October 21, 2021

Senators Hassan, Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fight ‘Pink Tax’ on Women’s Military Uniforms

Bill Would Reduce the Difference in Out-of-Pocket Costs for Military Uniforms Across Genders

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to help address gender inequity in the military. The bipartisan legislation would reduce out-of-pocket costs for military uniforms for all service members and would help address the cost disparity for women service members, who often pay more for uniform items.

 

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that women paid more in out-of-pockets costs for their required uniforms than their male counterparts – amounting to what is essentially a “pink tax” in the United States military. The GAO study also found that while all branches of the military provide an annual clothing allowance for uniform items, some items in certain branches are not eligible for reimbursements and can rake up costs for both male and female service members.

 

“It is absurd that we are forcing service members to fork over thousands of dollars in order to pay for necessary clothing items that they wear while serving our country,” Senator Hassan said. “This disparity in uniform costs is particularly stark for women, who are in some cases paying almost twice as much for the same uniform item as their male counterparts. I look forward to working closely with Senator Ernst to push forward this bill and make sure that we help close the gender inequities in our military and provide more support to our brave service men and women.”

 

Organizations in support of this bill include the TREA: The Enlisted Association, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), Combined Arms, Fleet Reserve Association, United States Army Warrant Officers Association, The Independence Fund, National Defense Committee, Secure Family Initiatives (SFI), Military Child Education Coalition® (MCEC®), and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

 

"The report from the Government Accountability Office clearly identifies the inequities and out-of-pocket costs our members encounter when simply trying to adhere to uniform standards," said Justin Jump, National President at TREA: The Enlisted Association. "Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for uniformed services enlisted personnel, which is exactly what this bill helps achieve. We thank Senator Hassan and Senator Ernst for introducing this commonsense legislation and urge Congress to pass it without delay."

 

“Establishing uniform cost parity between male and female servicemembers is long overdue,” said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), President and CEO of the Military Officer’s Officers Association of America. “Uniform allowances have been based on the male uniform for years, resulting in female servicemembers having to personally subsidize the cost of their uniforms. MOAA appreciates Sen. Hassan and Sen. Ernst for looking out for our female servicemembers and these prejudicial uniform costs.”

 

“The Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to Senator Hassan for her leadership on this issue,” said the AFSA’s Executive Director Keith A. Reed. "It is essential to ensure out-of-pocket expenses do not erode the vitality of allowances and Regular Military Compensation. This legislation would promote equity in compensation and better position DoD to identify and address out-of-pocket cost differences across the services as well as between female and male service members. The AFSA is proud to support this bill, and we are looking forward to working with members of Congress to secure its expeditious codification in public law."

 

The Military Forces Assuring that Treatment of Items by Gender are Uniform and Equal across the Services (FATIGUES) Act of 2021 would direct the Department of Defense to implement the recommendations included in the GAO report to reduce cost disparities in uniforms for men and women. The bipartisan legislation would:

 

  • Require the Department of Defense to develop consistent criteria for determining which uniform items are considered “uniquely military,” so as to reduce differences in out-of-pocket uniform costs across services and by gender.
  • Require the Department of Defense to review each services plans for any uniform change including determining potential out-of-pocket expenses among the services or between genders.
  • Require a report from the Department of Defense that identifies the retail costs of all military clothing items for officer and enlisted and the cost for both male and female clothing items across the services.

 

This bill builds on Senator Hassan’s efforts to address longstanding gender inequities in the military. Last year, following a push from Senator Hassan, the United States Military Academy at West Point announced that its next class of female cadets will have the opportunity to be issued better-fitting Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) – reversing a policy that provided only unisex uniforms to incoming West Point cadets.

 

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