One longstanding tradition in the military is the benefits Congress has enacted on the behalf of military members and veterans. As any military member can attest, military base pay is nothing to write home about (check out 2009 pay charts). Without the benefits included in the compensation package, most military members would not be able to survive, especially if they have a family.
Congress has passed many benefits packages to help military members live a better life. One such example is the proposed extension of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit for military members. The proposal was made to offer military members who spent more than 90 days overseas this year the opportunity to take advantage of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit, which they wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of since they were overseas. Sounds fair. But some people disagree.
Disagreeing with special military provisions and benefits
The First-time Home Buyer Credit Extension article for military members was posted on the personal finance blog, Bargaineering.com. It elicited multiple comments, including this reader comment by daemondust, that disagreed with the provision (it can be read in full here).
Yes, actually, I do have a problem with a lot of those programs. What makes military personnel special? They chose the job, they weren’t forced into it. Yes, it’s dangerous, and yes, they have to be away from home for long periods of time, but a lot of other jobs have exactly the same problems but don’t get those benefits.
Don’t misunderstand me, they are doing a service to the country, but I don’t see anything that makes their sacrifice so much more than anyone else’s.
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If things were different and they were forced into it, i.e. drafted, then I would be all for compensating them in ways like this. But they weren’t. They chose the job.
Why not extend this benefit to everyone? Even just everyone in the original class? I wasn’t looking for a house when it was first introduced, but financially I’m in a place where I will be soon. Why does it expire for me Nov 30, and these special people have another year? It was their choice to enter a job where they would likely be away for extended periods of time.
Freedom of speech. I love it. As a military veteran I fully support an individual’s right to speak his voice disagree with public policy. And I exercise my right to respond. You see, I believe this is an instance of someone not truly understanding how military benefits work, and why the system is set up the way it is.
In response to the comment
Many military personnel volunteer for military service *because* of those benefits you disagree with. These benefits are considered part of the total compensation package. Again, I will point out the basic military pay chart. The lowest pay grade earns less than $17,000 per year. After 5 years and an average promotion rate, a reasonable salary expectation would be roughly $28,000 per year (E-5 at 5 years). Officers earn more, and require a college degree – lowest rate is just under $32,000 per year and after 5 years it should be around $56,700 (O-3 at 5 years). These numbers represent base pay only. Congress has enacted several different benefits provisions to make life easier on military members, however, these are not included in base pay.
The benefits are kept separate from basic pay for several reasons, but the main reason is that military retirement pay is based off base pay. The lower the government can keep base pay, the lower the retirement pay. Other benefits may change by locale, such as Basic Allowance for Housing BAH), or Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). COLA is a location pay, which is often found in the civilian world as well. You wouldn’t expect to earn the same amount of money for the same job in Wichita, Kansas as in LA or New York City. Benefits such as BAH, COLA, and other benefits are not included in retirement calculations, and are subject to change.
Additional military benefits
There are dozens of different military benefits, however, not all of them are available to all military members or veterans. These are two of the most popular benefits.
GI BIll. The GI Bill actually costs service members $1,200 to join. That money is not refundable if the benefits are not used, including if a military member dies in combat. The majority of eligible participants never use their full GI Bill benefits, even though they paid into them.
VA Loans. VA Loans offer military members a way to buy a home without a down payment and avoid paying PMI. It is also easier for veterans with poor credit to qualify for a VA loan than a conventional loan. However, it is still possible to default or foreclose on a VA Loan. In addition, interest rates for VA loans are often slightly higher than comparable conventional loans because of administration fees that go toward paying for the program.
Is military compensation enough?
Congress has enacted special pay and benefits to entice military personnel to continue serving in jobs that are often more dangerous and often pay substantially less in salary than they could earn in the civilian world (even in government civil service). The benefits that are available make life a little easier for some of the people who put their lives on the line everyday.
Military compensation is a complicated topic, and one that requires study to truly understand how much, and in some cases, how little, some military members earn. And even with study, you can still ask the question, “Do Military Members Get Paid Enough?” The answer is not an easy one to answer, as it is easy to create a scenario to make it appear as though someone is vastly under or over paid. On the whole, I think the program does a good job of giving military members the opportunity to live a comfortable, but not extravagant life. And I don’t think that is too much to ask.
Related information about military benefits:
- More information about the GI Bill and additional college funding for veterans).
- Military Discounts.
- GI Bill Schools.
- VA loan information.