Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: 'Benefit' (44) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 44

December 17, 2015 at 8:23am

BAH to increase in January

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of Defense has released the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates. Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase an average of 3.4 percent when the new rates take effect Jan. 1. An estimated $21 billion will be paid to approximately one million Service members. On average, Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase approximately $54 per month.

Continuing to slow the growth in compensation costs, the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing Program expands the member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense). Based on the authority provided in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the cost-sharing element was increased to two percent. The cost-sharing amounts incorporated in the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates vary by grade and dependency status and range from $24 to $57 monthly. This means for 2016, a typical member will need to absorb two percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. This rate computation change slows the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefits package remains robust and healthy.

Housing cost data are collected annually for over 300 Military Housing Areas in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. An important part of the Basic Allowance for Housing process is the cooperation from the Services and local military housing offices in the data collection effort. Input from local commands is used to determine in what neighborhoods data is collected and to direct the data collection effort towards adequate apartment complexes and individual housing units.

Median current market rent and average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) comprise the total housing cost for each military housing area and are included in the Basic Allowance for Housing computation. Total housing costs are developed for six housing profiles (based on dwelling type and number of bedrooms) in each military housing area. Basic Allowance for Housing rates are then calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents.

An integral part of the Basic Allowance for Housing program is the provision of individual rate protection to all members. No matter what happens to measured housing costs - including the out-of-pocket cost sharing adjustment noted above, an individual member who maintains uninterrupted Basic Allowance for Housing eligibility in a given location will not see his/her Basic Allowance for Housing rate decrease. This ensures that members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area's housing costs decrease.

The Department is committed to the preservation of a compensation and benefit structure that provides members with a suitable and secure standard of living to sustain a trained, experienced, and ready force now and in the future.

For more information on Basic Allowance for Housing, including the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates and 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rate component breakdown, visit

Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the Basic Allowance for Housing calculator at

Filed under: Benefit,

November 21, 2013 at 11:07am

Words & Photos: JBLM Santa's Castle Ruck March with the 555th Engineer Brigade

Spc. Robert Powell, 14th Engineer Battalion, got into the spirit of the season for a 2.6 mile walk from the 555th Engineer Brigade Headquarters to the American Lake Conference Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

It was cold and dark this morning on Able Field behind the 555th Engineer Brigade's headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

But the lights, the music and the spirit were bright and warm.

"We are a giving organization," Col. Nicholas Katers said before beginning the 2.6-mile Santa's Castle Ruck March that ended at the American Lake Conference Center.

"We are giving back to our own."

>>> Santa Claus, also known as Spc. Andrew Cuadrado, led the 15th Annual 555thEngineer Brigade Santa's Castle Ruck March featured more than 1,000 soldiers delivering over 2,500 toys for distribution to children. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The festive march supports Santa's Castle, an organization that has provided gifts to the children of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, activated National Guard and Reservist families experiencing financial difficulty.

Last year Santa's Castle provided gifts to almost 2,000 children in more than 800 families.

>>> Pfc. Dylan Lake's red and green chemical lights helped light the way for the Santa's Castle Ruck March. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"This is an awesome event, a time to give to those who may not have anything for Christmas," Spc. Alex Wilhelm said.

"We are the largest contributor of gifts to Santa's Castle, and we are proud of that."

Each soldier bought and contributed at least one gift to Santa's Castle. Many gave more.

"I bought one of my favorite toys as a little girl," Spc. Tiffany Johnson said as she pulled out a Barbie doll.

"I hope this makes some little girl happy."

>>> Spc. Alex Wilhelm, 110th Chemical Engineers Battalion, was all smiles after completing the Santa's Castle Ruck March. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Col. Nicholas Katers, commander, 555th Engineer Brigade, and CSM Kevin Bryan lead over 1000 soldiers on the Santa's Castle Ruck March this morning. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Capt. Jamie Matthews holds Fedora after the completing the 2.6 mile march from the "Triple Nickel's" headquarters to the American Lake Conference Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Attired for the Christmas Season, soldiers attached to the 555th Engineer Brigade bought and contributed over 2500 toys to Santa's Castle. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

See Also

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October 3, 2013 at 1:51pm

Vote Operation Ward 57 into a new mobility van

Operation Ward 57, which is based primarily in the Tacoma/Seattle area and serves wounded, ill and injured warriors across the country, is one of 250 nationwide finalists in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good program. Through the car company's generosity, 100 vehicles will be presented to 100 nonprofit organizations based on votes received from the public.

Voting commenced Oct. 1 and five organizations will be highlighted for voting each day through November on Toyota's Facebook page. Friday, Oct. 4 supporters can vote for Operation Ward 57 at; individuals are permitted to vote twice per day, but only once per organization.

If Operation Ward 57 wins, they will be awarded a brand new Toyota Sienna mobility van, which is wheelchair accessible. The vehicle would be used to transport the wounded warriors and their families off of Joint Base Lewis-McChord to morale boosting events, appointments and even assist them in moving into temporary housing.

July 27, 2013 at 2:49pm

Today In Giant Checks: USO Northwest receives big love

The USO Northwest is so happy it doesn't mind sending out press releases on a beautiful sunny Pacific Northwest Saturday:

The USO Northwest was granted $335 thousand from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound. The funds are directed toward the construction of a new USONW Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Center. The new 7,000 square-foot center, designed to accommodate the 10,000 local and traveling military personnel, will cost $1.7 million.


