Sunday, February 19, 2012

Military Monday - Understanding Military Pay

I recently received a request about the different types of pays and amounts that are allocated to a service member.  One thing that should be kept in mind is that military pay can vary from person to person based on rank, time in service, location, living situation and MOS.  Below is a list of the most common pays which you may expect to see on an LES.

Please keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list but rather an explanation of some of the most common pays that are seen on an Leave and Earnings Statement. 

Base Pay-  Every service member is allocated a Base Pay.  This is the bare bones of his/her salary and does not include any benefits that are added in later.  As of January 1st, 2012, this is the active pay scale chart for military.

BAH (Basic Housing Allowance)- While in the States, you may opt to live off post and based on your rank and location, your BAH will be adjusted to cover the costs of rent and utilities.  If there is cash left over from your rent and utilities you will be able to pocket the money.  I have a post about some differences between living on-post and off-post if you would like to read about it.  A BAH calculator can be found on the DoD travel page.

OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance)- If you are living overseas you are no entitled to BAH, rather, you receive OHA.  The main differences include: the money for OHA will go directly to your landlord rather than you being the middle man.  Therefore, you will not be able to pocket the additional cash.  As with BAH, if your utilities are higher than the money allocated, you will have to pay for them out of your own pocket. An OHA calculator can also be found on the DoD travel page.

BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence)- BAS is intended to offset the cost of food.  It changes on a yearly basis depending on the USDA cost food index.  The allowance rates for 2012 are as follows:  Enlisted-$348.44 per month; Officer-$239.96 per month.

Clothing-  Upon entering the military a service member is allocated funds to go towards the purchasing of uniforms and required uniform pieces.   The initial clothing allowance for 2011 was as follows:
2011 Standard Initial Clothing (Uniform) Allowances (Enlisted Only)
Army Navy Air Force Marine Corps Coast Guard
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
1,441.68 1,673.18 1,630.62 1,853.34 1,405.94 1,632.41 1,680.05 1,744.30 $1,384.07 $1,407

The replacement and annual funds that were received in 2011 were as follows:
2011 Cash Clothing Replacement Allowances
Type Army Navy Air Force Marine Corps Coast Guard
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Basic 370.80 410.40 327.60 331.20 273.60 302.40 403.20 428.40 357.48 355.02
Standard 531.80 585.87 468.00 471.60 388.80 432.40 572.40 608.40 510.69 507.17

It may change from year to year but allowances will follow the general pattern listed above.

Hazard Pay-  Hazard Pay is given to those that work in dangerous jobs and acts as an incentive for people to join dangerous MOS's.  The pay varies based rank and an individual can rack up up to two Hazard Pays if they are fulfilling multiple dangerous jobs. The pay starts at about $140 a month and increases up to $250 per month.

Hardship Pay- There are three different types of Hardship Pay: location, mission, and involuntary extension.

Hardship Pay Location is described by as: "compensation paid to members assigned outside the continental United States in Quality of Life (QoL) Hardship locations -- Locations where QoL living conditions are substantially below the standard most members in the continental United States would generally experience. HDP-L is intended to recognize the extraordinary arduous living conditions, excessive physical hardship, and/or unhealthful conditions that exist in a location or assignment. Rates are payable in increments of $50, $100, or $150 a month based on the level of QoL hardship in a given area."

Hardship Pay Mission is a monthly allocation if a service member is performing designated hardship missions.

Hardship Pay Involuntary Extension is paid out to service members that are currently deployed and are forced to stay past their 12 month mark.  It is an additional $200 per month.

**The maximum amount that can be obtained from a combination of all types of hardship pay is $1,500.

COLA (Cost-of-living Allowance)- COLA is given to service members that are stationed in places where the cost-of-living is exceptionally high.  Some common places include Hawaii and Europe.  For more information on the specifics and to calculate your COLA see's article on COLA.

FSA (Family Separation Allowance)- For those service members that have dependents and are involuntarily separated from them due to orders, they can expect to receive FSA.  However, there are many rules as to how the separation allowance works and the regulations of receiving said benefit.  Please visit and to read all the details.

Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay- The rules for Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay have changed. Service members will now  receive imminent danger pay only for days they actually spend in hazardous areas. This change went in effect on February 1, 2012.

A member of a uniformed service may be entitled to Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger pay at the rate of $225 for any month in which he/she was entitled to basic pay and in which he/she was:
   * Subject to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines;
   * On duty in an area in which he was in imminent danger of being exposed to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines and in which, during the period he was on duty in that area, other members of the uniformed services were subject to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines;
    * Killed, injured, or wounded by hostile fire, explosion of a hostile mine, or any other hostile action; or
    * On duty in a foreign area in which he was subject to the threat of physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions.

These are the most common that I have come across, if I missed any major ones please let me know.

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