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While military Basic Allowance for Housing increased 3.8 percent nationally in 2013, BAH rates for those serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord generally remained flat or declined minimally at some grades. But the 2013 rate changes applied only to service members arriving after Jan. 1 or for those changing rank or dependency status.
The Department of Defense reviews BAH rates annually and adjusts them based on cost of living among other factors.
Greta Powell, JBLM chief of residential communities division in the Directorate of Public Works, said service members stationed at JBLM in 2012 who remain here in 2013 will not see a decrease in BAH rates because of BAH rate protections in place for individuals who have entered into long-term rental contracts or lease agreements.
For example, Powell said an E-4 who is stationed at JBLM and receiving the 2012 BAH rate will continue to receive that rate as long as he or she is stationed at JBLM, even though the 2013 BAH rate for an E-4 stationed at JBLM declined slightly.
The notion that rates went down is just not true, Powell said. The only way a service members BAH rate goes down if theyre already stationed somewhere is if they lose rank.
Military BAH rates are determined by pay grade, duty station location and dependency status. Powell said that many service members may not know that only 80 percent of BAH is intended to cover rent. The other 20 percent is designated for utilities and renters insurance.
There is a lot of confusion about BAH, Powell said. BAH is not intended to cover 100 percent of your housing costs; its intended to assist service members in meeting their housing needs.
The majority of service members stationed at JBLM are E-4s with dependents, who in 2012 had a BAH rate of $1,293, Powell said. E-4s stationed at JBLM should therefore be looking at housing opportunities that cost around $1,030 per month, with the remaining BAH is intended for utilities and renters insurance. The 2013 rate for an E-4 arriving at JBLM in 2013 with dependents fell $12 to $1,281.
Powell said moving from JBLM to a different duty station in 2013 may result in a decrease in BAH for some pay grades, but it mostly depends on the duty station location. 2013 BAH rates went up 12 percent for Airmen at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., while Soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., saw their rates decline by 3.4 percent, an Army Times article reported.
Powell encouraged service members at JBLM to make responsible housing choices.
As a service member, you have choices to make about what you can afford and not afford, she said. BAH is a tremendous quality of life enhancer for our service members because its not taxable and it addresses their need for adequate housing. People just have different perspectives on what is adequate.