Taking care of our service members and families
Secretary of Defense Announces New 2023 Initiatives for Taking Care of Our People
The well-being and readiness of our service members is a top priority for the Defense Department. In September 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced initial actions. As of March 2023, new initiatives have been added to strengthen support to service members and their families.
Changes will make military moves easier, support careers of military spouses, strengthen support for military families and ensure economic stabilization.
Read the "Taking Care of Our Service Members and Families"and "Strengthening Our Support to Service Members and Their Families" memos from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
Download the "Taking Care of Our Service Members and Families" fact sheet.
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4 Priorities to Benefit Military Families
1. Economic Stabilization
Our military families must be secure in their ability to afford the basics. In addition to the 4.6% pay increase for service members included in the president’s 2023 budget, the Defense Department will:
WHAT IS IT? We’re allocating more funds to subsidize commissary prices so military families save at least 25% on their purchases.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All uniformed service members including reserve component and Coast Guard members are eligible.
HOW TO ACCESS: Shoppers will see commissary prices drop 3-5% over the next month.
WHAT IS IT? We’ll offer a monthly allowance for active-duty service members with dependents whose gross household income falls below 150% of federal poverty guidelines.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Active-duty service members with dependents who have completed initial entry training and whose gross household income falls below 150% of federal poverty guidelines for their location. Learn more about eligibility.
HOW TO ACCESS: Service members will have to apply using documents that confirm the income of members of their households, such as a tax return, a W2 or a LES. Military departments and service branches are required to proactively screen service members for eligibility and notify them of their potential eligibility.
2. Making Moves Easier
Service members and families are required to move frequently, and these moves often come with costs that strain budgets. We are easing the moving process by:
WHAT IS IT? We’re making three changes: 1. We will partially reimburse a service member for temporary lodging and meal expenses while in temporary lodging, in CONUS, during a PCS, based on the local per diem rate and the number of dependents. 2. We will increase the automatic payment of TLE from 10 days to 14 days during moves within CONUS. 3. We will permanently permit TLE extensions for a location experiencing a housing shortage regardless of the reason for up to 60 days.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All uniformed service members including Coast Guardsmen and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Public Health Service are eligible.
HOW TO ACCESS: To receive an extension of up to 60 days, the location must be approved by the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee. Service members may request an advance or may file for reimbursement with the servicing PCS finance office based on service policies and procedures.
WHAT IS IT? We are increasing the flat amount we pay eligible service members to partially reimburse them for moving expenses incurred during a PCS.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? This action will increase DLA for E-1 to E-6 service members.
HOW TO ACCESS: On Oct. 1, 2022, DLA rates will be increased. Service members will be paid no later than one month prior to their move date.
WHAT IS IT? We are creating online tools, guides and FAQ sections to make moving simpler for military families.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All uniformed service members including National Guard and reserve, Coast Guard and their families, and veterans up to 365 days after separation can use these resources.
3. Strengthening Our Support for Families
We’re expanding support for families and making it easier to find affordable, quality child care options by:
WHAT IS IT? Service members can contribute up to $5,000 per family, per year in pretax income to pay for dependent care expenses ($2,500 if married filing separate tax returns).
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Enrollment in the program will be open to all active component service members and Active Guard Reserve members on Title 10 orders. Qualifying expenses are for: 1) tax dependents who are children under the age of 13; or 2) a spouse or other tax dependent (regardless of age) who is mentally or physically incapable of self-care. DCFSAs are already available to the Department’s civilian employees.
HOW TO ACCESS: Eligible service members can enroll in DCFSA accounts at FSAFEDS.com during the Federal Benefits Open Season in mid-November through mid-December 2023 for the plan year starting on Jan. 1, 2024. Specific Federal Benefits Open Season dates will be announced by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). DOD civilian employees are currently eligible to enroll in a DCFSA and may do so prior to the next open season if they have a qualifying life event. More information is available at: https://www.fsafeds.com/explore/dcfsa.
WHAT IS IT? The president’s budget seeks $90.4M in FY2024 to fully fund prekindergarten at all DODEA schools. If enacted by Congress, this budget proposal will offer tuition-free, full-day prekindergarten to eligible 4-year-old family members.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Approximately 4,000 military-connected 4-year-olds will be eligible for free, full-day prekindergarten at DODEA schools. Eligibility for universal prekindergarten at a DODEA school will be governed by existing DODEA policies for CONUS and OCONUS locations (detailed here: DODEA, “Registration Process – Eligibility and Enrollment,” https://www.dodea.edu/registration-process.cfm).
