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New Proposed Legislation Could Boost Military Pay, Childcare

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have introduced a variety of proposals to increase military pay and expand access to childcare.

These actions follow the release of a House Armed Services Committee report on April 11, 2024, outlining military pay, housing, child care, and spouse job issues. The committee’s Quality of Life Panel directed the report after forming a year earlier to review these issues.

We review some of the most essential proposals below.

At press time, the legislation listed below has yet to become law. These proposals have not (at press time) been approved on the House floor, nor have they progressed to the Senate. At the time of this writing, they are in the introductory phase of the process.

MilPay Issues the Government Wants to Address

The House Armed Services Committee Quality of Life Panel laid out the following issues (among many others) it wants to fix in the 2024 NDAA:

  • Reforming the Basic Allowance for Housing to cover 100 percent of the calculated rate for military housing areas instead of today’s 95%.
  • Reform the eligibility and calculation guidelines for the Basic Allowance for Sustenance and Cost of Living Allowance.
  • Adjust the guidelines for the Basic Needs Allowance income threshold to 200 percent.
  • DoD payment of 100% child care fees for eligible children.
  • Compensate military childcare workers with wages similar to civilian counterparts.
  • End waiting lists for child care fee assistance.

Related: Active Duty Military Benefits Guide

Proposed 15% Pay Increase For Troops

Lawmakers contend that military pay has not kept up with inflation or cost of living increases, and a proposed 15% pay increase is designed to offset that. But that’s not the only money review in the report.

Air and Space Forces Magazine notes, “The report found that the military’s methods for calculating pay and compensation for housing, food, and other needs must be updated.”

One example? The report takes exception to how the Basic Allowance for Housing is calculated.

According to Air and Space Forces Magazine, “…calculations for basic allowance for housing (BAH), which 58 percent of service members use to live off-base, require analyzing prices for a minimum number of local rentals, but the Defense Department came up short in 44 percent of locations and housing types.”

Military Cost of Living Allowance Issues

These issues can affect retention and morale. In the case of the Cost of Living Allowance, which is meant to offset the expense of living in a high-cost area, there can be a direct impact on military quality of life when COLA can’t keep up with sudden changes to the cost of living in a given area.

Military families stationed in Europe, for example, found themselves subject to higher utility bills following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent fossil fuel issues that resulted from that invasion.

Proposed Child Care Expansion

One bill introduced in the House directs the Department of Defense to establish cooperative agreements with civilian child care centers near military bases to ease a shortage of military child care options.

The proposed bill authorizes the DoD to partner with local providers even as the government has been approved to build some 17 new Child Development Centers at military bases, as those construction projects are not complete at press time.

Related: Active Duty Military Benefits Guide

Child Care Provider Pay is An Issue

The DoD has a dual issue with child care. There aren’t enough slots in on-post CDCs to accommodate all military families who need them, but there is also a shortage of childcare workers to fill the existing positions for on-base care.

Air and Space Forces Magazine notes, “…the Defense Department is offering wages comparable to civilian employers, but the problem is those are still often not high enough, and many child care workers switch to retail industries” and don’t stay in the DoD child care ecosystem.

What’s Next

House Armed Services Committee members have apparently made promises to include their recommendation (see above) in the FY 2025 Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Including the reforms discussed above does not mean they are a done deal; the NDAA requires passing both the House and Senate, and each year, drafts of the act are proposed, revised, sent back for further revision, and debate before passage.

The version of the NDAA that reaches the President’s desk for signature or veto may or may not include the provisions discussed here. It will be up to the lawmakers to decide when active review of the NDAA will begin in the latter portion of 2024.

Related: Active Duty Military Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.