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Food Stamps, Spouse Taxes, Split PCS and More: Hill Proposals

Spouse residency help, food stamps rules, split PCSes and spouse tax credits -- oh my! Military spouse proposals on Capitol Hill touch on all of these subjects.

It's that time of year again when lawmakers offer a parade of exciting proposals that impact military family life. These ideas are put forward in individual bills, most of which will eventually be considered as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act for 2018. Some of them might make it to actual law. Most of them, sadly, won't. 

So what's on the table so far? Here are a few of the proposals lawmakers have offered in the last several weeks that would impact military spouses and family members.

Food Stamps, Spouse Taxes, Split PCS and More: Military Spouse Proposals 

Military spouse state tax help. Right now whether or not you can claim your service member's home of record for tax and residency purposes depends on whether or not you physically lived in the state he or she also claims. For example, my spouse was taxed for Ohio, which is his home of record. I, however, have never lived in Ohio, so I cannot claim it just because he does. 

The new measure would allow a military spouse to claim his or her service member's home of record even if they have never lived there. For example, I could start claiming Ohio as my state of residence because my husband does -- even though I've never spent more than a collective six weeks there over nine years. 

Versions of this fix have been floated in the past but have not made it into law. 

Allow military families to split a PCS. This proposal would allow military families to apply to split their PCS so the spouse can more smoothly transition her career to a new location or so kids can finish the school year or semester. 

We wrote about this proposal when it was floated by a pair of Senators last year. It did not make it into law, in part because the Defense Department said it would cost too much. The new legislation mirrors the previously proposed measure. It's unclear how likely this is to make it into law this go-round.

Make it easier to qualify for food stamps. This proposal, also offered in the past, would remove Basic Allowance for Housing payments from the food stamp eligibility calculations.

Right now BAH payments are typically counted as income when a family applies for food stamps. But hunger advocates say that including them creates a disparity, since BAH fluctuates based on location and cost of living. For example, a family that needs food stamp help in Oklahoma, where cost of living is lower and their BAH payment doesn't bump them out of the eligibility bracket, arguably needs the help more somewhere like San Diego, where they make significantly more BAH and they therefore don't qualify. 

It's unclear what shot this proposal has at passing. In the past it has failed to go forward in part because food stamp rules -- military related or not -- are extremely political and difficult to alter. 

A tax credit for spouse professional licenses. Military spouses who hold professional licenses know the pain and expense of getting a new license after a PCS. This proposal would give spouses an income tax credit for the amount paid for that re-licensing. This one has also been offered before. 

Make gun buying easier for spouses. This proposal, which we reported on earlier, would make it easier for spouses to buy guns near their duty station by giving them the same firearm purchase related residency rules as their service members. You can read more about it here.

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