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Military Compensation

In FRONTLINES & FOOD LINES, NOW takes a look at how some of America's soldiers have been struggling under the current system of military compensation. According to the Department of Defense, there are various types of pay and allowances that make up the total compensation of military personnel.

Basic pay is the main component of military salary, and is determined by a member's grade and years of service. View current pay tables.

In January 2000, the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act took effect, which increased annual military pay raises to one-half percent above private-sector average increases as measured by the Employment Cost Index (ECI). That means that while the ECI for the private sector in January 2004 was 3.2%, military personnel received a minimum of 3.7% pay raise. This guideline will be in effect through 2006, after which time the annual military pay raise will be equal to the ECI.

In addition to basic pay, allowances are provided to cover specific needs. The most common allowances are Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Basic Allowance of Housing (BAH). BAS is provided to offset the cost of members' meals, but not those of family members. The level of BAS is adjusted each year based on the USDA food cost index. In 2004, officers receive $175.23 each month to purchase their meals while enlisted members receive either $254.46 or $262.50 a month, based on access to government facilities.

BAH is meant to offset the cost of housing for those members not provided with government housing. The rates vary based on location, pay grade, and whether or not there are any dependents. Rates in high-cost areas are greater than those in low-cost areas, and are outlined in a chart on the Military Compensation web site. In addition, the site provides a calculator to compute your regular military compensation based on user inputs.

Despite these allowances, some military personnel are having the same problems many Americans face — food insecurity. To learn more, view NOW's state-by-state listing of the departments that oversee food relief.

NOW also has information on veterans' benefits in the United States, as well as a list of resources for more information.

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