DoD Announces Housing Allowance Increases for 2022

Increased BAH

Service members in high-cost housing markets are getting financial relief thanks to the orders in a September 22, 2022, Memorandum from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. There are multiple directives in that Memorandum, including a review of the 2023 Basic Allowance For Housing (BAH) calculations to keep BAH current with “unusually dynamic fluctuations in the housing market”.

Automatic BAH Increase for Qualifying Troops

But there’s more immediate relief for some; the DoD has been directed to “automatically” increase BAH for service members who live in some 28 “Military Housing Areas” that have had a spike in rental costs of 20% or more.

This automatic increase goes into effect in October 2022 and comes at a time, according to the Defense Secretary, when the DoD is dealing with issues “critical to stability for our outstanding military families”.

Who Is Affected

Military members living in one of the 28 Military Housing Areas will receive an automatic BAH increase under these areas, which have all experienced a spike in rental costs of 20% or more:

  • San Diego, California
  • Twentynine Palms MCB, California
  • ​​Vandenberg AFB, California
  • Dover AFB/ Rehoboth, Delaware
  • Fort Myers Beach, Florida
  • Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Patrick AFB, Florida
  • Orlando, Florida
  • West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Volusia County, Florida
  • Fort Myers Beach, Florida
  • Kings Bay/Brunswick, Georgia
  • Maui County, Hawaii
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Cape Cod–Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
  • Brunswick, Maine
  • Coastal Maine, Maine
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • Helena, Montana
  • Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Northern New Jersey
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Beaufort/Parris Island, South Carolina
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Houston, Texas
  • Quantico/Woodbridge, Virginia

Commissaries, Basic Needs Allowances, Child Care

These two moves aren’t the only ones listed in the Memorandum. Secretary Austin notes in the document, “The President’s budget includes a 4.6 percent pay increase for Service members” effective on 1 January 2023. Other improvements include:

  • “Fully funding” base commissaries “to cut prices at the register, with the goal of achieving at least a 25 percent savings” on groceries compared to buying them “on the economy”.
  • Offer a Basic Needs Allowance to “eligible service members” a Basic Needs Allowance starting in 2023. This allowance would be calculated based on gross household income.
  • Enhance Child Development Program facilities and infrastructure; offer a standard 50 percent employee discount for the first child of our CDP direct-care workers to help attract more talented staff and to increase capacity. This is scheduled to begin in October 2022.
  • “Accelerate the development” of additional occupational license interstate agreements “with organizations representing multiple professions”. This move is intended to make it easier for military spouses to obtain or transfer professional licenses after a permanent change of station move.
  • The DoD plans a “new career accelerator pilot initiative” designed to place military spouses with “private sector fellowships”. This is scheduled to begin in 2023.

Permanent Change Of Station Moves

There are some reforms for those making PCS moves, too. Starting in October 2022 the Temporary Lodging Expense benefit, paid to those traveling to a new assignment, is extended permanently from 10 to 14 days for stateside moves, and up to 60 days in cases where “a Service member is in a specified Military Housing Area with a housing shortage”.

There is also an increase in the Dislocation Allowance (DLA) for enlisted service members up to grade E-6. This increase is meant to “further help offset personal expenses for PCS moves. DLA payments for all Service members “will be paid automatically one month prior to their move date to pre-empt out-of-pocket expenses” effective starting in October 2022.

What’s Next

At press time, there is no word on what will happen with the top-down BAH review. Will there be an across-the-board increase based on housing market price fluctuations in the last two quarters of 2022? Or will another set of Military Housing Areas be identified for more targeted increases?

That remains to be seen at the time of this writing, but what is certain is that any BAH overhaul based on the review will most likely be paid in the same fashion BAH is currently assigned; the amount of the increase may depend on location, whether the service member has any dependents, and rank.

 

RELATED:

 

 

 

Comprehensive Military Benefits Guide

A Comprehensive Guide to Military Benefits

Joining the United States Military as a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guard member or Space Force Guardian means accepting a commission or taking an oath of enlistment. The oath describes the new servicemember’s obligations to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.

But after the oath, these new troops learn about the benefits they have earned by taking the oath. What ARE the benefits of joining a branch of the uniformed services?

How do they differ depending on your status as an active duty service member, National Guard, or Reserve component? Do military spouses and dependent children get benefits too? In some cases, the answer is definitely yes. In other cases, the benefits may have qualifying requirements.

Below, we’ll explore military benefits for all eligible applicants below, starting with active duty, Guard and Reserve, and finishing with information for spouses, dependents, and others who may qualify.

Military Benefits for Active Duty Personnel

Military benefits start with pay and allowances but also include healthcare, education, medical care, travel, free tax support, and home loans. Some benefits begin immediately, others require minimum time in service.

Some benefits cannot be accessed until the service member has completed Basic Training and any advance training required before getting a first duty station assignment.

Military Benefits During Basic Training

When you enlist or accept a commission, some benefits are open to you right away. Military pay begins when you begin your initial training, and so do medical benefits in the form of on-base care from a military facility. All new recruits are automatically covered by TRICARE health insurance when they ship out to basic training.

What you do not get right away includes the GI Bill, the VA home loan, spouse tuition assistance, access to on-base child care, military leave, Space-A travel, and special pay/allowances like hazardous duty pay and proficiency pay.

Read More: Military Benefits Offered During Basic Training

Military Allowances

Depending on your duty station, the nature of the duty, your branch of service, and other variables you may be offered a range of military allowances to offset certain costs associated with relocating to and working at a new assignment, deployment, TDY, etc. These allowances may include:

    • Basic Allowance For Subsistence
    • Housing allowance (overseas and stateside)
    • Other “situational” allowances (Cost of Living, Family Separation)
    • Clothing allowances

Most of these allowances must either be approved by your chain of command or you must apply to begin the approval process. The branch of military service, the type of allowance you need, and your rank will all play a factor in determining how much you are entitled to and when.

There are also many other special pay and allowance options that may be offered to you depending on your rank, your career field, and other variables. Many of these must be qualified for through specific service, testing (language proficiency testing is one of those), and experience.

Others may be offered by virtue of being assigned to a certain location (hazardous duty pay is one of those) or because a career field is understaffed and needs retention incentives.

Read More: Military Allowances Guide

“Situational” Military Allowances

Some military allowances are offered if the military decides you need them in specific circumstances. For example, a Cost of Living Allowance (also known as COLA) supplements basic pay in areas overseas where the cost of living is higher. Overseas assignments like Japan, for example, have traditionally featured COLA to make being stationed there more affordable.

Another situational allowance is FSA, also known as the Family Separation Allowance. This is paid to those who must perform duty away from their family.

This allowance is paid for those who are involuntarily assigned away from home and is not offered for those who volunteer to serve elsewhere. Situational allowances (our term, not the DoD’s) are paid when the service member meets the required conditions and is no longer paid when those conditions are no longer met.

Military Housing & Housing Allowances

Some will qualify for a Basic Allowance for Housing stateside or an Overseas Housing Allowance. What does it take to be approved for these housing allowances? In some cases, it’s a simple matter of being assigned to a new base and not being given government quarters. In others, it may be a case of deciding which option works best for you. But what about those offered government quarters as single or married service members?

Some military members may qualify for on-base military housing. Some are offered this as single/unaccompanied service members, others are offered military family housing designed for legally married couples and any dependent children.

You may be offered on-post housing run by the DoD (getting rarer all the time) or you may be offered housing on base or off run by a public/private venture agreement between the federal government and a private housing provider.

If you draw BAH and live off base, you may or may not have the option to choose on-post housing later. Much depends on the assignment you’re at and the available on-base units at the time.

Single and unaccompanied service members who are not offered BAH are usually housed in “the barracks”, which in today’s sense are more like college dorm rooms (depending on the location, housing conditions, and quality in these facilities can vary greatly) than what you might envision a barracks environment to be like. Your options may include:

    • Government-owned on-base housing
    • Privatized on-base housing
    • Single or unaccompanied quarters

Read More: Military Housing Allowances (BAH and OHA)

VA Home Loans

The VA Home Loan benefit is offered to those who serve a minimum amount of time in uniform after completing initial training. VA loans typically require a minimum of 90 days of continuous active duty service but if you joined in an earlier “service era” than the current Gulf War era, your time in service minimums may vary.

Read More: VA Loan Basics

VA mortgages offer zero-down payment options, have no VA-required mortgage insurance, and there are no penalties for paying off the mortgage early. You may have the option of using a VA mortgage to build a home from the ground up, purchase a condo unit or mobile home, and you can use VA mortgages to purchase mixed-use properties that are primarily residential. VA mortgages limit certain costs the lender can pass on to you, the zero-down option is a huge advantage for many buyers, and you cannot be penalized for early payoff of the home loan.

Read More: The VA Home Loan Guide

To apply for a VA loan, you must first get a VA Certificate Of Eligibility and apply through a participating lender. Eligibility for the VA loan program is not the same as VA loan approval, and you are required to credit-qualify for a VA loan the same as any other mortgage program.

Read More: The VA Loan Certificate Of Eligibility

Qualifying for the VA loan benefit does not mean instant loan approval. You must credit-qualify for a VA mortgage the same as any other major line of credit. That said, VA loans are easier to get than some conventional mortgages because they have more forgiving credit standards.

Read More: VA Loans: Why Credit Scores Matter

VA Loans allow you to buy, refinance, renovate or build a home from the ground up. You can buy property in the United States or in its territories, but VA loans cannot be used to buy property overseas.

Read More: Questions And Answers About VA Home Loans

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)

What is the military’s Basic Allowance for Subsistence, informally known as a Subsistence Allowance or BAS? This is a tax-exempt military allowance designed to offset the cost of a service member’s meals. BAS, also known amongst some service members as “separate rations” or more derisively as “separate rats”, is a callback to the days of old when the United States Military and other military forces offered both room and board for its troops.

BAS is offered when the federal government declares that an assignment or duty location warrants the allowance due to a variety of factors which can include the availability of kitchen facilities for service members to use, the cost of food or food-related expenses for the service member, and whether or not the command feels it’s practical or necessary to provide BAS.

BAS Is for Service Members Only

BAS is offered to the servicemember only. Family members (spouses included) do not qualify for BAS as this is an allowance designed to offset any associated food costs with a new duty station, deployment, duty-related travel, etc.

BAS is based on the most current food cost estimates made by the federal government via the USDA Food Cost Index, and the rate of payment is based on your status as an officer or enlisted member.

BAS is one of the rare cases where military pay and allowances are actually higher for enlisted members. Officer pay is considerably higher than enlisted pay; officers are thought to be better able to afford their day-to-day living expenses as a result. That is why enlisted members get more food dollars. Like most military allowances, BAS is subject to annual adjustments based on the anticipated increases in food costs from year to year. But the BAS increase you get is not tied to the same factors used to determine military pay raises each year; these are separate processes.

Read more: Military Allowances Guide

GI Bill

The GI Bill is one of the most important and most-used military benefits. This option is open to currently serving, retired or separated, Guard and Reserve members and even some dependents. GI Bill options for active duty service members include the ability to transfer the GI Bill to a spouse or school-age dependent child.

You are required to serve a minimum time in uniform before you can apply for GI Bill benefits. For those on active duty today, the minimum is typically 90 days, but that may vary depending on when you joined the military.

Read More: Am I Eligible for VA Education Benefits?

The GI Bill pays tuition, fees, and other expenses at participating schools. You may find the entire cost of your basic education is covered in some cases, and in others, you may need supplemental assistance from options like the Yellow Ribbon Program, state veteran education resources, etc.

Read More: The Yellow Ribbon Program and how it can enhance your GI Bill.

Not all GI Bill options are the same. If you signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill, for example, you do not have the option to transfer your benefits to a spouse or school-age dependent. If you signed up for the Post 9/11 GI Bill you may have the option to do so but there may be an added service commitment required in exchange. Some may be offered the opportunity to switch from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 version. Once you make the switch, it is irreversible.

Read More: GI Bill Facts and Fiction

There were many changes to the GI Bill thanks to a piece of legislation known as the Forever GI Bill, which is a law and not a separate, new GI Bill option all by itself. The Forever GI Bill changes the way benefits may be transferred and used, how Post 9/11 GI Bill housing stipends are paid, and more.

Read More: How the Forever GI Bill Changed Your Military Education Benefits

There are GI Bill options for members of the Guard and Reserve, and the requirements for these troops differ from those on active duty. It’s good to know your options long before you want to use them as a member of a Reserve component.

Read More: Veteran Education Benefits Guide

Other Military Education Benefits

Military Education Benefits

Branch-specific tuition assistance programs and on-base education options include:

  • Air Force Tuition Assistance
  • Army Tuition Assistance
  • Navy Tuition Assistance
  • Marines Tuition Assistance
  • Coast Guard Tuition Assistance
  • National Guard Tuition Assistance
  • Reserve Tuition Assistance

These programs are offered to those who meet minimum time-in-service requirements and other criteria. For example, the Air Force paid 100 percent of tuition, up to $250 per semester hour, and $166 per quarter hour for accredited off-duty courses.

The rules for each Tuition Assistance program will vary depending on the branch of service; in the case of the Air Force, no more than 124 semester hours may be funded toward an undergraduate degree and no more than 70 semester hours may be funded toward a graduate degree. Some military tuition programs specify that only one degree per degree level (undergraduate, graduate, etc.) may be funded.

All military tuition assistance programs have minimum grade point average requirements and those who fail to maintain satisfactory progress may be required to pay back some or all tuition assistance depending on circumstances. This type of assistance may not be offered to troops with disciplinary issues, failed fitness tests, or other problems.

Read More: How To Use Military Tuition Assistance

Education Benefits for Disabled Veterans

There are also military education benefits offered specifically to help disabled veterans. These are typically offered at the state and local levels. You may find that these programs are administered in some cases by veteran service organizations and in others by a state government agency such as a state-level Division of Veterans Affairs or Department of Veterans Affairs (not the federal agency).

The features, qualifications, and application requirements of these programs are NOT standardized and will vary depending on the state, the agency, and other factors. In some programs, it may be the veteran and/or dependents who benefit, in others, it may be the veteran only, or the spouse alone. In others benefits may be offered only to dependent children of qualifying service members.

Read More: Education Benefits For Disabled Veterans

Healthcare

The basic rule of thumb for military healthcare: those currently serving on active duty enroll in TRICARE for health coverage for themselves and immediate family members. In general, active duty service members and their families do not receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, though some service members are encouraged to begin working with the VA as soon as they have obtained retirement or separation orders.

Active duty members and their families may be treated at an on-base medical facility or an off-base facility that is within the service member’s TRICARE network. Overseas your options may be more dependent on the on-post treatment options provided, but this is not necessarily true in all cases. Much depends on where you are stationed, for how long, and the nature of your assignment.

  • TRICARE
  • On-base medical care is an option for servicemembers and their families.

There are a variety of TRICARE options including:

  • TRICARE Prime
  • TRICARE Select
  • TRICARE Prime Overseas
  • TRICARE Select Overseas

TRICARE may be an option for some qualifying military retirees. Those who are retired or separated have the option of applying for VA healthcare options which may depend on the applicant’s medical condition, any VA-rated service-connected medical issues, and more. When you are an active duty military member transitioning out of military service you may have the option to get temporary TRICARE coverage when separating, dependent care included.

Read More: TRICARE Benefits: A Comprehensive Guide

Life Insurance (SGLI)

If you are currently serving, you are eligible to apply for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance or SGLI. This benefit does require you to make a minimum monthly payment that is set based on the amount of life insurance coverage you opt into up to $400,000.

At press time, the highest monthly payment is listed as $25 per month for the maximum coverage for $400k. SGLI payments are automatically deducted from your base pay amount each month. You must meet eligibility requirements to sign up for SGLI. This benefit is for service members only and does not provide life insurance coverage for any member of your family. This is a “contingency” type benefit that provides a life insurance payout to your surviving beneficiaries if you die while covered.

Read More: Who Is Eligible For SGLI?

If you are retiring or separating from military service, you have the option to continue this life insurance coverage under a different program called Veterans Group Life Insurance or VGLI.

You become eligible to apply for VGLI within a year and 120 days from your date of discharge. You may apply for an amount up to the same coverage you had through SGLI.

Travel Benefits

  • Space-A Travel (active duty Space A)

Space-A travel is an option for active duty military members, family members, and retirees. Short for “Space-Available”, Space-A is an option that lets you apply for empty seats on military aircraft flying missions approved for extra passengers.

Space-A flights originate from military bases and you sign up for seats on these flights at the base military passenger terminal or online at the official site for that terminal or command. You may be permitted to sign up via e-mail or online.

Some Space-A flights are dedicated back-and-forth trips between military bases in a specified area, others may be added to the Space-A roster last minute based on changes to a mission or its requirements.

Signing up for Space-A travel means you must have authorized leave paperwork if you are a military member, and there is seating priority on all Space-A flights requiring mission-essential travel to be prioritized first, followed by passenger categories from Category I (those on Emergency Leave orders) all the way down to Category Six, which includes:

  • Retirees
  • Dependents
  • Reserve members
  • ROTC, NUPOC, CEC
  • Veterans with a total Permanent Service-connected Disability
  • Surviving Spouses of Service Members who died on duty

Space-Available travel is a great perk of military service but seats are never guaranteed to non-mission-essential personnel. You must be prepared to fully cover the cost of a commercial flight back to your duty station if you cannot get a seat on a Space-A flight.

Space-A flights typically originate and end at an on-base airport or runway. You won’t fly into a commercial airport, and you’ll be responsible for your own travel once you are shuttled off of the runway or allowed into the passenger terminal.

Read More: Space-A Travel: Everything You Need To Know

Paid Vacation/Military Leave

You’ll earn 30 days a year plus some holidays, starting in your first year. Servicemembers accrue leave at a rate of 2.5 days per month and you can carry a maximum of 60 days of leave into the new year. Any amount above 60 days is considered “use or lose” time. In some circumstances, additional leave accrual beyond 60 days may be authorized such as during COVID-19 when travel and movement became severely restricted.

Military members may, on a case-by-case basis, be permitted by their chain of command to take leave in excess of what they have saved up. For example, if you have 30 days of leave and take 35 days (with prior authorization) you may be permitted to do so with the caveat that you cannot take MORE leave until you have earned it in full. This is sometimes known as “advance leave” and functions a bit like an advance in your pay (in spirit, not in practice).

Advance leave is commonly reserved for those who need to “resolve urgent, personal, or emergency situations” according to the DoD.

Advance leave is limited to the minimum necessary and is typically limited to the lesser of the following:

  • 30 days
  • The amount of leave that can be earned during the remaining period of active service
  • If serving on an extension, accrued prior to the member’s date of separation.

Read More: How Military Leave Works

AAFES, Commissary Access

Military members and their families have access to many perks of military life including the ability to shop on base or on-post tax-free at Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) outlets, base commissaries, “Class Six” liquor stores where available, gas stations, and much more. Depending on which branch of service is responsible for a given post or installation, you may find options including:

  • AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service)
  • MCX (Marine Corps Exchange
  • NEX (Navy Exchange Service Command)
  • CGX (Coast Guard Exchange)

Exchanges are basically like big-box retailers like Target or Walmart. You’ll find a similar variety of options there including clothing (military clothing sales, too!), electronics, household items, and sometimes even motor vehicles.

Not all amenities are offered at all installations, but the bigger the base the more elaborate the options are likely to be. To enter an on-base commissary, Base Exchange (BX), Post Exchange (PX), or other facilities you must show a current military ID card, dependent ID card, etc. You may be carded for all purchases on post to verify your status as an authorized user but that is a small inconvenience.

Read More: Commissaries And Exchanges: What You Need To Know

Tax Support

There are a number of free tax support options for military members and their families. MilTax is a military-centered tax software program that walks you through a list of questions to determine which military-related tax issues may be present for the current year’s tax filing. You access MilTax through the DoD-funded Military OneSource official site.

There is also an option you can use on-post if offered there; the VITA Program, also known as Volunteer Tax Assistance. While this is not offered at every single military base in the DoD, it is offered at many of them and you can use a VITA locator to see which bases closest to you offer the option.

Read More: Free Tax Support For Military Members

Military Benefits for Spouses And Dependents

Some military benefits for spouses and dependents are available regardless of the involvement or status of the service member. Others may require the participation of the service member (transferring GI Bill benefits, for example) or require troops to apply through the chain of command or other processes on behalf of the spouse or dependent.

In other cases, such as with medical care, you may only have to provide your current military spouse or dependent ID to get, use, or continue to use the benefit.

  • Education Benefits (including GI Bill transfer)
  • Home loans
  • TRICARE
  • Career assistance
  • Spouse Employment Preference On Base

Education Benefits for Military Spouses and Dependents

There are a variety of education benefits for military spouses. Some benefits are not provided by the military, but by private enterprises, Veteran Service Organizations, or other non-government entities. This section features military education benefits for spouses provided by the federal government.

They include Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits which must be transferred from the servicemember’s name to the dependent or spouse. This can only be done while the servicemember is still under a military service commitment and a new service commitment must be made for the GI Bill benefits to be transferred.

Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) is a DoD-funded resource military spouses can use if they want to plan a return to academia. SECO features a variety of resources including a scholarship finder and there is a MyCAA Scholarship worth up to $4,000 for qualifying spouses looking to return to school. You’ll find SECO at the MilitaryOneSource official site.

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship is offered to qualifying spouses and children who are survivors of one of the following circumstances:

  • Active-duty service members who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001;
  • Selected Reserve members who died from a service-connected disability on or after September 11, 2001

Discuss the Fry Scholarship with a representative of your selected school or institution. Not all schools are approved for this program and you’ll need to determine if the opportunity is available before you discuss applying for the Fry Scholarship with your admissions counselor

The VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) is a federal program offering education and training to qualified dependents of vets who are either permanently disabled due to military service or who died on active duty as a result of military service.

  • Are permanently and totally disabled because of a service-related condition, or
  • Died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition

Discuss VA DEA with a representative of your selected school as not all schools are approved for this program. It’s best to determine if DEA is an option option to you before you discuss applying for DEA with your admissions counselor

Read More: VA Survivors’ And Dependents’ Educational Assistance

Home Loans for Military Spouses

The VA Loan program offers no-money-down, low-interest home loans to qualifying servicemembers. It also allows service members and spouses to apply for a VA mortgage together, treating the loan application differently than if a veteran and a non-veteran who is not a spouse were to apply together.

There is no VA home loan option for the spouse alone. There are exceptions in cases where the service member has died. In such cases, the qualifying criteria include at least one of the following:

  • The Veteran is a prisoner of war (POW)
  • The Veteran is missing in action (MIA)
  • The Veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability and you didn’t remarry, or
  • The Veteran died while serving, or from a service-connected disability. In such cases you must not have remarried before you were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003, or
  • The Veteran had been totally disabled and passed away.

If you are claiming VA home loan benefits as a surviving spouse, you will need to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly if you assist with the application, VA Form 26-1817 Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility—Unmarried Surviving Spouses.

Read More: Questions and Answers about VA Home Loans

TRICARE Benefits for Military Spouses and Dependents

Active duty service members are required to enroll in a TRICARE plan that is based on the location of their duty station. TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Remote are the stateside plans, and TRICARE Prime Overseas and TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas are the basic plans the servicemember can choose to enroll their spouse and/or dependents in.

Read More: TRICARE Basics

Family members also have the option to select other TRICARE options based on the location they are in. Those options include, but may not be limited to:

  • TRICARE Select is described as a “self-managed preferred provider organization (PPO)” plan offered to those in the United States
  • US Family Health Plan is offered in select locations only. This is described on the TRICARE official site as “an additional TRICARE Prime option available through networks of community-based, not-for-profit health care systems”.
  • TRICARE For Life is described as “Medicare-wraparound coverage for TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries who have Medicare Part A and B.”
  • TRICARE Select Overseas offers “comprehensive coverage” for those in overseas locations.

There are more flexible options offered to spouses and dependents, likely because it’s understood that some may already have health care options through an employer or school; the additional healthcare options for spouses and dependents are designed to accommodate this depending on the plan and the nature of your coverage.

Read More: TRICARE For Spouses And Dependents

Career Assistance For Military Spouses

There are multiple types of career assistance for military spouses, starting with spouse hiring preference. The Department of Defense has a federal hiring preference program aimed at military spouses, but if you have not explored your options for this preference recently you may not be aware of certain changes to the program that benefit all applicants.

Prior to 2019, the DoD used something called the Priority Placement Program to register military spouses so they may claim their federal hiring preference. But that program entered the sunset phase in 2019 and no longer operates. Does that mean there is no longer a preference program? No.

The replacement option, known as Military Spouse Preference or MSP, is described by the Defense Department as a “special federal hiring authority that allows spouses to be noncompetitively considered” for federal positions. MSP does NOT require an in-person appointment to get started, unlike the previous PPP option.

Now, military spouses simply identify themselves as candidates for MSP when they apply for federal work using USAJobs.gov. This is an advantage for spouses who know they will be going overseas soon but don’t know what assignment yet.

MSP also eliminates a past requirement limiting applicants to a single “occupational series”. You can now choose any job that offers MSP, rather than being limited to a specific area of expertise.

This is not the only career assistance type benefit offered to military spouses. Other options include the USO Pathfinder Transition Program which offers professional development options for military spouses that can be used “throughout the duration of military service as well as in preparation for life post-military” according to the USO official site.

The U.S. Department of Labor offers TEAMS or Transition Employment Assistance for Military Spouses and Caregivers. This typically consists of employment workshops to help military spouses meet their career goals.

TEAMS workshops are instructor-led virtual training, provided as stand-alone training. modules. You can take all of the workshops or just a few and they can be taken in any order that fits your availability and schedule.

There are also options for military spouses who accompany active duty service members to overseas duty locations, including spouse hiring preference. To apply for preference at an overseas base, contact the Human Resources office at the base and explain that you need information on spouse hiring preference policy for that installation.

Read More: Overseas Military Spouse Career Options

Child Care

The Department of Defense offers affordable child care access to military and DoD-affiliated families. These programs are offered at military bases around the world, and while not every single base has child care options (forward deployed, remote assignments, and hardship assignments for example) the majority of troops and their families may be able to take advantage of these DoD child care options.

Options include:

  • Child Development Centers
  • Family Childcare
  • “24/7 Centers”
  • School Age Care facilities
  • The “Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood” program

Who Is Eligible for Military Child Care?

Military affiliation is one of the requirements for military child care. Children enrolled in a DoD program must be the dependents of “eligible sponsors” including parents who are active duty military, DoD civilians, Guard/Reserve members who are on orders, Gold Star spouses, and many others.

Childcare costs are assigned based on household income, which makes this a benefit that can make a big financial difference for junior enlisted troops. Signing up for military child care means contacting the base Child Development Center where you are stationed or where you will be reassigned to.

You can use a DoD search tool at MilitaryChildCare.com to locate military child care options anywhere offered in the world, and you’ll want to do this as soon as you get PCS orders as demand for military child care is high and waiting lists typically apply.

The sooner you get your name on the waiting list the sooner you can get access to affordable military child care.

School Age Care facilities are offered on many military installations; these programs are for those in kindergarten through sixth grade. Care is available before and after school, and even for non-school days and summer vacations. Many of these programs are run from base youth centers or Child Development Centers, and all are certified and accredited.

Many military bases feature other after-school options and other programs for school-age children who are too old for Child Development Center care. These programs vary depending on the base but in general, you may find options including:

  • Installation youth center programs
  • 4-H Military Partnerships
  • Defense Department summer camps
  • Military Kids Connect (a website designed to celebrate military youth and help them cope with military life)

Read More: Military Childcare Basics

Military Benefits for Guard and Reserve Members

Some benefits require a minimum time in uniform to access, others may take effect immediately. The benefits for members of the Guard and Reserve differ from active duty benefits for a number of reasons, including the fact that these jobs are essentially part-time during much of the year unless there is a deployment, field training, unit activation, etc.

