The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a new perspective on life. It’s altered the way we view the world. It’s also illuminated, and in some cases intensified, issues that have been present for years. New research shows that this seems to be the case within the military community as well.
Since March 2020, the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative has kept a pulse on the military community. Through weekly polls on pain points and town hall discussions, they've tracked the well-being and concerns of military and veteran families. Their research has revealed that many pre-existing issues facing the military community have been intensified during the pandemic.
Here are some of the top issues they identified:
- Military and veteran families reported increased stress and incidence of mental health symptoms—23% of military family respondents without a pre-existing depressive disorder or anxiety diagnosis now report have symptoms.
- Military families have unmet mental health needs—military families say they need mental health care, yet 25% report that need being unmet.
- Military spouse unemployment worsened—17% of military spouses reported having lost their job as a result of the pandemic (military spouses were already experiencing 24% unemployment prior to the pandemic).
- Black and Hispanic/Latinx military families are experiencing greater financial challenges during the pandemic—40% of Black and 33% of Hispanic/Latinx active-duty family respondents reported relying on savings or credit cards during the pandemic compared to 29% of white active-duty families.
- Female service members are carrying more childcare burden than their male colleagues—72% of female service members reported having to change their childcare plan during the pandemic compared to only 45% of male service members.
- One-fifth of essential personnel (e.g., installation medical providers) were unable to access childcare during the pandemic.
- Too many military families are food insecure—6% rely on free or reduced lunch programs were put at risk due to school closures.
- More veterans are struggling financially—7% of veteran families sought emergency food assistance in the last 6 months and 6% were unable to make payments on basic utilities and rent.
Booz Allen is the presenting sponsor of the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative created by Blue Star Families and the Association of Defense Communities. The initiative brought together stakeholders from both the public and private sectors including all military services, not-for-profit organizations, and defense industry partners in order to more thoroughly analyze COVID-19’s effect on military families and provide resources and expertise to support communities, states, and military families.