The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) recently published the results of its 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.
First presented during a virtual data release event on June 23, 2020, the responses from nearly 8,000 members of military families were analyzed and divided into four sections:
- Health and well-being.
- Finances, housing and moving.
- Employment and transition
- Modern military family dynamics.
The biennial study's main findings highlight some of the most common challenges and experiences of military families and those transitioning from military service to civilian life.
Active duty spouses and veterans sought flexible employment
Active duty spouses noted that they looked for employers who were understanding and flexible, in general. Specific requests included an appreciation for the demands of military life as well as adaptable schedules, leave policies and remote work options.
Military veterans also desired flexibility, but a few other priorities came first. They primarily sought employers who valued their service in the armed forces and acknowledged their unique skills, and who offered a positive work environment.
While the top reason to leave the service was becoming eligible for military retirement benefits, the next most common reasons to transition out of the military were:
- Issues with leadership or the work climate.
- Family or lifestyle reasons.
- Career limitations.
Couples cited marital stresses
Only small percentages of respondents said their marriages have not been impacted (14.4%) or have grown stronger (13.7%) as a result of a spouse's military service. Negative effects were more commonly cited. Specifically, the following effects on marriage were reported by between 27% and 30% of respondents:
- General stress and strain on the marriage.
- Specific difficulties and challenges.
- Separation and absences.
In addition, 8 in 10 respondents recognized the existence and impacts of intimate partner violence among the military community. More than half (56.7%) reported that it is a common issue.
Parents identified limitations around child care and educational support
As for child care, over three-quarters of military parents said the search has been difficult or very difficult. Many respondents desired a wider variety of child care options, additional care flexibility and more affordable services.
Two in five respondents said they could not think of or access any helpful educational support for their children. Specifically, parents in the military community felt that there was a lack of support for special needs and learning needs in general. Some also agreed that more transition support and curriculum continuity would improve the quality of their children's' education.
Many lacked emergency savings
For the majority of active-duty families, the civilian spouse took on financial responsibilities including managing the day-to-day budget and overseeing larger financial decisions. The roles were largely reversed for veterans and their families.
However, nearly one-quarter said they had no plan whatsoever for addressing a financial emergency. Many respondents cited having less than $500 in an emergency fund or no savings at all, including:
- 22.2% of military retiree families with a pension.
- 27.4% of active duty military families.
- 49.2% of veteran families with no pension.
And yet, most would recommend military life
The top two reasons for not recommending military life included the fact that such a career can negatively impact one's family and add stress and instability to one's life.
But, in spite of all the aforementioned challenges, roughly three in four (74.5%) respondents said they would recommend military life to someone considering it. The top three reasons included access to a rewarding and secure career in the military, the honor associated with doing one's civic duty and advantageous salaries and benefits.