The Pentagon is reviewing the needs of military families, especially given the economic changes and difficulty after COVID-19. From the temporary BAH increase to cover the increasing rental costs across the country to the increase in 2021 BAH rates, the Pentagon is analyzing the needs of military families and responding to those needs. A November 17 memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated he wanted to address the challenges of “food insecurity, extended wait times for housing, drastically reduced housing inventories, and sudden, sharp increases in rental or purchase costs for housing.”
Fifty-six geographic areas were identified as areas with a high cost of living leading to the temporary BAH increase in those areas to help cover those costs. The temporary BAH increases are in place from September to December 2021. The rate increase required an application by the service member demonstrating the need and the rate increase is given as a lump sum payment on January 1, 2022.
An additional measure released by the Pentagon to help recently PCS-ed military families is the extension of temporary lodging reimbursement beyond 10 days in areas with housing shortages.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that he has asked the Army, Navy, and Air Force departments to come up with a strategy to address food insecurity. In a November press briefing, he gave the departments three months to find an “economic security toolkit” to identify military service members and families that have food insecurity and connect them with resources to address that.
Austin stated in a Pentagon press briefing, “Our men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about. Basic necessities like food and housing shouldn’t be among them.” One reason these measures are being made is that BAH is currently included as income for federal programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Consequently, non-taxable pay such as BAH and BAS can disqualify servicemembers from such federal programs despite the financial need.
The November 17th memo from Austin also outlines increased stability for service members and families, when feasible, through extended tour length – beyond 36 months – for both CONUS and overseas tours at locations where the quality of life conditions are comparable to U.S. standards. The memo also permits flexibility on CONUS assignment reports dates where housing wait times and reduced inventory are present.
The federal government announced on November 10th that the inflation rate increased to 6.2% in the last year, which is an unprecedented increase since 1990. While the 2.7% pay raise and 2.9% BAH increase are less than inflation, the Pentagon is looking to support troop housing and economic stability through other measures including the temporary BAH increase and addressing food insecurity.