When you serve in the military, there are a wide range of benefits that are offered to you, your spouse and your children. While most of these benefits are provided free of charge to the service member, some of the benefits do have a small monthly cost for family members that is deducted from the member’s pay and shows as an allotment on the LES.
The military provides health insurance, dental insurance and life insurance for the service member and dependents. Health insurance is offered through Tricare and includes a choice of plans for family members. Service members are always seen on post. Family members have the option to enroll in Tricare Prime where they can utilize the MTF (military treatment facility) on post or Tricare Standard where they can see civilian doctors. Other plans are available for National Guard and those who do not live close to a military post.
Dental care is provided for the service member at no charge. Family members can be enrolled for a small monthly fee. The dental plan is similar to most corporate dental insurance plans with preventative care covered and cost shares for other procedures.
Family members will have their choice of civilian dentists off post.
Life insurance is provided for the service member up to $400,000. There is a small premium for this monthly and it is the same across the board regardless of age or health. Spouse life insurance coverage is available for up to $100,000 but must not exceed the amount of coverage for the service member. Life insurance coverage for the spouse is based on the age of the spouse, though no health exam is required. Dependent children are covered at $10,000 each at no cost.
Single military members are provided space in the barracks for living quarters. Lower enlisted military are often required to live on post when they are single. In addition, they are also provided all of their meals in the chow hall on post at no cost. For higher-enlisted single military members or officers, off-post privileges may be granted. If the military member is allowed to live off post, a housing allowance will be provided based on rank and the zip code of the military base or post. When living off post, a subsistence allowance is also provided for food that is no longer able to be consumed in the chow hall.
If the military member is married, he will have the option to live on post in family housing at no cost or he will be provided a housing allowance to live off post. It is important to note that the housing allowance is a set amount and is not dependent on the actual costs of living arrangements. Military members will need to budget accordingly when securing housing to ensure that the housing allowance covers the costs of living off post.
Moving is a part of military life. Most military members can count on moving at least once every three years. Officers will move even more often. When orders are received, a statement about shipment of household goods will be included. In almost all cases, this will be covered for a permanent change of station or PCS. When this is covered, the military will contract with a moving company to pack all belongings and move them to the new location. This is provided at no charge to the military member as long as weight limits are not exceeded. Weight limits are determined by rank and if the military member has dependents moving as well. For overseas moves, the military will pay for one privately owned vehicle (POV) to be transported.
On Post Benefits
All military members and dependents over the age of 10 will be issued a military identification card. This card allows the holder to shop in the commissary and exchange on post as well as use other post services. This includes education services, recreation activities and military discounts for travel. Activities on a military base vary from one base to the next. Some posts will also have schools on post for military children to attend.
Vacation is accrued at the rate of 2.5 days per month. Many times, the unit will take block leave which means that the unit takes leave time together. Leave may be granted at other times at the discretion of the commander.
The military offers new dads ten days of leave after a baby is born. If the father is deployed when the newborn arrives, the leave may be taken after he returns from the deployment. Each branch of service has specific rules as far as when fathers are able to take this leave and if the leave must be taken consecutively.
When military members enlist, they have the option to elect the GI Bill. The current GI Bill program is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It covers tuition for the military member for four years based on in-state rates with rates varying by state. In addition, the military member is entitled to a housing allowance at the rate of an E-5 with dependents for the zip code of the school as well as a $1,000 annual book allowance. At certain times in the military career, the military member may have the option to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent.
Those who serve in the military for at least twenty years are eligible for retirement from service. For every year of service the military member earns 2.5% towards his retirement. At twenty years, he is at a 50% level (2.5% x 20). This means he is eligible for 50% of his base pay. Many now fall under the High-3 calculation where the highest three years of pay are averaged. The service member then receives 50% of this for the remainder of his life. Through the Survivor Benefits Plan, dependents may continue to receive a portion of the pay even after the military member’s death.
In addition to monthly base pay and allowances for special skills such as being airborne qualified or a pilot, the military offers a wide array of benefits. While benefits and levels may change, the basic benefits will continue to remain in place for those serve and their families.