The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee recently had a hearing on a bipartisan bill that was originally introduced to Congress in October. This bill is known as the Military Family Stability Act of 2015. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. introduced the bill with cosponsors Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
The point of the Military Family Stability Act is to ease the burden of a PCS for military spouses and family members.
All of these senators along with high ranking military officials agree that legislation needs to be created to provide a framework to help military families have stability in their lives and that the Military Family Stability Act may help this.
As we all know, the one constant in military life is that anything can change at any time. Verbal orders for a PCS aren’t set in stone. You get excited, or not, about a move only to have it changed in a blink of the eye. When you finally get orders on paper families can feel a bit more confident that a move is coming up. Still, things happen and the active duty service member might not PCS at the scheduled time.
All of this instability can create an uneasy situation at home.
Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark Milley, stated that having stability on the homefront is crucial to operational readiness and that the Military Family Stability Act could potentially help reach those goals. Specifically, he said,
If we want our soldiers to be ready to focus on his combat tasks and training; or when deployed, to focus on the enemy; then we owe that soldier to make sure that their family is being taken care of with good schools, good health care, that the spouse has a job.
The Military Family Stability Act is intended to give military families flexibility when a PCS takes place. It would allow them to leave their current location up to 6 months ahead of the service member’s report date to their new assignment or to stay behind up to 6 months after the service member relocates.
This Military Family Stability Act would allow families to continue to get the housing allowance at the current location with dependents while the service member would receive temporary unaccompanied housing or compensation at their current location. The Military Family Stability Act would particularly help families with working spouses or children in school.
Uprooting your life, especially when you’ve found a job you like or your children are in the middle of a school year can be frustrating. The Military Family Stability Act would allow families to continue in the current location to finish a job or school year. In turn, it would give spouses time to look for new employment and to scout out new schools.
There are some exemptions, but to be eligible for this:
- The spouse must be employed or enrolled in a degree, certificate or license-granting program at the beginning of the covered relocation period.
- The service member and spouse have one or more children in school.
- The spouse or children are covered under the Exceptional Family Member Program.
- The service member or spouse is caring for an immediate family member with a chronic or long-term illness.
- The service member is undergoing a PCS as an individual augmentee or other deployment arrangement.
Army Secretary Patrick Murphy spoke up at the meeting stating that life has become harder for military families since 9/11. He argued that,
It’s the families that have borne the cost, and have been really stressed. We’re trying to do everything possible to make sure that they know that we are committed as an Army team and an Army family.
Everyone on the committee agrees that treating families with respect and taking care of their needs are big factors service members take into consideration when deciding to stay in the military. Hopefully, the Military Family Stability Act will be able to make that decision an easier one.