(UnitedVoice.com) – The Defense Department has estimated that 286,000 active-duty service members and their families grappled with food insecurity in 2020 and 2021. Despite that, only a small percentage of those military members who are struggling actually reach out for public or private help, such as through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
The federal government is hoping to give service members some relief by giving them the largest raise in decades.
On June 12, the House Armed Services Committee confirmed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members. The pay raise would mean senior officers would receive more than $10,000 more annually. Most junior members would receive over $1,100 more per year. In March, President Joe Biden asked for the same 5.2% raise in his fiscal year 2024 budget proposal.
If the White House and Congress agree on the pay increase, it would be the largest since the 6.9% given to service members during President George W. Bush’s administration in 2002. It also comes after Congress and Biden gave the military a 4.6% raise in 2023.
In addition to the pay raise, the House is also reportedly considering a monthly bonus for service members who are E-6s or below if the secretary of their service “determines that prevailing economic conditions may adversely affect an eligible member.” They would receive the bonus throughout 2024. It would also get rid of language for the law that prevents most military members who receive housing allowances from qualifying for SNAP benefits.
The proposals come at a difficult time for military recruiters. In February, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth attended an event at George Washington University hosted by the Project for Media and National Security. She said the Army missed its recruiting by 15,000 people in 2022. They wanted to recruit 60,000 troops but only enlisted 45,000. In 2023, they are aiming for 65,000 new recruits.
Wormuth called it a “very serious situation” and one of the top priorities for the military branch. It’s not just the Army struggling for new members, though. The Marines consulted with outside experts this year to try to help ease the problem. In Fiscal Year 2022, the Marines were able to meet their recruitment goal by bringing in 33,210 new recruits, but General David Berger has expressed concern that won’t continue to happen.
If the government can increase the pay for troops, and ensure service members won’t be sucked into financial black holes by merely fighting for their country, then perhaps the recruitment problems will ease.
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