February 18 2014
Patrice J. Lee
Of all of the concerns that weigh on the minds of our women and men who serve in the military, feeding their families shouldn’t be one. Unfortunately, military families are increasingly turning to government assistance to meet that most basic need.
For millions of military families, food stamps are the means of keeping food on the table. Under the Obama Administration food stamp usage among troops has skyrocketed, jumping 96 percent since 2009.
According to the Defense Commissary Agency, in FY 2007 $24.8 million of food stamps were redeemed at military grocers, a $2 million decrease from the prior fiscal year. In FY 2008, those numbers rose to $31.1 million and that began the dramatic spike. In FY 2009 $52.9 million were spent on food stamps and continued to climb hitting $72.8 million in FY 2010, $87.8 million in FY 2011, $98.8 million in FY 2012 and $103.6 million in FY 2013.
The most recent recession and a weak (jobless) economic recovery are the primary culprits for the rise in food stamp usage, but federal lawmakers have not pursued policies to stimulate growth and generate jobs that help all Americans.
CNN Money reports:
Food stamp redemption at military grocers has been rising steadily since the beginning of the recession in 2008. Nearly $104 million worth of food stamps was redeemed at military commissaries in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Some of the growth in soldiers' redemption of food stamps reflects the weak economic recovery, especially for spouses looking for jobs. In 2012, there was a 30% unemployment rate among spouses off active-duty military who were 18 to 24 years old, according to the Military Officers Association of America, which released the survey last week.
The good news is that the growth in food-stamp redemption at military grocers has slowed.
The 2013 figure was only a 5% uptick from 2012, less the the 13% increase in growth in 2012 and the record 70% hike in growth in food stamps use in 2009, according to the Defense Commissary Agency.
Is this the new normal for military families? While it’s a positive sign that the rise in food stamp usage has slowed for military families, the numbers are triple what they were five years ago and there is no sign that they will begin to decrease.
The 30 percent unemployment rate for spouses of active-duty military between the ages of 18-24 is particularly startling. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for spouses who must travel and frequently relocate. Their ability to work can augment the family income and ensures that they don’t have to turn to government assistance to fill basic needs. Work is likely also a source of mental and emotional stability for those military spouses. Unfortunately, our economy has left millions of Americans out of work.
Millennials are hit hardest. According to this report, while defense officials don’t track who is redeeming food stamps at military grocers, they confirm that most often it’s junior 18 to 20 year olds who have several children. Not including food and housing allowances, a new soldier with a spouse and child earns a base pay of $20,000, but that jumps to $40,000 with a couple of years of experience. The challenge for these families is surviving during those early years.
The answer is not more taxpayer dollars for food stamps. Military families were getting along without them before the recession. The answer is employment. When our economy is running on full cylinders with healthy growth instead of sputtering along artificially held afloat by government spending, businesses of all sizes can hire new workers based on robust demand.
And we can’t underestimate the impact of policies like ObamaCare that raise the costs of labor for employers forcing them to make the tough decisions (i.e., cut worker hours, refrain from filling or creating positions, and laying off workers).
The President and the Administration are spinning unemployment caused by ObamaCare as vacation and family time. Americans, especially our military families, deserve better than that