On December 2, Congress unveiled the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the massive piece of legislation that sets policies and funding levels for the Department of Defense. Tucked in its more than 1,000 pages are changes to pay, parental leave, commissary operations and more – some good, some not so much. How will your military family be affected? Here are eight important things that you need to know:
First, the good news…
- Pay raise: The bill sets a pay raise of 2.1% for service members, which marks the first time in four years that the pay raise has matched the Employment Cost Index (ECI), as it’s supposed to do by law. Finally!
- BAH: We were worried the legislation would include provisions that would have slashed housing allowances for dual service couples and service members who choose to live with other service members. We urged Congress to preserve BAH for military families and are happy that they listened to us! BAH for all!
- Parental leave: The new law allows different amounts of leave to primary and secondary caregivers after the birth or adoption of a child. The primary caregiver is now authorized six weeks of parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child (this is in addition to six weeks of convalescent leave new moms receive after giving birth). Secondary caregivers will receive 21 days of leave. It will be up to DoD to define primary and secondary caregiver.
- Education: The law extends the DoDEA Grant Program, which funds programs at schools serving large numbers of military-connected kids, for one year. We’re pleased the program will continue but wish Congress had seen fit to extend it for more than a year. Additionally, the law authorizes $30 million in Department of Defense Impact Aid for public schools serving military kids, and an additional $5 million for schools educating military kids with disabilities. These funds are much needed by local public schools serving military communities and we’re grateful to Congress for providing them.
- Survivor benefits: Under the new law, survivors of Reserve Component members who die in the line of duty during inactive duty training will receive equal benefits under the Survivor Benefit Plan. We’re grateful that Congress has corrected this inequity.And now, the not so good…
- Survivor benefits (part 2): Congress extended the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) funding to restore Survivor Benefit Plan benefits to surviving family members who also receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA. While we’re pleased Congress acted to support surviving family members, the extension is only effective for a year. We need Congress to make a permanent fix to this issue.
- Commissary: The bill allows the Commissary to make significant changes to its operations, including introducing variable pricing and new private label products, in order to increase revenue and reduce the need for appropriated funds. We’re skeptical that the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) has the expertise to implement these changes while still preserving the savings military families rely on.
- PCS moves: The bill did not include the Military Family Stability Act , which would have given families more flexibility to move before or after their service member. We plan to ask Congress to include these provisions in next year’s NDAA.
Wait, what about healthcare?
The NDAA also included significant changes to the military health system. We’ll be outlining those changes and what families should expect in another article. Stay tuned!
– See more at National Military Family Association