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In late April, the House Armed Services Committee drafted legislation proposing a 2.1% pay raise for military personnel. If passed, it would end the three-year White House-led streak of military pay raises that failed to keep pace with inflation and civilian wage increases.
But as Stars and Stripes reported, President Obama responded with a counter offer — one that now looks likely to make it through the Senate — of just 1.6%, dropping the increase back below the amount needed to match the rising cost of living.
Independent Journal Review spoke to several veterans — whose disability pay is also affected by wage increases that are outstripped by inflation and civilian raises — about how such limited pay increases affect their families on a daily basis.
Chris receives 70% disability resulting from internal injuries and traumatic brain injury (TBI). His raise at 1.6%? Just $27 per month:
"The small increases [of living expenses] have affected our family of five. Not only do we have a cost increase of daily expenses and from adding a new baby, but living expenses have outpaced the raises dramatically.
In the last year, our mortgage payment has gone up twice, totaling over $200 a month, just to keep up with our escrow. We are both working hard, more than we would like with three small kids, to survive and maintain our standard of living."
Zach's disability rating is 50%:
"A 1.6% increase would add $18.18 to my monthly award. So this year I could add less than a meal per month to the table.
I try to maintain a humble heart and mind; remembering the fact that the money I receive is a gift from God. So I do what I am able to with the gift given. But my cost of living continues to increase so my 'increase' basically just reduces the actual 'decrease' in salary."
Nathan currently has a 100% disability rating for TBI and PTSD. His raise amounts to barely over $50 monthly:
"The effect is pretty simple - it makes everything harder. When cost of living is growing at a faster rate than my income, it affects everything.
Costs of food, fuel, household items go up and you begin to not be able afford the things you were once able to afford so you have to prioritize things. A lot of times if something breaks it stays broken because if you pay to fix it, you can't afford to eat.
You sweat your ass off during the summer because instead of running your AC, you open the windows and turn on the attic fan. You become stressed because you can't afford to do fun things ever. I haven't taken a real vacation in over 10 years.
You buy used things instead of new. You deal with crappy pots and pans that the lining has come off years ago because you can't afford to go and buy new ones. You stretch oil changes farther apart.
You do without a lot, and still you stress about how long you can afford your mortgage because insurance rates keep climbing. I have my wife and my 3 year old child as dependents. This is one reason why veteran homelessness happens."
Nathan is also facing a reevaluation of his rating, and if the VA chooses to reduce his disability, he could lose everything that much faster: “My wife can't work as much if I am having a bad day - it's difficult for me to care for our son while she works and we can't afford child care.”
In addition to the limited pay increase, military.com reports that President Obama's proposal also calls for new reductions in military housing allowances, and a move to privatize commissaries - which could result in soldiers paying a higher price for food on base.