Wallet Woes Plague Military Families

Survey shows concern about pay and benefits, job opportunities.

Military families have a lot to worry about, and their biggest fears are over pay and benefits.

A new survey shows a rising level of anxiety over compensation: Thirty-five percent of military families rated pay and benefits as their top concern in the 2013 report, conducted in late 2012, from Blue Star Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting the military community. That’s a 15 percent increase from the group’s 2012 survey, conducted in 2011.

In fact, the top three fears in the 2013 report are related to financial uncertainty. About 20 percent of respondents listed both changes in retirement benefits and employment opportunities for their service member spouses as particularly worrisome. Given that more than one million service members are leaving active duty during the next five years as we leave Afghanistan, the survey results are not especially surprising. Fears over pay and benefits and potential changes to the military’s retirement system have remained the same in the last few years, regardless of whether the service member had less than or more than 20 years of service -- the point at which they become eligible for retirement benefits.

Still the level of anxiety among the members of the military community over these fiscal issues is somewhat interesting, considering Congress lately has preferred taking the budget ax to federal civilian employees’ compensation. Military members continue to receive an annual across-the-board pay increase, while civilians are in their third year of a pay freeze. Lawmakers are loath to modify the military’s retirement system, which rewards longevity, despite repeated calls for reform every year.

But sequestration, which was looming when the 2013 survey was conducted, could be stoking economic fears. Active duty military members are exempt, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be affected by budget cuts to agency programs within the Defense Department.

“The military services initiated many good programs for families,” said the survey. “Yet many of these programs now face cuts. Particularly in the face of sequestration, military families and service members anxiously wait to see how they will be personally affected by the changes.”

Other concerns among the military community in the latest survey included the effects of deployments on children, length of deployments, increase in suicides, and combat stress. Of the 5,125 military family members who started the survey, 3,153 completed the entire questionnaire -- 73 percent of whom were military spouses. Eighty-four percent of respondents were female, and 67 percent of respondents had minor children living at home.

The survey also evaluated respondents’ opinions over the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law that allowed gays to serve in the military provided they kept their sexual orientation a secret. Seventy-five percent said the repeal had no impact on their service member’s ability to do his or her job, and 72 percent said it did not affect at all their service member’s desire to re-enlist or stay in the military.

Unfortunately, however, the military-civilian cultural divide is still alive and well. Eighty-eight percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, “The general public is aware of the impacts of military service on military families,” while 92 percent disagreed with the statement, “The general public truly understands the sacrifices made by service members and their families.”

Pay Debate Continues

Lawmakers aren’t known for their lack of opinions. And these days they certainly have lots to say about federal employee compensation.

The topic of federal pay continues to crop up in discussions over larger pieces of legislation, particularly in the GOP-controlled House. Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, which provides $73.3 billion in discretionary funds to house, train and equip military personnel as well as veterans’ benefits and programs.

During the bill’s mark-up, a Democrat and a Republican each offered fed pay-related amendments that revealed how far apart many of them remain on the issue. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., offered a measure that would cut the pay of VA employees, ostensibly those with benefits claims responsibilities, if the department failed to meet its goal of eliminating the enormous claims backlog by 2015. Kingston withdrew the specific amendment, but pledged to work with other lawmakers as the bill winds its way through the chamber on coming up with a feasible version that retains a pay cut tied to eliminating the backlog. Watch for that to reappear before it’s all said and done.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., defended federal compensation during the same mark-up, and unsuccessfully tried to insert into the bill the Obama administration’s proposed 1 percent pay increase for feds in 2014. That doesn’t necessarily mean that feds are definitely in for a fourth consecutive pay freeze. Congress still has to get through several spending bills before the end of fiscal 2013, so there’s plenty of time left for debate and plenty of other opportunities for a 2014 pay increase -- or extended freeze -- to resurface.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.