First Lady Jane Beshear's Communications Office
Kentucky Military Spouse Task Force Celebrates One Year Anniversary
Group recognizes accomplishments, focuses on continued support of Kentucky military families
FRANKFORT, Ky. – September marks the one year anniversary of Kentucky’s Military Spouse Task Force (MSTF), the first organization of its kind in the nation. Organized by First Lady Jane Beshear, the group’s mission is to identify issues important to military families, recommend solutions, and educate military families about resources available to them in Kentucky.
“We owe a great debt not just to our service members, but also to the families that support them,” said Mrs. Beshear. “This task force is committed to bettering the lives of military families in our state and I have been so honored to work alongside the dedicated spouses, community and government leaders who have helped make a positive impact for Kentucky military members and their families.”
The MSTF convened on Friday, September 23, 2011 when the First Lady hosted the first annual luncheon for spouses of Kentucky active and reserve military servicemen and women. The task force is a non-governmental, all volunteer group and has member representatives from all of Kentucky’s military installations including Fort Knox, Fort Campbell and the Kentucky National Guard (KYNG). Since last fall, the group has worked with state and local leaders, businesses and community groups across the Commonwealth to expand the rights of military families and elevate awareness of the struggles facing military families.
Some accomplishments and outreach of the MSTF include:
- Adoption Assistance Legislation -- Adoption assistance for KYNG families was one of the first topics raised by MSTF members, as they were the only military installation in the state that could not access state military funding assistance for families seeking to adopt. The task force worked with Governor’s office and legislators to pass House Bill 224 (sponsored by Rep. Tonya Pullin) in the 2012 session. The bill allows money in the military family assistance trust fund to be used for the KYNG Adoption Assistance Program.
- Increased Awareness of Military Children’s Rights in Schools – MSTF members raised concern that children of deployed military parents were not receiving excused absences to spend time with their parents around deployment and return dates. Many schools were simply unaware of the state regulation (KRS 159.035 3) which excuses military children a day before their parent deploys, a day after return of deployed parent, and ten days for rest and recuperation leave. As a result of the MSTF, the Commissioner of the Department of Education, now sends notice to all schools at the beginning of each school year about this attendance allowance. The MSTF also has presented at the Kentucky Counselor’s conference and other groups about the regulation to continue to increase awareness.
- National Recognition and Outreach – In February 2012, Mrs. Beshear was invited to the Pentagon by First Lady Michelle Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to be recognized for her continued work with Kentucky military families as an example of a successful government partnership. In August, the MSTF presented national leaders and Pentagon officials at the Association of Defense Communities Conference in California about the work Kentucky has done to help military families and spouses.
The MSTF holds regular meetings in communities across the state to discuss their current priorities and future goals. Some of current and upcoming initiatives of the group include:
- Joint MSTF and Post Secondary Education Group – The recently convened group includes members of Kentucky universities and will seek to increase awareness and opportunities for higher education and benefits to military spouses. This includes simplifying credit transfers, increasing scholarship availability and supporting legislation for in-state tuition assistance.
- Supporting Veterans’ Career Assistance – The MSTF seeks to support legislation assistance to help military veterans transition to civilian careers by waiving their initial occupation licensure fees. The military fee waivers could potentially save veterans hundreds to thousands of dollars to gain licensure for professions in real estate, construction and business.
“Through my experience being a military spouse, no other state I have lived in has shown so much interest and dedication to improving the lives of our military families,” said Kelly Bono, executive committee member of MSTF. “It has been an honor working with the MSTF and Kentucky's First Lady.”
The MSTF uses Facebook as an online forum to constantly share useful information for military families and receive advice and feedback. Please visit their site at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Military-Spouse-Task-Force-For-Kentucky/176104022468948.