This post was updated on 9 June 2011 to reflect some old links.
In 2001, in response to the number of military families who were eligible for food stamps, the Department of Defense created a new allowance called the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA.) What I’m discovering is that many people don’t know about the FSSA program, and it can be an important benefit for those families who are eligible.
The FSSA is designed to raise a military member’s household income to 130% of the federal poverty level for their area. Service members who are eligible for BAS, meet gross income guidelines as determined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and complete an application process. The service member may be eligible for up to $500 per month in FSSA, based upon income level and family size. The FSSA is non-taxable and is in addition to all other pays and allowances.
If an eligible service member is currently receiving food stamps, the amount of the FSSA will equal the higher of the calculated FSSA amount or the food stamp amount, not to exceed
$500 updated: $1100 per month. However, service members who are not eligible for food stamps may still be eligible for the FSSA program.
Once enrolled in this program, members must recertify annually in February, and also upon promotion, a change in household income, a change in family size, or acceptance of PCS orders. Recertification must be done within 30 days (before or after) the event occurs or the recertification will be treated as an initial application.
To apply for the FSSA, utilize this online application link.
One of the best resources for understanding the FSSA can be found at the Fort Rucker MWR website. There is also a great Word document that explains more about the application process available at Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance FAQs
There are a myriad of individual rules regarding service members who are geographically separated from their families and other specific situations. I found lots of online resources but most of them were a few years old and so I hate to include them here. Check with your command or branch financial offices to get the most up-to-date information.
Given the number of people who ask about this subject, it seems that there must be a lot of military families who do not know about this benefit. Even though officials estimate that only a few hundred military families might be eligible,we want to make sure we reach every single family who could be helped by this program. Please help spread the word to other families who may qualify. Thanks!