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FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Child care, Military OneSource, commissaries, exceptional family member programs and health care were among the top priorities named by representatives of family support organizations who spoke today at the first public hearing of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.
Commissioners asked some pointed questions of the first panel as they delved into the priorities and needs of military families. The nine-member commission is charged with reviewing the entire spectrum of the military compensation and retirement systems.
In remarks to the audience before the hearing, the commission’s chairman, Alphonso Maldon Jr., said he wanted to set some rumors to rest.
“I want to make sure everyone understands that the primary purpose of this commission is not to come out and balance any kind of budget on the backs of veterans,” he said.
Asked by Maldon to identify quality-of-life programs that are essential to readiness, Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, listed child care, Military OneSource, commissaries and the exceptional family member program. She specifically did not list health care, she said, because NMFA considers that an “essential” benefit, not a “quality-of-life” benefit.
Sandra Drew of Gold Star Wives of America cited health care, commissaries and child care.
Vivian Greentree, director of research and policy for Blue Star Families, said that based on military families who participated in that group’s online survey, the top concerns are pay and benefits, spouse employment, education and effects of deployment on military children.
Maldon, who served as assistant secretary of defense for force management policy from 1999 to 2001, said the goals and recommendations of the commission are aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force; providing a high quality of life to service members and their families; and ensuring there is fiscal sustainability for compensation and retirement programs.
Six of the nine commissioners attended the first family panel public hearing.
“I and my fellow commissioners understand that these programs are essential to the success of the services’ efforts to recruit and retain quality service members,” Maldon said.
The commission is reviewing a large number of programs and services provided by various agencies across the government — not only the Defense Department, but also the Veterans Affairs, Labor and Education departments. The congressionally mandated commission is required to finalize its work by May.