A survey of American military families has found that economic issues are by far their greatest concern.
Nearly two-thirds of military families responding to the survey by the military spouse-led private group Blue Star said pay and retirement benefits are their primary concern.
Vivian Greentree, who directs the annual survey for Blue Star Families, says that the number of food stamps used at military commissaries has tripled in the last four years.
Blue Star surveyed more than 4,000 military families. Greentree says education continues to be a big issue: on average, military kids change schools more than half a dozen times.
The survey also asked about suicide for the first time, and discovered that one in ten service members (and one in ten family members) reported considering suicide.
"Twenty-three percent of the comments cited the need to eradicate the stigma that still surrounds mental health seeking or counseling," says Greentree.
The third annual survey also found nearly three out of four service members say the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military had no impact on their service member’s ability to do the job.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California co-chairs the Senate Military Family Caucus. She says the survey of 4,000 families is invaluable to lawmakers.
"We try so hard to be relevant in what we do," she says. "And we may think there’s a problem and with the best intentions, try to fix it. [But then] it turns out, that’s the least of your worries."
All but 5 percent of military families surveyed said the public doesn’t understand or appreciate the sacrifices of service members and their families.
The survey also asked about social media: three out of four say it’s become an important way to communicate during deployments.