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Old 07-19-2019, 10:10 AM
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Thumbs up Military Families Require More Coordinated Support, Says New Report

Military Families Require More Coordinated Support, Says New Report
By: National Academies - 7-19-19

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Family Readiness System (MFRS) — a network of agencies, programs, services, and individuals that promotes the well-being and quality of life of military service members and their families — lacks a comprehensive, coordinated framework to support well-being, resilience, and readiness, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report, Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society, recommends that DOD programs for military families account for the degree to which family structures within the military community have changed in recent years as a result of changes in American society.

Family well-being is essential to the effectiveness of the military services and DOD for multiple reasons. Among other things, family members provide support to service members while they serve or when they are injured or have other difficulties; family problems can interfere with the ability of service members to deploy or remain in theater; and family members are central influences on whether members continue to serve. In addition, service members’ psychological or physical difficulties can reverberate within families, potentially generating significant costs for DOD support programs.

While there is no universal definition of family well-being in the research literature or across national or global organizations, the report identifies the following as key components of well-being:

- Objective well-being refers to resources considered necessary for adequate quality of life, such as sufficient economic and educational resources, housing, health, safety, environmental quality, and social connections.

- Subjective well-being is the result of how individuals think and feel about their circumstances.

- Functional well-being focuses on the degree to which families and their members can successfully perform their core functions, such as caring for, supporting, and nurturing family members.

In many ways, the life course of military families can be similar to the life course of nonmilitary families. However, a number of experiences are specific to military life or are experienced differently because of the military context in which they occur. Such experiences include deployments, combat exposure, service-related mental and physical injuries and death, lack of or disruption of career progression, and transition to civilian life. These experiences may lead to stressors and challenges that can undermine healthy processes in families, resulting in discord and reducing well-being and functional abilities.

“Military families encompass a broad spectrum of American society and have widely diverse needs that have materially changed in recent years as a result of broad changes in society at large,” said Kenneth W. Kizer, chair of the committee that wrote the report and chief healthcare transformation officer for Atlas Research. “While most military-connected children and families are doing well, there are subgroups who would benefit from greater support.”

The committee found that DOD’s MFRS has many good features and offers support not usually available in the private sector; however, it could be strengthened in a number of ways. For example, the MFRS would benefit from having more complete information about the diverse nature of today’s military families. The committee found that current data on military families is insufficient with respect to information on long-term non-marital partners, ex-spouses and ex-partners, sexual orientation, and citizenship status, which results in some types of families being underserved. Purposefully measuring these kinds of characteristics will help the MFRS meet variation in military family needs, well-being, and readiness.

In order to provide access to effective services, the DOD should strengthen the Military Family Readiness System so that it:

- Provides a comprehensive continuum of support across providers, locations, and changing benefit eligibility.

- Facilitates adaptive and timely approaches to stepped service delivery according to individual family needs.

- Draws upon effective evidence-based or evidence-informed approaches.

- Integrates routine screening and assessment tools into the delivery of family support programs.

- Builds and employs a robust infrastructure of both implementation and outcome data that supports continuous quality improvement.

- Coordinates referrals and care across military and nonmilitary resources, institutions, and communities.

The report also recommends that the DOD promote better civilian understanding, both within military community and the broader community, of the strengths and needs of military-connected individuals, addressing misinformation, negative stereotypes, and lack of knowledge commonly found in the civilian sector about military life and service members.

The DOD should continuously assess the availability and effectiveness of specialized family-centered policies, programs, services, resources, and practices to support the evolving and unexpected needs of families facing exceptionally high stressors. In particular, the DOD should seek to serve highly affected families through interdisciplinary, collaborative models in which community service providers, health care providers, and other professionals, both within and outside the military health system, are prepared to rapidly develop and deliver family-centered services that address emerging, high-stress family challenges. Policies, programs, and services should be systematically evaluated and prepared to respond to evolving high stress situations within the recommended Military Family Readiness System.

The study – undertaken by the Committee on the Well-Being of Military Families – was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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