A key House panel backed both a 2.7 percent pay raise for troops next year and the creation of a new basic needs allowance for low-income service members, signaling significant financial help in 2022 for some service members facing financial woes.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on personnel issues on Tuesday advanced their draft of the annual defense authorization bill, which included both the annual pay raise and the new needs allowance program.
Although both measures still face long legislative roads before becoming law, the panel vote was significant because it signaled widespread support for both ideas among lawmakers, an indication that the proposals are likely to move through congressional negotiations later this fall with little or no opposition.
“We have successfully assembled a series of provisions that prove our commitment to our military and to their well-being,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. and chairwoman of the personnel panel, just before the draft passage on Tuesday.
The 2.7 percent pay raise has already received public backing from the White House. It represents a smaller boost that troops saw at the start of this year (a 3 percent raise went into effect in January) but matches the federal formula for the expected rise in private-sector salaries next year.
Senate Armed Services Committee members included the same raise in their draft of the annual authorization bill, and House appropriators have already approved language to codify the 2.7 percent mark.
For junior enlisted troops, a 2.7 percent raise in 2022 would amount to roughly $790 more a year in pay over 2021 levels. Advocates have noted that’s a critical financial boost for younger troops, whose base salaries (excluding housing allowances and other stipends) are typically less than $30,000 a year.
The new basic needs allowance could prove even more important for financially strapped military families.
The idea has been debated on Capitol Hill in recent years, but not included in the final authorization bills. White House officials did not include the stipend in their defense bill plan.
The proposal would create a monthly allowance for military families who, as a household, have an income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty rate. An E-3 with a family of four and a single military income for their household would qualify for the allowance.
Payouts could total a few thousand dollars, depending on an individual’s specific situation.
In the past, qualifying families may have been eligible for food stamps or other state low-income assistance. But changes in recent years to the formulas for that benefit have counted other military payouts, creating complications in applying.
Advocates have argued that makes the creation of the basic needs allowance all the more important, ensuring that low-paid troops aren’t left vulnerable to financial ruin.
The next legislative hurdle for the basic needs allowance will come in September, when the full House Armed Services Committee debates the authorization bill. The entire $700-billion plus policy measure is not expected to be finalized until late this fall.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.