NDAA Fails to Include Military Family Basic Needs Allowance

Alexandria, VA — The National Military Family Association (NMFA), a nonprofit that works to strengthen military families, is disappointed that Congress failed to include the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance within the Conference Report of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released Monday, December 9. 

NMFA will continue to push Congress to pass this allowance that would ensure every military family can afford to put food on the table. 

The proposed Military Family Basic Needs Allowance would provide a monthly allowance for troops and their families who, as a household, have an income at or below 130% of the federal poverty rate. Many of these families are excluded from access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Military Family Basic Needs Allowance would cut down on regular food pantry use and put more money in their pockets for groceries and other basic needs.

Food pantries and distribution programs operate on or around every military installation in the U.S. Additionally, one-third of military children attending Department of Defense (DoD)-run schools qualified for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2018–2019 school year, according to Pentagon reports.

While food insecurity is a reality across all military installations, the reasons for it can vary. Some families struggle with the low base pay among junior enlisted ranks. Military spouses experience consistently high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Existing financial strains are exacerbated by frequent moves, limited access to affordable, high-quality childcare, challenges related to activation and deployment, and unexpected financial emergencies.

In the face of these financial hurdles, grocery budgets are cut. When service members are worried about feeding their families, they are less able to focus on the mission and may choose not to re-enlist. 

Congress has called for DoD to conduct a comprehensive study of food insecurity among military families. We hope this study provides a thorough snapshot of the need some service members face in meeting their basic needs.

Military families should not have to struggle to put healthy meals on the table. NMFA will continue to advocate for the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, and we are committed to ensuring our families have everything they need to be ready to serve our nation.

The National Military Family Association

The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit dedicated to serving the families who stand behind the uniform. Since 1969, NMFA has worked to strengthen and protect millions of families through its advocacy and programs. We provide spouse scholarships, camps for military kids, and retreats for families reconnecting after deployment and for the families of the wounded, ill, or injured. NMFA serves the families of the currently serving, retired, wounded, or fallen members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA.