February 23, 2023
BRUNSWICK, Maine – U.S. Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to prevent food insecurity amongst military families. With 24% of servicemembers struggling to feed themselves or their families, the Military Family Nutrition Access Act would significantly expand food assistance by excluding Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) — military compensation to cover the costs of off-base housing — from income calculations used to determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. This change would ensure SNAP mirrors other federal assistance programs that already exclude BAH.
“It’s simply an unacceptable failure that nearly one in four of America’s military families have to worry about putting food on the table,” said Senator King. “The Military Family Nutrition Access Act is a long overdue effort to reduce military hunger and cut red tape that unfairly penalizes servicemembers for receiving housing support. It’s unjust to ask our Armed Forces to meet readiness standards or be effective warfighters on empty stomachs. These brave men and women make sacrifices every day to protect our nation; ensuring they have essential food and nutrition is the very least we can do.”
“The words military and hunger should never be spoken in conjunction with one another. The fact that such a large portion of our armed forces struggles to have healthy, predictable meals is nothing short of appalling,” said Brittany Dymond, Associate Director of VFW National Security & Foreign Affairs. “The VFW commends these Senators for their bipartisan leadership on this issue by introducing the Military Family Nutrition Access Act. This bill would enable broader access to SNAP benefits for military members and families by exempting Basic Allowance for Housing from counting as income when determining eligibility. No service member, spouse, or child should ever go hungry, and this legislation marks a significant step toward eliminating military food insecurity.”
In July 2022, a study by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) found that at least 24% of active duty military — approximately 286,000 individuals — experience food insecurity. Many of these servicemembers are ineligible for food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) due to a flawed income eligibility formula that penalizes servicemembers who receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to offset the cost of off-base or privatized military housing. BAH is not intended to serve as a supplemental income and is not treated as income by the IRS or when determining eligibility for numerous other federal assistance programs. The Military Family Nutrition Access Act would add SNAP to the long list of programs that exclude BAH to determine eligibility. A one-pager on the bill can be found here.
Along with Senator King, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Fetterman (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
Representing one of the states with the highest rates of veterans per capita, Senator King has been a staunch advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. Earlier this month, King introduced legislation to help military spouses build successful careers while their family members serve the country, and in last year’s NDAA, he helped secure a basic needs allowance for servicemembers below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines to assist them with affording basic necessities, particularly food. King has also been among the Senate’s most prominent voices on the need to address veteran and servicemember suicide, and has repeatedly pressed for action from top Department of Defense officials on this issue. Additionally, he spearheaded the passage of legislation to better track and study servicemember suicides by job assignment.