Military and Food Stamps

February 18, 2014 | Kate Horrell

CNN Money reported yesterday that the use of federal food benefits, also called Food Stamps or SNAP benefits, has increased at military commissaries.  It was an interesting article, but it missed a major piece of information.  The military services offer an allowance specifically designed to lift the income of a military family above the eligibility for food stamps.  Any active duty family who is utilizing food stamps has failed to take full advantage of the benefits being offered by the military services.  You should know about this allowance because you may know someone who could benefit.

The Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) was created in 2001 in response to reports about service families requiring federal food benefits.  Eligibility for FSSA is based upon the total household income and the total household size.  Eligibility amounts vary depending on your duty station, as there are different rates for the contiguous 48 states, Hawaii, and Alaska/overseas.

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, and meet gross income guidelines as determined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), should complete the application process.  If certified as eligible, the service member will receive up to $1100 per month in FSSA.  The FSSA is non-taxable and is in addition to all other pays and allowances.  To apply for the FSSA, utilize this online application link.

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 $1100 per month.

Though this program is designed to prevent the need for food stamps, the guidelines mean that some service members who are not eligible for food stamps may still be eligible for the FSSA program.  If you have a low income and a larger family, it is worth applying to see if you are eligible.

Once enrolled in this program, members must recertify annually , 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.

It seems that many military families are unaware of this benefit.  Please be sure to share this information with anyone you know who might be eligible.  It would be awful (and ridiculous) if military families were struggling unnecessarily, just as it is ridiculous that military charities are filling a gap that doesn’t actually exist because the military has already filled it.

 

Comments

  1. Rod J says:

    I think military personnel are aware of the family subsistence program. It is explained to them when they in process at any and all military locations at their Finance Office. This subsistence benefit helps pay for the food needed for their families. They also receive housing assistance from the military as well and the amount is determined by your rank or grade. I personally feel there aren't that many of a total number on food stamps but 1 is too many. I am retired military and I do not think the story is totally accurate. I think possibly alot of families are getting this subsistence now and applying for food stamps without the military's knowledge of it so they can afford cell phones, computers and drive new automobiles. There are also other problems available to them and one of them is the Army Emergency Relief that helps families in need. Thank you.

    • Angela says:
    • DOMANICK PATTERSON says:

      I AGREE WITH YOU ROD, I'M A ARMY SPOUSE AND A MOTHER OF FOUR MY HUSBAND IS E4. WE HAVE 1 CAR BUT WORKING ON TRYING TO GET A VAN BUT WE DON'T RECEIVE FSSA NOR ANY SUBSISTENCE BENEFITS. BUT I HAVE SEEN PEOPLE RECEIVE FOOD STAMPS WITH NEW CELL PHONES, NEW NICE CARS WOW IT MAKES ME WONDER. BUT MY GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY AND I. MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOURS ROD.

      • Kate says:

        Ms. Patterson, it sounds like your family might be eligible for FSSA. Have you applied?

        • Leah says:

          I just applied. My husband is an e4. We are a family of 4 and are currently struggling. Unfortunately, when I applied for FSSA they included our BAH which is $2607 in Hawaii. We recieve none of it and are currently living in a crappy 2 bedroom. We could move out in town to save money but then we'd be too far from base and more than likely would have no air conditioning. If they didn't include our BAH, we would definitely be eligible. This is why families are on food stamps. We would qualify for food stamps because our BAH is not included. Nor is BAS since we don't see any of that either. That goes straight to my husbands boat.

  2. Rod J says:

    I meant to say that there are other Programs available in my first comment and one of these programs are the Army Emergency Relief that helps familites in need. Thank you.,

  3. Henry says:

    Its the unemployed and underemployed reservists who are allowed to use the commissary while on duty using the food stamps.

  4. CW5 Graves Retired says:

    I find that individuals who have retired or have spent a great deal of time in the military, do find the in's out out's of what benefits are available to them. However, with this said, when a young soldier (male or female) starts the in-processing procedure, it is daunting with all the info. And, since the spouses (male or female) are not in attendance, then a lot of information may or may not be passed for future use.
    The idea that our young soldiers only spend their monies on cell phones, computers or drive new automobiles is truly insensitive to this problem.
    Plus, whether an individual believes that the reporting in this article is totally accurate should look at the problem for solution instead of judging the individual. It would be more appropriate to suggest a solution rather than degrading those who wear the uniform.

    • CW5 Gardner says:

      I totally agree with CW5 Graves (R). The deployments, overseas exercises and constant PCS moves do cause various hardships. Cell phones, house phones the military does require contact with their SMs and so today's young troop ops out for the Cell phone (Hello!). New car, why not, low finance cost and good deals are replacing the cost of nit picking repairs. The problem is food prices nation wide are out of control and our elected officials need to understand that SMs are on fixed income and with long daily hours we rarely have the chance to work a second job. What would you do apply for assistance if you can or let your spouse and children endanger their health with a lack of proper nutrition, We are the defenders of our nations laws and have to be ready to respond when our nation has a call to arms, our SMs and the health of their families is priceless, we can help people in other nations who suffer to make ends meet but first we have to cut our own grass or the grass on the other side of the hill will not look so green!

  5. CW5 Graves Retired says:

    Correction to my original comment.

    Plus, whether an individual believes that the reporting in this article is NOT totally accurate, he/she should look at the problem for a solution instead of judging the individual.

  6. Retired USAF NCO says:

    I wonder if our so-called leaders at the pentagon, and "on the hill" even are aware of this, as they plan to close stateside commissaries?
    Who will feel that impact more? The active forces, the guard/reserves, or the retied members/survivors on a fixed income?
    What the left-hand gives, the right-hand takes away.

