The Budget is a Game of ‘Survivor’ for Military Families

Spouse Summit 2014 3“Why are we cannibalizing ourselves?”

As I looked around the table at’s Spouse Summit, I found myself in a heated discussion with eight courageous, committed spouses, including a Military Spouse of the Year who cares for her husband who has a traumatic brain injury, a woman who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and another one who created an online blogging community for military spouses.

Our mission was simple – or was it? Rank 15 military family benefits from most important to least, cutting the 5 that we deem least important altogether.

My table was all women whose spouses have 6-10 years of service. The caregiver spouse voiced her desperation to keep non-medical counseling and other family service programs that have helped to guide her family. Some were ready to cut the Post-9/11 GI Bill for spouses and kids, while others thought it was more important than Basic Housing Allowance (BAH).

spouse summit 2014 2Across the room, a senior spouse questioned our desire to help pay for our kids’ college education, “How many of us paid for college ourselves?”

Most people raised their hands.

Though every cut hurts, it’s the slash after slash that leaves us bleeding. Whether I prioritize Commissary benefits over guaranteed pay raises or retirement benefits… it all comes out of the same place: our pockets.

“Why aren’t other government agencies doing this same thing? Having this same discussion?”

Are employees of the Treasury or the Federal Trade Commission having roundtable discussions about what benefits they’re willing to sacrifice to balancing the budget? Are they facing cuts at all?

Why does it feel like we’re on an island all alone, left to ration what little we have left? Why are we always putting ourselves on the chopping block?

What benefits do you think are most important? Share them with us in the comments or go a step farther – write to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) and tell them your story!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Online Engagement Manager


Add yours
  1. 1

    Ugh, I hate that question – what’s the most important benefits to your family? It’s an answer given at that exact moment in time which could change in a split second. What’s important to me isn’t important to you, but it certainly doesn’t make your list less valuable. Let’s stop asking that question.

  2. 3

    My question is why are we playing this game in the first place? Whenever we’re asked to chose between benefits we should turn the question on its head. Why should we have to choose at all? If the person asking says that there isn’t enough money anymore, I would ask them why can’t the best military in the world afford to support their active duty members and their families while providing quality training and equipment. I refuse to play the game by their rules anymore.

  3. 4

    We first must remember why service members serve… the people I know serve because they feel as if they were called to do so or they want to give back to their country. They don’t serve for great discounts at the commissary, or they don’t serve for free health care. The nation as a whole has to cut waste and this does include the military. I think it’s important to ask the question which benefits matter the most; I don’t think we should assume we (the military community) are entitled to all the great benefits we may have now. It’s a hard question to address and everyone will have a different list but it’s important to talk about. Bravo for and the summit to take on the hard issues.

  4. 6
    D. Gallagher

    We are fast on our way to becoming an “ordinary” military, not the best in the world. The reason we got there in the first place was our country’s commitment to “back up” our soldiers at home if they promised to train hard, offer their lives, sacrifice personal time with family in return. Because of that, great men and women worked hard, reenlisted and made the military their calling and career. Take away the incentive to join (college money), stay and train new members ( housing allowance, commissary, heath care) and become the military’s highest trained leaders for a full career (retirement benefits)- Our military will be a joke in less than a generation. Our leaders know all this and yet the disproportioned cuts on the military continue… Why? Do they actually want a weak military? To what end? I don’t know the answers, but the questions should be asked.

  5. 8

    I want to know why it has to be the soldiers and their families that feel the cuts. Why isn’t it the huge payouts to contractors for equipment that will never get used, because some politician’s daddy owns Acme Equipment Company, feeling these cuts or asking themselves these questions?

  6. 9

    Budgetary problems in this country are severe. We spend 1/3 of our national budget on the military, and it’s absolutely absurd. In order to balance the budget and cut the deficit we need to make large cuts to the military budget, not just cutting back on a few benefits. For starters, let’s make military families pay more for their health insurance. In the civilian world they have co-pays, monthly premiums, etc. I think we’ve been spoiled, frankly. And the Commissary, what a joke. Go shop at Walmart. If we don’t d start making serious cuts to the bottom line (I.e. further reductions in the number of troops) all of our benefits will have to go.

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