Filed under: Benefit, Business,

July 25, 2013 at 9:43am

Milton to Astoria run honors fallen Rangers

More than 170 miles. A copious amount of runners. Multiple cities. One start and one ending: Milton, Wash. to Astoria, Ore. This is the Honor the Fallen Relay Run. The event, which is set to be held Sunday, July 28, serves three purposes: as a fundraiser in support of the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, to create awareness for the fund and the Sgt. Patrick Gass AUSA (Association of the United States Army) Subchapter and to honor all fallen rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the family they left behind.

"The concept for the run came about by brainstorming on how we can do something to give back to the Lead The Way Fund, which has been a tremendous organization helping Rangers and their Families in recent years," said event organizer Max Ferguson. "We wanted to do something unique, noteworthy and challenging that would incorporate as much of the community as possible. It's not only helping raise money for LTWF, it's been a great tool to create awareness for both LTWF and the Sgt. Patrick Gass AUSA Subchapter. It's truly a phenomenal community uniting and outreach event."

Two public events are planned. First, at 11:30 a.m., a sendoff ceremony will be held at the Milton Veteran's Memorial at Triangle Park in Milton. It's being hosted by the Milton VFW Post 11401 and the City of Milton. At 2 p.m. Monday, July 29, a finale ceremony and community gathering will take place at the finish line, which will be hosted by the Oregon USO and the Astoria American Legion.

"It's all about awareness and connecting Rangers, Ranger families and the community surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McChord," said Ferguson. "It's about appreciating the goodness of the people in the Northwest." 

Ferguson and the Lead The Way Fund are looking for donators and volunteers.

"We hope anyone who is able to support the event, donate by going to the First Giving website and searching "Honor the Fallen" or by visiting the LTWF site."

Ferguson stressed the Honor the Fallen Relay Run is an AUSA and Lead the Way Fund event; it is not officially sponsored or supported by the 2nd Ranger Battalion or 75th Ranger Regiment.  Any Rangers who are participating or organizing the event are doing so in their own personal capacity as volunteers and does not suggest endorsement by the military organizations. 

"All of the volunteers and supporters are excited about participating in the event on the 28th and 29th," said Ferguson. "We would love to see the community come out and be a part of both of those events."

Filed under: Benefit, Sports, Army Rangers,

June 7, 2013 at 5:13pm

Local veterans invited to St. Andrews golf course

Will the American Lake Veterans Golf Course be ablaze with kilts, bagpipes, dancers and Scottish meat pies tomorrow? Doubtful. Will the golf course host three of the biggest smiles on the planet? Most definitely.

The Northwest Military World headquarter received some late, but wonderful news that three local veterans - Sgt. Steve Reynolds, Sgt. Al Domme and Maj. Tony Wingfield - have been invited to play golf the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland ... for basically free. The Scot responsible for such an awesome honor will greet the three tomorrow afternoon at the local golf course. The details are in the ALVGC release below


June 3, 2013 at 2:18pm

VA is improving access for veterans to mental health services

Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service has followed Pres. Obama's statements today concerning improving access for veterans to mental health services.

"We're ... doing more to support our troops and our veterans who are suffering from things like traumatic brain injury or PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder," the president told the audience. "Today, we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide - 22. We've got to do a better job ... of preventing these all-too-often silent tragedies. That's why we've poured an enormous amount of resources into high-quality care and better treatment for our troops."

In response to a presidential executive order, VA has hired 1,600 mental health providers and more than 300 peer-to-peer veteran specialists, according to a White House statement.

Read Pellerin's full report here.

Filed under: Veterans, Benefit, Health,

May 30, 2013 at 6:41pm

Kent Rotary donates $40,000 to Veterans Educational Transition Fund

If you had any doubts whether the Kent Rotary was cool, this bit of news should set the record straight.

AUBURN, WA - The Green River Community College Foundation's Veteran Educational Transition Fund got a $23,000 boost following the Rotary Club of Kent's Dream Big Auction. That contribution adds to the $17,000 the club already donated this year to help the college's veteran students attend school.


Filed under: Benefit, Veterans, Education,

May 24, 2013 at 1:26pm

Warning: TRICARE program policy requires electronic payment now

Attention Servicemembers and retirees enrolled in either TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) or TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR): Changes to the TRICARE program policy requires TRS and TRR beneficiaries to establish an automated method for payment of monthly premiums and discontinues the acceptance of checks as a form of monthly payment.

UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans is attempting to reach all of those who have yet to complete an electronic payment authorization form so that they are not disenrolled because of non-payment.

If these members do not get their paperwork submitted by May 28, 2013, they will be considered out of compliance and as such, they could be disenrolled for a lack of payment from TRS and TRR, respectively. This means that their TRICARE accounts would be suspended as of June 1. Additionally, failure to comply with the automated method of payment requirement also triggers a 12-month lockout that will be applied from the last paid-through date.

Unfortunately, in spite of multiple notifications over the last few months about this new mandatory requirement, approximately 15,000 TRS and TRR members in the West Region have yet to submit the appropriate paperwork.

A copy of the electronic payment authorization form can be downloaded from To expedite requests, Servicemembers can also fax their information to (877) 890-7297.

Filed under: Health, Veterans, Benefit,

May 21, 2013 at 1:38pm

Vet organization join to reduce backlog

Word came down the Department of Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans and The American Legion have formed a partnership to help reduce the compensation claims backlog for Veterans. The effort - the Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice  is a key part of VA's overall transformation plan to end the backlog in 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98 percent accuracy. VA can process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim. Read the full report here.

Filed under: Benefit, Veterans,

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