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Thread: The controversial plan to slash military housing allowance faces opposition

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    The controversial plan to slash military housing allowance faces opposition

    Military advocates are baffled over a Senate plan to overhaul troops’ housing stipends, saying the change appears unneeded and potentially crippling to family finances.

    “We view Basic Allowance for Housing as an earned benefit, and we don’t agree with trying to reduce that benefit,” said Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America. “This is not just frivolous money being spent by troops.”

    Included in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the annual defense authorization bill are plans to overhaul how BAH is paid out troops. Instead of flat fees based on rank and ZIP code, the new system would refund only what troops pay out in rent and utilities costs, stopping troops from pocketing leftover stipends if they find cheaper housing.

    The Defense Department opposes the idea, calling the housing stipends part of troops’ larger compensation package. But Senate officials say the change could save the department tens of millions while still providing adequate housing benefits for troops.

    Both Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have amendments which would strip the BAH changes out of the measure when it reaches the Senate floor next week.

    Outside critics support that move.

    “If it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it,” said Kelly Hruska, government relations director for the National Military Family Association. “The [Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission] looked at this issue last year, and they found the system wasn’t perfect, but it works.”

    Michael Little, director of legislative affairs for the Association of the United States Navy, said the Senate plan still has too many unanswered questions, such as how utilities costs will be calculated into the new housing stipend and how exactly the change will impact family finances.

    “We should be trying to find ways to keep men and women interested in the military,” he said. “But by putting restraints on them and taking away pay and benefits, we are making the military a place where morale is low and retention is even lower.

    “Our government should want to find a way to make the military a career decision for more Americans. Cutting benefits will not do that.”

    House lawmakers did not include the change in their draft legislation. If the proposal passes the Senate, a conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers will have to work out a compromise in coming months.
    So it looks like they're trying to go back to the old BAQ/VHA situation that existed before switching to the current BAH that happened under the Clinton Administration before I joined the Navy.

    If this goes into law - and I doubt it will - then I'm clocking out of the Air Force Reserve at 20. Consider this: back in December, my wife inherited a house when her grandmother passed away. We're still renting the house that we're living in right now, because we signed the lease in the September before the passing.

    In other words... the plan is to move into that house in September, when the lease on our current house is up.

    I deploy to Al Udeid at the end of this September coming up.

    Now, picture this: as a GS-11 in my civilian job I make a certain amount of dollars, but living in a house that's already paid off (i.e., no mortgage); I wouldn't get BAH. Well, I'd get enough to cover utilities... maybe property taxes (I don't know), but the bottom line is this: I'd be LOSING money by deploying, instead of MAKING money under the current rules.

    Why in the FUCK would I subject myself to THAT longer than I have to?

    This is one of those things where Reservists would get fucked harder.

    Fuck it, I'll happily "abuse the system" by taking out a mortgage on the house in this situation. The house needs all of the drywall replaced, a roof job, and new windows anyway.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
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    While i agree, why would someone serve, i have been saying for a long time, that the BAH rates are too generous in many cases.. It should be sufficient to pay your rent/mortgage, and that's it. utilities should be on YOUR head to pay..

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garhkal View Post
    It should be sufficient to pay your rent/mortgage, and that's it. utilities should be on YOUR head to pay..
    I WOULD agree with this if people living in the dorms/barracks and base housing had to pay for utilities, but they don't. They take away BAH and give them quarters with utilities. It only stands to reason that BAH covers the same for everyone else.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
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    Banned sandsjames's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Jones View Post
    I WOULD agree with this if people living in the dorms/barracks and base housing had to pay for utilities, but they don't. They take away BAH and give them quarters with utilities. It only stands to reason that BAH covers the same for everyone else.
    I gotta say, Rusty, I'm surprised you're going in this direction. You sound like most of the people on this forum when you say you shouldn't have to give up some of your money when people living in the dorms get "assistance", or don't have to pay, for utilities.

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandsjames View Post
    I gotta say, Rusty, I'm surprised you're going in this direction. You sound like most of the people on this forum when you say you shouldn't have to give up some of your money when people living in the dorms get "assistance", or don't have to pay, for utilities.
    More like BAH is designed to cover what you would have been provided in kind, and that's pretty much what I'm sticking to.

    Where I DO call foul with the status quo is the fact the young single troops get the shit end of the stick. The barracks/dorm rooms they get don't equal out to the fair market rental value of single BAH for their paygrades. From what I've seen, in the last five or six years, the Navy has actually taken the lead in providing the best barracks with the Homeport program. Basically, they're designed to resemble the fancy apartments in the downtowns across America that are being built in place of old storefront buildings that are being torn down.

    However... since format is still basically the same as barracks/dorms that have been being built for the past 20 years (i.e., you walk into a small common area with a bathroom and a kitchen, and it splits into two bedrooms with non-lockable doors); it STILL doesn't add up.

