Civilian defense furloughs also affecting military families

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:34 PM

Staff, Standard-Examiner

Government employee furloughs are adversely affecting the lives of service members and their families at a much higher rate than their civilian counterparts, according to a financial institution survey.

The latest survey results reveal that 72 percent of middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) indicate that they have been negatively impacted by the Defense Department furloughs of roughly 650,000 civilian employees under the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

In contrast, just 32 percent of middle-income Americans in the general population report feeling unfavorable effects.

The survey was commissioned by First Command Financial Services, Inc., a financial planning firm. It was conducted by Sentient Decision Science, Inc. a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm. Approximately 530 people, aged 25 to 70 with household incomes of at least $50,000, were surveyed. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent.

When asked to pinpoint how furloughs were impacting their lives, nearly half (46 percent) of military respondents identified reduced operating schedules at commissaries and exchanges. About 22 percent cited congestion at access gates to military installations. This was an issue recently at Hill Air Force Base.

After unpaid furlough days began at Hill in early July, some Hill workers reported long waits as they attempted to enter the base through its two main entry points — the west gate at 650 North in Clearfield and the east gate, just off of State Route 193 in Layton.

In August Hill officials said most delays at base gates were isolated incidents and that traffic studies have shown peak wait times reach no longer than 4 to 6 minutes.

Members of active-duty families also reported that they had experienced the effects of:

• Hiring freezes (19 percent).

• Reduced hours or closures of federal facilities (15 percent).

• Unpaid furlough days (15 percent).

• Delayed or decreased access to medical treatment (15 percent).

• Restricted overtime due to spending cuts (14 percent).

• Limitations to community service programs (12 percent).

• No bonuses due to spending cuts (11 percent).

• Longer waits for access to federal facilities (7 percent).

• Deferred maintenance at government-owned housing (5 percent).

“While the recent furloughs obviously impacted the financial lives of hundreds of thousands of civilian defense workers, many military families are also feeling the effects,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “It’s worth noting that a significant subset of active-duty households include a federal employee. These families were hit twice by the furloughs – through a reduction in various services to the military communities as well as smaller paychecks for federal workers.”

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