Dual military couples (and anyone who is concerned about cuts to military pay and benefits) need to pay attention to a provision of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2016 defense authorization bill. This provision, which is only a suggestion at this time, would dramatically cut Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for dual military couples who are stationed within the same geographic region.
Under current rules, both service members in a dual military couple are eligible for BAH. If the couple has no dependents, each member receives BAH at the without dependents rate. If the couple has dependents, one member (usually the senior, but not always) receives BAH at the with dependents rate and one member receives BAH at the without dependents rate.
If the Senate proposed changes become law, then only the senior of the two service members would receive BAH. He or she would receive the with dependents rate even if the dual military couple does not have dependents. In essence, the junior service member would become a dependent for purposes of BAH.
I strongly oppose this change because I believe that it unfairly penalizes dual military couples for the employment status of their spouse. Total military compensation must consider all the pays and allowances to which each service member is entitled. Changes to the current BAH rules would decrease total military compensation for the junior spouse, by thousands to tens of thousands of dollars each year. In addition to being wrong, it would decrease retention and increase certain other costs (such as health care costs and PCS moving expenses.)
I 100% believe that the military needs to find places to make serious cuts. I do not believe that cutting military compensation is the right place to look for savings.
The two houses of Congress will be working towards a joint defense bill in upcoming sessions. If you have a strong opinion on this change, or any of the other changes that are included in the two bills, I encourage you to contact your legislators to voice your thoughts. The MOAA website has a great interactive form that helps you to send emails to the right people for your location, and has suggested wording if writing that type of stuff is hard for you.