Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Army and Family (and $$$)

I belong to an Army wife group for the post that I live at and the wives on it often get into heated discussions over matters. (What do you expect with over 500 Army wives living so close together!) Recently women were comparing the amount of COLA they receive. (For those of you who are not military, Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA), is paid to the military to help offset higher costs when stationed overseas.  It doesn't reimburse for expenses, but it helps make up the difference between what you could buy in the states vs. what you can buy with that same dollar overseas. It also does not take into account the remoteness of your duty station, the difficulty in buying goods readily purchased in the states, or hardships.) COLA is calculated based on a formula taking into account the Service Members location, rank, years of service, number of dependents, and type of housing. For instance someone higher ranking with several years in service with dependents will receive more COLA than a single soldier living in the barracks. Although the number of dependents is taken into account, it does not make up a huge difference. For example, if my husband were single and living in barracks would make $87 less than he would being married and living in government housing. Add one extra dependent (child) and he receives an additional $20. If we were to have more children the rate for the third, fourth and fifth dependent would increase by another $10 each. 
Some of the wives in the group (with larger families no doubt) expressed their opinion that COLA should be based mostly on family size rather than on rank and years in service. I have to disagree. Although the Army regularly boasts about family support I cannot believe that it is in their best interests nor do they want service members to have large families. Think about this... the bigger a solider's family is the more the military spends to house them, and the more it costs for health care. Not only for the births of these children, but to continue to keep them healthy during the course of the soldiers military career. If they were to base COLA solely on family size it would encourage people to have more babies just so they could earn more money. Everyone knows a married soldier makes more money than a single soldier and I personally know some people that have gotten married just so they could receive BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). If the government offered those same people more money in exchange for having a child or two I'm not so sure they wouldn't have done that as well. I see nothing wrong with rewarding a soldiers dedication to service (years in service) and his leadership skills (rank). It encourages nothing more than to be a better soldier and to continue doing so rather than encouraging procreation. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that family size factors into the equation. But do men really need more reasons to have sex?

If you'd like to learn more about COLA - or finances in general there is a terrific blog with 12 frequently asked questions in regards to COLA. (this is not an offical DOD site, but one I personally find helpful) :

Here is also a link to the official DOD COLA calculator if you'd like to see how much your COLA is: 

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