Understanding BAH Rate Protection

A more thorough explanation of the rules is located here: BAH Rate Protection Rules.

In anticipation of the 2014 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates being announced soon, I thought it was exactly the right time to review the Department of Defense (DOD) policy on BAH rate protection.

Each year, the DoD uses a huge range of information to calculate the BAH rates for the upcoming calendar year.  Because BAH is based on market rates, BAH may go up or down in any location and for any ranks within that location.

Fortunately, the Department of Defense BAH has a rate protection policy that prevents service members from having their housing allowance lowered mid-tour.  Every new calendar year, service member who have not experienced a PCS move will receive the larger of the old rate or the new rate.  Service members BAH is protected from rate decreases, but service members do receive rate increases when they occur.

There are a few exceptions to this rule.  If a person is demoted, or experiences a change in dependency status, their new BAH will be calculated at the current levels.  However, if you are promoted, you are still guaranteed to get the higher of your old protected rate or the new, higher ranking rate.

The new rates only apply to people who move into an area, have a change in dependency status, or are demoted.  For people who are residing in an area that has a decrease in the BAH rates, it rarely actually affects you.

You can read more at the BAH Frequently Asked Questions page.

Still confused?  Ask questions!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Robin

    Kate, thank you for clearing the BAH rate adjustment up. It is much appreciated! :-)

    • Mike

      I am a JROTC instructor in Memphis City Schools. I moved from one school to another school in the same zip code and school district. My move is being looked at as a PCS move and It’s not. My BAH was 1554.00 when I moved it went down to 1383.00, I moved no house hold goods, I live in the same house, still married. I was told by Cadet Command I moved, and they are sorry its the law. This should be a BAH policy protection issue. Need your help

      • brian

        your bah is based on grade or rank and single vs married and another factor is bah is based on the area of your new asginment for an example lets say you lived in sandiego bah is based for sandiego county not sandiego so no matter where you moved to in sandiego county the bah is the same another example is that bah is rated at 2292 for los angeles county but the school zip is based in a city in orange county but the Bah folks have it listed as being los angeles county so resarch your new duty area also you may be getting a fraction or reduction as a cadet but ask the question such as dfas or your pay master before going to a duty station resarch if you are getting a raise or a pay cut but if you are getting a raise rember rent is not cheap vice the area that is lesser of the few means rent is cheap or doable have fun

  • Thanks Kate! My area, San Diego, did go down, but we don’t PCS anytime in the near future. Thanks again for the info!

  • Leanna

    Kate, any word on what will happen with COLA rates that went down? Ours went from $280 to $120 per month! Are there any ‘rate protection’ rules out there for COLA? Thanks!

  • Bonnie Costigan

    Thank you for this information, but there is some confusion when dealing with my finance office. Basically, my husband went active duty for a 4 year tour. During that time, I maintained the full BAH rate and he did not. He went back to being a traditional Guardsmen Oct 01, 2009. Now my finance office is telling me that since my daughter turned 21 in Jan 2010, that I lost my BAH and can get it again because my husband is my dependent but I have to get it under the new rate (I’m in an area where there was a decrease). I say that I should get it under the old rate because my husband was always my dependent. How can I resolve this?

    • Emmes

      If you are member married to member (no dependent children – i.e. over 21 and not FT college student) and on orders at the same time, you CANNOT claim w/dep rate of BAH for the other spouse. You can both get w/o dependent, though.

      If you were on orders and he was not, then you can claim him as a dependent. If your finance told you otherwise, they are mistaken. Have them check the JFTR Ch 10, Part C U10200-U10208.

      Former Indiana Guardsman and currently a Pay Support Specialist working in Military Pay. 12 years experience in finance.

  • Wow, Bonnie. I don’t know anything about that. I hope that our readers can help you.

  • Maddie

    I am very new to this entire process. I have so many questions about the finances but don’t know where to begin. My husband is currently deployed and now I am hearing about different financial avenues such as BAH. Am I, the wife, entitled to receive that money separate from my husband?

    • Emmes

      If you are currently living together, you do not receive BAH outside of what your soldier husband receives while on orders.

      If you are LEGALLY separated or he has abandoned you, then you can request BAH compensation from his unit commander. The unit should submit the inquiry to the Military Pay office for action.

