July 13 2016
Big BAH Cuts in Senate NDAA
The Senate recently approved its version of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision that would reduce Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments for stateside service members who are married to, or who share off-base housing with, another service member. The bill (S. 2943) also seeks to limit BAH payments to actual housing costs or BAH, whichever is less.
The proposed plan would impose a heavy financial penalty on service members who choose to marry other service members rather than civilians, and it would particularly penalize junior service members who choose to room together and homeowners who manage to pay off mortgages.
FRA strongly opposes this proposal that would reduce housing allowances by 50 percent or more for many service members, accounting for annual losses of $10,000 or more for thousands of military personnel. The plan would penalize those who try to save for the future by sharing housing expenses or paying down their mortgages. It would also reduce the incentive to be frugal, and seems particularly ill-timed in light of recent changes to military retirement that require a greater reliance on service members' personal savings. A recent Department of Defense (DoD) report echoes FRA’s concerns that the changes would be expensive to administer, discriminatory, and inappropriate.
The proposed BAH cuts are aimed at saving the government money, but FRA believes the cuts would have a negative impact on retention. Each uniformed member is entitled to BAH (if not provided government quarters) as part of their total compensation package, regardless of the employment status of a spouse or roommate.
The House-approved version of the NDAA (H.R. 4909) does not contain these provisions. A conference committee will soon be appointed to resolve the differences between the two measures and it’s possible the House will accept the Senate’s BAH provisions.
Join FRA in opposing this dramatic reduction to BAH by using the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask your representative to oppose these Senate provisions and other onerous provisions in the final bill.
OnWatch is a quarterly news update for active duty and Reserve
personnel, written by Stephen Tassin. He recently transitioned from
active duty to service as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Marine Corps
Reserve Force, and has a personal interest in these matters. As the
assistant director of Legislative Programs for the Fleet Reserve
Association (FRA), he’s also committed to FRA’s mission to
maintain and improve the quality of life for Navy, Marine Corps and
Coast Guard personnel and their families. He looks forward to keeping
you up to date on FRA’s legislative efforts to protect and enhance
your earned military and veterans’ benefits.