I am retired Air Force Master Sergeant Dale Nyhus. I am a 24-year veteran. I joined the Army in January 1995 and served as an Airborne Infantryman in Alaska for four years. During this time, I deployed to Guam in support of Operation PACIFIC HAVEN to provide security for Kurdish refugees evacuated from northern Iraq. In 1999, I cross-trained to be an Apache helicopter Crew Chief and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. From there, I deployed to Bosnia as part of the Stabilization Force supporting Operation JOINT FORGE. I separated from the Army in November 2001 and enlisted in the Air Force in February 2002. I have served as a C-130 Loadmaster at Dyess AFB, Yokota AB, and Little Rock AFB and have deployed six times to Operations ENDURING and IRAQI FREEDOM. While stationed in Japan, I repatriated the remains of a World War II B-24 bomber crew and flew missions during Operation TOMODACHI to expedite humanitarian assistance immediately after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In 2015, I was assigned to Travis AFB, where I qualified as a Contingency Response Team Chief. In 2017, I led teams supporting relief operations for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, resulting in 70 tons of aid delivered to Americans impacted by the worst hurricane season on record. I have earned three Meritorious Service Medals, ten Air Medals, and both the Air Force and Army Commendation Medals.
I have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. While serving in the military, I chose to not get married in order to avoid receiving “with dependent” rate benefits. I felt that allowing myself to receive the larger entitlements would make me complicit in a system that discriminates based on familial status. In 2012, I explored the possibility of getting a waiver so I could decline “with dependent” rate benefits. The request was elevated to the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office (a Secretary of the Air Force level office), but it was denied. The response I received included the following:
“The general rule is that waiver of a pay entitlement, in whole or in part, is contrary to public policy unless specifically authorized by law. See 54 Comp. Gen. 393 (1974); 23 Comp. Gen. 109 (1943). This is because the rates of pay and allowances and the conditions of payment are fixed by law. The rationale underlying this restriction is also based on the concern that allowing an agency head to accept an individual's waiver of all or a portion of a statutory entitlement to compensation would give the agency head, and not Congress, the power to set the compensation of military members and Government employees. See 26 Comp. Gen. 956 (1947).”
I agree with the logic in the statement above. The problem is that a significant portion of the system of compensation is based on lifestyle choices rather than "merit, fitness, capability, and performance". (ref: DoDD 1020.2E, paragraph E2.2.a.)
I also have a son. Although I provide all of the financial support for my partner and child, I again made a deliberate choice to avoid receiving “with dependent” benefits by not claiming my son as a military dependent. (On paper, my partner was a single mother, and I was a single male.) Sticking to my convictions was extremely costly. By not claiming dependents, not only did I receive less income each month, I also received smaller tax refunds. But I felt these were necessary sacrifices to demonstrate the extreme financial discrimination that members without dependents are subjected to. I am not seeking back pay or any form of restitution; I simply want to fix the problem for future generations.