Military families should know how sequestration will affect their lives, when and if it occurs. Thankfully, pay is secure, but many other benefits are not.
Pay Is SafeMilitary pay is specifically exempt from sequestration cuts, including retired pay. All VA programs, including disability benefits and care, are also exempt from sequestration cuts. However, please do not become complacent. It is very likely that next year's raise will be small or non-existent, and cuts to other programs could increase your family's spending needs.
Defense Health CutsWhile Tricare can not be eliminated or seriously changed without Congressional action, you will still see cuts in health care. Fewer civilian jobs will mean fewer providers and more difficulty getting an appointment. Pharmacies will stock fewer medications, forcing beneficiaries to utilize the mail order pharmacy or purchase their prescriptions at civilian drug stores. Hours may be cut, and "extra" services such as nutrition counseling may be curtailed or eliminated.
Commissary Budget CutsDeCA has issued guidance:
- Hiring freeze, regardless of sequestration
- May overseas case lot sales cancelled, regardless of sequestration
- If sequestration occurs, commissaries will close on Wednesday in all state-side locations, and most overseas locations.
DoDDS SchoolsSchools run by the Department of Defense, both domestically and overseas, will see an immediate decrease in their funding. As part of the Operations and Maintenance budget, they should theoretically have the same cuts as 9.4% cuts as the rest of that budget. According to the Federal Education Association, DoDEA teachers may be furloughed for as many as 22 days between 23 April and 30 September 2013. Not only is this a nightmare as far as our children's education, but it also will create child care and other issues. Plus it just makes me mad, since I'm not allowed to take my child out of school to go on an educational family trip but apparently it is OK if the government decides to withhold education. (Sorry, I'll stop ranting now.)
Local SchoolsFederal education funding will be cut by 8.2%. This will impact local schools in numerous ways, most importantly by the decrease in Federal Impact Aid. Federal Impact Aid are funds given to local school districts to offset the costs of educating children who reside on federal property and therefore do not contribute to local real estate and school taxes. For some school districts, this represents a large portion of their budget and just the threat of sequestration has reduced their services. More than 1/3 of surveyed school districts built these cuts into their 2012-2013 school year budgets, and this resulted in fewer teachers, less curriculum purchased, and deferred building and maintenance. Other federal education cuts will include decreased spending on special education, student financial aid, and programs for disadvantaged youth.
Social ServicesPrograms such as the family readiness centers (Fleet and Family Support Center, Soldier and Family Assistance Center, and Airman and Family Readiness Center, Marine Corps Community Service Centers), sexual assault prevention and response programs, and substance abuse programs will all be impacted. Civilian employees may be subject to furloughs, and new hires will be unlikely.
Spouse Employment: Civilian, Contractor and Local CommunityCivilian employment by the Department of Defense will decrease, as will the number of contractor jobs. Many of these positions are held by military spouses. Off-base, the fiscal cliff is expected to decrease jobs and increase unemployment. Faced with fewer jobs and more applicants, the bias against hiring military spouses will mean that fewer military spouses will be able to find employment anywhere.
Tuition Assistance, MyCAA and Education CentersTuition Assistance is part of training, which falls under the 9.4% cut Operations and Maintenance budget. I'm not sure how this is going to be implemented, but I would recommend using your tuition assistance now. MyCAA will see reduced funding, and base education centers will be impacted by the decrease in civilian employees.
HousingMany military families are already reporting decreased maintenance on their military housing, and that isn't likely to improve. While Public-PrivateVenture (PPV) housing has removed much housing from the military budget, there are still many bases with military- owned housing, especially overseas.
Women, Infants and ChildrenThe WIC program provides vouchers for specific, nutritious foods to small children and expectant or breastfeeding mothers. The WIC program will sustain cuts of 8.2%, meaning fewer recipients and lower benefits. It also means that the WIC staff will be cut, decreasing the education and counseling given along with the benefits.
Fewer Civilians On Base Means Reduced ServicesCivilian employees on bases will be reduced. The nice librarian who always renews your books and doesn't yell at your children? Might not be there in the future. The person who processes your travel claims will be busier, because there won't be as many of them. Need a new ID? Be prepared to wait longer, as fewer staff means longer lines.
Child CareAs part of the Operations and Maintenance Budget, child care will be impacted. Expect fewer employees, meaning fewer slots at the child care center. Also, expect the reduction or elimination of any free child care that is offered, such as care for families with deployed servicemembers. Maintenance and supply budgets will also be reduced.
There are still a lot of grey areas, and everything is not clear. Sequestration may happen immediately, or Congress may vote to delay it for a period of time. Heck, maybe they'll even figure out a magic fix and nothing will happen at all. Regardless, these are the types of programs and services that you can expect to see be decreased and cut at some point in time. As our country deals with unprecedented financial crises, lots of things will happen. Let's be knowledgeable and prepared.
Many thanks to the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and their The View From The Ledge: The Fiscal Cliff and How It Affects Military Families. The NMFA is a great organization and their information is always top-notch. I used this article to jump-start my thinking and research.
This post was originally published on 1 January 2012. I started to write a new post, but realized that it would say exactly the same things. I've made a few small changes to clarify some items, and include more information. It will remain near the top of the blog for longer than usual, as it is a serious issue.