DoD Releases 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing Rates

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Here is a DoD news release about the 2016 BAH rates:

The Department of Defense has released the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates. Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase an average of 3.4 percent when the new rates take effect on January 1, 2016. An estimated $21 billion will be paid to approximately one million Service members. On average, Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase approximately $54 per month.

Continuing to slow the growth in compensation costs, the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing Program expands the member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense). Based on the authority provided in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the cost-sharing element was increased to two percent. The cost-sharing amounts incorporated in the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates vary by grade and dependency status and range from $24 to $57 monthly. This means for 2016, a typical member will need to absorb two percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. This rate computation change slows the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefits package remains robust and healthy.

Housing cost data are collected annually for over 300 Military Housing Areas in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. An important part of the Basic Allowance for Housing process is the cooperation from the Services and local military housing offices in the data collection effort. Input from local commands is used to determine in what neighborhoods data is collected and to direct the data collection effort towards adequate apartment complexes and individual housing units.

Median current market rent and average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) comprise the total housing cost for each military housing area and are included in the Basic Allowance for Housing computation. Total housing costs are developed for six housing profiles (based on dwelling type and number of bedrooms) in each military housing area. Basic Allowance for Housing rates are then calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents.

An integral part of the Basic Allowance for Housing program is the provision of individual rate protection to all members. No matter what happens to measured housing costs – including the out-of-pocket cost sharing adjustment noted above, an individual member who maintains uninterrupted Basic Allowance for Housing eligibility in a given location will not see his/her Basic Allowance for Housing rate decrease. This ensures that members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area’s housing costs decrease.

The Department is committed to the preservation of a compensation and benefit structure that provides members with a suitable and secure standard of living to sustain a trained, experienced, and ready force now and in the future.

For more information on Basic Allowance for Housing, including the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates and 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rate component breakdown, visit https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bah.cfm. Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the Basic Allowance for Housing calculator at: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm.

FY17 Promotion Boards

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The NAVADMIN that announced the FY17 promotion boards is out.  The full NAVADMIN can be found here:

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2015/NAV15281.txt

The dates of the promotion boards are:

  • 2 FEB 2016 – Staff Corps Captain
  • 22 MAR 2016 – Staff Corps Commander
  • 10 MAY 2016 – Staff Corps Lieutenant Commander

The promotion zones are:

"The Secretary of the Navy has authorized the release of the following 
list indicating the names, Active-Duty List numbers and dates of rank of the 
Senior in-zone, Junior in-zone and Junior officer eligible for consideration 
for promotion in each competitive category as of the date of this NAVADMIN.  
In addition, those officers on the Active-Duty List and in the same 
competitive category who are senior to the Senior in-zone officer listed in 
their category are considered above-zone and are also eligible for 
consideration."
CAPTAIN
Medical Corps (210X)
Senior in-zone -  CDR A. J. Vanderweele Jr. 022444-50 01 OCT 2010
Junior in-zone -  CDR M. P. Shusko          022908-50 01 SEP 2011
Junior eligible - CDR R. S. Montgomery      023324-37 01 SEP 2013

COMMANDER
Medical Corps (210X)
Senior in-zone -  LCDR J. M. Montgomery    035607-00  01 OCT 2010
Junior in-zone -  LCDR E. B. Rizo          037423-12  09 SEP 2011
Junior eligible - LCDR A. M. Cuellar       039165-00  01 SEP 2013

LCDR
Medical Corps (210X)
Senior in-zone   LT J. M. Raunig          106784-00  05 OCT 2010
Junior in-zone -  LT A. C. Buchholz        111950-00  22 SEP 2011
Junior eligible  LT A. C. Alex            124244-00  12 SEP 2013

If you want to prepare for your upcoming promotion board, read:

Joel Schofer's Promo Prep Guidance - 25 OCT 2015

Highlights of BUMED Specialty Leader Business Meeting

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I was recently selected to be the Emergency Medicine Specialty Leader, and earlier this week I attended the BUMED Business Meeting for Specialty Leaders and Program Directors.  Below are the highlights I thought were of interest to a general Medical Corps audience:

