The Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance is a benefit designed to provide certain low-income military members with an additional allowance to help them afford nutritional food for themselves and their families.
Many military members receive total pay and compensation that is on par with their civilian counterparts. However, some members may find it difficult to make ends meet. This may be more common among junior and middle enlisted members with families. Depending on your total income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). However, SNAP is only available to servicemembers living in the US. It is not available overseas.
Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance (FSSA) was designed to work in place of SNAP benefits for military members who are living and serving overseas. FSSA is a supplemental income program for military members designed to reduce or eliminate the need for servicemembers to use the Food Stamp Program (SNAP). It was established in May of 2001 to supplement eligible military member’s Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS). FSSA is a nontaxable allowance payable in addition to all other pays and allowances.
Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance
FSSA is designed to bring the military member’s household income up to 130% of the federal poverty level, as established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The benefit is paid in whole dollars, equal to the amount needed to bring the military member’s household income up to 130% of the federal poverty level. The current maximum payable FSSA rate is up to $1,100 per month, not to exceed 130% of the poverty level. FSSA benefits are prorated if you are not eligible for the entire month.
Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance Eligibility
The Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance is open to military members who are serving overseas, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible, military members must:
- be receiving full or partial BAS,
- meet the FSSA gross income guidelines for household size as determined by the USDA (income level must fall within 130% of the federal poverty level)
- and must have applied and been certified at a certain payment level by the appropriate office.
The program is especially designed to help large military family households.
How Income is Calculated for FSSA Purposes
“Military income” for the FSSA includes basic pay, BAS, basic allowance for housing, or cash equivalent for those that are living in Government provided housing, overseas housing allowance, all bonuses, and all special and incentive pays.
Other income earned by family members may also count toward your application. Some examples include: spouse’s wages, earnings, or salary, commissions and tips, self-employment income, interest and dividend income, alimony and child support, unemployment benefits and workers compensation benefits, veteran benefits, annuities, pensions, and other retirements benefits, and other potential income.
Bonuses and Provisions Not Counted as Income for FSSA Purposes
The following sources of revenue shall not be counted as military income: Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay, Continental United States Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), overseas COLA, Family Separation Allowance, all travel and transportation-related allowances and entitlements and clothing allowances.
Other income not counted toward family income include income from students under age 18, loans, grants, and scholarships, income tax refunds, insurance settlements, reimbursements for medical and dental care, and potentially other income.
Check with your local finance office for more information regarding income qualifications.
How to Apply for Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance
Military members must apply with their respective service which will make all decisions regarding eligibility and the amount of entitlement. They will also provide final certification for payment to include the entitlement start date.
Eligible military members receiving FSSA must re-certify each February or any time they receive a promotion, accept a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), their family changes in size, or their monthly household income increases by $100 or more. Members may apply for recertification up to 30 days before or after an event without losing their eligibility, otherwise, their eligibility will be terminated and their application will be treated as a new application.
To Apply: The application is web-based and must be completed from a DoD computer: https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/fssa/owa/go
For more information, please see the official DoD Financial Management Regulation which can be found in the following pdf: DoD 7000.14-R, VOLUME 7A, CHAPTER 25 – “SUBSISTENCE ALLOWANCES”.