How Come Military Families Are Still on Food Stamps over 15 years now?

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food_stamps2Military members and their families are using more food stamps than in previous years

by Bob Hanafin, Staff Writer

Bryan Mitchell writes in an article that appeared July 22, 2009, "Military members and their families are using more food stamps than in previous years – redeeming them last year[2008] at nearly twice the civilian rate, according to Defense Commissary Agency figures.

The agency reports that more than $31 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2008 – an increase of about $6.2 million, or more than 25 percent – from the $24.8 million redeemed in 2007. That contrasts with a 13 percent overall increase in food stamp use by Americans for the same period, according to the Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program…"

     [Note: Military Families = 25% vs Civilians = 13%. VT ed.]

According to Army Times Staff writer Rick Maze, the monetary increase in Military Families needing food stamps was included in the Senate plan for the FY 2010 Defense Budget. A Senate committee more than doubled the military’s Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance (FSSA) in a move intended to keep troops from having to use food stamps.

[The Military Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance Program was the one created way back when I was on active duty in order to take some of the stigma off military volunteers and their families having to resort to food stamps in the most highly technical and paid Armed Forces on earth. VT ed.]

The increase would applied to no more than 328 families by the Pentagon’s estimate, but it would deflect the larger public-relations problem created by the idea that military wages are low enough to drive some families to seek government assistance.

Congress created the allowance in 2000 as an extra payment of up to $500 a month to increase wages enough so military families would not qualify for what was then known as food stamps.

groceries_400[No, as I mentioned this program or some version thereof was implemented while I was still on active duty way back in 1994. a full six years prior to date being stated. VT ed.]

The payment would rise to $1,100 monthly under a provision of S 1390, the version of the 2010 defense authorization bill passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. That should be enough for all military families to stay off food stamps – now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – according to a panel report.

The FSSA was created at a time when about 14,000 military families were believed to be receiving food stamps, mostly large midgrade or junior enlisted families. The issue of service members on food stamps gained renewed attention after a March 2009 visit with military families in North Carolina by first lady Michelle Obama.

One military spouse told Obama that her family was on food stamps while her husband was deployed in Iraq. "It’s not right," Obama said in an ABC News interview after the visit.

In its report on the 2010 budget, the Senate committee notes the FSSA "was designed to alleviate the need" for service members to use food stamps and said it is "troubled" by the fact that the Pentagon is not tracking the number of military families receiving the assistance.

[That means that between 1994 or earlier and the GWOT today, the Pentagon is still failing to track the number of actual military families receiving food stamps. So much for the All Volunteer Force and a classless society. That said, keep in mind that the ratio of military families on food stamps to those who are not speaks volumes. Regardless, the point is that NOT ONE MILITARY FAMILY SHOULD BE ON FOOD STAMPS DURING WARTIME – PERIOD!!! VT. ed.]

For a family of four, payments may be available if net income is $1,767 or less a month, although factors such as family savings, enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses received and even cars owned are part of the calculation. Pentagon estimates show that an E-1 with a family of four would qualify for the allowance. An E-5 with a family of seven or more would qualify.
FSSA levels When a service member’s income is a family’s only income, eligibility for the Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance is based on these family sizes:

• E-1: 4 or more household members
• E-2/E-3: 5 or more
• E-4: 6 or more
• E-5: 7 or more
• E-6: 8 or more
• E-7: 9 or more
• E-8: 10 or more
• E-9: 11 or more
• O-1/O-2: 9 or more
• O-3: 10 or more
• O-4: 11 or more
• O-5: 12 or more

[Note of clarification: there are so many variables that go into figuring out both access and need for foodstamps. Example: when I returned from Vietnam in the early 1970s, I chose to go to college on the GI Bill. The benefits paid by the VA were so low for a married Veteran with one child that I had to work full time. Considering that I worked full time (for the VA at that) with my combined GI Bill education allowances, AFROTC monthly stipend of $100 bucks, and salary as a GS3/4 at the time I was still eligible for food stamps. I applied for them not so much due to need than the fact that my familiy qualified. We were quick to learn the stigma associated with a married college student going to a grocery store to use food stamps. Lesson learned, we used food stamps only one semester if we qualified or not. Elitist or humanitarian view -what would you have done – you decide. VT. ed.]

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor


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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.

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