    • Bob Dempsey says:

      It mostly the people setting on their high horses (or asses) on the hill. in the 80s they all but shut down the commissaries in the states because they were making too much profit. They reduced hours and employees hours to fix the problem and all that did was make almost imposable for people with limited to no transportation to get food and a lot of people hurting (mostly ci civilians) for income. You have to remember it’s not what they can do for the country it’s what the country can do to line their pockets no matter who they hurt in the process. Bob

  7. Bob Dempsey says:

    Put the breaks on people! This FSSA sounds good, however I traveled a lot when I was in and processing in is very important and I remember the check list I was handed and a supervisor giving the minimum to complete it in so I could get to work and have of the briefings they had to wake me up and tell where to go next. I believe that if this is that good telling people it is available to someone fighting to get checked in on time a lot that will help them is lost. If they are married or have to live off site the paper work for this should be part of the in processing and if they are or are not entitled they will have it in writing when they have finished checking in. Bob

  8. Don Soler says:

    The responsible to this problem is to not have children unless you're able to provide for them properly and adequately. We should educate and enforce getting one's self squared away before trying to have a family. The military is not a social welfare program although it is my opinion that it is leaning more and more in that direction, one should be held accountable for his or her actions. Having a family is the soul responsibility of the parents. If you don't yet have the resources to provide for a family then don't have one. Children deserve better parenting than having to live on food stamps. Teach responsibility and accountability.

    • lee says:

      SOMETIMES GOD DONT LET YOU PLAN WHAT YOU HAVE. BUT WE MUST ALSO THANK HIM FOR LETTING US HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE TO ACQUIRE THE INFORMATION WE NEED TO SURVIVE! WHEN ONE MAKES SURE THE FAMILY IS FEED AND TAKEN CARE OF, THAT IS RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

      • guest says:

        god may not, but science sure does….that's why we have family planning centers and MANY different types of birth control, including permanent birth control.

  9. CW5 Graves Retired says:

    I find it hard to believe through these comments that we go from not believing that there are military families who must request some type of assistance for their family TO the military not having children!
    Come on folks – you are now becoming the judge and jury to a problem that you are unaware as to how it came about nor not having enough knowledge to know why this is happening to our military families.
    One of the fix's by those affected is requesting assistance from the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) developed in 2001.
    Stop and think, if the FSSA was created in 2001, we have had this problem for over a decade and it still has not been fixed.
    The issues is not how many children a family has in the military nor not believing there is a problem.
    We ask our military personnel to participate in multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt, Korea and what country next. They give the ultimate sacrifice or come home with loss limbs, PTSD, etc. and the only conversation from all of you is that they should not have children, or soldiers should not buy cell phones, computers or automobiles etc. etc. etc.
    Lets talk like we are grown adults and come up with a viable solution to our military families instead of dishing them!

  10. rob mun says:

    the feelngs of most vets and non-vets is that the military deserves what they get plus more. it is a disgrace to our country for our service people to have to rely on foodstamps or any other supplement. they should receive adequate pay and allowances.

    thank you to all military personell for your service.

    Vietnam vet

  11. CHIEF CHARLIE OSGOOD says:

    OH SO OLD AM I. REMEMBER 1968 WE WERE INFORMED NON OFFICIALLY THAT YOU YOUNG SAILORS DON'T NEED FOOD STAMPS. IF THE US NAVY WANTED YOU TO HAVE A FAMILY THAT YOU COULDN'T AFFORD ,IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ISSUED IN YOUR SEA BAG. THERE WERE MANY E4 AND BELOW UNDER 4 THAT HAD DEPENDENTS. A FRIENDS WIFE COULD MAKE 30 DIFFERENT MEALS WITH HAMBURGER AND WE (SINGLE GUYS) WOULD THROW BABY SHOWERS ,BUYING THE BIG PRICE ITEMS CRIB HIGH CHAIRS ETC WHILE THE NAVY RELIEF LADYS WOULD GIVE LAYETTES TO THE BABY 'S PARENTS. WE HELPED EACH OTHER MOVE, BABYSAT, WHAT EVER WAS NEEDED. WE (SINGLE GUYS) WOULD BUT THE MEATS AND BEER FOR A COOK OUT AT A MARRIED COUPLES HOUSE. FUN TIMES

  12. Ma'am yes Ma'am says:

    I think that every ones situation differ. Being stationed in a small town where almost everyone is applying for the same dead end jobs. I am a spouse and before we moved to this post I had a career, but unfortunately there were no transfers available for me. I've worked as a cashier with a Co- worker with a BA in Business that had to result to being a cashier.
    We are a Family of 6, my husband is a E-4 and when I got Laid off YES from a cashiering job.. that pretty much left us to find other means for help. I was once highly opinionated on the issue of food stamps, but now it amazes me how we are forced to fill others refrigerators but can't have a full refrigerator of our own.

  13. Beth D says:

    I am taking care of grandchildren of parents overseas. what kind of assistance can I get?

    • Kate says:

      Beth, unless you have legal custody of the children, any benefits would be applied for and paid to the children's parents. The parents should be providing you with the necessary funds to care for the children.

      Thank you for taking care of your grandbabies. They are lucky to have you.

  14. Jon says:

    You CANNOT be in the military without a cell phone, I received at least 5 texts/calls a night between 5pm til 6am on updates. And if Soldier's didn't have a phone to receive these updates they were made to check in with CQ every 2-4 hours until they got a phone.
    I'm not even going to get into the rabbit hole about having a car. E4 and below, especially if they have a child could definitely use food money.
    About the housing thing, that's a racket anyway, Army pays a E3 maybe 800/month for housing but if he lives on-post they take all of it and he stays in a place worth 500/month. I stayed in one place with no ground outlets for 1,100, when I changed one out for my surge protector the outlet was full of dead roaches.