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Army Benefits for Army Soldiers and Army Families

This is a quick overview of the military benefits you can expect for your soldier as well as the benefits that your family can enjoy while he is in the Army including Tricare, GI Bill, on post resources and monetary allowances.

soldier-family-benefits-army

Army Medical Benefits

Medical benefits in the Army are provided through TRICARE. In order to be eligible for TRICARE, you must be active duty, immediate family member of active duty, retired from the military, a family member of a retiree or a survivor of a solider who is not eligible for Medicare.

There are three types of programs under TRICARE:

Prime – where the MTFs (Military Treatment Facilities) are the primary source of healthcare. You must receive a referral to go to a civilian doctor. For active duty and family members, there is no charge (no monthly premium or co-pays).

Extra – a preferred provider option that saves you money over standard option. You will have to pay a deductible and co-payments and your provider choice is limited.

Standard – a fee for service option (old CHAMPUS system). There is no enrollment fee and you are enrolled automatically. You pay deductibles and co-payments. You may have to file you own claims but you will have the widest choice of providers.

Dental benefits are also available for free for the active duty soldier and for a small fee for the family. Learn more about the dental program here.

GI Bill & Tuition Assistance

There are two main GI Bill programs available (there are actually many but we’ll focus on the most popular ones). You need to compare the two programs to determine which ones benefits you the most financially.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

The first is the Post 9/11 GI Bill.With this GI Bill, there is no investment required as there is for the Montgomery GI Bill. This program pays for 36 months of school and you can use it for 15 years after separation.

With it, your tuition and fees are paid directly to the school in full. The exceptions to this are if you choose a private school or you are attending as an out of state resident. You will also received a housing allowance based on the zip code of the school and a book allowance. This bill will also possibly allow you to transfer it to your dependents, though there are a LOT of rules governing this.

Montgomery GI Bill

With the Montgomery GI Bill, you will pay in $100 a month for the first 12 months to be vested in the program. Visit http://www.gibill.va.gov for more information. There is also an option to pay in an additional $600 and receive a kicker (more GI bill funds). Check with your education center about this option.

The MGIB is available for up to 10 years after you leave the service and can be used for 36 months. Payments are made to you and then you pay all of your expenses from it – it may or may not cover all of your associated expenses.

College Loan Repayment

The Army will payback up to $65,000 of qualifying college loan debt. You must choose between loan repayment and the GI Bill.

Retirement Income

The soldier can retire after twenty years and receive half of his base pay at the time of retirement. At thirty years, he will receive 75% of the base pay. The rate is figured at 2.5% for each year served.

Retirement income can also be earned if the soldier is medically retired, which means he has a disability rating of at least 30%.

Soldier Group Life Insurance

Your soldier will be covered by a $400,000 life insurance policy at the time of enlistment. A small monthly premium must be paid for this coverage.

Paid Leave

He will be eligible for thirty days of paid leave per year (accrues at the rate of 2.5 days per month). While he is deployed, he’s also entitled to two weeks of R&R (rest and relaxation) assuming he has been deployed for the minimum required time. This time is paid time off and does not count against his normal leave time.

Commissary and PX

The commissary is the grocery store on post and the PX is similar to a department store. You can sometimes find great deals on brand name merchandise in the PX. The PX varies widely by post. I’ve been to some that are awesome and others I hope I never have to go to again. :)

The prices in the commissary are generally lower than grocery store prices as well and items are tax free. You are expected to tip the “bag boy” at the commissary as they only work off tips.

Entertainment on Post

Each Army post differs in their offerings. Some posts have theaters, bowling alleys, golf courses, swimming pools, playgrounds, dinner clubs, arcades, etc. These services are offered for a small fee. Also, each Army post has a MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) office that runs these programs. They also sometimes offer classes, festivals, outdoor activities, travel programs and sporting events.

In addition, the MWR office also typically has discounted tickets to major attractions such as Disney and Sea World.

