June 10, 2016
As reported in last week's update, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) surprised many when it proposed reducing housing benefits to troops in the FY17 defense bill. The SASC provision would allow servicemembers to receive only the actual cost for housing, rather than the housing stipend, which is based currently on rank, geographic location, and dependency status.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced an amendment striking the provision from the defense bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined with Murkowski on the senate floor on Thursday, supporting the effort to stop the cut to the housing benefit.
"The current allowance system strikes an appropriate balance in providing compensation to military members and assistance for their living expenses," said Collins.
The SASC provision would also reduce the combined value of the housing allowances received by dual military couples and roommates. Servicemembers would receive the applicable housing allowance amount for his or her grade, divided by the number of servicemember occupants.
In her statement to Senate colleagues, Collins said, “women are five times more likely to be affected by this reduction in housing allowances than their male counterparts, this provision could have a profound implication for both recruitment and retention of our all-volunteer force and discourage our best and our brightest from staying in the service.”
Collins has been a consistent supporter of maintaining the military housing allowance, and fought to prevent a housing allowance cut in last year's defense bill.
“Last year I spearheaded a successful movement to remove a similar provision from the fiscal year 2016 NDAA. I am disappointed to see that this proposal has resurfaced again this year. I am pleased to work with my colleague from Alaska [Murkowski] to remove a provision that I believe is both unfair and harmful,” Collins said.
“It is not like our military families don't have enough to worry about. And that is over and above the anxiety that goes along with deployment,” said Murkowski. “These days they must worry about force structure reductions, frequent PCS moves, needing to understand the latest and greatest TRICARE complexities, and figuring out whether the old retirement paradigm or the new retirement paradigm is better…that just adds to the stress, adds to the anxiety.”
MOAA applauds Murkowski and Collins in their fight to remove this unfair and harmful provision.
Please send a MOAA-suggested message urging your senators to support this amendment when the bill comes to a full vote.