A bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers asked leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees to include a provision in the annual defense authorization bill expanding the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) to cover more of the 286,000 servicemembers and their families facing food insecurity.
The Oct. 23 letter came about a month after a letter addressed to the same committee leadership from MOAA and other advocates in support of the same provision – Section 621 of the House version of the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The provision would exclude the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from BNA calculations, meaning more servicemembers would qualify for the assistance established in the FY 2022 NDAA.
Less than 3,000 servicemembers receive BNA under its current setup, according to the letter. Making a “common-sense adjustment to the eligibility guidelines for the BNA will help ensure the majority of military families who struggle with food insecurity are able to access this critical support,” the letter reads.
The NDAA provision mirrors H.R. 1764, the bipartisan Military Food Security Act of 2023. The MOAA-supported legislation would change the existing BNA regulation, which allows service secretaries to remove BAH from income considerations in some circumstances, and require such removal for all who seek assistance. The bill does not have a Senate companion, but the Oct. 23 letter includes the signatures of 11 senators, such as Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“Our servicemembers are our military’s greatest resource,” the letter states. “When they experience hunger, we put our national security at risk. We must give members of our military every possible tool to focus on the mission and be ready to defend our Nation when called to action.”
The NDAA provision is just one MOAA-supported section designed to improve quality of life for servicemembers and their families. Others address issues such as:
- BAH Restoration: House Section 4401 would increase the BAH rate to 96% of local rental and utilities costs, up from the current 95% and on the way to the MOAA-supported restoration of 100%.
- Family Separation: House Section 628 would increase the Family Separation Allowance to $400 per month.
- Child Care: House Section 643 would assist DoD in staffing its child care centers by providing discounted child care for these workers.
Supporting military families, especially younger families who may be more vulnerable to economic insecurity, remains a key priority for MOAA … and should be a key priority for lawmakers as the NDAA enters the stretch run. Your messages to your representatives make a difference – if you haven’t already, be sure to register for MOAA’s Legislative Action Center so you can engage with your legislators on these issues and others.
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