Summit addresses military family concerns

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Fairchild officials hosted a Military Family Summit Aug. 18 at the Red Morgan Center for all service members and their families to address key issues affecting military families.

“We ask a lot from our Airmen and their families,” said Col. Ryan Samuelson, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “This summit presents an opportunity for families to voice their concerns to our national leadership in an open forum.”

The panel included:
• U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state
• U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia
• Joyce Raezer, National Military Family Association Executive Director
• Cristin Orr Shiffer, Policy and Survey, Blue Star Families Chief Senior Advisor
• David Lapan, National Capital Region Military Child Education Coalition Senior Direction

“This is so important because when someone joins the military, it’s not just an individual commitment, it’s a commitment the entire family makes,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It’s a chance we can take to do more to support our military families, military readiness and the national security of our country.”

Various topics covered included: pay and benefits, community integration and transition, employment, health care, housing, the Exceptional Family Member Program, deployments and education for special needs children.

Panel members addressed questions on Basic Allowance for Housing for dual military couples and what’s being done to help prevent BAH being taken away.

“As Congress members, we stood up and said, ‘Hey, this may look like something on paper that will save money, but in the long run it will hurt retention and recruitment for our military personnel,'” Bishop said. “So far, we have been successful at not letting this proposal pass, but hearing from you and your family members how important BAH is, will be a big help in supporting us.”

To take away dual-military BAH is a Senate proposal and that decision is still in conference, Raezer added

Audience members also asked questions about self-employment and portable career options for military spouses, job certifications and if there’s a clause in place to help prevent families, who have a short sale, have repercussions due to change of station.

“This summit is an important opportunity to give military families a chance to highlight some of the challenges they face and, as members of Congress, we are able to address them,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Michelle Aikman, 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year and guest speaker, shared her story on life as a military spouse and the complexities that she and her family have faced throughout her husband’s military career.

“It’s important because this is a platform to have a voice and to share our story with people who can advocate on our behalf who have the ability to make policies and laws, and allocate funding that won’t only impact our families, but future generations of military families,” Aikman said.