tucker and Swiss Retirement Tour. I'll keep you all posted as things get crazier! And as always, let me know in the comments if there are other issues you have questions about!

10 September 2010

How's that for a welcome home?

Hey everyone! How've you been? Me? I'm good. Recovering from a sunburn (100% not my fault, and I'm still looking at you Katie) and a bit of jet lag, but Hawaii was awesome and everyone had a great time. There was plenty of beach time, lots of island related adult beverages, cheesy movies, cute kids and stellar conversations. All in all? Great vacation!

But guess what I came home to? The (semi) exciting news that Swiss's retirement is much more imminent than we had thought. In other words, his terminal leave starts somewhere in the middle of next week. Terminal leave. Next week. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!? Of course this means the hubs wants to go home to Minnesota and Wisconsin for two weeks (100% in the name of hunting- at least he isn't trying to hide that fact). Which of course means that when we get back to Fort X we will have right around 3 weeks to PCS.

Three weeks. To PCS.

That whirring noise? Yeah, don't worry, thats just my head spinning round and round...

Do I think we can do this even though we are only about 11% prepared for this? Sure. There are two of us this time, there is no house to sell, and now we both have the joyous experience of a PCS under our belts. But really? How did we think waiting this long would be a good idea? Talk about the summer getting away from us! Turns out October really isn't too far away from August... Hmph.

Now, in our defense, this surprise early terminal leave will suck up 2 of what would have been a 5 week grace period. I'm still not sold on this trip up North being a good idea, but I don't have the heart to tell Swiss no. He missed so much last year and it really would suck if he had to miss out on all of it again because of a stupid PCS. But oy... I can already feel my OCD tendencies coming up to the surface.

Like the insane 6 week calendar I made out of poster board yesterday (2 sheets! I'm crazy!). Replete with VA appointments, packing lists, clearing lists and general to-do list. Because, you know, a normal calendar just wouldn't cut it. It really was disturbing how much better it made me feel to have that sucker up on the wall. And of course it helps remembering all of the things I FUBAR'd the last time (that would be why the lists are so long and detailed). But my confidence level of having both the housing office and the transportation office working on the same schedule we are? Hahahahhahahahahahaha... head, meet desk.

In any event, I'm sure it will work out. Neither of us have jobs yet (but that's another post for another day) but the good news is that we still have some time. 5 weeks. Really folks, this is insane! So yeah, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Have a stellar weekend everyone! You know where I'll be... eyeball deep in moving boxes and packing lists!