United States Military Pay
United States Military Pay is money paid to members in the United States Armed Forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

. The amount of pay may vary by the member's rank, time in the military, location duty assignment, and by some special skills the member may have.

Pay versus Allowance

This article deals with most types of military pay, but there are two broad categories: "Pay" and "Allowance". Typically, pay is money which is based upon remuneration for employment, while allowance is money necessary for the efficient performance of duty. Generally speaking, pay is income, while allowances are reimbursements. In the landmark case Jones v. The United States, the Court of Claims decided that military allowances are not “…of a compensatory character…” and “…not income as well”. Since it was determined that allowances are not income they cannot be taxed, divided or garnished for any reason, while pay can be (42 USC 659, et seq.).

Method of pay

Typically members are paid on the 1st and 15th day of each month. If the 1st or 15th of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, the member will be paid the weekday before, usually a Friday. The monthly pay statement is known as a Leave and Earnings Statement
Leave and Earnings Statement
A Leave and Earnings Statement, generally referred to as an LES, is a document given on a monthly basis to members of the United States military which documents their pay and leave status on a monthly basis....

 or LES, which is usually available near the end of each month. The money is directly deposited into a member's personal banking account. The payment on the 15th is known as mid month pay, and the pay on the 1st is end of month pay. (End of the month pay used to fall on the last day of the month, but was moved one day to the 1st to save money in a fiscal year.)

Basic Pay

View 2011 Base Pay Tables: Chart

Also known as Base Pay, this is given to members of the active duty military on a monthly basis and is determined by their rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

 (or more appropriately their pay grade
Pay grade
Pay grades are used by the uniformed services of the United States to determine wages and benefits based on the corresponding military rank of a member of the services...

) and their length of time in military service. Basic Pay is the same for all the services.

Title 37 U.S.C.
Title 37 of the United States Code
Title 37 of the United States Code outlines the role of Pay and Allowances of the Uniformed Services in the United States Code.—Definitions—Basic Pay—Special and Incentive Pays—Allowances—Leave—Payments to Missing Persons—Payments to Mentally Incompetent Persons—Allotments and Assignments of...

 1009 provides a permanent formula for an automatic annual military pay raise that indexes the raise to the annual increase in the Employment Cost Index
Employment Cost Index
The Employment Cost Index is a quarterly economic series detailing the changes in the costs of labor for businesses in the United States economy. The ECI is prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics , in the U.S...

 (ECI). The Fiscal Year 2010 President’s Budget request for a 2.9% military pay raise was consistent with this formula. However, Congress, in financial years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009 approved the pay raise as the ECI increase plus 0.5%. The 2007 pay raise was equal to the ECI. (FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Policy Issues, Congressional Research Service)

A military pay raise larger than the permanent formula is not uncommon. In addition to across-the-board pay raises for all military personnel, mid-year, targeted pay raises (targeted at specific grades and longevity) have also been authorized over the past several years.

Reserve/National Guard "Drill" Pay

View 2011 Reserve Pay Tables: Chart

For members of the Army Reserve
United States Army Reserve
The United States Army Reserve is the federal reserve force of the United States Army. Together, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard constitute the reserve components of the United States Army....

 and National Guard performing duties with their units on Battle Assembly
Battle Assembly
Battle Assembly is the term used by the United States Army Reserve to describe monthly training, where soldiers practice and perfect their military skills and maintain individual and unit readiness in the event of mobilization and deployment...

 weekends, pay is usually based on four drill sessions of four hours per session, equal in pay to four days of active duty pay.

Common Allowances

  • Basic Allowance for Housing
    Basic Allowance for Housing
    Basic Allowance for Housing is a United States military entitlement given to many military members. It was previously called Basic allowance for quarters .-How It Works:...


  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS): BAS is meant to offset costs for a member's meals. This allowance is based in the historic origins of the military in which the military provided room and board (or rations) as part of a member's pay. This allowance is not intended to offset the costs of meals for family members.

Beginning on January 1, 2002, all enlisted members received full BAS, but paid for their meals (including those provided by the government). It was the culmination of the BAS Reform transition period.

Because BAS is intended to provide meals for the service member, its level is linked to the price of food. Therefore, each year it is adjusted based upon the increase of the price of food as measured by the USDA food cost index. This is why the increase to BAS will not necessarily be the same percentage as that applied to the increase in the pay table, as annual pay raises are linked to the increase of private sector wages. As of 2010, enlisted members receive $323.87; warrant officers and commissioned officers receive $223.04 per month.
  • Clothing allowance: Comes to most members on an annual basis to buy and replace required uniforms. The amount varies by service and rank. (Typically, commissioned officers receive no clothing replacement allowance.)

