Service members forced to live apart from their families because of military responsibilities could see a significant boost in their monthly separation pay stipends next year thanks to changes included in the annual defense authorization bill passed by Congress last week.

The legislation, expected to be signed into law later this month, allows military leaders to boost the Family Separation Allowance from $250 a month to $400, the first such increase for the stipend in two decades.

Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, and a Navy veteran who was one of the sponsors of the provision, called the adjustment “much-needed relief” for families dealing with extra expenses caused by the separate living arrangements.

Under Defense Department rules, sailors who are on duty away from their home port for more than 30 continuous days are eligible for the payouts, as are troops on temporary duty away from their permanent duty station for more than 30 days.

However, troops who voluntarily choose to serve an unaccompanied tour of duty are not eligible for the extra payouts.

For junior enlisted service members with dependents, the extra stipend can be a much-needed boost to family finances. An E-2 with two years in service makes about $2,150 a month. An E-4 with four years service collects just under $3,000.

The authorization bill also requires a full review of the stipend as part of the Defense Department’s quadrennial review of military compensation, to ensure the payouts are adequately covering the needs of military families.

Lawmakers also included in the legislation language to study whether junior enlisted pay and military housing stipends are large enough to ensure military families are in good financial health. The bill also provides for a 5.2% increase in military base pay in 2024, the largest annual boost in 22 years.

President Joe Biden has voiced support for the authorization bill, but White House officials have not said when the measure will be officially signed into law.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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