May 10, 2019
The word on the street is that Blue Star Families’ 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey (#BSFSurvey) is open for those within the active duty, veteran, National Guard, and Reserve communities to make their voices heard.
The responses are already rolling in from milfams who are eager to share their challenges, and for us to listen and utilize their voice to effect positive change alongside policymakers, community leaders, and nonprofits at the local and national level.
Have something you want to share regarding your service to our country before the survey closes on June 14, but you’re not sure your story will truly make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
Well, year after year, we prove that important changes to improve the lives of our country’s military families are only made possible because you take the time to convey what’s affecting you and your loved ones. And for that reason, we have the following eight wins to celebrate as a direct result from the 2018 #BSFSurvey responses.
Go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Though the hard work doesn’t end here! After you read through this impressive list, discover how you can help us push positive change for your milfam this year.
1. Implemented Programs to Boost Military Spouse Employment
Survey Says: 70% of Millennial military family respondents reported that having two incomes is vital to their families’ well-being.
As the saying goes, “Two are better than one.” For that reason, both legislators and the following programs implemented by Blue Star Families are working to help military spouses so their families can achieve (and maintain) dual-income status: SpouseForce, Networks Live!, and a team of dedicated Careers Managers.
2. Created Tenant Bill of Rights to Fix Up Military Housing
Survey Says: Offering better housing options or increasing BAH was the top way military family respondents reported the Department of Defense could improve military families’ quality of life.
In response to a rash of congressional hearings regarding that need for improvement, along with additional hard facts gathered through a series of alarming reports, the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy released a draft Tenant Bill of Rights with the hopes of ensuring service members and their families “have safe, quality homes and communities, and clear rights while living in them. It is intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies by putting more oversight authority in the hands of local military leaders.”
And, most recently, Senator Warren proposed a military housing bill that would address widespread issues—from regular and unannounced spot inspections of homes to requiring reports on housing conditions, tenant complaints, and more be published annually.
3. Increased Dialogue Around the Rise of PCS Struggles
Survey Says: 42% of military spouse respondents reported that relocation stress was one of the top stressors for their military family.
To help alleviate that stress, the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) appears to be inching closer towards privatizing the moving system for military relocations by the year 2021.
“Privatization” is most likely not a top choice for change, however, as it hasn’t played out very well in the housing arena. So while the plus is that the dialogue is picking up, the verdict is still out on what alternative, yet viable solutions will come about in the hopes of alleviating PCS season mayhem.
4. Stressed the Importance of Alternative Care Coverage to Military Leaders
Survey Says: Military spouse respondents reported that having alternative care options (e.g., chiropractic care, acupuncture) fully covered was the top improvement they wanted to see in health care benefits.
We shared that feedback with the Defense Health Agency, further amplifying your family’s voice regarding changes and suggested improvements to Tricare. Will that single action be the spark that ignites a positive shift? Probably not. But it’s an important stepping stone to enhance military families’ quality of life, which is our ultimate mission.
5. Continued to Strengthen Civilians’ Understanding of MilFams
Survey Says: the most commonly-cited recommendation for DoD to improve civilian understanding of military service was to have honest messaging about military families’ realities and sacrifices.
So, what action is being taken to positively improve? For starters, Blue Star Families has focused on strengthening civilians’ understanding of military families for ten years. And as a result of findings of low perceived civilian appreciation and support of military families, BSF—in collaboration with key partners—hosted the inaugural America Joins Forces with Military Families (White Oak) Retreat in 2010.
Since then, White Oak has served as a regularly occurring venue for harnessing the power of collaboration and formulating cross-sector solutions in areas such as military children’s education, mental health, and veteran and military spouse unemployment. And, most importantly, White Oak and the Joining Forces initiative advanced civil-military discourse nationally and had a tangible impact on civilian understanding and appreciation.
6. Inspired BSF Corporate Neighbors to Create Milspouse-Friendly Jobs
Survey Says: 47% of military spouse respondents identified advocating to work with large corporations to design military spouse-friendly work options as their top recommendation for improving spouse unemployment and underemployment.
What’s being done to move the needle for military spouse employment? Blue Star Families, alongside other organizations, are helping Blue Star Corporate Neighbors (such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Starbucks. Amazon, and FlexJobs) better understand how they can set military spouses up for success within their company.
7. Reinforced Support for Military Students at Civilian Schools
Survey Says: 42% of military family respondents indicated military children’s education was a top concern for them.
Because military families like yours stepped up and shared their concerns, in 2018, all public schools were required to allow military parents to identify their child as a military student. Though, it’s important to note that some schools had already been doing so.
This requirement, however, helps schools better understand and support their military student populations, and provides additional training for teachers who have military students in their classrooms.
8. Informed Legislative Changes to Childcare for Military Families
Survey Says: 72% of military families cannot obtain reliable childcare. More specifically, 79% of female service members who relocated last year cannot obtain reliable childcare.
That insight was then used to help inform legislative changes to Child Development Center hours, hiring processes for childcare providers, a congressionally-commissioned report to explore private-public partnerships on childcare, and more.
The work continues. We can’t do it without YOU!
These eight examples are one of many that showcase how Blue Star Families’ survey amplifies your voice to enhance military life. Now, we need more of YOUR creative solutions to address the areas where your milfam feels a positive change is needed. Take the survey and tell us today, then encourage those in your military community to do the same!