Pay Raises

U.S. Code dictates a rather complex equation for military pay raises, based on the Employment Cost Index, a measure compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track the costs of labor for businesses. Military pay increases by "the percentage (rounded to the nearest one-tenth of one percent) by which the ECI for the base quarter of the year before the preceding year exceeds the ECI for the base quarter of the second year before the preceding calendar year (if at all)." Specifically, the code states, that’s the ECI for wages and salaries of private industry workers.

If that’s confusing, here’s the short version: When the ECI goes up, so does military pay, so that military salaries don’t fall behind civilian ones. For example, because the ECI increased 1.4 percent in 2009, that’s the proposed military pay raise in 2010. The raise is unusually low, but that’s because the ECI increase was unprecedentedly small — the smallest percent change since the series began in 1975, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The president is empowered to suggest a lower or higher pay raise, which must be ratified by Congress, in extenuating circumstances like an economic crisis. Congress can also vote to change the president's proposed decrease or increase. For the 2011 budget, the House Armed Services Committee suggested boosting the 1.4 percent raise. But defense personnel officials resisted, saying they would rather that money be used for other programs that benefit military families. After an 11-year string of increases that slightly exceeded average private sector annual raises, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick said that, "We actually think we have a surplus in terms of pay." The Department of Defense has announced increases in military housing allowances, family support programs, and child care and tuition assistance for military families in the 2011 budget request, many of which outpace the base pay increase.

Special Pay

A member may be eligible for some of the following pays depending on rating (MOS
Military Occupational Specialty
A United States military occupation code, or a Military Occupational Specialty code , is a nine character code used in the United States Army and United States Marines to identify a specific job. In the U.S. Air Force, a system of Air Force Specialty Codes is used...

) and assignment (location and duty).
  • Submarine Duty Pay: Varies by rank and time in service
  • Sea Duty Pay: Varies by rank and time in service
  • Flight Pay: For members on flying status. Monthly pay varies by rank and flight experience.
  • Jump Pay: For military parachutists who meet the requirements. Regular is $150 per month, HALO is $225 per month
  • Foreign Language Proficiency Pay
    Foreign Language Proficiency Pay
    Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus is a special pay given to members of the United States Military who demonstrate proficiency in one or more foreign languages and is regulated by 37 United States Code Section 316 and DoD Instruction 7280.03...

Other types of pay

  • Incentive Pay: example, Korea Area Incentive Program
    Korea Area Incentive Program
    The Korea Area Incentive Program or KAIP is a system which gives members of the U.S. military an incentive pay for voluntarily extending their tour of duty in the Republic of Korea.-Reasons:...

  • Hardship Pay: Monthly pay for certain "hardship duty locations". The rate varies by the location.
  • Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay: Monthly pay that appears on the LES
    Leave and Earnings Statement
    A Leave and Earnings Statement, generally referred to as an LES, is a document given on a monthly basis to members of the United States military which documents their pay and leave status on a monthly basis....

     as "HFP/IDP". Sometimes referred to as Combat Pay.
  • Hazardous Duty Pay: Monthly additional pay for certain "hazardous" duty assignments, such as the flight deck operations personnel on an aircraft carrier.
  • Family Separation Allowance: Money paid when required to be away from dependents (spouse, minor children, or other designated individuals) due to military duties. Technically it is intended to offset the costs associated with being separated such as landscaping, car maintenance, occasional child care, phone calls and mail, rather than being a monetary compensation for the emotional effect of the distant spouse. Appears on the LES
    Leave and Earnings Statement
    A Leave and Earnings Statement, generally referred to as an LES, is a document given on a monthly basis to members of the United States military which documents their pay and leave status on a monthly basis....

     as "FSH".
  • COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance
    Cost-of-living index
    Cost of living is the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living. Changes in the cost of living over time are often operationalized in a cost of living index. Cost of living calculations are also used to compare the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living in different geographic areas...

    ): Non-taxable money paid monthly to offset the additional costs of living in a particular location, usually an overseas location. The amount of COLA varies by country and possibly location in a country. The amount of COLA also varies by rank, number of dependents (in the location) as well as living situation (off base may receive more than on base) and the exchange rate between the US dollar and the local currency. COLA is meant to provide a member overseas and a CONUS the same spending power, so COLA may go up and down as prices in either country change.

See also

  • Personal financial benefits of military service
    Personal financial benefits of military service
    There are several personal financial benefits of military service. Some are matters of public policy enacted by governments, and some are issued by private companies or organizations on their own accord...

  • U.S. Uniformed Services Pay Grades

External links

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