  • Pay and Allowances
  • Education benefits
  • Home loans
  • TRICARE
  • Job Certification
  • Retirement

Guard/Reserve Component Pay And Allowances

There are special pay and allowance options that may be offered to you depending on your rank, your career field, and other variables. When you join the National Guard or the Reserve, you make a part-time commitment to military service. That means your time commitment isn’t the same as an active duty soldier, sailor, airman, Guardian, Marine, or Coast Guard member.

That also means your pay is part-time, too. Naturally when a member of the Guard or Reserve is deployed, activated, or otherwise called to active service, the pay changes to active duty, too. But while you serve under “normal conditions” during peacetime, your service is limited to weekend drills, active duty for training, and other activities as required.

If you need to know your state’s National Guard pay rates, you can check the official site of your state’s National Guard, or you can check by branch of service. For example, the Air National Guard official site features a pay calculator to help you estimate your National Guard earnings in advance. (Scroll down to Pay Calculator.)

Guard/Reserve Education Benefits

The Montgomery GI Bill is an option that was offered at one time to all new recruits. Today that program has been replaced by the Post 9/11 GI Bill but some may still qualify to use the MGIB-SR:

You may qualify for the MGIB-SR if you’re a member of one of the following Reserve Components:

  • Army Reserve
  • Navy Reserve
  • Air Force Reserve
  • Marine Corps Reserve
  • Coast Guard Reserve
  • Army National Guard
  • Air National Guard

The following must all be true for you to qualify:

  • You have a six-year service obligation in the Selected Service OR;
  • You are an officer in the Selected Reserve serving six years (that is in addition to your initial service obligation) AND;
  • You meet what the VA calls “ other requirements” which may include finishing initial active duty for training (IADT), and you are in good standing in a Selected Reserve Unit.
  • Your obligation must have started after June 30, 1985, or for some types of training after September 30, 1990.

If you qualify for the GI Bill under any of these circumstances, you’ll want to learn more about your options to use these benefits–you can make an appointment with a college admissions counselor or contact the VA directly to learn more about what is possible.

In addition to the GI Bill, you may also qualify for Military Tuition Assistance from the Guard/Reserve, though not all branches of service offer the benefit to reserve component members. Where offered, you may find that 100% of your tuition expenses are covered for classwork totaling $250 or less per semester hour or the equivalent.

Read More: GI Bill Facts and Fiction

Guard/Reserve VA Home Loan Benefits

VA home loans are offered to those who serve enough qualifying time in the Guard or Reserve (see below). There are major advantages to using a VA home loan as a Guard member or Reservist. One of these is the no-money-down mortgage option. Another is the fact that you cannot be penalized for early payoff of the mortgage (including refinancing) and you cannot be required to purchase a home that appraised lower than the asking price even if you have paid earnest money.

Who qualifies for a VA mortgage among members of the Reserve Components? Those who:

  • Served for 90 days or more on active duty during a wartime period, OR
  • Were discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability, OR
  • Have six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, AND were honorably discharged, placed on the Standby list or transferred to Standby Reserve or Ready Reserve, or who continue in the Selected Reserve.

Read More: Best Practices for the VA Loan Process

Guard/Reserve Health Care and Insurance

Members of the Guard and Reserve may be eligible for TRICARE. You are required to create or maintain an account on the Defense Manpower Data Center or MilConnect to verify eligibility for TRICARE Guard/Reserve plans such as Line of Duty Care, Active and Inactive care, and options for those who are retiring.

Read More: TRICARE for Guard and Reserve Members

Furthermore, members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) may have the option to purchase dental coverage but typically do not qualify for other TRICARE benefits unless on active duty orders OR recently deactivated.

Read More: Guide To TRICARE

Guard/Reserve Job Certification

Depending on the branch of military service, the nature of your career field, and whether you serve in the National Guard or the Reserve, you may be offered job certification that is related to your military job. For example, the Army National Guard offers certification in areas that include:

  • Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM)
  • Six Sigma Black Belt (SSBB)
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
  • EMT/Paramedic
  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

The nature of military service in the National Guard means that the state where you serve plays an important part in the nature of your benefits in this area. Not all states offer the same funding or certification options.

The situation is different for Reservists as these troops operate on the federal level rather than the state level. That means benefits for Reservists are more standardized. They also depend on the branch of service you are in; Air Force Reserve job training is more focused on mission-essential needs but you may find that the AF Reserve offers help with student loans and other civilian-based opportunities.

Guard and Reserve Retirement Benefits

Those who serve enough “creditable years” of military service in the Guard or Reserve may become eligible to apply for a military pension and become military retirees.

Unlike those who serve on Active Duty for 20 years who get to start enjoying retirement pay immediately once they have “dropped papers”, members of the Guard and Reserve must wait until they reach a certain age to start receiving military retirement pay.

Read More: Retirement Pay for Guard and Reserve Members

Military retirement for National Guard and Reserve members has changed thanks to laws passed in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. The Act in part reduced the age those in the Ready Reserve can start receiving retirement pay.

Normally the retirement age is 60, but now, your retirement age is lowered by three months for every 90 days of active duty after 28 January 2008. Further changes in 2015 allow that 90-day period of active duty to stretch over two successive fiscal years.

Drawing retirement pay is NOT automatic. You must apply for it and be approved for it.

Benefits for Those Who Have Retired or Separated from Military Service

There are benefits for military retirees, and benefits for veterans who have separated from the military without retiring. Those who retire typically have more options than those who separate but that doesn’t mean a lack of certain options for those who separated before getting enough time in service to apply for retirement.

Military retirees draw a pension after performing the minimum amount of military service, which is 20 years at press time. Military retirees in the Guard and Reserve have different rules for “getting their 20” or earning 20 “creditable years” toward military service but a retirement check is definitely possible for those who serve part-time.

Read More: Retirement Pay for Guard and Reserve Members

Those who separate from the military without hitting their 20-year service mark are typically not offered retirement pay unless they have taken an early retirement offer that is sometimes provided in times when the military is trying to “draw down” or reduce its troop numbers.

But those who separate but do not retire still have certain benefits offered to them. Both retirees and those who return to civilian life without retiring may be eligible for a variety of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They can include, but may not be limited to:

There are other benefits. One important one for some? Those who have retired or separated are now permitted to live with their families in private on-base housing in the United States. Overseas locations are not included, but for those using this option in the USA, you will pay rent at a rate based on the local Basic Allowance For Housing.

Why is this allowed? More and more on-base housing is being privatized or has already switched to a public/private arrangement.

Government housing contractors are permitted to rent these homes to those who have retired or separated when sufficient vacancies exist. This option is not available at all bases, and the contracts may be limited to a year, depending on circumstances.

VA Disability Compensation for Military Retirees

VA disability compensation for military retirees works the same as for those who did not retire but separated from military service. You must make a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and submit medical records, service records, and supporting documentation.

There is no separate track for military retirees for this process. But being eligible to draw a military pension has in the past been problematic for those who also seek VA compensation for service-connected disabilities. Why?

Because until 2004, retirees were not allowed to draw both military retirement and VA compensation. Those eligible for both had to choose which to receive. Starting in 2004, there was a VA transition that eventually ended in 2014. Today you are permitted to receive both payments concurrently. 

There is no need to apply for approval to receive both, those eligible to do so get both payments automatically once the paperwork for each is completed and approved.

Military retirement pay is NOT the same as a VA pension, which is described below.

VA Pension

Regardless of whether you retired or separated from the military, you may qualify for a VA pension if you meet certain requirements. You must meet some basic requirements to be considered, which include not having a Dishonorable discharge and meeting basic income and net worth limits.

There are other considerations. To be approved for a VA Pension, you must have:

  • Started active duty before September 8, 1980, and you served 90 days or more on active duty with at least one day served during a wartime period. OR;
  • Started on active duty (enlisted) after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months OR the full period you were ordered to serve on active duty with at least 1 day during wartime. OR;
  • Started as an officer on active duty after October 16, 1981, and you had not served previously on active duty for at least 24 months.

And finally, to qualify for a VA pension at least one of the following must apply to you:

  • You are 65 years old or older.
  • You have a permanent and total disability.
  • You’re a patient in a nursing home for long-term care due to a disability.
  • You’re getting Social Security Disability Insurance.
  • You’re getting Supplemental Security Income

Eligible wartime periods for the VA Pension include, as described on the VA official site, the following:

  • Mexican Border period: May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917
  • World War I: April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918
  • World War II: December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946
  • Korean conflict: June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War era: November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975,  August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.
  • Gulf War era: August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation.

If you need to register for a VA Pension, fill out the online forms at the VA official site. The Department of Veteran Affairs offers a “pre-filled” form that populates some (but not all) of the application fields with information based on your account information with the VA.

You can save the application as you go but there is a time limit; you have 60 days from the start of your application process to the time you submit–after 60 days your application is deleted and you must begin again.

To apply you must gather any supporting medical evidence needed for your claim, and you will need to supply your medical records, financial information, history of military service, your Social Security Number, and any supporting evidence to reinforce your claim.

VA Pension Versus VA Compensation

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers qualifying veterans a choice between drawing a VA pension and collecting VA compensation for service-connected medical issues.

The basic differences include the fact that VA pension benefits are for those who served during wartime and the pension is need-based, where VA disability pay is offered to all who have qualifying service-connected medical issues no matter when they occurred in peacetime or wartime. Eligibility is not need-based, but is determined by the nature and severity of the medical issues.

The VA official site reminds in no uncertain terms: you cannot qualify for VA pension payments and disability compensation at the same time. The Department of Veterans Affairs will pay you whichever amount is greater, but not both.

VA Medical Benefits

Whether you have retired or separated, if you intend to make a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation due to a service-connected injury or medical condition, you will need to formally apply with the VA.

There are procedures you will need to follow, evidence to collect, and records to gather. The basic claim process does not change based on your status as a retiree or as someone who has simply separated from military service.

Read More: Five Tips for Applying for VA Disability Benefits

VA Home Loans

Like some other VA benefits, the opportunity to apply for a VA loan is not contingent on you being a retiree versus having separated from the military without retiring. We mention this frequently in this section; it would be easy to assume that since military retirement pay is contingent on serving 20 years, other benefits might be as well. This is NOT true of VA loans.

VA mortgages require a minimum amount of time in uniform. They do not require a 20-year military career and junior enlisted qualify for the same VA mortgage options after they have served the required time the same as high-ranking career military members.

Retirees and veterans who did not retire are free to explore their VA loan options. VA loans allow you to use your military retirement pay, VA compensation for service-connected medical issues, and your civilian job where applicable to qualify for the mortgage.

What you cannot do, regardless of your status as a currently serving military member, veteran, or military retiree, is to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance as qualifying income. We mention this only because some don’t realize this is true and make their immediate post-military plans based on potential income that won’t be counted toward VA loan approval.

Read More: Questions and Answers about VA Home Loans

VA Counseling And Career Support

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Transition Assistance Program or TAP aimed at those who are about to retire or separate from military service. The VA official site notes that about a quarter of a million service members make the switch from serving to civilian life each year.

TAP includes help one year from your retirement or separation date and there is a full day of VA-specific transition assistance offered through the program VA Benefits And Services. The VA official site describes this training as including “interactive exercises, real examples, and covers topics important to you like family support, disability compensation, education, and health care benefits.”

Transition Help For Women Veterans

There is also a health-related VA TAP program specifically for women veterans through an online, self-paced option called Women’s Health Transition Training. Offered to those currently serving and retired/separated alike, this option is available online and you can subscribe to the VA Center for Women Veterans emails for more information and updates about upcoming Women’s Health Transition Training course opportunities.

Chapter 36 Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers veterans and military retirees a program called Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG). Also known simply as VA Chapter 36 benefits, you may qualify for educational and career guidance, planning, and resources under this program.

If you qualify for the GI Bill, you may qualify for Chapter 36 benefits. Other requirements include:

  • Being discharged under “conditions other than dishonorable” from active duty within six months. OR;
  • Being separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable not more than 1 year ago. Or;
  • You are a Veteran or service member eligible for VA educational assistance. Or;
  • You are a service member, Veteran, or dependent eligible for VA education benefits.

Under Chapter 36, you may qualify for career counseling, help finding a new path of study, and readjustment counseling that can help you make the transition from military member to veteran student. There is also resume support and career planning help offered under Chapter 36.

You can apply for these benefits in three ways; in person at a VA office, online using VA Form 28-8832, or you can apply online at the VA official site via Login.gov.

Applying online requires you to complete an initial questionnaire to determine the proper form for you as a veteran, active duty service member, retiree, etc.

Veteran Readiness and Employment (Chapter 31)

Military retirees and other veterans with service-connected disabilities that affect the ability to hold or find a job may qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Readiness and Employment program.

These benefits are sometimes referred to as Chapter 31 benefits or VR&E. You can apply for VR&E through the VA official site; to qualify you must have a VA disability rating of at least 10% and you must not have received a Dishonorable discharge.

Being approved for a VR&E program requires you to have at least one day of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits remaining. Using VR&E benefits does not count against your GI Bill benefits.

Apply for VR&E benefits online, in person at a VA office, by calling the VA, or use a Veteran Service Organization.

Read More: What Are Veteran Service Organizations?

Veteran Healthcare Readjustment Services

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers transition care including mental health services for qualifying veterans who are transitioning from military to civilian life. The VA official site says it assigns VA Liaisons for healthcare at all major military medical treatment facilities to help in transitioning from military care to civilian care.

VA.gov says that since 2003, “VA Liaisons for Healthcare will meet with you early in your transition to ensure access to VA health care at the appropriate time in your recovery and rehabilitation process” where applicable. Not all veterans may need or require this support but it is available when needed at VA facilities nationwide.

 

 

Who Is Eligible for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)?

SGLI is an acronym that stands for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance. This insurance is a low-cost insurance option provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The federal government purchases group life insurance from “a commercial life insurance company” according to the VA official site. Service members can choose coverage in $50 thousand increments with a maximum benefit of $400 thousand payable to the beneficiaries the servicemember specifies at signup time.

Is SGLI Free?

No, SGLI is NOT free. It is offered at a low cost. The VA official site reminds us, “if you have SGLI coverage, you’ll pay a monthly premium that’ll be automatically taken out of your base pay.” How much? In 2022 the “basic” SGLI premium was charged at a rate of six cents per $1,000 of coverage plus an additional one dollar per month for additional Traumatic Injury Coverage.

In 2022, those who elected the maximum SGLI coverage of $400,000 paid $25 per month. These numbers are always subject to change, and the 2022 amounts are provided as a reference only. Check with the VA for the most current rates and terms.

Who is eligible for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)?

SGLI is offered to the service member only. Family members are not eligible for this coverage. To qualify for SGLI as a service member, you must serve in one of the following ways:

  • As a commissioned, warrant, or enlisted member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard
  • As a commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service
  • As a Cadet or midshipman at one of four United States Service Academies
  • As a Ready Reservists scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year
  • As part of the Individual Ready Reserve as a volunteer for assignment to a mobilization category
  • Part-time coverage is available for qualifying Reserve or ROTC members “who do not qualify for full-time coverage” according to the VA official site.

How To Sign Up For SGLI

The headline above is disingenuous; when you enlist or accept a commission you are automatically enrolled in SGLI for the maximum amount ($400 thousand) unless you choose to reduce the amount of coverage or decline it altogether. If you previously declined or reduced coverage but later changed your mind, you will need to visit the SGLI Online Enrollment System available via Milconnect. Select the Benefits tab and choose Life Insurance. You will need to complete  Form SGLV 8286, Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Election and Certificate.

Making An SGLI Claim

No one wants to think about the need to make an SGLI claim, but in the event that a policyholder dies or is the victim of a traumatic injury, there are forms that should be completed and submitted in order for the family to make a claim depending on the circumstances of that claim:

  • To receive advance SLGI payments for a terminally ill service member: the family should file an  SGLV 8284, Claim for Accelerated Benefits.
  • To receive an insurance payment after a service member has died, a family member Should file an SGLV 8283, Claim for Death Benefits.
  • To help a service member get short-term financial support while recovering from a traumatic injury, a family member and the service member would file  SGLV 8600, Application for TSGLI Benefits.

SGLI After Military Service Ends?

You cannot continue to carry SGLI after retiring or separating except under specific circumstances. There is an opinion to convert SGLI to a different type of life insurance policy which we will cover below, but what about the exceptions?

For those who have a qualifying disability, an extension of SGLI for up to two years after military service may be possible. This extension is not automatic and must be applied for. At least one of the below must apply:

  • You’re totally disabled at the time of your discharge;
  • You have experienced a total loss of hearing in both ears
  • You have experienced a loss of speech that leaves you unable to talk without the help of an artificial device
  • You have experienced a long-lasting loss of use of both of your hands, feet, or eyes, or one hand and one foot, or one hand or foot and one eye

At least one of the above must apply to qualify for an SGLI extension. Otherwise, servicemembers have two choices when they retire or separate. SGLI coverage may be converted to Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or choose to take on a different insurance option with a participating life insurance provider.

Contact the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) for additional information: 1-800-419-1473 (inside the U.S.)  or 973-548-5699 (overseas)

 

PACT Act Agreement in Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee

On May 18, members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) announced an agreement on the PACT Act of 2022, legislation that would deliver health care and benefits to all Veterans exposed to toxic environments.

The PACT Act

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 marks the first time in US history that such comprehensive health care legislation has moved forward.

“This bipartisan legislation is the most comprehensive toxic exposure package the Senate has ever delivered to veterans in this country’s history,” said Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) in a joint statement.

“For far too long, our nation’s veterans have been living with chronic illnesses as a result of exposures during their time in uniform. Today, we’re taking necessary steps to right this wrong with our proposal that’ll provide veterans and their families with the health care and benefits they have earned and deserve.”

According to the infographic from the SVAC, the PACT Act will deliver the following benefits to Veterans:

  • Expansion of access to VA health care for toxic-exposed Veterans
  • Expansion of the period of health care enhanced eligibility for Post-9/11 combat veterans
  • Expands health care to more than 3.5 million veterans
  • Adds 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s presumption list
  • Creates a framework for the establishment of future toxic exposure-related presumptions of service connection
  • Provides toxic exposure screening to all generations of veterans at VA medical appointments
  • Bolsters toxic exposure-related education and training for VA health care and benefits personnel
  • Establishes 31 new VA health care facilities in 19 states

VSO Support for the PACT Act

This announcement comes after months of staunch advocacy for the legislation from Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) like the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA).

Today’s announcement from Senators Tester and Moran is a strong show of good faith to the veteran community,” announced Matthew Mihelcic, the VFW National Commander. “I applaud them on their work on the bill and I am encouraged to see both Democrats and Republicans coming together to make good on a promise to care for our veterans, service members, and their families, dealing with the costs of war.”

The American Legion National Commander, Paul Dillard, said in a statement that, “The Honoring Our PACT Act would deliver needed benefits for up to 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to the poisons of war due to the prevalence of burn pits, radiation, contaminated water, Agent Orange and other toxicants during deployments and military assignments…I am asking all Americans to tell their senators to vote for the Honoring Our PACT Act.”

Next Steps

The PACT Act hasn’t passed yet, as the agreement was made between the ranking members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. From here, the legislation will come to the Senate floor for a vote. If approved, it will move to the President’s desk for approval after a final review by the House of Representatives.

While there is no set timeline yet, many are hopeful that the PACT Act will become law before summer is in full swing.

Stay tuned for updates!

 

 

Low-Cost Internet for Veterans: Affordable Connectivity Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers Veterans low-cost internet access through their Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). This program aims to deliver fast, reliable internet service to veterans who are struggling financially.

The Affordable Connectivity Program

The FCC’s program grants a discount of up to $30/month for broadband service. Additionally, there is a special discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands of up to $75 per month for use towards paying for broadband internet.

The Affordable Connectivity Program grants a one-time discount of up to $100 to qualifying households for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or a tablet. These devices must be purchased through participating providers.

Furthermore, the FCC’s program has partnered with 20 leading internet service providers who will offer ACP participants high-speed internet plans for $30 per month or less. This means that some households may be able to get broadband internet for free.

Affordable Connectivity Program Eligibility

By some estimates, there are about 2.5 million Veterans eligible to participate in the ACP. To participate, a household must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as,
    • Veterans pension
    • Survivor benefit
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Medicaid
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    • Lifeline
  • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as,
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
    • Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • Food distribution programs on Indian Reservations
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, which includes participation through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband carrier’s existing low-income program

To check or verify your household’s eligibility, head over to the ACP Benefit page to submit an application. You can also go to the White House’s Get Internet website and sign up for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

To find participating internet service providers near you, check out the Affordable Connectivity Program Providers page. You can search by state or territory, and you can see which providers offer that $100 discount on connected devices.

VA Programs Keeping Veterans Connected

In addition to the FCC ACP benefit, the VA also has a number of programs that allow Veterans to connect to the internet. Some prominent programs are:

  • VA Internet-Connected Devices: The VA has a program that lends an internet connected tablet to veterans who don’t have access to the internet. The intent is to facilitate access to VA Telehealth appointments.
  • VA Telehealth Connectivity Support: a program where mobile carriers help Veterans avoid data charges when using VA Video Connect on their networks.
  • ATLAS: The Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations (ATLAS) is a pilot program that provides telehealth access in the Veterans’ communities. Using private spaces equipped with internet access, Veterans can attend their telehealth appointments without needing their own device or traveling to a VA clinic.
  • VA Telehealth is a program that allows veterans to access their healthcare team whenever it is necessary.

VA’s Digital Divide Consult

To discover your connectivity options, the VA recommends participating in a Digital Divide Consult. With this program, a VA social worker can assist in determining which programs you may be eligible for, like the Affordable Connectivity Program. The goal of these consultations is to give every veteran the internet and technology they need for using the VA telehealth program.

Connected Veterans

If you or a Veteran you know does not have reliable access to the internet, then please take advantage of these connectivity programs.

Not only are they low or no-cost programs, but the whole purpose behind them is to connect Veterans to the healthcare they’ve earned through their service. Save money and get connected today!

 

RELATED:

 

 

Make The Connection: Promoting Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a perfect time to talk about an initiative from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) called Make the Connection.

Make The Connection: A Mental Health Resource

The VA has collected stories from veterans who explain the challenges they’ve faced during and after their military service. These veteran stories are presented in videos, written articles, and even podcast episodes. The purpose is to connect with veterans who are also struggling in life and to offer hope and support to overcome the many challenges faced by our military community.

Make the Connection offers more than 800 videos from veterans, military spouses, and caregivers who have been where you are. In the video gallery, you can search for stores based on the era of your service, the branch of service, gender, and even combat experience.

This approach enables veterans to find stories of hope from other veterans just like them. For example, a Vietnam War Veteran can find stories from other Vietnam vets. It even allows for a female veteran to find hope in the stories of other female veterans.

Stories for Life Events & Experiences

Using Make the Connection as a springboard, veterans and family members can find support for various life events and experiences that may be causing stress in their lives. These can include:

Stories Based on Signs & Symptoms

Make the Connection can also display their stories and content based on observable symptoms. This approach allows the military community to find targeted help and encouragement based on specific behaviors or conditions. These signs and symptoms include:

Condition-Based Stories

If you are a veteran, family member, or caregiver, it is likely that you’ve encountered some conditional struggles brought about by military service. Make the Connection offers targeted support for some of those challenges:

RELATED: Mental Health & Resilience Resources for Veterans

Mental Health Treatment, Self Help, & Self Assessments

Treatment

Make the Connection has consolidated a ton of resources to help the military members connect with the help they need to live happier lives. Check out their What Is Treatment? article to support services and therapies offered by the VA’s mental health professionals.That article also has a search function that allows you to find local support based on your ZIP code.

Self Help

Make the Connection also provides Self-Help Strategies that can have an immediate impact on you during times of stress or symptoms. These can include information about coping behaviors and guidance for handling challenging situations.

Assess Yourself

The VA’s Make the Connection also hosts links to various self-assessment tools that help you determine if your behaviors and feelings are related to treatable conditions. They currently offer the following self-assessments:

Additional Mental Health Resources

VA Self Help Tools allows Veterans to access courses online that offer instruction in areas like parenting, anger management, sleep issues, stress management, and problem solving skills.

Coaching Into Care is the VA’s national telephone service designed to educate and support family members who are seeking care or services on behalf of a Veteran.

Finally, the Veterans Crisis Line is a direct connection to qualified responders within the Department of Veterans Affairs who are available 24/7/365 to provide confidential crisis support for Veterans and their families. You do NOT have to be enrolled in the VA healthcare or benefits systems to use this crucial resource. To get started:

  • Just call 1.800.273.8255 and press 1
  • Or, dial 988 and press 1 (newer number)
  • Chat online
  • Send a text to 838255 to connect via text messages

Conclusion

Serving in the military is a rewarding and life-altering experience. However, it does have a dark side that many don’t know about or understand. The weight carried by our service members, and by extension our military families, is a tremendous burden that they carry with pride.

Moreover, the scars and wounds of battle are not merely external, but internal as well. This has damaging effects on the mental health of our nation’s heroes. On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. This is a national travesty.

For this May, and every month beyond, please do not hesitate to reach out when you need help. There are so many resources available, like the VA’s Make the Connection, that will help you and your family overcome the struggles of military life.

 

RELATED:

 

 

 

Little Known Benefits of VGLI

Things You May Not Know About VGLI

Most transitioning service members are aware that they can apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) after they separate or retire. But what many don’t know is, they can convert their VGLI policy to a commercial policy at any time.

Veterans Group Life Insurance

The Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) policy allows transitioning military members to keep their current level of life insurance coverage as long as they continue to pay the premiums.

Generally speaking, you must have had the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) while on active duty and you’ve separated within the past 1 year and 120 days, roughly 16 months. There are, of course, other requirements for separating Reserve and National Guard members.

One of the greatest benefits of the VGLI policy is that Veterans who apply within 240 days of discharge or separation can get the VGLI without providing proof that they’re in good health. This is huge since many of us that leave the service have been broken in various ways.

VGLI vs. Commercial Whole Life Insurance

Consequently, Veterans can convert their VGLI policies into a commercial, or civilian, insurance policy at any time. The conversion will take place at standard premium rates and no proof of good health is required. If you’ve never applied to a civilian insurance provider, they are uber-picky about health issues.

Just to test this out, I recently applied for a $50,000 term-life insurance policy through Bestow. The company’s website says, “No medical exam ever”, which seemed promising. I answered the questions honestly, listing any conditions that are on my official VA record. Just a few minutes after submitting my application, I received notice that I had not been approved for term life insurance coverage through Bestow.

Most service members do not realize how easy it is to get life insurance while they serve. Nor do they understand how easy it is to snag a VGLI policy after separation. While I admit there are likely better policies out there, nothing can compare to the seamless coverage options that require no medical exam or proof of health condition. This is the most unknown aspect of having a VGLI policy and it can be a game changer. Here’s why.

Most whole life insurance policies accumulate a cash value that grows over the life of the policy. They pay death benefits at the designated amount, just like VGLI, but the VGLI does not have a cash value at all.

Another benefit of whole life insurance is that the premiums remain stable throughout the life of the policy, even if they start out a little higher than those of VGLI. However, another overlooked aspect of VGLI is that the premiums skyrocket as the veteran gets older.

VGLI Rates Increase Over Time

For example, when I retired from the Army, I paid $48 for $400,000 in term VGLI coverage. That’s not bad, but about double the SGLI rate. Now, my premiums are $64 per month for the same coverage. Still, that’s only a $20 jump and it was easily absorbed by budgeting.

However, when I turn 55, the premium rate will be $240. And at 65, the premium is an insane $588 each month. That’s wild, but it is typical of term life insurance policies.

Just for good measure, and because you’re probably interested, if I still have a VGLI policy when I’m 75 years old, the premium will be a whopping $1,712 per month. I’m not good at predicting the future, but I’m fairly certain that premium will be more than I can afford.

