The Ripon Forum

Volume 44, No. 2

Spring 2010 Issue

Military Families Are Fundamental

By on October 24, 2014

KayGrangerby KAY GRANGER

On September 11, 2001, our nation was attacked and thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives. Less than one month later, American troops were deployed to Afghanistan and have been fighting overseas ever since. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have continued to carry the fight forward in a conflict that has lasted longer than World War II. Many of our troops have deployed multiple times, tens of thousands have been wounded, and several thousand have made the ultimate sacrifice. Standing alongside these brave men and women are the military families.  The moves, the deployments, the training, the stress of the unknown, all take a toll on the spouses and children waiting home anxiously for their loved ones to return.

As a Member of Congress, it is my duty to ensure our troops have the equipment, the training, and the support they need to win on the battlefield and make it home safely.  It is vital that this support extend beyond the battlefield and into the home of the soldier. Our troops are conducting the most dangerous of missions, and it is critical that they are exclusively focused on their objective and not burdened with worrying if their families are being cared for sufficiently at home.  As a single parent, I know firsthand how difficult it is to raise and care for a family alone. We must realize that funds spent on military family programs such as medical benefits, spousal employment, and military youth programs can be just as important to our success overseas as funds spent on body armor, upgraded weapons, and operating expenses.

We must realize that funds spent on military family programs such as medical benefits, spousal employment, and military youth programs can be just as important to our success overseas as funds spent on body armor, upgraded weapons, and operating expenses.

We also cannot forget the unique sacrifices that many National Guard, Air National Guard, and Reserve families are making for us today. Unlike traditional active-duty units, Guard and Reserve families do not typically live in a military community and may not have the built-in support network that comes from the shared experiences of living in, and among, other military families.

Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the Military Families Roundtable discussion, and heard firsthand many inspiring stories of the hardships and challenges that are facing the families of deployed service members. These families are making the most out of the many support programs we have, but they also highlight areas that we can improve our support for these heroes.

To this end, I was proud to be an original cosponsor of the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which was signed into law on November 15, 2009. This bill gives spouses of service members the ability to keep their residency in one state if the military orders their spouse to move to another state and they join their spouse in that new state. This measure helps provide some stability for the purposes of taxation, voting registration, and holding a driver’s license. We already allow military service members to do this, and it was past time to give their spouses the exact same benefit.

I have also cosponsored the Surviving Spouses’ Benefit Improvement Act of 2009 (HR 2243).  This bill would remove the offset between the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for spouses of fallen military service members who would qualify for both.  The Survivor Benefit Plan is an insurance policy with premiums that military personnel pay into to ensure their spouse receives a percentage of their retirement pay should they survive the military service member.  The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation plan pays a benefit to spouses of military service members who died during their service or because of wounds inflicted during their service. Currently, the Survivor Benefit Plan is offset by payments under Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This bill would eliminate that offset for surviving spouses, allowing these spouses to receive the full benefits they deserve.

Congress was also successful in restoring the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) program after the military suspended new enrollments. This program, with over 133,000 participants, provides up to $6,000 of Financial Assistance for military spouses who are pursuing licenses, certificates, credentials or degree programs leading to employment in portable career fields.  This fills a critical demand considering how often spouses are required to relocate and change their personal and professional lives.  Congress and the Department of Defense must make sure this program is fully funded.

And, of course, I think the best thing we can do for our military families is to make sure that their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers come home safely. That’s why I will continue to work tirelessly to make sure they have the best equipment and training that we can give them.  We owe them nothing less.

Family readiness is a key component of our military readiness.

I applaud the efforts by groups and individuals to highlight the dedication and sacrifice of our military families.  In Congress and in the Administration, we must continue to work hard to make sure they have the support they deserve and have earned. Family readiness is a key component of our military readiness. Ensuring that their families are taken care of back home will allow our forward-deployed service members to focus on the very dangerous and demanding missions we have asked them to do and keep their “heads in the game.”  I will always stand in support of our service members and their families.

Our military is different than it was in previous conflicts. Since the military draft ended in 1973, we have relied on an all volunteer force to protect our homeland. Despite the hardships, the risks and the separation from loved ones, we are blessed to have selfless individuals who choose to join our military. We cannot take their sacrifice for granted. For military members with families, we must realize that they are making a choice when they join and also when they re-enlist. And that choice is often times not an individual choice, but a choice made by a family.  Our military force is the highest trained, most battle-tested force in our nation’s history; and we must work to retain these brave and talented individuals. Investment in programs that support military families can be a key influencer in whether or not these families choose to remain in the military.

Kay Granger represents the 12th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves as the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.  She is also a member of The Ripon Society’s Honorary Congressional Advisory Board.

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