LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Service members above poverty line

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Meredith Somers’ article regarding troops being forced to rely on welfare and holiday charity distorts reality (“Under Obama, troops forced to rely on welfare, holiday charity to make ends meet,” Web, Dec. 9). The article correctly reports that the annual base pay of a private (E-1) is $18,192. However, a serviceman’s base pay is one of multiple compensation areas, including a tax-free annual Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) of $24,408, and his tax-free annual Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) of $4,224.

The combination of base pay, BAH and BAS provides the serviceman or his family in this area an annual compensation package of $46,824. So rather than the serviceman falling $23,550 below the federal poverty line — and thus being forced to rely on charity and welfare — he is actually $23,274 above it. In addition, all servicemen and their families receive free medical care, life insurance at nominal cost, free retirement contributions, commissary and post exchange savings and 30 days of paid vacation. The technical sergeant (E-6) featured on your front page receives a total cash compensation package for this area of approximately $71,592, and $39,600 of that is tax-free.

The article’s conclusion that this airman or any other servicemen must rely on charity or welfare to make ends meet is incorrect.


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