Speier calls for study of child abuse, neglect spike in military
WASHINGTON — A member of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday asked the Defense Department to look into what she called an alarming rise in instances of abuse and neglect among military children.
The Washington Post reported in an exclusive this month that confirmed cases of abuse and neglect spiked 10 percent in 2014. Rep. Jackie Speier, the ranking member on the oversight and investigations subcommittee, said such cases actually have increased 24 percent since 2011, and she requested a survey of children and a DOD database to track the problem.
The congresswoman cited mounting stress on military families during and after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a letter sent to Brad Carson, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Unnamed DOD officials told the Post the 2014 increase caught their attention but further analysis was planned to figure out its cause and meaning.
“In fact, since 2011, the rates of actual abuse and neglect have risen 24 percent from 4.5 cases per 1,000 children to 5.6 per 1,000,” Speier wrote. “This alarming trend requires further evaluation and a plan to address it.”
The rate of such cases in the military still appears to be well below the national average, which was 9.2 per 1,000 children under 18, according to a 2012 survey by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Still, Speier suggested the military investigate its relative spike using a new survey similar to the Rand Military Workplace Study, which reached out to about 560,000 servicemembers last year to get information on sexual assault, harassment and gender discrimination. It was among the largest surveys of its type ever conducted, according to the Rand Corp., a nonprofit research group.
The new data on abuse and neglect would give the military a more accurate view of the problem and not require it to rely only on cases reported to military family advocacy programs, Speier said.
“One of the first steps to fully understand the scope of the problem is the need for more information beyond confirmed reports,” she wrote. “I believe there are some common-sense steps that need to be taken which will help inform how abuse and neglect can be addressed.”