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Amid Troubling Conditions for Military Families, IAVA Report Focuses Policymakers

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  • December 7, 2011
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After 10 years of war and multiple deployments, the challenges for the spouses and children of service members are numerous — coping with mental health issues, finding a job in a struggling economy, and meeting mortgage payments and other expenses.

Unsung Heroes, a new report from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), paints a stark portrait of the economic, education and health issues military spouses and their children face. It covers a variety of issues, including unemployment and underemployment among military spouses, the economic impact of military moves, difficulties associated with the frequent transfers imposed on kids and the problem of predatory lenders targeting military families.

But the 28-page report also offers concrete recommendations to help service members and their families overcome these challenges as troops transition home from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012:

  • Spousal employment – Professional licenses and certifications should be more portable and uniform across state lines to lower military spouse unemployment, which stood at 26 percent in June. Also, a job training partnership between DOD and the Labor Department should be created to help military spouses build skills and expand career opportunities.
  • Housing – To combat the 32 percent increase in foreclosures in military zip codes from 2008 and 2010, the government should enforce stricter monitoring of lending practices to prevent predatory and abusive lending by loan agencies to service members and their families. In addition, the Housing Assistance Program should be extended to service members who bought their homes between 2006 and 2008.
  • Invisible Injuries – In light of the high incidence of mental health disorders suffered by military spouses and their children, the president and first lady should issue a nationwide call to recruit mental health professionals and improve training for mental health service providers to better understand the specific needs of service members, their families and the nuances of military culture.
  • Childcare – With nearly 50 percent of military family members saying childcare was their top priority during deployments, DOD should increase access and subsidies for high-quality childcare services, especially for Guardsmen and Reservists who live off base and have fewer available options.
  • Education – To alleviate some of the difficulties that arise from moving military children between six and nine times during their years in the education system, all states should join the Interstate Compact making graduation requirements more uniform so kids are able to transfer more easily without falling behind.

“Our leaders in Washington, the private sector and all Americans have a responsibility to support our troops, veterans and their families long after these wars end. In the long run, strengthening our military families strengthens America — and that’s a mission the entire country needs to get behind,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA’s founder and executive director.

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