Military Benefit Snapshot

It is no secret that the military is not a high paying career choice.  However, the benefits that come along with that job adequately make up for the lower overall pay.  When considering enlistment, be sure to take into consideration the benefit that will be available to you when weighting your decision.  The following is a list of some of these benefits:

    • Cash sign-on bonuses
    • Education benefits
    • Free housing or compensation for private housing
    • Food allowances or meal hall access
    • Free health care including dental and vision coverage
    • Special VA home loans
  • Life insurance
  • Thirty days paid leave (vacation)
  • Specialty training
  • Pension
  • Local retail discounts

These are only some of the benefits you have to look forward to as a military servicemember.  Here is a more detailed look at some of the benefits available. 

Enlistment bonuses

Enlistment bonuses are a way to entice recruits to accept jobs that are currently experiencing shortages for one reason or another.  Often these are jobs with high qualification criteria or simply jobs that are not as appealing as others.  Bonuses are usually offered in exchange for four to six years of service, however, the Army does offer bonuses in certain cases for two and three year enlistment terms.  Some of the services pay these bonuses in a single lump sum while others pay half upon arrival at their first duty station and pay out the remaining payments in equal amounts monthly over the remaining period of enlistment.  Be aware that if for any reason you do not complete the entire term you received the bonus for, the “unearned” portion will be expected to be repaid.  The bonuses are considered taxable income unless the recruit is re-enlisting into a combat area in which case it is tax exempt.  There are two types of enlistment bonuses offered those individuals interested in joining the military, non-prior service enlistment bonus and prior service enlistment bonus.  The amount of the bonuses offered to non-prior service recruits is based on the job you are signing up for along with the number of years of enlistment.  Prior service bonus amounts are dependent upon the job you are re-enlisting for as well as the time you previously spent in service, your prior rank and period of prior enlistment along with the consideration of a re-enlistment zone multiplier.  Individuals meeting the following criteria may be eligible for a re-enlistment bonus:

  • Completed a minimum of 17 months of continuous active duty, not including training, but not more than 14 years total of active duty
  • Qualified in a military skill designated as critical by the Secretary of Defense
  • Not currently receiving special nuclear-training pay
  • Reenlists or voluntarily extends enlistment for at least a 3 year period
  • Enlists in a regular component of the service concerned; or continues in a reserve component of service concerned
  • Bonuses paid may not exceed the lesser of the product of 15 times the monthly rate of basic pay to which the servicemember was entitled upon separation or discharge; or the product number of years (or monthly fractions thereof)of the term of reenlistment or extension of enlistment up to $90,000.  Fifty percent of this bonus is paid in a lump sum up front with the remaining paid out monthly in equal increments.  

Special Pay

This is extra pay given to those who enlist in a special duty job or are located in an area eligible for additional pay.  The following are some examples of extra duty pay: demolition duty pay, career enlisted flyer incentive pay, diving duty pay, submarine duty pay, medical officers special pay, hazardous duty pay and hostile fire/imminent danger pay, just to name a few.  This pay is given on top of your base salary and in some cases, such as hazardous duty pay, it is tax deductible.

Advanced Enlistment Rank

This is an opportunity offered to those enlisting to come in at a higher pay grade instead of starting at the bottom E-1.  This opportunity is dependent upon your score on the ASVAB.  There are many free practice ASVAB tests online and it would be wise to take advantage of them to give yourself the best chance at the highest score possible when you take the official ASVAB.  The following site offers a free online practice version of the ASVAB for you to take as many times as you would like.  http://www.asvab.us/free_ASVAB_test_online.htm

Vacation

As an active duty servicemember, you are entitled to 30 days of paid vacation each year starting from the day you graduate from basic training.  If a servicemember does not use all of the leave within the year earned, they may accrue it and carry it over into the next year.  However, only 60 days of accrued leave are allowed. After that any additional leave earned in the fiscal year is lost.  Reserve and Guard member who are called to temporary active duty will start accruing paid leave days once their stint of active duty commences at the rate of 2 ½ days of paid vacation per 30 days of active duty service.   If a servicemember happens to retire, separate or is discharged from duty and has unused leave, they may “sell” their leave back up to 60 days worth.  The paid unused leave is equal to the amount of one days of base pay for each day of leave sold.

Pension

Servicemembers, whether active duty, Reserve or Guard, who decide to make a career out of the military may be eligible to receive retired pay after serving usually a minimum of 20 years.  Retirement pay is figure on the amount of pay you were receiving when you last separated or an average of your highest paying 36 months of service in association with multipliers based on years of service.  The following charts are examples of how retirement pay is calculated.  The first indicates what the base pay is obtained from and the second shows the percentage of that base pay that you will receive according to the number of years served.  Be aware that the years of service creditable are computed differently depending on whether retirement is from full time active duty or from a reserve career. 

Retired Pay Base Method

Criteria to Receive

Final Pay

Entry before September 8, 1980

High-36

Entry on or after September 8, 1980

 

Years of Service

10

15

20

21

22

23

24

25

30

35

40

41

Final Pay

25%

50%

55%

60%

75%

80%

100%

High-36

25%

50%

55%

60%

75%

80%

100%

REDUX*

n/a

n/a

40%

47%

54%

75%

80%

100%

 

Health Care Coverage

One of your entitlements as a servicemember is health care coverage for you and your dependents.  You will be eligible for this benefit for as long as you remain in military service.  For those who choice to make a career of the military and retire, medical benefits for both you and your spouse will continue for the rest of your lives.  Members of the Reserves and Guard as well as their dependents are eligible for coverage when they are activated or in certain situations may be eligible to receive TRICARE for reduced premiums. 

Housing

Military members will be provided housing, whether in dorms or barracks for the unmarried servicemembers or on base housing if married or with dependents.  Servicemembers with dependents also have the option to seek private housing off base and will receive a tax-free monthly housing allowance based on pay grade and whether or not you have dependents. 

Meals

Meals will be provided free of charge to military members at on installation dining facilities for those on active duty.  Servicemembers who choose not to eat in provided facilities will be given a food allowance as compensation. 

Life Insurance

Servicemembers are eligible for low cost life insurance offering coverage anywhere from $50,000 to $400,000.  The option of converting this coverage to a veteran’s policy after leaving the service is an option as well. 

Travel Benefits and Discounts

Military members are eligible to fly free of charge on military flights to all locations if space is available.  This is referred to as Space A flight benefits.  You also have the ability to stay at the lodging facilities of any military base and are able to obtain lodging for visiting family members at these lodging facilities as well for extremely low rates.  There are also many world class resorts such as Shades of Green at Disney World that offer military members exceptional vacation packages.  Many hotels and airlines also offer discounts, so it is a good idea to ask when making reservations. 

In the same respect, many local retail businesses and dining facilities offer discounts to military members and veterans.  Places such as Home Depot, Lowes and Sams Club have discounts available to military members and veterans.

Check out our State Benefit Guide for Veterans to find benefits for your state!

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