MOAA, Military Family Groups Seek Solutions to Quality-of-Life Concerns

MOAA, Military Family Groups Seek Solutions to Quality-of-Life Concerns
Lt. j.g. Mark Driver, USN, embraces his wife, Maya, and son, Kellen, during the homecoming of USS Albany’ (SSN-753) at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on May 14. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cameron Stoner/Navy)

Last week, the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) brought DoD leaders, veterans, military spouses, and numerous organizations (including MOAA) together to focus on solutions to issues impacting military families. The results of MFAN’s 2021 Military Family Support Programming survey reconfirmed many things we already know:

  • Families are facing financial stresses, leading to difficulty covering housing costs and putting food on the table.
  • Spouses continue to struggle with finding and maintaining employment.
  • A lack of available, affordable child care is exacerbating the spouse employment issue.
  • There is a need for increased availability of health care and mental health appointments.

 

The survey results also shed light on areas that haven’t received much attention:

  • More than half (58.7%) of military and veteran families report moderate or poor family well-being. There was a significant relationship between ethnicity and family well-being, with members of minority groups more likely to report poor or moderate family health.
  • Loneliness contributes to family well-being, and 54% of respondents reported experiencing loneliness.
  • Fewer military families are willing to recommend military life to someone considering it (down from 74.5% in 2019 to 62.9% in 2021).

 

[RELATED: Military Families Less Likely to Recommend Joining Up, Survey Finds]

 

MOAA uses this information to help shape advocacy efforts, and we urge you to share these results with your networks and broaden the reach of the NMFA’s impactful work.

 

Finding Solutions

The Solutions Summit provided opportunities for stakeholders to focus on tangible ways to address these issues. I participated in the housing breakout session, where we developed solutions to address the increasing out-of-pocket housing costs faced by military families and find ways to improve privatized housing. Two primary solutions came to light during the daylong discussion:

  • Raise (and Recalculate) the BAH. Current Basic Allowance for Housing rates, which are set to cover 95% of housing costs, are insufficient – the calculation method fails to keep pace with rapid changes in the market. BAH must be restored to 100%, and the calculation method must be re-evaluated and updated.

  • Install Better Advocates. The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required the establishment of resident advocate positions across DoD; however, the roles differ across the services, confusing and complicating the process of addressing issues with privatized housing. This role must be standardized across the services to ensure military families have access to advocates outside of Military Housing Offices and private companies.

 

In the other areas, teams recommended solutions such as:

  • Expanding partnerships between DoD and nonprofit organizations already addressing specific issues.
  • Increasing access to telehealth, to include fixing state licensing issues.
  • Collaborating with college programs where possible, such as how Military Community and Family Policy is working to address the shortage of child care providers.
  • Easing the application process for Skillbridge, a proven-successful program that has resulted in the training and employment of over 50,000 servicemembers since 2011, to increase participation rates.
  • Eliminating BAH in the calculation of gross household income when determining eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance, a vital step to ensuring military families facing food insecurity have access to this needed program.

 

[RELATED: ID Card Update: New Deadline for Some Military Retirees, Dependents]

 

Financial insecurity is interwoven in all the areas discussed over this two-day event. With increased living costs and waning retention and recruitment rates, Congress must ensure military pay is competitive to sustain the all-volunteer force.

 

Additionally, leaders need to ensure financial literacy is a priority: Not only for servicemembers, but also for their families. Investing time and resources to make sure military families are making sound financial decisions will have a widespread impact.

 

MFAN shares this important data with military/veteran service organizations, DoD leadership, and Congress to quantitatively and qualitatively highlight the recurring issues military and veteran families face. Visit MOAA’s Spouse and Family News Page for updates on advocacy efforts connected to these issues, changes to benefits, and much more.

 

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About the Author

Jen Goodale
Jen Goodale

Goodale is MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Military Family Policy and Spouse Programs.