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This question is a compilation of several messages from one reader:

After 24 years in the military, my husband developed a back problem, caused by his work. The past two years have not been easy for my family. After his last deployment, my husband has been, more or less, always in pain.

First they tried therapy and injection, but it did not work. Finally, they decided to operate. But it was never “time for it.”

My husband decided last March that he was ready to retire (at the end of 2007.) He requested a three-month extension so he can have surgery and so our children can finish school. It was “base approved” and he got a date for his surgery.

Shortly before Christmas, the Air Force denied the extension, so he will not be able to have surgery. His last day of work was to be in late December, followed by leave and terminal leave. His surgery was scheduled for early January.

So, on the first of April, my husband is out of work. It hit him hard, he will not be able to work full time, and we have to pull the kids out of the German school, since we live off base and can’t afford the rent.

My son is in a special program for a learning disability. My daughter will lose her recommendation for the Gymnasium — the best education in Germany — if she is not able to finish fourth grade.

I am looking for a full-time job, so maybe we can stay the 12 weeks and so the kids can stay in school.

My husband went to his supervisor, commander, JAG. He has seen the clinic advocate, IG and more. Nobody could help.

All of this came out of the blue. The really bad part is that the Air Force has nothing set up to help people like us. I am sure there are more people out there with similar problems.

The Air Force denied his request because of “manpower,” even though he filed it under “hardship.” We tried to find help, but nobody seems to care. The Air Force has once again turned their back on us.

— Need Help Fast

I’m sorry that I do not have an easy or fast answer for you. Retirement is a serious, life-changing event, requiring long-term planning. With or without a 3-month extension, planning is required to manage the changes in income and benefits that military retirement brings.

Your husband has tried every avenue I would have suggested, except one: your chaplain. A chaplain can advise you and might know of other resources for your specific needs.

Although you feel abandoned, you still have military benefits, including medical care. Your husband can get the surgery he needs through his retiree benefits.

If he hasn’t already, your husband can get information and help from the Transition Assistance Program, which helps military members prepare for retirement.

TAP can provide information about local civil service jobs. This could help your husband find employment and prevent interruption of your children’s school year. See the TAP Web site:

TAP also has a program for veterans with disabilities. If your husband has a service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or higher, he qualifies. He should talk to his doctor about a possible disability rating. See the Web site at:

Your family can get through this difficult transition. Get specific information about your retiree benefits and start planning now.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB. Send questions or comments to her at and see the Spouse Calls blog at

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