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Defense Department to pay single junior service members dislocation housing funds

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
CongressGovernment
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Single junior airmen at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases will begin receiving aid when forced to move off-base after the Pentagon updated its guidance to implement a two-year-old policy change to help all single enlisted soldiers cover those costs, Sen.Jacky Rosen said Monday.

“Ensuring our servicemembers in Nevada and across our nation receive all of the benefits they deserve is one of my top priorities, especially now, when housing costs are rapidly rising,” Rosen said in a release obtained by The Nevada Independent.

The Department of Defense implementation of the so-called “partial dislocation allowance” comes as home prices in Southern Nevada have increased 27 percent between March 2021 and 2022. Rents have also surged more than 34 percent on average for the same region since 2020.

Rosen first championed the implementation of the policy after visiting Creech and Nellis in July. She joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2021.

The policy change was included in the annual fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That NDAA, the annual defense policy bill, was signed into law in December 2019. But it took until last week for the Defense Department to disclose that it updated its guidance earlier this month, according to Rosen’s office.

During her visit to the bases, Rosen learned that single junior airmen had to pay out-of-pocket costs associated with moving to private housing, typically a security deposit and the first month's rent. Forced to move because of the housing shortages on base, the airmen were on the hook for those initial moving costs because their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a stipend for living off base, had not yet begun.

“It was heartbreaking to hear that junior enlisted Airmen at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases were ordered to move off base without receiving their dislocation allowance to pay for the high cost of housing,” Rosen said. “Over the past year, I’ve made it a priority to press the Department of Defense to fix this issue.”

Military Officers Association of America President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), said housing is an issue across all branches. The new allowance will take a financial burden off of young enlisted soldiers.

“Years of deferred maintenance and aging barracks have led some installations to shut down their facilities and force young servicemembers to find an apartment, only to be met with soaring prices due to lack of availability and rampant inflation,” Atkins said in the release.

At Nellis, enlisted airmen are required to move to off-base housing after about 12 months, Rosen said in an exchange with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendal at a hearing earlier this month. 

“The most junior enlisted airmen, and I know this is happening in other places, they're the least likely to be able to afford this,” Rosen told Kendall. “It's really putting a strain on them. We've authorized it. Let's have a discussion because this is really hurting our servicemen and women, particularly the younger ones.” 

According to the Air Force, the salary for a basic airman in 2021 was $1,785 a month.

Col. Todd Dyer, 99th Air Base Wing Commander at Nellis Air Force Base, also welcomed the policy's implementation. 

“Our priority here at Nellis is taking care of Airmen and giving them the tools to succeed,” Dyer said in the release. “This update to the Joint Travel Regulation does just that by ensuring our most junior Airmen will receive the financial support they need when transitioning from the dorms to off-base housing.”

This story was updated at 12:31 p.m. on May 23, 2022, to clarify that the Defense Department updated its guidance earlier in May.

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