Military families have continuously struggled with affordability and accessibility of child care services. In their search for reliable care, they’ve faced waitlists for child development centers and fee assistance, a nationwide decline in available civilian and in-home child care providers, and limited affordable options that accommodate nontraditional work hours.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges because of increased cleaning costs and lower student-to-teacher ratios, along with facility closures for health and safety reasons.
MOAA has prioritized child care as a key military family issue for 2021 and is actively promoting recommended solutions to DoD and Congress. In our latest effort, MOAA partnered with the National Military Family Association to author a white paper to persuade DoD to implement Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DCFSAs). The Military Coalition, a group of advocacy organizations representing a combined 5.5 million members of the military community, sent a letter along with the white paper to senior leaders at DoD, asking them to consider the move as “one of many reforms” required to address child care issues.
What Are DCFSAs?
DCFSAs are a pre-tax reimbursable employer benefit program allowing an employee to designate up to $5,000 per plan year out of their paycheck for child care or adult care expenses. These dollars can be used not only for traditional day care services, but for before- and after-school programs, babysitting, and nanny services.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suggests employees receive a 30% savings, on average, from this program. While DCFSAs are a common employee benefit in the private sector and are offered by virtually every federal agency, servicemembers surprisingly do not have access to the program.
DoD has the statutory authority to implement this benefit, but decided against doing so after a 2007 implementation study, citing tax and usability concerns. The difficulty in finding and paying for child care has continued to increase in the 14 years since DoD last considered offering DCFSAs.
MOAA successfully advocated for report language in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring DoD to conduct a new implementation study of the program considering today’s child care challenges and costs.
“We co-authored this white paper with the intent to address concerns the department had with implementing this program initially,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret). “We hope this document can be a resource for DoD as they reconsider providing this important program to servicemembers.”
Earlier this year, Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) reintroduced H.R. 148, the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act, which would require DoD to implement the program. While MOAA encourages DoD to implement the program electively, we are actively garnering congressional support to secure this program through legislative means.