LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In anticipation of the report and recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to be released January 29th, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national anti-hunger advocacy organization, is again calling on the Department of Defense to significantly reform its Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, a support system for those on active military duty who are unable to provide enough food for themselves and their families. Over the last several months, MAZON has advocated for four major reforms that could easily transform the FSSA program.
Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON, said, "FSSA isn't working to its full potential, but it is vital to the health and well-being of military families that it be changed so that it does. FSSA must be restructured so that it is a viable program, not a shell program designed to solve a public relations problem. Failing to meaningfully implement FSSA betrays the military's own laudable and compassionate credo, 'We take care of our own.'
"While we have no knowledge of what the Commission's findings or recommendations will be, we are aware that it has been studying the persistent problem of food insecurity among military households and the impact of the Department of Defense's Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) program. MAZON is convinced that the most effective way to end hunger in the military is to reform FSSA.
"MAZON has concluded that with reforms, FSSA can and will be the most effective and efficient path to eliminating hunger in the military. Congress, the Department of Defense, the Administration, and the American people should settle for nothing less."
The four MAZON reforms:
I. FSSA must be converted from its current individual application-based delivery system to automatic enrollment.
While a substantial majority of enlisted personnel will not qualify for nor use FSSA benefits, those who do require support should receive those benefits in a streamlined and efficient manner. The current application process requires those in need to go through the chain of command. That creates serious barriers to FSSA participation including shame, stigma, and fear of retribution. By contrast, successful examples of automatic program enrollment based on income and household size can be found among USDA-administered programs and can serve as a model for FSSA.
II. The Department must adopt new FSSA qualification standards that are appropriate for the scope of need and consistent with those for many other federal assistance programs.
To better meet the true level of military food insecurity, MAZON recommends providing FSSA benefits to households with incomes at or under 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. This eligibility threshold is consistent with many other federal assistance programs including the WIC program so many military families now use.
III. As FSSA eligibility is adjusted to serve every military household at risk of food insecurity, the Department should also restructure the benefit approach and amounts.
Rather than employing an income supplement aimed at bringing the household income above 130% (MAZON recommends 185%) of the Federal Poverty Level, MAZON recommends targeting FSSA benefits for only food purchases, as SNAP does. SNAP also delivers support in the form of an EBT card, an efficiency we recommend. To maximize the objective of FSSA in enabling the purchase of nutritious foods to support good fitness and health, MAZON recommends that the FSSA benefit level be correlated to the USDA's Moderate-Cost Food Plan (by law the Department sets the amount of the Base Allowance Subsistence benefit between the Moderate and Liberal Food Plan rates determined by the USDA).
IV. The Department should eliminate the use of housing allowances as a factor in determining eligibility for FSSA benefits.
Including this allowance as "income" treats our troops differently than the civilian population, for whom the value of public housing assistance is not counted as income in the determination of eligibility. In addition, this policy establishes an unnecessary barrier to adequate nutritional support.
NOTE: Ms. Leibman is available for interviews, background and/or comment on the issue of military hunger and/or the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission's report, expected to be released January 29th.
SOURCE MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger