Act would help service members’ families

OPINION

Military service is a family affair. There is a lot asked of loved ones who serve alongside the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. They move away from family and friends to support our country's readiness at home, during deployments and amid mission transitions. These families need to know we're doing our very best to make sure they have a good quality of life. That's why I'm helping lead a push to modernize and expand means to better support their evolving needs.

My dad served for 23 years in the Air Force, so I understand the unique challenges military families face. The top concern of today's military spouses is employment, according to a recent survey by Blue Star Families. Military spouses consistently experience unemployment rates four times higher than the national average.

Too often, military spouses are forced to make professional sacrifices in support of their service members with up to two-thirds reporting underemployment. This is the number one contributor to financial stress. Frequent moves for new military assignments often stall military spouses' upward career progression and force them to find new jobs. All of these challenges hurt families and military readiness.

Service members' spouses are a critical piece of the support system underpinning America's military and they deserve abundant access to meaningful career opportunities. That's why I'm championing the Military Spouse Hiring Act. This bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this month would incentivize businesses to hire military spouses.

Just as importantly, we must continue to ensure we fulfill the promises made to military families whose loved one made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country. That's why I've joined efforts to update the Dependence and Indemnity Compensation benefits for military survivors.

The Caring for Survivors Act of 2023 would bring payments to DIC recipients in line with payments to surviving spouses of other federal employees as DIC benefits currently lag behind other programs' payments by nearly 12 percent. This legislation will deliver critical economic support to families that find themselves in the tragic situation of carrying on after their service member dies.

Many former members of our Armed Forces require additional support as a result of their service and rely on family to help meet basic needs. We can better support them as they provide this essential assistance, so I've introduced legislation to enhance Department of Veterans Affairs programs for disabled veterans and their children who often take on caregiving roles.

According to a report commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, these young caregivers are asking for more help. We're pushing to improve benefits and expanding access to mental health care, peer support, recreational opportunities and other experiences to help these children lead healthier lives.

The Helping Heroes Act of 2023 recognizes the work done by the approximately 2.3 million children living in homes with a disabled veteran and seeks to provide critical support and assistance to connect these young caregivers with additional resources so we can help caregivers of all ages.

We have a responsibility to support the families and loved ones of those defending of our nation. These measures provide needed resources and help fulfill that obligation. I'm proud to be advancing these legislative initiatives and I am committed to working with my colleagues to make these meaningful improvements to ensure we take care of the unsung heroes in our military and veterans community.