Washington Examiner: Less than half of those polled in an annual survey of troops, veterans and military families would encourage their children to join the military, according to a report released Thursday.
The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey polled almost 6,300 people earlier this year to find the biggest issues facing military families. Between increasing uncertainty about benefits, expensive moves and difficulty finding employment for spouses and vets, only 45 percent of respondents said they would recommend military service to their own child.
“Military families are increasingly doubting if they’d like to wish this same life on their children,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It’s an awareness of how hard it can be.” A higher number — 57 percent — would recommend military service to a young person close to them who is not their own child.
Brad Carson, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said this statistic is especially troubling given that more than 80 percent of those who join today have a family member who served. “One of the most concerning things is this is a family business we’re in, increasingly so,” he said, noting that the poll results will make a difficult recruiting environment even worse.
Military spouses, current service members and veterans all listed military benefits and retirement reform as the top two most concerning issues, according the report. More than 40 percent said “uncertainty in military life” was the top obstacle to their families feeling financially stable.
There was also a lack of trust between those polled and the government, as nearly half said they do not feel confident they will get the benefits they were promised upon their retirement.
Carson promised to communicate better with troops and families to keep them up-to-date and make sure they understand why and how their benefits will change under new laws. “We have made some significant changes to retirement. These are not changes always understood by even the most financially literate people,” Carson acknowledged.
The military is transitioning to a 401k-like retirement system, which will enable the majority of troops who do not serve 20 years to leave service with some retirement benefits. The new system will enable those who join in 2018 or later to pay into a retirement account with government matching. Those who are already retired or currently serving will be grandfathered into the old system, something Carson acknowledges all troops and their families may not understand.
The high number of moves and the expense of moving that military families experience also plays a role in dissatisfaction with military life. Nearly three-quarters of families said they incurred “unexpected expenses” as a result of the military lifestyle, and 60 percent have moved three or more times within the continental U.S., the report found.
A high operational tempo also places strains on relationships with spouses and children, the report said. Sixty percent of service members spent more than a year deployed since Sept. 11. Half said families said their children experienced “moderate or greater worry” as a result of a parent’s deployment, and 21 percent experienced “relationship” challenges in just the past year because of worry about future deployments.
In addition to these struggles, the majority of troops and families who were polled don’t feel as if the country appreciates what they go through. Ninety percent of respondents feel the general public doesn’t really understand the sacrifices made by service members and their families, the report found.