By Thomas Phippen
Proposed legislation would make it easier for military families to qualify for food stamps by not counting housing as income, California Democratic Rep. Susan Davis announced Thursday.
Current rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, consider Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) — stipends available for those service members who live off base — as income when determining eligibility for federal food assistance.
Davis’s bill would exclude a military service member’s housing allowance the “calculation of income, assets, or resources” in determining eligibility for food stamps.
“Those who make great personal sacrifices in service to our country should not have to struggle to provide regular, nutritious meals to their families,” Davis, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said, according to a press release.
“Unfortunately, an unintended policy barrier prevents military families struggling with food insecurity from getting help from available federal nutrition assistance programs.”
BAH is based on location, pay grade and the number of dependents a service member has, and it is intended to provide housing commensurate with what a member of the military would receive on base, according to Military.com.
While around 7 percent of active duty military families reported difficulty providing food for their household in a 2015 study, only 2.4 percent turned to SNAP.
The food stamps program “puts some military families at an unfair disadvantage and disqualifies them from receiving vital food assistance,” Abby Leibman, president of Los Angeles, Calif.-based advocacy group MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, told a hearing of House Committee on Agriculture in January.
“Barriers to access of government safety net programs have left tens of thousands of military families struggling to put nutritious food on the table, turning for emergency assistance to food pantries on or near the military base,” Leibman said in Davis’ press release Thursday.