HOW TO ACCESS: Once funded, each DODEA school will begin appropriate provisioning to begin accepting applications to enroll eligible 4-year-old family members. Parents will receive updates from their local schools on the application process.
WHAT IS IT? A revision of the Exceptional Family Member Program Department of Defense Instruction and changes to Military OneSource to improve support for families with EFMP needs.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Eligibility for EFMP will continue to be governed by the DOD and service policy. Active duty, National Guard and reserve (regardless of activation status) and their immediate family members are eligible for Military OneSource services. In addition, veterans, including Coast Guard and their immediate families, can access Military OneSource for up to 365 days after separation/retirement.
HOW TO ACCESS: Eligible participants can connect with Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647 or initiating a live chat via the My Military OneSource app at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/.
WHAT IS IT? The Expanded Military Parental Leave Program builds on the Defense Department’s support of military families by streamlining and enhancing parental leave.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Active-duty and reserve service members (on active duty for more than 12 consecutive months) who have a qualifying event on or after Dec. 27, 2022.
HOW TO ACCESS: As of Feb. 1, 2023, all the military services published detailed guidance on the required forms, approval authorities and service-specific guidance to request leave under the new program. Contact your service’s human resources professionals for more information.
WHAT IS IT? We are investing in CDP facilities and infrastructure to increase capacity.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All active-duty service members including National Guard and reserve on active duty, DOD civilian employees and other authorized users are eligible.
HOW TO ACCESS: You can request child care through MilitaryChildCare.com.
WHAT IS IT? We’re offering CDP direct-care workers a fee discount for their own kids as a way to bolster worker recruitment and retention. This will help to maximize existing child care capacity, reduce waiting lists for care and support spouse employment.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? The discount applies to the first child of all direct care staff of CDPs.
HOW TO ACCESS: Eligible CDP personnel can access the benefit through their CDP.
WHAT IS IT? We are improving access to child care programs including Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS and Child Care in Your Home..
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
- Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood serves deployed and active-duty personnel, Guard and reserve members, and DOD civilian employees and is available in all locations.
- Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS is available to all service members and is available in Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Miami-Dade County, Florida. Additional states continue to join the initiative.
- The Child Care in Your Home pilot program is currently available to eligible service members and families in the following 11 regions: Hawaii; National Capital Region; Norfolk, Virginia; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Seattle/ Tacoma, Washington; Jacksonville/Mayport, Florida; Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Las Vegas, Nevada. Eligible military families in these regions include: Single or dual active-duty members, single or dual Guard or reserve members on active duty, active-duty members with a full-time working spouse, Guard or reserve members on active duty with a full-time working spouse, active-duty members with a spouse enrolled in a postsecondary institution on a full-time basis and Guard or reserve members on active duty with a spouse enrolled in a postsecondary institution on a full-time basis.
HOW TO ACCESS: For additional information on military child care programs, including fee assistance programs, visit MilitaryChildCare.com. For additional information on the Child Care in Your Home pilot program, visit the Child Care in Your Home page. Child Care in Your Home program information is also available on Military OneSource.
4. Supporting Careers of Military Spouses
Military spouses are the strong foundation for our service members and military families. We are expanding employment opportunities by:
WHAT IS IT? This initiative directs the DOD to continue to collaborate with states and work with other federal agencies to promote licensure portability to maximize the benefits to service members and spouses. DOD will:
- Continue to advance licensure compacts as the priority to achieving licensure reciprocity for nationwide mobility.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Both service members and spouses with valid professional licenses who relocate their residence to accompany service members on orders. However, the law specifically excludes licenses to practice law from the definition of covered licenses.
HOW TO ACCESS? When a service member or spouse relocates their residency due to military orders, this federal law requires the new state of residency to treat a covered professional license as valid at a similar scope of practice and in the discipline applied for, subject to certain conditions. The license is considered valid for the duration of such military orders. As each state implements the new law, service members and spouses should contact the appropriate state offices with any questions about licensure portability or equivalency and consult applicable state websites for more information.
