New Military Family Readiness Legislation Can Help Military Families

military family readiness

Two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel released their latest proposal on military family readiness on April 2, 2020.

New Military Family Readiness Legislation Proposed

Rep Thornberry stated that “Family readiness is a major component of military readiness. Servicemembers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their next duty station can support the medical needs of their family or whether they will be able to afford safe, reliable childcare. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of these daily challenges. This effort is an extension of the bipartisan family readiness reforms the House Armed Services Committee has championed in the past, including a new blended retirement system, reforms to the military healthcare system, and repeated reforms of the widow’s tax.”

Rep Kelly added that “Military Family Readiness has been a focal point of my tenure during the 116th Congress. I am proud to co-sponsor a proposal that will address many areas that have been highlighted in recent months, including  the Exceptional Family Member Program, behavioral health, opioid abuse and child care .”

So what will this proposal entail? Here is more information:

Defining, Communicating, and Measuring Family Readiness

Right now, “family readiness” is open to interpretation. This proposal would require the DoD to establish a common definition of “family readiness” to ensure the standardization of services and assistance. Wouldn’t it be nice if no matter where you were stationed, you knew you could receive the same services? The DoD would also need to report to Congress, and the Services would need to communicate better with military families. The DoD would need to also develop a bi-annual survey that would measure the effectiveness of elements including communication, education, spousal employment, and TRICARE.

EFMP – Exceptional Family Member Program

EFMP (the Exceptional Family Member Program) hasn’t always provided what military families have needed. This proposal would standardize the process for identifying and enrolling, it will enhance the respite care benefits, establish outcome measures, and improve the screening process for evaluation of duty stations that can support EMFP enrollees. It will also improve the PCS process and establish and consolidate case management functions at both the Service and installation level. This would be a huge plus for military families with special needs children and spouses.

Childcare

This proposal will require 24-hour childcare at certain locations where alternate shift workers are concentrated. It will also measure the DoD’s new childcare priority system and a study will be required that will evaluate the childcare stipend that is provided by the DoD. The 24-hour childcare is a big need for some military families.

Education

A report will be required that assesses the teaching of health, resiliency, and nutrition in DoDEA schools and evaluate the transferability of Advanced Placement credit.

Spousal Employment

The proposal will require the DoD to establish a pilot program with the Defence Counterintelligence and Security Agency to recruit military spouses into a paid internship pilot program to help prepare the spouse for a position within the national security field. This would be a good move to help military spouses find employment, even during military life.

There are also sections of the proposal having to do with the Autism Demonstration Project, the report on behavioral health staffing, and the policy to address Opioid abuse.

Right now, lawmakers are of course focusing on the military response to Coranavirus but family readiness shouldn’t be ignored because of that. You can read more about the legislation here. This is expected to be included in the annual defense authorization bill that will be debated later this spring.

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.