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What Congress Has in Store for You in 2011

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Updated April 27, 2011

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, the annual law that affects military pay and benefits has been passed by Congress and has been sent to the President for signature.

Each year when this annual bill passes Congress, I wade through it to give you a "sneak peek" at the pay and benefit changes that Congress has in store for you during the next year. My job is very easy this year, and you won't like it. Why? Because there are hardly no pay or benefit changes due to you for the next year. You get a (very small) raise in your base pay, Tricare (medial coverage) for your dependents up to age 26, and a one-year freeze on Tricare fees. That's pretty much it.

Base Pay. Military base pay has been increased by an across-the-board raise of only 1.4 percent. The House wanted a 1.9% raise, but the Obama Plan won out. Here are the charts for both the Obama Plan, and what it would have been if Congress had passed the higher raise.

Housing Allowance. The military housing allowance (BAH) isn't really part of the annual military pay law. Due to previous law, the military sets its housing allowance rates each year, based on a nation-wide survey of average housing costs. This year, BAH rates have actually gone down, because average U.S. rental costs have decreased. However, there is a "protection clause" in effect: If a member's BAH decreases, the member will continue to receive the old rate until he/she makes a PCS move to a different location -- so, military members will not see a decrease in their BAH rates. You can see the new housing allowance rates on my 2011 BAH Charts.

Food Allowance. This is something else that isn't dependent on the Military Authorization Act. BAS (food allowance) rates are set automatically, based on the average increase in food prices, as determined by the Department of Agriculture, each year. Last year, there was no raise at all, as food prices actually fell. This year, there is a very small increase (see 2011 BAS Chart), over the 2009/2010 rates.

Tricare Eligibility. Under previous law, military dependent children were eligible for Tricare (Military Medical Care) up to age 18, or up to age 23 if they were a full-time college student. Under the new law, those who are full-time college students are eligible for military medical care up to age 26.

Active Duty Size. All of the active duty branches are authorized to increase (slightly) in size, with the exception of the Marine Corps.

  • Army: 569,400 (this is an increase of 7,000 soldiers)
  • Air Force: 332,200 (this is an increase of 500 airmen)
  • Navy: 328,700 (this is an increase of 100 sailors)
  • Marine Corps: 202,100 (no change from last year)

Child Custody Protection. Section 208 of the act prohibits a court from permanently changing child custody orders while a member is deployed.

Tricare Fees. Section 701 of the act places a one year prohibition on increasing Tricare (medical care) fees.

That's pretty much it in the way of pay and benefit changes for 2011. Not much to brag about, is it? Oh, well, there's always next year.

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