It’s All About Mindset

While the ever-increasing premiums of term-life insurance like VGLI are staggering, how you look at the coverage makes all the difference.

Younger policy holders tend to have increased financial obligations than do older ones.

For example, my policy is $400,000 because I have a bunch of kids and a mortgage that need support in the case of my untimely demise. As I get older, my kids will move out (hopefully) and my mortgage will eventually be paid off, which means that I could lower my VGLI coverage as my financial obligations are less than before. Lower coverage equals lower premiums.

Now, if I wanted to keep the $400,000 coverage even after paying off my house and kicking my adult kids out, then I might consider converting my VGLI policy into a commercial whole life policy. I’d do that to keep the most coverage I can with a steady premium that I could afford even after I stop working. But again, it’s all about your insurance plans.

Converting VGLI to Whole Life

If you choose to convert your VGLI policy, there are some things you should know. First, the policy you choose must be a permanent one, like a whole life policy. Second, you’re not allowed to convert your VGLI to another term life insurance policy. Nor are you allowed to switch it to a variable life or a universal life insurance policy.

Steps to VGLI Conversion

The first step in converting your VGLI into a commercial policy is to choose a new insurance company. There is a small list of participating companies for you to reference.

Once you’ve chosen a provider, the next step is to contact their sales office and let them know you’d like to convert a current VGLI policy to one of their permanent life insurance policies.

Finally, in order to complete the conversion, you will need to get a letter from the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) confirming your VGLI coverage. This letter is often called a VGLI Conversion Notice, and you’ll provide that letter to the insurance agent at the new company.

To obtain a VGLI Conversion Notice, you can contact OSGLI by emailing them at osgli.osgli@prudential.com (yes, write “osgli” twice). You can also call OSGLI at 800.419.1473, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday thru Friday.

Disclosure & Conclusion

I am not a licensed insurance agent or financial professional. I am, however, a veteran who had SGLI on active duty, and who is a current VGLI policy holder since retirement.

Should you have questions regarding your current policy, please contact your policy holder or insurance agent. If you need help deciding which insurance coverage is right for you, I encourage you to seek counsel from a licensed financial professional.

With that out of the way, only you can decide whether or not to keep your VGLI coverage or to convert it to a whole life policy. I still hold my VGLI coverage because I’m young(ish) and my wife is serving on active duty. The premiums are affordable, and I like having the coverage to support her and our kids if anything happens to me.

However, I can tell you that I’m not going to have that policy when I’m 75 years old! Whenever I convert my VGLI policy, it will be after consulting with a financial advisor and my spouse. Always make the most informed decision that matches your financial goals.

 

For more info, please go here.

 

RELATED:

 

 

The Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grants

These Grants Will Be for Suicide Prevention Services

On April 15th, the VA published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $51,750,000 in suicide prevention grants. These grants will be awarded to organizations that provide or coordinate suicide prevention services for veterans at risk of suicide and the families of those veterans.

Helping those at risk for suicide is so important within the veteran community. These grants will go to help the veterans who are struggling and will make a difference to those who are in need of this type of support as well as their families. This will make for a stronger veteran and military community.

“Communities are important partners in our work to end Veteran suicide,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “The Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program will fund programs in local communities that provide suicide prevention services and resources to Veterans and their families along with ensuring Veterans have access to our community partners who know how to reach them.” – from the VA Press Release

These grants will be in alignment with the VA’s National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide. It will blend community-based prevention with evidence-based clinical strategies through community efforts.

What organizations qualify for this type of grant?

  • Incorporated private institutions or foundations
  • A corporation wholly owned or controlled by an incorporated private institution or foundation
  • Indian tribes
  • Community-based organizations that can effectively network with local civic organizations
  • Regional Health Systems
  • Other settings where eligible individuals and their families are like to have contact
  • State or local governments

The VA can prioritize awards to organizations that focus on areas with limited access to medical services, in rural communities, on tribal lands, in U.S. territories, in areas with a high number or percentage of minority veterans or women veterans, or in areas with a high number or percentage of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line. Doing this will ensure that those who need these services the most will be more likely to get them.

What services will the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox grant cover?

From the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grants FAQ page.

  • Baseline mental health screening for risk
  • Education on suicide risk and prevention to families and communities
  • Provision of clinical services for emergency treatment
  • Case management services
  • Peer support services
  • VA benefits assistance for eligible individuals and their families
  • Assistance with obtaining and coordinating other benefits provided by the federal government, a state or local government, or an eligible entity
  • Assistance with emergent needs relating to health care services, daily living services, personal financial planning and counseling, transportation services, temporary income support services, fiduciary and representative payee services, legal services to assist the eligible individual with issues that may contribute to the risk of suicide, and child care
  • Nontraditional and innovative approaches and treatment practices, as determined appropriate by VA
  • Other services necessary for improving the mental health status and well-being and reducing the suicide risk of eligible individuals and their families as VA determines appropriate

How much will organizations be able to receive from the grant?

Organizations can apply for grants up to $750,000 and may be able to apply to renew the grant from year to year. As of now, this grant program will run until the fiscal year 2025.

Who is the grant named after?

Veteran Parker Gordon Fox joined the Army in 2014. He was a sniper instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning and was known for his generosity and kindness to others in need. He passed away by suicide in 2020 at the age of 25.

How does an organization apply for these grants?

They can do so through the online application. Applications must be received by June 10, 2022.

 

RELATED:

 

 

These 8 Commissaries Will Begin Offering Delivery Service June 1st

Delivery From the Commissary? Yes Please!

In 2019, the Commissary added the Click2Go service allowing patrons to be able to order and pay for their groceries online, and then go to the Commissary and use curbside pick up to get them. This has been a great service but the next step is Commissary delivery. When so many civilian grocery stores are offering this service, it only makes sense that the Commissary does eventually too.

As of now, eight Commissaries in the United States will be getting this service on June 1st. They will be:

  • Fort Belvoir 
  • Fort Bragg South 
  • Fort Lewis
  • MacDill AFB 
  • Miramar MCAS
  • Norfolk NAVSTA 
  • San Diego NB 
  • Scott AFB 

The hope is that eventually, this service will be offered at all of the Commissaries in the U.S. to both on and off post/base patrons. 

As of June 1st, the delivery area will be within 20 miles of the Commissaries. The Defense Commissary Agency, which runs the Commissary, has awarded contracts to two veteran-owned companies, YouUp and ChowCall. Both companies are also actively hiring drivers for this service. 

The cost will be around $4 depending on the company and you will still need to pay the 5% Commissary surcharge. The companies will pick up the groceries from the Commissary but will not pick the groceries from the shelves. That will be done by Commissary employees. 

How will this work?

You would go onto the app or website, place your order, pick a two-hour window, pay for your order, and receive a confirmation email. Then, your order will be sent to the contracted company where the driver will head to pick up your order. Your items will be picked out by the Commissary which will communicate with you if there will be any substitutions, any out-of-stock items, or any other questions they might have. The driver will go to the CC2G parking spaces to pick up your order. They will then deliver to you and you will receive an email that they have done so.

We are unsure about how long it will take for this service to go nationwide. As of now, the contracts will be for 90 days, which would be August 30th. The hope is that these contracts will continue and the doorstop delivery service can continue to expand.

The delivery service adds to the Click2Go service and helps make shopping at the Commissary even easier. 

 

RELATED:

 

 

Telemedicine Options Through TRICARE For Your Mental Health

Does TRICARE Cover Telemedicine Options? Here Is What You Need to Know

Why Use Telehealth?

Telehealth can be easier on your schedule since you can use the service from anywhere. You can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Telehealth can also be less stressful than going to an in-person appointment.

You won’t have to worry about driving there, or finding a place to park. You might not have to worry about having to leave work or finding childcare. Telehealth can be a good way for some people to get the care that they need without having to be in an in-person environment.

How Can I Use Telehealth Services?

As a TRICARE recipient, you can use Doctor On Demand or Telemynd. Both of these services connect you with licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Doctor on Demand

Doctor on Demand offers urgent care and behavioral health options. The average wait time is five minutes or less with an urgent care provider. The wait time for behavioral health is just a few days. They are open beyond regular business hours and they also have an app. You can find these behavioral health services through Doctor on Demand:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Stress
  • Trauma and loss
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Relationship issues
  • Mental health screenings
  • Grief

Keep in mind that Doctor on Demand isn’t currently available to active duty service members. There is however a pilot program in TX for active duty service members to receive urgent care through Doctor on Demand.

Telemynd

Telemynd is a nationally recognized partner of TRICARE and provides behavioral health services, psychology, and psychiatry services. They match you with a provider who is uniquely qualified to treat you. There will be zero copays or cost shares, no predetermined maximum sessions per calendar, no authorization required for telebehavioral health for TRICARE Prime active duty family members and retirees, and 100% secure sessions conducted over video.

Telemynd also offers the MyCare Intensive Support Program. This program is remote intensive mental health care for clients with passive suicidality. It provides targeted ongoing support over 8-12 weeks, includes psychiatric care, psychotherapy and care coordination, and provides a transition plan to ongoing care after the program ends.

They have also stated on the site that “MyCare Intensive Support Program is not a crisis resource. If this is an emergent crisis or you are experiencing thoughts of harm to yourself or others, please call 911 immediately. For a list of crisis resources, click here.”

What Is the Copay?

Your copay will be the same as it normally is. However, during COVID-19 there are zero copayments or cost-shares for telemedicine. This could change at any time.

Active duty service members will need a referral before getting care under the telemedicine benefit. Active duty family members and retirees shouldn’t but there are some exceptions.

Telemedicine can be a good option for some TRICARE recipients. To learn more, visit the TRICARE page on telemedicine or the Humana page on telemedicine.

 

RELATED:

 

 

“Our Military Kids” Provides Grants to Military Children

The “Our Military Kids” Program Offers $300 Grants

We all know that kids and their activities can cost money. If you have multiple children, that can add up. If you are an active duty family you have access to what they offer on your military installation, but if you are a National Guard, Reservist, or veteran family it can be more complicated to find affordable activities for your children.

Our Military Kids is a non-profit that wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to the National Guard and Reserve troops who were deployed. Starting as a Virginia National Guard pilot program, they have provided $77,000 in grants since 2004. These grants can be used for sports, fine arts, camps, and tutoring programs.

Who qualifies for the “Our Military Kids” grants?

There are two groups who qualify for these grants, children of deployed National Guard and Reservist service members, including Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and Coast Guard Reserve, and children of severely injured veterans from any service branch.

National Guard and Reservists don’t qualify if they have been activated or gone away to training. To qualify as a severely injured veteran, the service member must have sustained combat-related injuries while deployed in support of any post-9/11 overseas contingency operation, must be classified as severely injured, which is 30% or more, and be designated by the Department of Veteran Affairs in one of six categories. They are burns, amputation, mental health, spinal cord injury, Traumatic brain injury, or PTSD.

Each military child will need to apply and can receive up to $300 per grant. Those in the Deployed or Stateside Activated NGR Program can receive one grant per deployment with 80-179 day orders, or two if the orders are over 180 days. For those within the Severely Injured Program, children can receive a grant every six months for a max of four grants as well as a 5th FLEX grant at any time during the recovery period.

What can and can’t they be used for?

These grants can be used for youth sports, fine arts, STEM programs, and tutoring. They can’t be used for daycare fees, school tuition, or mission trips.

What do you need to show to be eligible?

In order to prove you are eligible for the Deployed or Stateside Activated NGR Program, you will need to show a copy of deployment orders, or CED in the Air National Guard, showing OCONUS duty. You will also need to show one of three forms of identification for the child, and documentation of the activities showing the cost. This could be a flyer, brochure, website, screenshot, or a letter from the organization that clearly states the cost. The letters must be typed.

In order to prove you are eligible for the Severely Injured Program, the service member or veteran must also be actively seeking treatment for his or her service injuries and must have a case manager or medical practitioner who is able to certify their information in writing. Our Military Kids has a template you can use on their website.

In addition, you will need to show the breakdown of your disability percentage, your DD214, and documents to verify your child. You will also need documentation about the activity or program your child is going to use the grant for. If you are still active duty you will need to show a letter from your case manager as well as a recent copy of your military orders moving you into a WTU or medical hold.

How do you get the “Our Military Kids” grants?

You can get a printable application on their website and submit it.

Once a grant has been approved, the packet will be sent to the child’s home address. In the packet, you can find a special recognition for the child as well as a grant check which is payable to the organization that was submitted.

It’s important to note that grant approvals are always subject to the availability of funds.

 

2023 Military Pay Chart: Largest Pay Raise In a Decade Proposed

4.6% Military Pay Raise Possible in Proposed Pentagon Budget

The Biden Administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which would raise defense spending by $30 billion, a 4% increase over last year’s budget proposal. With this increase in spending, troops could see a 4.6% pay raise.

The last time the military saw a 4.6% raise in base pay was in 2007, just before the financial crisis of 2008. Considering that America is dealing with inflation levels not seen since the 70’s, the proposed pay raise would certainly help those families struggling with the spiking prices of food and fuel.

>> Click here to go to the 2023 Proposed Military Pay Charts

One thing to keep in mind is that this is simply a budget proposal from the executive branch of government. It does not mean that the pay raise is guaranteed. In fact, it could go up or down by the time it is approved.

LATEST: Even Bigger Military Pay Raise Due to Inflation Possible?

According to Military.com, it appears that Congress may be thinking about approving a higher raise because of the rate of inflation. As of May of 2022, the inflation rate is 8.6%, which is the highest it has been since 1981. Compare that to 5.4% back in June of 2021.

Military.com talked to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA who chairs the House Armed Services Committees. When asked about anticipating boosting the raise, she stated that she’s “certainly contemplating it.” The Senate Armed Services Committee is also expected to debate on it.

In order to increase the rate, the money would have to come from somewhere else in the budget, or the defense budget would need to be increased. This could be a reason why it would not go higher than 4.6%. The House Armed Services Committee’s Personnel Subcommittee also called for studies and reports to modernize service members’ compensation. There are many questions about if they should continue to use the Employment Cost Index to decide on the rate and if the pay tables need to be changed.

We will have to see what is decided once Congress debates and comes to a decision on the proposed pay rate.

The Budget’s Next Step

As it stands now, the budget proposal is heading to Congress, where our elected representatives will debate the merits of the Pentagon’s request. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will add, remove, or modify parts of the budget before they vote to approve it.

Historically, Republicans seek to increase defense spending, while the Democrats seek to fund government programs outside of the Pentagon. The debates will likely be heated as some points of the defense budget will be hotly contested. This is especially true when other legislative measures not related to defense spending are included in these monstrous bills.

It is worth noting here that our Congressional leaders have made the Continuing Resolution (CR) a funding preference over actually passing a budget. In recent years, the politically divisive environment in Congress made any budget agreements impossible, leading to an increasing reliance on the Continuing Resolution.

Hope and Expectations

The Biden administration’s budget will likely emerge from the halls of Congress in a different form and amount than what was proposed yesterday. While the pay raise proposed for our nation’s heroes is currently at 4.6%, it could increase once more data is added to the equation.

You can expect that if a budget is actually agreed upon, it will likely not happen until after the summer time. The goal is to get it approved before October 1, 2022, which is the start of the 2023 fiscal year. As we move into the summer months, the inflation numbers will be scrutinized to determine the outcome of a military pay increase.

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Charts

We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Enlisted: E-1 – E-3

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsE-1E-2E-3
< 2$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,260.41
Over 2$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,402.66
Over 3$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 4$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 6$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 8$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 10$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 12$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 14$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 16$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 18$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 20$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 22$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 24$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 26$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 28$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 30$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 32$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 34$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 36$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 38$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06
Over 40$1,917.32$2,149.53$2,548.06

 

Enlisted: E-4 – E-6

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsE-4E-5E-6
< 2$2,503.08$2,730.06$2,980.05
Over 2$2,631.74$2,914.16$3,280.26
Over 3$2,773.99$3,055.37$3,424.60
Over 4$2,915.20$3,199.71$3,565.81
Over 6$3,039.68$3,423.56$3,712.25
Over 8$3,039.68$3,658.91$4,041.74
Over 10$3,039.68$3,851.37$4,171.45
Over 12$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,420.40
Over 14$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,495.71
Over 16$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,551.15
Over 18$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 20$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 22$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 24$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 26$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 28$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 30$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 32$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 34$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 36$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 38$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00
Over 40$3,039.68$3,874.38$4,616.00

 

Enlisted: E-7 – E-9

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsE-7E-8E-9
< 2$3,445.52
Over 2$3,761.42
Over 3$3,905.76
Over 4$4,095.09
Over 6$4,244.67
Over 8$4,500.94$4,956.99
Over 10$4,645.29$5,176.65$6,055.29
Over 12$4,900.51$5,311.59$6,193.37
Over 14$5,113.89$5,474.76$6,365.96
Over 16$5,258.24$5,650.49$6,568.88
Over 18$5,413.05$5,968.48$6,774.94
Over 20$5,473.72$6,130.61$7,103.39
Over 22$5,674.55$6,404.66$7,381.62
Over 24$5,782.29$6,556.33$7,673.46
Over 26$6,193.37$6,930.80$8,121.14
Over 28$6,193.37$6,930.80$8,121.14
Over 30$6,193.37$7,069.91$8,526.99
Over 32$6,193.37$7,069.91$8,526.99
Over 34$6,193.37$7,069.91$8,953.76
Over 36$6,193.37$7,069.91$8,953.76
Over 38$6,193.37$7,069.91$9,402.49
Over 40$6,193.37$7,069.91$9,402.49

 

Warrant Officer: W-1 – W-3

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsW-1W-2W-3
< 2$3,399$3,872$4,376
Over 2$3,765$4,238$4,558
Over 3$3,863$4,351$4,746
Over 4$4,071$4,429$4,807
Over 6$4,316$4,679$5,002
Over 8$4,679$5,070$5,338
Over 10$4,848$5,264$5,789
Over 12$5,085$5,454$5,979
Over 14$5,317$5,687$6,198
Over 16$5,500$5,869$6,423
Over 18$5,669$6,033$6,828
Over 20$5,873$6,231$7,102
Over 22$5,873$6,360$7,265
Over 24$5,873$6,463$7,439
Over 26$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 28$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 30$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 32$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 34$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 36$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 38$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 40$5,873$6,463$7,676

 

Warrant Officer: W-4 – W-5

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsW-4W-5
< 2$5,012.43
Over 2$5,391.08
Over 3$5,545.89
Over 4$5,698.61
Over 6$5,961.15
Over 8$6,220.56
Over 10$6,483.11
Over 12$6,877.45
Over 14$7,224.72
Over 16$7,554.21
Over 18$7,824.08
Over 20$8,087.67$8,911.92
Over 22$8,473.65$9,363.79
Over 24$8,791.63$9,701.65
Over 26$9,153.55$10,072.98
Over 28$9,153.55$10,072.98
Over 30$9,336.60$10,578.20
Over 32$9,336.60$10,578.20
Over 34$9,336.60$11,106.43
Over 36$9,336.60$11,106.43
Over 38$9,336.60$11,662.90
Over 40$9,336.60$11,662.90

 

Commissioned Officers: O-1E – O-3E (w/ Prior Enlisted Experience)

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsO-1EO-2EO-3E
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4$4,577.30$5,682.92$6,469.51
Over 6$4,886.91$5,789.61$6,780.17
Over 8$5,067.87$5,984.17$7,120.12
Over 10$5,253.01$6,295.87$7,339.78
Over 12$5,433.97$6,536.45$7,701.70
Over 14$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,007.13
Over 16$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,182.86
Over 18$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 20$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 22$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 24$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 26$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 28$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 30$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 32$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 34$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 36$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 38$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35
Over 40$5,682.92$6,716.37$8,421.35

 

Commissioned Officers: O-1 – O-3

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsO-1O-2O-3
< 2$3,636.94$4,191.32$4,850.30
Over 2$3,786.52$4,772.90$5,497.78
Over 3$4,577.30$5,496.73$5,932.91
Over 4$4,577.30$5,682.92$6,469.51
Over 6$4,577.30$5,799.02$6,780.17
Over 8$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,120.12
Over 10$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,339.78
Over 12$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,701.70
Over 14$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 16$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 18$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 20$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 22$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 24$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 26$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 28$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 30$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 32$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 34$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 36$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 38$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02
Over 40$4,577.30$5,799.02$7,891.02

 

Commissioned Officers: O-4 – O-6

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsO-4O-5O-6
< 2$5,274$6,112$7,332
Over 2$6,104$6,885$8,055
Over 3$6,512$7,362$8,583
Over 4$6,603$7,451$8,583
Over 6$6,981$7,749$8,616
Over 8$7,386$7,927$8,985
Over 10$7,892$8,318$9,035
Over 12$8,285$8,606$9,035
Over 14$8,558$8,977$9,548
Over 16$8,715$9,544$10,455
Over 18$8,805$9,814$10,988
Over 20$8,805$10,081$11,521
Over 22$8,805$10,384$11,824
Over 24$8,805$10,384$12,131
Over 26$8,805$10,384$12,725
Over 28$8,805$10,384$12,725
Over 30$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 32$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 34$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 36$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 38$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 40$8,805$10,384$12,980

 

Flag and General Officers: O-7 – O-8

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsO-7O-8
< 2$10,112.73$12,171.26
Over 2$10,583.43$12,564.55
Over 3$10,799.95$12,834.42
Over 4$10,973.59$12,908.69
Over 6$11,286.34$13,238.18
Over 8$11,594.91$13,789.42
Over 10$11,952.64$13,918.08
Over 12$12,309.33$14,442.12
Over 14$12,667.06$14,592.75
Over 16$13,789.42$15,043.57
Over 18$14,738.14$15,696.28
Over 20$14,738.14$16,297.73
Over 22$14,738.14$16,700.44
Over 24$14,738.14$16,700.44
Over 26$14,813.45$16,700.44
Over 28$14,813.45$16,700.44
Over 30$15,110.52$17,118.84
Over 32$15,110.52$17,118.84
Over 34$15,110.52$17,545.60
Over 36$15,110.52$17,545.60
Over 38$15,110.52$17,545.60
Over 40$15,110.52$17,545.60

 

Flag and General Officers: O-9 – O-10

Proposed 2023 Military Pay Chart (4.6% Increase from 2022)

YearsO-9O-10
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4
Over 6
Over 8
Over 10
Over 12
Over 14
Over 16
Over 18
Over 20$16,445$16,975
Over 22$16,682$16,975
Over 24$16,975$16,975
Over 26$16,975$16,975
Over 28$16,975$16,975
Over 30$16,975$16,975
Over 32$16,975$16,975
Over 34$16,975$16,975
Over 36$16,975$16,975
Over 38$16,975$16,975
Over 40$16,975$16,975

 

RELATED:

 

 

PCSing & Your Child’s Education: The Military Interstate Compact

How the Military Interstate Compact Can Help With Your Child’s Education During PCS

Active duty military life means moving, sometimes pretty often. This can be all well and good for the service member and their spouse, but what about the children? According to the DODEA, military families move 3 times as often as the average non military family. Oftentimes children will have to move at not the best time, either after starting kindergarten, right before middle school, or in the middle of their high school year. This can cause a lot of anxiety for the child and for the family.

The good news is that there is the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. This compact was created with the collaboration of the Department of Defense, the National Center for Interstate Compacts, and the Council of State Governments. The compact addresses the educational transition issues of children of military families. The purpose is to ensure that military children are given the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals.

Who can use the Military Interstate Compact?

  • Active duty military families
  • National Guard and Reserve members on active duty orders
  • Service members or veterans who are medically discharged or retired for one year
  • Service members who were killed in action

What Does the Military Interstate Compact Cover?

Here is a brief rundown of some of what the compact covers. You can read the full factsheet on the DODEA website.

Eligibility

The compact asks school districts to examine their rules for eligibility and allow military children to be able to have continuity with their education. For example, allowing military children to be able to participate in extracurricular activities, even if the application and tryout deadlines have passed.

Enrollment

Parents can take a set of unofficial records to the new school to enroll the child while waiting for the official records to arrive.

 

Find college scholarships for military children, dependents, and more!

Immunizations

Parents will have 30 days to get their child immunized.

What Age Your Child Can Start School

If your child is in kindergarten or the 1st grade, and the entrance ages are different at each school, your child can continue in the grade they started in.

Placement for Required Classes, Advanced Placement, and Special Needs Programs

The new school must initially honor the original placement from the old school. The new school can then do a new evaluation but they can’t keep your child in a “holding class” while they wait to do that.

Graduation

The school district may waive courses that are required for graduation if similar courses have already been completed at the old school. This is, however, not mandatory, but if the schools deny a waiver for a class, they need to be able to show a reasonable justification for it. In addition, a senior can receive a diploma from their previous school if the new school isn’t able to accommodate them for the required courses and exit exams that they need. This will need to be worked out between the two schools.

Special Needs Children

If the Individual With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers your child, they have the right to comparable services that are provided by their most current IEP.

Military Interstate Compact Resources

The Military Interstate Compact is here to help as you PCS from one location to another. Here are a couple more resources to help if you are going through this time of transition.

 

Stay up to date on the latest military & veteran benefits for you and your family!

 

RELATED:

 

 

Getting Started With VA Loan Benefits

VA Loan Benefits: Getting Started

Are you wondering how to get started with your VA home loan benefits? The most important thing to do starting out is to determine whether you are currently eligible to receive a VA Certificate of Eligibility (VA COE). Those who are eligible may apply for it may do so in a variety of ways, but you cannot apply until you have met the minimum time-in-service requirements needed.

These time-in-service requirements will vary depending on when you started earning credit for military service.

The specific requirements for becoming eligible for a VA COE are in their own separate article since there are many variables including whether you are Guard or Reserve, Active Duty, or a qualifying surviving spouse of a military member who died as a result of active duty.

For this article, the most important thing you need to know is that you’ll have to check your time-in-service against the requirements based on the “service era” when you joined (Vietnam War, for example, Desert Storm/Gulf War era, etc.).

Getting Started With Your VA Loan Benefits

Can you get a head start on your VA home loan benefits by starting the application process before you have officially been granted a VA COE?

Those who have just joined the military as either an active-duty recruit or a Guard or Reserve member may be tempted to get a jump on the process, but the VA Lender’s Handbook, VA Pamphlet 26-7, says this cannot happen.

“The lender must ensure the applicant is an eligible Veteran before an appraisal is ordered, the loan cannot be processed or closed. Lenders should never close a loan before they establish eligibility. VA cannot guarantee a loan for an ineligible Veteran”.

Your loan officer’s hands are tied for much of the application process until she can obtain your VA COE. One thing to keep in mind? Your loan officer may be able to help you get your COE when the time is right, so don’t think you can’t talk to a loan officer about your options. It’s just that you can’t begin the application process in earnest without the COE.

Counting Down Toward VA Loan Eligibility As A New Service Member

A common question at this state? When does the clock start counting down toward VA loan eligibility?

In this context, we are not talking about the minimum time you must serve (see above) but rather when the waiting period begins and when it ends before. Some mistakenly assume the clock starts the moment you are committed to military duty. But this is not true.

 

>> Interested in a no PMI, zero down payment possible home loan?  For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

 

In general, if you have not graduated from basic training and you have not graduated from any required technical training programs for a career field or military specialty, your clock has NOT started ticking yet. You must exit the initial training phase of your first months on duty first.

To be absolutely clear: your time-in-service countdown begins AFTER basic training, technical school, A-school, AIT, etc. Once you have met the requirements, apply for your COE with the Department of Veterans Affairs online, by mail, or via the lender.

