Why are so few troops asking for the extra money for approved housing to alleviate financial problems?

So far, the military has approved only 4,167 requests for a temporary increase in the basic housing allowance, far less than expected by defense officials.

When the temporary allowance was announced, officials estimated that up to 200,000 servicemen might be eligible for the extra money for housing. So far, around 2% of that number have submitted applications and have been approved. The Air Force leads the pack, with 3,174 claims processed, more than three-quarters of the DoD’s total claims.

Considering the extensive marketing campaigns carried out by the services and by the Defense Ministry, and the actual number of complaints received, “it would appear that the initial estimate has been inflated, thus potentially creating a false expectation,” said the spokesman for the DoD, the army major. Charlie Dietz.

In September, defense officials announced that servicemen in 56 parts of the country may be eligible to seek a temporary BAH increase to ease the financial burden on servicemen and their families – especially those who permanently change stations. – affected by the housing shortage. and skyrocketing rental costs. Temporary payments apply to the months of October, November and December and represent increases of 10 to 20% over the current BAH 2021 rates. The announcement of the new housing allowance rates that will take effect on 1 January is expected soon.

Dietz said DoD officials are drafting more posts targeting all service members potentially eligible for temporary raises to remind them of the entitlement, eligibility criteria and the application process. Eligible individuals may receive retroactive payments to the first month when their additional eligible costs are verified, but no earlier than October 1.

Active duty and full-time members of the National Guard and Reserve, with or without dependents, are eligible to apply.

Those who are generally entitled to the temporary additional BAH in the 56 high-cost zones are:

  • Service members who moved after March 13, 2020 and are now paying accommodation costs in their new duty station that exceeds the normal BAH rate there;
  • Military personnel who renewed a lease after March 13, 2020 and now pay more for their regular BAH; and
  • Military personnel who have moved to their military housing area and are now paying higher housing costs.

March 13, 2020 is the date the President declared a national emergency due to the ongoing pandemic. DoD officials determined that the pandemic’s impact on rental housing costs allowed them to allow the BAH to temporarily increase.

“Our intention is to get the message out to every member of the service as soon as possible,” said Dietz, but no later than Dec. 23.

The original DoD estimate was designed to capture all potentially eligible troops, he said. “All servicemen living in the identified military accommodation areas who received BAH have been included,” he said.

It was not an exact science. Data was not available at the time of the estimate – and still is not – to determine precisely how many service members in this potentially eligible group have actually experienced increases in housing costs over their current BAH. So much so that they motivated them to submit a claim, he says.

“The need for this temporary increase in BAH was identified during several visits to the Pacific Northwest by senior Navy officials, who spoke with sailors from the region,” said Captain Dave Hecht. , spokesperson for the chief of naval personnel.

Of the seafarers living in the 56 approved areas, 30,000 could be eligible for the extra money if they meet the eligibility requirements, he said. The Navy has strongly encouraged the temporary increase in BAH via social media.

Navy leaders, like those in other services, have heard the military’s dismay at the shortage of adequate housing and rapidly rising costs, and have expressed their concerns to senior DoD leaders. Defense officials’ analysis of rental housing market data from March through August revealed the significant impact of the pandemic.

Of the 56 military housing areas with temporary BAH increases, five achieve a 20% increase; 11 get a 15% increase; and 40 get a 10% increase. The five areas with a 20% increase are: Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif .; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Boise, Idaho; Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; and Spokane, Washington.

The Air Force had processed 3,174 requests for Space Force airmen and guards as of Dec. 13, Air Force spokeswoman Laurel Tingley said. These approved claims have been paid or will be paid on the next payday. A total of 3,224 applications were submitted. Of the 3,174 approved requests, 1,994 came from enlisted personnel and 1,180 from officers.

Tingley said officials encourage Airmen to carefully read the complaint submission procedures and speak with their supervisor if they have any questions.

Due to an email address change by Defense Finance and Accounting in October, some payment requests for October were delayed, but that was resolved, Tingley said. “All staff who had an approved claim for October 2021 received their allowance on the November 15 payday, including back pay for October,” she said.

Officials from other departments said they were not aware of any issues with DFAS.

The Marine Corps, the smallest service, has the second highest number of claims, with 506 claims paid – at a total cost of $ 174,000 – as of Nov. 30, said Marine Corps spokesperson Maj.Jordan R Cochran. Of the 506 paid Marines, 55% are enlisted and 45% are officers.

Marines are encouraged to read the procedures before submitting a raise request, Cochran said. These procedures are described in Marine Administrative Message 511/21 and in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Manpower and Reserve Affairs website under the banner “2021 Temporary BAH Augmentation”.

Marines should also contact their chain of command if they need further advice.

In the military, 291 requests for soldiers have been approved out of 391 submitted, according to information provided by the Defense Finance and Accounting Department, Army spokeswoman Ellen Lovett said. “There were around 100 submissions returned due to missing information, discrepancies or ineligibility,” she said.

Lovett said Soldiers must submit completed packages to their unit’s personnel offices, including a completed Form DA 4187, Personnel Action, signed by the soldier and the battalion commander or equivalent, along with exhibits Supporting documents reflecting an increase in normal monthly expenses associated with housing costs. . “Ultimately, the total cost of housing soldiers must be higher than their current BAH rate to benefit from the temporary increase in the BAH rate,” she said.

The Navy had the fewest claims submitted, only 254, and had approved and paid out 169 as of December 1. The remaining 85 are still under review, said spokesman for Captain Dave Hecht. The total amount paid on December 1 is $ 61,877.40.

Sailors should work with their pay and personnel administrators and chains of command to properly submit their applications to the program, Hecht said. Due to administrative errors, 14 complaints were refused and returned to the sailors, but all were corrected, resubmitted and paid, he added.

The military should check the eligibility criteria even if they think they may not be eligible.

For example, military personnel living in privatized housing are generally not eligible for the temporary increase. However, if their rental agreement does not include utilities and the member pays directly to a utility company, increased costs, such as a rate increase imposed due to the pandemic, could potentially qualify the member. for the temporary BAH.

Military personnel who own a home and may show increased housing costs due to the pandemic, such as utility charges imposed due to costs related to COVID-19, may be eligible for the temporary BAH.

Read the specific service instructions, as well as the DoD FAQs for more information.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for over 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families “. She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Florida and Athens, Georgia.