With basic pay and 70 types of special pays and allowances, military pay is customized to your situation. Changes in pay grade, duty status, your military job, duty station or deployment status can have an impact on your pay. Military members receive base pay and non-taxable benefits, such as basic assistance for housing (BAH) and food pay (BAS). You receive value via benefits, too, such as medical care, dental care, discount shopping, education assistance and other benefits.
If you enlist in military you may be eligible for up to $40,000 in cash bonuses. Your actual bonus will depend on the service branch, education level, civilian experience, specific job specialty and length of enlistment contract. Bonus types include cash for buying a home, signing bonuses, education bonuses and additional incentives. Bonuses can be combined, but the amount can't exceed $40,000.
Military members receive a monthly base pay; which is based on their rank and time in service. Active duty members receive full-time pay, while guard and reserve members (who aren't on active duty) receive part-time pay, or drill pay, depending on the number of drills they perform each month. There's income tax on military pay, with exceptions for combat zone pay. In 2010, military members received an across the board 3.4 percent pay raise.
As an enlisted member, your pay increases with time served and rank advances. You also benefit from an annual cost-of-living adjustment. There are 9 levels of enlisted pay in the military. Most people enter the service at E-1, which stands for Enlisted Pay Grade 1. Within 3 years, most people advance to E-4. In 2009, the average annual regular military pay for a member at the E-4 pay level, with three years of military service was around $40,000. Due to tax advantages, this equals around $45,000 earned in a civilian job.
The example above includes the standard allowances that members of the military receive. The BAH, or basic housing allowance, varies based on housing costs where you're stationed. Most enlisted members get full BAS (food pay). The 2010 BAS rates are $323.87 for enlisted men and $223.04 for officers. Other allowances include dislocation, family separation, child support and clothing.
Depending on your job and service, you may receive Special Pay. This is given on top of your base salary. Sometimes it is tax-free, as with hazardous duty pay, and sometimes it isn't. Examples of special pay are hazardous duty pay, flight pay, submarine duty pay, sea pay, combat pay and medical officers special pay.
The ability to begin, continue or complete a college education is a valuable benefit. The U.S. Armed Forces offers the G.I. Bill and Military tuition assistance programs to give its members the ability to obtain higher education. There are also educational opportunities while on duty.
Other military benefits include:
- 30 Days of paid vacation per year
- Space A Travel (free flights between bases)
- Commissaries and Exchanges
- Reenlistment bonuses
- Medical and dental care
- Thrift Savings Plan
- Military Retirement Program
- Veteran's benefits
Questions for Your Attorney
- How can I appeal my pay grade?
- What can I do if I feel like I am being unfairly denied advancement opportunities?
- Is there any way to keep my military health care if I am discharged from the military?