A Guide to Military Benefits, Pay, and Other Financial Resources

Chelsy Meyer  | 

The military offers a slew of resources for its service members. They offer competitive pay, health care, education resources, loans, housing opportunities, living allowances, retirement, and survivor benefits. These benefits are offered in order to make life easier for those that sacrifice so much in order to serve our country. Not only that, but the benefits often stretch out to the families of service members as well. From base pay information to life insurance, understanding the vast world of military finances is all about finding the right information in order to take advantage of the benefits associated with a military career. To learn more or discover additional financial tips for military members and dependents, check out our Military Resource Center.

Pay: Understanding Military Compensation

Military pay is highly variable depending on each circumstance. Your pay is dependant on each branch, your active status, your paygrade, where you’re stationed, when you joined, etc. Base pay is not the same as drill pay, and then there are bonuses and allowances to account for. For this reason, military pay is different for each service member. However, there are resources in order to help you with any questions on military pay.

  • Proposed 2018 Active Duty Pay Chart – Pay charts change, this is a way to estimate pay, though it’s not comprehensive enough to calculate exact pay for each member.
  • Military Compensation – Department of Defense military compensation pay information outlining different types of pay for different situations
  • Defense Finance and Accounting Service – DFAS is the U.S. Department of Defense’s payment service. Many financial questions about pay can be answered through them.

Healthcare: Military Insurance and Medical Coverage

Health care is a major benefit associated with military service. Not only are you offered health care, so is your family. When you leave the military, you are offered VA benefits. There are also disability benefits and counseling services.

  • TRICARE – TRICARE is the basic health care program for active duty and retired service members (not to be confused with veteran service members) and their families. There are programs within TRICARE including TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Extra, and TRICARE Standard.
  • VA Health Care – The VA is the umbrella under which all Veterans Affairs live under. For any person who served in the military, they are eligible for health care with the VA though they may also purchase private health insurance to compliment their VA benefits if they wish. There are also many resources out there to help veterans with medical bills and debt.
  • Disability Compensation – In addition to any health care associated with a disability, the VA also offers disability compensation for veterans who are disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during military service. There are many resources out there to help disabled veterans in a variety of ways.
  • Readjustment Counseling – Vet Centers are available as an aspect of counseling services available to veterans and their families when battling with issues readjusting to civilian life. These centers offer individual or group counseling sessions, family counseling, bereavement counseling, sexual trauma counseling, substance abuse treatment, employment assessments, and other types of screenings.

Education: Tuition Assistance and Job Training for Veterans

Military service comes with a few different education benefit programs and services. In fact, this is a major selling point in terms of military service for many recruits. Though they each have their own eligibility requirements, each program has detailed information in order for service members to navigate their way through postsecondary education with help from the VA.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment – These services are there to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching. There’s a lot that goes into post-military employment, and VR&E is designed to help educate veterans on transitioning into civilian employment.
  • GI Bill – There are a few different GI Bills and they are all designed to help service members and veterans cover the costs associated with education. Each has its own eligibility requirements, but it’s there to help with education costs.
  • Dependents Education Assistance Program – The DEA Program is for the survivors and dependents of permanently disabled military veterans or service members who died while on active duty or as a result of service. These benefits are used for degree or certificate programs, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training.

Housing: Loans and Grants for Veterans

There are many perks associated with housing for service members and veterans. Service members can live in barracks for free, can be given housing allowances, or given a home on base for their family. Those benefits are increased when a service member is looking to buy a home or a disabled veteran is looking for a home.

  • Home loan guaranty – The VA guarantees homes for service members and their families that are eligible for their loan programs. The mortgage rates are lower, most don’t require a down payment, and interest rates are lower in order to make homeownership available to all service members.
  • Adapted Housing Grants – These grants are created for veterans with permanent service-connected disabilities. It’s intended to purchase, build, or adapt a home that is handicap accessible or modified for their disability.

Cost of Living: Assistance and Resources for Veterans

The VA also offers some miscellaneous living resources to certain veterans and service members. Employment resources are there for basic living needs and expenses for all types of veterans looking for employment. The automobile and clothing allowances are specifically for disabled veterans in need of modifying some basic living necessities.

  • Automobile and Adaptive Equipment Allowance – This is a one-time payment for service members and veterans with a disability resulting from duty. It’s meant to modify or buy a vehicle that can accomodate their disability.
  • Clothing Allowance for Disabled Veterans – Any veteran with a service-connected disability that involves the use of a prosthetic or is a skin condition may receive an annual clothing allowance.
  • Employment Resources – There are a few employment resources to help veterans with employment. VA for Vets is a program involved with hiring veterans at the VA and Veterans Preference for Federal Hiring is a law that says veterans who are disabled or served during a certain time are given employment preference in certain settings.

Retirement: Military Pension and Retirement Benefits

Retirement is a huge aspect of the military financial sphere. Fortunately, there are many resources there to help military service members understand their retirement and how to calculate if their retirement can cover their cost of living once they retire from a military career. For those that don’t retire within the military, there are still retirement resources for those veterans as well.

  • Pension – Veteran Pension available for veterans over 65 and are disabled due to their service, a patient in a nursing home, or receiving Social Security disability. There is also a Survivor’s Pension for the low-income surviving family of a deceased veteran.
  • Blended Retirement System – As of January 1, 2018, the BRS is the new retirement system for eligible retirees. It’s a rather linear retirement system designed for service members who serve for 20 years or more.
  • Thrift Savings Plan – The TSP is one of the new aspects of the BRS that is designed to increase military retirement savings. However, even if you don’t plan on spending 20 years or longer in the military, you can still contribute to your TSP to go towards your retirement later in life.

Survivor and Dependent Services

The military has many programs that support not only military service members, but also their spouses, families, and survivors. Offering survivor and dependent services is another way to help family members of service members that died in the line of duty, died due to complications of injury incurred in the line of duty, or experienced a service-connected disability.

Maneuvering through the financial aspect of military benefits, pay, and other financial resources can be daunting. Unfortunately, some service members and veterans miss out on benefits and programs available to them due to an inability to find those resources. Contacting your supervisor as an active member or VA office is a great way to find information specific to your own financial situation and standing. Otherwise, this list is a great starting point in discovering the financial resources linked to military benefits, pay, and financial resources.


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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated January 10, 2018. It was originally published December 11, 2017.