SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — U.S. military officials say this year could be one of the most challenging for recruitment in almost 50 years. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are now pushing to improve quality of life for service members and their families.
A survey from Blue Star Families, a nonprofit by and for military families, shows more than a quarter of active service members say family mental and physical health is a top concern of theirs among pay and other benefits.
“Military families are dealing with additional challenges that people probably don’t ever think come along with military life,” said Karly Howell, a senior research manager for the nonprofit.
Some of those challenges, Howell explained, include frequently moving, food insecurity, access to mental health care and overall financial stability.
“Military families are financially stressed,” Howell said. “Forty-eight percent of them just last year alone responded to our survey and said that their current financial situation causes them some or a great deal of stress.”
A bipartisan push in the Senate, led by Sen. Jon Ossoff, aims to help military families financially by raising service members’ salaries by 4.6%.
The senator is also pushing to strengthen healthcare services for mothers in the military. Women make up about one-fifth of each branch, according to the latest data from the federal government. Studies show female service member struggle with family-building challenges at a higher rate than men.
“Military moms sometimes have a really rough go of it,” Ossoff said. “They might find themselves deployed shortly after they deliver a child. We want to make sure that military moms have the access to care, especially the mental health care services, that they need before, during and after childbirth.”
In April, the Army added 12 new policies aimed to help soldier-moms better support their children and transition back to service after giving birth.
The senator said he believes military mothers deserve the support of the nation they defend.
“We do see a higher rate of postpartum depression in military moms than the rest of the population,” Ossoff said. “Military families are under so much stress. Often times a military mom after delivering a child might have to move from the barracks to housing off-post. That’s a stressful process, the cost of housing is high.”
Ossoff said both issues will be looked at in the fall and, if passed, would take effect in the next fiscal year.