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    Military Quality of Life: Securing Our National Defense by Providing For Our Servicemembers and Their Families

    As a veteran-led organization, With Honor Action has always been keenly aware of the difficulties facing those who choose a life of military service, and for their families. Military recruiters currently face the most significant hurdles yet in the 50-year history of the all-volunteer force, contending with the residual health and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, competing against a historically strong job market, and the reality of a declining number of veterans in society who can speak to the values of military service.

    By the end of 2022, it had become apparent that nearly every single military branch would barely make, or miss outright, their recruitment goals. “In the Army’s most challenging recruiting year since the start of the all-volunteer force, we will only achieve 75% of our fiscal year 22 recruiting goal,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement to The Associated Press.

    With Honor Action has worked to make military quality of life a defining issue for Congress, and we have worked closely with members of the For Country Caucus on several key pieces of legislation that recognize and respond to a new generation of servicemembers and their families. 

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    Food Insecurity

    Servicemembers and their families should not be going hungry, plain and simple. According to a study published by RAND in 2023, nearly 26% of active duty servicemembers are considered food insecure and nearly 15% rely on food stamps or food banks. In 2021, With Honor Action worked to pass the Military Hunger Prevention Act, which established the Basic Needs Allowance to support low-income servicemembers and their families who are not eligible for SNAP benefits. We continue to work on legislation that expands the eligibility and effectiveness of the program.

    • Military Food Security Act (Rep. Jimmy Panetta and Rep. Blake Moore) – Removes military housing allowances from income when determining eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA), a major obstacle that RAND estimates has prevented nearly 23,000 servicemembers and their families from accessing this modest stipend.

    • Military Family Nutrition Act (Rep. Jimmy Panetta and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Senator Tammy Duckworth and Senator Lisa Murkowski) – Removes the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) from income when determining eligibility for SNAP benefits.
    • BNA (Basic Needs Allowance) Fairness Act (Rep. Steve Womack & Rep. Dan Kildee) – Excludes the Basic Needs Allowance from income tax.

    Military Spouse Employment

    In March 2024, Blue Star Families found that 49% of active duty families list spouse employment as a major issue and that 30% of families listed spouse unemployment or underemployment as a top contributor to financial stress. Factors stemming from constant relocations consistently surfaced as a contributor to spouse unemployment, issues like license transferability, loss in seniority, and a general lack in transparency and flexibility for employment during a servicemembers’ permanent change of station (PCS).

    • Resilient Employment and Authorization Determination to Increase National Employment of Serving Spouses (READINESS) Act (Rep. Jasmine Crockett and Rep. Don Bacon) – Ensures all Federal employees married to a servicemember can be afforded more flexibility when their servicemember receives Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders by allowing affected employees to request remote work, reassignment, or preserve seniority by being placed on non-pay status.

    Military Housing

    Cockroach infestations, black mold, and exposure to lead paint underscore the deteriorating conditions of U.S. military housing. Public reporting on the conditions of many military barracks and privatized housing has brought a spotlight on what the Government Accountability Office has called a lack of oversight of the Department of Defense’s military housing.

    • Military Housing Transparency and Accountability Act (Rep. Salud Carbajal and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson) – Requires the Department of Defense to develop and deploy a housing feedback tool which is accessible to servicemembers and their families and expands feedback from only privatized housing to unaccompanied housing as well.
    • BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) Restoration Act (Rep. Don Bacon and Rep. Marilyn Strickland, Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Lisa Murkowski) – Restores the Basic Allowance for Housing to 100% of determined housing costs from the current 95%. 

    Access to Mental and Maternal Healthcare

    The U.S. military today is the most diverse in our nation’s history and is more integrated along gender lines than at any point in the past. Paired with that is the recognition that today’s all-volunteer force is different in nature and character from previous generations, and that addressing the scourge of post-traumatic stress disorder and veterans suicide begins by taking care of our servicemembers’ mental health while they are still serving.

    • Maintaining our Obligation to Moms who Serve (MOMS) Act (Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Rep. Don Bacon, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Deb Fischer) – Would require the Department of Defense to establish a pilot program assessing the feasibility of providing evidence-based treatment to prevent or reduce the onset of symptoms of perinatal mental health conditions.
    • Supporting Mental Health for Military Children Act (Senator Alex Padilla) – Establishes a routine mental health checkup pilot program for students at Department of Defense-run schools. 

    The House Armed Services Committee’s Military Quality of Life Panel

    In June 2023, recognizing an opportunity to address the many quality of life issues our servicemembers and their families face, the House Armed Services Committee announced the creation of the Military Quality of Life Panel. Led by For Country Caucus founding Co-Chair Representative Don Bacon and founding Vice Chair Representative Chrissy Houlahan, the panel also includes For Country Caucus members Representative Morgan Luttrell and Representative Don Davis.

    The bipartisan group held hearings over the course of several months, meeting with the Senior Enlisted Leaders from every service branch, Department of Defense officials, with servicemember and military family organizations, and most importantly, hearing perspectives from military families themselves. The panel has focused on several core areas which are the largest indicators of military quality of life: compensation, particularly for the junior enlisted, and food insecurity, degraded military housing, access to medical and mental healthcare, childcare, and issues related to frequent moves, including spousal employment and licensure transferability. 

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