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Huge Pay Cut? Proposed BAH Change Slashes Pay

If this change already approved by the Senate becomes law, you're likely about to see a cut to what lands in your bank account on payday unlike what any of us have ever known.

If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of military members who does not live on base, you probably view Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as part of your paycheck. You probably also do your best to make sure your rent is below whatever that amount is so that your BAH can cover both your rent and some of your utilities. If you're really scrappy, you are able to keep your housing costs way below BAH, and you simply bank the rest as part of your paycheck.

If you're a dual military family member, you receive two BAH payments -- one for you, one for your spouse. That makes sense because BAH is part of your compensation package. Without it, military pay looks mighty measly for the expertise you're expected to have and the hours you have to put in at what is definitely more than a day job.

But a measure approved by the Senate earlier this year makes all of that stop. Instead of giving you a BAH rate based on location and letting you pay out from it for housing, it would set BAH to your actual rent or mortgage level (with a cap based on location), and prohibit you from having any extra cash as part of that for anything else, including utilities.

For many, many families this would constitute a huge pay cut. For example, back when we did not yet have kids and were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, my husband and I rented a perfectly sufficient apartment for $800 a month. His BAH was closer to $1,600. That meant an extra $800 each month for other expenses at a time in our lives that the rest of his paycheck was pretty small.

Another approved Senate measure in this same bill would take away the "extra" BAH payment for dual military couples or service members who live together. Under this rule that means if you're living with another service member, only one of you gets BAH, and it's set at whatever rent costs. The rest of the money? Bye-bye.

A lot - and I mean a lot - of people aren't happy about this measure. Officials on the House side, who have their own version of the annual Defense bill in which this measure is included, have said they want it gone. The President has said he will veto it. And now a group of Senators have implored their colleagues to ditch it through an official letter.

Before this measure becomes law it has to make it past a negotiating session between the House and the Senate known as "conference," and then be signed by the President.

Neither or those things seem particularly likely, but it is never a bad idea to let lawmakers know what you think about something. Think this is a good cost cutting measure? Think this is a terrible idea? Tell them through this form.

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