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.
Army Medical Benefits
Medical benefits in the Army are provided through TRICARE.
In order to be eligible for TRICARE, you must be active duty, an immediate family member of active duty, retired from the military, a family member of a retiree, or a survivor of a soldier who is not eligible for Medicare.
There are multiple plans under TRICARE. Prime and Select are the most common:
Prime – where the MTF (Military Treatment Facilities) is the primary source of healthcare. You must receive a referral to go to a civilian doctor or to a specialist.
For active duty and family members, there is no charge (no monthly premium or co-pays).
If the military member is no longer active duty and you qualify for Prime, it’s possible you can be assigned to a civilian primary care manager.
Select – a fee-for-service option (old standard plan). Beginning in 2021, there are enrollment fees for this plan.
You pay deductibles and co-payments. You may have to file your 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 benefit 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 receive 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.
College Loan Repayment
The Army will pay back up to $65,000 of qualifying college loan debt. You must choose between loan repayment and the GI Bill.
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 up to a $400,000 life insurance policy at the time of enlistment. A small monthly premium must be paid for this coverage.
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 its 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 an 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
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 the 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” into the higher rate. Any new arrivals will receive the lower rate.
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.
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 April 29, 2021