Understanding Military Pay

Military pay can be hard to understand-at first. There are several types of compensation that may affect a military member’s total pay; some of them are considered “special pay” for duty or qualifications that warrant additional pay in the eyes of the Department of Defense, while other pay may be added for all servicemembers on a yearly basis, or as the result of re-enlisting. There are also allowances, incentive pay, and more.

Basic Pay

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider/Released
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider/Released

Basic pay is the standard, taxable baseline amount a service member earns every month. Basic pay varies depending on three factors: the amount of time spent in the service to date, the time spent in the member’s current rank, and whether or not the military member is an officer or enlisted person. The lowest ranking enlisted member who has served the shortest amount of time in uniform will earn (at the time of this writing) just under $1,500 per month. The highest ranking and longest serving enlisted member will earn just under $8,000 per month.

It’s important to note that Active Duty pay differs from Guard/Reserve pay, and that serving full time offers different terms for pay, allowances, and entitlements than for those in the Guard and Reserve.

For Basic Pay, there is an annual cost-of-living increase that is determined by a variety of factors including Congressional approval.

Military Allowances

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site (VA.gov), military allowances are the second most important type of pay available to the service member. Part of the reasoning for this is that allowances are not taxed, and some allowances are quite substantial.

According to the VA, “Allowances are monies provided for specific needs, such as food or housing. Monetary allowances are provided when the government does not provide for that specific need. For example, the quantity of government housing is not sufficient to house all military members and their families. Those who live in government housing do not receive full housing allowances. Those who do not live in government housing receive allowances to assist them in obtaining commercial housing.”

Military allowances include money for housing, uniforms, and meals, depending on rank. The housing allowance is determined in part based on zip code and the rental averages calculated for that area. Uniform allowances are paid annually in most cases. The first clothing allowance is paid to the member during basic training, and other clothing allowances apply beyond that.

When a military member gets orders to a new duty station, a moving truck is usually involved and all the expenses that go with that type of relocation. To help offset the costs of moving, whether overseas or stateside, the Department of Defense provides a dislocation allowance that is approximately $740 for the lowest ranking military member (without dependents). The amount of this allowance is based on the service member’s rank and “with dependents” or “without dependents” status.

Another type of military allowance is the Cost Of Living Allowance, or COLA. In the past, COLA applied mainly to overseas military assignments, but in 1995 new rules allowed those serving at stateside bases to begin receiving COLA based on location. COLA is also calculated based on rank and “with dependents” or “without dependents”.

Incentive, Bonus & Special Pay

There are other types of military pay that are important to get familiar with including special duty pay, incentive pay, sea pay, drill pay, family separation allowance, family subsistence and hazardous duty pay.


About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


How To Request Form 702 (LES)

The Military Leave And Earnings Statement (LES) is basically a pay stub for military members. It shows the amount of pay, the amount of tax deductions, and your entitlements. It also shows the amount of accrued leave time, any allotments the military member has, and even shows details of the member’s chosen retirement plan. An LES is also a type of proof-of-service, as we’ll discuss in a moment.

U.S. Air National Guard. photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider/Released
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider/Released.

The LES is typically used in a variety of ways-a lender will require an LES copy when processing a home loan, you may be required to present one to show proof of your military standing when claiming education benefits while still on active duty, or you may be required to furnish one to an employer if you are a Guard/Reserve Member trying to request a leave of absence in order to respond to a call-to-duty.

But sometimes the LES is not furnished by the military member. This may be true in cases where an LES is required to apply for a home loan in the service member’s absence, or apply for benefits/entitlements on behalf of a service member who isn’t personally able to do so.

There are many scenarios where this may be a factor, but the most common are those where the service member is deployed or there is a medical condition that prevents the member from applying in person.

When using a military member’s LES in this way, a Power of Attorney (POA) may also be required. There are two basic types. One is a “general” POA, which allows the person named in the POA to perform a wide range of legal, financial or medical decisions on someone else’s behalf. The other is a limited POA which only permits the person named to act in ways specifically defined in the legally binding document.

Sometimes a military member has plenty of time to make these arrangements, and other times (such as in the case of a no-notice or limited-notice deployment) there isn’t time to get all the legwork done. A POA may be available, but copies of the LES are not. It falls to the person with the POA to request the member’s LES when needed (assuming the POA allows this in the legally binding language of the document).

