Here are the most common explanations I hear to justify discrimination based on familial status.
The argument I hear most is that “families need that money”. I absolutely agree! Yes, a service member needs a livable income to support a family. I could not agree more! My response: You don’t just “need” that money… You DESERVE that money because you work hard and do your job well. Members without dependents also work hard and do their jobs well. Does anyone honestly believe that every service member with dependents outperforms every service member without dependents? Please explain why members without dependents inherently deserve SIX FIGURES less income. The simple truth is that “with dependent” rate entitlements are nothing more than a retention tool to keep those members from separating.
Another argument is that if we increase “without dependent” entitlements to match “with dependent”, we would have to pay for that by getting fewer tanks, planes, and ships. That argument is flawed for several reasons:
For starters, this same logic was used to justify financial discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This is an old, tired argument, but it is often a bigot’s go-to favorite.
Furthermore, if every member without dependents got married tonight, they would start getting “with dependent” rate entitlements tomorrow, and no one would object. So this is not about the budget, this about one group of people being “entitled” (literally) to a higher income and standard of living than peers doing the same job.
Finally, in a fiscally-constrained environment, it does not make sense to spend more to retain members with dependents when those dependents create huge additional expenses (medical care, schools, child development centers, etc) that are orders of magnitude more expensive than what it would cost to give “with dependent” rate entitlements to all military members. If we really wanted to save money, we would focus on retaining members who do not create this additional burden on our nation’s budget. (Do I actually think we should do this? Absolutely not! I’m just making the point that members with dependents are more expensive than those without, so to claim that we must discriminate against members without dependents to save money is blatantly erroneous. If the budget was the driving force, then we would not be trying to retain members with dependents in the first place.)
Another argument is that "members without dependents aren't responsible enough to handle living on their own". The presumption that members without dependents are inherently less responsible is disturbingly similar to the false logic that if communities of color have a higher crime rate, then we should treat all people of color like criminals. This attitude is incredulously insulting and has no place in an organization that claims to treat all of its people with dignity and respect.
“But we need to take care of our families.” I agree! And according to the Fair Housing Act, a single person is a family. Let’s start taking care of all of our families, not just the ones with dependents.