Erika Tebbens remembers her early years as a Navy wife, struggling to make ends meet at a new duty station near pricey Seattle.
College educated but unable to find a full-time job in her field, she settled into work as a part-time bank teller and, when she became pregnant, began worrying how the family would make ends meet.
"A civilian co-worker of mine informed me we would probably qualify for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. ... I was honestly shocked. I did not think that any military family in our country would [need to] apply for any type of government assistance," she said.
Tebbens and her new baby qualified for WIC. But later, unable to afford child care, the couple decided she would reduce her hours to one day a week so they could swap parental duties. With bills mounting, she applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, but was denied.
Tebbens is one of several advocates pushing to help military families in financial straits, supporting a proposed bill that would furnish a basic needs allowance for service members whose gross household income does not exceed 130% of the federal poverty guidelines.
At the end of 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provision waiver that extends food stamps benefits to single, able-bodied adults without dependents for more than three months will expire. This particular provision waiver kicked off in 2008 as a result of the worsening economy and high unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate has dropped and federal government spending has increased, Congress has started eyeing the waiver’s end as a way to save money. However, according to one policy group, this could affect an estimated 60,000 jobless veterans and cause them to lose their benefits, putting them at the mercy of food banks or risking food shortages. But, like most things that affect the military and veterans’ communities, this issue isn’t as clear cut as it seems.