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GAO: Military women have higher out-of-pocket expenses

Women in the U.S. military pay more in out-of-pocket expenses than do men, a General Accountability Office report concluded. Photo by LCpl. Paul Martinez/U.S. Marine Corps 
Women in the U.S. military pay more in out-of-pocket expenses than do men, a General Accountability Office report concluded. Photo by LCpl. Paul Martinez/U.S. Marine Corps 

March 5 (UPI) -- Female service members pay significantly more out-of-pocket expenses than male counterparts, notably in uniform costs, the General Accountability Office said.

The 52-page report noted that over a 20-year military career, female members could pay as much as $8,300 more than male personnel for uniforms not covered by clothing allowances. It cited the Army policy of not offering an all-weather coat to women, although it does to men. The Air Force and Marines provide a coat to members of both genders.

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The discrepancies amount to a "pink tax" on females, the GAO report, released last week, concluded, making recommendations to address cost inequities.

The Department of Defense announced that it agreed with the findings and will work to reduce the differences in out-of-pocket expenses, develop more consistent criteria, arrange periodic reviews of clothing lists and review plans for military uniform changes and the related out-of-pocket expenses to service members.

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Female Marines can spend up to 10 times as much as male Marines, female Navy personnel pay three times as much as men, female Army members pay twice as much, and men in the Air Force typically have a funding surplus while women do not, the report noted.

"Beginning in fiscal year 2021, enlisted [Marine] males will no longer receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for underwear, according to the officials," GAO officials wrote in their report. "Currently, males receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for their underwear, but females do not."

The report also mentioned that female Marines have no replacement allowance for shoes known as "dress pumps," although the shoes are listed as a required uniform item. It added that the shoes example was an oversight and the Marine Corps plans to rectify the matter.

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The Marines have also been paying for military underwear for male personnel, although "drawers" have not been on the Marine Corps Minimum Requirement List for over 20 years, the GAO study found.

"We found these differences in replacement allowances can also contribute to differences in out-of-pocket costs by service and gender for enlisted service members," the report said in part. Developing consistent criteria for uniquely military items and periodically reviewing uniform replacement allowances could strengthen DOD's ability to identify and address any out-of-pocket cost differences across the services as well as between female and male enlisted service members."

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