Subsistence Allowance, Most Housing Allowances to Rise in 2012
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2011 Service members stationed in the United States will see an average increase of 2 percent when new basic allowance for housing rates take effect Jan. 1.
The Defense Department announced the 2012 BAH rates today, along with basic allowance for subsistence rates, which will also increase slightly.
Department officials said the average BAH increase for 2012 is approximately $39 per month, though the actual amount depends on where a service member lives, what his or her rank is and whether he or she is supporting family members.
Cheryl Anne Woehr, defense BAH program manager, said about 35 percent of the military’s housing areas will see a housing allowance decrease, but the change will apply only to members newly reporting to those locations.
Service members are given individual rate protection, she said, which ensures that those already assigned to a location will not see their BAH rate decrease. However, they will receive the increase if the rate goes up.
That protection ensures the rate change doesn’t penalize service members who already are obligated to leases or rental contracts based on a previous, higher housing cost, Woehr said.
“We measure the cost of rental housing in each area, and economic factors can have different influences in each area,” she said. “That’s why rates are going up in some areas and down in others.”
DOD collects housing data annually for each military housing area, recording current local costs for rent, renter’s insurance and utilities including electricity, heating, water and sewer, she explained.
Any year-to-year change in any of those factors can cause an increase or decrease in BAH, Woehr noted.
“The highest [BAH] rates are in the areas you’d expect, the high-cost urban areas such as San Francisco, Boston [and] New York,” she said. “The lowest areas are in the more rural parts of the country.”
Woehr said service members stationed outside the United States receive the Overseas Housing Allowance, which is calculated on a different schedule, rather than BAH.
Defense officials said BAH rates are determined based on six housing profiles -- varying by dwelling type and number of bedrooms -- in each military housing area. Rates are calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents.
Officials said more than 1 million service members will receive an estimated $20 billion in total BAH payments during 2012.
Officials said the 2012 subsistence allowance, which will also take effect Jan. 1, is designed to cover the cost of food for service members who do not have access to military dining facilities. That allowance will increase from $325.04 to $348.44 for enlisted troops, and from $223.84 to $239.96 for officers.
The allowance is based on the Department of Agriculture’s “cost of food at home index,” which increased 7.2 percent between October 2011 and October 2011, officials said.