Military 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 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.
[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