After You Receive Your VA COE

The Certificate of Eligibility establishes you as being eligible for the VA loan program, but it does not guarantee loan approval. You’ll need to prepare for a home loan like you would for any major credit application:

  • Work on your record of on-time payments for all financial obligations at least one year in advance of any home loan application;
  • Begin budgeting and saving for your home loan closing costs and expenses
  • Consider the type of home you want to buy
  • Plan for the future: are you subject to deployment? Are you a retired military member planning to settle in one place for a long time? Are you starting a family or increasing one?
  • Consider the type of property you want to buy (condo, townhome, farm residence, manufactured home, suburban house, etc.)

The fact that the VA loan program does not automatically approve all borrowers for home loans should convince some applicants to work on their financials a year or better before applying. However, not all do. While it is true that there is no VA-required minimum FICO score range for VA loan approval, your lender may require a credit score in the 600 range or better for more competitive rates and terms.

When you are ready to start looking for a lender you’ll want to shop around for the right one–not all participating VA lenders are alike and VA loan rules do NOT require all participating lenders to offer all VA loan products.

That means if you want to buy a mobile home and lot, for example, with a  VA mortgage, but the housing market where you are searching doesn’t support such loans, you may have a hard time finding a VA lender who can help. The same is true for condo loans and other types of homes–if a housing market doesn’t have enough demand for a certain kind of property, a loan for it might be harder to locate.

Knowing Is Half The Battle

It pays to do some research on the property types you can and cannot purchase with a VA mortgage. For example, you may be allowed to purchase a farm residence with a VA loan but that loan will ONLY be issued for the residential value of the property.

Another thing worth knowing when you start out with a VA mortgage? Occupancy is required. You are not permitted to use your VA loan to buy a vacation home, a timeshare, or a bed-and-breakfast. You are required to occupy the home you buy with a VA loan or arrange to have eligible immediate family members occupy the home on your behalf.

But occupancy rules do NOT mean you are in trouble with your VA mortgage if you are deployed, reassigned, sent on temporary duty or TDY, etc.

Occupancy has more to do with your intent for the property at purchase time and far less to do with your miliary duty requirements. If you intend on buying a primary residence, the VA loan program can work for you even if you deployer or get stationed elsewhere.

VA home loans are also ONLY for properties that can be classified and/or taxed as real estate even if they are not taxed as such in the state they are located in. You cannot use a VA mortgage to buy an RV, houseboat, or any property that will not or cannot be fixed on a permanent foundation.

For Those Getting Started With A VA Loan Upon Retirement or Separation

The timing of your VA loan application may be very important if you are retiring or separating from military service and have never used your VA mortgage benefits before. One issue to keep in mind? Your income and employment. The lender is required to verify your employment situation as part of the application. Do you plan to rely on your retirement pay and investments only after you return to civilian life? Or do you plan to re-enter the workforce?

Your lender may have a harder time approving your loan if you apply in the downtime between your last job and your next job unless you have income and cash reserves that allow the lender to justify the mortgage.

VA loan rules state that the lender must verify your employment including how long you have been in your current position.\

Applying for a VA mortgage after you have successfully re-entered the job market makes more sense than trying to convince the lender that you can afford the loan without the new job. Naturally, the rules are different when a military retiree does not intend to come back to the workforce and supplies their financials to the lender to show how they can afford the mortgage in retirement.

And you will be required to do so if that’s applicable to you. And that’s not just a condition of the VA home loan program, that’s fairly standard operating procedure for home loans in general.

What To Do Next

Once you know you are eligible to apply for a VA Certificate of Eligibility, it’s smart to shop around for a lender while you are also shopping around for a home. Treat them the same; compare prices, terms, and other variables. Once you have found a lender you can either get help obtaining your COE or apply for it yourself. There is no VA-required home loan private mortgage insurance and no VA-required down payment for typical VA loans.

But you may be able to save even more money upfront on your VA home loan if you are eligible to receive or currently do receive VA compensation for service-connected medical issues.

In such cases, you may be eligible to apply for a VA Loan Funding Fee Waiver. This can save you thousands of dollars on out-of-pocket costs and you should be sure to tell the lender that you want to apply for this exemption. Some veterans find that the VA experiences delays in issuing their VA disability ratings (the disability rating is crucial to the VA Loan Funding Fee exemption) and may actually close the mortgage without being assigned a VA rating. Does this mean the borrower must pay the VA loan funding fee?

Yes, it does, but the VA makes a provision to apply for a refund in such cases. The veteran is not entitled to an automatic funding fee refund. It must be applied for, but be sure to inform your lender in advance if you think the funding fee exemption may (or may not) get approved before the loan closes.

You’ll need to ask the lender about the specific procedure for paying, or being approved for the waiver of the funding fee.

 

>> Interested in a no PMI, zero down payment possible home loan?  For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

 

RELATED:

 

 

 

VA Loans, Investment Properties, and Deployments

Investment Properties, Deployments and the VA Loan

What do VA home loan rules say about occupancy, deployments, and investment properties? These don’t sound like related topics at first, but believe it or not, the VA Lender’s Handbook, VA Pamphlet 26-7, has a lot to say about all three subjects and they do intersect.

Basically, the VA Loan program is designed for those who plan to live in the home they buy. Renting out unused portions of that home is permitted. Using the home primarily as a business is not. Buying a home and being deployed is not a violation of VA occupancy requirements, but buying one and never occupying it IS a violation of the loan agreement you’ll sign.

 

>> Interested in a no PMI, zero down payment possible home loan?  For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

 

VA loans are for qualifying service members, veterans, surviving spouses, and those who serve in what are referred to as “uniformed services” such as those commissioned by NOAA and those who serve as certain types of public health officials.

VA loans are sometimes approved with non-VA borrowers in a process known as a joint loan. VA occupancy requirements only apply to those using the VA loan program for the purchase–non-VA borrowers in the same transaction are not asked to honor the VA loan rules when not using a VA mortgage. Multiple borrowers can also apply when all applicants are using their VA loan benefits–in such cases all occupancy rules apply.

VA Loan Occupancy Rules

Occupancy is a critical issue for any use of your VA home loan benefit. VA purchase loans require the buyer to certify in writing that she will use the home purchase with a VA mortgage as the primary residence or have an eligible family member who can meet the occupancy requirement instead.

Occupancy is an issue because VA home loans and VA refinance loans are intended for owner-occupied homes and while it is possible to purchase a mixed-use or mixed zoning type property with a VA mortgage, the use of that home must be “primarily residential” and the non-residential nature of the property must be “subordinate” to use of the structure as a home first.

But military members get deployed, sent TDY, experience permanent change of station moves, or go to professional military education for prolonged amounts of time. How does this affect the borrower’s occupancy status?

The short answer is that it does NOT. The owner is expected to have military duty and you do not have to live in the house every single day you own it in order to be considered using the property as your home address.

Deployments, Temporary Duty (TDY)

VA Pamphlet 26-7 Chapter Three states, “Single or married servicemembers, while deployed from their permanent duty station, are considered to be in a temporary duty status and able to meet the occupancy requirement. This is true without regard to whether or not a spouse will be available to occupy the property prior to the veteran’s return from deployment.”

There is a bit of a grey area where PCS moves are concerned. Chapter Three does not directly address whether or not a PCS move complicates the VA loan for the owner.

However, there are hints of the VA’s position on PCS moves elsewhere in Chapter Three where “intermittent occupancy” is addressed. In order to be compliant on this issue, VA loan rules say the home secured with the VA loan must be reasonably near the borrower’s job.

Whether you can legally rent out a home you buy with a VA loan after PCSing out of the area is something you may have to review your purchase contract for–any fine print or stipulation in the contract will be legally binding.

If you want to fee you are safely within the VA loan rules for renting out the home, you can always consider refinancing the mortgage with a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (which generally must result in some tangible benefit to the borrower) as this type of VA refi requires you certify only that you have previously used the home as your residence.

VA Loans For Investment Properties

Why do people want to turn to VA mortgages to buy bed and breakfasts, Air b-n-b operations, and other things like them? The no-money-down VA home loan is one reason. VA mortgages also have no VA-required private mortgage insurance or PMI, which is another way to save money on the loan up front.

And then there is the comparatively low interest rate on the loan. Government-backed mortgages offer an advantage in this way since the government, in this case, the Department of Veterans Affairs, is promising the lender an offset in the cost of the lender’s loss if the loan goes into foreclosure.

Buying an investment property with no money down definitely DOES have an appeal to it. But the VA loan program is for residences only. It’s true that you can use a multi-unit home purchased with a VA mortgage as an investment property when you live there, too. But buying a house without intent to occupy? That’s not permitted with VA mortgages.

And that is consistent all the way down the line with VA purchase loans. Did you know you can buy a farm residence with a VA mortgage but that only the residential value of the property is considered for the loan? There is no extra money available to buy a farm business, and no appraisal valuation for the non-residence nature of the property.

The way many investors think about investment properties–to buy, rent out immediately, and never occupy? That’s the sort of thing VA loan rules are designed to prevent–the borrower purchasing a house they do not intend to live in. So in that sense, you cannot use a VA purchase loan to buy a bed and breakfast, an Air b-n-b operation, or a house you plan to rent out to someone else.

But you are permitted under VA loan rules to buy a multi-unit home and rent out the unused units you are not living in. This type of “investment property” arrangement is 100% acceptable to the Department of Veterans Affairs as long as the borrower or borrowers live in one of the units themselves.

You can legally rent out a duplex or townhome you buy with a VA loan in this way or a multi-unit home up to four living units. But what you generally cannot do is to use your VA loan to buy (or create) non-residential, “intermittent” or transient occupancy type operations where occupancy is 30 days or less.

The Bottom Line

If you are not sure how VA loan occupancy rules affect your mortgage, have a frank conversation with your lender about what you would like to do and whether it is permitted under VA mortgage loan rules. VA loans allow you to buy and refinance a home; they also allow you to rent out the home freely if you refinance with a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. Some borrowers consider applying for a VA Cash-Out Refinance instead–thinking the same rules might apply.

However, VA Cash-Out Refinancing requires the borrower to again certify occupancy in writing and use the home as the primary residence. If you choose not to refinance your VA mortgage with another VA loan, know that the occupancy rules you agreed to under the original VA loan are no longer applicable and any new requirements for occupancy that may apply (FHA and USDA mortgages especially) will apply instead.

Make sure you fully understand any new occupancy requirements for a different, non-VA mortgage loan before you commit.

 

>> Interested in a no PMI, zero down payment possible home loan?  For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Changes Coming to the Thrift Savings Plan in 2022

There Will Be a New TSP App, and More!

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for federal employees and members of the uniformed services, including the Ready Reserve. The TSP was established by Congress in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986 and offers the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations provide their employees under their 401 K plans.

There are some updates coming to the TSP that will help improve the user experience. This is all a part of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s Converge Program. This program hopes to modernize the TSP. 

New Mobile App for TSP Platform

There will be an app that is coming out in mid-2022, that will make access to the TSP platform even easier. This mobile app will allow users to manage investments and contact the agency for assistance through their mobile devices. Users will also be able to use added security measures, facial recognition, and other methods to increase security.  In addition to the mobile app, there will be new tools such as a virtual assistant and virtual chat.

New Mutual Fund Window Opening

There will also be a mutual fund window opening for the TSP. TSP participants will be able to search to see what they want to invest in.  The window will feature over 5,000 mutual funds. TSP users will need to have at least $40,000 in their TSP accounts, and the minimum initial transfer will be $10,000. TSP users won’t be able to exceed 25% of their TSP index fund balance. 

Mutual fund offerings were authorized for the TSP back in 2009 by Congress but had been held up because of regulatory and technological challenges. 

Look for the TSP app and other changes and additions this summer. They seem to be able to make the user experience a little easier and offer some much-needed updates to the program. 

 

RELATED:

 

 

Your Commissary Could Launch Grocery Delivery

DeCA Considers Grocery Delivery

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is responsible for the operations and expansion of commissaries all around the world. The commissary access afforded to the military community is one of the most widely used benefits across all the services. Now, it is likely that the commissaries will begin offering delivery services.

The DeCA Click2Go (C2G)

DeCA’s Click2Go service is only a “Customer Pick Up” option for online shoppers at this time. This service has saved beneficiaries countless hours that would have otherwise been spent on shopping. By being able to order online and schedule a pick up time, DeCA has expanded their products and services to a wider customer base.

This C2G service utilizes the NCR Freshop application, which is an eCommerce platform hosted in the Amazon cloud. So, when a customer places an order, commissary personnel do the shopping and have the packages pre-staged for the pick-up delivery. Once the customer picks up the delivery, they approve the payment and the order is complete.

See Also: Commissary Benefits Expand to Veteran Community

Grocery Delivery on the Horizon

Shopping and delivery services like Instacart have taken society by storm. It has become an entrenched part of life in most urban centers, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. To that end, DeCA has taken notice and intends to bring the same type of services to its own customers.

Currently, DeCA has solicited a Request for Information (RFI) seeking information from potential service providers as to the feasibility of implementing DeCA’s delivery plans. Ideally, DeCA is searching for a service provider that has an “out of the box” compatibility with the Click2Go platform already in use.

During this time of market research, DeCA will receive feedback from interested companies explaining if and how they can meet the Operational Requirements of the delivery service.

DeCA’s Operational Requirements

In addition to the normal expectations society has for delivery service providers (conduct, safety standards, etc.), DeCA has specific concerns for a large portion of its customer base. Since most commissaries are on military installations, and access to those installations is highly controlled, DeCA seeks a service provider that already has experience engaging with on-base deliveries.

It is apparent by reading DeCA’s RFI for Delivery Services that the agency seeks the most seamless way of offering the delivery option to its customers. And why wouldn’t they? With companies like Shipt, GoPuff, and Instacart scurrying groceries to millions of homes during the pandemic lock-downs, it only makes sense that DeCA would seek this same service on and around military installations.

When the service does start, it will likely only be for the CONUS installations. There will certainly be a delivery radius, outside of which the Commissary delivery option will not be available. We can only speculate about such details at this point, as they may be determined by the company providing the service.

Even so, the RFI contains a list of CONUS locations where the service will be available.

Will DeCA Launch Grocery Delivery?

I certainly hope that the delivery option becomes available. Not only is it convenient, but for the past couple of years, it has been an essential service for those stuck at home. From a business point of view, if DeCA wants to remain competitive and relevant, then adding a delivery service is a must. DeCA hopes to get this launched as quickly as they can, but there is still no timeline.

 

RELATED:

 

 

The 10 Best PCS Benefits for the Military & Their Families

Ranking the Best PCS Benefits for Members of the Military and Their Families

Most military service members and their families will experience at least one PCS during their time in the military. If you haven’t been through a PCS yet, you will. But what benefits can you get that are related to PCSing? Here are 10 of them!

1) Transferring Professional Licenses

Each service branch will help reimburse licensure costs that come up when a service member’s spouse has to PCS. This started with the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and will reimburse up to $1,000 for relicensure and certification costs because of a relocation or PCS move. The moves do have to cross U.S. state lines to include OCONUS to stateside moves.

2) Per Diem

Service members will receive money back for meals, incidentals, and lodging when you are moving to your new duty station. This is called Per Diem. You can check the rates here.

3) Dislocation Allowance or DLA

DLA will partially reimburse you for miscellaneous moving costs. You can be paid once per PCS. You can check the rates here.

4) Temporary Lodging Allowance or TLA

TLA helps with the cost of temporary lodging and meals while waiting on OCONUS housing. You can get TLA for a max of 60 days when arriving and 10 days when leaving. TLE or Temporary lodging Expense is for CONUS moves for 5 or 10 days.

5) The Personally-Procured-Move or PPM

PPM or what was formally called a DITY move. This is where you can move yourself, and then can be reimbursed up to 100% of the GCC (Government Constructive Cost) if you have your own carrier or 95% of the GCC if you move your property on your own. You can also receive an advanced allowance to help with out-of-pocket expenses. This type of move is popular for some military families and others would rather the military move 100%.

6) The Relocation Assistance Program

The Relocation Assistance Program will help you prepare for a PCS. It provides resources and one-on-one support for moving costs, household goods shipments, housing options, childcare, sponsorship, schools, spouse employment, newcomer orientations, loan closets, and more. This program is usually offered through your installation.

7) Moving Pets Overseas

If your pet is required to be quarantined, you can receive up to $550 per PCS. This doesn’t mean you get reimbursed for moving your pet in general.

8) Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation or MALT

MALT is paid as mileage reimbursement for service members and their dependents during a PCS move. MALT is paid on a per-mile basis for the official distance of each portion of travel. The MALT rate per authorized POC is .18/mile for 2022.

9) Shipping a Vehicle

If you have an overseas PCS, the government will pay to ship or store ONE POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) when you receive your orders. This is for OCONUS to OCONUS, OCONUS to CONUS, and CONUS to OCONUS.

10) Shipment of Household Goods

The government will pay to ship your household goods. There are weight limits and are based on your rank and dependent status. You will have to pay a fee if you go over. The military pays for movers to come and take your goods from one duty station to another. Move.mil is now on Military One Source to help you through your move.

 

RELATED:

 

You Asked, VEP Answers Your Military Benefits Questions

Military Benefits Questions Answered by VEP

The Mission of the Veterans Education Project is to address the current issues that student veterans and service members face every day. They do this by reaching out to the veteran community, advocating for veterans with policy makers, and bringing every possible resource into the fight to support our nation’s heroes.

The Q&A Session with VEP

Q: Would I still be able to get in-state tuition at a university if I live in another state? For example, if I live in California and I want to go to school in Illinois, would it [the GI Bill] cover the full tuition, or do I still have to pay out of pocket? – (Marine Corps dependent)

A: When you utilize your GI Bill, you are always eligible for in-state tuition regardless of your residency.

This wasn’t always the case, though, so that’s a great question. On January 5, 2021, H.R. 7105 became Public Law 116-315, and one of the provisions demanded that a student using the GI Bill:

“…is to be charged tuition and fees at a rate that is equal to or less than the rate the institution charges for tuition and fees for residents of the State in which the institution is located,” (Sec. 1005).

Check out CollegeRecon’s article, Student Veterans Still Get Full GI Bill Benefits If Remote, for more information.

 

Q: How much is the COLA increase for 2022? – (Army Veteran)

A: The COLA increase for 2022 was 5.9%.

Read more about the 2022 COLA Increase on our website. You may be interested in the Military Benefit Changes for 2022 as well.

 

Q: Can I receive Social Security benefits if I am receiving VA benefits [at] 100%? – (Army Veteran)

A: Yes. Military veterans who become disabled during their service can collect disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at the same time.

 

>> Do you have questions about your military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Discover the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

 

3 Reasons Military Pay Increases in 2022

Overall Military Pay and Compensation Set to Increase in 2022.  Here’s Why.

The New Year has arrived, and with it comes the usual focus on improving certain areas of our lives. We set goals for healthier lifestyles, productive use of our time, and improving our financial situations. For service members, there are three things that will have an impact on your 2022 military pay.

BAH Increase

The Department of Defense released the 2022 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates in mid-December, 2021. According to the DoD press release, BAH rates are set to increase by 5.1% on average.

For most military families, the BAH portion of their compensation is used to the fullest extent possible, which is covering rent/mortgage and applicable utilities. The increase is based on information collected by the DoD in partnership with military commanders and local installation housing offices. Data from hundreds of housing areas is compiled and analyzed to determine when and if increases are necessary for military personnel.

For more information, the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) published the 2022 BAH Rates.

To calculate your BAH rate, use the CollegeRecon BAH Calculator.

COLA Increase

In another DoD press release, the 2022 Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) rates took effect on 1 January, 2022, with a 2.7% increase. This allowance offsets the higher prices faced by military members at duty locations whose cost of living is higher than the national average.

When it comes to income, more money is good. But it’s not all good news for some locations. The DoD reported that six Military Housing Areas (MHA) will see their COLA rates decrease, and 25 MHAs will no longer receive COLA. The two largest decreases were both in Massachusetts, with the Boston and Worcester MHA rates dropping from 4 to 0 percent.

New York City still has the highest COLA rate in the US at 6 percent.

To calculate the COLA rate for your current location, check out DTMO’s CONUS COLA Calculator.

Deferral on Payroll Tax Ends

For most military members, 2021 saw a reduction in pay to recoup the payroll taxes that were not collected as part of a 2020 Presidential Memorandum. The amount active service members paid each month was upwards of 2% of their base pay. The situation was beyond their control, but the service members went a whole year with less pay.

Now that 2022 has arrived, the payroll tax deferral has ended for most service members. This naturally means that paychecks will “increase”. While it’s not an actual increase in pay, it is letting America’s Defenders have what they deserve, again.

Good Timing?

With the rate of inflation rising to the highest it’s been in decades, it would seem that these increases in pay may help ease the financial strain many are facing today. Because of this, it is ever more prevalent to spend and save our money wisely.

For low-income service members, the Basic Needs Allowance has been approved and will start sometime in 2022.

For residents of some states, retired military pay is now tax-free, which leaves more money in the bank.

I suggest further reading The 10 Best Financial Benefits for Members of the Military. This will help you keep your eyes on your benefits.

 

RELATED:

 

 

REMOTE Act for GI Bill Extends Student Veteran Protection

GI Bill REMOTE Act News

The most pressing news for veteran students at this time is that Congress passed the REMOTE Act at the end of December 2021.

The Responsible Education Mitigating Options and Technical Extensions (REMOTE) Act extended provisions of the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 until June 1, 2022. But what does that mean for you, the student veteran?

Full Benefits for Student Veterans with REMOTE Act

Remember when everything was shutting down due to COVID-19, and schools were able to start offering 100% remote learning? Well, the Student Veteran Protection Act ensured that student veterans would be paid the GI Bill BAH portions in full, even if the classes were taught remotely. Those protections were set to expire on 21 December 2021, but the REMOTE Act extends those protections until June 2022.

SEE ALSO: Student Veterans Can Still Get Full GI Bill Benefits Even If Remote

Rounding Out a Program

The REMOTE Act also solidly enshrines the “rounding out” that may impact some students. 

Right now, you may be asking “What is rounding out?” Well, here’s the answer:

When a student’s GI Bill runs out in the last semester of their program, then the VA can provide extra financial assistance, read a “rounding out”, to bring that program to a close without the student incurring any out-of-pocket tuition expenses. There are three conditions that must be met in order for this provision to apply:

  1. The number of credits a student needs is less than the number of credits that would be considered more than a half-time enrollment for that semester, AND
  2. The student is enrolled in, or has completed, every course required for the completion of the degree or program, AND
  3. The student enrolls in an additional, non-required course where the enrollment in that non-required course raises the enrollment status above the half-time mark.

The effective date of the rounding-out provisions was January 1, 2022. So, any enrollments and semesters that meet the criteria above now qualify.

Still Confused About the GI Bill Remote Act?

Still confused? Here’s a personal example:

I am currently working on a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I have completed every course except two: my Thesis Proposal and Thesis Defense. These courses are taken within the same semester, one before the other. By taking only these two courses, I am considered half-time enrollment.

Incidentally, I have exactly 6 days of GI Bill benefit remaining, so I will run out of regular funding shortly after the next semester begins. If I were to enroll in another class that is not required for my MFA, then I would be eligible for the extended financial assistance from the VA, or the rounding up. Without that extra assistance, I would be responsible for the remaining tuition.

So, I have to choose whether or not I want to add yet another course to an already heavy workload so I can qualify for the extra assistance. Or, I keep only the two required courses and pay the rest of my tuition out-of-pocket.

Keep in mind, that the text of the REMOTE Act says that the VA “may provide” extra assistance, meaning that it is a possibility, not a guarantee.

Believe me when I say that it’s a tough choice to make!

 

RELATED:

 

 

VA Enrollment May Become Automatic for Transitioning Veterans

Could VA Enrollment Become Automatic for Transitioning Veterans?

On January 20th, 2022, the House of Representatives passed The Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition Act. Also known as the EVEST Act, H.R. 4673 would make enrollment into the VA system automatic for transitioning service members.

Passing the EVEST Act

The EVEST Act was first introduced in July 2021 by Representative Takano (D CA-41), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. It will now head to the Senate for review and debate.

“Today, the House took an important step to simplify the transition process and help prevent veteran suicide by passing my EVEST Act,” declared Takano in a press release. “We know that the months following a transition out of the military can be very stressful and particularly risky for new veterans in terms of mental health.”

Here, Chairman Takano referred to the tragedy of veteran suicide after leaving the service.

SEE ALSO: New Legislation Impacting the Veteran Community

The Text of the EVEST Act

This legislation appears to be only about the automatic enrollment of Veterans into the VA system. Often, a legislation’s title does not convey everything contained within it.

The text of the EVEST Act determines that the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairsshall enroll each veteran…in the patient enrollment system within 60 days of determining their eligibility. Currently, the task of determining a Veteran’s eligibility for automatic enrollment falls to the Defense Manpower Data Center of the Department of Defense.

 

>> Have a question about your or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

Electronic Certificates of Eligibility

Currently, the EVEST Act states that by August 1, 2022, all veterans eligible for automatic enrollment will be able to access an electronic version of their Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). The CoE is the key that unlocks all of a Veteran’s access to VA benefits.

Additionally, the legislative language determined that there should also be an electronic mechanism that a Veteran could use if they wanted to opt-out of automatic enrollment.

This is a cool idea because submitting paperwork to the VA can take ages, and I’ve personally sat on hold for hours waiting to talk to a human. So, an electronic means of opting-out is a refreshing change.

The text of the EVEST Act also includes the requisite mandate to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to give Congress an update on how things are going within 1 year of the first automatic enrollment.

The Cost of Automatic Enrollment

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing The EVEST Act would cost $3.1 billion from 2022 through 2026.

The CBO’s estimate expects that the automatic enrollment of transitioning veterans would add an extra 58,000 veteran patients per year beginning in 2022. They expect similar numbers for each year afterwards.

They then estimate that around 250,000 would remain enrolled by 2026, even after accounting for a prescribed number of voluntary disenrollments. The care that each Veteran would receive is expected to cost approximately $3,900 per year. 

Additionally, the CBO estimates that the Information Technology costs associated with implementing the electronic services proposed in the EVEST Act would cost $2 million over the 2022-2026 time period.

Opposition to the EVEST Act

There were 163 Representatives who voted against the EVEST Act. There are some common threads as to why the legislation met with opposition.

Representative Claudia Tenney (NY-22) opposed the EVEST Act for privacy concerns and a lack of Congressional discussion surrounding the provisions in the text.

“I am firmly committed to ensuring all eligible veterans can easily access quality care through the VA. However, this bill would enroll veterans in the VA care system without their knowledge or consent leading to confusion, administrative burdens, and potential costs and disruptions for veterans,” Tenney said on her website.

Representative Tenney went on to lament that there had not been one hearing regarding this legislation. There were no congressional attempts to bring the VA and members of Congress together.

She’s not wrong.

According to Roll Call 14 for H.R. 4673, the voting was done by proxy. That means that the representatives had the option to vote remotely. In fact, the record shows that not one representative was even present to cast their vote.

There must be an app for that.

The Legislative Process

So, the legislation moved to the Senate and there was no discussion about the EVEST Act outside of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

As of this writing, the legislation has not posted on the Senate calendar. Furthermore, it is unlikely that it will be added any time soon, but these calendars change all the time.

When there is forward motion regarding the EVEST Act, we will keep you posted!

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should enrollment in VA health care become automatic?

 

>> Have a question about your or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

RELATED:

 

 

TRICARE Covers Doulas, Lactation Consultants, and Lactation Counselors

What You Need to Know About TRICARE Covering Labor Doulas and Lactation Consultants and Counselors

If you have ever given birth, you may already know how valuable a labor doula, lactation consultant, or lactation counselor can be. As a part of its 5-year Childbirth and Breastfeeding Support Demonstration, TRICARE began covering labor doulas, lactation consultants, and lactation counselors on January 1, 2022, as long as certain conditions are met. 

