Armed Forces News

The report recommends excluding basic allowance for housing (BAH) when calculating eligibility for federal food stamps. Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock.com

Incidence of hunger among military families and veterans is alarmingly high and poses a threat to national security, according to a report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The report cited a 2019 study conducted by the Army and Department of Agriculture that noted some 33 percent of 5,600 respondents at a major installation were “marginally food insecure,” compared to 17.9 percent of all households nationally. The CSIS study also cited an annual survey conducted by Blue Star Families that showed 14 percent of nearly 4,500 enlisted active-duty families reported low or very low food security. Many veterans’ households, too, also do not have enough food. In both cases, service members and veterans frequently have to rely upon food stamps to provide for their households.

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The Agriculture Department defines food insecurity as having insufficient quantity and quality of food to meet nutritional needs.

The study cited numerous factors – including the Covid-19 pandemic, economic insecurity, frequent permanent-change-of-station (PCS) moves, and access to childcare – as primary causes of the problem.

Food insecurity is affecting retention, readiness and recruitment, the authors said, adding that efforts to resolve the issue have been “patchy.”

The report offered several recommendations:

•      Reform the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA), increasing the cutoff to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines – up from the present 130 percent. BNA payments should continue for six months after leaving the service.

•      Provide better PCS support and flexibility, to include higher moving-expense reimbursements.

•      Offer more help for military spouses who want to continue professional careers at new duty stations.

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•      Make childcare more accessible and affordable for spouses who want to return to work.

•      Provide economic security training throughout the duration of a military career.

•      Stop the inclusion of basic allowance for housing (BAH) when calculating eligibility for federal food stamps.

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