Why Is Our Military BAS Pay Gone?

Family housing on Fort Riley, Kansas. Jessica Healey/Army
Family housing on Fort Riley, Kansas. Jessica Healey/Army

My Army husband went away for training a few months ago, like he often does. Today, his paycheck is way lower than it usually is. We were counting on that money to help pay off a big bill.

Any ideas on why his paycheck was cut? I know sometimes they get cut on a few things when they go to the field for training, but this has never happened before.

Without seeing your military leave and earnings statement, I can take a pretty safe guess on what happened with your paycheck: Your husband's Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) was cut, thanks to his time in the field.

BAS is a military pay allotment meant to cover the cost of food. Single service members with meal cards for the dining facility -- typically troops who live in the barracks -- do not receive BAS.

Instead, the allotment is given only to troops who live off base or those who receive a "separate rations" waiver. How much you receive is dependent on whether you are an officer or enlisted personnel.

But BAS is also typically provided only to troops who are not deployed or on temporary duty in the field -- and being fed daily by their unit. That means that if your husband is in the field for any length of time, BAS is supposed to be pro-rated to reflect the meals he was served by the Army, even if those meals were in the form of MREs.

So why hasn't your paycheck always reflected this rule? In our experience, enforcement is dependent largely on who in the unit has been assigned to do the paperwork to make it happen, whether that person does his or her job, and what kind of pressure units are under to save money.

When the Defense Department budget shrinks, military units tend to take BAS away like they were supposed to the whole time. When it grows, the paperwork for docking BAS doesn't get done.

It's best to always assume that the full BAS will not be included in your husband's paycheck after time in the field, and plan accordingly. 

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