As military families ourselves, we know the issues that matter most to military families. And who better to advocate for those important issues?
NMFA stands in support of the families who serve silently and sacrifice daily because we know what it’s like to be a military family. Whether it is writing letters in support of legislation, keeping track of bills in Congress, or providing testimony, we are the voice behind our military family force. We stay constantly updated on the latest issues affecting families, we amplify their concerns, and work to guarantee they have the best quality of life as their loved one serves our country.
Learn more about these issues and how you can stand behind military families, too.
Military families commonly struggle to find high quality, affordable child care. While a lack of affordable child care is a national issue, the problem is even more acute for service members, who move frequently, often work irregular hours, or live far from extended family.
TRICARE Young Adult
Under the Affordable Care Act, commercial health insurers are required to automatically cover young adult dependents under their parents’ plans up to age 26. However, TRICARE is exempt from this requirement. Instead, TRICARE only covers young adult dependents up to age 21, or 23 if enrolled in college. Military families who want their young adult children to retain TRICARE coverage must purchase a separate premium-based plan, TRICARE Young Adult.
Not only is this inequity unfair to military families, it’s also a financial burden on young adult dependents and their parents. Under law, TRICARE Young Adult must operate at no cost to the government, so enrollees and their families bear the entire cost. And those costs have skyrocketed. From 2020 to 2021, the monthly premium for TRICARE Young Adult Prime increased by more than 20 percent, to over $450 per month.
The current system also unfairly penalizes young adult dependents who are unable or choose not to attend college. Those young adults lose coverage under their parents’ TRICARE plan upon turning 21.
Today’s young adult military dependents are the same kids who watched their service member parent deploy over and over again. Their childhoods were disrupted by multiple PCS moves. Now in many cases their job prospects and educational plans have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve the same health care coverage as their civilian peers.
Our TRICARE Young Adult Priority
Eliminate the TRICARE Young Adult program and allow young adult dependents to remain covered under their parents’ TRICARE plan at no additional cost.
Legislation We Support
H.R. 475, the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act — modifies the extension of dependent coverage under TRICARE by allowing a dependent under the age of 26 to be covered without an additional premium.
No military family, serving and sacrificing so much for this country already, should have to decide between their child’s future and their child’s health care coverage. Today’s young adult dependents are the same kids who watched their parents deploy multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve the same protection afforded to other young adults whose parents have employer-based health coverage. Congress must pass H.R. 475 and address this inequity. – National Military Family Association in support of the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act
Too many military families struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table. Hunger within the military community is not a new or isolated problem, and military families should benefit from the same social safety net programs that support their civilian neighbors and friends. Yet thousands of military families continue to fall through the cracks as they don’t qualify for these programs.
Due to the inclusion of basic allowance for housing (BAH) in determining income eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), struggling military families continue to visit food pantries and distribution sites on or around every military installation to make ends meet.
How It Affects Military Families
- Effects mostly junior enlisted families. According to our 2021 survey findings of 11,359 service members and families on active orders between the ranks of E-1 – E-6, 14 percent have gone to food banks in the last year to make ends meet.
- Food pantries operate on or near every military installation – four near Camp Pendleton alone.
- The number one cause of food insecurity is financial instability which is often aggravated by high spouse unemployment and underemployment, frequent moves that result in unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, and the high cost associated with housing and child care.
The majority of military families may never face food insecurity, and for those who do it is often a short-term problem that is resolved through promotion. However, we firmly believe no military family should ever struggle to put food on the table, especially when programs exist that can provide support. Instituting a basic needs allowance would provide much-needed support to the youngest, most vulnerable military families while enhancing to mission readiness, encouraging retention, and contributing to the fitness and wellbeing of the future force.
Our Food Insecurity Priority
Address the issue of food insecurity among military families. Work to ensure every military family can afford to put nutritious meals on the table.
Legislation and Policy Solutions
The FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a provision creating a targeted Basic Needs Allowance whose total household income puts them below 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines. The legislation gave the Department of Defense the authority to decide how much, if any, Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) would be excluded in determining eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance. We have encouraged DoD to establish the Basic Needs Allowance as expansively as possible, ensuring that the greatest number of military families in need can benefit from this new program. See our letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for more of our recommendations.
We also support S. 3781, which would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to exclude a basic allowance for housing from income for purposes of eligibility for the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
“Too many military families are struggling, and we’ve heard it time and again from adults, but now military teens are speaking up, too. Passing the Basic Needs Allowance was a great first step, and it needs to be implemented quickly and effectively so that the people who need it most can feed their families.” – NMFA CEO Besa Pinchotti
- Urge the Services to pursue innovative solutions to address accessibility, capacity and affordability utilizing public private
- Pursue the creation of dependent care flexible spending accounts for service members to offset the financial burden
of child and adult care services.
- Increase funding for the Services’ child care fee assistance programs.
- Expand fee assistance eligibility to quality civilian child care providers.
- Urge Congress to fully fund Impact Aid to offset the costs incurred by districts educating large numbers of military children.
Family Member with Special Needs
- Allow valid TRICARE Prime specialty care referrals to transfer to a new duty station during a PCS move.
- Bring the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) benefits on par with State Medicaid waiver programs and extend ECHO eligibility for one year following separation.
Spouse Employment & Education
- Pursue the creation of a military spouse target group within the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
- Expand opportunities for military spouses seeking a career in the mental health field to obtain supervision hours through DoD entities such as DHA and TRICARE in Military Treatment Facilities and the purchased care system.
- Pursue a reliable method of tracking military spouse unemployment through Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Urge Congress and DoD to ensure that TRICARE’s civilian health care network is high quality and has sufficient capacity to serve families before undertaking any medical billet cuts or medical facility downsizing/restructuring.
- Reduce copays for mental health visits and physical, speech and occupational therapy, which are unacceptably high and deter families from seeking needed care.
- Modify TRICARE Qualifying Life Events (QLEs) to allow military families to switch to TRICARE Select if Military Treatment Facility (MTF) care does not meet their needs.
- Eliminate the TRICARE Young Adult program and allow young adult children up to the age of 26 to remain covered, at no cost, under their parents’ TRICARE benefit bringing TRICARE inline with the Affordable Care Act.
Pay, Compensation + Commissary
- Fight for annual pay raises tied to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) as prescribed by law; protect the pillars of compensation, such as the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), that were designed to partially offset the extraordinary conditions of military service.
- Oppose any change to the defense resale system that would lead to increased prices or reduced support for military family quality of life programs. Urge that any reforms are conducted transparently and with Congressional oversight.
- Address the issue of food insecurity among military families. Work to ensure every military family can afford to put nutritious meals on the table
- Urge Congress to authorize an open enrollment period for the Survivor Benefit Plan.
Our Legislative Priorities are available in a one-page printable format.