Troops Facing Food Security and High Income Will Receive Increase in Pentagon Funds

For troops experiencing food insecurity and high rent, the Pentagon will provide higher-rise housing and look for ways to fight hunger in the force, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday.

Austin told reporters that troops already have enough to take care of and “basic necessities like food and housing should not be among them,” the Associated Press reported.

Even 160,000 active military members have difficulty feeding their families, according to an estimate by Feeding America. The group, which coordinates the work of more than 200 food banks around the nation, estimates that 29 percent of soldiers in the youngest listed ranks have experienced food security in the past year.

Austin said the department will temporarily provide higher housing for troops living in areas where rent has risen by at least 10 percent this year. For those who relocate to areas with a lack of housing, a temporary stay refund will be extended, according to the AP.

Austin said the deputy secretary of personnel has 90 days to create a long-term strategy.

The precise scope of the topic is subject to debate, as there is no formal study. However, activists say this is not new and it mainly affects junior-level military servicemen, rank E1 to E4, with children.

Low-income soldiers receive little pay and frequent shifts make it difficult for spouses to find stable employment. This problem is exacerbated by a regulation by the Department of Agriculture, which limits thousands of poor military families from access to the SNAP government assistance program, more commonly known as meal vouchers.

Housing is given to soldiers who do not live on bases. This grant is calculated as income when calculating eligibility for food stamps. This extra allowance is usually enough to prevent families from qualifying for meal vouchers. Other federal programs, however, do not count housing payments as income.

For more Related Press reports, see below.

The Pentagon has announced that it is giving higher housing to troops facing food security and high rent. Above, a man receives food at a food distribution of Armed Services YMCA on October 28, 2021, in San Diego, California.
Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a former Blackhawk pilot who lost both legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq, sponsored a bill that would establish a Basic Needs Allowance payment for military families in distress.

Representative James McGovern sought a Pentagon study of the problem and repeal of the USDA’s Regular Allowing for Housing.

In addition to the immediate actions, Austin said in a note that the department should look at a few other steps to increase stability for service members. They would include extending the tour length for soldiers deploying to a number of locations overseas when they are accompanied by their families.

Where possible, he said the department should consider extending the three-year deadline for tasks at bases within the United States.

Austin also said the Pentagon needs to take steps to improve financial education and counseling for troops.

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