Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, held a video press conference to discuss her priorities to improve the quality of life of both members of the military and military families outlined in the draft FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
“As chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, I have the unique responsibility of advocating for the health, safety, and morale of our service members and their families, who make incredible sacrifices to serve our country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our military families are often asked to uproot their lives, leaving their communities and support systems behind. These moves require children to acclimate to new schools, spouses to find new jobs, and families to adjust to new doctors and child care challenges. The draft FY2023 NDAA includes several of my priorities to meet these unique challenges and is an important victory for our nation’s military families.”
Senator Gillibrand’s priorities outlined in the draft FY2023 NDAA:
Pay raise for service members: This provision would authorize necessary funding to give a 4.6% raise to service members and the Department of Defense’s civilian workforce.
Food access: This provision would reduce hunger in the military by increasing the eligibility threshold to participate in the Basic Needs Allowance program from 130% of the federal poverty line to 150%. This change will help service members and their families afford basic household items and keep food on the table. When appropriate, this provision also authorizes the Service Secretaries to increase this benefit to 200% of the poverty line. Senator Gillibrand co-led a letter to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) asking for its inclusion in the final NDAA bill.
Health care wait times: Today, many military families are forced to wait several months after moving duty stations to receive referrals from their new primary care manager for specialists to treat lifelong, previously diagnosed illnesses. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would allow TRICARE Prime beneficiaries to receive specialist referrals from their current duty station in advance of a permanent change of station move. With this change, military families will have the ability to immediately seek out a specialist at their new duty station, which will help remove barriers to care and make the transition to a new duty station more seamless.
Affordable child care: After meeting with service members and their families across the state to discuss child care needs, Senator Gillibrand is championing a pilot program to reimburse travel expenses for child care providers designated by the service member if child care is not available at a military child development center at a family’s new duty station within 30 days. This will allow service members to bring a parent, family member, or close friend with them to a new duty station to help care for their children while waiting for a child care slot to become available. Gillibrand also supports the inclusion of a provision to help expand capacity at military child development centers.
Mental health resources: This provision would mandate that DoD submit a report on shortfalls in its behavioral health workforce, while also directing that a plan of action be developed to recruit and retain more qualified providers.
Ride-share pilot program: Gillibrand is pushing for the creation of a ridesharing pilot program on remote military installations to provide safe and affordable transportation for service members in hard-to-reach areas.