  • The care must be from labor doulas, lactation consultants, and lactation counselors who meet TRICARE certification requirements for their services to be covered. 
  • They won’t be offered at military hospitals and clinics. 
  • Beneficiaries will need to double-check to make sure if the provider they want to use is in-network or not.
  • You should be able to nominate certain providers if yours is not in-network.
  • You will not need to have a referral for services under this demonstration. 

The Childbirth and Breastfeeding Support Demonstration’s purpose is to study the impact of adding these providers and services when it comes to the cost, quality of care, and maternal and fetal outcomes for the TRICARE population. This is required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. 

Labor Doulas

Only labor doulas, often called birth doulas or even birth assistants qualify. Labor doulas are not medical personnel and can not provide medical assistance. They provide support and guidance to the pregnant woman and her family, preparing for labor, during the birth, and immediately after the baby is born. 

In 2019, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated, “Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor.” In addition, the benefits of using a doula include possible shorter labor times, a decreased need for pain medication, fewer c-sections, and fewer reports of dissatisfaction with the experience of labor. 

TRICARE will accept doulas who have been certified by: 

  • BirthWorks International
  • Doulas of North America (DONA) International
  • Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA)
  • International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
  • toLabor

Breastfeeding Support, Lactation Consultants, and Lactation Counselors

According to TRICARE, “Lactation counselors have received specialized training to aid in breastfeeding and infant nutrition from breast milk, and generally provide breastfeeding counseling to support normal lactation and breastfeeding parents of healthy, full-term infants and Lactation consultants have the highest level of breastfeeding training and may be necessary when complex problems surrounding breastfeeding arise.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends breastfeeding counseling as a preventive service for pregnant women, new mothers, and their children. They recommend interventions both during pregnancy and after birth to support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is good for babies, and also can impact maternal health. 

Because of the 2015 NDAA, beneficiaries have had access to up to six breastfeeding/lactation counseling sessions per birth event. Military moms are also allowed one no-cost breast pump to help with breastfeeding per birth event. 

You can find the full “Establishing a TRICARE Childbirth and Breastfeeding Support Demonstration” by the Defense Department here that was posted back in October.  

RELATED:

 

 

Basic Needs Allowance for Low-Income Service Members

New Basic Needs Allowance for Low-Income Military Members

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 (NDAA) has been sent to the president’s desk for signature as of 23 December, 2021. If it becomes a law, provisions for a new Basic Needs Allowance will move forward in an effort to combat the food-security issues faced by many lower enlisted service members.

Food Insecurity in the Military?

In 2021, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) conducted a survey of over 11,000 service members and their families. They asked one question:

“In the past 12 months, have you, or someone in your household, had to visit a charitable food distribution site to make ends meet?”

The results of that survey are mind-blowing. The NMFA Survey found that 14% of those surveyed, or 1,632 military families, reported that they visited a food bank within the past year.

In another study, Blue Star Families conducted a Pulse Check between March 1-16, 2021. Over 4,000 respondents participated in the poll, which included active military, veterans, National Guard, Reserve, and Gold Star spouses or family members.

The Blue Star Family Pulse Check found that 18% of active duty families and 23% of National Guard families reported having difficulties in purchasing food and other essentials within the past year.

Furthermore, within the active duty ranks, food security ranked as a most immediate need for Junior Enlisted (22%), Mid/Senior Enlisted (20%), and Commissioned Officers (23%). In other words, nearly a fifth of the service members polled indicated that food security is an immediate need for them.

Military Family Basic Needs Allowance

With the passage of the NDAA, each of the services is supposed to identify families within their ranks who may benefit from the new Basic Needs Allowance.

According to the text of the legislation, any families whose income is below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for the allowance. For reference, the 2021 Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of three is $21,960 annually, or $1,830 per month. 

The 130% amount for a family of three is $28,548 annually, or $2,379 per month. According to the 2021 Military Pay Charts, that would mean most lower enlisted service members ranked from E1-E3 are eligible if they have families.

How Much Is the Basic Needs Allowance?

According to the text of the bill, the amount of the allowance will be determined as follows:

The amount of the monthly allowance payable to a member…shall be the amount equal to 130% of the Federal poverty guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services for the calendar year during which the allowance is paid based on the location of the member and the number of individuals in the household of the member during the month for which the allowance is paid; minus the gross household income of the member during the preceding year; divided by 12.

The gross household income means all household income, which seems to mean BAH and BAS are also included. However, the Secretary of Defense has the latitude to determine whether or not the BAH should be counted in the calculation of the new allowance. This provision mainly revolves around areas with a high cost of living.

What About Families with More than One Eligible Member?

If a household has two or more members who are eligible to receive the Basic Needs Allowance, only one of them can receive the allowance at any given time.

Who Is Not Eligible for the Basic Needs Allowance?

A service member who does not have dependents is not eligible for the allowance.

Cadets or Midshipmen at any of the armed forces service academies are ineligible for the allowance.

If a service member is eligible and then gets promoted, prompting for a permanent increase in pay, and that pay increase raises the service member above the policy’s financial guidelines, then that member becomes ineligible.

Curiously, if a service member is demoted and their pay is reduced to within the guidelines of the Basic Needs Allowance, that member will remain ineligible solely based on the reduction in rank.

Any eligible service member may voluntarily elect not to receive the benefit, and they must do so in writing.

How to Apply for Basic Needs Allowance

An eligible service member must apply for the Basic Needs Allowance once the administrative system is in place to do so. Because it’s a new program, they still need to figure out the regulations and policies necessary to administer it, as well as the forms necessary for submission by the service member.

The legislation does state that eligible service members will have to apply or verify their eligibility at least annually. So, it’s not a once-and-done allowance.

Once the Basic Needs Allowance is up and running, the services will begin screening recruits during Initial Entry Training to determine their eligibility.

Timeline for the Basic Needs Allowance

The allowance will begin on or after the date that is one year from the enactment of the National Defense Act of 2022. So, if the president signs it today, the allowance will begin a year from now.

The text of the bill also says that the termination of the Basic Needs Allowance will be December 31, 2027.

More Information Needed

The legislation tasks the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study on food insecurity in the Armed Forces. The results of this study will include:

  1. An analysis of “food deserts” that impact members of the military and their families who live in areas with high costs of living.
  2. A comparison of the current methodology used to determine areas with high costs of living.
  3. Leveraging the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the buying power and consumer spending in specific regions.
  4. The feasibility of setting up a web portal for members of the military to apply for the allowance.
  5. Determining an appropriate allowance to supplement the income of service members suffering food insecurity.

The Defense Secretary will report the initial findings of the study no later than April 1, 2022. The study must be completed and final results submitted to the Committees on Armed Services of both congressional houses no later than October 1, 2022.

That explains the 12 month delay to implement once the NDAA is signed.

Closing Opinion

First, it’s a shame that there are thousands of military families who struggle to make ends meet. With a wallet-killing inflation and a supply chain lag, the problem is fed by things that are largely outside of their control. Even so, no service member or their dependents should have to worry about food.

Second, I’m glad to see that the issue has made it to the halls of Congress. While this legislation is just the first step, only time will tell if the Basic Needs Allowance is as effective as we all hope.

Third, and this is just my bias as a Veteran, if they’re setting aside millions of dollars to implement a new program and conduct a year-long study, why don’t they just raise the pay of our service members.

I understand that food insecurity doesn’t impact a large portion of our Armed Forces. But even one Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airmen, Coast Guardsman, or Guardian who can’t feed their family is a national travesty.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Military Benefit Changes for 2022

Military Benefit Changes for 2022

These are the changes that have been announced so far. Please keep checking back, as we will continue updating new changes to your military benefits for 2022.

TRICARE Updates 2022

TRICARE Pharmacy Network

TRICARE Pharmacy Network will have updates going into 2022. As of December 15th, 2021, Walmart and Sam’s Club will no longer take TRICARE. CVS will be added after being away from the network for the last five years.

 

>> Have questions about you or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

TRICARE Premiums

TRICARE premiums will change for reservists, retired reserves, and some military family members. 

Monthly premiums for TRICARE Reserve Select will be going down. For individuals, they will drop 1% from $47.20 to $46.70. For families, it will go down 3.8% from $238.99 to $229.99. 

Monthly premiums for Retired Reserve will be going up. For Individuals, they will be changing from $484.83 to $502.32. For families, they will be changing from $1,165 to $1,206.59. 

TRICARE Young Adult monthly premiums will also be going up. TRICARE Young Adult Select Premiums will increase from $257 to $265, and TRICARE Young Adult Prime Premiums will increase from $459 to $512. 

Continued Health Care Benefit Program quarterly premiums are also going up. For the member, the amount is changing from $1,599 to $1,654, and for member and family, it is changing from $3,605 to $4,079. 

You should also check on the TRICARE fees that may have changed for 2022 on their website.

COLA Increases

COLA will have an increase of 5.9% in 2022. This is a big jump from the 2021 increase of 1.3%. The last time COLA was close to this percentage was in 2008 with an increase of 5.8%. 

COLA increases are based on the increase in the CPI-W, from the 3rd quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021. Increases can change year to year. The last few years have seen 0.3% in 2017, 2.0% in 2018, 2.8% in 2019, and 1.6% in 2020. Military retirees, those who receive disability payments, or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, as well as Social Security recipients, will all see a 5.9% increase in their monthly payments.

Retirement Pay

When it comes to retirement pay, it is important to keep in mind that since the increase for the year is calculated differently than active duty pay, the raises can seem a little different based on the year. Based on the 5.9% increase, in 2022 you would receive $59 for every $1,000 in government benefits you receive. If a veteran is receiving around $2,000 a month as retirement pay, they would see an increase of $118 a month.

A veteran who entered military service after July 31, 1986, has had the option of going with the “Career Status Bonus” or (CSB)/REDUX instead of the “High 3-year average” option with regards to retirement pay. This means that they would have received $30,000 during their 15th year of service and will see a reduced retirement rate until they are 62 years old. This also means that their COLA increase is reduced by 1%, which would change the amount of the increase they would see in 2022.

VA Disability

VA Disability payments would also increase in 2022. A veteran with a 60% rating would see about a $51 a month increase, while a veteran with a 100% rating would see about an $85 a month increase. The amount they would receive depends on their rating as well as their veteran-dependent status. The rate for 2022 would be 5.9% and is based on COLA rates.

Social Security Payments

According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security benefit in June 2021 was $1,555 for the retired worker. Based on this, the average beneficiary would see an increase of $87 in 2022.

3.0% Military Pay Increase

A 2.7% pay raise has been proposed for 2022. This is a little less than last year which was 3.0%. For junior enlisted, this would be an increase of around $768 a year.

The main guideline for determining military pay raises comes from the quarterly report of the US Employment Cost Index (ECI) which is put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The fiscal 2022 NDAA will need to be passed and then the 2.7% raise will take effect as of Jan 1, 2022.

BAH 2022 Rates

BAH is the Basic Allowance for Housing. The 2022 BAH rates have not been posted yet and the DOD’s BAH calculator still needs to be updated. You can use this to find out how much you will be bringing home for BAH in 2022 once updated. Remember, if your rate goes down you are grandfathered into the old rate unless you move or change rank.

BAH is based on your rank, dependent status, and geographic location. BAH is intended to cover 95% of your housing costs. This % can change each year and was 99% just a few years ago. Your rates are based on your duty station zip code.

Your new BAH rate will go into effect on January 1st and you will see it in your January 15, 2022 paycheck.

The proposed BAH increase will need to be approved by Congress and the President. That being said, individual rates are based on the cost of living in your exact location. 2.7% is being proposed for 2022. In 2021, BAH was 2.9%.

BAS 2022 Rates

BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) 2022 rates have not been updated yet but 2.3% is proposed. BAS had a 3.7% increase in 2021. Rates have not changed all that much in the last few years since they are based on the cost of food.

BAS is meant to be used to pay for food for enlisted and officers. It is only intended to help pay for food, not to cover all the costs. The rate also does not change based on dependents because the money is not meant to cover food for family members.

The increase will take place on January 1st and you will see it on your January 15th, 2022 paychecks.

We will update as more 2022 military benefits changes are announced!

 

>> Have questions about you or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

RELATED:

 

 

TRICARE Pharmacy Network: Walmart & Sam’s Club Out

Walmart and Sam’s Club Are No Longer Part of the TRICARE Pharmacy Network

Where can you go instead?

As of December 15th, 2021, Walmart and Sam’s Club will no longer take TRICARE. This will be a big change and you may be wondering what to do if you normally get your prescriptions from these places. Try not to worry too much, there are still many options for getting your prescriptions.

Keep that December 15th deadline in mind and make sure to transfer your prescriptions over before then. If you keep them at Walmart or Sam’s Club past the date of the change, they will be considered a “non-network” pharmacy. You can still get the prescriptions, however, you would need to pay full price and then submit a claim for reimbursement. These reimbursements are also subject to deductibles or out-of-network cost shares and copays.

Your Best Bet is to go to a Military Pharmacy

When it comes to fulfilling your prescriptions, your best bet is to go to a military pharmacy. You can do so for free. Most are connected to military hospitals or clinics but some are free-standing.  Here is where you can find a military pharmacy near you.

TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery

You can also use TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery, which will ship to any address in the US or US territories to include APO/FPO addresses. Overseas, you must use your APO/FPO address or embassy address if you are assigned to one and don’t have an APO/FPO address. You can’t use your APO/FPO address for refrigerated drugs, and it is not available in Germany.

In the US or US territories, all beneficiaries besides active duty service members will need to get certain maintenance drugs through either TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or at a military pharmacy.

Where Else Can You Go?

You can also use retail network pharmacies. There are more than 56,000 locations in the US and US territories. They are not available in American Samoa. You also can’t find network pharmacies in other overseas locations. In the Philippines, you must get your prescriptions at a certified pharmacy.

With the network pharmacies, you would have your provider send your prescription electronically or hand-carry a written prescription to the pharmacy.

Some big pharmacies that are network pharmacies are:

  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid
  • CVS (coming soon)

After leaving the TRICARE network for 5 years, CVS will be coming back.

In addition, local pharmacies can also be in-network. You can search for those in your local area to see exactly where to go on the TRICARE website.

 

RELATED:

 

 

VA Extends Deadline for Gulf War Veterans’ Disability Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently extended a deadline for Gulf War Veterans to claim disability related to their service.

Originally planned to end December 31, 2021, the VA extended the date to service more Gulf War Veterans claiming disability diagnoses. They’ve extended the deadline to December 31, 2026.

Gulf War Syndrome

The extension revolves around conditions related to something called “Gulf War Syndrome”. These illnesses have been reported by Gulf War Veterans, and they are usually unexplained chronic symptoms. The VA prefers the terms “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illness”. 

Regardless of the name, the symptoms commonly include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Memory problems

Gulf War Veterans do not need to prove a connection between their military service and illnesses to receive VA disability compensation. 

Connection to Military Service

According to the VA’s Public Health website, “[the] VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.”

Presumptive conditions mentioned by the VA can include:

  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) – a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest. It is not directly caused by other conditions.
  • Fibromyalgia – a condition associated with widespread muscle pain. Insomnia, muscle stiffness, headaches, and memory problems are also associated with this condition.
  • Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders – This condition refers to recurring symptoms in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, or abdominal pain.
  • Undiagnosed Illnesses – This could include a number of conditions like abnormal weight loss, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headaches, menstrual disorders, neurological / psychological problems, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.

To be eligible for compensation, a Gulf War Veteran must have been diagnosed by the VA of at least 10% disabled after their service.

RELATED: Disabled Veterans May Get Expanded Retirement Benefits

Who is a Gulf War Veteran?

According to the VA’s definition, Gulf War Service “is active military duty in any … areas in the Southwest Asia theater of operations at any time [between] August 2, 1990 to present.” 

Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011) are also considered Gulf War Veterans.

The Southwest Asia Theater of Operations includes the following areas:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Oman
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
  • The airspace above these locations

If you’ve served in any of these areas, and at the eligible times, then you should take advantage of the VA’s free Gulf War Registry Health Exam. This exam will help find potential long-term problems related to your service in the Gulf. 

Additionally, Veterans eligible for the Gulf War Registry may also be eligible for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

Benefits For Gulf War Veterans

For our Gulf War Veterans suffering from illnesses related to their service, there are a multitude of benefits available.

In addition to the health exam and registries listed above, Gulf War Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation for their conditions. These can be the “medically unexplained illnesses” identified by the VA, and can also include certain Infectious Diseases associated with military service in the Gulf.

To file a new claim, or expand a current disability rating, learn more about VA disability compensation to see what you may be entitled to.

RELATED: How to File VA Disability Claims

Finally, if you served in the Gulf and you’re suffering from any of the conditions listed above, then get your free Gulf War Health Exam. You have just over five years to get this done!

 

 

 

Airmen & Guardians Receive PCS Pet Transportation Assistance

Relief For Moving OCONUS with Pet Transportation Assistance

Having a dog or a cat for a pet can be the best thing. But having a dog or cat and then getting PCS orders for an OCONUS location can be stressful. There are many costs associated with bringing your pets with you, from having to quarantine them, to special vaccinations and the cost of the actual trip. In some cases, families have to find a loving temporary home for their family pet while they are overseas.

The good news is that Airmen and Guardians can now receive PCS Pet Transportation Assistance for up to $1,000. Here is what you need to know.

Who is eligible for this program?

Active duty Airmen and Guardians as well as guard and reserve members who have received PCS orders to or from an OCONUS location.

Is this a grant or a loan?

This is a grant. The money does not have to be paid back.

Which types of pets qualify?

Only dogs and cats.

Where do I apply?

You would apply by filling out a Standard Assistance Application. You can do so by going to the Air Force Aid Society, www.afas.org.

What paperwork will I need to apply?

  • Your PCS orders
  • LES
  • Pet transportation cost estimate/invoice

What if $1,000 isn’t enough?

If you need additional needs-based funding, a loan can be requested. Families can also apply for emergency assistance.

I already spent money on my pet for my PCS, will AFAS reimburse us?

No, AFAS will not reimburse expenses that have already been paid.

When do I apply?

You can apply 60 days before your PCS.

Where do I go for more information?

If you need more information, you can contact your local A&FRC for answers to your questions.

Hopefully, this assistance can help with your upcoming PCS and alleviate some of the financial stresses associated with an OCONUS move.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Tricare Dental Premiums to Increase Soon

Increases Slated for Tricare Dental Premiums

The Tricare Dental Plan (TDP) is a dental insurance opportunity offered to all branches of military. The dental benefit is regulated by United Concordia and is available to eligible active-duty family dependents, eligible National Guard and Reserves service members, and their family dependents. It is offered to both in the continental United States (CONUS) and overseas (OCONUS). However, beginning in May 2021, the premiums for Tricare Dental coverage will be increasing slightly. Service Members should start noticing the coverage increase during the May pay period. The increases will range from $0.05 to $0.47 depending on the Service member’s status and the number of dependents covered by the program.

Active-Duty Coverage

For dependents, whose Service Member is active duty, there are 2 levels of dental coverage.  The active-duty member is not included in the rates.

  • Single coverage is either for a spousal dependent or a single child
  • Family rates are for a spousal dependent and any number of children, or more than one child without a spouse

National Guard and Reserve in a Drilling status

For non-activated National Guard, selected reserve component (what most individuals visualize as “the reserves”), and mobilization Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) component, there are 4 levels of dental coverage.

  • The sponsor only provides coverage to the service member
  • Single coverage does not provide coverage to the service member but covers one family dependent: either a spouse or a child
  • Family coverage includes the spouse and all young dependents but does not cover the military member
  • Sponsor and family include the service member and their spouse and all children

Non-Mobilization IRR

For non-mobilization IRR, there are also 4 tiers of dental coverage.

  • The sponsor only provides coverage to the military member
  • Single coverage does not provide coverage to the service member but covers one family dependent: either a spouse or a child
  • Family coverage includes the spouse and all children but does not include the service member
  • Sponsor and family include both the military member and their spouse and all children

You may need to verify that your payment amounts are adjusted to the new rate

Individuals who receive Tricare Dental benefits and do not pay using the military payroll payment option need to verify that their payment amounts are adjusted to the new rate. If fees are not paid upon the due date, you could be disenrolled from the Tricare Dental program.

What happens if I’ve been disenrolled from the Tricare Dental program?

Once you have been disenrolled, you are ineligible to re-enroll for at least 12 months.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for enrollment into the TDP, your sponsor must have at least 12 months remaining on their military contract at the time of enrollment. Eligible family members include spouses and children until age 21 (or age 23 if full-time students). Therefore, you enroll for 12 months.

Cost-Sharing

In addition to monthly premiums, Tricare Dental Plan coverage offers cost-sharing for most of the service branches.  This ranges from from 0% to 50%.

Tricare Dental Maximum Payment Limits

There are also additional maximum payment limits of:

  • $1,300 per year per person for regular coverage
  • $1,200 per year per person for services related to accidents
  • $1,750 lifetime maximum limit per individual for orthodontic coverage benefits

Is Tricare Dental right for you?

For most families and situations, Tricare Dental Plan coverage is a great option. However, some individuals may find it more cost-effective to “self-insure” for dental expenses.  Individuals in the National Guard and reservists and retirees in particular may find “self-insuring” more cost-effective. The cost-benefit analysis for each situation needs to include:

  • family size
  • genetic dental disposition
  • personal dental habits
  • general dental health

There is obviously no one correct answer for every family.

How to Enroll

To enroll in the Tricare Dental Program, visit the Tricare enrollment page and register online. Unfortunately, if you are OCONUS, you cannot enroll online; see the instructions on the enrollment page for more information.

 

RELATED:

 

 

 

Military Pay Charts 2022 [updated]

2022 Military Pay Charts

On June 30th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2022 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill, which includes a 2.7% pay raise for service members.

In total, the bill provides $279.9 billion for programs that cover veterans’ health care and military construction, among other things. This legislation is more than 10 percent higher — $28.1 billion — than the 2021 budget.

This raise is lower than the 2020 amount of 3.1%. But it is still higher than all other pay raises since 2011, which only gave a 1.4% raise.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Military Pay Increases in 2022

Military Pay Increases tied to ECI

According to federal law, military pay increases are tied to the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Under federal law, the ECI number is used in setting the proposed pay changes for the military. The ECI is a measure of the changes in pay versus living costs.

The ECI is based on the data for 12 months through each September.   Then, a half percentage point is taken off that figure, and locality pay is determined to also be paid. The resulting percentage for the period to be applied toward January 2022 sits at 2.7%. According to the military pay raise formula outlined in title 37, the military pay raise for 2022 will be 2.7%.  However, this can also serve as a guideline and the White House or Congress can propose another figure.

Find the 2022 military pay charts below.

By Paygrade: Military Pay Charts for 2022

The military pay raise can be highly debated each year.  It isn’t as simple as the President or Congress just picking a number. The ECI (US Employment Cost Index) determines the pay raise each year.  The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out this figure each year.

2022 Military Pay Charts

Enlisted: E-1 – E-3

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsE-1E-2E-3
< 2$1,833$2,055$2,161
Over 2$1,833$2,055$2,297
Over 3$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 4$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 6$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 8$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 10$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 12$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 14$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 16$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 18$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 20$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 22$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 24$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 26$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 28$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 30$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 32$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 34$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 36$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 38$1,833$2,055$2,436
Over 40$1,833$2,055$2,436

 

Enlisted: E-4 – E-6

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsE-4E-5E-6
< 2$2,393$2,610$2,849
Over 2$2,516$2,786$3,136
Over 3$2,652$2,921$3,274
Over 4$2,787$3,059$3,409
Over 6$2,906$3,273$3,549
Over 8$2,906$3,498$3,864
Over 10$2,906$3,682$3,988
Over 12$2,906$3,704$4,226
Over 14$2,906$3,704$4,298
Over 16$2,906$3,704$4,351
Over 18$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 20$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 22$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 24$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 26$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 28$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 30$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 32$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 34$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 36$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 38$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 40$2,906$3,704$4,413

Senior Enlisted: E-7 – E-9

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsE-7E-8E-9
< 2$3,294
Over 2$3,596
Over 3$3,734
Over 4$3,915
Over 6$4,058
Over 8$4,303$4,739
Over 10$4,441$4,949$5,789
Over 12$4,685$5,078$5,921
Over 14$4,889$5,234$6,086
Over 16$5,027$5,402$6,280
Over 18$5,175$5,706$6,477
Over 20$5,233$5,861$6,791
Over 22$5,425$6,123$7,057
Over 24$5,528$6,268$7,336
Over 26$5,921$6,626$7,764
Over 28$5,921$6,626$7,764
Over 30$5,921$6,759$8,152
Over 32$5,921$6,759$8,152
Over 34$5,921$6,759$8,560
Over 36$5,921$6,759$8,560
Over 38$5,921$6,759$8,989
Over 40$5,921$6,759$8,989

Warrant Officers:  W-1 – W-3

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsW-1W-2W-3
< 2$3,399$3,872$4,376
Over 2$3,765$4,238$4,558
Over 3$3,863$4,351$4,746
Over 4$4,071$4,429$4,807
Over 6$4,316$4,679$5,002
Over 8$4,679$5,070$5,338
Over 10$4,848$5,264$5,789
Over 12$5,085$5,454$5,979
Over 14$5,317$5,687$6,198
Over 16$5,500$5,869$6,423
Over 18$5,669$6,033$6,828
Over 20$5,873$6,231$7,102
Over 22$5,873$6,360$7,265
Over 24$5,873$6,463$7,439
Over 26$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 28$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 30$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 32$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 34$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 36$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 38$5,873$6,463$7,676
Over 40$5,873$6,463$7,676

 

Warrant Officers:  W-4 – W-5

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsW-4W-5
< 2$4,792
Over 2$5,154
Over 3$5,302
Over 4$5,448
Over 6$5,699
Over 8$5,947
Over 10$6,198
Over 12$6,575
Over 14$6,907
Over 16$7,222
Over 18$7,480
Over 20$7,732$8,520
Over 22$8,101$8,952
Over 24$8,405$9,275
Over 26$8,751$9,630
Over 28$8,751$9,630
Over 30$8,926$10,113
Over 32$8,926$10,113
Over 34$8,926$10,618
Over 36$8,926$10,618
Over 38$8,926$11,150
Over 40$8,926$11,150

 

Commissioned Officers: O-1E – O3E (w/ Prior Enlisted Experience)

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsO-1EO-2EO-3E
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4$4,376$5,433$6,185
Over 6$4,672$5,535$6,482
Over 8$4,845$5,721$6,807
Over 10$5,022$6,019$7,017
Over 12$5,195$6,249$7,363
Over 14$5,433$6,421$7,655
Over 16$5,433$6,421$7,823
Over 18$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 20$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 22$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 24$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 26$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 28$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 30$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 32$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 34$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 36$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 38$5,433$6,421$8,051
Over 40$5,433$6,421$8,051

Commissioned Officers: O-1 – O-3

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsO-1O-2O-3
< 2$3,477$4,007$4,637
Over 2$3,620$4,563$5,256
Over 3$4,376$5,255$5,672
Over 4$4,376$5,433$6,185
Over 6$4,376$5,544$6,482
Over 8$4,376$5,544$6,807
Over 10$4,376$5,544$7,017
Over 12$4,376$5,544$7,363
Over 14$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 16$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 18$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 20$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 22$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 24$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 26$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 28$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 30$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 32$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 34$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 36$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 38$4,376$5,544$7,544
Over 40$4,376$5,544$7,544

 

Commissioned Officers: O-4 – O6

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsO-4O-5O-6
< 2$5,274$6,112$7,332
Over 2$6,104$6,885$8,055
Over 3$6,512$7,362$8,583
Over 4$6,603$7,451$8,583
Over 6$6,981$7,749$8,616
Over 8$7,386$7,927$8,985
Over 10$7,892$8,318$9,035
Over 12$8,285$8,606$9,035
Over 14$8,558$8,977$9,548
Over 16$8,715$9,544$10,455
Over 18$8,805$9,814$10,988
Over 20$8,805$10,081$11,521
Over 22$8,805$10,384$11,824
Over 24$8,805$10,384$12,131
Over 26$8,805$10,384$12,725
Over 28$8,805$10,384$12,725
Over 30$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 32$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 34$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 36$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 38$8,805$10,384$12,980
Over 40$8,805$10,384$12,980

 

Flag and General Officers: O-7 – O-8

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsO-7O-8
< 2$9,668$11,636
Over 2$10,118$12,012
Over 3$10,325$12,270
Over 4$10,491$12,341
Over 6$10,790$12,656
Over 8$11,085$13,183
Over 10$11,427$13,306
Over 12$11,768$13,807
Over 14$12,110$13,951
Over 16$13,183$14,382
Over 18$14,090$15,006
Over 20$14,090$15,581
Over 22$14,090$15,966
Over 24$14,090$15,966
Over 26$14,162$15,966
Over 28$14,162$15,966
Over 30$14,446$16,366
Over 32$14,446$16,366
Over 34$14,446$16,774
Over 36$14,446$16,774
Over 38$14,446$16,774
Over 40$14,446$16,774

 

Flag and General Officers: O-9 – O-10

2022 Pay Charts (2.7% increase from 2021)

YearsO-9O-10
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4
Over 6
Over 8
Over 10
Over 12
Over 14
Over 16
Over 18
Over 20$16,445$16,975
Over 22$16,682$16,975
Over 24$16,975$16,975
Over 26$16,975$16,975
Over 28$16,975$16,975
Over 30$16,975$16,975
Over 32$16,975$16,975
Over 34$16,975$16,975
Over 36$16,975$16,975
Over 38$16,975$16,975
Over 40$16,975$16,975

 

RELATED:

 

 

2022 Defense Budget Proposal: What It Means For You

NDAA 2022: Defense Budget Proposal and 2021 Updates

The White House has requested almost $270 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs budget for 2022. This is a 10% increase from 2021. This does include a discretionary budget request of $117.2 billion with medical care collections, and a mandatory funding request of $152.7 billion. 

