It could be the most important 15 minutes you spend this week.
Every year, the Blue Star Family organization invites military families to complete a Military Family Lifestyle Survey. Sure, I know military families are invited to do tons of surveys, and we often ignore them, but this one is different. The BSF survey is “the leading resource for policy makers, corporations and nonprofits to understand the issues military families face.” The survey results shape how organizations will fund military family programs next year. If you need more childcare resources on your base or help with employment options, then this is your chance to speak up and be heard.
In the military community, we are all too familiar with the expression “use it or lose it” when it comes to government funding. When military families don’t use certain programs or funds, then those items are often discontinued in future budget bills. Every year, military family funding is a constant topic of debate in the federal budget. Something is always threatened to be cut. The Military Family Lifestyle Survey tells the DoD which programs military families are using the most and where budget changes can make the biggest impact. Your input can influence next year’s budget for numerous programs!
The survey is open until May 19. Click here to take the important survey.
The survey’s main findings from 2016 demonstrate the importance of supporting military families:
- Service member’s families play important roles in their decision to join or remain in the military.
- Service members are less likely to recommend military service to their own children than to other people. (This is important since a majority of veterans come from military families where at least one parent served.)
- Retirement, health care, and job security benefits were the main reasons service members listed for staying in the military.
- Most military families feel that military pay and compensation is not comparable to civilian jobs.
- Deployment tempos continue at high levels and are concerning to military families.
- Service members are increasingly worried about the impact of deployment on their children.
There is an entire document listing and explaining the findings every year, but I pulled out the highlights from each section to show you how the information is important and relevant for budget discussions. If we demonstrate that service members are joining and remaining in the military because of family programs, then Congress has a reason to keep those programs. If we show the public that troops are still deploying and the wars haven’t ended, then organizations will continue to support military families.
9 reasons active duty military should complete the Military Family Lifestyle Survey
Still not convinced that the survey is worth your time? Then here are nine additional reasons why active duty service members should take the survey today:
- You could win a $100 gift card! There will be 5 gift cards randomly awarded to those who complete the survey. Chances of winning are estimated to be 1 in 1,600.
- It’s confidential. Your survey results are not connected to your name or contact info and won’t be related to any chain of command. It is like filling out an anonymous ICE report. You can also select “prefer not to answer” for any question where you are unsure or uncomfortable.
- Voice your opinion about changes in retirement pay, benefits, training time, PTSD support, and military spouse employment issues. The survey asks which topics are most important to you and what have been some of the most challenging aspects of military life. Organizations who want to help military families are listening for you opinion!
- More active duty voices are needed. Blue Star Families reports that many people who complete the survey are military spouses. Their input is valuable, but it doesn’t give a complete picture. I couldn’t answer some questions about my husband’s motivation for joining or remaining in the military. I also couldn’t accurately report on his level of satisfaction with certain programs. I know how they have affected myself and our military children, but the most accurate results will come when more active duty members complete the survey.
- Let the DoD know if you are a LGBT family. The survey has optional questions about couples who are lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender. These groups have been left out of many surveys in the past. If you want your voice to be heard, speak up and let the DoD know that you exist.
- Rate the military life issues that represent your greatest concerns. In 2016, service members said their top concerns were Military Pay/Benefits (61%), Changes in Retirement Benefits (41%), Family Stability/Quality of Life, Impact of Deployment on Kids (32%), and Optempo/Deployments/Training (32%). Numerous non-profit organizations use this info to plan their activities for military families. If you think something isn’t working, then speak up! There may be an organization that wants to help solve that same problem.
- Demonstrate the truth about operation tempo and separations. Even with the draw down of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, military families are still experiencing higher levels of deployments and separations than in the pre-9/11 military. On last year’s survey, only 16% of active duty families responding reported that the service member was currently deployed. But 42% of respondents noted that their family had experienced at least 6 months of separation in the past 18 months. The DoD uses this info to help teach the public about the reality of military life. Many people think ‘the war’ has ended. These survey results will demonstrate that military families are still serving and sacrificing.
- Share unemployment challenges for military spouses. Because of deployments and frequent PCS moves, many military spouses struggle to maintain employment. The survey asks about spouse education levels and whether or not they are seeking employment. Last year’s survey demonstrated that among spouses seeking jobs, 21% were unemployed. This is significantly higher than civilian unemployment rates. Knowing this, Blue Star Families can focus on job resources that military spouses need.
- Show your involvement with your local community. The survey asks questions about your interaction with off-base communities, including volunteering and attending local events. The answers will help Blue Star Families evaluate the way that military families feel supported by their local communities. It can also demonstrate the value that military families add to their off-base neighborhoods. In the past, the survey has demonstrated the huge gap between military families and civilians off-base.
Finally convinced? Good, do the right thing…Take the survey here. Blue Star Families and military families across the country appreciate your input and your time. Thank you!
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