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Military Pay 101: Basic Pay, Allowances and S&I Pay

As an active-duty service member, you receive many benefits and entitlements like free access to Military OneSource services and support. One of the primary benefits of working in the military is a steady paycheck and tax-free allowances. Here’s a summary of the different military pay elements you might see on your monthly LES.

Basic pay chart and raises

Basic pay is a service member’s primary compensation. Two main factors affect where you fall on the basic pay scale: your years of service and your rank, which generally correspond with your military paygrade.

Basic pay rates are calculated monthly, rather than weekly or bimonthly, and are subject to taxes like civilian pay. And — just like salaried civilians in the private sector — you’re not eligible for overtime pay. Your monthly pay is automatically split in half and distributed twice a month, but if you’re in the Army or Air Force, you can opt to receive a monthly lump sum instead.

Use the military pay charts below for a sample of service members’ 2023 active-duty pay rates.

A Sample of Monthly Active-Duty Enlisted Pay Scale for 2023 (all branches)

Years of Service
Sample
Paygrades
<2 4 6 10 20 30 40
E-2 $2,149.20 $2,149.20 $2,149.20 $2,149.20 $2,149.20 $2,149.20 $2,149.20
E-3 $2,259.90 $2,547.60 $2,547.60 $2,547.60 $2,547.60 $2,547.60 $2,547.60
E-4 $2,503.50 $2,914.80 $3,039.30 $3,039.30 $3,039.30 $3,039.30 $3,039.30
E-6 $2,980.50 $3,565.50 $3,711.90 $4,170.90 $4,616.40 $4,616.40 $4,616.40
E-9 $6,055.50 $7,102.80 $8,526.90 $9,402.30

A Sample of Monthly Active-Duty Officer Pay Scale for 2023 (all branches)

Years of Service
Sample
Paygrades
<2 4 6 10 20 30 40
O-1 $3,637.20 $4,576.80 $4,576.80 $4,576.80 $4,576.80 $4,576.80 $4,576.80
O-2 $4,190.70 $5,682.60 $5,799.30 $5,799.30 $5,799.30 $5,799.30 $5,799.30
O-4 $5,516.40 $6,906.30 $7,301.70 $8,254.80 $9,210.30 $9,210.30 $9,210.30
O-6 $7,669.20 $8,978.10 $9,012.60 $9,450.00 $12,050.40 $13,576.50 $13,576.50
O-8 $12,170.70 $12,908.10 $13,238.40 $13,918.20 $16,298.10 $17,118.30 $17,545.80
O-10 $17,675.10 $17,675.10 $17,675.10

Basic pay rates are automatically adjusted according to the annual Employment Cost Index, which compares military pay with growth in private sector wages. Additional pay raises above the ECI adjustment may be approved and funded by Congress.

Basic Allowance for Housing and other common military allowances

In addition to your basic pay, you may also receive additional “allowances.” Most allowances are non-taxable, which makes them a significant portion of your paycheck.

When you don’t receive government-provided housing, you’ll be given a military housing allowance known as a Basic Allowance for Housing. This allowance is meant to offset the cost of housing. The amount you receive will change from place to place and year to year and is impacted by:

  • the local rental market
  • your paygrade
  • yearly inflation
  • your dependency status or child support status.

Use this online BAH calculator to find your specific BAH rate.

Historically, the military provided both housing and food as part of a service member’s compensation. As of 2002, all service members receive a Basic Allowance for Subsistence to pay for their meals per the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual food cost index.

For 2023, the monthly BAS rates are:

  • Enlisted service members: $425.56/month
  • Officers: $311.88/month

You may be eligible for other allowances depending on your situation, including:

  • Basic Needs Allowance is a monthly allowance for active-duty service members with dependents whose gross household income falls below 130% of federal poverty guidelines.
  • Clothing Allowance pays for uniform purchase and maintenance.
  • Cost of Living Allowance for CONUS is a taxable allowance created to offset higher prices in the higher-cost CONUS locations.
  • Dislocation Allowance allows for partial reimbursement of expenses due to PCS orders or other required moves.
  • Family Separation Allowance provides for service members with dependents on an unaccompanied tour of duty.
  • Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance is a Defense Department program that supplements an eligible active service member’s household income if it’s below 130% of federal poverty guidelines (maximum payment is $1,100 per month). FSSA is only available for members with at least one dependent in their households who are serving overseas (not including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Guam).
  • Overseas Cost of Living Allowance is a non-taxable allowance designed to offset the higher overseas prices of non-housing goods and services.

Special and Incentive pays

Special and Incentive pays are ways to earn over and above your basic rate or allowances, regardless of your time in the service or paygrade. They help the Defense Department ensure that the right people are where they need to be to keep the country safe.

Some types of S&I pays include:

  • Hardship Duty Pay for service members assigned to places where the standard of living is significantly below that of CONUS
  • Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay for those assigned to specific regions where they may be subject to hostile actions like enemy fire or mines
  • Assignment Incentive Pay for service members on extended tours or certain unusual assignments
  • Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for those on specific types of flying duty such as parachute jumping, flight deck duty or experimental stress duty — also known as “flight pay” for aircrew members

Your take-home pay will be impacted by automatic deductions for things like taxes and Thrift Savings Plan contributions. If you’ve got any questions about payments or deductions, a Military OneSource financial counselor is happy to walk you through your LES for free.

Tags: allowances

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