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Survey Shows Why AUSA Supports Army Families

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A new military family survey highlights the reasons why the Association of the U.S. Army is committed to helping soldiers and their families. Conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network, the survey shows that some of the programs most used by Army families are the programs that also draw the biggest complaints.

               One of AUSA’s resolutions for 2015, passed during the association’s annual meeting in October, is about support for families. It says AUSA is “committed to ensuring that Congress funds both defense and veterans budgets to provide appropriate pay and benefits that are an essential offset for the unique demands, harsh conditions, and sacrifices inherent in military service and are absolutely necessary for successful recruiting and retention.”

               The new survey, released Jan. 12, asked what support programs are used the most and what programs are missing, and the results were mixed.

               Base amenities were the support program most often mentioned, with commissaries the most popular item. Fifty-three percent of those survey said they shopped at commissaries at least weekly, and only 15 percent said they rarely or never shopped at the stores.

               The chief reason for shopping at the commissary is convenience, according to the survey. Inconvenience is the chief reason for not shopping there. This trend followed in other responses. In order, the other top reasons for shopping at commissaries were: low prices, good selection, good quality and familiar products. The other top reasons for not shopping at commissaries were: high prices, poor selection, poor quality and being too crowded.

               Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they liked Army healthcare but 22 percent said healthcare was one of the things that needed the most help.

               The survey boosts the idea of getting help from outside programs, as 15 percent of those surveyed listed support from nonprofit organizations as a key piece of help. That puts nonprofits on par with morale, welfare and recreation programs in terms of providing support, and ranks nonprofits slightly ahead of family support services.

               Also clear in the report is that families are worried about financial insecurity because of attacks on pay and benefits. The survey highlights comments from two Army spouses and one soldier.

               “I would rather our tax money go toward keeping the promises already made to active duty and retired service members rather than expanding programs,” one Army spouse said. Another spouse asked for a “decent” defense budget “so we aren’t constantly being threatened with losing benefits or having pay hijacked so the government can play politics…I feel like our government is failing us. They speak support, then pull the funding.”

               A soldier talked to instability in programs because of budget threats. “Support is limited because it is always the first thing cut when politicians think they can save money. They reach into the pocket of service members instead of their own.”

               Ending sequestration and providing a stable Army budget are also AUSA goals.  Sequestration “is a devastating solution to our fiscal crisis,” AUSA said in its 2015 resolution package, urging AUSA members and the general public to be “sure that our elected representatives understand that failing to end the specter of sequestration will be catastrophic for the servicemen and women sworn to protect this nation.”