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Careers & Benefits
Unlike civilian employers, service members and their families have access to unique military perks, such as leisure discounts, no-cost air travel and housing. These collective benefits, alongside various veteran benefits, ensure service members are supported before, during and after their time in the Military.
Active-duty service members receive complimentary medical and dental care, and their spouses and children may enroll in military health care as well, typically with a few low out-of-pocket costs. TRICARE, the Military’s health care plan, covers dependents of service members from at least 21 years of age (23 if a full-time student) to 26 years of age.
30 Days Paid Vacation
Active-duty service members earn 30 days of paid vacation each year at a rate of 2.5 days per month. At the end of each fiscal year, service members are able to carry over a limited amount of unused vacation time into the next year — 15 days if it is their first year of service and a maximum of 60 days for all following years.
Like any job, there are some limitations to when vacation time can be used. Service members generally receive their requested time off after giving adequate advance notice to their supervisor.
The Military provides many opportunities for service members to pursue a balanced life. Through programs like Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), military members and their families are able to enjoy a variety of complimentary or low-cost recreation and entertainment programs on base, as well as discounted off-base activities and vacations. Learn more about these benefits from each Service branch:
No-Cost Air Travel
Space-available, or “Space-A,” travel allows eligible travelers to fly on military aircraft for personal trips when military flights have available seating. Active-duty service members, retirees and their immediate families may use this benefit for flights at a low cost or, more typically, no cost. Members of the Reserve and National Guard and their family members are only permitted to use Space-A travel if they meet certain qualifications or if they are accompanied by an active-duty sponsor.
Using Space-A travel is as simple as registering in advance and waiting for unused seats to become available.
To cover the housing needs of active-duty service members and their families, a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is included as part of their compensation packages. If their accommodations are on base and provided by the Military, this BAH is automatically deducted from their paychecks. However, if housing is not available or the service member is permitted to live off base and chooses to do so, this allowance can be used to make rent or mortgage payments.
The Military provides multiple ways for service members to financially manage their retirement through the Blended Retirement System (BRS):
- The BRS automatically sets aside 3% of every service member’s basic pay into a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP contributions are adjustable according to IRS limits, and the Services will match a service member’s contribution after two years (up to 5%). After these two years, matched contributions are considered vested, which means service members can take that money with them if they transition out of the Military.
- Military members who retire after serving a required amount of years are provided with retired pay, which they are able to receive in one of two ways:
- A monthly paycheck for life (pension) that’s calculated based on a service member’s highest 36 months of basic pay and years of service.
- A lump sum, which is a discounted portion (25% or 50%) of their retirement, paid either all at once or distributed annually for up to four years. The defined benefit payment is reduced until reaching full retirement age.
This benefit is also available to Reserve and Guard members after 20 years of service and reaching age 60.
To support the well-being and work-life balance of military families, both birth mothers and nonbirthing parents can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This benefit applies to all active-duty service members and extends to qualified Reserve and Guard members serving on active duty for 12 consecutive months or more who have given birth, adopted a child or had a child placed for adoption or long-term foster care with them.
For birth parents, this benefit is in addition to convalescent leave, which is recovery time that may be authorized by the service member’s health care provider and unit commander.
Life insurance can help protect a family’s financial stability. Active-duty service members (and qualifying Reserve and Guard members) may select up to $500,000 in U.S. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) at a cost of only $31 a month.
When service members transition back to civilian life or retire, they continue to receive support through various organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and TRICARE. Benefits from these services can include health care, financial assistance, disability compensation, life insurance and home loans.
Additional services and programs available to military members and their families include:
- Adoption Reimbursement
- Child care
- Child education (pre-K through 12th grade)
- Counseling and confidential help
- Family citizenship
- Legal assistance services
- Money management services
- On-base amenities
- Religious services
- Moving and Relocation Support
- Services for families with special needs
- Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO)
MWR programs and other official/affiliated organizations also provide support to service members and their families. These include:
In recognition and support of those serving, many retailers and services offer military discounts or special rates. Though this perk is not an official extension of Department of Defense (DoD) benefits, such discounts are widely known and commonly used. Some areas in which you may encounter cost savings include:
- Air travel
- Automotive and motorcycles
- Baby and maternity
- Books and magazines
- Car rental
- Clothing and apparel
- Computers and electronics
- Hotels and accommodations
- Military gear and surplus
- Ski resorts
- Theme parks and attractions
- Timeshares, vacation homes and cottage rentals
- Tools and hardware