High Housing Costs Pressure Military Families (The Center Square)

Richie Malouf
July 28, 2022

This piece originally appeared in The Center Square on July 28, 2022.

High inflation rates have left veteran and military families feeling the pain.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest federal report, consumer prices have increased by 9.1% over the past 12 months, the highest since 1981. One of the largest contributors was the shelter index, which rose 5.6% over the previous year, the most significant 12-month increase since February 1991.

Representatives from MAZON said that the rising housing costs hurt military families who often have to move.

“Military families relocate every two to three years, most commonly,” said Josh Protas, MAZON’s vice president for public policy. “As housing prices increase, and there’s less housing available, military families definitely feel that crunch.”

To try to cover the rising housing and rental prices, military families rely more on a basic allowance for housing. However, that allowance only covers some of the cost.

“That basic allowance for housing, that’s provided for those off-base or in privatized housing, is only pegged at 95% of the estimated costs,” Protas said. “It’s not covering the full extent of housing costs.”

Inflation has not only placed more pressure on military families to pay for higher housing and rental prices, but also has made it harder for military families to be eligible for government assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“We had a food pantry, we still do, a food pantry on or near every single military base in the country that are quietly serving families that are turning in desperation because they’re prevented from qualifying for programs that they should be entitled to, principally the SNAP program,” Protas said. “For active duty families, it’s because of an anomalous treatment of their housing allowance.”

Military families who rely on a housing allowance, which differs regionally based on that area’s rental prices, are not eligible for programs like SNAP because this allowance counts toward their income.

“Even when they have a low rate of base pay as a junior enlisted service member, when you add on top of that their basic allowance for housing, it most often puts them outside of the eligibility guidelines for SNAP,” Protas said.

For veteran families, the main issue preventing their access to food is a low participation rate in programs like SNAP. Many veterans do not use programs like SNAP because they do not want to seek help from the government or don’t know enough about it.

“Roughly two thirds of veterans who should be able to get help from SNAP are not,” Protas said. “Either they don’t know about the program, they’re embarrassed to apply for it, or the application process is too cumbersome.”

Protas argued that letting veterans and military families go hungry will lead to higher fiscal costs than if addressed sooner.

“It’s smart fiscal policy to proactively get ahead of these issues and prevent the more costly consequences down the road,” Protas said.