So, you are considering your options for the future and thinking about the military. Joining the military is unlike any other option because there are benefits you won’t find anywhere else. An important step is understanding the many tangible and intangible benefits of joining the military:
- Option for full-time or part time service
- A guaranteed paycheck and Cash Bonuses
- Education Benefits
- Advanced and Specialty Training
- Tax-free room, board and allowances
- Health and Dental Care
- 30 days annual paid vacation
- Use of commissary and Military Exchange stores
- Special home loans and discounts
- Unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, honor and selfless service
- Highly sought-after skills, leadership and training experience
There is a myth that the military’s benefits and pay are not competitive with the civilian sector. The military offers highly competitive pay and benefits packages. Active duty is a full-time job with guaranteed pay, cost of living adjustments, allowances, unparalleled opportunities and bonuses. The Reserves, though part-time, offer most of the same benefits. The longer you serve and continue to grow in rank, the more you earn.
Special Pay. Depending on your job and service, you may receive Special Pay on top of your base salary. Examples of Special Pay are enlisted flyer incentive pay, submarine duty pay, and hazardous duty pay.
Enlistment Bonuses. The first cash award opportunity for enlisting is an enlistment bonus. Enlistment bonuses vary by branch and change to meet the needs of the service, so be sure to ask your recruiter about the availability of bonuses.
Advanced Enlistment Rank Pay Opportunities. In addition to enlistment bonuses, recruiters can offer opportunities to enter the service at higher pay grades (Advanced Enlistment Rank). Most recruits start out at E-1 (Enlisted Pay grade 1 of 9 pay grades), however qualified enlistees may enter at E-2 or E-3 resulting in higher base pay.
College Tuition And Repayment Of College Loans
Going into the military right out of high school does not deprive you of a college education. The military can help pay for college or pay off college loans. Most enlistees are eligible for up to 100 percent of college tuition through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) while on active duty. Additionally, the Air Force has the nation’s largest community college, the Community College of the Air Force for which enrollment is automatic upon enlistment in the Air Force. Armed Forces education benefit programs include the Forever GI Bill, Army, Navy, Marine and Navy College Funds, College Loan Repayment (including Student Loan Forgiveness) and Student Loan Deferment and Forbearance.
- The Army, Navy, and Marine College Funds: The College Fund, also known as a “GI Bill kicker,” is an additional monthly benefit for college that can be offered to Active Duty and Reserve servicemembers as part of an enlistment or reenlistment contract. Qualifications and amounts vary from service to service.
- The Forever GI Bill (FGIB): The Harry W, Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act is effective August 1, 2018. Also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” it expands upon the Post 9/11 GI Bill and will bring significant changes to Veterans education benefits over the coming years. Most changes enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, servicemembers, families, and survivors.
- Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): TAP is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Armed Forces. Congress has authorized each service to pay up to 100% of the tuition expenses for its members. TAP is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members for vocational, technical, undergraduate and graduate programs.
- College Loan Repayment Program and Student Loan Deferment Program: The Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is an enlistment incentive for new recruits. The Military’s Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program is a benefit that eliminates up to $65,000 in existing student loan debt. The Air Force, Army and Navy offer Student Loan Repayment programs for qualified candidates. The Army and Navy will repay the maximum allowed by law for non-prior service active duty enlistments. The Air Force repays up to $10,000 for non-prior service, active duty enlistments and the Air National Guard repays up to $20,000. The Army and Army National Guard repay up to $20,000 for Reserve enlistments and the Navy Reserve repays up to $10,000 for Navy Reserve enlistments. While deferments don’t reduce your debt obligations, they can be helpful in delaying them. Eligibility rules are determined by status, lender requirements and other conditions. Not all branches pay CLRP benefits. The availability and amount depend on the branch of service. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer the College Loan Repayment Program.
Housing, Health And Dental Care Benefits
The military considers the health and welfare of servicemembers and their families to be one of its most important priorities.
Health Care for Reserves and Guard: Reserve members and their families are eligible for health care when activated. Members also may be eligible for either full or partial insurance coverage.
Housing, Room and Board: The Military has a tradition of providing room and board, including meals (rations) as part of servicemembers’ pay. While on active duty, you are eligible for free dining or an allowance to cover the cost of your meals if dining facilities are unavailable.
Although military housing varies by rank, location and family situation, new recruits start their military careers living on base. During basic training, recruits live in group quarters with shared bathroom facilities. As servicemembers move up in rank, their housing options expand.
Servicemembers and their families live in well-designed and modern on-base housing communities that emulate what civilian communities offer, including schools, church facilities, gyms, libraries, banks, commissaries, theaters, restaurants, shopping and many other community support services.
Insurance, Health and Dental Care: Hospitals, clinics and dental services are provided for active duty personnel and their families on or near most military installations. Active duty servicemembers are eligible for $50,000 to $400,000 in affordable life insurance.
The Federal Government and most states offer support programs for Veterans such as home loan guarantees, Small Business Loans, Health Care, and more. One of the most popular veteran programs is the VA Guaranteed Home Loan Program which enables qualified buyers to obtain zero-down financing, making it easier for veterans to own their dream home.
Travel Benefits And Vacation Time
With installations throughout the world, the military pays relocation expenses for you and your family. In addition to seeing the world while serving your country, military members and their families are eligible for “space available” military flights to almost anywhere in the world at little or no cost and for space available lodging at any military base. Additionally, there are world-class resorts only for military personnel, like Shades of Green near Walt Disney World , the Hale Koa Hotel on Waikiki and resorts in Japan, Germany and South Korea.
The Intangible Rewards Are Priceless
Your military experience will impact your entire life. Through military service, you learn self-discipline, earn respect and demonstrate work ethic. The experience, training, and leadership skills you earn in the military are exactly what employers seek, but that’s just an additional benefit.
A feeling of patriotism, sense of duty, honor, selfless service, and of purpose that can be gained only through military service are some of the sentiments that veterans and servicemembers share. All this plus leadership skills, doing work that matters, camaraderie, and accomplishment are just some of the intangibles that are perhaps the most rewarding of all military benefits.