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Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Darden College's Levingston Plays Role in Military Families Lifestyle Survey

An Old Dominion faculty member was among those who played key roles in the recently released Blue Star Families' 2013 Military Family Lifestyle Survey. The results were announced May 16 at a joint Senate and House Military Family Caucus event in Washington, D.C.

Kathleen Levingston, assistant professor and internship coordinator for human services in ODU's Department of Counseling and Human Services, served as a research analyst for the survey and attended the event, which was held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. She also serves as faculty adviser to ODU's Student Veterans Association.

The survey findings point to four top areas of concern for military families: pay/benefits, with specific emphasis on changes to retirement benefits; military spouse employment; the effects of deployment on children; and issues surrounding military child education.

Additionally, the 2013 survey uncovered valuable information on the following areas: relationships, suicide prevention, financial literacy, caregiving, communication and public policy. This year's survey also continued to track how military families support each other, seek out resources and stay connected to their communities and to their service members.

"As a military spouse, I am dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of our service members and their families through my research and service. Blue Star Families is a unique organization that allows me the opportunity to participate in national research that captures family members' perspectives on key issues that are a part of the unique military lifestyle. Policy makers and stakeholders can then utilize this information to build on the strengths and help address the challenges that military families may be experiencing," Levingston said.

"As approximately 25 percent of our ODU student population is military affiliated, these findings are particularly relevant as we try to provide comprehensive services to promote their academic and personal success."

Sens. Barbara Boxer and Richard Burr, and Reps. Sanford Bishop and Cathy McMorris Rodgers hosted the caucus event. The New York Times' Jim Dao moderated a panel discussion at the event, which was also attended by other members of Congress, representatives from the Department of Defense, military families, concerned citizens and members of the media.

In addition to the areas of concern identified, the 2013 survey found:

• Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated that social media was important in communicating with their service member during deployment.

• Sixty-five percent of respondents said they experienced stress related to their family's current financial condition.

• Twenty-three percent of all respondents and 24 percent of spouse respondents reported PTS symptoms in their service member regardless of diagnosis, whereas 19 percent of service members reported having a PTSD diagnosis and 21 percent reported symptoms regardless of diagnosis.

• Nine percent of military spouses and 18 percent of service members reported they had "ever considered suicide." Of those who reported having considered suicide, 30 percent of service members and 23 percent of spouses report not seeking suicide support services.

• Eighty-seven percent of respondents believed all Americans have a responsibility to participate in national service and 72 percent supported their service member's continued military service.

• Nineteen percent of respondents had a family member enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program

• For the second year in a row, a majority of respondents felt the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" had no impact on a variety of issues. Seventy-five percent of respondents said it had no impact on their service member's ability to do his/her job and 72 percent said it had no impact on their service member's desire to re-enlist or stay in the military.

The comprehensive report is available on Blue Star Families' website:

More than 5,100 military families took part in the Blue Star Families survey. According to the advocacy group for military family members, every survey provides valuable insight into the challenges of military family life, impacting policy development, and educating military leadership, government decision-makers.

Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, with a mission to support, connect and empower military families. In addition to morale and empowerment programs, Blue Star Families raises awareness of the challenges and strengths of military family life and works to make military life more sustainable. Membership includes military spouses, children and parents as well as service members, veterans and civilians.

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