Friday, August 21, 2009

Company Steps Up When Military Employees Deploy

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 - When a TriWest Healthcare Alliance nurse who serves in the Kansas Air National Guard got notice of an upcoming deployment in 2006, TriWest president David McIntyre ensured the company would see to her family's needs.

"There was no hesitation when I said that I was going to deploy," said Janet Hanson, a colonel with 24 total years of active and Air Guard military service. "Mr. McIntyre personally said that if my family or I need anything during the deployment to contact him personally, which was great."

McIntyre's gesture is just one of the reasons TriWest was selected for a 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award recognizes public and private employers for going above and beyond what's required by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act for their reserve-component employees. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve manages the award.

TriWest goes above what the law requires by providing continued health benefits for three months and pay differential for the duration of the deployment, said Hanson, a clinical liaison nurse at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

That, in combination with several more personal efforts, spurred her to seek recognition for the company, she said.

"They have a 'We Care' program -- some things for the families, such as phone cards -- that's grown ever since I deployed," Hanson said. "If I have an employee whose spouse is coming back, ... they get an administrative day off for the homecoming."

She said she's thrilled that TriWest is receiving this recognition.

"I wouldn't have submitted them unless I thought they had a chance, but obviously we were going up against 3,200 good companies that [were] nominated," she said. "I see every day what TriWest does in supporting the military, and I think they do a lot.

"I'm very proud of the company I work for," said Hanson, who became commander of the 190th Medical Group in 2007.

Elizabeth Hillestad, a TriWest spokeswoman, said the company is very proud to receive the award.

"It's a high honor to be recognized by [Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve]," she said. "I think it demonstrates our commitment to doing whatever it takes, which is our company motto, to reach out to Guard and Reserve members and their families and show that we support them and honor their service."

Citing the benefits Hanson mentioned, Hillestad added to the list, noting the company's policy of continued 401(k) matching and accrual of paid time off.

"We have a 'Giving to the Guard' program where we help various local family emergency relief funds, and then we make sure that [families] have access to those in case they need that," she said. "We also provide a variety of tools to [families] which are deployment-related support tools."

Hillestad said the company is just as proud of Hanson as it is of the recognition she's brought TriWest.

"We're super proud that she thought enough of the company to nominate us for this award," she said. "I think that it also sort of validates the commitment that we've made to the Guard and Reserve in recent years."

With more than seven years of service to TriWest, Hanson exemplifies the company's culture of service to the military as both a civilian employee and Guardsman, Hillestad added. About half of TriWest's employees have a personal tie to the military.

TriWest is the western region administrator of the military's Tricare health care system.

Related Sites: Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

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