Gold Star mother receives a gift

Christine Murphy from the Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Program presents a gift bag to Gold Star Mother Mary Reed during a past recognition luncheon in Petersburg for parents of fallen service members. Every year, SOS organizes special events for these honored families including Run for the Fallen, which will be held in September this year, and a Butterfly Release in Fort Lee’s Memorial Garden, usually held in late-May/early-June.

The Army has introduced a new Survivor Access Card that will allow a greater number of Gold Star Family and next-of-kin members to enter military installations and use the programs meant to support them.

“This change enables them to more easily receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled and helps them remain connected to the Army,” emphasized Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, commanding general of the Installation Management Command. “Above everything, the Army values people, especially our Gold Star Spouses and Family members.”

“It is another symbol of gratitude for your loved one’s sacrifice, and for yours,” acknowledged Angela Bellamy, Survivor Outreach Services program manager at Fort Lee. “If you’re eligible for (the access card) and haven’t yet applied for it, we hope you’ll do it soon. Our office can assist you and answer any questions you have. Just call us at 804-734-6445 or 734-6446.”

Eligible survivors are those who meet the criteria to receive the Gold Star lapel button – widows or widowers, parents, children or stepchildren, and siblings including half-brothers-and-sisters. The Survivor Access Card is for those who do not have a military ID or DOD Common Access Card.

Foremost among the benefits available to Gold Star Spouses and next-of-kin family members is the SOS program, which provides “dedicated and comprehensive support through a network of civilian advocates.” They can help survivors understand the range of benefits available to them such as career and financial counseling.

The new benefit resulted from Section 626 of Public Law 115-232, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2019. The law recognizes survivors as having a valid requirement for long-term, unescorted access to Army installations. DOD leaders are determining policy to provide reciprocity for survivor’s cards across all services.

Bellamy pointed out that the card does not grant some privileges, such as Post Exchange/Commissary access, or discounts at Armed Forces Recreation Centers. The ID is good for three years, and if individuals notice their card is within six-to-12 months of expiration, they should contact SOS to reapply using DA Form 1602.

“We also want to learn how we can serve you better,” Bellamy said, “so please provide us feedback at ice.disa.mil/index.cfm?fa=card&sp=138190&s=446&dep=*DoD&sc=6.

Read more about the Army SOS program at www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/personal-assistance/survivor-outreach.