Military families are losing an average of $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses each time they move, according to survey data just released by a national nonprofit organization.
That includes an average of $1,913 in moving expenses that aren’t reimbursed by the military, and an average of $2,920 over and above claims paid for loss and damage to their belongings, according to the Military Family Advisory Network survey data released Tuesday. More than two-thirds of those who moved to a new duty station within the past three years experienced loss or damage in their most recent move.
The survey was conducted online in the fall of 2019, and highlights a number of pain points that military families experienced well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 8,000 people responded to the online survey, and 42 percent of them were active duty members and spouses; 32 percent were veterans and spouses; and 20 percent were retirees and spouses.
MFAN researchers recommend that military officials provide more information to families about the actual cost of moving and what they can do to prepare; improve the reimbursement process; compensate service members fairly for loss and damage. And as U.S. Transportation Command shifts to putting the management of military moves into hands of a private company, officials should incorporate oversight, transparency and performance metrics that recognize families’ experiences during their moves, researchers said.
One change TRANSCOM officials have made this year gives service members more time to submit a claim for loss and/or damage.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating many issues for military families, such as problems with food insecurity, debt, lack of adequate emergency savings, difficulty getting medical appointments, spouse employment, and isolation, said Shelley Kimball, MFAN’s senior director of research and program evaluation.
An MFAN survey released in February, 2019 was key in bringing to lawmakers’ attention the serious conditions of mold, vermin, water leaks and other problems in some privatized housing. But this current survey, conducted some nine months later to revisit the issues of privatized housing, as defense and service officials were digging in to the root problems of housing, found that of those living in privatized military housing, 72 percent said they hadn’t seen a change. Repairs were still needed, or they still felt they were being treated unfairly, and their concerns weren’t being heard.
Another 19 percent said things were better, and 8 percent said things were worse. Those in the ranks of E1 to E3 reported the highest negative perceptions of the condition of their homes, with 36 percent describing their satisfaction with the condition of their home as being“very negative.”
Legislation was passed at the end of 2019 to address the problems, including requiring a tenant bill of rights. That bill of rights has been partially implemented.
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