MOAA provided a briefing on current legislative issues surrounding privatized military housing to attendees of the 2019 Congressional Military Family Summit, which focused on special education, housing concerns, spouse employment, and other issues critical to military families.
The Oct. 9 summit, titled “Addressing Issues that Affect Homefront Readiness,” took place just outside of Fort Benning, Ga. It serves as a forum to discuss issues affecting military families. Members of Congress often bring these issues back to Capitol Hill to “ensure our nation’s military families have the support they need and can access the resources they deserve” according to the meeting bulletin.
“We continue to marvel at the incredible courage and dedication of military families,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in a joint statement. “As co-chairs of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, we are honored to be part of this remarkable group of spouses, children, relatives, friends, and supporters.”
When discussing readiness, panelists cited military child education as a subject of vital importance. Subject-matter experts spoke to the importance of the military student identifier as a mechanism for schools to support their military-connected students both academically and emotionally.
Experts also identified gaps in special education in school districts and said DoD has not provided parents with adequate resources, despite existing legal requirements.
McMorris Rodgers, herself the parent of a special needs child, was struck by the disparities in the state-to-state continuity of resources for special needs students. She committed to addressing these issues alongside subject matter experts like Michelle Norman, Military Spouse magazine’s 2019 Navy Military Spouse of the Year and special needs advocate.
As members of the TRICARE for Kids Coalition, MOAA will continue to support not just the health care, but also the educational and resource requirements of military families with special needs.
The state of military housing was another hot topic at this year’s summit. Military families can expect to see comprehensive military housing reform in the FY20 defense bill; however, any changes will take time to implement.
While waiting for Congress to pass the annual defense bill, the services have taken steps to address health and safety hazards in military housing. The Army, for example, has hired 114 additional employees for installation housing offices around the country, implemented training for senior leadership to better understand their roles, opened 24-hour hotlines at all bases, and improved work-order management through property management portals.
MOAA will continue to monitor implementation of new programs and policies put in place to improve military family housing while also remaining vigilant on necessary improvements to government-owned housing.