Military Benefits at a Glance

Dental care military benefits
Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Politz (left), an oral surgeon with the 4th Dental Battalion, Marietta, Georgia, assigned to exercise Arctic Care 2018, checks the teeth of an aircrew member during an exam April 17, 2018, at the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, Alaska. (1st Lt. Rashard Coaxum/U.S. Air Force)

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:

  • A guaranteed paycheck and cash bonuses
  • Education benefits
  • Advanced and specialty training
  • 30 days of annual paid vacation
  • Travel
  • Option for full-time or part-time service
  • Tax-free room, board and allowances
  • Health and dental care
  • 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.

The Money

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, housing allowances, unparalleled opportunities and bonuses. The Reserves, though part time, offer many of the same benefits. The longer you serve and continue to grow in rank, the more you earn.

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 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 (the lowest of nine enlisted pay grades), but qualified enlistees may enter at E-2 or E-3, resulting in higher base pay.

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.

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% of college tuition through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) while on active duty. Armed Forces education benefit programs include the GI Bill; Army, Navy and Marine College Funds; college loan repayment (including student loan forgiveness) and student loan deferment and forbearance.

  • The GI Bill: The GI Bill will pay most veterans and active-duty members full tuition at public schools nationwide and a portion of the tuition at private schools or at schools worldwide. The GI Bill does not have to be used exclusively for college; it may be used for technical training, job certification, on-the-job and apprenticeship training, special licensing programs and more. Members who join the military have no time limit on when they may use their GI Bill. Also, many military members may elect to transfer their GI Bill to their family members. See details here.
  • Tuition assistance: Tuition assistance is payable to eligible members of the Armed Forces. Congress has authorized each service to pay up to 100% of the tuition expenses for its members. It is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve service members for vocational, technical, undergraduate and graduate programs. Click here for more information.
  • 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 service members as part of an enlistment or reenlistment contract. Qualifications and amounts vary from service to service. Click here for more information.
  • 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. Eligibility rules are determined by status, lender requirements and other conditions. Not all branches pay CLRP benefits. Click here for details on CLRP.

Housing, Health and Dental-Care Benefits

The military considers the health and welfare of service members and their families to be one of its most important priorities.

Housing, room and board: The military has a tradition of providing room and board, including meals (rations) as part of service members' 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 service members move up in rank, their housing options expand.

Service members 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 service members are eligible for $50,000 to $400,000 in affordable life insurance.

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.

Veterans' Benefits

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, such as 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 purpose that can be gained only through military service are some of the sentiments that veterans and service members 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.

Interested in Joining the Military?

We can put you in touch with recruiters from the different military branches. Learn about the benefits of serving your country, paying for school, military career paths, and more: sign up now and hear from a recruiter near you.

Story Continues