Do Military Families Need Hand-Outs?

I don’t normally post political topics on my blog, because people always disagree. It’s an inevitable result of a 2 party system. However, I felt strongly enough about this topic that I wanted to write a rebuttal, since what I wanted to say was too long to fit in the comment box of a FB post. Since many of my followers are also military spouses, I am expecting some disagreement. Feel free to commend and disagree, but please keep it polite.

A friend of mine shared this status update from a military related “support page”: OSMW Confessions

“Don’t care who gets upset about this: the fact that companies like WaMart do stuff for military families really bugs me. First off, military personnel are paid better than most Americans of the same job skill/background/training. And housing is free, plus your pay increases with each kid you have, meaning some tard toting around five brats gets more income just for having them. Which is ridiculous in itself, but I digress.

SO ANYWAY. There are HOMELESS children in America, there are FOSTER children in America, there are ABUSED children in America, there are broken homes and there are MILITARY VETS who are homeless and could much less get a Christmas present. Whereas people in the military get free (nice) housing and all their needs met in a paycheck and everyone bends over backwards for them to help them out at Christmas.

I don’t care if your soldier is deployed. That’s part of the whole thing. You still have a stable income and your kids are still fed. Therefore you do not need the charity. Others need it more. How dare these women with coach purses and Victoria’s Secret cards take toys for their own well-taken-care-of, free-health insurance, paid-for-by-the-government kids when some parents can’t afford a pair of shoes for their kids and would be more than thankful for a toy or two.


ps. my ex husband is navy, so I’ve seen it all: the people standing in huge lines for a damn ten pound turkey they could’ve picked up for fifteen bucks…women with dependa bags refusing to work but still taking donations for christmas presents. makes me sick and so am glad I’m out of and away from that base!”

The general response to this post was very negative.

Aside from the fact that she came across pretty bitchy and her facts are a little off (you don’t get paid for having more children and housing is not “free”, there is a separate housing allowance on top of basic pay) I agree 100% with her statement.

There were 514 comments on that status disagreeing with her, making me feel like a very small minority for agreeing with her overall point.

So let me break it down a bit and explain why I agree since apparently my logic is not intuitive to most people.

The military gets paid pretty good; I should know, I’m married to a Marine.

But just in case you don’t believe me, why don’t we look at some examples.

Let’s take a hypothetical military family of 3 in San Diego; and just to make it interesting, lets make him an E-2 with 1 year of service. BAH is $1,986 and basic pay would be $1,699.80, according to the pay charts and BAH calculator for his rank and time in service. That brings our total monthly income for Mr. E-2 to $3685.80, before taxes.

Now, let’s do some comparisons.

That monthly income for our E-2 comes out to an hourly $23 for a 40 hour week. I understand that military members often work more than 40 hours a week, my husband normally puts in 10-12 hour days, and that is when he is not deployed. But I think saying that they work 24/7 is a little extreme (which was the argument that many of the commenters made in explaining why military don’t get paid very well). While the military may be “on call” 24/7, they are not working all of that time. But, for the sake of being more realistic, if our E-2 was working 12 hour days he would still be making $15 an hour, which is more than minimum wage.

Now let’s look at someone working full time at Wal-mart. Minimum wage is $8 an hour in CA, making his monthly income $1,280 before taxes. That is 1/3 of what our E-2 is making!

*I want to add here that our Wal-mart family would not qualify for food stamps in San Diego because of their income and Section 8 has a 10+ year wait list, which means that they would probably be paying at least $1,000 for an apartment and having to pay all of their bills and buy food with $280 a month. Would you want to live like that?*

However, the original poster mentioned that “military personnel are paid better than most Americans of the same job skill/background/training”, which means my Wal-mart comparison might not be accurate since our E-2 is probably better skilled than a Wal-mart employee, depending on his job.

So let’s take my job. I have a Master’s degree and work full-time in my field as a social worker (not the highest paying career, but still requires an advanced degree). I have been at my job for less than a year, same as our E-2. My hourly rate for 37.5 hour a week is $19 an hour. Which means I am making more than our E-2 if we have him working 12 hour days every day, but less than our E-2 if we have him working a normal 40 hour week.

