USAGov’s Voting Guide for Military Members and Americans Abroad

People voting at a voting booth

If you’re an American living abroad or a member of a military family it doesn’t mean you have to put your vote on hold. It just means that your voting process will be a little different.

USAGov is committed to informing and making sure members of the military, their families, and other Americans living outside the U.S. don’t miss the chance to vote in 2018. Follow this Voting Guide for Military Members and Americans Abroad:

Step 1: Register

No matter which state you’re from or where you’ll be voting, you must register by your state’s deadline. Complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).This will allow you to cast your vote from outside the U.S. Remember, your family can also participate. If a military spouse or eligible family member lives outside the legal voting jurisdiction, they can vote absentee in all federal elections.

Step 2: Receive your ballot and send your vote home

Make sure your vote counts. Once your ballot arrives and you vote, mail it back on time and to the right address. Each state has its own process. Some have deadlines for receiving the ballot and others set a deadline for when it should be mailed.

If you requested an absentee ballot and haven’t received it at least 30 days before the election, you can vote using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). You can fill in and print out the PDF version or use the online assistant. The FWAB serves as a write-in backup ballot that can be used for the election.

Step 3: Make sure the ballot arrives

Contact your state to make sure they received your ballot and it’s counted on Election Day.

Step 4: Sit back and watch democracy at work

Once you’ve gone through the whole process, you can follow the results on Election Day and witness American democracy at work. If you run into a problem at any point in the registration and absentee voting process, you can contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) hotline toll-free: 1-800-438-VOTE (8683), DSN: 425-1584; call one of their offices around the world; or get in touch by postal or e-mail with any issues. If you’re a military member, you can also contact the Service Voting Action Officer that corresponds to your branch.

USAGov’s Five Tips to Get Great Deals from Government Auctions and Sales

Date: May 9, 2016

You may have heard that you can buy “stuff” from the government. But how does it work? Can you really get good deals? With these tips from USAGov, you can learn how to be a smart shopper at government auctions and sales and discover the surprising variety of things you can buy:

Who sells government property?

Many federal agencies, states, and even some local governments sell property that’s surplus or has been seized by law enforcement. For a variety of property types, try:

  • GSA Auctions, the government’s national electronic bidding site for buying federal assets, from common household items to specialized equipment and vehicles
  • GovSales.gov, listing all the government’s property for sale, including real estate

What “stuff” can you buy?

You can buy everyday items—chairs, desks, furniture, computers, and electronic equipment—that can go in your home or office. You can also buy hand tools, watches, and jewelry, as well as vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, and even airplanes!

If you’re interested in buying a house, the government offers foreclosed single family homes. But make sure you work with a real estate agent, broker, or servicing representative to make an offer or bid. You can also find commercial real estate and land for sale. This surplus property includes office buildings, warehouses, commercial facilities, and former post offices. If you still haven’t found something, you might consider buying seized properties from the IRS. Remember: Even though you can find considerable savings on government-owned property, everything sells at fair-market value.

How can you buy government property?

While there are many ways to buy surplus personal property and real estate from the government, these are three popular sales methods:

  • Live auctions – You can find many types of items like cars and trucks for sale at one location. Either before or on the day of the auction, you’ll receive descriptions, instructions on how to bid, and the chance to inspect the merchandise. Sometimes you can find special items highlighted in print and online media.
  • Online auctions – For surplus personal property, register on GSA Auctions. You can search for items by various categories and bid electronically. Keep in mind that once you place a successful bid on an item, you’ll have to pay for it within two business days and pick it up within 10 business days. For other government property for sale, including real estate, start at GovSales.gov. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, follow the bidding instructions.
  • Fixed-price sales – In this type of sale, all items have non-negotiable price tags. You can come in person to inspect, purchase, and take the non-returnable merchandise with you.

When is the best time to buy?

The government hosts many types of surplus personal property and real estate sales—both in person and online—throughout the year. For sales online, there’s no specific time frame, though sales typically last a week. There’s a constantly cycling inventory, so you’ll want to check the listings daily to find the best deals.

Why buy from the government?

You can make your money go farther on a wide variety of individual items. And that goes for bulk items, such as laptops, cell phones, and other electronic equipment, too. If you’re in the market for a car, government vehicles are exceptionally well maintained and often come with detailed paperwork, as opposed to buying through a private dealer, who might not know the vehicle’s maintenance history. You can also take heart in knowing that all proceeds from government sales go back to the original holding or selling agency, to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or are deposited in the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. And while there are no giveaways—yachts don’t come cheap—the discounted prices give you another reason to try out a government sale.

Learn more about buying from the government on USA.gov, your online guide to government information and services. Whether you’re looking for surplus sales, collectibles, or other government-owned property available through purchase or auction, you’ll find the information and services you need.

En español.

Support for Families When A Suicide Attempt Hits Home

USAGov and Rocky Mountain MIRECC

Date: May 24, 2016

Every May, families, friends, and communities join together to bring attention to mental health by showing their support during Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you and your family are facing a serious crisis such as a suicide attempt, this is likely one of the most difficult things you will ever face. If you have the right tools, you will be prepared to assist your family and find long-term solutions that are appropriate for each of you. With the right approach, and the right support, there is recovery and hope. USAGov and Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention share six areas where you can make a positive difference during chaotic, stressful events, for you and your family.

  • Hotline for help: There are several options in case you or someone you know needs help to deal with an immediate crisis. Call 911 if you think a family member may harm themselves or others. Also, there is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  • Take care of yourself first: When there’s a family emergency it may feel like you  need to focus all your energy and care outward. But if you take care of your own needs first, you’ll help ensure that you have the energy and tenacity you need to assist those depending on you. For military families, there are free applications to help address their unique environment.
  • Find out more about your child’s specific needs: Even very young children can understand simple concepts such as sadness (e.g., “Your Grandpa has been feeling very sad lately.”). As a child grows he or she will be able to understand more about emotions, challenges, and problems that could lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. The goal for all ages is to provide honest, reassuring information, based upon the child’s age and comprehension level. Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention offers advice on how to speak to your children.
  • Keep an eye out for continued or prolonged signs of distress, and seek help if needed: MentalHealth.gov gives guidelines on what to do if your child shows signs of distress. Each state has federally-funded free or low-cost mental health services, which can be found using the SAMSHA locator or by calling their helpline 1-800-662-4357.
  • Look for ways to teach resiliency: Related to the above concepts on mental illness is the idea of resilience – regaining strength and health (and perhaps growing even stronger) following a bad event. As a parent you can learn the skills and conditions that help bring about resilience, and also ways to teach your child how to be resilient at different ages.
  • Moving forward with your loved ones: When your family member returns home, it’s helpful to keep exploring new connections and sources for support as you move forward as a family. In addition to professional assistance, there are other sources of support that could help connect you with others who share similar experiences.

Along with the special activities during Mental Health Awareness Month by organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Health America, there is support available throughout the year during times of crisis. The government is filled with programs and services that can help you and your family face an emotional crisis. Find special support for Native Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), and veterans.

Let USAGov be your guide at USA.gov/explore.

En español.