There are procedures in place to request a copy of an LES; these procedures vary depending on the branch of service and the date of the LES being requested. For those who are requesting an LES using a Power of Attorney, there may be service-specific requirements for getting the LES. The Defense Finance And Accounting Service official website has information for those seeking copies of an LES, but it may be most helpful to begin with the Finance Office at the base where the military member is currently assigned (not the base the member is deployed to, in cases where there is a Temporary Duty assignment or deployment has occurred).


About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


2018 BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) rates

The Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) is currently proposed at 3.4.%. The 3.4% increase would be effective on January 1, 2018, if approved by the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Typically Congress and the President agree on a final version and sign into law in December. If enacted, the BAS increase would go into effect on January 1, 2018.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) is used to pay for food for Enlisted Soldiers and Officers. Beginning on January 1 2002, all enlisted members were given full BAS, but pay for their meals (including those provided by the government) such as through a meal card management system.

BAS is calculated based on the current cost of food in the United States as recorded by the Department of Agriculture. Just as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) correlates with the overall cost of living in a given zip code, BAS correlates with the cost of food in the given zip code. BAS, however, is not affected by the presence or absence of dependents, whereas BAH is a higher figure for service members with dependents.

BAS is not intended to cover all food-related expenses, but rather to aid in these expenses. The additional monthly stipend that service members can receive while overseas or when stationed in costly areas, known as Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), will not be affected by the proposed BAS rate.

Year Proposed Increase Actual Increase Enlisted Rate Officer Rate
2018 3.40% TBD $380.81 $262.25
2017 3.40% 0% $368.29 $253.63
2016 3.40% 0.1% $368.29 $253.63
2015 3.40% 2.90% $367.92 $253.38
2014 3.40% 1.48% $357.55 $246.24
2013 3.40% 1.09% $352.27 $242.60
2012 3.40% 7.20% $348.44 $239.96
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2018 Military Pay

The 2018 military pay increase is currently proposed at 2.1% according to the President’s FY 2018 budget proposal. The proposed pay increase is 0.3% lower than private sector wage growth but the same percentage that President Obama signed into law for FY 2017.

The 2.1% increase is not final until the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act is signed into law which typically occurs in December. During this time the NDAA and the military pay increase can change as legislators amend the defense budget.

The 2.1% raise would be about $575 annually for enlisted soldiers and $900 to $1,700 for officers annually. If the 2.1% increase were to hold it would be the eight time in nine years that military pay raises fell below private-sector wage growth.

See the 2018 proposed military pay charts.

The annual pay increase for service members is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Cost Index and growth in private-sector wages. However, by law, Title 37, Chapter 19, Section 1009, the President can set an alternate pay raise which is being proposed in the 2018 Defense Budget, and was also proposed and implemented for 2017.

Historical Military Pay Raises by Year

YearMilitary Pay Raise %YearMilitary Pay Raise %
20182.10% (proposed)19894.10%
20172.10%19882.00%
20161.30%19873.00%
20151.00%19863.00%
20141.00%19854.00%
20131.70%19844.00%
20121.60%19834.00%
20111.40%198214.30%
20103.40%198111.70%
20093.90%19807.00%
20083.50%19795.50%
2007 *2.70%19787.10%
20063.10%19774.80%
20053.50%19765.00%
2004 *4.20%19755.52%
2003 *4.70%19746.20%
2002 *6.90%19736.70%
20014.10%19727.20%
20006.20%19717.90%
19993.60%19708.10%
19982.80%196912.60%
19973.00%19686.80%
19962.40%19675.60%
19952.60%19663.20%
19942.20%1965E: 11% O:6%
19933.70%19642.5% - 8.5%
19924.20%196312.60%
19914.10%19620.00%
19903.60%

* 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007 are the average percentage raise as military pay raises differed for various military pay grades.

2018 military pay increases are for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, and Reserve forces where applicable.

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Military Pay Dates Military Reserve Pay Dates
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2018 Military Pay Charts

The 2018 military pay charts reflect a proposed 2.1% pay increase as set forth in the President’s defense budget. The proposed pay increase is the same as the raise percentage approved by President Obama for FY2017 and 0.3 percent less than it should be according to U.S. Code Title 37.

