A survey released this week by Blue Star Families underscored rising concerns about financial security experienced by military families stemming from the difficulty encountered by military spouses searching for employment, cuts in military benefits and uncertainty about the impact of force reductions.
There’s a theme of “eyes on the exits,” said Cristin Orr Shiffer, deputy director of research and policy for the nonprofit Blue Star Families, which has been producing its annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey for six years.
“There are a lot of conversations around the dinner table about whether to stay in or get out,” Shiffer told Military Times.
More than half of military spouses without jobs said they want to be employed outside of their home, according to the survey. Thirty-six percent of unemployed active-duty spouses said that they were not working due to their service member’s job or work obligations. To overcome these challenges, many spouses are pursuing additional education.
The survey also highlighted the higher costs military families face. More than three-quarters of respondents said their housing expenses exceed the basic allowance for housing they receive. And 73 percent of families reported unexpected expenses related to the military lifestyle.
DOD’s renewed emphasis on transition assistance for separating personnel appears to be paying off, with 56 percent of post-9/11 veterans saying the program prepared them to successfully transition to civilian life. Seventy-four percent of post-9/11 veteran respondents had attended some form of transition assistance programming. Almost half of post-9/11 veterans, though, were not working in their preferred career field.
The survey also served to reinforce the role communities can play in supporting military families. “Americans can help support military families by increasing civilian and military collaboration in local communities through friendship, shared service and communication,” the report said.
“This year’s survey results suggest we can do this with additional support in the following areas: the employment of military spouses; military child education and wellness; financial and retirement savings education; military childcare; local civilian community engagement; strong mental health; and veteran employment,” it stated.