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Help Coming to Fill Pantries for Some Junior-Enlisted Families

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2001 – Help is on the way for some junior-enlisted families struggling to keep food on the table but too proud to accept food stamps.

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Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Income Chart

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Troops who would otherwise qualify for food stamps -- and some who wouldn't -- can apply for the armed forces' newFamily Subsistence Supplemental Allowance as of May 1. Those who apply in time could receive their first non- taxable payment of up to $500 June 1.

Congress provided for the allowance in the fiscal 2001 National Defense Authorization Act to reduce the number of service members receiving U.S. Department of Agriculture food stamps, DoD officials said.

"It is intended to remove a household's eligibility from the food stamp program," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Kevin Harkins, a DoD assistant director of compensation in the Pentagon.

DoD officials estimate roughly 5,000 service members receive food stamps. Officials think perhaps 1,000 more people will be eligible for FSSA than currently use food stamps because the DoD program is available to military members serving overseas, while food stamps are not.

The two criteria used to establish FSSA eligibility are household size and total household income. The Agriculture Department publishes eligibility guidelines that equal 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

There are circumstances in which a service member could qualify for both the new allowance and food stamps. FSSA is limited to $500 per month. "If their food stamp benefit were greater than that, they could still receive the difference in food stamps," Harkins said.

However, individuals receiving FSSA are required to list the payment amount as income when subsequently applying for food stamps, Harkins said.

The new program uses USDA's gross income limit to determine eligibility, with one major difference. Both housing allowances and the estimated value of on-base housing count as income for the FSSA; only housing allowances are considered for food stamps, Harkins explained.

"Someone living on base may be denied FSSA, but still qualify for the USDA food stamp program," Harkins said.

Each service will establish certification points on installations. Harkins said personnel service centers and family service centers will be the primary pre-screening locations. He recommended interested individuals check with their chains of command to determine how and where to apply on their home installations.

For more information on the FSSA, visit the program's home page at www.dmdc.osd.mil/fssa.

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