U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Senate passage of a provision she worked on with Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) to protect military families from being cut from child and maternal nutrition programs. Currently, military families can be removed from critical nutritional programs, including school lunches, because their combat pay increases their income above the eligibility thresholds for the programs. The Military Family Protection Act, which passed as part of the FY '10 Agriculture Appropriations Bill late yesterday, would permanently exempt combat pay from counting as income for federal child nutrition and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs.
"We cannot allow our men and women in uniform to sacrifice on behalf of our country, and then be denied access to critical nutritional programs for their children and family," Senator Gillibrand said. "It is morally reprehensible to penalize the brave men and women in the military for the combat pay they have earned. This legislation would ensure our military families have appropriate access to important federal nutrition programs."
Despite precedent for honoring combat pay in other important programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) currently includes the additional, temporary combat pay for military personnel in a family's income level when determining eligibility for the program. Combat pay has been exempted from eligibility determinations for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
Senator Gillibrand's provision would ensure military families are not excluded from critical nutrition programs by requires state agencies to permanently exclude combat pay from income when determining eligibility for child nutritional programs, including WIC.
WIC provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for mothers and children. The program provides vouchers that can be use at authorized food stores. Studies, reviews and reports show that the WIC program is cost effective in protecting or improving the health and nutritional status of women, infants and children.
This change will apply to all childhood nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service, the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.