Society

Military Families Using Food Stamps in Record Numbers as DOD Looks to Scale Back Military to Pre-World War II Levels

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Last week, Opposing Views covered a report from the Defense Commissary Agency that revealed that more active-duty soldiers than ever are using food stamps. The solders in the lower enlisted ranks who have families often find their early Army earnings leave them well below the poverty line, especially with frequent transfers making it difficult for spouses to find gainful civilian employment. A recent survey by the Military Officer Association of America revealed that active-duty military spouses are 30 percent more likely than civilians to be unemployed.

Spouse unemployment speaks to larger unemployment issues in the country. Despite recent improvements on some local levels, recently-separated veterans are also having a more difficult time finding work than civilians.

Yet, despite these reports, things are not going to get any easier for military families. Firstly, there is the recently-passed farm bill, which cuts $8 billion from food stamps — translating to about $90 per month, per family — while funneling hundreds of millions in subsidies to companies owned by the Koch Brothers. However, a recent announcement from the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel brings even worse news for military families: budget cuts that would take the Department of Defense down to pre-World War II levels.

As part of the deep budget cuts, troop levels would be reduced 10 percent more than originally planned, and certain vehicles would be retired. What’s more troubling for military families is that raises would be limited to 1 percent and “other benefit changes [such as] making military members pay for some of their housing, cutting $1 billion in commissary subsidies, and changed healthcare benefits."

These changes will leave military spouses with less on-base options for food and less money with which to purchase it. That military families have had to rely on food stamps is nothing new — although the level at which they are using them is the highest it’s ever been — and it seems as if the DOD is content to let the welfare program continue to subsidize its lowest-paid troops. 

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