Housing Allowances:

Equity Issues for Certain Military Members

NSIAD-89-134: Published: Jun 8, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1989.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed: (1) the fairness of the Department of Defense's (DOD) military housing system as it pertained to dual-service couples and divorced members; and (2) previous DOD studies on housing and existing laws on basic allowances for quarters (BAQ) and the variable housing allowance (VHA).

GAO found that: (1) the housing allowance system was designed when the military was small and composed mostly of single males, and those members that were married had nonemployed civilian spouses; (2) the problem has been compounded by the growth in the number of female service members, which has led to an increasing number of dual-service couples, and growth in the number of divorced service members; (3) service members in those categories believe they are unfairly treated; (4) current legislation restricts a dual-service couple from receiving BAQ when both are assigned to sea duty, even though they may live in nongovernment housing for lengthy periods when the ship is in port, or maintain that housing during short deployments; (5) other legislation prevents members who reside in government quarters and receive a housing allowance only because they pay child support from receiving a variable housing allowance and denies variable housing allowances to certain members who elect to not occupy quarters when assigned to sea duty; and (6) DOD proposals to eliminate perceived inequities for dual-service couples and divorced service members may serve to magnify perceived inequities for other groups that do not have the option to elect to not occupy government quarters.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD review of the housing allowance system is still in process. The final report has not been approved by the Assistant Secretary of Defense. A legislative package has been prepared, but the package does not address the issues cited in the report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expeditiously complete the review of the housing allowance system and address the dual-service couple and divorced member issues as part of that review and any subsequent legislative proposals. Further, the Secretary should not submit the current proposals until that review is completed, and only if the review warrants their submission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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