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Hazardous Housing, Thanksgiving Hardship, Health Insurance Changes and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Home may be where your heart is, but if you happen to be one of the 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, your home is also quite possibly a mold-ridden, radon-emitting fire hazard one spark away from total annihilation. That’s not exactly how the Defense Department’s deputy inspector general put it in his housing inspection report, but that was the upshot.

The Pentagon IG’s office inspected 12 percent of housing at 13 U.S. military installations in the Republic of Korea earlier this year and found hundreds of code violations, a number of which endangered troops and their families.

In his report to the Army and Air Force, Randolph Stone, deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, catalogued a range of problems, some requiring urgent action because of the safety threat they posed.

In one case, a building wasn’t electrically grounded because the building electrode was disconnected from the main water pipe. “This created an electrocution hazard to anyone in contact with the equipment,” the report said.

Buildings at three installations had fossil fuel burning equipment but no carbon monoxide alarms, which was especially dangerous because “soot build-up on surfaces and around vent flue joints and dampers of the boilers in the mechanical rooms were signs of inadequate combustion ventilation, indicating higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning,” the report said.

Then there were the electrical deficiencies, such as “severe corrosion on electrical panels, missing light fixture covers in showers and reverse polarized electrical outlets.” Mold and radon were also big problems in some areas.

You get the picture. That “free” military housing isn’t without cost to the inhabitants.

At least their families have TRICARE, right? Speaking of which, TRICARE and Military OneSource are cohosting a webinar for National Guard and reserve beneficiaries on Nov. 12. Brian Smith, a policy analyst at the Defense Health Agency will explain the benefits available to reserve service members and their families.

While the reservists are doing that, thousands of other feds will be looking for new health care providers since five health plans were dropped from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Not to worry, there are four new plans to choose from. In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s open season, so now’s the time to make changes if you want or must.

It’s also time to watch your spending. The holidays are notorious for leaving many of us lighter in the wallet and heavier around the waistline. A new survey from First Command shows that a whopping 82 percent of middle-class military families say they’ll be cutting back on Thanksgiving plans as a result of financial worries.

“That’s up 20 points from last year. In contrast just 43 percent of civilian families say their plans will change. That’s down eight points from last year,” the organization reports.

How are they cutting back on Thanksgiving? Thirty-two percent will reduce travel, 24 percent will spend less on decorations and 30 percent will dine with immediate family members only.

“Although changing Thanksgiving plans in response to financial concerns is not new, this is the first year for many military families to plan on having a pot-luck dinner (41 percent) or going to someone else’s house for dinner (60 percent),” First Command notes.

In our view, this doesn’t seem like much of a hardship. We thought Thanksgiving was all about pot luck and getting a free meal from the relatives. It just wouldn’t be the same without Aunt Martha’s sweet potato and marshmallow concoction.

(Image via kozirsky/Shutterstock.com)

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