  1. BUPERS is removing the AZ (above zone) and IZ (in zone) stamps on the Officer Summary Records (OSR) for all promotion boards starting with the upcoming FY17 promotion boards.  Some feel that when officers are labelled “AZ” that board members assume that something must be wrong with them since they failed to select previously.  This is being done to reduce the chance of that bias (if it even really exists).  Obviously if you have been passed over for promotion and you have a ton of FITREPs at your current rank or the board members closely scrutinize your date of rank on the OSR, they will be able to figure out pretty easily that you are AZ, but without the stamp it will make it harder for them to do so.
  2. There is a POSSIBILITY that they change the promotions in the future so that the top 10% of officers selected for promotion get to put the new rank on first.  Currently the order your promote is based on your lineal number and seniority.  In other words, the officers who have been passed over most get to put the new rank on first.  They MAY switch to a system where merit determines who promotes sooner rather than seniority.
  3. DMHRSi is something that very few Medical Corps officers like, but you should realize that the data you put into it is clearly used by BUMED to make decisions that impact manning and measure your productivity.  You should do what you can to correctly reflect your workload in DMHRSi.
  4. The rollout of the new electronic medical record is slated to begin in the Pacific northwest in 2016, but it MIGHT be pushed to the right into 2017.  The total rollout is scheduled over a 5 year period.
  5. The career intermission program is being expanded.  You can use it to take up to 3 years off, essentially hitting the pause button on your career.  You retain 1/15th of your basic pay and your benefits, like TRICARE, and will owe a 2 for 1 time to the Navy upon your return.  For example, if you take 2 years off, you’ll owe 4 years when you return to active duty.  When you return, your lineal number and promotion cycle is reset so that you don’t lose any time and you jump back into a year group that you can compete with for promotion.  There is info on the program here, OPNAV 1330.2B – Navy Career Intermission Program Guidelines or at this website.
  6. The conference approval process is arduous and painful, but it MIGHT be getting easier.  For now it will remain the same and require multiple forms.  If you are going to something that is a “course” and not a “conference” then your Specialty Leader can see if BUMED legal will exempt the course from the approval process.  The POC in that office says that courses have been exempted successfully, and once they are exempted then all officers can use that exemption if their command is willing to pay for the course.  Here is the conference approval webpage.  You should always check here for the latest information.

4th Step to Financial Freedom – Contribute Maximally to Your Tax-Favored Retirement Accounts

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The benefits of tax-favored retirement plans like the Thrift Savings Plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) are too great to ignore, and over the span of your career sheltering your investment earnings from the taxman will benefit you tremendously.  For example, assume that you make a $4,000 annual contribution for 45 years and earn an 8% annual return.  Here is how much you would have if you invested in a taxable investment account versus a tax-deferred account:

  • Taxable investment total – $604,407
  • Tax-deferred investment total – $1,669,670

As you can see, the power of keeping your investment returns and not paying taxes on them can lead to huge differences in the amount of investment growth you will experience.

The primary tax-favored investment account that is available to us is the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  If possible, you should always contribute the maximum amount each year, which is $18,000/year in 2015 and 2016 ($24,000/year if you are over 50).  You may be able to contribute more if you are deployed in a combat zone.  See this TSP Annual Limit on Elective Deferrals PDF to read about the details.

After you fill your TSP, open an IRA and, again, contribute the maximum amount each year.  The contribution limits for 2015 and 2016 are $5,500/year ($6,500/year if you are over 50).