Military Allowances and Extra Pay

Housing Allowance
In addition to his base pay, your soldier will earn a housing allowance (BAH) if he chooses to live off post. This allowance depends on zip code and if there are dependents.

In many instances, single soldiers are not allowed to live off post until they reach a certain rank. All married soldiers are allowed to live off post regardless of rank.

The total BAH received may or may not cover actual living expenses. If you choose to live on post, your housing allowance is given to the privatized company that operates post housing.

BAH is not taxable and adjusts on an annual basis. It may go up or down for your zip code and dependent status. If it increases, you will get the increase. If it decreases, your BAH will not decrease if you were stationed there prior to the decrease – you are essentially “grandfathered” in to the higher rate. Any new arrivals will receive the lower rate.

Food Allowance
He will also earn a subsistence allowance (BAS). This allowance is several hundred dollars and is not taxable. It is subject to change on an annual basis based on food costs.

Single soldiers receive BAS and then have it deducted back out in exchange for the equivalent of a meal card to eat in the chow hall at no additional cost. Essentially, they’re not getting BAS because it’s a wash. However you want to look at it, they don’t get to keep BAS and their meals in the chow hall are covered.

Special Pays
If he has a specialty (such as being airborne), he can also receive extra pay each month for this. When he is deployed, he may also receive imminent danger pay, location pay and family separation allowance. Usually, all of his pay while he is deployed is tax-free.

This is also true for any re-enlistment bonus if he re-enlists while deployed in a hazardous area. However, bonuses that were earned stateside but are paid while he is overseas will still be taxable.

Frequently asked questions about pay are answered here.

The Army offers great benefits for both the soldier and the family. What do you feel is the greatest benefit?

Last updated September 18, 2013

About the author: Stacey is an Army wife of a soldier who joined in 2003. He has since been medically retired but she continues to provide information to Army wives and families to make their adjustment to the Army lifestyle easier. Connect with Stacey: Facebook Twitter Pinterest

{ 96 comments… add one }

  • Lisa February 19, 2014, 8:27 am

    I have been married for two months to a sgt in the army and due to my son going to school in a different state we do not live together and he has refused to add me to deers. Ins or anything else in fact he has never turned in he is married , my question is what should I do ?

    • Stacey Abler February 21, 2014, 6:47 pm

      It seems odd that he wouldn’t add you because his BAH will increase when he turns in the paperwork for being married. Why is he refusing?

  • Dante March 6, 2014, 5:02 am

    So you think,”[s]ingle soldiers do not earn BAS as they are able to eat in the dining hall for free”? Please get your facts straight, madam. Single soldiers have a “meal deduction” taken out of their paychecks each month in the amount of approximately $300. This is non-negotiable. If a single soldier doesn’t want to eat the same shitty food for three meals a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, we still have to pay for it. If we’re granted a 4-day pass and aren’t anywhere near a DFAC, we still have to pay for it. Single soldiers are commonly treated as second-class citizens in the army; this is only one example.

    • Stacey Abler March 8, 2014, 6:26 pm

      I’m sorry if you don’t like my wording. Single soldiers do get BAS and then have it deducted each month in exchange for eating in the chow hall for “free”. The money is deducted back out regardless of whether you eat in the chow hall but it’s not coming out of base pay…..so essentially what it amounts to is you’re not getting BAS (or at least you don’t get to keep it!) and you are eating without any out of pocket cost in the chow hall.

      • Johnny December 12, 2014, 10:52 am

        Stacey, you are correct about BAS and eating at the chow hall for ‘free’. I can relate to Dante’s comment and the inequality faced at times being a single soldier. Let me explain…

        Single enlisted soldiers join the military and generally (depending on housing availability at their post) must live in the barracks until the rank of E-6. That means single soldiers do not have the option of using their BAH to build equity in a home or to budget their own meals and use of BAS since they are deducted from the soldiers pay check. However, when married soldier joins the military they are given this level of responsibility (whether they can handle it or not) and can choose to live off post or try for on post housing.

