Thursday, May 15, 2008

Armed Forces Day, armed with food stamps

"A Tradition of Heroes"
Armed Forces Day History

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.

In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman "praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas" and said, "it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace." In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated:

Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America's defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.

The theme of the first Armed Forces Day was "Teamed for Defense." It was chosen as a means of expressing the unification of all the military forces under a single department of the government. Although this was the theme for the day, there were several other purposes for holding Armed Forces Day. It was a type of "educational program for civilians," one in which there would be an increased awareness of the Armed Forces. It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life. It was a day for the military to show "state-of-the-art" equipment to the civilian population they were protecting. And it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.

According to a New York Times article published on May 17, 1952: "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won't be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty."

While the neglect from the DOD and the VA for medical treatment has been on the front pages of most newspapers, these are not the only issues our Armed Forces have to deal with that they should never, ever have to deal with at all.

Did we live up to it when they had to go on food stamps?

President Bush last term and President Clinton's first term
As Military Pay Slips Behind, Poverty Invades the Ranks

Published: June 12, 1994
Like other airmen at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, 21-year-old Jason Edwards worries about tensions far away in North Korea that could erupt into fighting and involve his supply base.

But Airman Edwards has more immediate concerns, too. He is worried about how to feed his 22-year-old wife, Beth, and their two small children on his total pay and allowances of $1,330 a month. In desperation, the Edwardses last month began drawing $228 a month in food stamps to get by.

"It's a very tight squeeze for us," Mrs. Edwards said. "We haven't bought any steaks since we've been here, and whenever I want to cook something with ham, I substitute Spam for it."

In a trend that has senior Pentagon officials deeply troubled, an increasing number of military families are turning to food stamps to make ends meet. Three-quarters of America's enlisted forces earn less than $30,000 a year, and the gap between civilian and military wages is growing.

To be sure, no one ever joined the military to get rich. But neither did they expect to have to go on welfare. Military officials worry that a growing demand for food stamps and other Government assistance may signal larger personnel problems in a culture that preaches self-reliance and self-discipline.

The overall number of military personnel on food stamps is small and difficult to measure because the Government does not track military recipients.

But a 1992 survey by the Defense and Agriculture Departments found that about 3 percent of the 1.7 million service members qualified for food stamps and that 1 percent, or about 17,000 people, received them monthly. The Agriculture Department manages the food stamp program.

The Defense Department said the total value of food stamps redeemed at military commissaries increased to $27.4 million last year from $24.5 million in 1992. That amount included those redeemed by retired military recipients. Food donation centers are bustling at bases from Hawaii to Florida.

President Bush's first term
The Odd Warfare State

By Barbara Ehrenreich, The Progressive. Posted April 5, 2004.

Frontline battle troops earn less than $16,000 a year. So when the Bush administration hurts the working poor, you can count the troops among them.

Here's one way our President proposes to "support our troops": According to his 2005 budget, the extra pay our soldiers receive for serving in combat zones -- about $150 a month -- will no longer count against their food stamp eligibility. This budget provision, if approved, should bring true peace of mind to our men and women on the front lines. From now on, they can dodge bullets in Iraq with the happy assurance that their loved ones will not starve as a result of their bravery.

Military families on food stamps? It's not an urban myth. About 25,000 families of servicemen and women are eligible, and this may be an underestimate, since the most recent Defense Department report on the financial condition of the armed forces -- from 1999 -- found that 40 percent of lower-ranking soldiers face "substantial financial difficulties." Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, reports hearing from constituents that the Army now includes applications for food stamps in its orientation packet for new recruits.

President Bush's second term
Storms may have spurred jump in food-stamp use

By Karen Jowers -

A 10-percent spike in food-stamp redemptions at military commissaries is likely a lingering aftereffect of Hurricane Katrina and other storms, commissary officials said.

Across the commissary system, food-stamp redemptions were up by about $2.3 million, to $26.2 million in fiscal 2006 compared to the previous year.

Officials have not definitively verified the causes for the spike, said Defense Commissary Agency spokesman Kevin Robinson, but three stores affected by Hurricane Katrina and other storms accounted for about 83 percent of the increase, at levels that were five or six times the previous year’s redemptions for those stores.

Those commissaries, which usually are not close to the top of the list when it comes to quantities of food stamps, were in the top five of all commissaries. Fort Polk, La., had the highest total of all.

At Fort Polk, where a number of people were evacuated after the storm, the commissary rang up $973,544 worth of food-stamp redemptions in fiscal 2006, five times the previous year’s total of $190,682.

The fiscal years run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30; Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

The New Orleans Naval Air Station store, which is relatively small, redeemed $687,585 worth of food stamps in fiscal 2006, nearly six times its 2005 total of $116,329. It ranked number five among commissaries for food-stamp redemptions in 2006.


Bill to help military families get food stamps

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 8, 2007 12:27:33 EDT

A bipartisan bill supporting the administration’s request to permanently exclude combat-related pay from income calculations for food stamps was introduced in the House on May 3.

