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Veterans will get more housing aid but pay more, too
2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates cover 98 percent of housing utility costs
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Gabe Shippy, a U.S. Army veteran, shows a portrait of himself in uniform Thursday at his Oakwood home. Shippy is one of many recently discharged military service men who receives a subsidy to help cover private housing costs. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gabe Shippy, a 29-year-old Army veteran living in Oakwood, isn’t sure how he would make ends meet without federal housing assistance.

“I think it’s essential, especially for someone coming out of the military like me,” he said.

About 1 million military members will receive an increase in housing support next year at a cost of about $21 billion to the federal government.

But there is one caveat: The out-of-pocket housing expenses for military members will grow to 2 percent in 2016, and will rise to a maximum of 5 percent in 2019.

The 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates cover 98 percent of housing and utility costs for in-service members.

Shippy was honorably discharged in 2013. But he still qualifies for housing assistance based on the BAH rates because he is currently enrolled in university studies.

“I’m using the post-9/11 G.I. Bill and I receive a monthly housing stipend as a part of that,” he said.

Shippy served as a human resources specialist stationed in South Korea. He said the great benefits offered by the military prompted him to sign up in the first place.

Shippy was stuck working odd jobs and unable to afford school prior to enlisting.

“So that was one of the primary reasons that I joined,” he said. “Education, resume and a solid source of income.”

Shippy said the housing subsidy covers $700 of his $820-a-month rent on an apartment.

“So that almost covers rent,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a part-time job.”

Average BAH rates will rise 3.4 percent in 2016, or about $54 a month. Recipients in the greater Atlanta region will see about a 12 percent increase in financial support next year.

But the coming increase in out-of-pocket costs “makes veterans like myself nervous,” Shippy said.

The move is part of a larger DOD plan, approved by Congress, to rein in rising military pay and benefits.

The DOD says it’s a fair and equitable approach.

Shippy, however, believes cost-cutting can be made to the Pentagon’s budget in other areas before targeting financial support for service members and veterans.

“It’s definitely very discouraging,” he added.

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