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Congress looks at a nearly 20% pay increase for lower-rank enlisted service members

Sailors from the USS Philippine Sea man the rails as they leave Norfolk, Virginia.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Keith No/Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG-2)
Sailors from the USS Philippine Sea man the rails as they leave Norfolk, Virginia.

This story was reported by WHRO News.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a 19.5% pay increase for troops, E4 and below, as part of the latest defense bill making its way through Congress.

Many of these young servicemembers are struggling, said Tara Alderete with the nonprofit Money Management. The group works with clients on active duty around the country, including in Hampton Roads.

“What we're seeing is one in five active duty service members is living below the poverty line, and half of those are below 200% of the poverty line, which is pretty staggering,” she said.

A 15% pay increase would be in addition to the 4.5% increase for all troops, according to the bill, which passed the House Armed Services Committee.

Improving the pay and living conditions for junior sailors and soldiers at the bottom of the rung has been talked about for years in both the House and Senate. Inflation has made the problem worse, Alderete said.

Alderete's organization helps military members design a budget and consolidate their household debt with a lower interest rate.

Poor money management is another part of the problem.

“You get behind by $20 a week, and so you put the groceries on a credit card, thinking you’ll pay it off at the end of the month. And then it just snowballs,” she said.

Personal finances take a back seat during deployments and spouses often have a difficult time finding work when families move, she said.

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