After meeting with military families facing food insecurity last year, Senator Gillibrand called on the Department of Defense (DoD) to reassess eligibility calculations for the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) and to accelerate the implementation of the expansion of eligibility for the BNA program to service members earning up to 150% of the federal poverty line, up from the current 130%. Today, she secured a commitment from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to expand eligibility up to six months early. This expansion will help ensure that service members have the necessary income to afford basic household items and keep food on the table.
Read the full text of Senator Gillibrand and Lloyd Austin’s conversation below or watch here.
GILLIBRAND: DoD’s own surveys show that 24% of our service members experience food insecurity. Last year, I met with military families on Staten Island who spoke about the challenges they face in basically putting food on the table to feed their kids. However, very few service members are considered eligible for Basic Needs Allowance, or the BNA, under existing BNA programs, since BAH is included in family income calculations.
Can you tell me how you intend to ensure that food insecurity in military families have access to the BNA or other measures?
SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN: Well, we’ll have the authority next year to move to a higher number, a higher percentage – 150 percent. We’ll actually move before we’re required to move. We plan to move in July. That will allow us to help more families. But you’ve seen us, with your support senator, you’ve seen us ask for a pay raise last year of 4.6 percent. You’ve seen us raise BAH amounts, and you’ve seen us work to get child care costs down. So we’re trying to increase the resources and reduce the strain on families, and hopefully that total equation will create benefits for our families and our troops.
GILLIBRAND: But will you consider removing BAH from the calculation for BNA?
AUSTIN: We will do whatever feasible or what we’re allowed to do by law.