FRANKLY SPEAKING: WHY ARE MILITARY FAMILIES ON FOOD STAMPS?

This Memorial Day ceremonies will be curtailed because of the Coronavirus outbreak in many parts of the country. Usually they would be remembering those who served, those who never made it back, along with political elected officials sporting their American Flag pins on their lapels, many giving speeches how important our military personnel are and prayers for those who gave their lives for our freedom and ending their speeches with, “And may God Bless America”.

I imagine all are sincere, but I have to ask why are our veterans treated just a notch above our native Americans, the American Indian? 

Why, I must ask, are many of our Military families on Food Stamps? We celebrate their heroic efforts, budget billions for the finest equipped military in the world, yet some of America’s bravest families are going hungry. Why aren’t we doing more to help them?

Our politicians boast of their efforts to fund the military but forget to properly fund their families, and do little for them after their discharge, or permanent injuries. 

I’m a little behind on my reading of Reader’s Digest, just catching up with April’s edition, but I came upon an article about our military families which disgusted me.

Many know military life can be a challenge, a spouse keeping a house and family together while the other spouse is on assignment in some foreign country. But you would never expect the greatest challenge as a military spouse would be feeding the kids. 

Some days they head for the food pantries set up by non-profits to feed the needy. relying on the kindness of strangers, an embarrassment for anyone but especially for military families working  for the richest country in the world. Many are on food stamps. 

No one who joins the military expects to get rich, but living with the military should be more manageable. Some think people who, in the military, are rolling in dough because of some of the benefits of being a military family, free health, commissary discounts, etc. 

Not so, states the article. Data from the 2017 annual Census Bureau survey show’s that 16,000 active-duty service members received food stamps that year. But that number doesn’t include the thousands of military families around the country who are not eligible for food stamps because they make too much money to qualify and yet routinely rely on charities or loans from family to get by. 

In fact, a survey from Blue Star Families, a military-spouse support group, says 13 percent of military families report trouble making ends meet, compared with 7 percent of civilians.

Perhaps the out-of-date housing formula used in the location of military families has a lot to do with their money problems. Living in cities such as San Diego, find difficulty qualifying for federal food assistance, and a transient life-moving from base to base, makes it challenging for spouses to build careers when they don’t know when and where their families will be transferred next. 

The lack of a second income is a big hit  for many. A communications officer in the Navy mentioned in the article, makes $34,279 a year before taxes. That’s just under the national poverty level for a family of 6. The military does pay for housing, (some are rat infested or poorly maintained), but the housing allowance is treated as income and that additional “money” is often enough to make a family ineligible for federal food assistance known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Another outdated flaw in the military pay system is, although enlisted service members receive a food allowance, about $373 per month, that sum is intended for the member alone, not his or her family, and it does not increase if one has dependents. 

At many schools where military children are the majority, nearly 70% receive reduced lunches because our military are paid so poorly they qualify for free lunch and breakfast.

And from the Department of Defense, their spin on this subject: The DOD sees the problem of food insecurity in the military as being minimal. Troops are well paid, they insist: there’s a subsidized grocery store on each base: and families can avail themselves of the financial literacy training the military provides. 

And screw you I say, and the horse you rode in on. 

One military wife says she did seek financial help form the military. She says it didn’t help. He husband and she took advantage of resources available to them. “We’ve met with financial counselors provided by the military. We had done that work and yet she and her husband still barely scape by.”

Officers on the other hand live a much better life, the higher the rank the more perks. Maybe that’s why many make a career out of the military. 

No different than in corporate America; the Top executives rake in the big bread, and the work horses get the crumbs. 

I quickly found out how important I was to my government while in basic training at Fort Knox, KY when my sergeant told me to take care of my M-1 rifle. I could be replaced but not the rifle. I guess not much has changed since 1956. 

I guess the issue is about government priorities. How can we have new billion-dollar warships when our sailors are struggling to eat and worrying about the health and welfare of their families?

Politicians shout, “Support our troops”, then forget to give them a living wage, enough for them to live more comfortably. 

The give us 100 percent to this country, and the country isn’t giving back. 

My prayers for safety go out to all those men and women serving our great country, may God protect them and my thanks to those who served to protect us and to the families who have most loved ones in service to our country. 

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