Housing Allowance Hike Starts March 1, Retro Relief Sought
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2000, Feb. 23, 2000 DoD will begin paying certain service members higher basic housing allowances starting March 1. Officials plan to ask Congress to authorize a retroactive hike to Jan. 1.
Pentagon officials announced Feb. 22 that service members moving into areas where 2000 housing allowance rates were set lower than 1999 rates would be paid at the higher 1999 rate. Members already living in such areas were grandfathered, but newcomers received 2000 rates.
"This action will result in greater equity among all people assigned to the same duty location and will also allow the department to pause and examine how we survey and determine the average cost of housing," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said in a written release. "It is extremely important that in every area, nationwide, we are providing an allowance which allows our men and women to live in quality housing."
The disparity in rates occurred because DoD changed the way it computed housing rates in response to a 1997 law. The new system requires officials to compute the allowance rates based on surveys of what it costs to live in particular communities. The old system depended on service members' reports of what they paid and worked to the disadvantage of junior enlisted members and to all service members living in high-cost areas, officials said.
Because of the grandfathering service members of the same grade in the same area could receive different allowances.
In the same request for retroactive relief, officials said, DoD will ask Congress to repeal current legislation that requires service members to absorb at least 15 percent of their housing costs.
DoD officials could not say how many service members are affected. Cohen added $27 million to the 2000 allowances to correct the inequity. Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials said they stand ready to pay the new rates as soon as the secretary approves them.