The Military Family Stability Act: Help for Transitioning Families
I haven’t heard of this, what is it?
It is difficult to stay up to date on every single bit of legislation that passes through Congress affecting military families. There are so many little things tucked in one bill or added to the end of another that many may never hear about. One of these such bills is known as the Military Stability Act. If you haven’t heard about this, worry not. The Military Family Stability Act, H.R. 279 was introduced January 4th, 2017 and was incorporated and passed under H.R. 2810 on December 12th, 2017 in an effort to help the process of military families as they undergo a Permanent Change of Station (PCS).
This Act became effective on October 11th, 2018, and allows a family to do a few things. First, the bill allows spouses to either continue working for six months, or on the flip side, move early to begin the job search process. To accomplish this, families would move up to six months before or after the servicemember while still receiving their basic housing allowance. During this period, the servicemember would stay in sponsored lodging until they are reunited with their family. Secondly, it will allow the children of servicemembers to complete their year in their current school or move early to begin the year in their next school. This helps the child smoothly transition into their new surroundings as opposed to switching schools in the middle of the academic year. Third; it will allow spouses to finish up a degree or certification granting program within six months before beginning the PCS process. Finally, it allows for a little more flexibility in moving children or a spouse with chronic illnesses. Per the first draft of the Bill, each service member will be able to use this new bill three times in their career so long as they have 24 or more months to serve. However, the final version of the Bill adopted as law did not specifically include these requirements, rather directed the DOD to prescribe regulations regarding implementing the new law.
Eligible members under this bill have a couple of options in terms of the move. First, spouses or dependants who qualify and are approved may move at any point during the covered relocation period, whether it be the full six months out or 2 weeks before. If this occurs, the housing allowance to be received will be one of three options. The first possibility is the area of the duty station to which the servicemember is being reassigned. The second allowance option is determined by the area in which the spouse resides, but only if, the servicemember leaves for their next PCS location first. In this case, this housing allowance would only be for the period in which the spouse lives in that area. The third option is the area of the old duty station of the servicemember, so long as the spouse resides in an area different from that duty station. While seemingly complicated, this really translates to a case by case determination on how your housing allowance will be determined. You will either have the same housing allowance as you have had or your housing allowance will change to reflect the next duty station.
There are a couple of little tidbits to mention as well. The Department of Defense (DOD) established a single application approval process which applies to all members of the armed forces uniformly. Whether your family is on a naval station or Army base, your process will be the same. Also, transportation allowances may be allocated as the family chooses to help ease the burden on the move.
While in its infancy, this act could go a long way in providing families much needed flexibility when moving from one duty station to the next. Usually, families were lucky when they were able to move between the academic school year, so their child could have an easier adjustment. Also, let’s face it, the dual-income family has become the norm and has been for some time now. Finding a job that catered to your military spouse’s moving cycle was not the easiest thing. While there were a few programs that allowed civilian workers to take contract positions with the DOD, this was not available to all. This gives those spouses who may not fit into one of those positions a chance to find something that puts them in a position to assist their family. This act has matched the ever evolving culture of the military family and we can only hope to see more like it.