Although military compensation equals or exceeds the private sector, military families may still encounter challenges during these difficult economic times. Several benefits are available to assist service members, including the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) Program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is not available overseas. Because of this, the Department of Defense (DoD) FSSA Program is available to service members living in overseas locations. FSSA increases your basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) by an amount intended to remove your household from eligibility for benefits under SNAP. FSSA will be paid in an amount equal to the total dollars required to bring your household income to 130 percent of the federal poverty line.
Eligibility for FSSA is based on your eligibility for SNAP, which is based on household size and income. If you are serving on active duty and receiving full or partial BAS, you may participate in the FSSA Program if you meet the following criteria:
- Size of household. Eligibility is based on your household size and income. Your income, together with the income of the rest of the household (if any), must be within 130 percent of the poverty line as determined by the USDA. FSSA includes the amount of basic allowance for housing (BAH) as income. Additionally, if you live overseas, the overseas housing allowance (OHA) and utility allowances count toward income as well.
- At least one dependent. At least one person in your household must be a military dependent for you to be eligible for the FSSA Program.
- Apply and be certified for the program. The FSSA Program is voluntary. You must apply to receive the FSSA payment. Eligibility recertification is required with every move, promotion, pay raise, and change in household income.
- Not be in a non-pay status. If you are in a non-pay status for any reason, you are not eligible for the FSSA during that non-pay period.
National Guard and Reserve service members are also eligible to receive the FSSA, with an amount proportional to the number of days spent on active duty for the month.
Applying for the FSSA
You may apply for the FSSA Program at locations designated by your respective branch of Service. Command financial counselors, personnel services, community or family support services, or equivalent organizations may act as prescreening organizations, but can not grant you any final certification for the FSSA Program. These organizations may review documentation and generally may assist you in obtaining necessary paperwork and gathering information needed for certification. To initiate the application process, you must complete and sign a copy of Department of Defense (DD) Form 2857, Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Application, certifying that all of your information is accurate. You can access this form through the DoD's FSSA website.
Certification and recertification process
After applying for the FSSA, you will have to be certified before you can begin to receive assistance. Each branch of Service has established "certification points" responsible for officially certifying qualification for the FSSA Program, calculating the exact amount of payment, notifying you of your eligibility and the amount of payment, and passing the necessary information to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) or to the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center for such payment. As part of the certification process, you will be counseled on:
- Your responsibility for reporting changes in income or household size. It is your responsibility to report any changes in your status, and failure to do so may result in termination of eligibility for the FSSA Program and in command action. Once you begin receiving FSSA, you must report to your certifying officials within thirty days for recertification when any of the following events occur:
- Increase in monthly household income. You must be recertified any time your monthly household income increases by $100 or more when compared to the original amount of income you had when you were last certified for FSSA.
- Decrease in household sizes. FSSA eligibility is based on income and number of people in the household. Any decreases in the number of people in your household will require that you be recertified for the program.
- Promotion. When you receive a promotion, your certification will terminate the day before the effective date of promotion. You will need to be recertified at your new position and income level to continue to receive FSSA.
- Permanent change of station (PCS) move. When you and your family undergo a PCS move, your certification will terminate the day before the date that you officially report to your new duty station. You will need to be recertified at your new duty station to continue to receive FSSA.
- Annual recertification. Regardless of whether any of the above events occur, you will need to be recertified every year, effective February 1 of each year. This date was chosen to account for the typical January 1 pay raises
Receiving FSSA income may affect participation of your household in certain other government assistance programs for which eligibility is based on income, such as SNAP; the Subsidized School Lunch Program; the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program; Day Care Assistance; Earned Income Tax Credit; and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
FSSA payment amounts
The FSSA is paid monthly in whole dollars, equal to the amount that is required to bring your household income to 130 percent of the federal poverty line. The amount of FSSA paid each month is not to exceed $1,100.
If you are eligible for the FSSA for less than one month, the payment is prorated for the number of days you are eligible during the month at a rate of one-thirtieth of one month of FSSA for each eligible day served. If you are receiving benefits through SNAP, the amount of FSSA you are eligible to receive is equal to the calculated FSSA payment, or SNAP, whichever is higher, not to exceed $1,100. If you are not receiving SNAP assistance, or do not qualify for SNAP, it is possible that you still may qualify for the FSSA Program due to differences in legislation governing the programs.