Two letters from Soldiers, one a chaplain and one a company commander, have brought to light issues with BAS deductions despite meals not being eaten. BAS is provided to military personnel to assist in covering meals. This is deducted with meals eaten in the chow hall or during field exercises. However, the chaplain raised concerns that these meals may not follow some individuals’ religious guidelines. The DOD Comptroller guide does not have published guidance on BAS when meals aren’t eaten or for the concern of religious reasons when the chow hall cannot meet their needs in line with their faith traditions.
“We have had Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian [soldiers] request to reclaim their BAS due to the fact that the dining facility on the military installation cannot provide them meals in accordance with their faith tradition,” the chaplain per the letter shared by Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Charging for meals in light of the above creates double costs – once for the meal not eaten and second for the actual food purchased that does follow those guidelines.
The company commander’s letter noted that while in the field, soldiers did not have the opportunity to eat certain meals, but the amount was still deducted.
These letters have garnered the attention of DC legislators, but any legislation would not be passed until the NDAA, which would not go into effect until 2025. The double costs and deductions are happening now and should be addressed sooner than next year. Army officials are looking into proposals to assist now, recognizing that the religious dietary restrictions may not be accommodated at every chow hall or exercise.
The BAS amounts shift with costs, and for 2023, they are $316.98 per month for officers and $460.24 per month for enlisted. With the cost of food in general rising, specialty foods like Hallal and Kosher items, for example, have also increased in cost.
There are also periods of fasting where the individual may not be eating at all but still getting charged. The charges occur during field exercises when soldiers may not have the time to stop and get meals during the open chow hall hours. Every amount adds up over time, and with an annual salary of $28,530.00 for an E3 with less than two years’ experience, that monthly amount can be substantial.
No word on what those accommodations will be have been publicly shared at the time of the publication of this piece.
Have you or someone you knew had BAS charged when unable to utilize the meals?