Army Families Want More Health Care Access, Support

Army Families Want More Health Care Access, Support

Soldier giving eye exam
Photo by: U.S. Army/Marcy Sanchez

Soldiers and Army spouses are looking for easier access to health care services and more support, particularly for their families and during the transition to civilian life, a new survey found.

The 2021 Military Family Support Programming Survey, conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network, combines responses from 8,638 people, including military spouses and active-duty personnel, to highlight the experiences and needs of military families. Of the respondents, just over 40% were affiliated with the Army.

The survey includes topics such as health care, family relationships and financial readiness, among others.  

More than 60% of service member and veteran respondents said that they would recommend military life to someone considering it. Respondents from the Army noted improvements and opportunities for additional support in several areas. 

“In the past 3+ years we have had a good experience with consistent doctors and care,” an active-duty soldier said in the survey. “In previous duty stations, … when I was pregnant, I would see a multitude of doctors versus one doctor, which made the complicated pregnancy even more stressful.” 

In terms of health care, the survey found that about half of active-duty families and nearly three-quarters of military retiree families reported that they had a positive or very positive experience in terms of the care they received and the quality of care provided. 

While over half of respondents said that there is a lack of appointments and difficulty reaching health care providers, data from the Defense Department’s Joint Outpatient Experience Survey published in 2018 rated Army providers highest among the services. 

Next, the survey found that over half of military and veteran family respondents reported feeling lonely. 

It also found that loneliness is intimately connected with family health outcomes. 

“Respondents who do not report loneliness are significantly more likely to have excellent family health and are less likely to have poor family health,” the survey said. “Respondents who report loneliness are significantly more likely to report overall moderate family well-being.”  

In addition to family support needs, respondents also indicated that they would like more help during the transition to civilian life. 

Just over one-third of respondents indicated that the support from the military, including through programs like the Transition Assistance Program and Soldier for Life, was helpful. 

Some respondents indicated that they would like more support beyond financial and employment help during the transition to civilian life. 

“I was happy with financial and employment support, but I was completely unprepared for the emotional and mental health challenges triggered by transition,” one spouse of an Army retiree said. “I feel like this is not addressed enough in preparation for transition.”

Nearly 15% of respondents said that support from the private sector helped during their transition. One Army veteran said that they leaned on help from the private sector because on-post transition support was “moderately helpful … but too generic to help everyone completely.” 

To see the full survey, click here.