15% Enlisted Pay Hike, Other Proposed Quality-of-Life Improvements Get Big Boost from House Lawmakers

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers speaks to U.S. Air Force airmen
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, House Armed Services Committee chairman, speaks to U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 409th Air Expeditionary Group at Air Base 201, Niger, May 4, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marcus Hardy-Bannerman)

Signaling how serious lawmakers are about boosting quality of life in the military, the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee unveiled a bill Thursday focused on improvements to troops' lives as the first step in crafting this year's must-pass defense policy bill.

The Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement Act would enact most of the key recommendations from the military quality-of-life report released last week by a committee subpanel, including giving junior enlisted service members a 15% raise in their base pay.

The bill will serve as the base text when the Armed Services Committee begins debating the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, next month, the committee said in a news release.

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"The Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement Act will serve as the foundation for everything we do in the FY25 NDAA," committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said in a statement Thursday evening announcing the introduction of the quality-of-life bill. "Service members should never have to worry about making ends meet, putting food on the table, or affording housing. Improving the quality of life for our service members and their families is my number one priority -- we're going to get this done."

Usually, the committee's NDAA process starts with the introduction of a bare-bones bill, the text of which is later replaced with legislation that lawmakers hash out through hours of committee debate. By instead starting the process this year with a bill of substance focused on military quality of life, lawmakers are underscoring the importance they are placing on ensuring the proposed improvements become law.

Last week, after months of analysis, the committee's military quality-of-life panel released 31 recommendations to enhance service members' pay, housing, health care, child care and spouse employment.

Topping the recommendations was a proposal to give a 15% raise to E-1s through E-4s.

The report also called for the Basic Allowance for Housing to cover 100% of housing costs rather than the 95% it does now, and for eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance to expand to help more troops facing food insecurity access the benefit.

Other recommendations included requiring that the military services report to Congress the total cost for fixing and updating their barracks; requiring salaries for child-care workers on military bases to be competitive with market rates; allowing troops to seek certain specialty health care without a referral; and giving the Pentagon permanent authority to negotiate with states to make it easier for military spouses to use their professional licenses across state lines.

All of those recommendations and more would become law under the bill introduced Thursday.

In addition to Rogers, the bill is backed by the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, as well as every Republican and Democrat who was on the committee's quality-of-life panel.

"For over six decades, this committee has come together to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and to reiterate our unwavering commitment to investing in the greatest source of our country's strength: service members and their families," Smith said in a statement. "This year's bill leaves no doubt that the heart of America's defense will get the recognition and resources they need and deserve."

The committee will meet the week of May 20 to debate the bill and add other provisions to craft the full NDAA, according to the news release.

Related: 'Restore Real Value': House Panel Wants to Give Junior Enlisted Troops 15% Pay Raise

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