One-on-One with Congressman in charge of new military quality of life panel

Military families face some unique challenges, which advocates say are causing service members to leave or not to join in the first place. Now, lawmakers have created a new panel on Capitol Hill to address these issues.

This new House subcommittee is called the “quality of life panel.” Congressman Don Bacon (R) Nebraska, who is leading the effort, said if we don’t address these issues, our country’s safety is at risk.

In many cases, the quality of life concerns involve every day issues.

“Unfortunately, military families are currently under extraordinary pressures to secure affordable basic needs,” Dr. Shanna Smith, Associate Director of Research for the Military Family Advisory Network, said.

Smith is an Army spouse and grew up in a family that served.

“We heard stories of military families skipping meals or opting for less nutritious options because bills like rent and utilities must be prioritized,” she relayed. “Food is secondary. It’s heartbreaking.”

These stories motivated Congressman Bacon to suggest and now lead this new panel.

“Nobody defending our country and offering to put their life on the line to defend our country should have to be on food stamps,” he said.

Bacon explained the first thing the group will take on is how to better compensate junior enlisted troops. This could come from a significant pay bump or an increase in a food allowance.

Lawmakers will start meeting in the spring. They’ll spend the next year figuring out the best path forward. These newer service members will likely see the financial boosts in 2025, according to the Congressman.

Bacon, who spent about thirty years in the Air Force, said he knows what’s at risk for our country.

“If the Army cannot fill its battalions or brigades, and we have 58 of them, then that weakens our country,” he said. “If we can’t put or fill enough men and women on our ships, that hurts our combat capability. If the Marines can’t deploy and do their job, the best fighting force in the world, then they’re not the best fighting force in the world, if they can’t get the manpower. Our national security is weakened when we can’t recruit or retain our great people.”

The panel will also look into housing, medical care, childcare and spouse employment issues.