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.

SORRY NOT SORRY

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.

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I have decided to do a four part series surrounding domestic violence; education and awareness.

I know have mentioned in some of my blogs that I am a social worker. However, I don’t believe I have shared exactly what I do or what population I work with. I am a case manager at a local non-profit working exclusively with domestic violence victims. Additionally, I have a personal connection to the work I do. I briefly shared in my first ever blog post that I am also a survivor of domestic violence.

Both my personal and professional experience have given me a wealth of knowledge regarding domestic violence (DV), and I want to share that knowledge because I think DV largely goes unspoken about in the community. As a result, when presented with DV, people often don’t understand what it really looks like or what to do to help someone who may being going through it.

I have decided to share four different post, which I will be publishing during the next four Tuesdays in the month of October:

First, my own story and experience

Second, what domestic violence is (hint, it’s not just physical abuse!)

Third, why people don’t always leave

Fourth, what you can do when someone you know is experiencing DV

I hope these post will be information and enlightening (I’ll try to keep them from being too lecture-ish!). Although I don’t wish anyone to go through a DV relationships themselves, or to ever encounter a friend or family members in that situation, I think that the knowledge is still important to have.

Office Sign

Today was a crazy day at work, as are most of my days.

I’ve been working full-time for a little over a month now, but I’ve only been doing my actual job for a week and half, and I’ve only been doing it by myself for the last two days!

I took over this position when the current Case Manager left. She trained me for a week (last week) and starting yesterday I’ve been on my own. My department only has one Case Manager, so everything falls on me.

Today, I started out being overwhelmed and questioning why I decided to go into social work.  I had clients scheduled that day, a ton of paperwork to do (I feel like that is half of my job!) and advocacy/phone calls to make for my active clients. But when I got to work I found out that I instead had to spend an hour on the phone dealing with a difficult and unappreciative caller/client.

By the end of the call I was frustrated and stressed, feeling like I had to solve this woman’s problems and overwhelmed by the amount of work I still had to do that day in addition to helping her (and it was only 10am).

Today when I left work and closed my office door (still having a ton of work to finish tomorrow), I noticed that a new sign had been put up.

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I stood and stared at it for a few moments, then took a photo of it. When I posted it on Facebook one of my friends who is about to start her Masters degree said, “after 6 years of college your hard work has finally paid off. I bet that feels amazing to see your name followed by MSW”

And you know what, it does feel amazing. As stressful as my work can be sometimes, I am still incredibly proud of what I do and all that I have accomplished. I am 24 years old and my name is on the wall of a well-known and respected social service agency with the letters MSW after it.

I’ve accomplished one of my dreams, a dream that I have had since high school when I started thinking about my career. I have a career.

Changes: New Job & New Hair

After spending 2 weeks at a miserable temp job, my connections finally paid off and I was offered a full time job in my field!

Since we are PCSing in December I didn’t think anybody would want to hire me, so I was settling with being an overqualified Secretary and trying to just appreciate the fact that at least I had a job and a paycheck.

But last Thursday my old supervisor emailed me and said that she had a temporary position (3 months) open up for a Case Manager position and she wanted me to fill it! I didn’t even have to interview and I got a raise!

I am now a full-time Case Manager working with domestic violence victims! It’s so amazing to be working in my field again and using my degree.

These last 2 weeks that I’ve been working at the City Hall, I realized how important it is to enjoy your career. I am even more grateful that I have the opportunity to work in a field that I love. I hope that I can find a job when we move, I am eager to start my career and settle into a job.

In other news relating to change: I completely changed my hair!

I’ve been told this is the “Michelle Obama” look and is very happing, good to know I’m on trend! lol

BEFORE

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AFTER

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Wife to Wife Wednesday

This weeks prompt from Wives of Faith is:

How has your life changed as a military wife?

My life has changed a lot of ways since becoming a military wife. The one that is most on my mind recently, as I am about to graduate, is my career.

The military has effected my career in both a positive and negative way.

To first acknowledge the positives: being a military spouse lead me to pursue a career in social work.

I was getting my bachelors in Psychology when I met my husband, and I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school (because with a bachelors in psychology you pretty much have to), but I didn’t have a passion for any career specifically.

I went to a LINKS class after we got married (which is pretty much a class for new military spouses that explains the basics of military life) and everyone was so sweet and helpful! I ended up volunteering as a LINKS instructor and also with Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and as a Family Readiness Volunteer.

I loved the experience and I was inspired to become a military social worker.

And here I am, a month away from graduating applying like crazy to organizations like MCCS, Armed Services YMCA, USO, etc. so I can combine my experience with the military and my education as a social worker.

Now to the negatives: as most wives have probably experienced, being married to someone in the military means your career sometimes has to take a back seat.

I love being a social worker, but it requires state specific licensure, which is difficult to get when you move from state to state and each state has it’s own licensing requirements.

There is also the added difficulty in establishing a career when you move every few years.

But overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Yes, the moving may make it a little more difficult for me to establish a career, but it’s part of life when your husband is in the military. I love my career: I love helping people and giving back to the military community that has had such a positive impact on my life.