The grassroots efforts of MOAA members made a difference last year as legislators included language in the annual defense appropriations bill designed to help military families living at or near the poverty line. But the new law is just a first step, not a fix.
The FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will create the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA), a monthly payment to servicemembers whose annual gross household income rests below 130% of federal poverty guidelines for the member’s location and household size. The amount varies by income level and location, but the average could be about $400 a month, based on previous estimates.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Military Hunger Prevention Act]
This is good news for military families who’ve had to rely on food banks and other charitable programs at an increased rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not fully what MOAA and other advocacy organizations asked Congress to include in the NDAA.
The NDAA leaves eligibility details for the program up to federal officials and allows “the secretary concerned” to determine what percentage of a servicemembers’ housing allowance should count toward eligibility in some cases.
The Military Hunger Prevention Act (S. 1488 | H.R. 2339), which MOAA has supported as standalone legislation since its April 2021 introduction in both chambers, addresses this concern. It makes clear a servicemembers’ housing allowance cannot be included with gross household income to determine eligibility.
The bill had more than 100 co-sponsors (70 House members, 31 senators) as of Feb. 1, a number of whom signed on during MOAA’s Advocacy in Action campaign, which included the legislation as a key 2021 advocacy topic. Whether on its own or in the FY 2023 NDAA, this bill can move forward in the coming months with enough support from MOAA members and other advocates from other advocacy groups who have not given up the fight.
Write your legislators and ask them to join as co-sponsors or thank them for already signing up – MOAA’s new Legislative Action Center will tailor a message to your senator or House member based on their sponsorship status. Learn more about the new center at this link, and review a list of active MOAA legislative campaigns.
The More Members We Have, the More Influence We Have Over Our Benefits
MOAA is committed to protecting the rights of servicemembers and their families. Lend your voice and support these efforts today. Because the larger our voice is, the greater our impact will be.