Donovan, Local Veterans Call on DOD to Expedite Study to Help Staten Island Student-Vets
Staten Island, NY—January 12, 2018....Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), leaders from the College of Staten Island, and local Staten Island veterans today called on the Department of Defense (DOD) to expedite its study of Staten Island’s housing costs, which is necessary to fixing an inequity Staten Island student-veterans face under the military’s current “Basic Allowance for Housing” (BAH) formula. Currently, student-veterans who attend college on Staten Island receive 52% less than other New York City boroughs in housing assistance.
Congressman Donovan said, “The inequity veterans who wish to go to school on Staten Island face under the current BAH system is unjustifiable, and I won’t stop fighting until it’s changed. The faster the DOD has all the information needed to analyze housing costs on Staten Island, the quicker they can hopefully fix this gross disparity.”
In 2017, the maximum housing allowance was $4,098 for students attending a college in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. For Staten Island, the maximum was $2,685, despite the fact that Staten Island isn’t immune from New York City’s high housing costs. Such a large disparity creates a huge disincentive for student-veterans who wish to attend school on Staten Island, even if that choice would be the most appropriate fit for their career aspirations.
Donovan has led the effort in Congress to advocate on behalf of local veterans and fix this problem. Donovan amended the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last year, to require the DOD to redo its 2014 analysis of Staten Island housing costs. In addition to his legislation, Donovan also sent a letter to the DOD calling for the department to adjust its current BAH formula, testified before the House Rules Committee on the issue, and brought together local and state officials to advocate for change.
Today, Donovan was joined by stakeholders from the College of Staten Island and local veterans groups, including CSI student-veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, NYC Department of Veterans' Services, Staten Island Marine Corps League, and Rolling Thunder.
The Department of Defense, through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, provides housing assistance to veterans attending a college or university. The amount of assistance is pegged to the military’s standard Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which offers rental assistance to service members when government quarters are not available. The Department of Defense has a formula to determine BAH payments by calculating average rental prices in 300 different Military Housing Areas. New York City has two Military Housing Areas: one for Staten Island, and one for the other four boroughs. The military provides BAH assistance to student-veterans according to the Military Housing Area in which their school is located, not according to where the veteran actually lives.
U.S. Census data shows Staten Island’s median gross rent is within $50 of Brooklyn’s and $100 more than the Bronx. But students attending a Brooklyn or Bronx college receive up to $1,413 per month more than students attending a Staten Island college. This disparity creates a disincentive for student-veterans in New York City to attend college on Staten Island.