GULF OF ADEN (Jan. 14, 2015) Sailors stationed aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) man the rails in preparation for an underway replenishment-at-sea with Military Sealift Command USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10). New York, part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Trejo/Released)
In an effort to better understand what programs are used and needed, the Military Family Advisory Network conducted a survey. This survey was just released and it identifies gaps in services offered. The Military Family Support Programming Survey 2014 asked questions about amenities, healthcare, support from nonprofits, MWRs and Family Support Services. Results of the survey show that support is needed in four top areas: family lives, healthcare, spouse employment, and pay and benefits.
Service members are increasingly worried about healthcare. In December, the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act included new charges to TRICARE pharmacy fees. With these new fees, concerns arose that the military’s TRICARE healthcare system in general may start charging fees for services that they currently receive at no cost.
Healthcare is a significant form of compensation for many military families. Increased responsibility for healthcare costs is one of the biggest concerns (exceeded only by concerns over a reduction in retirement benefits and reductions in annual pay increases.) When survey respondents were asked to rate the importance of benefits, three of their top six were related to healthcare:
Basic pay (ranked No. 1 by 34 percent of respondents)
Retirement pay (22 percent)
Dependent healthcare benefits (13 percent)
Healthcare benefits for retirees under 65 years of age (11 percent)
Allowances for housing and subsistence (11 percent)
Healthcare benefits for Medicare-eligible retirees (9 percent)
Now the question is whether Congress will listen to the concerns of our service members and leave their benefits alone when budgets numbers are being crunched.