Should military families have to resort to food aid in order to make ends meet? Many have argued for a basic needs allowance for military members to reduce food insecurity and keep troops from having to apply for food stamps or other public assistance.
The Center For Strategic And International Studies reports that a single study of more than 25,000 vets, “…found that 6.5 percent were food insecure during 2011-2017”.
That, according to the report, is considered, “far lower than the food insecurity rate among the general population, which hovered between about 12 and 15 percent in the same period”.
There is a certain mindset that holds that no person who volunteered to serve in uniform should ever have to face food insecurity.
The attitude informing these reports, in the minds of some, seems to put the burden on the troops in pointing to such lower-than-the-national-average type stats as those mentioned above.
Such reports do beg the question–should any soldier, sailor, airman, guardian, or Marine be subject to food insecurity? How, in the 21st century, does America deal with the specter of military families dealing with these issues?
Addressing Financial Needs
One motivation for the Basic Needs Allowance has to do with the qualifying criteria for certain public assistance programs. Military pay and allowances can count against a family’s financial eligibility for some of these programs. Simply put, on paper these troops make too much money to qualify for some public assistance programs.
And then there’s the notion that those who serve should never have to worry about where their family’s next meal will come from.
One way to help military families is via military pay raises–in 2021, the House Armed Services Committee announced its support for a 2.7% pay increase for military members in 2022.
But pay raise issues are addressed every year in one form or another, yet there are still military families who face food insecurity and related economic difficulties.
That’s likely one reason why in addition to the pay increase for troops, the Committee also announced support for the creation of something known as a Basic Needs Allowance for those in uniform who struggle financially.
The Defense Authorization Bill
The Basic Needs Allowance has been suggested before, but each time, lawmakers found an excuse not to include it in the final Defense Authorization Act. This allowance is under review yet again for 2022 and is included in the most current (at press time) 2022 Defense Authorization Bill.
That bill also includes plans to add family leave for military members–something the DoD has lagged behind the private sector in implementing.
What Is The Basic Needs Allowance
The Basic Needs Allowance as currently (at press time) written provides the following:
- A monthly allowance for qualifying military families
- Some sources estimate the allowance would be approximately $400
- Eligibility for the allowance requires a household with income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty rate
- At press time this allowance is limited to “single military income” families
The current proposal includes the caveat that this allowance is not intended to be offered on an indefinite basis; this is considered temporary relief.
The Basic Needs Allowance and the rest of the Defense Authorization Bill have a long journey ahead of them at press time but some sources report that the support for this measure by the House Armed Services Committee is a very good sign that the allowance will stay in the bill without being contested.
In September 2020, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a debate about the entire Defense Authorization Bill, which is worth some $700 billion or more. No decisions are expected on the bill until the end of fall, 2020.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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