My point in showing all this math is to demonstrate that military pay is GOOD! (People who calculate only the basic pay and divide it by 24/7 work days to show how “little” military is paid are not being realistic, IMO)

Therefore, when I look at the whole picture of all of the people living in the United States, I can honestly say that I do not consider the military to be a “needy” population (in terms of needing financial assistance from charities).

I see homeless families as needy. I see domestic violence victims living in shelters as needy. I see foster children needy. I see individuals disabled by mental health or physical disabilities as needy.

Those are the people who need a food pantry because even though they are getting disability pay they can’t afford to feed their families after they have paid such high rent. Those are the people that needs financial assistance to move out of a shelter into an apartment because a single mother is starting over after being abused by her spouse and can’t afford 1st months rent and a deposit on her new minimum wage job. These are the homeless families who cry tears of joy when a social service agency donate shoes and they can give their children new shoes for the first time in months or years.

Being a military family I see all that we are offered. I see all of the free and discounted things that are given to military families. Just around the holidays alone I could have gotten a free turkey, a free Christmas tree, free holiday meals, free toys for my children and $300+ dollars from SEARS to by gifts for my family. Just to name the programs that I am aware of.

There are organization that will pay for car payments, auto repair, child care, rent, home repairs, etc. I’ve seen cars donated to military programs. I’ve gotten free glasses from Operation Clear Vision just for being a military spouse, regardless of my income.

Looking back at our income comparison, does our E-2 family need those thing? Or does our Wal-mart employee?

Now, before everyone gets on my case by saying that military families deserve all those things because of their service to this country, let me say that I am not saying that military families are not deserving.

However, is a domestic violence victim living in a shelter with her young children in fear of her life less deserving than a military family? Is a homeless mentally ill woman less deserving? Is a homeless foster youth who aged out of the system and has no family support less deserving?

Does someone need to “deserve” help?

I support the military 100%, but I don’t feel that they are the most needy population in the United States.

It’s not my place to categorize who is the most “needy” or who does or doesn’t “deserve” help, but when I look at this country and all the people who need a helping hand from social service agencies, I see too many people.

And if I had to pick who I would help buy Christmas presents for or a Thanksgiving meal, a military family would not be at the top of my list. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person.


9 thoughts on “Do Military Families Need Hand-Outs?

  1. I think you are somewhat comparing apples and oranges and it does not have to be an “either-or” situation. Yes, there are many people (military and civilian) who abuse the system. It is extremely unfortunate and it does leave less for those who are truly in need. But I believe there are military just as there are civilians who are desperately in need. I can’t imagine trying to house, feed, clothe a family of 5 on $30,000 or less. Civilian or military.
    Your friend “attacked” a population who sacrifices a lot (with several incorrect “facts”)… yes, they absolutely signed up for the job. It is a job, and a good one. But if you are going to compare civilian pay with military pay you also have to remember that not only the hours are different. But are the civilians going to third world countries? in the line of fire? missing the birth of their children? missing countless holidays with their families?
    I think instead of pointing fingers, we should all do what we can. We all need to be gracious givers. Yes, it infuriates me that there are those who only take… but I (we) can’t let that impact our willingness to give. Even if my giving only truly helps one family or individual it is worth it.
    Before I became a “house wife” (not by choice, but by a military overseas move). I worked in healthcare. I saw many “welfare families” who were takers and abusers of the system… but there were a handful of gracious receivers who were trying to support themselves and only received enough to survive. They too, will be givers when they are able.
    We are not placed on this Earth to judge, but only to love one another (something we all need to remind ourselves from time to time).
    Thank you for bringing light to this topic. God bless you and your family this holiday season! 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment! I completely agree that it shouldn’t be an “either/or” situation, nor is it my place to place people in some kind of hierarchy of “who needs the most” and only help the people at the top of that list.

      As a social worker I love when people donate to my program or to my agency, because then I have more to give to my clients. An honestly, sometimes it’s hard to see the military programs getting so much money when my domestic violence program gets much less. And perhaps I am biased because I only see my client’s and not the military client’s; but the military have jobs, which is more than what a lot of my women have.

