Being a servicemember gives you the honor of serving your country along with a steady income. It also comes with a nice benefits package and additional perks. Are you taking advantage of all that’s available to you? Here are a few military perks that you should know about:
Post-9/11 GI Bill
If you served as Active Duty after Sept. 10, 2001, you may be eligible for up to 36 months of tuition and training benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Things to keep in mind:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits expire 15 years after your last separation date from active service.
- You may be able to transfer some or all of the funds to a spouse or dependent children. For more information about transferring benefits, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
- Research, compare and estimate benefit amounts at approved education programs with the VA’s GI Bill® Comparison Tool.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Scholarship
The MyCAA Scholarship can provide tuition assistance if your spouse is looking to further his or her education. The MyCAA Scholarship:
- provides up to $4,000 for military spouses seeking a license, certificate, certification or associate degree for high-demand, high-growth portable career fields and occupations
- includes many careers such as nursing, construction, information technology and law
Find out more about eligibility requirements with this fact sheet from the Department of Defense.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
If you become permanently disabled as a result of service, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance program provides tuition assistance to your spouse and children. This program may be:
- used for up to 45 months of education in degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships or on-the-job training
- combined with the benefits of the GI Bill, effectively providing 81 months’ worth of tuition assistance
Vacation Time and Travel Opportunities
Servicemembers in all 5 branches of the armed forces earn 30 days of paid leave (vacation time) each year. If you don’t use your paid leave, you may be allowed to carry over up to 60 days into the next fiscal year (Oct. 1). Any unused days accrued above 60 may be forfeited—so don’t let your vacation days go to waste!
Space Available Flight, also known as Space-A Travel, is a privilege that provides air travel to current and retired military members at virtually no cost. Department of Defense aircraft with unfilled seats are your ticket to dozens of destinations around the United States and the world.
VA mortgages are a way for eligible veterans and Active Duty members to buy a home at a competitive, fixed interest rate—without the need for a down payment. This means you can buy a home with very little out-of-pocket cost. Other benefits of a VA home loan include:
- a closing cost limit
- no penalty fees for early loan payments
- assistance if you run into difficulty making payments
Perks and Discounts
Whether you’re buying a car, dining at your favorite restaurant or taking your family out to the movies or an amusement park, you’ll find plenty of deals and discounts for servicemembers. Some retailers offer discounts year-round, while others promote special events when discounts are available.
When you leave the military, you’ll find a number of tools and resources designed to help you and your family make a successful transition to civilian life. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) helps servicemembers navigate next steps in:
- pursuing higher education or technical training
- building career-readiness skills
- searching for jobs or starting a business
The training offered through TAP is known as Transition GPS (goals, plans, success) and involves a 5-day workshop with additional days of optional training. The program helps servicemembers build confidence and prepare for challenges as they leave the military.
Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment
In addition, Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) is a program that helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for and find work. Benefits include:
- financial assistance for college
- technical or business school
- on-the-job training
- employment counseling and rehabilitation services
Blended Retirement System
The military has one of the best retirement plans around, and the new military retirement system, called the Blended Retirement System (BRS), continues that tradition.
- Those who joined the military before Jan. 1, 2006 will remain in the legacy retirement system, which offers a pension after 20 years of service in the military, with monthly annuity payments for life based on a calculation of 2.5% per year served.
- Those who joined between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2017 may be eligible to participate in the BRS (if they opt in before Dec. 31, 2018) or stay in the legacy retirement system.
Anyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018 will be covered by the new BRS. The BRS includes automatic and matching Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions, mid-career retention bonuses and a monthly annuity for life after 20 years of service. The annuity payment amount is based on a calculation of 2% per year served, which is 0.5% lower compared to the legacy retirement pension program. But, the change in annuity benefit is offset by the added benefit of a DoD automatic contribution of 1% to your TSP.
Specialty Consultations, Assistance and Coaching
The military also provides a variety of counseling and coaching opportunities. You can explore family services, like adoption or marriage counseling, access to elder care assistance and health and wellness or career coaching. Other counseling opportunities available include stress or anger management and adjusting to life after a deployment.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.