  • Yes, Maddie, you continue to receive BAH even when your husband is deployed.

  • Laura

    My husband made E-6 were stayin in our area for a while and he wont be paid for it until after jan 1st of course will we get the new lower rate or the rate it was for 2010 because he was promoted in 2010? I am very confused.

    • Laura, he will get the higher of the two rates (his December 2010 BAH or his January 2011 BAH).

  • Maddie, I’m pretty sure I send you a private email, but just in case: if your husband has your properly enrolled in DEERS (Defense Eligibility and Enrollment Reporting System), then he is getting BAH with his regular pay. BAH is authorized to married military members to help provide housing for themselves and their families.

    Please, read more and ask questions. We’re here to help.

  • Change in dependency status…does that include having another child? So even if I don’t PCS but I have another child, my BAH rate is going to change to the updated amount?

    • Justin, for purposes of BAH, there are only two statuses: with dependant or without dependant. As long as you were already in a with dependant status, an additional child is not going to change that status.

      Thank goodness!

  • Jared Thomasson

    Where do Guardsmen and Reservists who are on orders fall in this?

  • Bryon A. Stumph

    I am on a CO-ADOS MOB this year that started in April and will go through Feb2012. We had a child (the 4th) in May, so because there was a change (but will still be on the assignment) my BAH will go down? Having a child causes the punishment of lower BAH?

  • Bryon, Having a child does not result in a change in dependency status unless it is your first dependent. You were already receiving BAH at the “with dependent” rate and that will not change.

    Also, the way the rules are written, you will always receive the higher of the old rate and the new rate, unless you were to lose dependents (due to death or divorce), PCS, or be demoted. Basically, you will never be punished with lower BAH unless there is some action that makes that sensible.

    Jared, to the best of my knowledge, this applies to activated Guard and Reserves in exactly the same way that it applies to full-time active duty servicemembers.

  • Sandra

    Our bah went down and I was at 1862, I moved onto post in December and moved back off the following march and my bah was lowered because of it. So rate protection from my understanding only applies if there are absolutely no change in status.

  • Taren

    So does that mean since we got to our new duty station at the end of Decemeber and did not get into a lease/rental agreement until the beginning of Jan, we get the lower of the two rates since the BAH for our location went down for 2011?

  • Amy

    What if we purchased a home on 12/12/13 in our new PCS location and the VA loan was basing our income on 2013 BAH rates in Washington but the 2014 rate is significantly lower? We don’t actually arrive to our new station until 2/15/13. Do we get shafted because of checking in after 12/31/13?

    • KateKashman

      Unfortunately, yes. This is one of the perils of planning ahead. I am so sorry that this has happened to you!

  • Matt

    I think I’m understanding this correctly. I get promoted to E-6 on January 1st, I will take the new E-6 rate even though it is lower than last years, but higher than E-5?

    • KateKashman

      Yes, Matt, you will get the E-6 rate that is in effect on the day you promote, as long as it is higher than the E-5 rate you were receiving. Congratulations on your promotion!

  • KLA

    My husband is on AGR orders as of 12/10/13 our current BAH is 1468. his duty station is changing in the new year from one recruiter station to another,which are literally 5 minutes from each other but are in different zip codes, that being said will our BAH rate be based on the new rates, which are lower, or will it stay the same?

    • Emmes

      Because AGR orders are based on duty location, if the rate is lower where he is taking a new job, then he is NOT rate protected at the higher BAH. His BAH will lower.

  • Thomas

    I PCSd into a new base and fianance forgot to update my BAH. I got it corrected but they said it won’t take affect until January and I will get the new lower rate. I signed in to base in November. Is it calendar year or fiscal it’s based off of for getting the older rate.

    • KateKashman

      It is the calendar year, but I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t make it retroactive to the date you checked in. I would be pushy about this!

  • CJ875

    So, if I made rank and I have been in my current duty station since 2010, and the highest Bah rate for E-5 in that duty area was in 2012. Would I get that bah rate when I get paid for E-5? or would I get the 2013 rate?

  • Marco

    I bought a home based on my 2012 BAH rate for E-6 in washington area but I have orders for a base in the same area just different base will my BAH decrease?

