By Lisa Daniel, AFPS, WASHINGTON, May 9, 2012 - Military families regard the possible change of military retirement benefits as their top concern, according to the results of a major survey released today.
The 2012 Military Family Lifestyle Survey also shows that pay and benefits, the impact of deployments on children, operational tempo, spouse employment and education are most on the minds of military family members.
Blue Star Families, [an organization created out of the 2008 Obama Campaign], released the findings of its third annual survey before a Capitol Hill audience of Congress members, military family members and support organizations, and media.
"That data in this survey is the story of our lives," said Kathy Roth-Douquet, the chief executive officer of Blue Star Families. The survey, she said, is conducted by professional researchers who also are military family members.
Among the findings:
-- Thirty-one percent of respondents listed possible changes to retirement benefits as their biggest concern, followed by 20 percent who cited pay and benefits as their top concern; [The Obama Admin has asked Congress to implement charges of up to $2,048/year and $66/prescription to Military Retirees. Additionally, it requested Congress to authorize holding pay increases to COLA for 2 years, and then allowing inflation to erode military pay thereafter.]
-- Veterans said their biggest concerns related to separating from the military were employment opportunities, followed by access to health care; [The Obama Admin was authorized by the previous Pelosi-Reid Congress to cut 49,000 Soldiers from the Army, and 20,000 from the National Guard. It has requested the Current Congress to cut 31,000 MORE Soldiers from the Army and 20,000 Marines, along with an undisclosed number of Airmen and Sailors. This year alone 5,000 to 10,000 Senior NCO's will face boards throwing them out of the Army. Unemployment rates are running at significantly higher rates for Veterans than civilians due to the media campaign that falsely presents Veterans as deranged and dangerous.]
-- Seven percent of respondents listed operational tempo as their top concern, and support for staying in the military dropped from 52 percent for families who were separated 13 to 24 months, to 15 percent for those who spent more than 37 months apart;
-- Sixty percent of spouse respondents are not currently employed, and of those, 53 percent wanted to be; 57 percent said being a military spouse has a negative impact on their ability to work; 27 percent had problems getting professional licenses to transfer to different states;
-- Six percent of respondents listed post-traumatic stress, combat stress and traumatic brain injuries as their top issue; 26 percent said their service member had signs of post-traumatic stress and 3 percent said they had a diagnosis.
Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the department and the nation are challenged by economic problems today, but that both must take care of military families.
Things changed after the Vietnam War, Gordon said.
"We got out of Vietnam and into the all-volunteer force," he said. "Because of that, our force became a married force."
Also, Gordon said, the military now is structured so that "the entire military goes to war." Indeed, the survey found that National Guard and Reserve members have spent as much time away from home in the past decade as active duty members.
Other findings of the survey show:
-- Ninety-two percent of respondents said they could help their children make positive school decisions during a spouse's deployment, but 64 percent said deployment hampered their children's abilities to participate in extracurricular activities;
-- Ten percent of family members responded that they had considered suicide, compared to 9 percent for service members.
-- Fifty-seven percent said prevention should be aimed at training frontline supervisors and commanders;
-- Eighty-one percent volunteered in the past year;
-- Eighty-nine percent are registered to vote;
-- Eighty-two percent believe the all-volunteer force works well;