Congress, Why Did You Even Bother? A 1% Pay Raise Won’t Buy Our Votes

While #KeepYourPromise has been huge on social media to protect our milfams, the Pentagon is keeping their promise to make another attempt at cutting all that is near and dear to our hearts, livelihood, health and bank accounts. Among those “promises” is one from the Commander-in-Chief which limits military pay raises to 1% for the next 3 years. 3 years! Congress is still attempting to pass a bill which would allow for a 1.8% pay increase while the Senate has not acted as of yet.

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Meanwhile the military is completing missions at home, still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, battling against ISIS (we know that “No Boots on the Ground” means that boots are on the ground) and is now involved in stopping the spread of Ebola. Our service members are on call 24/7. They work more than an 8-hour work day and more than a 5-day work week. (The military doesn’t shut down for government holidays.) And they will continue to do every duty assigned to them from the Pentagon, Congress and the President for a 1% pay increase.

What does this 1% pay raise promised by our president look like? For my husband’s rank and time in service, $33 a month. Pre-tax. That’s not even a tank of gas!

Here’s what else military families can’t buy with their extra $33 a month.

  • With so many miles in between military families and our extended families back home, trips can often be far and few between with the extra expense of paying for gas or airfare. In addition to this  pay raise not covering a tank of gas, it also falls short on covering baggage fees when you fly.
  • Eyeing that flirty wrap dress from Target for a date night with your spouse? Forget it. Prices start at 34.99.
  • Want to get your kiddo a new bicycle for their birthday? They start at $49.99. Walmart’s best-selling Frozen bike sells for $89.97.
  • On-base travel offices frequently show us how to take a military-discounted Disney vacation; however, a 1% raise wouldn’t even cover lunch for a family of four at the theme park.

A 1% raise, while not insignificant, isn’t significant.

We need to be able to provide for our families. Sure, you could consider it a luxury to buy a new outfit for a date night with our spouse, but with deployments, temporary assignments and PCSing frequently, we need that time to be able to connect with our spouse. Sure, our kids might not necessarily need a Frozen bike for their first bike, but wouldn’t it be nice to give them something cool and trendy for once instead of 5 times handed down? And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take a trip to the grandparents without worrying how you’ll pay the electric bill?  Don’t military families deserve that?

Civilian counterparts, on average, are receiving at least a 1.8% pay raise. They don’t defend our country or deal with our daily struggles.

Some of our civilian counterparts argue that we have our housing and insurance paid for and that we have job stability. This is where we, as military spouses, need to speak up and have a discussion with our civilian friends to teach them because they truly do not understand military life. All they know about military life is what they hear in the news… our benefits are so awesome that service members are participating in contract marriages to get the extra benefits.

Instead we move every 3 years and desperately try to find housing within our allowance (how is it supposed to cover rent and utilities???) that has decent schools. We battle with Tricare to pay for a medically necessary test that they insist it isn’t necessary…and have you heard about the conditions at VA hospitals lately? Some base hospitals aren’t much better. And job stability is no longer guaranteed. Between the drawdown and promotion requirement changes, a 20-year career with a retirement pension is no longer guaranteed.

What if we receive the 1.8% pay raise that the House is proposing? That would equal out to an extra $58 each month.

Pre-tax, of course. At least it could fill the gas tank.

But if the Pentagon and our CINC get their way, this 1% pay raise does not merely affect this one raise in 2015. It affects our pay permanently. Just as bank accounts can accrue compound interest, our pay has a similar effect. Pay raises are based off of current base pay. So if you have a low pay raise, your subsequent pay raises for the remaining years will be lower based off of that lower base pay.

Year Current Base Pay 1% Monthly Pay 1.8% Monthly Pay Monthly Loss Annual Loss
2014 3228.60
2015 3260.88 3286.71 -25.83 -309.96
2016 3293.48 3345.87 -52.39 -628.68
2017 3326.41 3406.09 -79.68 -956.16

In 2015, my service member will be missing out on extra $25/month or over $300 annually, if we receive the 1% raise compared to the 1.8% raise. If they keep us capped at 1% for 3 years, we are missing out on so much more; it hurts to look at the differences.

At a time when our military is being downsized and spread thin amongst many battle fronts, service members deserve more than a 1% pay increase, a graduated 3% BAH decrease, TDY decrease, Tricare cuts and a pink slip.

As military spouses, what can we do to ensure our uniformed loved ones receive the adequate compensation they deserve?

Educate our friends, family and neighbors about the burdens placed on military families. When it comes time to vote on November 4 (or earlier through absentee), our voices and our struggles could impact the civilian vote, which impacts us. WE need to vote. There is no excuse for not voting.

Contact your Congressman to let them know what it’s really like to be a military family in today’s society. Their political ads might try to persuade you that they “understand” our struggles. If that were true we would not be having this discussion about a pay decrease and be concerned for our futures. Let them know that a 1% pay raise won’t buy your vote.

Participate in #KeepYourPromise. Hold our leaders accountable to what they promised milfams and are now trying to take away.

Run for office! Local, state or whatever office your political heart tells you to run for. Elected military spouses and veterans may be our only hope of maintaining strong and effective financial support for our military families.

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