** 2022 Budget Update Related to Military Pay Raise **

On June 30th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2022 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill, which includes a 2.7% pay raise for service members.

What’s in the Budget?

Specifically, the legislation invests in women’s health, mental health, and homelessness assistance.

As for construction, the bill includes funds to construct critical facilities on military installations, including:

  • Family housing
  • Child care centers
  • Building or repairing Veterans Affairs facilities

NDAA Budget Breakdown

Included in the $117.2 billion discretionary budget request is:

  • $2.2 billion for veterans homelessness programs
  • $598 million for veterans suicide prevention outreach programs 
  • An increase of $81.5 million for the Digital GI Bill Modernization Effort to better serve veterans using their GI Bill benefits. 
  • An increase of $5 million for Veterans’ Clean Energy Job Training in conjunction with the Department of Labor
  • An increase of $3.6 million for the VA Disability Employment Pilot Project 
  • A $12.9 million increase to strengthen the VAs diversity program. The VA has created a new Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion.
  • $1.4 billion for the Caregiver Support Program which would also then include all eligible veterans no matter when they served. 

Congress will now need to start its deliberations over the funding amounts and final language of the spending bill, with a goal of doing so by October 1st of this year. You can read more about the budget on the VA website

Key Takeaways from the 2021 Defense Budget

The William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395), was finally passed at the onset of the New Year, January 1st, after having been vetoed by former President Trump. Both the Senate and the US House of Representatives voted to override the president’s veto, which made the bill a law.

The $740 billion bill includes pay raises for America’s service members, equipment modernizations, and some anti-money laundering provisions, among other things. Many of the topics included in the budget do not directly impact you directly, like the repurposing of nuclear warheads, but here is a break out of the sections of the law that do:

  • Pay raise: The rate of monthly basic pay for members of the uniformed services are increased by 3.0 percent.
  • Credit for retired pay purposes: Periods of maternity leave taken by a member of the Armed Forces reserve components shall count toward the member’s entitlement to retired pay.
  • Travel and transportation allowances will now cover fares and tolls.
  • Space suits: probably not real space suits, but the law has authorized a one-time uniform allowance to officers who transfer to the Space Force. This is significant since officers are not generally authorized a uniform allowance.
  • Special Pay Extensions: The law allows for a one-year extension for special and bonus pays, including bonuses, hazardous duty pay, skill incentive pay, and aviation incentive pay, to name but a few.
  • For officers in health professions, an increase in special and incentive pays was authorized.
  • Spouse Relicensing Costs due to PCS: Reimbursements for relicensing costs caused by a PCS move are not to exceed $1,000 and not to extend past December 31, 2024.
  • Expansion of assistance for Gold Star spouses and other dependents.
  • Improvements to breast cancer screenings.
  • Expansion of benefits available under TRICARE Extended Health Care Option Program.
  • The sale of hearing aids for dependents of certain members of the Reserves.
  • The inclusion of members of the Reserve Components in mental health programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

2021 Defense Budget Summary

So, you may have already seen that your pay has gone up slightly, by exactly 3%. That’s not bad, considering the inflation rate for the year that ended January 2021 was 1.4%. That keeps you a step ahead of inflation for now. I still remember the whopping 1.0% increase from 2015!

The other big one was the Spouse Relicensing provision. Across the military, PCS moves are a part of life, and it is an enduring challenge for us military spouses to maintain our employability with each move. The new law authorizes up to $1,000 per instance of relicensing caused by a PCS move. The program only lasts, as of now, until the end of 2024. So either PCS moves will go away, or they’ll have to extend the provision before that deadline.

Another provision we are watching closely is the TRICARE extension to our dependents who are over eighteen years of age. In light of the pandemic, health care for our young adults has become a pressing issue. This provision would extend the TRICARE coverage, at no cost, to dependents until age 26, which is similar to the provisions from the Affordable Care Act.

As specifics become available, we will report them further!

(Image taken by Spc. Jessica Scott, courtesy of the US Army)

 

RELATED:

 

 

Top Podcasts for Military, Veterans and Their Families

Popular Podcasts for the Military Community

If this past year has done anything for the seeking of entertainment, it’s driven people to find new and interesting ways to occupy themselves. One such way to absorb yourself in a welcomed distraction, possibly learn new things, and potentially multi-task at the same time is to listen to podcasts.

Jump to list of popular podcasts for the military.

What exactly is a podcast? A dictionary definition states that a podcast is “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.” That’s not very informative. The modern-day word podcast comes from a combination of iPod and broadcast, but is a concept that actually comes from the 1980s, called audio blogging.

History of Podcasts

Podcasts didn’t really become popular until the early 2000s, when portable audio devices that were able to connect to the internet started to readily emerge for the general public, and internet-based streaming became a common way of life. At first, podcasts were mostly conducted by large companies to promote their businesses and products, but today, podcasts can be created and uploaded by practically anybody for any reason. The most popular form of podcasting is basically an audio version of a tv show (though more and more podcasts are conducting video-recordings of their sessions and uploading these to personal websites or YouTube as well). People have referred to podcasts as “Netflix for audio,” “audio on demand,” and even “downloadable niche talk radio.”

Podcast Popularity

For some additional insight into podcast popularity, current statistics look like this:

  • Over 55% of the US population has listened to a podcast
  • In 2020 over 155 million people listen to a podcast every week
  • There are over 700,000 active podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes available
  • 49% of podcast listening happens at home, 22% happens while driving, 11% at work, and 8% while exercising
  • In 2021, the top five categories for podcasts are society & culture, business, comedy, health, news & politics

There is no right or wrong way to conduct or format a podcast in this day and age. You can find podcasts about anything, from true crime to fandom-themed discussions, to comedy shows, and so much more. That being said, it can oftentimes be difficult to find something relevant or appealing to you. To hopefully make the process of choosing a podcast that’s a perfect fit for you easier, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular podcasts for different types of listeners in the military community.

Popular Podcasts for Active Duty Service Members

Women of the Military

Air Force veteran Amanda Huffman brings her experience as a former officer and military spouse while she exclusively interviews female active duty service members and veterans.

DODReads: What are you Reading?

Dedicated to inspiring a culture of scholarship and lifelong learning in the Armed Forces, four active duty and veteran hosts interview senior military leaders to inform upon their reading habits, best practices, and leadership practices.

War on the Rocks

On this show, Ryan Evans, once a deployed U.S. Army civilian in Afghanistan, talks policy, life, and security while enjoying a few drinks.

Combat and Classics

Sponsored by St. John’s College, this is a series of podcasts and free online seminars for active duty, reserve, and veteran U.S. military members.

War College

Discussion revolves around the weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with.

Mind of the Warrior

Dr. Mike Simpson, former Special Forces Operator, talks with top-ranking policemen, combat veterans, MMA experts, and more to dive into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.”

Jocko

Hosted by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink and Echo Charles, this show focuses on discipline, business, war, relationships and more. The hosts focus on speaking openly, bluntly, and unapologetically.

Why We Lead

Led by Air Force pilot Christopher Little, this show focuses on developing the careers of military leaders through professional military interviews and discussion of articles and videos. Its aim is to educate, connect with, and develop today’s warfighters.

Popular Podcasts for Transitioning Service Members

Mandatory Fun

A military and pop culture show which focuses on breaking cultural tropes and bridging the military-civilian divide, hosted by veterans representing different branches.

Drop and Give Me 20

A podcast for military entrepreneurs, each episode gives a glimpse into the life of other successful military entrepreneurs by retelling their personal stories, challenges, and wins.

Veteran Transitions

The focus of this show is for military veterans to tell the story of their life, specifically around the period of military-to-civilian transition, hosted by a Marine Corps veteran.

RELATED: Virtual Job Fairs for Military and Veterans

SuccessVets

A resource for transitioning military service members, with inspiring stories, awesome tips, and helpful interviews of other successful veterans.

Mentors for Military

Hosted by 17 veterans, listeners can hear real stories from real people who want to help them improve their daily lives and focus on personal growth.

DriveOn

This podcast talks about challenges soldiers face when coming back home. Reacquainting with loved ones, finding a purpose outside of the military, and more.

Popular Podcasts for Veterans

Veteran Artist Program

From veteran BR McDonald, this podcast aims to foster, encourage and promote veterans in the arts by helping you learn about the artists, leaders and organizations making a difference in the veteran artist community.

Frontlines of Freedom

The show covers relevant military news and events that matter to military families, including veterans’ activities and homeland security issues coming from retired Airborne Ranger Lt. Col. Denny Gillem.

Veteran’s PATH

Considered “the” mental health podcast for veterans, this show aims to help you find Peace, Acceptance, Transformation, and Honor through practical tools like meditation and mindfulness, physical and outdoor experiences, and a community of camaraderie.

Veteran Café

A light-hearted approach to veteran and active service member issues. The show is hosted by Wes and Tracy, a husband and wife duo who both served.

Veteran Resource

This show was created to introduce veterans to Veteran Service Organizations by veteran and advocate Jeremy Paris. Each week he interviews a different VSO to find out their mission, projects, challenges, and services.

Popular Podcasts for Military Spouses and Families

Lifegiver

This podcast has honest conversations and real resources military families can use. The host is Corie Weathers, a licensed professional counselor who has spent the last 20 years specializing in women’s issues, PTSD, marriage, divorce, and substance abuse.

MilSpouse Coffeehouse

Leslie and Britni, both military spouses of 10+ years, chat and provide their insight and opinions (and that of their guests).  They cover hot topics in the military spouse community and beyond.

Male MilSpouse Radio

Hosted by Dave Etter, veteran and 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year, this show explores issues affecting male military spouses, financial information, and general military discussions.

MilSpouse Matters

A podcast dedicated to encouraging military spouses, it doesn’t shy away from the hard topics, while providing a practical, humorous look at military life.

Hurry Up and Wait

Army wife and podcast host Carlee Wengel shares tips, tricks, advice, and personal stories to help guide you on your military spouse adventure.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Military Pay Raises Likely to Be Smaller for 2022

Military Pay in 2022 Likely to Not Increase as Much as Last 2 Years

For the last 2 years, service members have enjoyed pay raises of at least 3%.  However, it is becoming apparent that troops should not count on a similar military pay raise in 2022.

The New White House Administration and Congress have not begun work on the next military budget; however, the federal government’s formula to determine pay raises has already been established. Title 37 USC is labeled as “Pay and Allowances of the Uniformed Services.” Chapter 19 Section 1009 of title 37 established the specifics of monthly basic pay.

 

>> View the proposed 2022 military pay charts!

How is the Military Pay Raise Determined?

According to federal law, military pay increases are to mirror private-sector wage growth as stated by the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Under that law, the ECI number—a measure of the changes in pay, not living costs—for the 12 months through each September is supposed to be used in setting the across-the-board segment in the White House’s subsequent budget proposal for the following fiscal year. A half percentage point is to be taken off that amount, and locality pay is determined to also be paid, varying by locality. The resulting figure for the measuring period toward January 2022 was 2.7%. According to the military pay raise formula outlined in title 37, the military pay raise for 2022 will be 2.7%.

 

“According to the military pay raise formula…the military pay raise for 2022 will be 2.7%.”

 

This means that military pay raises are usually higher when the economy is healthy, straightforward, and simple. Recent historic “high” military pay raises resulted from a rising economy over the past three years (pre-COVID), following several notably stagnant economic years.

Prior to COVID, employment was historically high during this recent period, and unemployment was at record lows for all demographic and social-economic sectors. Domestic production was up, private-sector wage growth too high, etc.

Can the White House or Congress Use a Different Percentage for a Military Pay Raise?

The percentage increase for a military pay raise is not entirely locked in. The administration and Congress can still increase it, if they determine that the gap between civilian and military wages has grown within the last few years.  Additionally, they can decrease it to save on military funding allowing them to allocate money towards other assets resources.

Faced with a vast $3 trillion economic deficit and continuing pandemic recovery measures yet to come, appropriations will be a stringent environment for the next few years. Lawmakers are already discussing level DoD budgets and will indeed look at different avenues to increase future savings.

Over the past 5 years, lawmakers have decided to stick to the federal formula for pay raises and not make any discernable changes, stating the need to keep military salaries competitive with private-sector wages.

 

“A small 0.5% increase in pay equals about $3 billion in additional spending over five years.”

Military Pay Increase Examples

  • For junior enlisted service members, a 2.7% increase in 2022 would amount to roughly $790 more a year in income over 2021 levels.
  • For senior enlisted servicemembers and junior officers, that hike equals about $1,400 more.
  • An O-4 with 12 years’ service would see an increase of more than $2,600 extra next year with a 2.7% increase in wages.

To view the proposed increases in a military pay chart format, please go here.

Pentagon Warnings About Impact of Pay Raises

Pentagon leaders have stated warnings that pay increases above the federal formula can remove resources from other military assets or needs. A small 0.5% increase in pay equals about $3 billion in additional spending over 5 years, given the number of service members and the way each year’s raise stacks upon the previous one.

Researching the Pay Raise Calculation

In order to adequately research the pay raise calculation, a Service Member can visit the DFAS MyPay website or Federalpay.Org. The FederalPay.org website is a free public resource for United States Government employees.

They have pay tables and calculators for all 4 major Federal Government pay scales and military service members.  In addition, they offer:

  • a depository of information on Per Diem rates
  • all Federal holidays
  • a government employee database

This is a data-based created by federal employees for federal employees.

 

>> View the proposed 2022 military pay charts!

 

RELATED:

 

 

Payback Deadline for Deferred Social Security Tax Extended

Payback Deadline for Deferred Social Security Tax Extended

With the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 just last week, the major change affecting service members, federal employees, and their families is the extension for repayment of deferred payroll taxes.

Effective September 1, 2020, through a presidential order, military and federal employees’ paychecks presented a deferment of their 6.2% Social Security tax. Intended as a COVID relief measure, federal organizations participated in this deferment as a way to provide their employees with “a temporary boost in take-home pay for the remainder of the year.”

 

>> Frustrated with your VA disability rating?  Register for a free consultation for help with increasing your rating to get the compensation you deserve.  Please go here.

 

Under normal circumstances, employers split the responsibility of the 12.4% Social Security tax with employees; with this order, the employer took on the full responsibility of that tax for their employees whose biweekly pay was below $4,000 pre-tax.

It was made very clear, however, that employees would be responsible for paying their deferred amounts back come the new year. As one CNBC reporter compared, “This is a holiday in which the work continues to pile up on your desk when you’re gone, and you take care of it when you come back.” As many others said, it’s like kicking the can down the road. Many military and federal employees criticized the decision to force this into effect without the choice to opt-out.

According to Defense Financial and Accounting Service (DFAS), the original IRS guidance for repayment of the deferred 2020 Social Security tax read:

Military Members –

  • For active duty military members, the total amount of 2020 deferred Social Security taxes will be collected evenly from pay between January 1 through December 31, 2021 (instead of January 1, 2021 to April 30, 2021). 
  • For reservists and guardsmen performing intermittent duty in 2021, the amount collected may not be the same every pay period. DFAS will collect 2% of net available from each weekly, mid-month and end-of-month pay, and will continue until the deferred taxes have been repaid in full.
  • Beginning in January 2021, your myPay LES will reflect the monthly collection amount and contain a note in the remarks section that shows the remaining balance of deferred Social Security taxes. 

Civilian Employees –

  • The amount of Social Security taxes deferred in 2020 will be collected in 24 installments between pay-periods ending January 16 and December 4, 2021.
  • Beginning in January 2021, your myPay LES Remarks section will include the 2020 deferred OASDI collection amount in that pay period, as well as the remaining balance to be collected. 

With the changes put into place by the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, repayment of the deferred payroll taxes will be extended to December 31, 2021 instead.

The deferred taxes will be deducted in even amounts over 12 months instead of only 4. While affected personnel will see smaller paychecks, this new plan will spread it out in an attempt to hopefully lessening the burden.

What this will look like on a check stub is a resumption of the normal 6.2% Social Security tax plus a percentage of previously deferred tax. For service members, who get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, to determine the amount owed, follow this method:

  • Log into the myPay website and navigate to the final 2020 Leave and Earning Statement (LES)
  • Multiply 6.2% times the amount of basic pay received from September through December 2020
  • Divide that number by 24. This will show the additional amount that will be withheld each paycheck for the year of 2021.

It should be noted, these calculations may not apply to those who are recently separated or retired, or for those who entered service during this deferment period.

All branches of service offer personal financial management programs if you are struggling to budget or are experiencing financial hardship:

Each base may also have their own specialized programs in addition to these.

 

>> Frustrated with your VA disability rating?  Register for a free consultation for help with increasing your rating to get the compensation you deserve.  Please go here.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Military Benefits Changes for 2021

2021 Benefit Updates for Veterans and Military

These are the changes that have been announced so far. Please keep checking back, as we will continue updating new changes to your military benefits for 2021.

>> Stay up-to-date on all the military benefits you care about!  Sign up for the MyMilitaryBenefits Benefits newsletter today!

TRICARE

New Monthly Premiums For TRICARE Young Adult Plans in 2021

One of the upcoming changes for 2021 is an increase in premiums for TRICARE Young Adult (TYA)TRICARE Young Adult is available for purchase by qualified dependent children under the age of 26.

TYA Select will increase by 12.7%, which means going from $228 to $257 per month. 

TYA Prime is going up by 22%, from $376 to $459 per month.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, Military dependents who use, or plan to use, Tricare Young Adult (TYA) for their health coverage will see a spike in premium costs.

This large price increase is particularly concerning because, thanks to Covid-19, it comes at a time when access to healthcare is more urgent than ever, meanwhile, many families are struggling financially.

These changes reflect the increase in TYA program costs for calendar year 2021.

About TRICARE Young Adult

TYA was created to ensure that military children had access to their parents’ health insurance in line with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. Military dependents are eligible to enroll in the TYA program once they have aged out of Tricare, either on their 21st birthday or their 23rd if they are full-time students. They may remain on TYA until they turn 26.

While the ACA allows adult children to stay on their parents’ insurance without adding any extra cost to their family plan, the law that created TYA mandated that it be cost-neutral, meaning the premiums have to cover the use and cost of the program. Consequently, TYA premiums are based on commercial insurance rates and coverage, which is why they’re going up.

Group A Retired Beneficiaries

TRICARE Select Group A will be required to start paying a new monthly enrollment fee to maintain their coverage. This will begin January 1st, 2021.

You’re considered a Group A retired beneficiary if your initial enlistment or appointment ––or that of your uniformed services sponsor–– began before Jan. 1, 2018.

>> Frustrated with your VA disability rating?  Register for a free consultation for help with increasing your rating to get the compensation you deserve.  Please go here.

 

Enrollment fees will be priced as follows:

Individual Group A military retirees under age 65, will pay $12.50 a month for individual coverage, or $150 annually.

Enrollment fees for those with families will be $25 a month, or $300 annually.

The Catastrophic Cap will increase from $3,000 to $3,500, and the enrollment fees can apply towards it. 

Those fees were put into law in the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act but were delayed until January 2021.

The fees don’t apply to retirees in the Tricare for Life program, nor does it affect Chapter 61 retirees (SRSC) receiving disability retirement and their family members, and survivors of deceased active duty service members.

Active duty family members don’t pay Tricare Select enrollment fees.

Group A must pay these fees by December 31, 2020.  

If you are a Tricare Select Group A member and want to learn more about this change, and/or set up enrollment, click here.

Tricare Prescription Drug Costs Will Stay the Same

Prescriptions will continue to be available at no cost for those who can use a pharmacy at a military treatment facility.

Co-payments for medications available at retail pharmacies and through the Tricare mail-order system will not increase next year. 30-day prescriptions at Tricare network pharmacies for generic drugs will remain at $13, and brand name prescriptions will remain at $33.

Co-payments for prescriptions available through Tricare’s home delivery program will also stay the same, a 90-day supply of a generic drug delivered by mail will be $10, a brand-name medication, $29 for a 90-day prescription, and $60 for a medication not listed in the Tricare formulary.

>> Stay up-to-date on all the military benefits you care about!  Sign up for the MyMilitaryBenefits Benefits newsletter today!

 

COLA Increases

COLA will have an increase of 1.3% in 2021 which is lower than the 2020 increase of 1.6%. The increases in COLA are based on the increase in the CPI-W, from the 3rd quarter of 2019 through the third quarter of 2020. Increases can change year to year. The last few years have seen 0.3% in 2017, 2.0% in 2018, 2.8% in 2019, and 1.6% in 2020. Military retirees, those who receive disability payments, or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, as well as Social Security recipients, will all see the 1.3% increase in their monthly payments.

Retirement Pay

When it comes to retirement pay, it is important to keep in mind that since the increase for the year is calculated differently than active duty pay, the raises can seem a little different based on the year. Based on the 1.3% increase, in 2021 you would receive $13 for every $1,000 in government benefits you receive. If a veteran is receiving around $2,000 a month as retirement pay, they would see an increase of $26 a month.

A veteran who entered military service after July 31, 1986, has had the option of going with the “Career Status Bonus” or (CSB)/REDUX instead of the “High 3-year average” option with regards to retirement pay. This means that they would have received $30,000 during their 15th year of service and will see a reduced retirement rate until they are 62 years old. This also means that their COLA increase is reduced by 1%, which would change the amount of the increase they would see in 2021.

VA Disability

VA Disability payments would also increase in 2021. A veteran with a 60% rating would see about a $15 a month increase, while a veteran with a 100% rating would see about a $40 a month increase. The amount they would receive depends on their rating as well as their veteran dependent status. The rate for 2021 would be 1.3% and is based on COLA rates. 

RELATED: VA Disability Pay for 2021 (with chart)

 

>> Frustrated with your VA disability rating?  Register for a free consultation for help with increasing your rating to get the compensation you deserve.  Please go here.

 

Social Security Payments

Beyond veteran payments are social security payments. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security benefit in June 2020 was $1,514 for the retired worker. Based on this, the average beneficiary would see an increase of $20 in 2021.

3.0% Military Pay Increase

In February of this year, the White House proposed a 3.0% pay increase for service members to take place on January 1, 2021. For junior enlisted, this would be an increase of almost $800 a year and down from 3.1% in 2020, and up from 2.6% in 2019.

The main guideline for determining military pay raises comes from the quarterly report of the US Employment Cost Index (ECI) which is put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The fiscal 2021 NDAA was passed and the 3.0% raise took effect as of Jan 1, 2021.

BAH 2021 Rates

BAH is the Basic Allowance for Housing. The 2021 BAH rates have been updated as of 12/15/2020. You can use the calculator here to figure out what your 2021 BAH rates will be. Remember, if your rate goes down you are grandfathered into the old rate unless you move or change rank.

RELATED: BAH Calculator

BAH is based on your rank, dependent status, and geographic location. BAH is intended to cover 95% of your housing costs. This % can change each year and was 99% just a few years ago. Your rates are based on your duty station zip code.

Your new BAH rate will go into effect on January 1st and you will see it in your January 15, 2021 paycheck.

The proposed BAH increase is approved by Congress and the President. That being said, individual rates are based on the cost of living in your exact location. In 2021, the rate ended up being 2.9%. In 2020, it was 2.8%. 

BAS 2021 Rates

BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) 2021 rates were updated on December 14th, 2020. They have gone up 3.7%. Officers will now receive $266.18 a month and enlisted will receive $386.50. They had a proposed increase of 2.4% for 2020, that ended up being .90% once approved.

BAS is meant to be used to pay for food for enlisted and officers. It is only intended to help pay for food, not to cover all the costs. The rate also does not change based on dependents because the money is not meant to cover food for family members.

The increase will take place on January 1st and you will see it on your January 15th, 2021 paychecks.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Limits Will Stay the Same

The IRS recently announced that the maximum amount of money service members can contribute to their tax-deferred, or tax-free, retirement savings plans such as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) will stay the same in 2021.

The maximum contribution rates in 2021 will be:

  • $19,500 for regular TSP or 401(k) contributions
  • $6,500 for catch-up contributions for those 50 and over
  • $58,000 annual limit for tax-free combat zone pay (up from $57,000 for 2020)

We will update as more 2021 military benefits changes are announced!

 

>> Stay up-to-date on all the military benefits you care about!  Sign up for the MyMilitaryBenefits Benefits newsletter today!

 

RELATED:

 

 

Veterans Advantage & Legacy Deliver Fertility Benefits

Veterans Advantage & Legacy Deliver Fertility Benefits

If you are a member of the military community, then you may already be familiar with Veterans Advantage. It is a website that has been around for twenty years and offers exclusive discounts to active military, reservists, National Guard, retirees, veterans, and family members. I’ve used a number of their discounts on phone service, online shopping, and even pet supplies.

On August 11th, Veterans Advantage announced a partnership with Legacy, an international company specializing in male fertility, to offer a 25% discount on their core products which can help our nation’s veterans protect their opportunity for future parenthood. Male fertility can be impacted by one’s lifestyle, and we know that life in the military is not easy. Taking steps to improve and preserve fertility is important as many couples are waiting longer to have children.

The discount applies to the at-home fertility testing and analysis kit, which is the first step in cryogenically preserving your future. The cost of the kit is $195, so 25% off is a great deal. After testing and analysis, you will have three options: Analysis only, 5-year Storage, or Lifetime storage. Each storage option also comes with personalized lifestyle recommendations to improve reproductive health and fertility.

For Today

The analysis-only plan is called For Today, and it offers a full analysis, personalized recommendations, and short-term complimentary storage. This is included in the $195.

For Tomorrow

This plan offers everything from the previous plan, but it also comes with 5 years of cryogenic, multi-geography storage which is renewable each year. Legacy also offers a telehealth appointment with a fertility specialist as part of this plan. The cost is $995.

The Forever Plan

Legacy’s Forever Plan is just that: forever. Not only do you get the benefits of the previous two plans, the Forever Plan offers lifetime cryogenic storage with worldwide transfer available. You will have unlimited telehealth appointments and priority access to Legacy’s research and development findings. For $3,995, those are substantial benefits.

