In late September, the DOD announced in a press release multiple programs and initiatives intended to offload the economic stress of recent price hikes across the board for military families. The initiatives specifically address the challenges in four areas: spouse employment, childcare, PCS costs, and basic needs for service members and their families.
Spouse Employment Initiatives
Military families have the unique challenge of often being a one-income family. The lack of employers understanding the nomadic demands of the military job has led to difficulties for military spouses to find employment. Or employment is forgone as it is difficult to find flexible work that accommodates the ever-changing, unpredictable military schedule. To specifically address these issues, specific initiatives are directed.
– The Secretary of the DOD has directed the DOD to accelerate the development of additional occupational licensure interstate compacts for multiple professions. Many professional positions require not just national licensure but state licenses. These add extra cost and delay time for the military spouse to get a job as they await licensing.
– The Secretary of the DOD has directed the DOD to use non-competitive, direct hiring authorities to hire military spouses for the DOD specifically and to expand remote work and telework options which allow for portable careers no matter where the military sends the family
– The Secretary of the DOD has directed the DOD to launch a pilot initiative to match military spouses with paid private-sector fellowships. The pilot initiative is slated to begin in January 2023.
– The Secretary of the DOD has directed the DOD to increase the number of partners in the Military Spouse Employment Partnership by 10% before January 2023.
Another hurdle for military families with children is finding childcare – and at that, affordable healthcare. The Secretary of the DOD has directed the DOD to:
– Invest in Child Development Program (CDP) facilities and infrastructure to expand the capacity for childcare
– Standardize a 50% discount for the first child of Child Development Program direct-care workers to attract talented staff to increase capacity. It was noted this would take effect in October 2022.
– Improve access to child care programs like Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood and expand the in-home child care fee-assistance pilot program in additional states
It was noted that the CDP families have extended their hours to account for the long hours of service members’ schedules.
It was further noted that the parental leave policies were expanded to the birth or adoption of a child for active duty and eligible reserve component service members. They also established a New Parent Support Program and updated policies for breast milk shipment for nursing service members on mandated temporary duty travel.
The military move, or PCS, is funded by the government. In recent years, the lack of workers or available companies has led military families into Personally Procured Moves. Even with a government-contracted move, many items must be replaced with each move that the government doesn’t reimburse. A significant upfront cost of moving can be financially burdensome to many military families. Initiatives specifically to assist with the PCS process include:
– TLE permanently increased to 15 days for CONUS moves and up to 60 days if a service member is in a specified Military Housing Area with a housing shortage. This takes effect on October 2022.
– Increase Dislocation Allowance (DLA) for service members E1-E6 to offset the personal expenses. This takes effect on October 2022.
– Continue to develop improvements to the Military OneSource online moving and housing tools
Secure Basic Needs
All have felt the cost increase of housing and groceries, but for military families who are living in places where they are told, it can feel like an extra crunch. Moving during this increase in cost places a burden on military families. Per the press release, “to”help secure affordable basic needs, the Secretary has directed the Department to:”
-” Review the prospective 2023 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) tables to ensure that the recent changes in housing prices are taken into account
– Institute automatic BAH increases in 28 Military Housing Areas that have “experienced an average of more than 20 percent spike in rental housing costs this year above this year’s BAH rates.”
- 28 areas include:
- Vandenberg AFB, California
- 29 Palms MCS, California
- Dover AFB/Rehoboth, Delaware
- Patrick AFB, Florida
- Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Orlando, Florida
- West Palm Beach, Florida
- Volusia County, Florida
- Fort Myers Beach, Florida
- Kings Bay/Brunswick, Georgia
- Maui County, Hawaii
- Chicago, Illinois
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Cape Cod/Plymouth, Massachusetts
- Martha’sMartha’sneyard, Massachusetts
- Brunswick, Maine
- Coast Maine
- Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
- Helena, Montana
- Wilmington, North Carlina
- Northern New Jersey
- Newport, Rhode Island
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Beaufort/Parris Island, South Carolina
- Knoxville, Tennessee
- Houston, Texas
- Quantico/Woodbridge, Virginia
– Fully fund commissaries with a goal of at least 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local marketplace
– Provide Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) to eligible service members beginning in January 2023.
It is noted that a 4.6% pay increase for service members is included in the President’s budget at the time of the press release.
Leaders at the DOD are aware of the financial burden on military families. These programs and initiatives have a goal to ease that.