Members of Congress Listening to Military Families
About the Author

Michelle Aikman is a military spouse and career management expert.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) joined together in 2009 to form the Congressional Military Family Caucus. This bipartisan group is focused on understanding the needs of military families to support and advocate on our behalf through legislation. 

Congressional representatives, military leadership, DoD representatives, and nonprofit leaders from across the country, including MOAA, joined military families at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., Aug. 18 for the 2016 Military Family Summit, where I served as the keynote speaker. 

The event began with a main panel followed by three breakout panel sessions focused on: military pay, benefits, and retirement; military children; and military spouse employment. community involvement, and transition assistance. 

The event concluded with five local spouses receiving recognition for their outstanding contributions to the base and local community. 

Inviting Families to Participate in Discussions is Important

Opening remarks centered around encouraging those in attendance to share their stories and ideas setting the tone for an open and engaging discussion. On multiple accounts, opening speakers emphasized that military families must be part of these conversations, because our voice is important and necessary to properly identify and develop legislation within the caucus. 

Powerful Voices are on the Home Front

During the main panel session, audience members asked questions, expressed concerns, and made requests about: budget cut proposals that target military-to-military families (ie family housing allowance changes); military spouse entrepreneur support; suicide rates; therapy animals for servicemember dependents; community connections for licensing hours; military-to-military family classification differences regarding pay and payments; housing projections and long-term financial repercussions due to common short sales practices; military spouse professional licensure challenges for dental professionals; and provisions and IDEA reauthorizations change requests for families with special needs. 

A base social worker shared appreciation for the recent extension of maternity leave for active-duty servicemembers. 

By no means can an event like this provide the platform to discuss all of the issues affecting military families, but it was a great way to bring the microphone to the homefront and open the doors to continued conversation. 

Since it was not possible to provide everyone in attendance the opportunity to speak, I invited attendees to submit their concerns, ideas, and priorities in writing. I was impressed by the number and quality of written messages submitted. Those who attended have passion and care deeply about issues pertaining to their families. 

Asking, Listening, and Taking Action Matter

The sincere interest to listen by so many support organizations, base leadership, and community leaders was a testament to the shifting culture that embraces working together to expose and elevate the issues that will strengthen our military families and, ultimately, our military forces. 

Together, we can shape a military family community that we will be proud to pass on to the next generation to protect our nation’s freedoms. 

What stories do you think your Congressman or Congresswoman need to hear? If you want to contribute to the conversation, write to the Congressional Military Family Caucus or write your congressional representative. Read more about the summit here

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