Legislators Champion Improved Support for Military Families

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In an effort to bolster support for military families, a series of bills is currently making its way through the legislative process. These proposed measures, which cover a wide range of areas such as housing, childcare, and meal support, aim to ease the burdens experienced by military personnel and their loved ones.

Among the prominent legislators leading the charge is Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who has introduced a bill to address housing challenges faced by military families. This bill has been incorporated into the House National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. The legislation’s key provision calls for the Department of Defense to provide appropriate temporary housing for military personnel and their families who have recently undergone a permanent change of station and have been placed on an on-base housing waitlist for more than ten days after their arrival. The act also requires data collection on the number of affected military personnel and families, the duration of their housing waitlists, contributing factors, and the reasons for waitlists exceeding ten days.

Rep. Neguse emphasized the importance of these initiatives, stating, “Our veterans and service members sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and it is our duty to make sure we honor our commitments to them when they come home — which ultimately includes ensuring they have access to housing.”

The 2024 House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act incorporate multiple bills aimed at addressing housing allowance calculations and constructing military family housing across different service branches. These legislative efforts also explore the realm of affordable housing, housing complaint databases, and air purification technology in military housing.

For military families with school-aged children, the Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act of 2023, introduced by Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), offers a solution to streamline meal support. The bill proposes certifying children of armed service members as eligible for free or reduced school lunches and breakfasts without additional applications. This includes excluding certain military housing allowances from the calculation of household income for meal eligibility determinations.

While the House and Senate 2024 NDAAs do not directly include provisions for school meals, the Senate version focuses on supporting schools with significant numbers of military-dependent students.

Furthermore, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and Del. James Moylan (R-Guam) have introduced a bill designed to enhance childcare services and job opportunities for military families. This bill mandates the Department of Defense to compile a report within approximately three years on at-home childcare programs offered by each military department. The report will detail program openings, closures, relocations, challenges faced by military spouses employed in these programs, and the impact of program changes on military spouses’ employment. The legislation also calls for a study within six months of enactment to standardize licensing and certification requirements for at-home child care providers, remove barriers to program expansion, and support military spouses in at-home child care roles.

The 2024 House NDAA includes multiple childcare initiatives, such as increased funding for military child care, expanded child care discounts for Defense Department employees, financial assistance for at-home child care for armed forces members, and a peer mentoring program for military dependents. On the other hand, the Senate NDAA introduces a pilot program aimed at recruiting employees for child development programs.