Spending Cuts Impact Families

America's strength in the global world today is directly related to the strength of our military personnel. As budget debates continue in Congress and across the country, funding cuts are being felt across the board. Recent cuts in military spending decrease budget demands, but also hurt the many families that are trying to serve their country and those who have already sacrificed for our protection. Service members signed up for the military knowing that the pay wasn't the best, but there were some benefits that made up for not having a huge paycheck. Those benefits are what are at the core of the military budget debate today. If the proposed cuts are put into place, health care will suffer as premiums and copays increase, Military Treatment Facilities will have less contract providers to fill the void when military providers are deployed, and quality of care will be affected with staff stretched to the breaking point. Cuts in funding for commissaries and housing will put a strain on military family's budgets. Planned cuts in retiree's pensions will affect those who have already served our country.
One of the areas that may by affected by the upcoming budget overhaul is the military health care system. 'The cost of health care for active-duty military families will rise if Congress approves the Pentagon's plan for ratcheting up co-pays for family members. The budget documents suggest that for a service member who heads a family of four, meaning he or she has three dependents, the annual out-of-pocket health care costs will rise from $158 a year to $364 a year.'(Tilghman Mar 2014). This is more than double what the families have to pay now. I agree that there is substantial waste and abuse that goes on within the health system, but health care for families should not be slashed to fix that problem. If parents are concerned about copays, they won't feel like they could take their children to the doctor any time they were concerned about them. The cost for hospitalizations and emergency care would increase since patients could be waiting too long before they went in for treatment. There would also be added cost of the bureaucracy required to bill and collect for the services if copays were to be enforced.
Another major area of proposed cuts is the commissary system. . According to an article in the Military Times, 'The Pentagon wants to eliminate commissary subsidies at most domestic bases, which will likely result in shoppers seeing prices rise by about 20 percent.' (Tilghman Mar 2014). Commissaries provide the main source of groceries for military families for several reasons. Since they are located on the military base, families can shop there without spending much money for gas and can often have only one family car. The spouse who shops can do that after her soldier gets home from work in the evening without having to go very far or take too much time to do it. Prices in the commissaries are much better for some products than in the civilian world and enable the family to stretch their food dollars. A gallon of milk at our local chain store today is $4.50, but only costs_____at the commissary. Cheap cuts of chicken, a staple for struggling families, can be picked up at the commissary for less than $1.00 per pound. The least expensive cuts at our local store are $1.99 per pound. In an article for CNN money a military wife describes what the commissary closures would do to her household budget. 'The savings are substantial for Hogan -- her regular food tab at the military grocery store runs between $390 and $400. If she were to shop for the same items at Ray's Apple Market, an off-base grocery store about a half-hour away, her bill runs as high as $700, even with a military discount.' (Liberto, Dec 2013). For this military family, an increase in the family budget of such a large amount would be devastating.

'Besides commissaries, there are other proposed cuts that could really hit the pockets of young military families. They include capping military pay raises at 1% and trimming housing subsidies for military families who don't live on bases.'(Liberto, Dec 2013). Even now, the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) isn't enough to completely cover housing expenses for families that live off of the military base, especially for the lower enlisted. The current BAH rate for an E-5 at Ft. Leonard Wood who has dependents is $963.00 per month. (table) To find a decent house or apartment in the St. Robert area, a family will be paying at least $800.00 per month. Add to that the cost of electric, water, sewer, trash and cable; and one can see that the $963.00 rate won't cover it all. The housing monopolies surrounding military bases are also well aware of the BAH rates for each area and raise the prices of rent to match or exceed the BAH rate. Since the housing on the installation is not possibly enough for all of the soldiers that are stationed in an area, it is necessary for some of them to be willing to live in the surrounding communities. If they can't afford to live off base, where will we put them all?
Veteran's groups and lobbyists are working to try and preserve these benefits that were promised to our soldiers. On the web site for the American Legion, the commander made this comment concerning the proposed cuts; 'This is yet another undeserved blow to our men and women in service ' and their families ' in the name of 'necessary cutbacks' to reduce an ungainly national deficit. Like the trimming of expenses to be made by reducing military retirees' pensions, this is an inexcusable way of attempting to fix a fault by penalizing the blameless.''(Altman, Feb 2014). In March, The National Commander for the American Legion, Daniel M. Dellinger, addressed the U.S. Congress on behalf of the increasing number of retired military personnel. The American Legion organization is lobbying at the forefront to try to prevent further cuts to the entitlements for the retirees. In his address to congress, he stated, 'We have listened to the needs and expectations of those who served, and of their families. We know that today's veterans want education, employment, adequate housing, timely benefits and decent health care. Not only were such benefits promised from the day they enlisted, they are a small price for our nation to pay for the freedom and safety we enjoy.'(Roberts, Mar 2014).
I believe that changing the benefits that soldiers are receiving will not only impact the personnel who are already serving, but could ultimately have a detrimental effect on the quality and educational level of a soldier that signs up for military service in the future. We will be scraping the bottom of the barrel when we try to find military personnel to enlist. Those who do sign up will stay for a few years, and then get out making better money and benefits elsewhere. In short, cutting the military budget at the expense of the family is a poor way to solve the deficit crisis. Many alternatives could be found that would cut some of the overhead 'fat' instead and leave the struggling lower class families alone. This was well stated by Eric B. Schnurer, president of Public Works LLC in his article for the Defense One news site; 'Fortunately, there are ways to cut defense spending without hurting military capabilities. Besides maintaining its war-fighting capability, DoD, like any entity, maintains a back-office bureaucracy to oversee its business functions. That overhead accounts for roughly 40 percent of its budget. The largest domestic programs'Social Security and Medicare'get by with costs in the single-digits' Cutting Pentagon overhead to the average would save roughly $80 billion a year.'(Schnurer, Nov 2013). I agree with his assessment and think that this is the best solution to the budget crisis as it relates to military spending. Since this seems to be the logical solution, it is highly unlikely to me that it will be the solution that congress adopts.

References
Altman, H. (2014, February 02). Macdill families fear commissary closings. The Tampa Tribune.
Retrieved from http://tbo.com/list/military-news/macdill-families-fear-commissary- closings- 20140202/.
Liberto, J. (2013, December 16). My grocery bill will skyrocket if military stores close. Retrieved
from http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/13/news/economy/military-grocery-stores/
Roberts, C. (2014, March 26). Commander to Congress: Prepare for huge wave of veterans. The
American Legion. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://www.legion.org/washingtonconference/220584/commander-congress-prepare-huge-wave-veterans
Schnurer, E. (2013, November 8). How to Cut Defense Spending Without Hurting the Military.
Defense One. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.defenseone.com/management/2013/11/how-cut-defense-spending-without-hurting-military/73550/?oref=search_How to Cut Defense Spending Without Hurting the Military
Tilghman, A. (2014, March 04). 2015 budget released: How the cuts affect pay, bah, per diem
and tricare. Military Times. Retrieved from http://www.militarytimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014303040021

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