Child Support Program Engages Veteran and Military Families
May highlights veterans and military families. In addition to National Military Appreciation Month, May hosts Armed Forces Day (May 18) and of course Memorial Day (the 27th). Also, May 10 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
As child support workers, we have an obligation to work with families at their most vulnerable. We cannot repay the sacrifice that our service men and women and their families make for our country, but for many reasons, the child support program must pay special and well-deserved attention to military members, veterans, and their families. Here are some of those reasons:
- About 50 percent of active duty members and 70 percent of Reserve and National Guard members are parents. See the OCSE fact sheet “Military Services and Child Support Partnerships.”
- About 6 percent of the national child support caseload involves a veteran or a active military member.
- Military families face extra challenges with multiple deployments and a higher divorce rate than the rest of the population.
- A massive military drawdown by the Pentagon is set to begin this August.
- Military members transitioning to veteran status often face a decrease in pay and a significant risk of unemployment.
- Cases involving veteran parents are more likely to be interstate cases that require more attention.
- Veteran noncustodial parents are likely to have significantly higher arrears—27 percent higher on average. See the OCSE fact sheet “Child Support Participation in Stand Down Events.”
In the coming months, OCSE will work with our partners at state, tribal, and local agencies, many of whom are already leading the way in outreach to military families. We plan to spread the word about their innovative services. We also plan to strengthen communication, systems, and policy links between child support and the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to support collaborations that add real value at the state and local levels.
Resources to help you
A Handbook for Military Families: Helping You with Child Support – Our new handbook answers questions for both custodial and noncustodial parents on topics such as paternity establishment, child support, access and visitation, and child custody. While valuable for military families, the handbook is also useful to child support caseworkers and supervisors, as well as military commanders.
Working with the Military on Child Support Matters – Look for an update this summer. We regularly hear from caseworkers that this resource serves as an indispensible desk guide on military issues surrounding a child support case.
A Child Support-VA Collaboration Toolkit – Look for our assessment later this year of nine pilot projects across the country that are helping veterans who are homeless. Through a partnership between OCSE, the VA, and the American Bar Association, the pilot projects are helping homeless veterans gain permanent housing through assistance with modifying child support orders and reducing arrears.
I’m particularly excited about our Veteran and Military Liaison Network. The network brings together staff from the state and local child support community to explore ways we can better serve those who have so proudly served us. Its members are connecting with each other smoothing the way for cases involving veterans and military families. For more information on the network or any other aspect of our work with veterans and military families, please contact Thom Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vicki Turetsky is the Commissioner for the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. As Commissioner, she oversees the child support program operated by each state and by many tribes.