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Congress Puts Service Members and Families First in New Quality of Life Report

As parents, family, and friends of new military members, it’s crucial to understand the ongoing efforts to enhance the quality of life for your friends...

As parents, family, and friends of new military members, it’s crucial to understand the ongoing efforts to enhance the quality of life for your friends and loved ones as they embark on their military journey. Joining the military opens up a world of possibilities and benefits with unwavering congressional support. The people you elect for your districts and states all care about the well-being of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Guardians, and Coast Guardsmen. 

These young men and women have volunteered to defend our nation, and Congress is always pushing our Department of Defense to be at its best. I am incredibly proud to see our legislature and DoD leadership thoughtfully focus on our service’s quality of life just as much as we focus on ships, aircraft, installations, systems, and training — creating a comprehensive defense strategy for global good. 

A recent report released by the House Armed Services Committee’s Quality of Life Panel sheds more light on the ongoing and comprehensive legislative measures aimed at supporting service members, particularly the younger enlisted ranks. 

The Congressional Commitment to Quality of Life

(DoD Photo)

The Quality of Life Panel was established in June of 2023 to address the evolving needs of military personnel and their families. Through bipartisan collaboration, the panel created a series of recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — more commonly known as the Defense budget — to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those who serve. The focus of this panel has been on improving various aspects critical to service members’ welfare, including pay and compensation, housing, healthcare access, and spouse support. 

Under the leadership of Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) as Chairman, and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), as the ranking minority member, the panel has focused on core areas that drive both recruitment and retention of our service communities. There has never been a better time to join and stay in the military. 

Higher Pay and Better Housing Options for Service Members

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy Lovgren)

One of the standout recommendations the panel has produced is the proposed 15% increase in basic pay for junior enlisted members (E-1 to E-4). Basic Pay is the foundation of military pay and entitlements and is based on a service member’s pay grade (rank) and time in service. You can learn more about Basic Pay here.

This initiative aims to restore the real-world value of service members’ income, acknowledging the increase in civilian earnings for individuals with similar educational backgrounds. Doing so ensures families can pay their bills, put food on the table, and invest in their future while they serve in the military. Moreover, the proposal to adjust the Regular Military Compensation (RMC) benchmarks reflects a concerted effort to ensure military pay remains competitive and fair. These RMC benchmarks represent the combined value of Basic Pay and other military entitlements servicemembers of all ranks receive in each paycheck.

The Panel also emphasizes the need for continued improvements to housing solutions. It recommends reversing the recent reduction in the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to ensure it covers 100% of the calculated rate for service members and their families, providing the finances required for a more stable living situation. BAH rates are calculated based on a service member’s pay grade, number of dependents, and location, with rates varying by zip code based on the local housing markets.

For too long, families only received 95% of this benefit as a cost-saving measure from the Department of Defense. We should never balance the checkbook on the backs of families and we are excited to see this injustice corrected. Further, enhancing the calculation methods for the Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Cost-of-Living Allowances (COLA) will better reflect the actual living costs faced by military families stationed throughout the country and around the world. These entitlements are meant to offset the cost of service members’ meals (BAS) and any additional costs incurred by living in more expensive locations (COLA). 

Improving Access to Healthcare and Military Spouse Opportunities

((U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit))

Improving access to medical care has been highlighted as a critical area by military leaders and members of the Quality of Life Panel. The Panel suggests evaluating the effectiveness of current healthcare access standards and expanding direct access to specialty healthcare providers. 

These measures aim to reduce waiting times and improve the overall healthcare services available to service members and their families. This next generation of service members is much more aware of health and well-being than many in the last generation. As such, we must strive to not just create equity in the comparable healthcare system, but to make military healthcare services among the best in the world. 

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by military spouses, particularly in maintaining their careers amid frequent relocations, the Panel also recommends expanding the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot Program — a competitive multi-year program that provides military spouses with paid 12-week fellowships in companies spanning a breadth of industries and locations. Participating spouses receive hands-on training and mentorship within the professional civilian environment to better equip them for a successful career. 

Spouses should not have to choose between supporting their loved ones and pursuing their own careers. This program facilitates employment opportunities for spouses, significantly bolstering their professional and personal stability. 

What This Means for Parents

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin R. Pacheco)

These developments provide parents with valuable reassurances about their children’s welfare and future in the military. The legislative focus on improving pay, healthcare, housing, and family support underlines a robust commitment to addressing the everyday challenges faced by service members. By staying informed about these changes, you can better support your child’s career and well-being in the armed forces.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers has already pledged to include these recommendations in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (Defense budget). It’s an optimistic time for military families, with tangible improvements on the horizon to enhance the quality of life for all service members. 

This collaborative and effective bipartisan effort is not only a model for our other committees to follow, but it is also a successful case study on the positive outcomes that our military members reap when our elected officials and senior military leaders come together for the good of the services, and most importantly, the people within them.

You can read more about the recommendations HERE, and you can read the full Quality of Life Panel report HERE.

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Sam Meek
CEO and Co-Founder of Sandboxx