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New app helps military families cut through online bottleneck for faster help

courtesy of the National Military Family Association

A new app, launched Thursday for Androids and iPhones, is designed to link military families with the services they need.

Web help available to military families is vast – and, some say, actually a bit overwhelming: The Defense Department alone offers more than 3,500 online sites just for service members, their spouses and their kids.

But a free app, launched Thursday by the National Military Family Association, is meant to tame that well-intentioned tangle of cyber care and advice.

MyMilitaryLife can aid service members in finding and navigating existing programs that offer guidance on returning to college or managing a deployment or, eventually, transitioning out of the armed forces, said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the NMFA, a nonprofit made up of military families who help military families. The app is available via Google Play and Apple’s app store.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year because we kept hearing from families who said: I know there are things out there, but I can’t find what I need or when I need it,” Raezer said.

“At the same time, we’ve been hearing from folks who run military organizations: We have this great program, this great resource, but we can’t connect with military families," she added. "Our business in this space for over 40 years is connecting military families with the right resources. The only way to do this is to leverage technology."

“We talked to a lot of people in technology who said we can build an app to accomplish that,” Raezer said. “So we did it.”

Through its work, the association has “made a lot of friends” in the tech industry and those allies linked them to the makers of smart-phone applications, Raezer said. Through still more friends – foundations and corporate partners – NMFA raised enough money to pay for the product’s development.

Users first pick a “life path:” education, deployment, or separation and retirement out of the military. That prompts a series of questions to appear – asking about their service branch, their rank or the type of degree they’re seeking – to help customize their search and steer them toward the program that best suits their needs.

Eventually, the app will be bulked up to help service members find help with family medical issues, child care, a spouse’s job hunt and programs that assist military personnel in their relocations from city to city (or country to country), Raezer said.

“We’re already looking to expand the content, including to build in a user feedback system," she said. "We’re going to keep building this because we believe the vision is right, and the military families need to be connected with the right resources at the right time."