Congress looks to address food insecurity concerns among veterans
As we celebrate Veterans Day today, it is an important opportunity to recognize the challenges that many of the men and women who have served our country face.
The House Ag Committee looks to address hunger challenges.
There are 1.2 million American veterans enrolled in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Program, but for some, there is still food insecurity.
“Unfortunately, I can tell you firsthand that when you have gone a couple of days without food, your whole being cries out for the desperation-- I can’t explain it. You can’t sleep, as tired as you are. You can’t do anything but think about it and try to get food,” U.S. Navy veteran Tim Keefe states.
He turned to SNAP after a severe hand injury left him unable to work, but the program failed him.
“With no income or address, by that time I became homeless. I applied for SNAP benefits and received $194 dollars worth of food. This was crucial. However, because of work restrictions, I was cut off after three months. I brought all my paperwork to SNAP and the declaration by the Department of Labor that I was medically unable to work. I was told that this did not qualify me for disabled status in which the work restriction would be waived.”
He was eventually able to get back onto SNAP when he turned 50, which he says allowed him to have health and energy to find employment.
For Denise Hollywood with Blue Star Families creating more financial resilience and access to SNAP, while enlisted, can help prevent hunger as military members transition to civilian life.
“We encourage you to amend section 403K, title 37 of the United States Code to exclude the basic allowance for housing, BH, from being counted as income when calculating eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, and other federal nutrition assistance benefits, including BH and the evaluation of SNAP eligibility, creates an artificial and unnecessary barrier for military families,” Hollywood explains.
Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon, who served 30 years in the Air Force, pressed back on that idea and suggested, instead, that if service members can not afford food that it is time to reevaluate salaries.
“I’ve had one of the command chiefs of one of the services visit with me recently, and he told me that the pay for our junior enlisted really hasn’t been reviewed in decades,” he states. “So, what we’ve seen is like every year you get a cost of living increase, but when do a 3 percent raise, for example, at a lower pay versus the higher grades, that disparity get keeps getting bigger.”
Hollywood also said that better access to child care either on or off base would allow more military spouses to participate in the workforce to support their families financially.