2018 Military Pay Scale

GRADE2 OR LESSOVER 2OVER 3OVER 4OVER 6OVER 8
O-10 (*1)$-$-$-$-$-$-
O-9 (*1)$-$-$-$-$-$-
O-8 (*1)$10,368 $10,708 $10,933 $10,996 $11,278 $11,748
O-7 (*1)$8,615 $9,015 $9,201 $9,348 $9,614 $9,878
O-6 (*2)$6,533 $7,178 $7,649 $7,649 $7,678 $8,007
O-5$5,446 $6,135 $6,560 $6,640 $6,905 $7,064
O-4$4,699 $5,440 $5,803 $5,883 $6,220 $6,582
O-3$4,132 $4,683 $5,055 $5,512 $5,776 $6,066
O-2$3,570 $4,066 $4,682 $4,841 $4,941 $4,941
O-1$3,099 $3,225 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899
O-3 (*3)$-$-$-$5,512 $5,776 $6,066
O-2 (*3)$-$-$-$4,841 $4,941 $5,098
O-1 (*3)$-$-$-$3,899 $4,163 $4,317
W-5$-$-$-$-$-$-
W-4$4,270 $4,593 $4,725 $4,855 $5,078 $5,299
W-3$3,899 $4,062 $4,228 $4,283 $4,458 $4,801
W-2$3,450 $3,777 $3,877 $0$4,170 $4,518
W-1$3,029 $3,355 $3,442 $3,628 $3,847 $4,169
E-9 (*4)$-$-$-$-$-$-
E-8$-$-$-$-$-$4,223
E-7$2,936 $3,204 $3,327 $3,489 $3,616 $3,834
E-6$2,539 $2,794 $2,917 $3,037 $3,162 $3,443
E-5$2,326 $2,483 $2,603 $2,725 $2,917 $3,117
E-4$2,133 $2,242 $2,363 $2,483 $2,589 $2,589
E-3$1,925 $2,046 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170
E-2$1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831
E-1 > 4 mos$1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633
E-1 < 4 mos$1,510 $-$-$-$-$-

2018 Military Pay Scale

GRADEOVER 10OVER 12OVER 14OVER 16OVER 18OVER 20
O-10 (*1)$-$-$-$-$-$15,910
O-9 (*1)$-$-$-$-$-$14,653
O-8 (*1)$11,857 $12,303 $12,431 $12,815 $13,372 $13,884
O-7 (*1)$10,182 $10,486 $10,791 $11,748 $12,555 $12,555
O-6 (*2)$8,050 $8,050 $8,507 $9,316 $9,791 $10,266
O-5$7,412 $7,668 $7,999 $8,505 $8,745 $8,983
O-4$7,032 $7,382 $7,625 $7,765 $7,846 $7,846
O-3$6,253 $6,561 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722
O-2$4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,940
O-1$3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899
O-3 (*3)$6,253 $6,561 $6,821 $6,970 $7,174 $7,174
O-2 (*3)$5,363 $5,569 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721
O-1 (*3)$4,474 $4,629 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841
W-5$-$-$-$-$-$7,592
W-4$5,523 $5,859 $6,154 $6,435 $6,665 $6,889
W-3$5,159 $5,328 $5,523 $5,723 $6,084 $6,328
W-2$4,690 $4,859 $5,067 $5,229 $5,376 $5,552
W-1$4,320 $4,530 $4,738 $4,901 $5,051 $5,233
E-9 (*4)$5,159 $5,275 $5,423 $5,596 $5,771 $6,051
E-8$4,409 $4,525 $4,664 $4,814 $5,085 $5,222
E-7$3,957 $4,175 $4,356 $4,480 $4,612 $4,662
E-6$3,553 $3,766 $3,830 $3,877 $3,933 $3,933
E-5$3,281 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301
E-4$2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589
E-3$2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170
E-2$1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831
E-1 > 4 mos$1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633
E-1 < 4 mos$-$-$-$-$-$-