“Feeding America’s Families Act of 2007,” a bill introduced by Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., has a provision that would exclude from food-stamp eligibility calculations any additional payment received by a service member as the result of deployment to a designated combat zone, for the duration of the member’s deployment. The additional pay must be the result of deployment to or service in the combat zone.

The proposal likely will be considered as lawmakers craft a new farm bill, which provides spending authority for federal nutrition programs. The current law will expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The administration requested this exclusion in its budget proposal earlier this year, noting that combat pays could reduce a family’s benefits or make them ineligible. “This policy change recognizes this problem and would ensure that military families are not penalized for doing their civic duty,” according to the Department of Agriculture’s farm bill proposal released in January.

The proposal has been a part of the budget for several years and was first enacted in the 2005 Appropriations Act, but it has been handled on a recurring annual basis. The new farm bill proposal would make the annual policy fix permanent, agriculture officials stated.

Most military families are not eligible for food stamps because of their housing allowance, said Joyce Raezer, chief operating officer of the National Military Family Association.

In early 2007, Air Force National Guard Tech. Sgt. Timothy Springer and his wife, Teresa, took out a second mortgage for $30,000 at 10.5 percent interest because they had money problems for a variety of reasons related to Timothy deploying, Teresa losing her job because of medical problems and child care issues, along with costly home repairs. Timothy is home now, but will probably deploy again in May.

The lender valued the Springers’ house over the phone at $132,000, without an appraisal, before giving them the $30,000 second mortgage, Teresa Springer said.

A rate of 10.5 percent is on the high side for a home-equity loan; Navy Federal Credit Union, for example, offers equity loans with fixed rates as low as 6.15 percent. But home equity rates are based largely on an applicant’s credit history; those with shaky finances pay more.

Teresa Springer acknowledged that the interest rate was high. “All we did was delay the inevitable,” she said, by putting off a problem that they knew was looming large for them.

The combination of their primary mortgage and new second mortgage propelled the Springers’ monthly payments from $775 to $1,400.

A few months later, when the Springers had no choice but to put their house on the market, real estate agents told them the house was worth just $59,000 — half of what they owe.

So in addition to the house being in foreclosure, Teresa Springer said, “We’re not going to have any option other than bankruptcy.” That’s on top of a previous bankruptcy as a result of medical bills.


Additional challenges related to housing and homelessness we face here that require the support of NYS include:
The return of servicemen and women from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan- especially those who are members of local National Guard and Reserve units. These vets are beginning to show up in our emergency shelters and our Addictions Crisis Center, and their family members are struggling as well. We have also had incidents with vets suffering from PTSD threatening the public or their family members with weapons. Funding for affordable housing is critical for this group- especially for those who are homeless: we have already asked for your support in this area and we are looking to the VA and HUD for additional support.
Where we need additional help from NYS to support our returning veterans is with upgrading our support service knowledge and skills. Community mental health and other front line human service workers here and elsewhere around the state are currently unequipped to identify, treat, and/or refer veterans’ for care for their mental health and related issues. They need training and technical assistance. Appropriate early intervention is most the effective approach, and will lead to long term cost savings in Medicaid, corrections budgets, hospitals, and other social welfare agencies.
Given the number of soldiers returning to our community with posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other mental health problems, it is critical that we prioritize funding for the training of community mental health providers in the treatment and identification of these disorders. A large proportion of deployed and returning soldiers are National Guard and Reserve who return directly to their communities, families, and jobs, and whose federal VA benefits expire after two years; it is crucial that they can access quality mental health care in the communities where they live, especially in areas like ours that are remote from VA healthcare facilities. Furthermore, adequate training of other frontline workers such as police officers, doctors, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners, and social service staff will assist communities in intervention and prevention of crisis situations involving veterans with PTSD.
By training our human service and healthcare provider workforce in identifying and treating trauma-related disorders up front, we can avoid the long-term costs of ignoring such problems, such as emergency room utilization, incarceration, emergency housing, and intensive inpatient treatment. For the cost of one emergency room stay, or a week of inpatient substance abuse treatment (often paid for by Medicaid), we could train a mental health provider for a lifetime.
We ask for your support to fund a statewide training and education initiative to support community mental health providers and front line human service and law enforcement workers who are currently unequipped to identify, treat, and case-manage veterans’ mental health issues.

They end up homeless for a lot of reasons but the National Guards face the loss of income while deployed.
Please tell me why we still want to talk about supporting them, when clearly we do not? A day to honor them does not come close to really honoring them by taking care of their needs while they take care of us. It is not abandoning them when they come home with wounds and allowing them to have to fight to have those wounds cared for and their financial needs met.

We can do better, so why haven't we? Why did it take so many years of these problems to build up while being ignored at the same time "support the troops" seemed to be all we heard?

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."

- George Washington

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