Note: The FSSA program was terminated 30 September 2016. This article remains only for historical purposes.
CNN Money reported yesterday that the use of federal food benefits, also called Food Stamps or SNAP benefits, has increased at military commissaries. It was an interesting article, but it missed a major piece of information. The military services offer an allowance specifically designed to lift the income of a military family above the eligibility for food stamps. Any active duty family who is utilizing food stamps has failed to take full advantage of the benefits being offered by the military services. You should know about this allowance because you may know someone who could benefit.
The Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) was created in 2001 in response to reports about service families requiring federal food benefits. Eligibility for FSSA is based upon the total household income and the total household size. Eligibility amounts vary depending on your duty station, as there are different rates for the contiguous 48 states, Hawaii, and Alaska/overseas.
The FSSA is designed to raise a military member’s household income to 130% of the federal poverty level for their area. Service members who are eligible for BAS, and meet gross income guidelines as determined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), should complete the application process. If certified as eligible, the service member will receive up to $1100 per month in FSSA. The FSSA is non-taxable and is in addition to all other pays and allowances. To apply for the FSSA, utilize this online application link.
If an eligible service member is currently receiving food stamps, the amount of the FSSA will equal the higher of the calculated FSSA amount or the food stamp amount, not to exceed $1100 per month.
Though this program is designed to prevent the need for food stamps, the guidelines mean that some service members who are not eligible for food stamps may still be eligible for the FSSA program. If you have a low income and a larger family, it is worth applying to see if you are eligible.
Once enrolled in this program, members must recertify annually , and also upon promotion, a change in household income, a change in family size, or acceptance of PCS orders. Recertification must be done within 30 days (before or after) the event occurs or the recertification will be treated as an initial application.
It seems that many military families are unaware of this benefit. Please be sure to share this information with anyone you know who might be eligible. It would be awful (and ridiculous) if military families were struggling unnecessarily, just as it is ridiculous that military charities are filling a gap that doesn't actually exist because the military has already filled it.