The USAF’s senior enlisted man is expressing his concern over a congressional plan that changes the way military housing allowance is issued.
According to Federal News Radio, the criticism of congressional choice comes at a time when enlisted numbers are reporting some of the lowest numbers in regards to finance difficulties.
A provision in the Senate’s version of the 2017 Defense Authorization Bill makes changes to the provision for Basic Allowance of Housing that only reimburse servicemembers for actual expenses, rather than pay them a flat monthly payment.
“From my discussions with airmen around the world, I find that this proposal is having a significant negative impact on airmen’s morale and their sense of support from their elected officials,” Air Force Chief Master Sergeant James Cody wrote in a letter to Senator John McCain (R-AZ). “Airmen are concerned about the potential financial hardships as some families could lose up to $50,000 a year in compensation. Additionally, this proposal threatens our wingman culture as it provides disincentives for shared living arrangements, thereby removing a critical support structure that contributes to the resiliency of the force.”
The bill would make changes to the BAH system, requiring servicemembers to provide proof of rent and utility payments, reimbursing servicemembers for what is actually spent and effectively eliminating the “buffer” funds that often remain, which can serve to pay for expenses such as food.
In addition, the bill would also divvy up the exact costs of housing and utility costs between couples and servicemembers with roommates.
Association of the United States Navy CEO and president Garry Hall says the current BAH methods are essential to servicemembers who live in expensive tourist areas such as San Diego and Norfolk, where the cost of housing -and living in general- is much higher.
“These are high-dollar areas and without [BAH, sailors] couldn’t afford to live in those areas and scrape by,” Hall said.
Despite concerns, enlisted personnel and officers have been reporting that their financial stability has improved in recent years. Department of Defense reports, echo this, saying that a vast majority of personnel felt comfortable with their finances in 2014, with only 10-25% of junior enlisted reporting issues.
Regardless, the DoD is resisting even minor changes to BAH, citing lack of equity in light of major government savings.
“While there would be some monetary savings in the BAH program achieved through implementation of a limitation of BAH payments for dual-military couples, the department objects to any limitation based solely on housing or marriage choices,” a DoD spokeswoman told FNR. “A recommendation that a member is less deserving of compensation, solely because of the member’s marital status, would impose a marriage penalty on married couples in which both members have volunteered to serve their country.”
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