For both the TSP and IRA you’ll face the decision of whether to contribute to a Roth or traditional version.  Roth contributions are taxed now, meaning you make after tax contributions and future withdrawals are tax free.  Traditional contributions are taxed when you withdraw, meaning you make pre-tax contributions now and pay taxes later.  For younger or military people, the Roth is usually more advantageous because your tax rate is lower than it will be in the future, but there are many on-line calculators to help you decide which option is best for you, including:

https://www.tsp.gov/PlanningTools/Calculators/contributionComparison.html

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/roth-traditional-ira-calculator.aspx

Here is a great comparison chart from Vanguard:

https://investor.vanguard.com/ira/roth-vs-traditional-ira

The Roth IRA does require an adjusted gross income of less than $117,000/year (single) or $184,000/year (married) in 2016 to fully contribute, but there is a way around this called a “backdoor” Roth IRA.  For a tutorial on how to do this, go to:

http://whitecoatinvestor.com/backdoor-roth-ira-tutorial/

If you moonlight as an independent contractor (you’ll know because you will be paid with a Form 1099), you will have other tax-favored options available to you, including a SEP-IRA or Solo 401k.  In these accounts you can often contribute a lot more money.  For a full discussion of them see:

http://whitecoatinvestor.com/sep-ira-vs-solo-401k/

The bottom line is that to maximize your net worth you need to maximize your contributions to all tax-favored retirement accounts you have available to you.  Hiding your investment earnings from the taxman will allow you to accumulate a lot more for retirement.

 

Summer 2016 Senior War College Spots Available (O5/O6)

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There are unfilled spots for O5/O6 at the Naval Senior War College (Newport, RI) or the Army equivalent (Carlisle, PA).  You need to have completed JPME I or be on track to complete it by the spring.  In addition, you have to be willing to go to one of these places for a year and be at your PRD (or eligible to move) in summer 2016.

If you are interested, contact your Detailer ASAP.

Should You Send a Letter to the Promotion Board?

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Assuming you are at least in zone or above zone, the answer is yes if:

  • You are above-zone and wish to be considered for promotion. You will be considered whether you send a letter or not, but you should always send a letter to demonstrate interest in getting promoted when you are above zone. In general, you should try to get letters of recommendation from the most senior members who know you well enough to discuss your contributions to the Navy and why you should get promoted. For example, it is probably better to get a letter from an O6 who knows you well than to get a letter from an O8 who does not. Your specialty leader is always a solid choice as a letter writer if you are unsure who to get one from.
  • You are reporting to a new command before the FITREP cycle and your Commanding Officer is willing to write a positive letter about your contributions to your new command.
  • You have issues in your record or career that require explanation or amplifying information. For example, you want to tell the promotion board how promotion to the next rank will allow you to do something you can’t do at your present rank, like screen for XO. If there are any gaps in your military service or any new information not on your FITREPs, these may need explanation as well.
  • You have to make corrections/additions to your record (like missing or illegible FITREPs, awards, academic or professional achievements, etc.) but you either don’t have time to update them the standard way or your have tried without success.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • After the board is finished, anything you sent is discarded. You cannot permanently update your record by sending documentation to the board.
  • By law, a letter to the board must be considered. In other words, if you don’t want the board to discuss a topic, don’t mention it in a letter. If there is adverse information in your record, sending a letter discussing it may help if you have amplifying information to add. Then again, if it is something they might not have noticed, sending a letter discussing it ensures that they will notice it!
  • Your Commanding Officer usually should not write a letter if he/she has done a FITREP on you, as his/her opinion should be reflected in the FITREP.
  • They are usually not recommended if you are in-zone unless there is a reason to send a letter listed above. Do not send one just for the fun of it.
  • Keep the length of letters to a minimum – one page or less – as boards have to read everything that is sent to them.
  • Do not send copies of publications.
  • Only the service member can send the letter on his/her behalf. In other words, if you have a letter from an admiral, you need to send it to the board. Don’t have the admiral’s aide send it because it will just get shredded and will not be briefed to the board.
  • Your letter must arrive no later than the day before (2359) the board convenes.

HOW DO I WRITE/SEND THE LETTER?

Here are a Sample Letter to a Promotion Board and Promotion Board Correspondence FAQs. Also, see the following website:

http://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NPC/BOARDS/ACTIVEDUTYOFFICER/Pages/default.aspx

2016-7 White House Fellowship Instruction Released

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Here is the new White House Fellowship Instruction.  This fellowship is super competitive and difficult to get, but is a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone interested.  All of the info on the fellowship is contained in the instruction or can be found here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/fellows