    And it's even MORE fucked up for the Marine Corps, but their problem is self-inflicted. About fifteen years ago, SECDEF actually tried to make the situation I described above the standard DoD wide, but the Marine Corps fought it. They WANT two Marines sleeping in the same room.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
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    Senior Member efmbman's Avatar
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    I doubt this will amount to anything substantial. In years past, it was commissaries. These benefits are brought up prior to each election cycle as a way to strike fear into the military population. Then, at the 11th hour, a deal is made. Instead of slashing the benefit completely, only a partial cut is made (which is probably all that was wanted in the first place). Because the majority of the benefit remains intact, the military folks are relieved and grateful to those that proposed the cuts in the first place. Meanwhile, those that suggested the cuts can point to the partial cut as "at least I did something".

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    I agree. Especially since the commissary doesn't make or break recruiting or retention. BAH, on the other hand... the only way this would actually fly without hurting anything is by grandfathering those already serving at the time that it goes into effect. Otherwise, there's going to be a mass exodus. The only good reasoning behind it would be that they're trying to induce the mass exodus on purpose. Downsizing without having to give anyone a dime in retirement or severence.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
    -Rainmaker, referencing black males

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    Now that I think about it a little more, there's still a legimate threat to the commissary's existence. I remember a few years ago, there were talks about replacing the commissary and exchanges by the DoD establishing contracts with wholesale clubs (BJ's, Costco, etc) to open up on base and/or provide memberships free of charge to service members and retirees.

    However... the DoD wouldn't even have to do THAT. When they talk about scrapping the commissaries, all we can do is bitch and use the "but we're fighting for our country" emotional appeal to people's sense of patriotism. That can only work for so long. If they DID scrap the commissary, who going to get out the military because of it? The young troop who bitches about every little thing and always makes idle threats to get out in reaction to his gripe of the day, but ends up reenlisting because his dependapotamus wife has neither a job nor the skills to get one; and they have kids to take care of?

    Fucking up BAH would, in fact, affect that young troop's ability to provide for his family. If cuts need to be made, maybe we do need to think about sacrificing the commissary.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
    -Rainmaker, referencing black males

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    I disagree with this plan but not for the same reason that many of you do. As a prior finance person trying to manage BAH based on actual costs is a fucking nightmare.

    This new system won't actually save money because we'll end up needing more people to manage the program. Every single time you move you need to come to finance and update your BAH? It costs money to process a transaction even if there is not an actual monetary effect to the member.

    (P.S. BAH based on actual costs increases fraud. People alter their lease, lie about who all lives there, or they negotiate things into the rent such as maid service. Bottom line, people will spend the maximum amount possible if there is no reason not to.)

    Here's my solution: Every person stationed at the same base should get the same BAH. Here at Wright-Patterson an E3 with dependents gets $1122 and without dependents gets $822. Both are a lot higher than what you NEED in this area.

    The rates for an E9 are $1635 and $1230. For an O3 $1578 and $1236. For an O7 $1932 and $1611.

    We've already proven that higher ranking people don't NEED a better house than lower ranking. Just look at base housing. If you move in as an E7 you get the same house that the E3 next door gets. If we want o save money let's give everyone the same BAH rate. Does that sound good, Generals?
    Last edited by SomeRandomGuy; 06-06-2016 at 06:15 PM.

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    Banned sandsjames's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SomeRandomGuy View Post
    I disagree with this plan but not for the same reason that many of you do. As a prior finance person trying to manage BAH based on actual costs is a fucking nightmare.

    This new system won't actually save money because we'll end up needing more people to manage the program. Every single time you move you need to come to finance and update your BAH? It costs money to process a transaction even if there is not an actual monetary effect to the member.

    (P.S. BAH based on actual costs increases fraud. People alter their lease, lie about who all lives there, or they negotiate things into the rent such as maid service. Bottom line, people will spend the maximum amount possible if there is no reason not to.)

    Here's my solution: Every person stationed at the same base should get the same BAH. Here at Wright-Patterson an E3 with dependents gets $1122 and without dependents gets $822. Both are a lot higher than what you NEED in this area.

    The rates for an E9 are $1635 and $1230. For an O3 $1578 and $1236. For an O7 $1932 and $1611.

    We've already proven that higher ranking people don't NEED a better house than lower ranking. Just look at base housing. If you move in as an E7 you get the same house that the E3 next door gets. If we want o save money let's give everyone the same BAH rate. Does that sound good, Generals?
    Completely agree on the flat rate, no matter the rank or the number of dependents. In a normal job you don't get more money in order to upgrade living quarters. You get more pay/salary as you move up and, if you choose, that higher paycheck can be used to get the bigger house. It works for BAS...people don't get more or less BAS based on rank or dependent status so why should BAH be any different?

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