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Rolla Daily News (Op-Ed): U.S. Sen Roy Blunt: The Military Family Stability Act: Enhancing Flexibility to Meet the Needs of Families

November 05, 2015

From every deployment to every move and every missed birthday in between, our military men and women shoulder a tremendous burden - but they don’t do it alone. The strength of our military lies in the unwavering support our service members receive from their spouses and families. To honor their sacrifice, we must do everything in our power to help address the challenges they face. That is the goal of the Military Family Stability Act.

The Military Family Stability Act, which I recently introduced with my colleague Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, addresses a problem I consistently hear from military spouses in Missouri and across the nation: an ill-timed move that takes a child out of school, or prevents a husband or wife from pursuing an educational or career opportunity.

For many military families, the cost of maintaining two residences to allow a spouse or child to finish a school year or complete a job is simply unfeasible. To increase stability for military families, the measure provides housing for the family to either move early or remain at their current duty station for up to six months while their husband or wife begins a new assignment. For Mia Reisweber, an educator and doctoral student from St. Louis, that would make all the difference.

When Mia’s husband received orders to transfer from Hawaii to Missouri, she sought an early release from Hawaii to begin her PhD program on time. She was told it would be easier and faster for her to change locations due to a divorce, rather than for a doctoral program, because there is a process for a divorce. Mia had to move to Missouri at her own expense, while her husband “couch surfed” for three months until he could join her. That is unacceptable.

According to a study by the Military Officers Association of America, 90 percent of military spouses – more than 600,000 men and women – are unemployed or underemployed. More than half cite concerns about their spouse’s service as a deterrent for prospective employers. Not only is that unfair to our military families, it is a substantial loss of talent for our economy and our local communities.

Frequent and abrupt relocations also take a heavy toll on the more than two million children of U.S. service members. Research shows that students who move at least six times between the first and twelfth grades are 35 percent more likely to fail a grade. The average military family will move six to nine times throughout a child’s time in school, three times more than a non-military family. The added flexibility the Military Family Stability Act provides will “undoubtedly assist in mitigating academic and social-emotional risks due to high mobility and transition of our military-connected children,” says the Military Child Education Coalition.

Not every family will seek the benefits provided under the bill, but for those that do, it is a small price to pay relative to the costs they bear throughout their military careers. In a constrained fiscal environment, every taxpayer dollar we spend must be directed toward our highest priorities. Providing more stability and enhancing the quality of life for military families meets that standard, and will help us retain the best, most well-trained Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard men and women.

The Military Family Stability Act has garnered overwhelming support from major Veteran Service and Military Family Organizations, including the National Military Family Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the Military Child Education Coalition, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Blue Star Families, the National Guard Association, and the Veterans Support Foundation. And, it enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate. After more than a decade of active military engagements across the globe, our troops have had to evolve and adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century landscape. The policies affecting their families – the backbone of our military strength – should be no different.

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