Last updated November 24, 2022
This is a quick overview of the military benefits you can expect for your soldier and the benefits your family can enjoy while your soldier serves in the Army, including Tricare, the GI Bill, on-post resources, and monetary allowances.
Army Medical Benefits
Medical benefits in the Army are provided through TRICARE.
To be eligible for TRICARE, you must be on 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. While your soldier is on active duty, you must receive a referral to a civilian doctor or specialist.
There is no charge for active duty and family members (no monthly premium or co-pays). There are fees in most cases for retirees.
If the military member is no longer on 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). 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 active-duty soldiers and their families for a small fee. Learn more about the dental program here.
Dental plans are also offered to retirees and survivors. However, I have found the rates to be much higher for much less in benefits.
GI Bill & Tuition Assistance
There is now one main GI Bill program available. The Montgomery GI Bill is an older program that depending on the number of years of service (and when), a soldier may be grandfathered into.
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 (for most soldiers), and you can use it for 15 years after separation if you separated before 2013. There is no expiration if the separation was after January 1, 2013.
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 school’s zip code and a book allowance. The housing allowance is also governed by other details such as how many hours you attend, if you attend on campus (vs. online), etc.
This bill may also allow you to transfer it to your dependents, though many rules govern it.
Full benefits are only offered if you served a minimum of 36 months, received a purple heart after 2001, or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days of service.
If the soldier served less than 36 months, they may still be eligible for a percentage of benefits based on the amount of time served.
College Loan Repayment
The Army will pay back up to $20,000 of qualifying college loan debt. You must choose between loan repayment and the GI Bill.
The soldier can retire after twenty years and receive a percentage of their base pay at the time of retirement.
The rate is figured at 2.5% of the highest average pay over 36 months for each year served if it is calculated under the legacy High-3 program. So, if you served 20 years, the benefit is 50% of the highest base pay.
If the new retirement system is used, it is 2%. Under this, if you serve 20 years, the benefit is 40% of the highest base pay. The biggest difference in the new system is the government contributes to your TSP account (similar to a civilian 401K plan).
Retirement income can also be earned if the soldier is medically retired, which means a disability rating of at least 30% was awarded.
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.
We also recommend speaking to an insurance agent about other life insurance policies for your post-military life. While VGLI (Veteran’s version of SGLI) can be great if you have an injury or disability during military service, civilian policy rates may be less over time if you are healthy and a non-smoker.
A soldier is eligible for thirty days of paid leave per year (accrues at the rate of 2.5 days per month).
While deployed, a soldier is also entitled to two weeks of R&R (rest and relaxation), assuming the deployment meets the minimum required time. This time is paid time off and does not count against 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. 🙂 You can also shop online. Be sure to compare prices, and don’t simply assume it’s cheaper because it’s on post.
The prices in the commissary are generally lower than grocery store prices and tax-free. Items are priced at 5% over cost. 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 usually 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 cannot 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 before the decrease – you are essentially “grandfathered” into the higher rate. Any new arrivals will receive a lower rate.
A soldier will also earn a subsistence allowance (BAS). This allowance for enlisted is just over $400/month in 2022 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 (or DFAC) 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, but their meals in the chow hall are covered.
If the soldier has a specialty (such as being airborne), they can also receive extra monthly pay for this.
While deployed, they may also receive imminent danger pay, location pay, and family separation allowance. Usually, all pay while deployed is tax-free.
This is also true for any re-enlistment bonus if a soldier re-enlists while deployed in a hazardous area. However, bonuses earned stateside but paid while 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?