Paying for two homes while away at school? The military wants to help

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Airmen and guardians who move away from their families to attend a professional military education program or other training can now earn extra pay to cover the cost of living at both homes.

Under the new policy, a person can collect a daily stipend based on their monthly housing allowance rate without dependents, the Department of the Air Force said May 15. For instance, a major who lives near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, while attending Air Command and Staff College can earn about $1,600 a month.

The new allowance is paid on top of the housing stipend an airman or guardian already receives at their primary residence.

Troops qualify for the pay bump if they are stationed at the training location for less than a year, have orders to return to their previous base, and do not live in free government housing like dormitories.

The change offers more flexibility for troops whose permanent changes of station can financially crunch families who stay behind while a service member is away at school. Those monthslong relocations are critical steps on an airman or guardian’s effort to climb the career ladder, but can squeeze a family’s budget when trying to pay for two homes at once.

“We understand that these short moves, while necessary, can be disruptive to the lives and finances of airmen and guardians with families — particularly in situations where they are slated to return to their original duty station,” Alex Wagner, the service’s civilian personnel boss, said in a release. “This new allowance gives our service members and their families additional resources to weather these times away without the added stress of financial uncertainties.”

Congress directed the military to adopt the new policy as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December 2022. Pay is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2022.

The Pentagon added the rule to its Joint Travel Regulation last fall. The Air Force and Space Force’s rule took effect May 7; the Navy and Marine Corps enacted their own versions in March. The Army has not yet issued a parallel update.

“The November 2023 Joint Travel Regulation update entitled eligible Army service members to these allowances even without Army policy implementation,” Army spokesperson Heather Hagan said Wednesday. “We are in the process of updating our policies.”

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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