    • Kate

      Marco, if your base is within a certain distance (I think it is 50 miles), then you fall under the grandfather clause and will continue to get the same BAH.

      • Jeana

        Do you know where I can find the directive on this? I came from DC duty station down to Quantico, and my detachment is stating that I lose my DC BAH! My order states that this is not a PCS move, and the government is not paying for my move. I can’t find the DOD directive that states that you retain the higher BAH in this case.

        • guest

          You needed to apply for a BAH waiver prior to leaving, that’s what we had to do when hubs went to CGSC at Quantico and we lived in DC. You may want to talk to your old unit and see if you can get one.

          • guest

            Because it’s not automatic, there’s paperwork involved but it was a fairly easy process for him he said.

  • Cassy

    My name is cassy my husband is a E3 he’s station in fort hood Texas but I live in New Jersey he’s deploying for a year so do I get the New Jersey BAH or the Texas BAH

    • Kate

      Cassy, before I answer, one clarification. You don’t get BAH, your husband does. I hope that doesn’t sound mean, but it is a niggly little thing that gets a lot of people really upset. To answer your question, your husband receives BAH at the rate for his permanent duty station. If he is deploying out of Fort Hood, he will continue to receive BAH at the Fort Hood rate. Hope that helps, and good luck to you!

  • 25YearMilWife

    How do we dispute being dropped out of grandfather clause when my husband was simply PCA’d to a different agency in the NCR (National Capital Region) which actually sent him to Iraq for a year? Our new BAH rate (a drop of nearly $900!!) matches nothing we can find published for our locale (still the NCR), my husband’s rank (hasn’t changed) or our dependent status (still “with dep’s”) . . . In the middle of the wait for him to go to Iraq, we had to move to another home in the NCR as the lease was up and not renewable on other home. There seems to be little recourse and the left behind family members now have no “finance office” to go to for help –even with a Power of Attorney.

    • Kate

      I think I’m missing some information, and so I am reluctant to answer your question. Your husband changed duty stations within the same BAH area, and his BAH dropped $900? Keep in mind that while the National Capital Region is a phrase used for some things, BAH does vary from DC proper to Fort Meade to Annapolis to Quantico and other locations. Your husband’s LES shows the zip code for which he is receiving BAH now, and his old LES show the zip code for which he used to receive BAH. If you see a discrepancy on his LES, then he can talk with his finance folks to get it straightened out. (Yes, even if he is in Iraq.) If you can provide more relevant information, perhaps readers or I can help.

    • Alan

      If you already “PCS’d” in the National Capital Region and you took money for the move, you will lose your BAH and it will change to the new BAH where you are living. If your finance office helped you do what is called a “low cost, no cost move,” (very simple paperwork) then you will be able to keep your old BAH. At least that is what I had to do a couple years ago to maintain my BAH.

  • Adam

    Hi everyone, guess my situation/question is this:

    I am stationed in Camp Pendleton, getting single w/o dependents, but moving to non-base facility in a secluded area in Texas.

    By the time I make the move, which is in 2 weeks, I should have Joint Custody, 50/50 of my child.

    So will I rate “BAH w/dependents” when I get to texas, if I have the right documentation, or will I still rate “w/o dependents?”

  • Emmes

    You do not need joint physical custody of a minor child to qualify for w/dep rate of BAH .. you need only to be paying a certain amount of child support (based on your rank) in order to qualify for w/dep (meaning, you pay more than the rate requires). What you do NOT automatically qualify for is FSA (Family Separation Allowance) if away from your child .. unless you have physical custody of your child HALF of the calendar year.

    You will need the court document indicating you are ordered to pay support OR a notarized statement from the child’s mother indicating you supporting the minor child while you two lived together (unmarried).

    You will need the birth certificate, a DA 5960 as well.

    SEE 37 USC 403 – Basic allowance for housing, section (g) Reserve Members

    I realize this is for Reserve Members on active duty orders, but the same rules apply to Active Duty.

  • Cindy

    We bought a home out side of the camp pendleton area base. We got orders to go to 29 palms base and the BAH is $1100 compared to the BAH of $2300 we are currently getting. Is there some way we can keep our current BAH so that we don’t lose our home?