The Advantage of Veterans Advantage

When you enroll with Veterans Advantage, you will receive a unique discount code that you can use to purchase a Legacy package. You will enter your Veterans Advantage discount code in the “Promo Code” section while ordering.

If you are unsure about which package would best suit your fertility needs, Legacy has a Help Center that can answer your questions. Call +1 (617) 514-0901 for more information. To better understand the process, check out their How It Works section.

About Veterans Advantage

Veterans Advantage is a Public Benefits Corporation (PBC) that was founded in 2000 by Vietnam veteran, Scott Higgins and his wife, Lin. Veterans Advantage offers exclusive benefits and discounts through their service.

What Kinds of Discounts Do They Offer?

There are far too many to list here, but they have partner companies from everyday retail shopping, travel, hotels, dining, entertainment, health & wellness, home & office, and financial services industries. Check out the Military Discounts Marketplace on their website.

They offer a 30-day trial for a one-time fee of $4.95. They also have a month-to-month plan for $9.99 per month, which gets you a digital VetRewards Card. You can cancel anytime. The best deal is the annual plan which costs $59.95 per year, which averages out to $4.99 per month. With the annual plan you will receive a physical VetRewards Card.

Veterans Advantage offers savings and discounts in every area of life and is certainly worth the membership fee. When partnered with companies like Legacy, Veterans Advantage brings services to our military community that had been out of reach for so many.

(Image courtesy of epicstockmedia via www.123rf.com)

 

RELATED:

 

 

Updates on Legislation Affecting Veterans in Congress

UPDATE: Legislation Affecting Veterans Moves Forward in Congress

There has been a ton of activity on Capitol Hill over the past week dealing with legislation and bills that may directly affect you, our nation’s military community. In short fashion, here’s what’s been happening:

  • The House passed 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which will provide the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the authority to expand suicide prevention efforts and telehealth capabilities to veterans in rural and highly rural areas. This bill now heads to the President’s desk.
  • The House unanimously passed R. 3228, the VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act, which expands the VA MISSION Act of 2018’s authority for health profession trainees to provide treatment via telemedicine. To provide this treatment, a trainee must be under the supervision of a VA health care professional who is authorized to provide health care via telemedicine. The bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
  • The Veteran’s Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act, R. 6092, passed the House and established a national clinical pathway for prostate cancer within the VA. A “clinical pathway” is a tool used in healthcare management that contains evidence-based practices that provide direction for clinical care or treatment. The bill was read twice in the Senate and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
  • R. 5245, the SHIELD for Veterans Act, passed the House and reforms the VA’s debt collection and overpayment process relating to benefits and programs. The bill also prohibits interest payments and administrative cost charges on delinquent payments of debt resulting from a person’s participation in a VA disability compensation program, pension program, or an educational assistance program. This bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
  • R. 7105, the DELIVER Act, provides the VA legal will flexibility while caring for homeless veterans during a covered public health emergency. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as of September 24th.
  • The Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020, R. 8247, improves support during the transition from service member to veteran, and it improves suicide prevention and mental well-being initiatives, and improves care and services for women veterans.
  • The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, R. 3798, ensures the same no-cost contraceptive care for women veterans as required by non-veteran health insurance plans. This bill now heads to the Senate for review.
  • The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act of 2020, H.R. 7795, requires the VA to publish disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs) on its website for use by non-VA medical providers submitting evidence regarding a disability of a claimant for purposes of VA benefits. It now heads to the Senate.
  • The Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020, 4393, which reauthorizes key provisions of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. It would also form an independent commission to inform the VA of new toxic exposures related to military service. The VA would be required to enter into a partnership with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to determine levels of exposure to toxic substances by members of our military.

The Congressional climate is hard to predict, as some of the legislative bills mentioned above have been sitting in Congress for a year or more. Based on the Legislative Calendar, the House plans to vote on legislation through Friday, October 2nd, after which they will recess until after November’s presidential election.

With only three more days of voting on the table, it is difficult to determine which legislation will move forward. There are other bills that are being introduced, and I will provide updates as they make their way through our legislative body.

(Image courtesy of Andrea Izzotti via www.123rf.com)

 

RELATED:

 

 

TRICARE to Provide Free Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain

Free Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain to Be Provided by TRICARE

The Defense Department recently published a notice outlining a new demonstration that will begin January 1, 2021 and run until December 31, 2023. TRICARE beneficiaries in select states who have a documented diagnosis of low back pain will receive three free physical therapy visits. The goal of the demonstration is to determine whether waiving physical therapy cost-sharing will incentivize more beneficiaries to attend physical therapy, which may in turn reduce overall healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes.

Physical Therapy and Low Back Pain

Physical therapy is generally recommended as a first line of treatment for those with low back pain episodes lasting longer than a few weeks, and even for those who have a condition called spinal stenosis. Stenosis can be treated with surgery, but doctors usually recommend more conservative measures first to avoid potential complications, since physical therapy is much less invasive. Physical therapy could provide significant relief for patients with low back pain, therefore avoiding the need for surgery or other interventions and medications.

The DOD’s publication noted that physical therapy is considered a high-value treatment, in contrast to low-value treatments, which would include opioids as a first- or second-line treatment, bedrest, and surgery for non-specific back pain. These low-value treatments do not always have the best patient outcomes and can result in unnecessary healthcare costs and opioid dependence.

States Where the Program Is Available

Those who are over the age of 60 are more prone to lower back pain and problems. Unfortunately, physical therapy can be expensive, with co-pays as high as $41 for outpatient specialty visits for TRICARE Retired Reserve beneficiaries. These costs can add up for those on a limited income. For this reason, the program will include states with the highest TRICARE retiree population:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado,
  • Florida
  • Georgia,
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

The program is not limited to retirees, and anyone in these states can take advantage of the free therapy visits.

Program Eligibility

Within the ten states that are eligible for the program, there are some additional requirements:

  • Only new physical therapy episodes will be eligible.
  • The physical therapy appointment(s) must take place in an eligible state.
  • Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants must be licensed.
  • Physical therapists must be in-network with TRICARE.

Fortunately, there will be no limitation on the length of time between when the low back pain episode happened, and when the physical therapy will take place, the only limitation being that the beneficiary has not already had physical therapy for the same episode of back pain.

In addition, moving from an eligible state to a non-eligible state will disqualify beneficiaries for the free therapy, but a beneficiary who moves from a non-eligible state to an eligible one will qualify for free therapy if they meet the above guidelines.

Will this Program Be Permanent?

There is a potential for the demonstration to become permanent if patient outcomes improve and healthcare costs decrease. The program would then be made available to the entire TRICARE population.

 

RELATED:

 

President Trump Signs Two Veteran-Supporting Laws

Two Veteran-Supporting Laws Signed By President

In August, President Donald Trump signed two pieces of legislation that will support veterans. One will broaden options for those caught within the legal system and the other will expand a home renovation grant program for veterans who are disabled and blind.

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act was proposed in the House by Representative Charlie Crist, D-Fla. and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz. With this law, it will direct the Department of Justice to establish and support a Veterans Treatment Court program at the state, local, and tribal levels. The main purpose of these courts is to help veterans and includes:

  • Addressing veterans who have committed nonviolent crimes
  • Helping those who have drug or mental health issues
  • Determining treatment needed to manage unmet clinical needs
  • Receiving necessary treatment for identified issues

Veterans Treatment Courts Have Helped Turn Around the Lives of Veterans

Veterans Treatment Courts have helped turn around the lives of veterans caught within the legal system. These courts identify, treat, and rehabilitate veterans’ conditions received during military service that would have contributed to criminal behavior.

A veteran has an opportunity to avoid incarceration or other punishment if they successfully complete all the requirements of treatment and rehabilitation.  Rather than being punished, they will instead be given a second chance and be provided treatment. This law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.

Expansion of VA’s Adapted Housing Grant Program

President Trump also signed a second law, the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act. The law would improve and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adapted housing grant program. It is named after Retired Army Colonel, Paul Benne, and Captain Ryan Kules, both who are disabled veterans. They faced challenges when trying to accommodate their homes to fit their needs just as many disabled veterans in the country.

This law will increase the amount of money available to disabled veterans to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities. Along with these expansions, the act also entails:

  • Expanding the program to include blind veterans
  • Increasing the maximum funding from $83,000 to $98,000
  • Allowing eligible veterans access to the funds six times instead of three
  • Access to the full amount every 10 years if changes to residences are needed

Thanks to these improvements to the housing program, eligible veterans can build or remodel adapted homes. The changes will reduce financial stress by allowing them to utilize flexible resources to meet their unique housing needs. It will give them the opportunity to make the changes needed throughout their life and give them a peace of mind, freedom, and comfort in their homes.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Process Change for Student Survivor Benefit Plan

Process Change for Student Survivor Benefit Plan

The Department of Defense announced an updated process for child beneficiaries of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) when verifying that they are a full-time student.

The SBP annuity is paid to the dependents of fallen service members or deceased military retirees. Payments usually stop when the dependent reaches the age of 18. However, payments can continue to the age of 22 as long as they attend an accredited trade school, technical institute, college, or university at a full-time status. In the past, students were required to complete a form at the start of every semester or provide a transcript to the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) to receive payments.  If the certification is not received, all payments were suspended until DFAS received a properly completed form. According to the Pentagon, this process can be “frustrating for busy college students.” The process has been made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic since schools were required to be closed.

In response to this dilemma, the DD Form 2788, “Child’s Annuitant’s School Certification” has been created. This is a self-certification form that no longer requires a school official signature or documentation from the school. The form only needs to be completed once a year instead of every term or semester. Students will also sign and return a short previous attendance certification letter to confirm their past full-time attendance. In the future, the Child’s Annuitant’s Certification they receive in the mail will be prefilled with the information they provided previously with on the DD 2788 form, so they can simply confirm and sign. This form is shorter and easier consisting of only two pages that need to be filled out, making the process less confusing.

DFAS has created an online tool where you can upload a school certification such as the DD Form 2788. DFAS will also send reminders when the form is due if the student submits their email address through myPay.

To find out more information about this new process, please visit the DFAS website.

DFAS website:

https://www.dfas.mil/RetiredMilitary/survivors/School-Certifications/

DD 2788 Form:

https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/forms/dd/dd2788.pdf

DFAS online tool for certification:

https://corpweb1.dfas.mil/askDFAS/ticketInput.action?subCategoryID=19064

 

Financial Tips for Enlisted Military Service Members

More than the GI Bill: College Bound, Service Member Financial Tips

With a little planning you can stretch the GI Bill into a graduate degree.  Here are a few tips that should help you create a five-year plan to get you through one enlistment and in to college.  There are tips spanning those looking to join, thinking about their schooling or planning to leave the military.

Delayed Entry Program Advancement and Enlistment Bonuses

Earn a promotion before you even ship to boot camp. Recruits who spend time in the Delayed Entry Program/Future Soldiers Program can earn the rank of E-3 by completing a few tasks while hanging around the recruiting station.

The easiest way to get your first promotion to E-2 is to pass a knowledge and skills test encompassing basic military information and physical fitness.

To earn the E-3 paygrade you will have to put in a little more time and effort, but it can be accomplished a number of ways including referring other people to enlist.

Though you would automatically promote from E-1 to E-2 after six months of service, starting out as an E-2 will net you $1,200 more in earnings than an E-1 would earn in those first six months.

Monthly Enlistment Pay for Members with less than 2 Years of Service for 2020

(Defense Finance and Accounting Service)

E-1 E-2 E-3 E-4
$1,785 $2,000.70 $2,371.80 $2,829.00

Enlistment Bonuses

Additionally, each branch of the military offer enlistment bonuses that can be upwards of $50,000 for members who sign-up for certain jobs.

The jobs and payouts vary according to need, so be sure to discuss with your recruiter. Be aware that some bonuses are not paid out until you complete the requisite training and may come with lengthened service contract agreements.

Location, Location, Location

Save ~$750/mo or $9,000/yr

Feeling adventurous? Consider requesting a duty station overseas, specifically where an automobile is not required.

Places like Japan or Yongsan, Korea near Seoul have robust public transportation systems which will leave you questioning why you ever wanted to own a car in the first place.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of owning and maintaining a car is around $9,000 a year including car payments, gas, maintenance, and insurance.

Many other duty stations offer up to $150 a month for being assigned there. This is called hardship duty pay. These places include areas in Alaska, Turkey, Djibouti, Diego Garcia, and more.

These assignments are not necessarily dangerous, but the quality of life may be somewhat substandard compared to the average lifestyle of Americans.

Bonuses and Extra Pay

Depending or your job and the mission you have been assigned to, the government may authorize extra pay to incentivize certain duties. Take a look at some common incentive pay the government offers. You might decide being a submariner or infantryman is worth the extra money.

Additionally, if you are deployed to a designated Combat Zone like Afghanistan or the Arabian Peninsula Area, your earnings will be untaxed.

Sampling of Various Incentive Pay

(Defense Finance and Accounting Service)

Type Base Monthly Amount/Monthly Amount
Career Sea Pay
  • E-1 with less than two years of service: $50
  • E-4 with over three years of service: $350
Submarine Duty Pay (in addition to Sea Pay)
  • E-1 with less than two years of service: $80
  • E-4 with over three years of service: $ 100
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (Flight Deck Duty, Parachute Jumping, etc) $150
Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire Pay $225/month
Maritime Visit Board Search and Seizure $150/month
Overseas Tour Extension Incentive Pay $80/month
Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus $100-$500, based on skill level

Life on Base

Junior enlisted spend a lot a time on base. Take advantage of this by eating balanced meals for cheap/free at the galley or mess.  Them stock up your barracks room with foodstuff from the commissary who boast a worldwide average savings of 25% compared to civilian grocers.

Utilize your post’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs and tours. MWR offers free or reasonably priced services on everything from automobile shop time to golf and movies.

Tuition Assistance

After you adjust to military life consider tackling some 100 level college courses to help jump start your degree.

Each branch of service offers its own tuition assistance program, but the general idea is that your tuition and fees will be 100% covered so long as you pass your classes.

Leaving the service with even 12 credits of classes completed will go a long way to preserve your GI Bill benefits. That would save you a semester’s worth of courses.

Be warned that taking college courses while deployed may be challenging or infeasible.

See Colleges Fully Covered By Tuition Assistance at CollegeRecon.

Post Enlistment

So, your enlistment is up. What to do now? First, sign up for your state’s unemployment benefits. This will help ease your financial burden while you wait for your semester to begin.

RELATED: UCX: Unemployment Insurance After the Military

Next, consider paying out of pocket for two years at a community college near your home of record. Tuition for two years should total about $7,000, then you can transfer those credits to a university and start using your GI Bill to earn your bachelor’s degree.

This will help stretch your benefits into a graduate degree. If you use your GI Bill wholly for undergraduate studies, you will pay out of pocket or apply for loans for your graduate degree which will be tens of thousands of dollars.

Next, research and apply to scholarships and grants. These are financial gifts you do not have to repay, so there is no harm in applying to as many as you can. There are a great variety of scholarships ranging $50 to “full ride.”

There are even veteran specific scholarships, and your state may offer education benefits as part of their veteran’s programs. Finally, be sure to apply for a Pell Grant, which is an income based federal grant.

RELATED:

 

Then, if you are not living at home, find a roommate or two. The GI Bill pays a housing allowance while you are attending school, but splitting costs with one or two people will save thousands per year.

Rental and Housing Stipend Savings

Housing Allowance Based on E-5, with Dependents (GI Bill rate) in Philadelphia (2020 Defense Travel Management Office)

BAH: $2,049

Bedrooms One Two Three
Housing Cost  $1,200 $1,600 $2,000
Rent per Roommate $1,200 $800 $666
Cable and Internet $80 $40 $27
Utilities $150 $75 $50
Total Cost $1,430 $915 $743
Savings on Rent and Utilities N/A $515  $687
Monthly Stipend Savings $619 $1,134 $1,362

You will not get rich from the military or the GI Bill, but you can put yourself in the incredible financial position of being debt-free after college with a potential graduate degree.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Library Perks for the Military

Photo: Stadtbibliotheck in Stuttgart, Germany (image by Chelsea Bostelman)

Did You Know About These Library Perks for the Military?

Every April, libraries and library workers are celebrated during National Library Week. When is the last time you visited a library?

For good reason, books come to mind for most people when thinking of libraries. But beyond the tidy stacks of well-organized literature, you will find a bounty of digital resources, education programs, writing workshops, guest speakers, and those handy resources called librarians.

A librarian is an invaluable resource for tackling tough questions like:

  • Do I cite references in my scholarship essay?
  • Textbooks are so expensive! Can I borrow them from the library?
  • APA is changing from 6th to 7th edition – HELP!
  • How do I research my family history?
  • Can I check out resources to help me prepare for CLEP testing?

Librarians are information specialists. If they can’t answer your question (which they often can) they will know where to find answers for you. What’s even more impressive is that you usually don’t have to step foot into a library to ask for help or use library resources.

Most libraries have an Ask a Librarian chat feature that gives quick access to librarians and their wealth of knowledge from your home. Consulting with a librarian or using library programs help you research more efficiently and online resources are often available from home.

US Army MWR Libraries Free Online Resources

US Army MWR Libraries are an extensive network of 70 libraries, spanning 7 countries. These services are available to service members in any military branch, their families, Veterans, and DoD civilians. In addition to youth programs, book discussion groups, and computer labs, this library network offers tons of online resources.

Did you know you can read the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times every day, for free from home?

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? If you want to learn German, you can do that too, for free, from home through MWR Library online resources.

Through US Army MWR Libraries, you have 24/7 access to:

  • Academic databases with peer-reviewed journals
  • Audiobooks for adults and children
  • Auto repair manuals and resources
  • Computer software tutorials
  • Digital language learning resources
  • E-books for adults and children
  • Family ancestry resources
  • Film and documentary databases
  • Investment tools
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Military training resources
  • Online courses to learn software programs, yoga, photography, history, and health
  • Small business management resources
  • Test-prep resources for common tests like ASVAB, CLEP, ACT, and GRE
  • Transition resources
  • Tutoring resources

To Register, visit or contact your local MWR library. For those not in the Army, access is available through MilitaryOneSource and explained in the same registration link.

Careers in Library Science

If you enjoy research, information management, and navigating technology, a library career might be a good fit for you.

According to the American Library Association, libraries provide many job opportunities:

  • Pages keep libraries organized. They typically work part-time and make minimum wage.
  • Library Assistants perform clerical duties like checking materials in and out, collecting fines, and issuing library cards. They work part or full-time and make $8-15 per hour.
  • Librarians help people with research, make decisions about purchasing materials and can specialize in multiple areas. Often full-time positions, librarians hold various degrees and the average starting salary is approximately $40,000.
  • Library Managers and Directors are responsible for library operations including budgets, strategic planning, public relations, and ensuring compliance with laws. Salaries vary greatly depending on the size of the library.

Beyond community libraries, librarians can work in specialty areas like medical, museum, government, theological, or elementary school libraries.

Education Requirements for Librarians

Education requirements for library careers vary from state to state and also depend on the size of the library. A certificate, associate, bachelor, or master’s degree may be required, and most employers hire librarians who graduate from ALA-accredited programs.

CollegeRecon partner schools with 100% Online Library and Information Science Degrees:

 The List of Library Perks is Extensive

Celebrate National Library Week in April by tapping into the bounty of resources available to you and then enjoy these perks all year long!

 

New Military Family Readiness Legislation Can Help Military Families

Two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel released their latest proposal on military family readiness on April 2, 2020.

New Military Family Readiness Legislation Proposed

Rep Thornberry stated that “Family readiness is a major component of military readiness. Servicemembers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their next duty station can support the medical needs of their family or whether they will be able to afford safe, reliable childcare. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of these daily challenges. This effort is an extension of the bipartisan family readiness reforms the House Armed Services Committee has championed in the past, including a new blended retirement system, reforms to the military healthcare system, and repeated reforms of the widow’s tax.”

Rep Kelly added that “Military Family Readiness has been a focal point of my tenure during the 116th Congress. I am proud to co-sponsor a proposal that will address many areas that have been highlighted in recent months, including  the Exceptional Family Member Program, behavioral health, opioid abuse and child care .”

So what will this proposal entail? Here is more information:

Defining, Communicating, and Measuring Family Readiness

Right now, “family readiness” is open to interpretation. This proposal would require the DoD to establish a common definition of “family readiness” to ensure the standardization of services and assistance. Wouldn’t it be nice if no matter where you were stationed, you knew you could receive the same services? The DoD would also need to report to Congress, and the Services would need to communicate better with military families. The DoD would need to also develop a bi-annual survey that would measure the effectiveness of elements including communication, education, spousal employment, and TRICARE.

EFMP – Exceptional Family Member Program

EFMP (the Exceptional Family Member Program) hasn’t always provided what military families have needed. This proposal would standardize the process for identifying and enrolling, it will enhance the respite care benefits, establish outcome measures, and improve the screening process for evaluation of duty stations that can support EMFP enrollees. It will also improve the PCS process and establish and consolidate case management functions at both the Service and installation level. This would be a huge plus for military families with special needs children and spouses.

Childcare

This proposal will require 24-hour childcare at certain locations where alternate shift workers are concentrated. It will also measure the DoD’s new childcare priority system and a study will be required that will evaluate the childcare stipend that is provided by the DoD. The 24-hour childcare is a big need for some military families.

Education

A report will be required that assesses the teaching of health, resiliency, and nutrition in DoDEA schools and evaluate the transferability of Advanced Placement credit.

Spousal Employment

The proposal will require the DoD to establish a pilot program with the Defence Counterintelligence and Security Agency to recruit military spouses into a paid internship pilot program to help prepare the spouse for a position within the national security field. This would be a good move to help military spouses find employment, even during military life.

There are also sections of the proposal having to do with the Autism Demonstration Project, the report on behavioral health staffing, and the policy to address Opioid abuse.

Right now, lawmakers are of course focusing on the military response to Coranavirus but family readiness shouldn’t be ignored because of that. You can read more about the legislation here. This is expected to be included in the annual defense authorization bill that will be debated later this spring.

RELATED:

AER Offering $1,500 For Childcare Costs

$1,500 For Childcare Costs From Army Emergency Relief

Childcare costs can be a huge drain on your budget. In some cases, the cost of childcare can mean a spouse decides not to pursue their own career. Luckily, a new AER program can help with this.

As of February 1, 2020, AER or Army Emergency Relief started providing up to $1,500 to help cover the costs of childcare for soldiers and families. They will be offering $500 per month for three consecutive months in a no-interest loan, grant, or a combination of both based on financial need.

This program is intended to offset the cost when a family has to use more expensive civilian services when there isn’t availability at on-post childcare facilities. On-post facilities are usually more affordable than those you find beyond the military installation.

The Army Fee Assistance Program does already give soldiers up to $1,500 per month per child for childcare but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Lt. Gen. Ray Mason, the director of AER has stated that, “Right now the capacity for the on-post childcare facilities isn’t able to meet the demand,” he said. “The Army is looking at that, trying to figure out how they can expand. It’s not something where you can just snap your fingers. You have to build more capacity and then you have to hire more childcare providers.”

The Army is aware that there is an issue with having enough on-post childcare available and working to change that. Hopefully, this new program can help bridge that gap until things can change on-post.

In order to qualify for this AER program, soldiers must be active-duty or in the Active Guard Reserve and have permanent change of station orders (PCS orders) to a location in the continental US. They must also provide proof of their out-of-pocket childcare expenses and show their financial need every month at their local AER office. They also need to submit their initial request within the first 120 days after the family arrived to their new duty station.

While this program is only for the Army, there are other programs out there to help with childcare for all branches. Childcare Aware of America offers programs through the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps. They have partnered with the US Military and the Department of Defense to serve and support military and DoD families.

They offer Fee Assistance and Respite childcare, which is very helpful for special needs families. They have created a network of more than 10,000 licensed childcare providers.

With creations like this new AER program, more and more military spouses will be able to follow their own career paths. This is not only good for the military family but can also help with military retention rates, and create a stronger military overall.

RELATED:

Military Pay Charts 2021 [updated]

2021 Military Pay Charts with Proposed Pay Raise and NDAA Latest

The latest Military Pay Charts for 2021.

The 2020 military pay raise was 3.1%.  Earlier in 2020, the US Department of Defense released a statement on the 2021 proposed military pay raise. President Donald J. Trump had requested $705.4 billion to fund the Defense Department.  The Department of Defense had asked for a 3% pay raise as well as for increases to housing and subsistence allowance.  Find the 2021 proposed military pay charts below.

Here’s a peek ahead at the 2022 military pay raise.  In order to view the 2022 estimated military pay charts, please go here.  While not yet official, these are estimated based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI).

