Congress aims to help military families keep the pieces together

By  | 

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Members of the armed forces aren't the only ones who sacrifice for their country, so do their families. Congress hopes to help the military better serve them.

With hundreds of jigsaw pieces before them, the Kimballs stay connected as a family. But, one puzzle threatened to tear them apart: what to do each time Joe - a pilot in the Coast Guard - got shipped somewhere new.

"Having to make really difficult choices every single time is wearing," said his wife Shelley, research director for the Military Family Advisory Network.

Joe, Shelley, and their now teenages Grace and Joe Jr. called Alabama, Miami, and Northern Virginia home, living in each area twice. "Sometimes it goes so quickly, it's hard to remember where you're living," Shelley said.

Moves meant piecing together childcare, and how to pay the bills while Shelley looked for new jobs. "It didn't always work, it didn't always fit together," she said, "because the jobs that are my passion, are not easy ones to get every time you move."

The Kimballs are not alone. The average military family moves every two years. Military spouses are significantly less likely to be employed than the typical American, and that contributes to the debt many carry from consistent moves.

"The stories are powerful, and I've heard them all over Virginia," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Kaine shepherded a number proposals aimed to help military families through the most recent defense budget process. The budget directs the military to get more childcare in and around bases, reduce obstacles to spousal employment, and provide more assistance to families when it's time to leave life in the service.

"This is partly about fairness to military spouses," Kaine said, "but the better military spouses are treated, the more able you are to attract good talent into the military and keep good talent."

It may take time before families feel the difference. But, the Kimballs said it's good to know the pieces are there.