NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Soldiers Receiving Food Stamps Only Because Of Quirk In Regulations

March 17, 2000

It seems deplorable that military personnel and their families should have to rely on food stamps to make ends meet. Based on a 1995 Defense Department survey, it was widely reported that some 12,000 servicemen were in that plight.

But the problem is less than meets the eye. Much fewer than that are eligible for food stamps, and those who are eligible benefit from a quirk in the Department of Agriculture's rules. The department doesn't include the value of free military housing when it calculates who qualifies for assistance.

  • Pentagon officials now say that about 7,600 soldiers receive food stamp assistance.
  • Without that housing quirk and other oddities in military pay, only 750 to 1,000 soldiers -- 0.08 percent of the total force -- would receive food stamps.
  • Moreover, experts say the Pentagon is actually paying younger, less-educated soldiers more than their civilian counterparts.
  • And it is underpaying well-trained enlisted men and women with years of experience -- the very group it is trying desperately to keep.

Source: Greg Jaffe, "Military's Food-Stamp Problem Seems Less Than Feared," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues