Fact check: Trump told the troops he gave them their first raise in years. He didn’t.

Posted at 1:17 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 15:17:07-04

During a speech to US troops at the Osan Air Base in South Korea on Sunday, President Donald Trump said that he had given them their first pay increase in almost a decade.

“And, you know, one thing I didn’t mention: You also got very nice pay raises for the last couple of years. Congratulations. Oh, you care about that. They care about that. I didn’t think you noticed. Yeah, you were entitled. You know, it was close to 10 years before you had an increase. Ten years,” he said.

His claim isn’t true.

Facts First: Members of the military have received pay raises every year since 1983 — and if you ignore an administrative quirk in 1983, they have received raises every year since 1961.

Trump could accurately say that the 2018 pay increase he signed into law, 2.4%, was the largest in close to 10 years: It was the biggest raise for the troops since the 3.4% increase that President Barack Obama signed into law for 2010. The 2019 raise, 2.6%, was also the largest since 2010.

But these raises were certainly not the first in close to 10 years.

Military pay rose every year under Obama. For 2017, Obama approved a 2.1% increase. He also authorized a 1.3% increase for 2016, a 1.0% increase for 2015, a 1.0% increase for 2014, a 1.7% increase for 2013, a 1.6% increase for 2012, a 1.4% increase for 2011 and the 3.4% increase for 2010.

According to official military data, military pay has increased every calendar year since 1983. In that year, the government switched from introducing the raises at the beginning of a new fiscal year, on October 1, to the beginning of the new calendar year, on January 1.

In other words, members of the military did get a raise that covered 1983. It just started on October 1, 1982. Their next raise, after the switch to the calendar-year system, was introduced on January 1, 1984.

The last year that members of the military did not get a raise at all was 1961.

While it is possible to argue that Trump simply misspoke here, he has made versions of this false statement more than once before.

In October, for example, he told Fox Business, “President Obama starved the military. He didn’t give them raises, he didn’t give them anything. I gave them a 10% pay increase, they haven’t had it in a decade.” In December, he told troops in Iraq, “You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.”