Congresswoman Susan Davis Serves Up Solution to Military Hunger in National Defense Authorization Act

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Washington, July 12, 2019 | comments

Congresswoman Susan Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, added language to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2500) to help low-income military families living with food insecurity.  Davis’s language would create a basic needs allowance to bridge the gap for eligible servicemembers who are currently not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

“Of all the sacrifices our military families make, putting food on the table should not be one of them,” said Davis.  “No child should go hungry, let alone the children of our servicemembers.  Creating a basic needs allowance is a simple solution to the critical issue of food insecurity among some military families.” 

In high cost of living areas like San Diego, some families of junior enlisted servicemembers  struggle to put food on the table. Because of the way military pay is structured, military families who are eligible in other areas are often ineligible for SNAP when stationed in high cost of living areas like San Diego due to the inclusion of housing allowance in the eligibility calculation.  A basic needs allowance will fix this problem. The NDAA passed the House on a vote of 220-197. The basic needs provision is also included in the Senate version of the NDAA, which passed in June. 

As a senior member of the committee, Davis influences policy changes and crafts key provisions each year in the bill.  The following provisions were included by Davis in the base language of the NDAA prior to committee and floor consideration: 

Improvements to Child Care for Members of the Armed Forces - Authorizes financial assistance to civilian child care providers who care for the children of survivors of members who die in the line of duty and to expand direct hiring authority for child care providers. 

Comprehensive Policy for Provision of Mental Health Care to Members of the Armed Forces - Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a comprehensive policy of mental health care to members of the Armed Forces. 

Tijuana Sewage Runoff Impact to Readiness - In last year’s NDAA, Davis added language directing the Navy to look at the national security impact of sewage runoff for Navy SEAL training at the future site for a SEAL training facility.  When scheduled training corresponds with sewage spills or discharges, military personnel may be exposed to untreated sewage with consequences to their health. In a follow up to the Navy’s written report, Davis included language directing the Navy to brief the House Armed Services Committee on readiness impacts of Tijuana sewage runoff in waters adjacent to military installations. 

Protecting the Rights of Sexual Assault Survivors - Davis included language expanding the rights of military sexual assault survivors, which directs the Secretary of Defense to issue guidance to ensure that sexual assault victims' preference for prosecution jurisdiction is recorded.

Preventing Witness Tampering in Military Judicial Proceedings - To ensure a more equitable and fair judicial proceedings in the military justice system, Davis included a provision to prohibit convening authorities and commanding officers from interfering with access and influencing witnesses.

Extension and Expansion of Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces - Davis included a section to extend the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault (DAC-IPAD) for an additional five years and expands the committee’s role to look at military justice reforms. 

Expansion of Special Victims' Counsel for Victims of Sex-Related or Domestic Violence Offenses - The Special Victims' Counsel program will cover eligible domestic violence victims and require a report to the Committee on how the military services are meeting Special Victims' Counsel program requirements. 

Notification of the Issuance of a Military Protective Order to Civilian Law Enforcement - Unit commanders must notify civilian authorities of the issuance of a military protective order against a member of the Armed Forces and would require unit commanders to notify a receiving unit of the issuance of a military protective order in the event a member is transferred to another unit.

Guidelines on Sentences for Offenses Committed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice - The Secretary of Defense must establish non-binding sentencing guidelines for offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, taking into account sentencing data collected by the Military Justice Review Panel.

Support for Women in the Afghanistan Security Forces - Davis included a provision to set a goal of using $45.5 million to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to promote the recruitment, training, integration, and retention of Afghan women into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

This represents a key step to assure that peace and security processes do not overlook the inclusion of women, a critical strategy that research has shown reduces conflict.  The NDAA sets a goal of using $45.5 million to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to promote the recruitment, training, integration, and retention of Afghan women into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The following Davis Amendments were passed by the House Armed Services Committee during its consideration of the NDAA in June:

Apprenticeships - Apprenticeships are an incredible chance for people to earn while they learn.   Davis’s amendment requires a good faith effort to have military construction contractors use apprentices.

Absentee Ballots - The amendment allows military and overseas voters to track and confirm the receipt of their ballots just passed in the House Armed Services Committee.  Those fighting to defend our freedoms and democracy deserve to know their votes have been counted.

Wildfires - Early detection of wildfires can be a matter of life or death.  The Davis Amendment would require the Department of Defense to look at using space-based sensors to assist with the early detection of wildfires. 

Family Leave - Military parents are currently prohibited from taking maternity and paternity leave consecutively.  Davis’s amendment removes this prohibition. Military families deserve the flexibility of taking leave when it works for them.

Sexual Trauma - The physical trauma from a sexual assault can require health care attention well after the assault.  Davis would require the Department of Defense to study the feasibility of providing healthcare coverage for sexual trauma victims regardless of their military status.

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