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Rose Pushes to End Staten Island as Forgotten Borough for Military Housing

Veterans and servicemembers on Staten Island receive up to $1,000 less for housing than any other borough in New York City; Local veterans organizations, colleges and universities join Congressman in the effort

Washington, April 3, 2019
Tags: Veterans
Watch Rose’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee HERE, and read his letter with local groups to the Department of Defense HERE.

Congressman Max Rose, an Army combat veteran, is calling on the Department of Defense to change the policy that leads to servicemembers and veterans on Staten Island receiving hundreds of dollars less per month for housing than the other four boroughs. Rose made this push in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and in a letter to the Department of Defense cosigned by Staten Island veterans service organizations and universities.

“So today, monthly [Basic Allowance for Housing] is $600 less than the other four boroughs,” said Rose in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. “That goes to $7,200 per year, and has been up to $1,000 less per month. It makes veterans on Staten Island feel like we don’t care, makes them feel like they are getting ignored or ripped off—and you all can fix it.”

The Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is designed to provide fair housing allowances to servicemembers while in active duty. It is also provided to veterans attending college or on-the-job training programs through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Currently, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens are in one Military Housing Area while Staten Island is in a separate one with Bayonne, New Jersey. The result of this is that active-duty servicemembers stationed on Staten Island and veteran students who take college courses on Staten Island receive significantly less than if they were stationed in or took courses in another borough.

“By all other government metrics, New York City is counted as a five borough element,” concluded Rose in his testimony. “Every other time the government is thinking about New York City, it’s five boroughs. But for some reason, for the BAH: four boroughs, plus Staten Island. Again, this makes no sense—and we’re just inflicting pain on people.”

Following Rose’s testimony, House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith said, “I completely agree with your argument, there’s no reason it should be separate.”

In a letter to the Department of Defense detailing the issue and calling for action, Rose and Staten Island veterans service organizations, colleges and universities wrote, “On Staten Island, our community of veterans and servicemembers is one of the strongest in New York City, and the nation—we also know that Staten Island has been the forgotten borough time and again. After hearing from multiple veteran stakeholders, we were appalled to learn that the Department of Defense (DoD) is exacerbating this issue by not only inequitably allocating Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), but by grouping all four of New York City’s other boroughs into one Military Housing Area (MHA), omitting Staten Island. Housing costs in New York City are skyrocketing, and Staten Island is certainly not exempt from those effects.”

Rose’s letter to the Department of Defense was cosigned by: St. John’s University, Wagner College, City University of New York – the College of Staten Island, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapters 421 and 72, the Fleet Reserve Association Branch 226 Staten Island, the American Legion Watkins-Kellett Post 277, and Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 New York.

Full text of letter HERE. Watch Rose’s testimony HERE, full text below:

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Thornberry, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to give this testimony today, and thank you for your leadership.

I want to talk to you today about an issue that we are encountering in my district—Staten Island and South Brooklyn, New York City. You all might not be aware of this, the BAH for the GI Bill on Staten Island is significantly lower than the rest of New York City. And the reason for that is because Staten Island is not counted as a part of New York City when the BAH is calculated.

So today, monthly BAH is $600 less than the other four boroughs. That goes to $7,200 per year, and has been up to $1,000 less per month. It makes veterans on Staten Island feel like we don’t care, makes them feel like they are getting ignored or ripped off—and you all can fix it.

From your perspective, this is tiny stuff. And we really ask in this [National Defense Authorization Act] that you include Staten Island as a part of New York City in terms of the calculation of the BAH.

And I want to go down for the facts as to why this is so ridiculous.

Today, Staten Island has the highest percentage of vets as compared to any other borough. In fact, compared to Manhattan and Queens, it’s double the number on a percentage basis.

Our median rents are very similar to the rest of New York City, and nonetheless though, we have a BAH that is $600 less.

The median household income is right in the middle for New York City, and to repeat, our BAH is $600 less—and calculated as if we’re not a part of New York City.

By all other government metrics, New York City is counted as a five borough element. Every other time the government is thinking about New York City, it’s five boroughs. But for some reason, for the BAH: four boroughs, plus Staten Island. Again, this makes no sense—and we’re just inflicting pain on people.

And lastly, to really—and this is the icing on the cake—when the [Continental United States (CONUS) Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)] is determined, we have the highest—Staten Island is the highest is the one for all five boroughs, and one of the highest in the nation. If I were to tell you, highest COLA, lowest BAH in this city, you’d think that was crazy. You’d think that was insane. And you can fix it.

People come here asking for the earth, the world, the moon, the stars—everything. I’m not today. I’m just asking for you to be fair as it pertains to Staten Island.

But it’s not just the veterans. This is our economy as well. Remember, BAH is based off where you go to school, not where you live. So Staten Island is so hospitable, so wonderful to vets, they’re moving to Staten Island but going to school in other places. They’ll take the free ferry to Manhattan because it can mean up to $1000 extra per month for them.

That’s a massive hinderance to our local universities and that hits our economy as well. And we’re following the rules, we’re just trying to do the right thing, and D.C. right now is not treating us fairly.

Again, I come before you today very thankful that you gave me this opportunity, and again I ask you to equalize the BAH rates for Staten Island and the other four boroughs. Include us in the New York City calculations. It will be nice, simple, and most of all it will be fair.

Thank you again.

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