MAZON Reacts To The MCRMC Recommendation to Sunset Program That Helps Military Families Put Food On The Table

MAZON Reacts To The MCRMC Recommendation to Sunset Program That Helps Military Families Put Food On The Table

Los Angeles, January 29, 2015
PRNewswire-USNewswire

Statement from Abby Leibman, CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger in response to final report and recommendations put forward today by the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission (MCRMC) calling for an end to the military's supplemental food program in areas where SNAP benefits are available:

"MAZON is strongly opposed to ending the FSSA program (Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance). While the current program is certainly a failure, for many months we have been advocating directly to the Department of Defense to make four common sense changes to the current FSSA program, which would make it far more viable as an important resource to military families.  

FSSA, if properly restructured, is the most viable and potentially effective way to end hunger in our military. 

"To compound this unacceptable recommendation with another recommending against pay raises is doubling down on the stress for military families. This unenlightened approach can only result in more food insecurity for our military. This is unacceptable – our military deserve a much better approach than what the Commission offered today."

The four MAZON reforms:

1. FSSA must be converted from its current individual application-based delivery system to automatic enrollment.

While a substantial majority of enlisted personnel will not qualify for nor use FSSA benefits, those who do require support should receive those benefits in a streamlined and efficient manner. The current application process requires those in need to go through the chain of command. That creates serious barriers to FSSA participation including shame, stigma, and fear of retribution. By contrast, successful examples of automatic program enrollment based on income and household size can be found among USDA-administered programs and can serve as a model for FSSA.

2. The Department must adopt new FSSA qualification standards that are appropriate for the scope of need and consistent with those for many other federal assistance programs.

To better meet the true level of military food insecurity, MAZON recommends providing FSSA benefits to households with incomes at or fewer than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. This eligibility threshold is consistent with many other federal assistance programs including the WIC program so many military families now use. 

3. As FSSA eligibility is adjusted to serve every military household at risk of food insecurity, the Department should also restructure the benefit approach and amounts.

Rather than employing an income supplement aimed at bringing the household income above 130% (MAZON recommends 185%) of the Federal Poverty Level, MAZON recommends targeting FSSA benefits for only food purchases, as SNAP does. SNAP also delivers support in the form of an EBT card, an efficiency we recommend. To maximize the objective of FSSA in enabling the purchase of nutritious foods to support good fitness and health, MAZON recommends that the FSSA benefit level be correlated to the USDA's Moderate-Cost Food Plan (by law the Department sets the amount of the Base Allowance Subsistence benefit between the Moderate and Liberal Food Plan rates determined by the USDA).

4. The Department should eliminate the use of housing allowances as a factor in determining eligibility for FSSA benefits.

Including this allowance as "income" treats our troops differently than the civilian population, for whom the value of public housing assistance is not counted as income in the determination of eligibility. In addition, this policy establishes an unnecessary barrier to adequate nutritional support.

Further Information: Sydney Weisman, 323-804-3102 or sydney@whpr.com 
Michelle Stuffmann, 310-442-0200 or mstuffmann@mazon.org