        The reason that this gets under the skin of some service members (especially those who are a little older when they enlist) is that the option of buying a home and having the government pay your mortgage while you are on active duty is a huge benefit that many single soldiers do not get the option of exercising until they are E6.

        Case Study
        I enlisted in the army at the same time as a good friend of mine and we happened to be assigned to the same platoon for over 5 years. We both made E4 on the same day and E5 within a month of each other and our careers were identical to include schools and training. However, since he was married he never had to live in the barracks 3-4 to a room or participate in any barracks inspections in which NCOs and officers inspect the cleanliness of your room and personal belongings. Privacy was nonexistent every day for my active duty career, which is not that big of a deal depending on what type of person you are.

        I will say that side by side, a single soldier that is afforded the opportunity to live off post makes something close to what a married soldier makes, but the huge difference comes during deployments… My friend and I did two 15 month deployments together, but the army paid my friend BAH through both deployments as he was married. During our 2011 deployment, that came to a total of $15,615 difference in pay for two soldiers at the exact same point in their career (see below). I could have used that money to build equity in a home or invest for future use if afforded the same opportunity as a married soldier.

        2011 (Ft. Bragg 28310)
        E 5 with DEPENDENTS: $1041.00 x 15mo. deployment = $15,615

        The feeling of being a ‘second class citizen’ comes from being treated like a child who needs to have his room inspected every morning and is not afforded the opportunity to be treated as adult (i.e. manage your own budget/housing/meals). Married personnel are treated as adults, capable of handling their own budget/housing/meals and their performance is not judged in part by their living quarters. From the first day of enlistment they can start investing in their future, and the dollars and cents add up over the years from E1 thru E5. Even as an E5, my performance as a ‘barracks NCO’ which took place during evening hours every day (while married soldiers were off duty at home) was directly tied to my evaluation report (NCOER). There was no additional pay or incentive for extra hours worked as a ‘barracks NCO’, just the extra daily stress of wondering if our platoon sergeant was going cuss me out about find dust on blades of a soldier’s ceiling fan… Some things you just have to live through to understand but inequality exists between married and single soldiers and it is something new soldiers should be aware of when they consider enlisting. Not the topic of your original post, but I just wanted to expand on Dante’s comments

        • Stacey Abler December 16, 2014, 7:08 pm

          Johnny, thanks for taking the time to share your opinion. It’s always nice to be able to look at an issue from all sides. My husband enlisted a little later in life at 25 but we were already married so he never lived in the barracks. I knew several single (and typically older) lower enlisted soldiers who certainly deserved the opportunity to live off post more so than some of their more immature (and typically younger) counterparts of the same or lower ranks who just happened to be married.

  • Veronica Zamora August 25, 2014, 10:55 pm

    I have a quick question, my brother join the reserves and I am in need of some health insurance and we were both wondering if he could put me on his Tricare insurance. If anyone has any insight on this please share…Thanks

    • Stacey Abler September 1, 2014, 9:22 pm

      In order for them to add someone who is not a spouse or a child, the soldier has to be able to prove that they are financially responsible for you and providing the majority of your financial resources for you.

  • Ben September 10, 2014, 2:22 am

    Me and my girlfriend are about to get married before I leave to basic and she is getting financial aid. Once she becomes an army wife will she still be able to get that Financial aid?

    • Stacey Abler September 23, 2014, 8:51 pm

      Being an Army wife shouldn’t impact it. But being married may as your income will now be figured into the calculation for aid.

  • heather October 28, 2014, 6:08 pm

    Anyone know if husband was at school for 2+ months if the BAS is taken out all at once or broken up?

  • Samantha October 29, 2014, 4:13 pm

    I am seeing a Army Soilder and I have two kids from my ex now if we get married will my kids be able to get on deers?

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