Jump to:

By Paygrade

The military pay raise can be highly debated each year, but it isn’t as simple as the President or Congress picking a number. The pay raise is tied to the ECI (US Employment Cost Index) that is put out by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2021 Military Pay Charts (3.0% increase from 2020)

 

Enlisted: E-1 – E-3

2021 Pay Charts

YearsE-1E-2E-3
< 2$1,785$2,001$2,104
Over 2$1,785$2,001$2,236
Over 3$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 4$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 6$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 8$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 10$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 12$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 14$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 16$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 18$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 20$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 22$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 24$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 26$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 28$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 30$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 32$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 34$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 36$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 38$1,785$2,001$2,372
Over 40$1,785$2,001$2,372

 

Enlisted: E-4 – E-6

2021 Pay Charts

YearsE-4E-5E-6
< 2$2,393$2,610$2,849
Over 2$2,516$2,786$3,136
Over 3$2,652$2,921$3,274
Over 4$2,787$3,059$3,409
Over 6$2,906$3,273$3,549
Over 8$2,906$3,498$3,864
Over 10$2,906$3,682$3,988
Over 12$2,906$3,704$4,226
Over 14$2,906$3,704$4,298
Over 16$2,906$3,704$4,351
Over 18$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 20$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 22$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 24$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 26$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 28$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 30$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 32$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 34$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 36$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 38$2,906$3,704$4,413
Over 40$2,906$3,704$4,413

Senior Enlisted: E-7 – E-9

2021 Pay Charts

YearsE-7E-8E-9
< 2$3,208
Over 2$3,501
Over 3$3,635
Over 4$3,812
Over 6$3,951
Over 8$4,190$4,615
Over 10$4,324$4,819$5,637
Over 12$4,562$4,945$5,765
Over 14$4,760$5,096$5,926
Over 16$4,895$5,261$6,115
Over 18$5,039$5,556$6,307
Over 20$5,095$5,706$6,612
Over 22$5,282$5,962$6,872
Over 24$5,383$6,104$7,143
Over 26$5,765$6,452$7,560
Over 28$5,765$6,452$7,560
Over 30$5,765$6,581$7,938
Over 32$5,765$6,581$7,938
Over 34$5,765$6,581$8,335
Over 36$5,765$6,581$8,335
Over 38$5,765$6,581$8,753
Over 40$5,765$6,581$8,753

Warrant Officers:  W-1 – W-3

2021 Pay Charts

Pay GradeW-1W-2W-3
< 2$3,309$3,770$4,261
Over 2$3,666$4,127$4,439
Over 3$3,761$4,237$4,621
Over 4$3,964$4,312$4,680
Over 6$4,203$4,557$4,871
Over 8$4,556$4,937$5,246
Over 10$4,720$5,125$5,637
Over 12$4,951$5,310$5,822
Over 14$5,177$5,537$6,035
Over 16$5,356$5,714$6,254
Over 18$5,519$5,875$6,649
Over 20$5,719$6,067$6,915
Over 22$5,719$6,193$7,074
Over 24$5,719$6,293$7,244
Over 26$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 28$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 30$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 32$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 34$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 36$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 38$5,719$6,293$7,475
Over 40$5,719$6,293$7,475

 

Warrant Officers:  W-4 – W-5

2021 Pay Charts

YearsW-4W-5
< 2$4,6660
Over 2$5,0190
Over 3$5,1630
Over 4$5,3050
Over 6$5,5490
Over 8$5,7900
Over 10$6,0350
Over 12$6,4030
Over 14$6,7250
Over 16$7,0320
Over 18$7,2830
Over 20$7,529$8,296
Over 22$7,888$8,717
Over 24$8,184$9,031
Over 26$8,521$9,377
Over 28$8,521$9,377
Over 30$8,691$9,847
Over 32$8,691$9,847
Over 34$8,691$10,339
Over 36$8,691$10,339
Over 38$8,691$10,856
Over 40$8,691$10,856

 

Commissioned Officers: O-1E – O3E (w/ Prior Enlisted Experience)

2021 Pay Charts

YearsO-1EO-2EO-3E
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4$4,261$5,290$6,023
Over 6$4,550$5,399$6,312
Over 8$4,718$5,570$6,628
Over 10$4,890$5,861$6,833
Over 12$5,058$6,085$7,169
Over 14$5,290$6,252$7,454
Over 16$5,290$6,252$7,617
Over 18$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 20$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 22$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 24$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 26$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 28$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 30$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 32$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 34$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 36$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 38$5,290$6,252$7,839
Over 40$5,290$6,252$7,839

Commissioned Officers: O-1 – O-3

2021 Pay Charts

YearsO-1O-2O-3
< 2$3,386$3,901$4,515
Over 2$3,524$4,443$5,118
Over 3$4,260$5,117$5,523
Over 4$4,260$5,290$6,023
Over 6$4,260$5,399$6,312
Over 8$4,260$5,399$6,628
Over 10$4,260$5,399$6,833
Over 12$4,260$5,399$7,169
Over 14$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 16$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 18$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 20$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 22$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 24$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 26$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 28$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 30$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 32$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 34$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 36$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 38$4,260$5,399$7,345
Over 40$4,260$5,399$7,345

 

Commissioned Officers: O-4 – O6

2021 Pay Charts

YearsO-4O-5O-6
< 2$5,135$5,951$7,139
Over 2$5,944$6,704$7,843
Over 3$6,341$7,168$8,358
Over 4$6,429$7,256$8,358
Over 6$6,797$7,545$8,390
Over 8$7,192$7,719$8,749
Over 10$7,684$8,100$8,797
Over 12$8,067$8,379$8,797
Over 14$8,332$8,741$9,297
Over 16$8,485$9,293$10,181
Over 18$8,574$9,556$10,699
Over 20$8,574$9,816$11,218
Over 22$8,574$10,111$11,513
Over 24$8,574$10,111$11,812
Over 26$8,574$10,111$12,391
Over 28$8,574$10,111$12,391
Over 30$8,574$10,111$12,638
Over 32$8,574$10,111$12,638
Over 34$8,574$10,111$12,638
Over 36$8,574$10,111$12,638
Over 38$8,574$10,111$12,638
Over 40$8,574$10,111$12,638

 

Flag and General Officers: O-7 – O-8

2021 Pay Charts

YearsO-7O-8
< 2$9,414$11,329
Over 2$9,852$11,701
Over 3$10,054$11,947
Over 4$10,215$12,016
Over 6$10,506$12,324
Over 8$10,794$12,837
Over 10$11,127$12,956
Over 12$11,458$13,444
Over 14$11,791$13,584
Over 16$12,837$14,004
Over 18$13,719$14,612
Over 20$13,719$15,172
Over 22$13,719$15,546
Over 24$13,719$15,546
Over 26$13,790$15,546
Over 28$13,790$15,546
Over 30$14,066$15,935
Over 32$14,066$15,935
Over 34$14,066$16,333
Over 36$14,066$16,333
Over 38$14,066$16,333
Over 40$14,066$16,333

 

Flag and General Officers: O-9 – O-10

2021 Pay Charts

YearsO-9O-10
< 2
Over 2
Over 3
Over 4
Over 6
Over 8
Over 10
Over 12
Over 14
Over 16
Over 18
Over 20$16,012$16,608
Over 22$16,244$16,608
Over 24$16,577$16,608
Over 26$16,608$16,608
Over 28$16,608$16,608
Over 30$16,608$16,608
Over 32$16,608$16,608
Over 34$16,608$16,608
Over 36$16,608$16,608
Over 38$16,608$16,608
Over 40$16,608$16,608

 

The Latest on the NDAA and Military Pay 2021 Increase

SASC NDAA Highlights

Troop Pay Increase

The $750.50 billion dollar Senate budget plan would increase annual pay for troops by 3% for 2021. This increase matches the federal calculation of next year’s projected civilian raises, as well as the amount requested by the White House. Also included in the plan are re-authorizations for 30 different bonuses and specialty pays.

Troop Strength Increase

The plan proposes a total increase of 6,000 troops, with changes to each branch as follows:

  • Active duty Army will increase by 5,000 to a total troop number of 485,000
  • Navy will increase by 6,200 to a total of 346,730
  • Air Force will increase 675 to a total of 333,475
  • The Marine troop number will be decrease by 6,200 to a new total of 180,000

Family Housing Improvements

New hiring authorities would be required to oversee outside housing contractors, and “substandard family housing” would be prohibited. The plan would also require the Defense Department inspector general to audit the medical conditions of those who previously resided in privatized housing to identify any long-term effects that may have resulted from improper housing.

Child-care Availability Improvements

In order to better recruit and retain child-care workers on base, leaders would be instructed to provide improved benefits packages. This would work to increase child-care and day-care availability for troops and their families.

RELATED: Military Gets Free Assistance Finding Child Care

Increased Defense Funding

Long-range assault aircraft and drone funding would be increased with this plan, as well as a 5 million dollar allowance for Army Cyber Mission Forces.

Transparency

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has put forth language in the bill to require monetary totals for military research projects to be made public.

Current Issues

Other proposals that address more recent events include an amendment put forward by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, to prevent military funds or personnel being used “against American citizens exercising their first amendment rights,” and $44 million in funding towards COVID-19 vaccine research currently being conducted by the DOD.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is also planning to add an amendment to hold a review and recommendation process regarding renaming Confederate-named military bases. This is in contrast to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., amendment that would require all Confederate-named bases, aircraft, ships, streets, etc. to be renamed within three years without such a process.

The SASC voted to advance the NDAA to the floor with a bipartisan vote of 25-2. Politico reported that there is a possibility the NDAA would take longer to see the floor as police reform has become a more pressing issue.

House Subcommittees’ NDAA Highlights

Troop Pay Increase

The House subcommittees have also included a 3% pay increase for troops.

Increased Defense Funding

The Navy would be authorized to buy eight battle-force ships. This includes what the White House requested, plus an additional Virginia-class submarine.

Transparency

Representatives Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Francis Rooney, R-Fla., have put forth an amendment that requires all unclassified Pentagon reports ordered by Congress to be made public.

Current Issues

Questions to Pentagon workplace surveys would be added, asking if “racism, anti-Semitism and supremacism” have ever been experienced while on duty. Supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang activity already are tracked when part of a criminal probe, but the bill would require tracking when handled only by administrative means or by commanders. An annual report from each military branch of the gender and race of officers recommended for promotion would also be required.

Related to the recent coronavirus outbreak, included is a requirement for troops to have the necessary PPE and diagnostic equipment for infectious diseases. They would also require a review on the current level of preparedness regarding chemical and biological threats.

End of update.

2021 Pay Raise Could Help Stabilize

Food Insecurity

Military members and their families are at or below the 200% poverty line, Sen. Tammy Duckworth pointed out. Making them eligible for food stamps and free lunch programs for school-age children.

Competitive Pay

Organizations know that if they don’t offer competitive pay, they will soon lose their most talented employees, the same is true for the armed services. The armed forces lose highly trained military members to the civilian sector each year.

Military Pay Raise Tied to ECI (Employment Cost Index)

According to news reports the key government index used as a guideline for civilian wages indicates the military pay increase for fiscal 2021 will be at least 2.9 percent. Earlier reports were that the White House was seeking a 3 percent raise for 2021, but by law, military pay increases are tied to the U.S. Employment Cost Index (ECI) put out by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which was released last week.

Stay Tuned for Future Updates. Until then, here is a sneak peek at the projected 2021 military pay — based on the 3.0 percent ECI rate.

 

 

RELATED:

 

 

TRICARE & FEDVIP Open Enrollment Begins [updated]

2022 Open Enrollment Season to Begin for TRICARE and FEDVIP

TRICARE and FEDVIP open enrollment season is almost here. When it opens on November 8, 2021, you can change your TRICARE plan, get or swap dental plans, and obtain vision coverage, depending on your military status.

Based on the most current numbers from Health.mil, there are over 9 million TRICARE beneficiaries just between the TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, and TRICARE for Life plans alone. Many of you reading this fall under one of those plans.

TRICARE Open Enrollment Dates & Options

For this reason, it is imperative for you to know that the 2022 TRICARE Open Season runs from November 8, 2021 through midnight (ET) December 13, 2021.

TRICARE Open Enrollment Period is Nov 8 through Dec 14, 2021.

During this period of open enrollment, if you are enrolled in TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Prime retiree, or TRICARE select, you have a few options to consider:

  1. Do Nothing. If you wish to remain with your current TRICARE plan then you do not need to re-enroll. The coverage from your current plan will continue as long as you remain eligible.
    1. As a caveat, if you are a Group A retired beneficiary, you and your family must pay a new monthly TRICARE Select enrollment fee to maintain your TRICARE Select coverage. Please sign up during Open Season. The fees associated with this plan go into effect January 1, 2021. Read more about TRICARE Select Enrollment Fees
  2. Enroll in a Plan. If you are eligible for a TRICARE Prime option or TRICARE Select but you’re not enrolled, you can enroll in a plan during open enrollment.
  3. Change plans. If you are already enrolled in a TRICARE Prime option, or TRICARE Select, you are able to switch plans, and switch between coverages, i.e. from individual to family enrollments and vice versa. 

Please be advised, if you are not already in a plan and do not enroll in a plan during the open enrollment period (9 November – 14 December), then you will only be eligible for care at a military hospital or clinic, if space is available.

Enrollment Changes Outside of Open Season (Qualifying Life Events)

During the open season is the only time you can make these changes unless you have a qualifying life event. In order to make enrollment changes outside of the open enrollment period, you must do so only after a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). 

A QLE is a specific change in your life situation that directly affects your health care coverage.

Most Common Qualifying Life Events

Here are some of the most common:

  • Change in sponsor status (retiring/separating from the service)
  • Change in family composition (marriage, divorce, child birth/adoption, death)
  • Moving (child moving to college, relocation outside of current ZIP code)
  • Losing or gaining other health insurance (OHI)

TRICARE Qualifying Life Events List

These events are:

  • Activating or deactivating for Reserve & Guard service
  • Deploying or mobilizing
  • Being injured on active duty
  • Moving/PCSing
  • Getting married
  • Divorcing
  • Having a baby or adopting a child
  • Children going to college
  • Children becoming adults
  • Death in family
  • Getting other insurance
  • Becoming eligible for Medicare
  • Separating from the military
  • Retiring

A TRICARE QLE opens a 90-day period in which you can make eligible enrollment changes. A QLE for one family member means all family members are permitted to make enrollment changes.

With TRICARE, you can enroll in a plan or change your plan. Each one is a bit different. TRICARE Prime doesn’t really have any out-of-pocket expenses for active duty families. However, there are fees associated with going outside your prime network without a referral or filling prescriptions at a retail pharmacy or through the mail.

For the longer, official list, go here for the TRICARE list of QLEs.

What About Retirees?

For retirees, TRICARE Prime does require an annual enrollment fee as well as co-payments for appointments and procedures not done at a (MTF) military treatment facility. TRICARE Select will having you paying more out of pocket, but also allow you more freedom to select providers without a referral. If you are currently enrolled in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select you are eligible to change your plan during the open season.

RELATED: TRICARE Prime vs Select: How To Decide

 

FEDVIP Open Enrollment Dates and Options

The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) is a voluntary, enrollee-pay-all dental and vision program available to Federal employees and annuitants, certain retired uniformed service members, and active duty service members. 

The Federal Benefits Open Season mirrors TRICARE and runs from Nov 9 to Dec 14, 2021.

This program is sponsored by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and offers eligible participants a choice between 10 dental and 4 vision carriers. These include:

Dental Plans

READ: TRICARE Dental Updates for 2022

Vision Plans

The 4 vision plans include:

READ: TRICARE Vision Updates for 2022

Available to you is also a FEDVIP Plan Comparison tool, which allows you to research plans and premiums based on where you live. You can compare up to three dental or vision plans side-by-side for ease of use.

BENEFEDS, who administers the enrollment, plan change, and payment processes for FEDVIP, is offering a Virtual Benefits Fair spanning the entirety of the open enrollment period (9 November – 14 December). During this event you will have the opportunity to chat with carriers and review 2021 plan details.

Webinars are also available that should be able to answer your questions regarding FEDVIP and the Virtual Benefits Fair.

FEDVIP Qualifying Life Events

FEDVIP also maintains a list of qualifying QLEs that allow you to enroll in the FEDVIP program, or to make changes to your existing FEDVIP plan outside of open season.

Since each Federal benefits program follows its own law and regulations, do not assume that the FEDVIP QLEs will be the same as the TRICARE ones. For example, retirement is not a QLE under the FEDVIP, whereas it is a primary reason under TRICARE’s list.

The timeframe for requesting a QLE change with FEDVIP is from 31 days before to 60 days after the event.

Now, For Your Plan of Action

So, that is a lot of information, but it is only the tip of the medical coverage iceberg. Here are the three takeaways you should focus on:

  1. Review your current plan and medical coverage to identify gaps in coverage or needed changes to your current coverage.
  2. Review the links provided here and (at the respective websites) to identify opportunities to close any gaps in coverage identified above.
  3. Research and compare plans that would best suit your coverage needs and be ready for the open enrollment.

Your medical coverage is a most prized benefit that you deserve for your service to our great nation. Even so, you must ensure that the coverage you have is right for you and your loved ones. Thank you for your service.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Military Benefits Changes for 2020

2020 Military Benefit Updates Changes

For the latest military benefit changes for 2022, please go here.

Changes announced so far.  Please keep checking back, as we will continue updating new changes to your military benefits for 2020.

TRICARE Drug Costs To Increase By Over 40%

Every year on January 1st, TRICARE has its regular cost increases. In 2020, we will see updates on prescription drug costs. According to an article on Military.com, we could see an increase of as much as 42%. This could be quite a change for some people.

As of January 1st, 2020, prices of all generic drugs, as well as the brand-name and non-formulary drugs that you purchase either through mail-order or at in-network, or at out-of-network pharmacies will increase. If you continue to get your prescriptions filled at on-base or on-post pharmacies, the cost will remain free and you will not see the increase.

These changes should be kept in mind if you are used to getting your prescriptions away from the on-base or on-post pharmacies.

2020 Rates for Vision and Retiree Dental Insurance

The rates for vision and retiree dental insurance will be increasing in 2020. If you are enrolled in FEDVIP, which is vision insurance for military dependents, retirees, and their families and dental insurance for retirees and their families, you will need to decide if you will change plans or stick with what you have based on the new 2020 rates.

Dental premiums will increase by 5.6% on average over current rates, with vision premiums increasing by 1.5% on average, according to TRICARE. The Federal Benefits Open Season begins on November 11th and ends December 9th. If you want to change your plan, you must do so during open season or following a FEDVIP qualifying life event. You can use the FEDVIP plan comparison tool to see what these changes mean for you and if you should choose another plan. In 2020, FEDVIP will offer 10 dental and 4 vision carriers you can choose from.

COLA Increases

COLA will have an increase of 1.6% in 2020 which is lower than the 2019 increase of 2.8%. COLA increases are based on the increase in the CPI-W, from the 3rd quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019. Increases can change year to year. The last few years have seen, 0.0% in 2016, .3% in 2017, 2.0% in 2018, and 2.8% in 2019. Military retirees, those who receive disability payments, or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, as well as Social Security recipients will all see the 1.6% increase in their monthly payments.

Retirement Pay

When it comes to retirement pay, it is important to keep in mind that since the increase for the year is calculated differently than active duty pay, the raises can seem a little different based on the year. Based on the 1.6% increase, in 2020 you would receive $16 for every $1,000 in government benefits you receive. If a veteran is receiving around $2,000 a month as retirement pay, they would see an increase of $32 a month.

A veteran who entered military service after July 31, 1986, has had the option of going with the “Career Status Bonus” or (CSB)/REDUX instead of the “High 3-year average” option with regards to retirement pay. This means that they would have received $30,000 during their 15th year of service and will see a reduced retirement rate until they are 62 years old. This also means that their COLA increase is reduced by 1%, which would change the amount of the increase they would see in 2020.

VA Disability

VA Disability payments would also increase in 2020. A veteran with a 60% rating would see about an $18 a month increase, while a veteran with a 100% rating would see a $49 a month increase. The amount they would receive depends on their rating as well as their veteran dependent status. The rate for 2020 would be 1.6% and is based on COLA rates. Rates are effective as of December 1st, 2019.

Social Security Payments

Beyond veteran payments are social security payments. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security benefit in June 2019 was $1,471 for the retired worker. Based on this, the average beneficiary would see an increase of $24 in 2020.

3.1% Military Pay Increase

In March of this year, the White House proposed a 3.1% pay increase for service members to take place on January 1, 2020. Both the House and Senate approved the 3.1% pay raise. For junior enlisted, this would be an increase of almost $1,000 a year and up from 2.6% in 2019, and 2.4% in 2018.

The main guideline for determining military pay raises comes from the quarterly report of the US Employment Cost Index (ECI) which is put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The fiscal 2020 NDAA passed and the 3.1% raise will take effect as of Jan 1, 2020.

RELATED: Military Pay Charts

BAH 2020 Rates

BAH is the Basic Allowance for Housing. The 2020 BAH rates have been posted and the DOD’s BAH calculator has been updated. You can use this to find out how much you will be bringing home for BAH in 2020. Remember, if your rate goes down you are grandfathered into the old rate unless you move or change rank.

BAH is based on your rank, dependent status, and geographic location. BAH is intended to cover 95% of your housing costs. This % can change each year and was 99% just a few years ago. They did not change this from last year. Your rates are based on your duty station zip code.

Your new BAH rate will go into effect on January 1st and you will see it in your January 15, 2020 paycheck.

The proposed BAH increase is 2.9% for this year and will need to be approved by Congress and the President. That being said, individual rates are based on the cost of living in your exact location. In 2018, the proposed rate was also 2.9% and 2.55% was approved. In 2018, it was .7%.

BAS 2020 Rates

BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) has a proposed increase of 2.4% for 2020. This is a change from the 3.4% that is normally proposed. Rates have not changed all that much in the last few years since they are based on the cost of food.

The BAS Rates for 2020 should be:

Enlisted: $372.71 per month

Officers: $256.68 per month

BAS is meant to be used to pay for food for enlisted and officers. It is only intended to help pay for food, not to cover all the costs. The rate also does not change based on dependents because the money is not meant to cover food for family members.

The increase will take place on January 1st and you will see it on your January 15th, 2020 paychecks.

We will update as more 2020 military benefits changes are announced!

 

RELATED:

 

 

Getting A Free Breast Pump With TRICARE

You may have heard that TRICARE will give you a free breast pump when you have a baby. But, you might also have some questions about how this all works, what you need to do to get your pump, and any other details about the benefit.  Here is what you need to know about getting a breast pump with your TRICARE benefit:

What Does TRICARE Cover With The Breast Pump Benefit?

TRICARE covers breast pumps and breast pump supplies.

Who Is Eligible For The Breast Pump?

Any female TRICARE beneficiaries that have a birth event. A birth event is a pregnancy or when someone legally adopts an infant and intends to breastfeed the infant. This benefit is for those who have TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, TRICARE Reserve Select or any other TRICARE plan. Your service member can be active duty, retired, or guard/reserve.

Where Can You Get The Breast Pump?

The awesome thing about this benefit is that you can get your breast pump from a lot of different places. You can get one from a network or durable medical equipment provider, the Commissary, the Post Exchange (PX,) Base Exchange (BX,) or Station Exchange run by The Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES,) The Department of the Navy, The United States Marine Corps, or The United States Coast Guard. You can also get them from a civilian stateside or overseas retail store, or an online store where standard shipping and handling are also covered.

There is no specific list of approved providers, however, if you are going to get your breast pump from a retail store, going with a store that knows about the TRICARE benefit and what to do is a good idea.

The following can all be great retail stores to go with to receive your breast pump:

How Do You Get Your Breast Pump?

There are a few steps you need to take in order to receive your breast pump.

  • Step One – Get a prescription. This must be from a TRICARE-authorized doctor, nurse midwife, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. Your prescription must show if you are getting a basic manual or standard electric pump. In order to qualify for a hospital grade pump, you would need to have a special referral and authorization. You will need a diagnosis code on the prescription if you plan to get your breast pump from a network provider or durable medical equipment supplier.
  • Step Two – Your next step is to find the pump that you want and the place you want to get the pump from. You can contact your regional contractor in order to find a network provider or supplier. You would then need to show them your prescription. Some retailers have a form for you to fill out so that you can easily get your pump after you submit your information and prescription. If you are going to go with a military clinic or hospital, you would need to follow their procedures to get your breast pump.
  • Step Three – If you would like to purchase your breast pump ahead of time and then receive a refund, you would need to submit a DD Form 2642, as well as a copy of your prescription and receipt. If you don’t have a receipt you will not be able to be reimbursed. In addition, if you were not eligible for the breast pump when you bought the breast pump, you can not get a refund. The date on your prescription can be after the date on your receipt. You would then mail all of your paperwork to your TRICARE claims processor and you will then receive a check from your regional contractor.

Can You Get Any Breast Pump You Want?

TRICARE will pay up to a certain amount for a breast pump and initial breast pump kit. As of March of 2019, the rates are $312.84 for stateside and $500.55 for overseas. The rates may change every year. This benefit is not limited to a specific manufacturer, brand, or model number.

What Breast Pump Supplies Are Covered?

According to TRICARE, these breast pump supplies are covered:

  • One breast pump kit per birth event. The kit may not be separately billed for and reimbursed.
  • Standard power adapters: 1 replacement per birth event, and not within 12 months of the breast pump purchase date.
  • Tubing and tubing adapters: 1 set per birth event.
  • Locking rings: 2 every 12 months
  • Bottles: 2 replacement bottles and caps/locking rings every 12 months following the birth event
  • Bottle caps: 2 every 12 months after the birth event
  • Storage bags: 90 bags every 30 days following the birth event
  • Valves/membranes: 12 for each 12 months following the birth event
  • Supplemental Nursing System (SNS): 1 per birth event when a physician prescribes
  • Nipple shields/splash protectors: 2 sets (2 shields/set) per birth event when a physician prescribes

You can also receive more of the amounts listed above when your provider prescribes them and when medically necessary. You would need new prescriptions when you need replacement supplies that exceed the limits.

Where Can You Get Your Breast Pump Supplies?

You can get your breast pump supplies at all the same places you could get your breast pump at. You would use the same process as you do for getting your breast pump.

What Happens If Your Breast Pump Breaks?

You can get the pump replaced under certain conditions. You would want to contact your regional contractor for more information.

Can You Get A Breast Pump For Each Baby?

Yes, TRICARE allows you to have one breast pump per birth event.

When Can You Get Your Breast Pump and Supplies?

You can get them starting at 27 weeks or up to three years after the birth event. The three year period starts on the child’s birth date or the date of legal adoption.

All of this information is based on the March 2019 update of this TRICARE benefit which you can read more about here.

RELATED:

 

TRICARE Adds A New Coverage For Babies

New TRICARE Coverage for Babies

TRICARE has added a new coverage for babies. They will now be covering some or all of the cost of breast milk for those in need of the milk for their new baby. Here is what you need to know:

When Will TRICARE Cover the Breast Milk?

TRICARE will cover banked donor breast milk under certain conditions and situations. If an infant is critically ill, if the mother’s breast milk isn’t available, or if there simply isn’t enough milk being made, using banked donor milk can be an option.

With TRICARE, the infant will need to have one or more of these conditions:

Being born at a very low birthweight, under 1,500g, having gastrointestinal issues, diagnosed with FTT (Failure-to-Thrive,) having a formula intolerance, having Infant Hypoglycemia, having Congenital Heart Disease, if they have had a pre-or-post organ transplant, or if they have another serious health condition when the use of the banked donor milk is medically necessary.

In addition to at least one of those above, the mother’s milk needs to be contraindicated, unavailable because of a medical or psychological condition, or available but lacking in quantity, or quality to meet the baby’s needs.

What Needs To Be Done To Receive This Coverage?

In order to receive your breast milk, a TRICARE-authorized provider will have to prescribe the banked donor breast milk, as well as manage the infant’s care. Know that each prescription is only good for 30 days, that it will have to show the amount and frequency of feedings, that families can only get up to 35 ounces a day, and coverage can be up to age 12 months, as long as it is medically necessary and appropriate.

Where Can I Buy the Breast Milk? Anywhere I Want?

No, you will have to go through a HMB, which is a human milk bank that is accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA.) The HMBANA issues safety guidelines on processing human donor milk for member banks, to include locations outside of the US.

So basically, breast milk from non-HMBANA accredited milk banks, or peer-to-peer donations, sales, or other sources will not be covered.

What Is Covered When It Comes to the Cost of Breast Milk?

TRICARE reimbursement will cover the donor milk screening and processing charges. The breast milk itself is free of charge, but the charges are there to help protect and assure the safety and quality of the banked breast milk.

So, Will I Have to Pay Anything Out-of-pocket for Banked Donor Breast Milk?

Your costs will depend on your beneficiary category and provider type. Costs will also vary based on when you receive the breast milk as well. For example, if you are receiving it as a part of an inpatient stay. For those who receive the breast milk on an outpatient basis, copayments or cost-shares are the same as other outpatient medical supplies. You will also pay based on if your milk bank is a network provider or not.

You also might have to pay for the breast milk out-of-pocket and then submit a claim for the reimbursement.

Where Can I Go to Find Out More Information?

Donor milk banks that are accredited by HMBANA – https://www.hmbana.org/find-a-milk-bank/

TRICARE copays and cost-shares – https://tricare.mil/Costs/Compare.

Banked Donor Breast Milk- https://tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/BankedDonorMilk

RELATED:

 

COLA 2020 Changes

COLA Changes For 2020

For the latest military benefit changes for 2021, please go here.

COLA stands for Cost of Living Adjustment and is a way to increase benefit amounts in order to keep up with inflation. COLA in 2020 went up 1.6%.

Because of federal law, the COLA changes to the VA’s compensation and pension rates are the same percentage increases that social security benefits receive. Social security started automatic annual cost-of-living allowance back in 1975. This change was enacted by legislation that ties the COLA increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) of the previous year.

The last few years have shown increases in the amounts of 2.8% in 2019, 2.0% in 2018, .3% in 2017, and 0% in 2016. The largest increase in recent years was in 2009, with 5.8%.

VA Disability Rates, Veteran Pension Rates, Survivor Pension Rates, and The Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) rates will all receive the annual COLA increase if there is one. As what happened in 2016, some years do not see an increase.

Rates should increase on December 1st of each year, and then will be reflected on the first paycheck of the new year. For 2020 rates, that meant December 31st, 2019.

If a military member has opted for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/REDUX) where they receive a $30,000 bonus when they reach their 15th year of active service, they will also have their retired pay reduced, which reduces their COLA increase by 1%. At age 62, their retired pay will be restored to the same amount paid under the High-3 system and full COLA rates will be applied to their new compensation. However, COLA will continue to be applied at the reduced rate each year following. Disability retirees as well as Reserve/Guard members who retire at age 60 or younger are exempt from all provisions of the CSB/REDUX except for the 1% COLA reduction.

 

RELATED:

 

 

Exit mobile version