Military Personnel: DOD Needs More Complete Data on Active-Duty Servicemembers’ Use of Food Assistance Programs

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-16-561, Published: July 15, 2016

From the summary:
Active-duty servicemembers and their families have access to food assistance through various government and charitable programs, but use of these programs varies, in part, on their ability to meet specific eligibility criteria. In an April 2010 report, GAO identified 18 government programs that provide food assistance to low-income households. Servicemembers may apply for and, if they qualify, receive benefits from any of these programs. However, servicemembers’ eligibility for these programs can vary by program and location. …. DOD has data on the number of servicemembers’ children receiving free and reduced-price school meals at DOD Education Activity (DODEA) schools in the United States. For example, DODEA data for September 2015 showed that 24 percent of children in DODEA schools in the continental U.S. were eligible for free meals and 21 percent were eligible for reduced-price meals. ….

…. According to the Defense Commissary Agency, servicemembers on active duty spent over $21 million in SNAP benefits at commissaries from September 2014 through August 2015. This suggests that people serving our country may be having difficulty making ends meet. House Report 114-102 includes a provision that GAO review food assistance programs available to servicemembers. This report assesses, among other things, the extent to which (1) active-duty servicemembers and their families have access to food assistance programs and any variations in eligibility for these programs, and (2) DOD has identified the servicemembers’ use of these programs. GAO reviewed information on government and charitable food assistance programs and policies. GAO also interviewed DOD and service officials at four installations that were selected based on size, cost of living, and presence of food assistance programs. …..