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Nov 28 - With thousands of hungry troops, DOD urges limited income hikes



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Nov 28 - With thousands of hungry troops, DOD urges limited income hikes
 

 
Top Pentagon officials, in a document sent to lawmakers recently, backed higher pay increases for low-income servicemembers than the department’s leaders have publicly endorsed — but far from enough, critics say, to combat widespread hunger in the ranks.

A Nov. 11 spreadsheet sent to Congress by Defense Department Comptroller Mike McCord listed nearly $30 billion in “highest priority” programs for the defense panels to consider in the fiscal 2023 defense authorization and appropriations bills. Most of the money, nearly $24 billion, would go to offset inflation, and the list also includes more spending on missiles, munitions and f*ghter jets.

The department’s document recommended more generous pay enhancements than Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has publicly proposed. The new behind-the-scenes recommendations include a “basic needs allowance” to keep troops’ incomes at 150 percent of the poverty line, which would be an increase above current law. Also included is an “inflation bonus” for 2023 for lower-income uniformed personnel that amounts to 3 percent of base pay, more than the House or Senate fiscal 2023 NDAAs would provide.

The document, obtained by CQ Roll Call, supports other compensation boosts: increases in housing allowances, higher payments to servicemembers to offset moving expenses, lower commissary prices and more, most of which Austin has previously proposed.

Some elements of the Nov. 11 comptroller document were described in a Bloomberg News story earlier this month.

It is not yet clear what negotiators who are writing the final NDAA and appropriations omnibus for fiscal 2023 will say on these provisions.

However, many members of Congress and advocacy groups say the proposals would not do nearly enough to address troops’ troubles with finances — and nutrition.

While the problem of hunger in the military is not new, they say, it appears to be worsening, especially amid 2022’s unusually high inflation. In fact, the latest official Defense Department data, based on a survey of military families, indicates 1 in 4 active-duty U.S. military personnel — an estimated 286,800 people, not to mention their family members — periodically face food shortfalls. Of those, perhaps 119,000 regularly experience outright hunger — “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake,” the July report to Congress stated.

The survey data was compiled in 2020, during the pandemic but before this year’s surge of inflation made it even harder for lower-income people to make ends meet.

It is the largest government estimate in recent memory on hunger in the military, experts said.

Even the more generous legislative proposals endorsed privately by the Pentagon are insufficient to deal with this mushrooming problem, critics in Congress and among advocacy groups said.

The inflation bonus, for one thing, covers just 2023, they said. And, most significantly, the basic needs allowance is a pilot program that requires that housing allowances be included in calculating income, a stipulation that results in excluding most of the servicemembers who need help, according to several lawmakers from both parties.

“In high-cost areas like San Diego, the Basic Allowance for Housing barely covers the cost of rent — so it’s ridiculous to count it as income and create the illusion that service members and their families somehow make too much money to qualify for other benefits,” Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has championed expansive income help for servicemembers, told CQ Roll Call in a statement. “We know that, in reality, military families are still struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table; they’ve already made incredible sacrifices for our country and the least we can do is make sure they know where their next meal comes from.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., has been the leading proponent of expanding the basic needs allowance on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Duckworth, an Army veteran, has talked publicly about her family having to rely on food stamps when she was growing up. She has yet to persuade her Senate Armed Services colleagues to stop requiring the counting of housing money as income under the basic needs allowance, but not for lack of trying.

“Far too many of our military families experience hunger because of unintended barriers that make them unable to access essential nutrition a*sistance programs,” Duckworth told CQ Roll Call.

Hunger in the military is not new. More than two decades ago, the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., shined a bright spotlight on servicemembers who needed food stamps. More recently, during the coronavirus pandemic, the problem became more acute, particularly as the shutdowns made the already difficult challenges military spouses face finding work even harder.

Last year, the fiscal 2022 NDAA created the basic needs allowance, which mandated that no servicemember’s income could dip below 130 percent of the poverty line. Austin endorsed the 130 percent target in September. The new allowance will begin in January.

This year, the Senate’s fiscal 2023 NDAA proposed increasing the percentage to 150 percent, and the Nov. 11 Pentagon document shows the department supports the 150 percent proposal.

The fiscal 2022 law states that the basic needs allowance is based on a calculation of income that includes a servicemember’s housing allowance. The housing allowance, which typically amounts to thousands of dollars each year, is paid to cover the estimated cost of local housing; if the servicemember lives on base, the allowance is not added to that person’s paychecks.

Critics of the current approach point out that the housing allowance doesn’t count toward a servicemember’s taxable income. It is also not included as income in most federal a*sistance programs, although the Agriculture Department’s Supplemental Nutrition a*sistance Program does include the housing allowance in income tallies.

Anti-hunger advocates in Congress and beyond want to exclude housing payments not just from the basic needs allowance income calculations but also from the same tally under SNAP, an issue that will come up in 2023 when the farm bill will be reauthorized.

visit this link https://rollcall.com/2022 .. -income-hikes/
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 2 months ago '21        #2
Tlatoani  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x1
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Money for war, none for peace.
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 2 months ago '22        #3
God Bless You 
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Why feed and take care of our own people when Ukraine needs more billions

 2 months ago '22        #4
Booda Sack  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x10
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But @ said the Ukraine money doesn’t effect the American people it just comes from the defense budget the same budget these guys are paid from
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