By now you've probably read the articles circulating in our community that mention that congress is looking at cutting BAH benefits to help meet the budget reduction for DoD. Of course, my first reaction was one of alarm and concern.
I immediately read all I could, and even looked to the insight of my fellow spouses for a similar concern and ideas for solutions. I was floored by what I read. Was there a general agreement that BAH needed to stay just the way it is? Was there a collective cry of angst and a sharing of challenges that we have all felt from time to time?
No, what I saw was a cut-throat free-for-all with everyone pointing fingers and lining up to recommend who to fire or which programs to cut. I may be the only one that feels this way, but I felt a need to address some of the worst of what I read.
1. BAH is benefit...an increasing benefit with time service and career progression. So no, an E-5 should not get the same pay as an O-5. That's like saying the shift manager at your favorite retail store should be making as much as the Regional VP. How does that make sense? The average E-5 has served for 4 1/2 years...the average O5, a minimum of 11. And that doesn't even take into account the financial and leadership responsibilities of both positions.
I’ll say it again, BAH is an increasing benefit that comes when you do your duty, serve your country, and advance in your career. Benefits and pay for a new solider are nothing to shake a stick at. But you have to earn what you get. You can’t expect to be treated like you work at the top of the chain your first day on the job.
2. No, BAH should not be configured base on the number of kids you have. I'm sorry that as a family of eight you are having a hard time making ends meet. The thing is, the same thing would be true if you didn’t have the security and benefits of a job in the military.
My guess is that in the civilian world it would be just as hard, if not harder. It sucks. I get that. I remember how hard it was to make my budget work when I had three kids in diapers. But we figured it out. We sacrificed the dinners out and waited to buy the things we wanted but didn’t need. You don't get to take a bigger piece of the pie just because you can successfully procreate.
3. Firing all of the "lazy" civilians on post will not solve the problem. First of all, not all civilians are lazy. There are good and bad apples in all career fields. Please don't lump them all together. Second, many of those civilians are veterans or military spouses. Let's not cut off our noses to spite our faces, folks.
And even if they are not directly related to the military, civilians are still our fellow Americans. Are we really okay with saying that we deserve a job and stability more than they do?
That’s a pretty scary thought. While our country needs us, we need them as well. As much as we like to think we are self-sufficient, there is not a single one of us that doesn’t rely on our non-military community. I am proud of our Armed Services, but I am just as proud of all the other hard-working Americans out there.
4. Cutting all the programs that you personally don't use also doesn't solve the problem. What seems like a waste to you might be necessary and vital to someone else. Are there possibly programs that could be looked at for cutting or downsizing? Maybe.
But the truth is, many, many, so many of these programs are already feeling the pinch of budget cuts. Many, if not all of the services, had already begun cutting budgets and downsizing long before the word sequestration made it into our daily vocabulary. And for every person who says the program isn’t needed, I can find another who insists it is.
There is no quick, easy, painless solution to this problem. We are all going to have to give a little...and it's going to hurt some, no matter what we do. It will take a little creativity, a whole lot of work, and a greater sense of obligation to our community as a whole to find a viable solution.
Veronica Jorden is an Air Force brat, former soldier, and proud Army spouse of almost 15 years. She volunteers her time with the Military Spouse Business Association, the Red, White & Blue Pages, and has recently started her own editing and design company focused on independently publishing writers. She lives with her husband and three children in the greater Washington D.C. area.