When I was a kid, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” used to be a fun sing-a-long. But over the years, I’ve found that it has grown more tiresome and more of a slog to power through. But as time passed, and more dependents have arrived, I found I can endure it by morphing the lyrics into my own version of “The Twelve Days of Children”, and amusing myself by recounting the, um, joys of having the kids at home, all day, every day over the holidays. No school for two weeks. Two long car rides. Many assemblies required. It’s quite exhausting, actually. I spent this past New Year’s Day watching many of the college bowl games, but not because I was riveted by the matchups. No, after a two week stretch with my (and others’) kids, the best way to describe my state on January 1 would be ‘inert’. Years ago, New Year’s used to be a recovery day. New Year’s Eve was, oh, let’s call it a festive time. But these days, watching football all day on New Year’s is something of a reward and a transition from the upheaval of Christmas to the harsh reality of paying holiday bills, and a return to short, dreary winter days without the sparkly sheen of Christmas lights around the neighborhood.
But around this time, I do enjoy looking forward to the annual ‘raise’ my military spouse gets. The 1.7% increase in basic pay, and a nationwide average of a 3.8% bump in BAH (housing allowance) would not have sent us into the next tax bracket, but it would have loosened the noose a bit. It would have offered a little slack in our family budget, and a little more breathing room for incidental expenses.
Only our BAH didn’t go up. It actually went down. 2.6% percent.
Now, I know that a decade ago Congress adopted an individual rate protection provision to ensure that servicemembers would not see their BAH reduced from one year to the next. If any changes in BAH were enacted, it would only be to a servicemember’s benefit. If you’re in the same place from December 31st to January 1st, it won’t go down.
But I just figured that, if military BAH rates would rise 3.8% overall, this probably would benefit DC area residents even more. It’s expensive to live here, and we should rightly expect to see at least that 3.8% rise in BAH. Only it never materialized.
Evidently, it is cheaper to live in the Ft. Detrick area than it was last year. Among other things, calculating BAH is a function of rental and insurance rates in the immediate area. A dip in BAH indicates something other than what I thought was happening, that we were enjoying a modicum of prosperity in the DC housing market. At least from what we can take from our revised BAH rates, we are not.
I suppose I could try to leverage any residual holiday spirit and make an appeal to our mortgage company, our homeowner’s insurance firm and our highly flexible, good humored (ahem) homeowners’ association. I suppose I could point out that we should see a 2.6% reduction in our housing expenses. The government says that it’s cheaper to live here! And they should know! Still, I’d expect to get as much traction from those appeals as I did on the roads this past Christmas Eve. Little to none.
Well, even if our BAH won’t increase, at least it won’t go down. It’s not a lump of coal, but it ain’t five golden rings either.