Health and child care, financial security, availability of food, and a sense of community all rank high on the list of important issues military families face, according to the latest canvassing of their well-being.
The Military Family Support Programming Survey was conducted last Oct. 4-Dec. 15 by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), an advocacy organization.
The 8,638 participants represented each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. territories and 22 countries. Each respondent was required to have a connection to military family life. Most – nearly 44 percent – were spouses of active-duty service members. Nearly 14 percent of the responses came from uniformed service members themselves. Most (nearly 58 percent) were between ages 25 and 39. About two-thirds were female. Some 28 percent of lived in homes with four people.
• Additional research on the well-being of military families “will help improve the livelihood of military and veteran families at large and pave a clear path towards programming that would make an impact for military and veteran families.”
• More health-care and mental-health appointments are needed. This would include improvements in accessibility, wait times and reimbursement rates.
• Standard and drop-in child-care availability needs to be increased – with an eye toward improvements in adjunct areas such as income, financial readiness and healthcare accessibility. “Until programs are put in place to alleviate the burden that families experience in their health care and financial status, programs that improve the availability of child care would help military and veteran families navigate life,” MFAN stated.
• The basic allowance for housing – BAH – needs to better reflect the ever-increasing cost of living. Childcare requirements, spouse reemployment and frequent transfers all too often require families to live on the service member’s pay alone.
• Insufficient pay, cost-of-living increases, housing costs, recurring bills and a lack of training in financial planning all serve as barriers to saving. “By supporting pay and allowance increases in alignment with the rising cost of living, families would be better positioned to save money, feed their families, find appropriate housing, face financial emergencies, and reach long-term financial goals,” MFAN stated.
The MFAN has been conducting these surveys every two years since 2013. This latest effort, for the first time, included questions about race and ethnicity. One fifth of all respondents were identified as Latino or Hispanic. Whites represented the largest sampling, at roughly 71 percent. Black and African-American people represented slightly less than 10 percent of all respondents.
These demographics, MFAN said, more or less fall in line with representation among the armed services.
Army families represented some 40 percent of all respondents, followed by the Air Force at roughly 22 percent and the Navy at slightly above 20 percent. Most respondents represented enlisted paygrades E4 through E6, with more than three quarters of them having joined after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Roughly 43 percent of armed forces personnel are married. Some 13.6 percent of these couples do not have children, while another 29.5 percent do. However, MFAN noted that a majority of survey respondents – nearly 69 percent – had either children or stepchildren under age 18 in their households.