The myriad military pay entitlements for members of the uniformed services can seem confusing, even overwhelming. Several factors determine the actual pay amount a service member receives – the service member’s rank, military specialty, length of service, assignment location, dependents, deployment status and location, and more. Despite the difficulties, military families must understand the categories and amounts of pay and entitlements to make informed decisions about household financial planning.
Let’s start with an explanation about some of the terms that arise in discussions about military pay. An entitlement is a payment or benefit that is authorized by law. Military members are entitled by law to several types of pay, as well as certain benefits, notably health care. Regular military compensation generally refers to the mix of pay and allowances that is the military equivalent of civilian wages and salaries. Military pay consists of basic pay and several types of special payments.
Allowances, by contrast, are payments provided for specific needs, such as food or housing, when not provided by the government.