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New legislation would eliminate unequal gender-based military expenses

Legislation introduced in Congress on Wednesday aims to ensure that out-of-pocket expenses, like uniforms, for male and female service members will be equalized. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corp
Legislation introduced in Congress on Wednesday aims to ensure that out-of-pocket expenses, like uniforms, for male and female service members will be equalized. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corp

April 14 (UPI) -- The Defense Department must guarantee equal pay for female service members, three members of Congress said of legislation announced on Wednesday.

The Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act was introduced by Reps. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and would direct the Defense Department to ensure gender equity in the cost of uniforms, effectively guaranteeing equal pay, according to the representatives.

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The legislation refers to a Government Accountability Office report in February indicating that female service members pay significantly more out-of-pocket expenses than male counterparts, notably in uniform costs.

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.

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"Requiring servicewomen to pay more for uniforms than servicemen pay is blatant gender discrimination, pure and simple," Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The military requires servicewomen to buy swimsuits, dress pumps and other items that are either not required for servicemen or that have less-expensive equivalents for men, and GAO found that servicewomen have been more affected by mandatory uniform changes that must be covered out of pocket by the servicewoman," Speier said.

The legislation calls for an equalization in the cost of required uniform items.

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Stefanik, in a statement on Wednesday, called the proposed law a "straight-forward solution to address a tremendous gender-related inequity in the United States military."

Brownley called gender-based inequities in military service "antiquated."

The GAO recommended that the Defense Department should work to reduce differences in out-of-pocket costs incurred by enlisted personnel across the services, and by gender within a service.

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