Secretary of Defense announces a series of new policies to help military members with rising costs of living



CNN

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a series of policy changes to help military service members and their families deal with rising housing, food and childcare costs amid high inflation.

While President Joe Biden’s proposed Defense Department budget includes a 4.6% pay raise for military service members starting January 1, 2023, the current annual US consumer inflation rate is 8.3%.

Many of the policy changes Austin announced will take effect in October. They include changes to housing allowances for active duty service members, changes to policies around permanent change of station moves that service members must make for their deployments and additional child care and employment programs for military spouses.

“Our service members and families must be able to secure affordable basic needs. It’s a matter of economic security and a critical individual preparedness issue,” Austin said in a memo to senior Pentagon leaders and combatant commanders announcing the policy changes Thursday.

Some of the policy changes Austin is implementing came from ideas from military service members themselves, and all of them are a “direct response” to what Austin has heard from military service members and their families “over the last 20 months,” the Pentagon Press Secretary said Brig. said General Pat Ryder.

“Over the past 20 months, the secretary has met with service members across the country and around the world,” Ryder said. “Today’s actions are a direct response to what the Secretary has heard from our service members. Some of these initiatives are ideas that came directly from the force, and they reflect his commitment to the families who sacrifice every day to serve.”

Austin directed an automatic increase in basic housing allowances for active-duty service members in the 28 military housing areas in the United States that have experienced “an average of more than a 20% increase in rental housing this year,” Austin said in the memo.

Austin also directed a change in how long service members are eligible for temporary lodging expenses to be covered when they have to make a permanent change of station move or a required move for their military service starting in October. Austin increased temporary lodging coverage from 10 days to 14 days for moves within the continental United States. The DoD will also now allow up to 60 days of temporary coverage of lodging expenses “if a service member is in a specified military housing area with a housing shortage,” the memo said.

During these moves, service members also receive a displacement allowance. All service members will now be paid their displacement allowance “automatically one month before their move date to avoid out-of-pocket expenses,” the memo said. For service members ranks E-1 through E-6, their displacement allowance will also be increased. This will come into effect in October.

Austin also directed military commissars to “lower prices at the register with the goal of achieving at least a 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local marketplace,” he wrote.

For military service members and their families whose gross household income is below 130% of the federal poverty guideline level, the DoD will pay them a basic needs allowance starting in January, the memo said.

This allowance is “designed” to bring those service members and families “back to that level,” said Jeri Bush, director of the Defense Department’s military compensation. The subsidy will vary depending on the families’ needs.

To help with “childcare shortages affecting the entire country,” the department is introducing a “minimum 50% employee discount for the first child” of military family members who work at one of the military’s child development program facilities “to help attract more talented employees and to increase capacity,” according to the memo.This new discount will take effect in October.

To help increase military spouse employment, the department will “launch a new career accelerator pilot initiative” in January “that will match military spouses with paid stipends in the private sector in a variety of career paths,” the memo said.

All of these measures are aimed at helping military families as they deal with rising inflationary costs that affect housing, food and jobs across the country.

“We remain deeply committed to doing right by our military families, just as our military families remain deeply committed to their loved ones and to the nation they all do so much to defend,” Austin said in the memo.

Austin will receive “regular updates” on the initiatives, according to the memo.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated which service members will automatically be paid their dislocation allowance one month before their move date.

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