Support for commissaries among Pentagon steps to help struggling military families

The Department of Defense is looking at basic housing pay and other steps to help struggling enlisted families in this era of inflation.

Those steps include “fully funding” military base commissaries to “cut prices at the register, with (the) goal of achieving at least a 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local marketplace,” the Pentagon said Thursday.

“We are cutting prices in our commissaries to achieve at least a 25 percent savings on grocery bills compared to the local marketplace,” Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert Cisneros Jr. said in a press briefing Thursday. “Commissaries are one of the best benefits we are able to offer our service members and their families, and we are encouraging them to take advantage of the savings that we can provide.

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The department said it will also examine basic housing allowance payments in 28 communities that have seen an average rent increase of more than 20%. Communities around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were not included on that list.

The Pentagon said it will also pay eligible service members a Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) starting January 2023. That’s supplemental allowance for military members with dependents who apply and qualify based on gross household income.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also ordered an increase in the Dislocation Allowance (DLA) for E-1 to E-6 service members, to help offset personal expenses for permanent change of station moves, effective next month. DLA payments for all service members will be paid automatically a month before their move date to help with out-of-pocket expenses.

And President Biden’s budget includes a 4.6% pay increase for the military starting January 1, 2023, the DOD noted.

Further, the Pentagon ordered the speeding of seven additional occupational licensure interstate compacts with organizations representing multiple professions, to help spouses who must transfer professional licenses or credentials to new states with each move.

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“Taking care of our people has always been one of Secretary Austin’s top three priorities,” Cisneros said. “The set of actions we are discussing today is part of the ongoing campaign the secretary has waged to make military family life better.”

The Labor Department reported earlier this month that consumer prices rose by 0.1% in August from July — meaning they are 8.3% above the year-earlier level. Food prices are up some 13.5% in the past year and Americans are widely expected to pay more to heat their homes this winter.

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