      That being said, it doesn’t mean that their aren’t military families in need. And maybe that is what we need to do, focus only on the need and not what “population” they fall into.

  2. I can see your point.
    This was well thought out in my opinion.. I do agree with the comment above to a degree. I think it also depends on the position the military service member plays. My husband is on a submarine and the average amount of days that a sub is underway (even on years not including deployments) is up to 234 days.. That hasn’t been the case with my husband’s sub thank goodness but we have to live with the reality that this could be the case.. Constantly being in and out, and who know when or for how long….
    So if Mr E-2 is on sub. And they go out for 30 days. Let’s also say he works 14 hours which is what I’ve heard from my husband is the norm with no days off because they just don’t allot days off on an underway… That’s 98 hours a week 420 hours for 30 days. That equates to $9.37 an hour if you include sub pay. But.. say Mr. E-2 gets out after he’s put in 20.. He has a chance of making 3x the amount he used to make being enlisted for doing the civilian side of his job and not having to risk his life to do it.. Plus Mr. E-2 is now Chief E-7 and banking a rocking retirement pay at age 38 with health insurance and discounts for life… To me I feel it evens out in the long run…
    This is a very slippery slope because you really can’t put a value on some of the sacrifices that military men endure to a dollar value.. I was eligible for WIC when I have my son and the nurses at the hospital kept urging me to sign up, but I refused. I do feel that I am blessed with the stability of finances my husband has provided and just because we could have it doesn’t mean we should… 😉

    • I agree, it does depend on the job. There is no “normal” 9-5 in the military. But just as a submariner may work more hours, there have been times where my husband has worked 4-5 hours a day. It really depends on so many factors.

      However, I will say that my intent was not to compare the pay with the service and sacrifice that our military makes. Working at Wal-Mart does not even compare to being in the military. However, the take home pay (regardless of the job) as it relates to someone’s “need” for hand-outs is what I was comparing.

  3. Kudos to taking on this topic, which is tough for those of us in that minority of thinking there are indeed needier populations out there. I try never to delve into the topic of pay and benefits because I think we have made a good living–even off of one income our entire marriage (which started on junior enlisted pay and me working part time for minimum wage while in college). I think it is all about not outliving one’s means, and this is resoundingly the biggest reason I see military folks in such financial turmoil (although there are always exceptions to this). I would however agree that the original poster was unnecessarily rude and that other needy populations are full of their own issues such as abuse of government services. I wholeheartedly agree that the pay and benefits are amazing! Where else can you get a 55% pension after 20 years these days?

    PS one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say our health care, housing, etc is FREE (not that you did of course, the original poster). It is a benefit of the career which also comes with many downsides. It is compensation just like basic pay NOT free!!!

  4. I understand and mostly agree with where you’re coming from but I think your numbers are also blown out of proportion. If you go back just 6-10 years the pay for Mr. E-2 was vastly different. Only in the last few years did they combine E-1 – E-4 housing and increase that pay dramatically; it used to be E-1 – E-3 and E-4 was separate as at that point you’re considered a NCO in the Marines.
    When my husband was Mr. E-2 in the Marines we only received $1050 for housing and it wasn’t enough to live in a safe area in town so we lived in a 500sq ft loft on base (8 families in 1 building) with a community washer/dryer and general shared parking. Typically that E-2 is also paying $100/mo for his GI bill and only receiving the <2 years E-2 pay without any special skill/duty pay $1460. Including the then BAS allowance that's a whopping total of $2690 after the GI bill. After taxes I remember trying to make due with about $1000 a month for bills/food/gas, with no children and only one low car payment, and we couldn't do it. We racked up 5K in debt the first year alone.
    My point is, the grass is always greener and as the military gets pretty consistent (though not huge) pay raises while the civilian job markets do not it's easy for them to complain of rising health care costs and how the other half have it so easy

    • Thank you for your comment! It certainly adds other information to consider, since my only experience has been with military pay in the recent years, specifically in San Diego/Southern CA. The military has done a good job of adjusting the BAH rates as cost of living increases in San Diego, something that those working civilian jobs unfortunately do not get.

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