Strickland wants BAH at 100 percent

Congresswoman sent a letter to DoD

By J.M. Simpson on November 25, 2022

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland introduced the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Calculation Improvement Act to the House of Representatives on April 21, 2022.  Fifty-eight of her Congressional colleagues have signed on in support.

The House Report of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is well aware of the act.

In working for service members and their families,  Strickland has now sent a letter dated Nov. 15, 2022 to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin "to strongly encourage you to immediately restore the Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, to support service members and their families."

A Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, she represents Washington's 10th Congressional District which covers Pierce County, Thurston County and parts of Mason County.

For military members, BAH is based on their pay grade, dependency status and the location of their duty station. Its purpose is to provide money to cover housing and related costs in the civilian market when government quarters are not provided.

Strickland writes that it is not enough. "Access to affordable housing is the top concern I hear from service members and their families, especially at Joint Base Lewis-McChord," said Strickland in a recent press release. 

In her letter to the Secretary of Defense, Strickland highlighted this point and directed the Secretary to submit a report which examines restoring the BAH to 100 percent across the board. The report is due on March 1, 2023.

The report will come eight years after the decision was made by DoD to reduce the BAH by 5 percent.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the NDAA gave DoD the authority to reduce the BAH in certain circumstances; hence, it reduced the proportion of money given to service members to 95 percent of calculated BAH.

"This was defined as a cost-saving measure to ‘balance the growth in compensation costs,'" reads Strickland's letter.

"While the Department believes that imposing a five percent cost share shouldn't financially burden military families, several studies have shown that this reduction harms the well-being of service members who live off and on military installations."

The Congresswoman also pointed out that according to DoD's own figures, service members and their families spend $74 to $168 out-of-pocket as part of their "cost share" for housing.

"According to data from the Blue Star Families 2020 Military Family Lifestyle survey, fully 83 percent of families who live off-installation have out-of-pocket housing expenses, and 76 percent of those families spend more than $200 a month above their awarded BAH on housing," she wrote.

She added that more than 50 percent of service members surveyed said had problems saving money, and more than 80 percent of respondents said their finances caused them stress over the last year.

"Service members and their families should not be nickel and dimed by the nation they volunteered to serve, especially as Congress has increased the defense budget by 39 percent in nominal terms," concluded Strickland's letter.

"Restoring BAH is the right thing to do for service members and their families, and we urge you to do it without delay."