For the first time, all active-duty military spouses will be able to participate in the Department of Defense Active Duty Spouse Survey, which was launched today.

The survey is available in two tracks: DoD’s traditional, randomly and scientifically selected group of active duty spouses; and an opportunity for all other active-duty spouses to take part in an open, online survey.

Spouses are encouraged to take the survey as soon as possible; the survey is scheduled to close in late October.

Officials use the survey results to consider ways to adjust family policy and programs. The survey gathers data on issues such as satisfaction with the military lifestyle, support services and other military benefits, spouse employment, child care, financial stability, and the overall health and well-being of spouses, children and families.

DoD is still sending a survey invitation by email or postal mail to the scientifically selected sample, with a link and a ticket number. So spouses should watch their mail boxes and email in-boxes.

But this year, officials are soliciting input from all active duty spouses on key issues, challenges and concerns. Spouses can visit DoD’s survey portal to complete the short survey. The survey portal is the same for each track of the survey, but the surveys are different. The survey for the randomly selected spouses is longer, and will take about 15 minutes to complete. For the broader group of spouses, the survey is shorter, and should take between five to 15 minutes, depending on the responses, officials told Military Times.

Those in the broader group interested in taking the survey will see an icon on the survey portal that reads “Don’t have a ticket number?” They should click on that, and then enter their DoD ID number and day of birth, which verifies they are an active-duty spouse before they gain access to the shorter survey. All responses remain confidential, and personal information will not be linked to any survey responses. (In some cases, spouses who were randomly selected may not know their ticket number, or may not know they were randomly selected if they didn’t receive an email or postal letter. They will be directed to the longer survey.)

Several organizations conduct open online surveys of the military community, which are not scientific samplings. But this new, additional level of DoD survey — an addition to their traditional scientific sampling — opens up the opportunity for more input that is verified as coming from active duty spouses.

Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, told Military Times in April that one of her goals is to bring more voices of military spouses into DoD.

The surveys will help DoD officials “to engage in deeper dialogue” with spouses, “and help us prioritize solutions that meet their most pressing needs,” Barron said, in an announcement of the survey launch. “We’re proud of the progress we have made on important spouse issues, especially around stress, relationship support and employment. We know there is more to do, and these survey results will help guide our next steps.”

The last survey of active duty spouses, conducted by DoD in 2019 before the pandemic, showed increased signs of stress and distress among spouses, with fewer active duty spouses reporting satisfaction with the military lifestyle, and fewer supporting their service member staying in the military. Researchers randomly selected 65,207 active duty spouses to participate in the 2019 survey; more than 10,000 spouses responded, for a response rate of 16.5 percent.

In this survey, the impact of COVID-19 is one of the topics, officials said.

This article was updated July 30 to include additional information from DoD.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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