The marriage payment entitlement is a huge problem that should be addressed by the Department of Defense. In the military, the wrong financial incentives are in place in the form of marriage benefits. What 19-year-old young man or woman wouldn’t get married if they would make more money and have the opportunity to live off base? The answer? Most of them.
How many military marriages, with spouses under the age of 30, last? Across all professional fields, military workers of all ranks are most likely to be divorced by age 30, at a rate of 15 percent. (Guess what branch has the highest rate of divorce? Take a guess and I’ll give you the answer in the comments below.)
Divorce creates further problems. It affects the divorced servicemember and his/her unit’s readiness. It leads to lost time and puts financial stress on the servicemember and the military.
“I got married to her so she could get free medical and we split the marriage pay,” a young sailor said to me many years ago from his plush broom closet-sized, shag-carpeted studio apartment in Mission Beach, California.
Therein lies the main issue I have with the military marriage benefit system. It creates an incentive for young people to get married for all the wrong reasons. How many people would wish they had waited?
According to a Rand study, “97 percent of the divorces occurred after a return from deployment.”
The solution would be to require all who sign up for the military under the age of 25 to agree to not get married (unless they waiver for an existing marriage) until they serve a minimum of four years.
I don’t have to bring in Booz Allen to figure out this would save the military billions of dollars in pay and time wasted trying to counsel the young servicemember who married the dancer at the club outside the back gate.
America has one of the most professional militaries on the planet. But things could still be improved to increase readiness, morale and ensure young servicemembers aren’t getting married for the wrong reasons.
Time to do things cleverer with the marriage pay benefit.
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