The Defense Department on Tuesday said housing benefits will increase by an average of 5 percent next year.
The Pentagon said the 2014 Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, rates will take effect Jan. 1 and remain in place for the rest of the year regardless of the debate in Washington, D.C., over the federal budget and calls to curb military personnel costs.
On average, a typical midgrade enlisted servicemember with dependents will receive an additional $79 a month in housing allowance, while a junior officer without dependents will get about $76 more, according to an official news release.
The benefit is for servicemembers who live outside of a military installation. The perk is based in part on the housing market. Thus, rate changes reflect regional real estate trends, with allowances rising in areas in Hawaii and Texas and falling in locations in California and Washington.
For example, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, without dependents will receive $1,083 a month in basic housing allowance, an increase of $138, or 15 percent. A lieutenant colonel in the same location with a family will get $1,884 a month in BAH, a rise of $57, or 3 percent.
Meanwhile, a petty officer second class at Naval Station Bremerton, Wash., with dependents will receive $1,212 a month in basic housing allowance, a decrease of $135, or 10 percent. A naval commander in the same location without a family will get $1,560 a month in BAH, a drop of $45, or 3 percent.
The Pentagon stressed that servicemembers who continue to live and work in an area with a reduced housing allowance won't see a change in their paychecks. The change applies only to troops newly reporting to an area; those already there are grandfathered into the previous, higher rate.
"Members are protected by individual rate protection which ensures that those already assigned to a given location will not see their BAH rate decrease; however, they will receive the increase if the rate goes up," according to the release. "This assures 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 Defense Department is expected to spend about $20 billion on housing allowances for 1 million troops in 2014, according to the release.