    • Kate

      It is very unlikely. BAH is paid for the service member’s duty station. It is about 2 1/2 hours from Camp Pendleton to 29 Palms, meaning that is not really a reasonable place for your husband to live while working at 29 Palms.

      If you’ve purchased a home that you can’t afford to maintain without BAH, you will need to either sell it or rent it. Please think long and hard, make a decision, and take action.

      The worst thing I see is people trying desperately to hold on to a house that they can not afford. In they end, they have depleted all their savings, run up their credit cards, and still lose the home. It is much better to deal with the situation up-front.

      Good luck, and ask if you have additional questions.

  • Wendy

    I’d like to get clarification on demotions and rate protection. Hypothetical rates used – if an E5 at an old rate of $2K gets demoted to E4 – they are eligible to lose rate protection. If the new rate for E4 is $1350 and the old rate for E4 is $1500 – which rate will they qualify for – the new or old E4 rate?

    • Bethany

      If someone is demoted they will receive the rate for their new rank at the current rate. In your example, the new BAH rate would be $1350. (Unless you mean the new rate is what will take effect in 2015 and the demotion was effective in 2014.)

    • Kate

      You will receive the rate that is in effect on the date that the demotion takes effect. Is that what you are asking?

  • Kenneth

    I am AGR and was assigned a new duty station in which has a much lower BHA rate. This move was not volunteered nor for promotion. Do I have rate protection? If so where may I find that in writting? Thank you.

  • Connie

    hi, we are navy. My husband is a E-6 will PCS at May 1, 2015 and going to his C-School at Pensacola, Florida NLT May 19. Our kids and I will be staying at Misawa AFB, Japan till their schools are done mid-June. Then, we will pack out and go to his next duty station at Fort Meade, Maryland.

    While he would be getting the BAH of Pensacola, FL for 5 months, does Navy has any policy regarding to Housing on base of taking no more than the BAH allowed on member’s LES? E.g. BAH for my husband is $980 at Pensacola, FL; roughly $2,300 in Fort Meade, Maryland.

    During our last PCS move 3 years ago, my husband went to C-school for 6 months, housing in Lemoore, CA charges the BAH rate from Pensacola, FL instead of the Lemoore BAH. (Pensacola has lower BAH than Lemoore’s as well) I was just wondering if this is an Navy policy or that is an individual housing policy.

    Thank you in advance for the reply.

    • Kate

      Connie, I don’t know the answer to your question. Readers, do you have any insight.

      I can see it going either way. In general, BAH is forfeited, or paid, in return for housing. However, it wouldn’t really make any sense for housing to accept $980 for a unit for which the “going rent” is $2300. However, that concept is a little different in the military anyway, as different ranks might occupy the same type of unit and yet pay different rates.

      Then there is the issue of it being a school. As I understand it, schools of less than 20 weeks are not PCS moves, but temporary assignments. The scheduled length of your husband’s school will impact whether he receives BAH there or receives allowances that go with a temporary assignment. I believe that if it is considered temporary, then he will receive BAH at the location where the family is located.

      Again, dear readers, do you have any experience with this? It’s been a while since my husband has had schools en-route, and we didn’t live in housing at the time.

      Good luck!

  • Jen

    Hi, my husband and I have just gotten married after 5 years of dating. He just graduated from AIT a few weeks ago and is getting deployed to Korea soon. Will I still be eligible to receive BAH while he is gone? Do we have to apply for BAH before he leaves or will he automatically begin receiving it once he registers me in DEERS? I am new to this so any information or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Kate

      Congratulations on your marriage. Once your husband gets you in the system, he should receive BAH retroactive to the date of your marriage. As for Korea, there are a couple of issues here. Is he being deployed to Korea, or moving to Korea on orders? If it is a PCS move, then is he being given the option of taking you (accompanied) or is that not permitted (unaccompanied)?

      If he is deploying, then he will continue to receive BAH at the rate for his stateside duty station. If he is PCSing on unaccompanied orders, then he will receive BAH for your location. If he has the option to have you come with him to Korea, and you don’t go, then there is no BAH entitlement for you.

      I’m suspecting that he is PCSing to Korea but doesn’t have the option to bring you. That’s a pretty common scenario for those new to the military. It will be a challenge – good luck to you!