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Army Benefits for Army Soldiers and Army Families

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. In some cases, this option is available if your soldier is still active duty, but it takes a little more work to get it approved.

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.

Retirement Income

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.

Paid Leave

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

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 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.

Food Allowance
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.

Special Pays
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?

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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108 Comments

  1. 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 ?

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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

    3. 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.

  3. 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

    1. 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.

  4. 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?

    1. Ben thank you for asking that question, been wondering the same. I have been wondering since I am going to be on financial aid going to school if marrying my fiancé now of over 3 years is going to get my aid taken away? Also since he is a medically disabled Army veteran if can’t keep my financial aid if marry him what kind of benefits for schooling can I qualify for as his wife?

  5. 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?

  6. I am retired military. Trying to get some answers for my daughter. What benefits does a single soldier get for his son my grandson. I take care of with my daughter. If he doesn’t have custody. Besides Try care. Anyone. THANKS

    P.S. A regulation.

    1. If he doesn’t have any form of custody, he wouldn’t get any additional benefits for him. If he’s paying child support, he could be getting BAH.

  7. I am currently in army and me and my gf found out we are about to have a baby. My question is since we aren’t married do they force me to set up a chikd support payment thing? Give in mind tho she already has a bank card from me that receives money every time I get paid to help support everything.

  8. My son is going to be stationed in Hawaii and has a baby and not married and his gf has the baby. There is no child support set up but they have a bank account together that his money goes in. Will he be getting extra money for the baby once he is out of AIT and goes to Hawaii for the baby.

  9. I am an E6 and currently in the reserves in the DC area. I am going on active duty status and being sent to school for 4 months in March of 2016 through June. I am single and pay rent. Will I be able to receive BAH so that I can continue to pay my rent for those 3 months, or will I have to pay my rent out of pocket using my military pay?

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