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“Senate lawmakers want to radically overhaul how military housing stipends are awarded and end the practice of troops pocketing extra cash from the payouts.

The plan is tucked into the Senate’s pending draft of the annual defense authorization measure, and hasn’t received the same attention as major military health care and acquisition reforms also included in the legislation.

But it has the potential to change housing stipend totals for nearly every service member in coming years, with some potentially losing hundreds of dollars a month. And it comes after a series of pay and benefits trims in recent years that have left advocates frustrated about increased financial strain on military families.

Instead of the current Basic Allowance for Housing system, which assigns flat-rate stipends for zip codes across the country based on troops’ rank and family status, the new proposal would move closer to the military’s Overseas Housing Allowance. That system sets maximum payable stipends but awards troops only for their actual expenses, making recipients provide proof of what they pay in rent and utilities costs.

Dual military couples and service members who room with friends would not be able to game the system either. They’d see their individual stipend cut in half, adjusted to cover just their actual costs and nothing more.

Today, for example, an Army specialist living off-base near Fort Hood in Texas gets about $950 for rental costs. If he or she finds an apartment for $750, the soldier can use the remaining $200 to pay for water service, electric and phone bills — or spend it on other needs. If two specialists room together at an apartment that costs $1,500 a month, they can pool their separate stipends and use the leftover $400 for whatever they want.

Under the Senate proposal, that stipend flexibility would end. Troops would document exactly what their rent and utilities costs total and receive only that amount.”

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