Military benefits are not just for those in uniform; military spouses and what the military calls “dependents children” are also eligible for money-saving benefits that may apply to both officer and enlisted members as well as their immediate family.
Pay And Benefits For Families
At the most basic level, those who enter the military with a family or start one after joining the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard get benefits that their unmarried counterparts do not.
The military member’s basic pay is not affected by being married. However, there are military housing allowances, education benefits, and other related issues that are definitely affected. This is true whether the service member gets married after signing up, or joins the service with a family.
The Department of Defense pays troops a housing allowance – known as Basic Allowance For Housing or BAH for short. This benefit is awarded at a different rate for single military members than for married ones.
The difference depends on the zip code where you live. A married junior enlisted military member living in Kansas City, Missouri is paid some $300 more at the “with dependents rate” than a single service member living in the same place at the same rank.
No, that benefit is not paid to the spouse or children of the service member, but it makes family budget planning a lot different. Especially during times when money is especially tight. What about the benefits that can be used by a family member?
Military Education Benefits For Spouses And Dependents
There are a variety of education benefits open to military spouses and the children of service members. This includes the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the updated “Forever” GI Bill. Both permit the transfer of a service member’s GI Bill education benefit to a spouse or dependent. What does that mean for those non-military members who are able to use the GI Bill?
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states, “The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows Servicemembers to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces.”
The DoD Decides
The Department of Defense has the final say over who can and cannot transfer GI Bill benefits to spouses or children. For those who do transfer once the process is approved, the student (spouse or child) is responsible for applying for the GI Bill benefit with the VA. Those who do can take advantage of the following options:
- Tuition and fees paid up to the maximum limit for the school’s location (based on public school tuition and fee limits established by the Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Tuition and fee payments rendered directly to public schools
- Yellow Ribbon Program benefits can help meet the costs of tuition and fees for out-of-state and private college attendance, but not everyone qualifies
- The VA pays Post 9/11 GI Bill recipients a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code where the student “physically attends the majority of classes, rather than the location of the institution of higher learning where the student is enrolled” according to the VA official site
Service-Specific Education Benefits For Spouses And Children
There are other education benefits offered via each branch of service that are unrelated to the GI Bill but can help spouses and children. They include:
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Supplemental Education Grant
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance Program
- Army Emergency Relief Spouse Education Assistance Program
- Air Force Aid Society Tuition Grant
You can get more information about these programs via the orderly room, First Sergeant, Command Sergeant Major, Senior Chief, or other unit representatives at the military base where the military member is assigned.
Other Financial Benefits Of Being A Military Spouse Or Dependent
Not all financial benefits of being married to or being the child of a military member come from the federal government. Many state governments have options to help spouses and children of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, etc. Some of this help is conditional. Many states offer programs intended to help surviving family members of troops killed on duty or who died as a result of military service.
This assistance comes in the form of school scholarships, hiring preference at the state level (usually Civil Service positions or state government jobs), and even free or reduced cost licensing options for professional work that requires certifications by the state or a third party.
Learn More Today
Are you the spouse or child of a service member? Start learning about your benefits by asking the service member. You can also contact the unit orderly room or personnel center. Be sure to ask what options are open to you based on the branch of military service, the nature of the military member’s status as an active duty, retired or separated military member, or as a member of the National Guard or Reserve.
Joe Wallace specializes in personal finance, military affairs, and consumer protection topics. Since 1995, his work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and collects unusual vinyl records, which gives him an excuse to write the vinyl blog Turntabling.net.