WHAT IS IT? My Career Advancement Account is a career development initiative that provides a maximum tuition benefit (scholarship) of $4,000, with an annual fiscal year cap of $2,000, to assist eligible military spouses who need professional credentials to meet their portable career goals. Participating military spouses may use MyCAA funding for the pursuit or maintenance (including testing for credit and continuing education units) of a license, certification or associate degree necessary to gain employment in an occupation or career field. Through a 2018 RAND study, MyCAA was shown to impact spouses’ ability to find employment with higher rates of compensation.
WHO IS NOW ELIGIBLE FOR MYCAA? With this expansion, military spouses of active-duty service members in grades E1-E6, W1-W2 and O1-O3 can register for MyCAA financial assistance.
HOW TO ACCESS? To get started, spouses can verify eligibility and register for a MyCAA account at https://mycaa.militaryonesource.mil/mycaa/. After registration, spouses will then work with a certified Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coach on a MyCAA Education and Training Plan. This plan will be reviewed as part of the application process for the MyCAA scholarship, and when approved, the spouse can then receive financial assistance.
WHAT IS IT? Compacts allow military spouses to work in a member state without having to fulfill further licensing requirements. Nine licensure compacts currently exist and are being approved by states for specific professions.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All military spouses including active-duty, National Guard and reserve spouses are eligible.
WHAT IS IT? By promoting available civilian hiring authorities and workplace flexibilities that support our military spouses, DOD can better provide critical mission talent while bolstering the financial stability of military families. Utilizing workplace flexibilities such as telework and remote work further expands recruitment and retention opportunities for military spouses.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All military spouses are eligible for this opportunity.
WHAT IS IT? Starting in January 2023, a new pilot program will provide military spouses with paid private-sector fellowships in a variety of industry sectors.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Currently serving military spouses including active duty, National Guard and reserve are eligible.
WHAT IS IT? MSEP brings together employers committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining military spouses. MSEP launched in 2011 with 45 partners. We currently have 540 employer partners and will continue growing the partnership to expand opportunities for military spouses.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE? All current military spouses (active duty, National Guard and reserve) including those who are up to 365 days post separation/retirement are eligible.
Resources for Service Providers and Leaders
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Frequently Asked Questions
No. This year the temporary increase in BAH rates will go into effect automatically for service members on active duty who receive BAH in the affected military housing areas. They will see increases in BAH in their mid-month October 2022 paychecks.
The Basic Needs Allowance is a monthly allowance for active-duty service members with dependents whose gross household income falls below 130% of federal poverty guidelines. We anticipate that eligible service members will include junior enlisted members with larger families. Service members must apply, provide appropriate documentation to substantiate household income, and, if they meet eligibility requirements, will be approved for payment. The DOD is working aggressively to issue implementing guidance and deliver the first BNA payments in January 2023 as required by law.
Through the commissaries, the DOD was able to provide service members and their families with discounted groceries that cost on average 22% less than civilian grocery stores for fiscal year 2022. Going forward with the DOD’s initiatives, we want to achieve even greater savings, at least 25% for our service members and their families. Across the board, our military communities will see a visible price decrease on most items, particularly food staples like bread, milk, eggs, etc., as compared to grocery stores off the installation.
The military departments and installation commanders are authorized to reduce child care fees as a recruitment and retention incentive, and some installations are currently offering discounted fees for CDP employees. In addition, CDP personnel are also eligible for the multiple child discount, which allows for up to a 20% fee reduction for additional children of the same family.
The military services provide installation-based child care programs for children birth to age 12. Child care parent fees are standardized across the DOD and based on total family income. The military services also provide child care fee assistance to bring down the cost of family child care and local civilian community child care providers when service members cannot access installation-based programs. Service members can search for and request military child care through the DOD’s one-stop request for care system MilitaryChildCare.com.
DOD is revising the DOD telework policy to include remote work and domestic employees teleworking overseas. Remote work assignments are flexible work arrangements in which employees, including military spouses, may work on a long-term or permanent basis within or outside the local commuting area of an agency’s worksite. Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas assignments permit federal employees, including military spouses, to perform temporarily the duties and responsibilities of their positions in an approved overseas location via a DETO agreement approved by the Department of State. The Department will train managers and supervisors on the use of these flexibilities and encourage their use, as mission permits, to support military spouses faced with relocation. These additional workplace flexibilities will assist military spouses with the ongoing challenges of keeping their families together when service members are required to relocate. These policies also help the Department to retain skilled workers, many of whom are military spouses. The revised telework policy is currently in the publication process.
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