On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I’ll be tagged in dozens of Facebook posts. I’ll tear up reading the heartfelt words of my military spouse friends.
Besides that I don’t think much else will happen on May 11.
Let’s be honest: Military Spouse Appreciation Day is about military spouses connecting with other military spouses.
This is our day to express how much the support of our community and friends has helped us over the years. That’s important, don’t get me wrong.
I love seeing my friends post emotional video montages or write emotional posts that celebrate the ties binding us together. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone and I’ve always got folks watching my six.
Yes, there are events held on military bases around the world honoring the contributions of military spouses. There are job fairs, appreciation luncheons and educational workshops.
All of this is great. Honestly, it’s just nice to be recognized in any small way.
The statements of our nation’s leaders, from President Reagan to the present day, express that they see us. They know how much we’ve given of ourselves in support of our spouse and our country.
But this support for military spouses isn’t followed by action.
Maybe I’ve grown a little salty over the years, but Military Spouse Appreciation Day seems like just more lip service.
If our leaders wanted to show military spouses actual appreciation, there are tons of things that they could do.
1. Fix Tricare
Right now military families are receiving letters from Tricare that show they’ll lose their coverage or plan due to failure to pay. Here’s the problem: they have been paying and the system didn’t record it. Military families are caught in the middle between yet another provider network switch and terrible communication.
Tricare operates on the lowest bidder system. While this might be great for, say, choosing a landscaping service at the White House, it’s not the way to do health care. Medical professionals are being dropped by Humana due to paperwork processing errors, even though the doctors did their due diligence in advance. Many medical professionals will not accept Tricare at all because of the paperwork headaches and rock-bottom reimbursement rates.
This leaves military families without civilian options for care. Families with children who have special needs are left without ABA therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy. Families located far from a comprehensive MTF are caught between the politics of Tricare and the boots on the ground reality.
There are a plethora of issues with health care in our country and Tricare is just the tip of the iceberg. But it’s a pain point for many military families.
Show us that you truly see us by fixing Tricare.
2. Increase Funding for Our Schools
When military families are asked about their PCS concerns, finding a good school is near the top. This is because our federal and state governments have, largely, walked away from public schools. They’ve put in place policies that undercut education funding for years. Buildings are crumbling, learning materials are out of date and teachers are working multiple jobs just to keep their heads above water.
The plan floated by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a small, very small, step to acknowledge this critical military family issue. However, her plan provides minimal funding to a fraction of families all while stripping public schools of money they need to keep the lights on.
This is not how we operate an education system. And by their continued neglect of schools everywhere, not just near military bases, our nation’s leaders are shouting loud and clear that they do not care about our struggles.
Appreciate us and our military kids by taking meaningful action to fully fund schools across the country and pay all teachers appropriate wages.
3. Clean Up Our Contaminated Water
We already question whether this lifestyle is harming our children due to saying goodbye to their friends over and over. We tell ourselves that moving is building resiliency and that seeing the world is a fair trade for our wandering life.
Then you wake up to the news that 126 bases have contaminated water.
Now I’m not only worrying about psychologically damaging my children. I’m terrified that they’ll die because we drank from the tap in base housing. Perfect.
I’ll be watching myself and my very young children for signs and symptoms for decades, all because we’re a military family. All because I drank the water at Camp Pendleton. All because I’m just waiting for them to confirm my suspicions about Okinawa.
Want to know if your current or past bases are affected? The DoD has helpfully listed every location with contaminated water!
If our leaders truly, really appreciated the service and sacrifices of military spouses, they would put meaningful fixes in place to correct these dangerous issues.
4. Reduce Military Spouse Unemployment and Underemployed Rates
Military spouses face the reality of chronic underemployment and unemployment. Only 47% of military spouses responding to the 2017 Blue Star Families survey were employed. The overwhelming majority of employed spouses earned less than $20,000 per year.
There are a lot of factors that go into this. Our transient lifestyle makes it hard to advance in professional careers or keep a job longer than three years. Transferring and maintaining multiple professional licenses costs time and money. Federal employment, often touted as the holy grail of military spouse work, requires that applicants jump through hoops and wait, sometimes months, to hear back from prospective jobs.
Beyond the logistics of employment, there are the lifestyle complications related to being a military spouse. We move every three years, on average. We transition between two parent and single parent households regularly.
Child care often eats up the majority of our take-home pay. And that’s when there are openings available. In many locations, securing quality child care requires super advanced application even at the on-base CDC.
Beyond that, our workday availability is almost a necessity to support our spouse and children. The military schedules everything during working hours, from promotion ceremonies to childbirth classes.
You want to support me? Find ways to support my continued employment with changes to how the military works. Longer dwell times, affordable and available child care, expedited and transparent federal hiring practices or making licensure transfers more flexible are great places to start.
Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day to the women and men who persevere!
Maybe this year the powers that be will give us some meaningful support and change instead of just pretty words.