After the 2016 Election

Top Issues for Military Families

New administration affects military families
Getty Images/Dennis K. Johnson

With the 2016 presidential race behind us, many military families find themselves wondering how the new Commander in Chief will affect them. It’s no wonder. The United States has seen more than a decade of war in the 21st century, each year asking more of the servicemembers and their families.

According to a recent Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, there are several issues that military families identified as being top concerns in the coming years.

 

Pay

For veterans, the rate of pay increases has been a concern. For the past several years, raises have been lower than in the private sector. Many military families fear that this may leave them short on financial stability in the civilian market.  In fact, only 60% indicated that they feel secure about their financial future.

In addition, 73% of military families have indicated that they have incurred unexpected expenses as a result of the military lifestyle. Combined with uncertainty regarding potential drawdowns, the environment has become stressful for many families.

To address this concern, the Department of Defense is supporting financial literacy training designed to help military families maintain their quality of life during the military, and after retirement.

 

Benefits

45% of military families indicated that they or their servicemember would receive post-separation healthcare benefits earned during their time in the military.

In addition, they don’t feel confident that they’ll receive disability benefits (41%) or pension payments (33%). Many families are concerned about whether they’ll be able to access the educational benefits they’re entitled to under the GI Bill.

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Almost everyone agrees that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs a major shakeup.

They disagree, however, on the best way to make that happen. Some recommend giving veterans access to civilian sector doctors if the VA keeps them waiting too long.

Others suggest leaving the patients and resources inside the system and overhauling the Department’s operational and executive management.

 

Military Spouse Employment

Military spouse employment is a major issue for families. With frequent PCS moves and sporadic gaps in resumes, the statistics are pretty bleak. According to the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 58% of active duty spouses who weren’t working indicated that they wanted to be employed. In addition, 40% of military families indicated that military spouse employment had an impact in their financial security.

There’s some progress being made in this area. Many states are changing the laws on professional licensing for military spouse attorneys, mental health professionals, and teachers.  However, many military spouses also cite a lack of access to affordable and flexible childcare as a roadblock to gainful employment in their field.

 

The Rising Rate of Veteran Suicides

This has been a major policy-level discussion for years, and many military families consider it a top priority.

According to the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 38% of veterans see this as an immediate need for the military community.  

This is further complicated by servicemembers feeling uncomfortable reaching out for help, for fear that it could affect their career. They’re also worried about confidentiality when discussing treatment.  Developing open programs for support may help to reduce this trend.

 

Veteran Transition and Employment

According to the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, many veterans and active duty servicemembers transitioning within the next two years are unaware of available transition resources. After separation from the military, 46% of post-9/11 veterans report that it took longer than expected to find employment and 47% say that they aren’t working in their preferred career field.

Some programs that may be useful to transitioning veterans include the developing a network of those who successfully transitioned from the military into the civilian workplace. Career advisors and programs aimed at improving interviewing and networking skills are also important. Finally, creating a job board or job bank that’s focused on military families could be a useful endeavor.

Regardless of where you stand politically, all of these items are important to military families around the world. You’ll be able to advocate for your family—and help others at the same time—by following these issues closely and doing everything you can to make sure your voice is heard.