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No Change in Housing Allowance for Dual Military Couples

Married couples who both serve in the military would continue to receive two basic housing allowances in fiscal 2016 under the final bill approved by House and Senate conferees.

Lawmakers hammering out differences between the House and Senate fiscal 2016 Defense authorization bills ultimately rejected a provision in the Senate version that would have limited dual-military married couples to a single housing allowance, whichever one was greater. The change, which would have amounted to a significant compensation cut, would have affected some 40,000 couples. Many service members and military advocates opposed the cut, as did President Obama.

The provision also would have limited the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for "uniformed service members above E-3 residing with other uniformed service members to 75 percent of their otherwise prevailing rate, or the E-4 without dependents rate, whichever is greater," according to the legislation.

The decision to preserve the current BAH structure for dual-military married couples and unmarried service members living with each other is likely to survive, despite Obama's threat to veto the current fiscal 2016 Defense authorization legislation because of a provision allowing Defense spending to sidestep sequestration caps by increasing the "emergency" Overseas Contingency Operations fund.

Congress, however, intends to reform the BAH policy next year, according to the final conference report on the Defense bill. The legislation directs the Defense secretary to submit a report to Congress by March 1, 2016, on how to change the current basic housing allowance system to most accurately reflect actual housing costs of service members.

Lawmakers did agree to other BAH changes. The final version of the bill will cover 95 percent of estimated housing expenses, reducing the monthly amount of the BAH through a phased decrease of 1 percent (which began in fiscal 2015) per year over four years. 

Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar, an attorney experienced in handling military divorce cases, should you be contemplating or in the midst of a divorce either by email or telephone 978-844-4095.

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