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Single Soldier Discrimination

by Vernon Gutenkunst

Glaring details of overt discrimination against the single soldier abound. Too bad today's ethics are not the same as they were during the Civil War as is shown here in the following account.

"In July 1862, the War Department ruled that Negro soldiers would receive $7 a month, plus $3 for clothing, as compared to white soldiers' pay of $13 a month, plus $3.50 for clothing.  On September 28, 1863, Corporal James Gooding, a soldier of the 14th Massachusetts Regiment 54, all of whom were Negro volunteers, wrote the following letter to President Lincoln asking for equal pay.  The Massachusetts 54th had been refusing any pay as a protest against this inequality. According to the opinion of Attorney General Edward Bates in July 1864, "all volunteers competent and qualified to be members of the national forces, are entitled respectively to receive like amounts of pay, bounty, and clothing from the government." In the same month, Congress equalized the pay scale for Negro and white soldiers, and in September, the soldiers of the 54th Regiment received all their back pay."

All you have to do is exchange "single soldier" for "Negro soldier" and the same type of pay discrimination has been experienced by the single soldier for decades! Plus, you sure don't find any of the mollycoddled married military refusing their pay on account of the injustice. Furthermore, this is conducted with brass' full knowledge and full malicious intent!

Concrete evidence of this attitude is displayed in the following sentence included in a communication by Thomas W. Waugh, Colonel, USAF, Deputy Director, Compensation (Military Manpower & Personnel Policy) dated November 21, 1986 in response to Congressman Byron L. Dorgan's inquiry into this injustice.

"We realize that many single Service members view this as unfair and we agree in keeping with a fundamental principle of a good compensation system, that pay should be based on work performed, and that pay distinctions based on dependency status should be an exception rather than the rule."

When will they ever learn that discrimination just doesn't pay?

Following is an anonymous letter written to the Army Times sometime in the 1980s. What more does it take until everyone gets the message?

"Yesterday I picked up the April 16 issue of Army Times and thought I would read a good article on the benefits of being single vs. married in the Army. Your article 'With pay, tying sweetens the pot,' however, missed the real issue. I've never in my seven years in the Army heard anyone complain that single rate BAQ is less than married BAQ. The real problem is that the vast majority of single soldiers don't receive BAQ or separate rations at all. As a single staff sergeant, I'm ineligible. I cannot invest my BAQ in property and build equity in a house like my married counterpart. Instead the Army has done it for me and provided me with a wonderful place called the 'barracks.' In the barracks I have no real privacy. My hobbies include shooting and riding dirt bikes. In the barracks I cannot keep my guns or reload ammunition. I cannot work on my dirt bike or store it. As a result I have to store it at a friend's house (a married that is) or pay for a storage building off post. Because I live in the barracks I live at my workplace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I never get the chance to escape from my work when I am off (unlike my married counterpart). And when last minute details come up who do you think gets stuck with them?

"In 13 years I will be eligible for retirement. If I were to remain an E-6 for all of that time and live in the barracks, the Army would save approximately $42,888 in BAQ that they would otherwise have had to pay out. That is $42,888 that I could have put into buying a house. Yet my married counterpart can have a house almost paid for by the time he or she retires and it would be paid for by funds that many other single soldiers cannot even get.

"The Army spent a fair amount of money training me to be a Special Forces weapons sergeant. Now it stands a very good chance of losing its investment because of this issue. If you told a civilian that you were going to take away part of his/her pay and provide them with a room to live in at their place of work, and then told that same person that you were going to do this to save the company money but this policy only applied to single men and women, that company would very quickly find itself facing an equal opportunity lawsuit.

"I enjoy my job a great deal but I'm not willing to live in a virtual state of poverty anymore. In 14 months I get to make my decision on whether or not I will reenlist. This issue and the bonus for Special Forces weapons sergeant will determine that. I already have job satisfaction, but if I can't afford to live, it does me no good."

The overt discrimination against the single soldier continues to this day, resulting in the loss of excellent soldiers, poor morale, inevitable repercussions from soldiers marrying only to get the benefits, and a drastic reduction in military readiness. The human and material costs have been and continue to be criminally enormous.


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