Defense secretary announces host of new policies to help military members with rising cost of living

While President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the Department of Defense includes a 4.6% wage increase for military service members beginning January 1, 2023, the current annual consumer inflation rate in the US is 8.3%.

Many of the policy changes announced by Austin will go into effect in October. These include changes to housing allowances for active-duty service members, changes to policies around permanent change of station moves to service members in their postings and additional programs for childcare and employment of military spouses.

“Our service members and families should be able to secure affordable basic necessities,” Austin said in a memo to senior Pentagon leaders and combat commanders announcing the policy change on Thursday. Personal preparation is the issue.”

Some of the policy changes Austin is implementing have come from the views of military service members themselves, and they are all “direct responses” to what Austin has heard from military service members and their families “over the past 20 months”. , Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said.

“Over the past 20 months, the secretary has met with service members across the country and around the world,” Ryder said. “Today’s action is a direct response to what the Secretary has heard from our service members. Some of these initiatives are ideas that have come straight out of force, and they reflect their commitment to the families they serve. Make sacrifices every day.”

“Austin has directed an automatic increase in basic housing allowances for active-duty service members in 28 military housing areas in the U.S. that have experienced “an average more than 20% spike in rental housing costs this year,” Austin said in the memo. has experienced.

Austin also directed how long service members are eligible for temporary housing expenses if there is a permanent change of station move beginning in October, or a necessary move to their military service posting. Austin increased temporary housing expense coverage from 10 days to 14 days for commuting within the continental US. The memo said the DoD will now allow temporary housing expense coverage of up to 60 days “if a service member is in a designated military housing area with a housing shortage.”

During these moves, service members also receive a displacement allowance. The memo states that all service members will now be paid their displacement allowance “automatically one month prior to the date of their move to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.” For service members ranked from E-1 to E-6, their displacement allowance will also be increased. This will be effective from October.

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Austin instructed military commissioners to “cut prices at the register, with the goal of achieving at least a 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local market,” he wrote.

The memo said that for military service members and their families whose gross household income is below the 130% federal poverty guideline level, the DoD will pay them basic needs allowances beginning in January.

Department of Defense Director of Military Compensation Jerry Bush said the allowance is “designed” to “bring back to that level” these service members and families. The allowance will vary depending on the needs of the families.

To help address the “childcare shortage affecting the entire nation,” the department is establishing a “minimum 50% employee discount for the first child” for military family members who are in the Army’s Child Development Program facilities. work in one “to help attract more talented employees” and increase capacity,” according to the memorandum. This new exemption will come into effect from October.

To help increase employment of military spouses, the department will launch “a new career accelerator pilot initiative” in January with paid private sector fellowships across a variety of career paths, the memo said. Will match military spouse.

All of these measures are intended to help military families as they deal with the rising cost of inflation affecting housing, food and jobs across the country.

Austin said in the memo, “We are fully committed to doing what is right by our military families, just as our military families are so fully committed to their loved ones and the nation that they all do so much to defend.” “

According to the memo, Austin will receive “regular updates” on the initiative.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which service members would be automatically paid their displacement allowance one month prior to their transfer date.

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