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Military quality of life to come before new Congressional subcommittee

Data shows around one-in-four armed service members have suffered from some form of food insecurity recently. Congress is trying to fix that.
Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 28, 2023

It is a story we continue to follow — members of the military who are unable to pay the bills, or even put food on the table.

The latest government statistics show around one-in-four armed service members have suffered from some form of food insecurity lately.That means around 286,000 members of our armed forces have struggled at least some point in the last few years to put food on their own table.

Continuing coverage

This issue is one that Scripps News has been following for a while.

Last year, we reported on food bank-like events for military families in San Diego.

We brought you the stories of families like the Javinars who serve our country but struggle to buy food.

"There is something in the back of my mind — did I budget properly?," Lisa Javinar told Scripps News last year.

To some degree, Congress thought they fixed this issue, or at least helped it last year.

In the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress created a new "basic needs allowance" for lower-income service members.

While implementation of the funding is still in the works, in recent days Scripps News confirmed with the Pentagon that the fix is helping relatively few.

Pentagon officials tell Scripps News, just "as many as 2,400 members may be eligible" for the bonus funding.

When you compare that with government statistics about food insecurity, that's less than 1% of the estimated need.

Roll Call first reported on the low impact in January.

New committee and push

That brings us to the present, where there is a renewed push for Congress to address this issue.

Earlier this year, the House Armed Services Committee announced the creation of a new subcommittee focused on quality-of-life issues.

Congressman Don Bacon, the Republican congressman from Nebraska, is in charge of it.

Rep. Bacon has already met with about 50 service members privately and says the first public hearings will be in June.

"We want to look at the quality of life for all of our military," Rep. Bacon tells Scripps News.

Rep. Bacon says the goal is to meet twice a week for 8 months to come up with bipartisan recommendations to then pass in 2024. He has identified next year as the time to pass reforms.

The subcommittee will look at not just hunger issues, but also child care, health care and housing problems.

"The biggest issue that I heard — and it was pretty overwhelming — was housing, the quality of housing. The fact that the housing allowances when they're living off base doesn't cover the rent," Rep. Bacon said.

As the U.S. spends over $800 billion a year on the military, "Why do we have members of our armed forces on food stamps?" Scripps News asked. 

"It's a great question and we're going to stop it," Rep. Bacon said.

"It's not right -- and it should make the average American mad as hell."

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