Since the all-volunteer army replaced the draft in 1973, the military has also attracted enlistees by offering generous military bonuses and military benefits ranging from military discounts to the popular, no-downpayment VA Home Loan program.
Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

The Future of Military Benefits in Uncertain Economic Times

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The military lifestyle is attractive to many; it promotes discipline, leadership, adventure, and pride in serving your country.

Since the all-volunteer army replaced the draft in 1973, the military has also attracted enlistees by offering generous military bonuses and military benefits ranging from military discounts to the popular, no-downpayment VA Home Loan program.

Civilians have traditionally enlisted in the U.S. army because they see the opportunity for advancement within, both personally and career-wise. The military has always fulfilled the promise of economic security and military community support.

And while military benefits provide the backbone of a healthy, vibrant military that supports soldiers and military families, the costs of sustaining strong military benefits programs are heavy, especially in a down-turned economy.

In times of uncertainty in the economy, the problem arises of how to match our obligation to our military servicemembers and stay within the fiscal realities of supporting a strong military. When costs are high and financial resources dwindle, what can be done to sustain strong military benefits programs?

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES ATTRACT MILITARY APPLICANTS

The Army can offer the promise of financially secure future for 20-year-olds starting out in life, for single parents, for struggling American families, for anybody having a hard time making ends meet.

The military supports its members with housing subsidies of state-by-state BAH, military pay charts that boast higher-than-average salaries; GI Bill college tuition support of up to $80,000; low cost heath insurance; high pensions; and full service army bases with specialized military community services. Overall military benefits have increased from 2000 - 2010 and Army personnel costs have doubled, from $27.7 billion in 2001, to an estimated $59.1 billion for 2011 - not including an additional $11.9 billion in estimated wartime Army personnel costs.

MILITARY BENEFITS ARE A WELL DESERVED MILITARY PERK

Aside from pay and bonus incentives, the military supports service members on multiple levels. To retain its high quality service members, the military offers many Quality of Life programs that go beyond monetary benefits. Quality of Life programs at Army bases like Fort Jackson boast their own schools, day-care centers, supermarkets, theaters, college classrooms, hotels, medical clinics and recreation centers.

Military Quality of Life programs also provide services like free military financial planning for singles and families, military marriage counseling, babysitting and daycare for working military families and for military families of deployed soldiers, and a host of most-needed military family services.

Tax-free military benefits such as combat zone pay serve to expand the military paycheck. And speaking of expanding a military paycheck, on-base commissaries are still a good way to shop smarter, as the commissary tends to stock all the most popular food and accessory items at discounted prices, just for military members and military families. Military supported food, clothing and housing subsidies tend to rise over time rather than decrease, in order to successfully help military salaries keep pace with inflation and the economy.

REDUCE THE MILITARY OR CUT MILITARY PAY?

Solutions for a fiscal shortage can include reducing the size of the military, even during times of heavy involvement of U.S. troops overseas; or cutting enlisted pay and benefits.

Although a first-year soldier can make $10,000 grand more than the median income for 16-24-year-old civilians, the risks and challenges of military life job are also much higher than the average civilian, especially when serving the United States during wartime.

Physical danger, emotional trauma, frequent PCS and at-a-moment's-notice military deployment are just some of the hardships military service members endure. Some argue that military pay and benefits don't even come close to the pay rate soldiers deserve, considering risks and advanced skills needed for the job.

AN OBLIGATION TO SERVE OUR SERVICEMEMBERS

Military service members and all families of the armed forces risk their lives and sacrifice their comfort in the service of our country. High-benefit military programs should continue being the standard for the military lifestyle. Enlisted service members and their military families deserve the best possible treatment, on all levels.



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