2018 Military Pay Scale

GRADEOVER 22OVER 24OVER 26OVER 28OVER 30OVER 32
O-10 (*1)$15,910 $15,910 $15,910 $15,910 $15,910 $15,910
O-9 (*1)$14,865 $15,170 $15,702 $15,702 $15,910 $15,910
O-8 (*1)$14,226 $14,226 $14,226 $14,226 $14,583 $14,583
O-7 (*1)$12,555 $12,555 $12,555 $12,555 $12,872 $12,872
O-6 (*2)$10,535 $10,809 $11,339 $11,339 $11,339 $11,339
O-5$9,253 $9,253 $9,253 $9,253 $9,253 $9,253
O-4$7,846 $7,846 $7,846 $7,846 $7,846 $7,846
O-3$6,722 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722
O-2$4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941
O-1$3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899
O-3 (*3)$7,174 $7,174 $7,174 $7,174 $7,174 $7,174
O-2 (*3)$5,721 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721
O-1 (*3)$4,841 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841
W-5$7,977 $8,264 $8,582 $8,582 $9,011 $9,011
W-4$7,219 $7,489 $7,798 $7,798 $7,953 $7,953
W-3$6,474 $6,629 $6,840 $6,840 $6,840 $6,840
W-2$5,667 $5,759 $5,759 $5,759 $5,759 $5,759
W-1$5,233 $5,233 $5,233 $5,233 $5,233 $5,233
E-9 (*4)$6,288 $6,537 $6,919 $6,919 $7,264 $7,264
E-8$5,456 $5,585 $5,904 $5,904 $6,023 $6,023
E-7$4,834 $4,926 $5,276 $5,276 $5,276 $5,276
E-6$3,933 $3,933 $3,933 $3,933 $3,933 $3,933
E-5$3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301
E-4$2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589
E-3$2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170
E-2$1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831
E-1 > 4 mos$1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633
E-1 < 4 mos$-$-$-$-$-$-

2018 Military Pay Scale

GRADEOVER 34OVER 36OVER 38OVER 40
O-10 (*1)$15,910 $15,910 $15,910 $15,910
O-9 (*1)$15,910 $15,910 $15,910 $15,910
O-8 (*1)$14,947 $14,947 $14,947 $14,947
O-7 (*1)$12,872 $12,872 $12,872 $12,872
O-6 (*2)$11,566 $11,566 $11,566 $11,566
O-5$9,253 $9,253 $9,253 $9,253
O-4$7,846 $7,846 $7,846 $7,846
O-3$6,722 $6,722 $6,722 $6,722
O-2$4,941 $4,941 $4,941 $4,941
O-1$3,899 $3,899 $3,899 $3,899
O-3 (*3)$7,174 $7,174 $7,174 $7,174
O-2 (*3)$5,721 $5,721 $5,721 $5,721
O-1 (*3)$4,841 $4,841 $4,841 $4,841
W-5$9,461 $9,461 $9,461 $9,461
W-4$7,953 $7,953 $7,953 $7,953
W-3$6,840 $6,840 $6,840 $6,840
W-2$5,759 $5,759 $5,759 $5,759
W-1$5,233 $5,233 $5,233 $5,233
E-9 (*4)$7,627 $7,627 $7,627 $7,627
E-8$6,023 $6,023 $6,023 $6,023
E-7$5,276 $5,276 $5,276 $5,276
E-6$3,933 $3,933 $3,933 $3,933
E-5$3,301 $3,301 $3,301 $3,301
E-4$2,589 $2,589 $2,589 $2,589
E-3$2,170 $2,170 $2,170 $2,170
E-2$1,831 $1,831 $1,831 $1,831
E-1 > 4 mos$1,633 $1,633 $1,633 $1,633
E-1 < 4 mos$-$-$-$-

Notes:
1. Basic pay for an O-7 to O-10 is limited by Level II of the Executive Schedule. Basic pay for O-6 and below is limited by Level V of the Executive Schedule.
2. Basic Pay for O-6 and below is limited by Level V of the Executive Schedule in effect during Calendar Year 2017 which is $12,641.70
3. Applicable to O-1 to O-3 with at least 4 years and 1 day of active duty or more than 1460 points as a warrant and/or enlisted member. See Department of Defense Financial Management Regulations for more detailed explanation on who is eligible for this special basic pay rate.
4. For the Sergeant Major of the Army, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the JCS, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau or Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard basic pay is $8,165.10.
5. Combat Zone Tax Exclusion for O-1 and above is based on the basic pay rate plus Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay which is $225.
6. Basic pay for Academy Cadets/Midshipmen and ROTC members/applicants is $1,062.30.

The military pay charts are for all U.S. Armed Forces personnel Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, and Reserves forces where applicable. Also, be sure to know your military pay dates.

Related Articles
2018 Military Pay Raise 2018 BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) Rates
2018 BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) Rates 2018 Defense Budget
2018 Military Pay Charts Military Allowance, Incentive, Bonus & Special Pay
Military Pay Dates Military Reserve Pay Dates
Military Pay Allowances List Military Clothing (Uniform) Allowance Rates