Recent legislation makes it clear that the sacrifices of our military members are of no consequence to those in Congress. They have no problem expecting those in the military to honor their commitment to our Country, but Congress feels no need to honor commitments made to the military regarding their retirement.
Clearly, the brave choices that those in the military make, risking their lives to defend this country, mean nothing to Congress; but maybe something else will make them care about further cuts to military pay – many in the military are making less than minimum wage. This is before the proposed cuts Secretary Hagel wants to make to their pay.
The President has just issued an executive order requiring that contract workers on federal contracts make a minimum wage of $10.10 starting in 2015. This comes at a time when income inequality and the minimum wage are hot topics. Congress and the public are very concerned about raising the hourly minimum wage. Unfortunately, members of the military are left out of this debate. When calculated on an hourly basis, many in the military are making less than minimum wage on an hourly basis, and no one is talking about it.
This claim is not based only on calculations of base salary. Even when you factor in the Basic Housing Allowance pay, E1 – E3 are often making less than the current minimum wage of $7.25, let alone the proposed $10.10.
Those in the military are not working 40 hours a week. Not even close. While the workload is cyclical and varies throughout the military, extremely long working hours are very common. My husband’s squadron has been working at least 80 hours a week for months, rarely having a full weekend off. They also have frequent training exercises/work ups where they work 12 on 12 off, 7 days a week, with maybe 1 or 2 days off in a 6 week period. This is not even touching the amount of hours that are worked during a deployment.
Let’s look at some numbers.
Base pay for an E1 in 2014 is $1,532 + BAH in Fort Bragg is $867 = $2,399 a month.
Divide that by 372 hours worked in a month = $6.44 an hour. A more conservative estimate of 320 hours a month is $7.49 an hour.
$6.44 an hour and the cost-cutting plan that the Secretary of Defense comes up with is to cut this pay even further. Those with families and kids up to the rank of E5 currently receive a salary that qualifies them for WIC, and enough military members were eligible for food stamps that nearly $104M in SNAP money was used in military commissaries. Quite sad that this is the value we place on the work our military men and women do for this nation.
It is time for someone to stand up and say enough. Everyone understands that cuts need to be made, but it should not be done on the backs of the military members and veterans. Those of us that benefit from the military’s protection need to stand up to the government to help protect those that serve.