Military Times

2012 Benefits Handbook

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Pay and Benefits



The military adoption subsidy, a $2,000 reimbursement per child (with a maximum of $5,000 per calendar year for multiple adoptions) for certain adoption expenses, is available if you use a nonprofit agency or a qualifying adoption agency as defined in Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 1052, and the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation Vol. 7C, Chapter 4.

The subsidy reimburses specific adoption costs, including placement fees, legal fees and medical expenses. It does not reimburse travel expenses.

Contact: National Military Family Association,


There are several uses for Assignment Incentive Pay, which is set by law at a maximum of $3,000 per month, although no service has ever paid anything close to that amount. The services use this pay in widely disparate ways for various skill sets and locations.

Assignment Incentive Pay is taxable unless in a combat zone.


Those who entered the military after Aug. 1, 1986, may take a one-time bonus of $30,000, payable in a lump sum or annual installments, when they reach their 15th anniversary of service, in return for agreeing to serve at least five more years. However, by accepting the bonus, they agree to receive reduced lifetime retirement benefits.

The bonus is part of the “Redux” retirement system. By choosing the bonus, service members commit to completing at least 20 years of active-duty service. If they choose to retire at 20 years, they receive 40 percent of their average basic pay over their three highest-earning years in uniform as retired pay, instead of the traditional 50 percent.

If they serve beyond 20 years, the value of their retirement pay increases until at 30 years of service; their retirement pay would be 75 percent of average basic pay over the three highest earning years, the same as for those who don’t accept the bonus. A limited number of senior members who will be allowed to serve until 40 years will earn 100 percent of average basic pay over their three highest earning years when they retire.

However, annual cost-of-living adjustments for Redux bonus-takers are 1 percentage point less than the adjustment for those in the traditional retirement plan, which makes the lifetime value of Redux less than traditional retirement. At age 62, there is a one-time “catch-up” adjustment that brings both the Redux and traditional pensions back to parity, but only for that one year, after which Redux again begins to lag by 1 percentage point per year.

The Redux bonus is taxable unless earned while serving in a designated tax-free combat zone. It may be paid in two to five equal annual installments (ranging from $6,000 to $15,000), so that all or some of the bonus can be invested in the tax-deferred Thrift Savings Plan.

(See Retirement chapter.)


A Defense Department directive issued Aug. 31, 2011, implemented a provision of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act that authorized a new allowance for catastrophically injured or ill service members who need help performing everyday functions.

Special Compensation For Assistance with Activities of Daily Living, or SCAADL, is a taxable allowance designed to offset the cost of care for service members who are not hospitalized but need assistance with day-to-day activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. This close attention often is provided by a spouse or parent, many of whom sacrifice jobs to care for their loved ones.

DoD estimates that eligible service members could receive an average of $1,000 a month, although the amount will vary by individual. The exact figure is determined by a formula that takes into account area wages for home health workers and the number of hours of weekly care that the service member requires.

The pay is not automatic; families must apply and meet certain criteria. The member must be catastrophically injured or debilitated by illness in the line of duty, must be homebound, and must be certified by a DoD or Veterans Affairs Department physician as needing home help.

Service members who apply for SCAADL must designate a primary caregiver who is not on active duty. The allowance will be paid until a doctor determines that the disabled service member no longer needs assistance or the member transfers to VA care and receives compensation under that agency’s caregiver program.

Troops are encouraged to contact a member of their recovery team to apply.


The risk associated with diving merits extra pay. The maximum rate of $340 a month goes to master divers, with lesser rates going to divers with other skills and experience levels.

Diving pay is taxable.


Enlistment bonuses go to new recruits as an incentive to join. Often, part of the bonus is a lump sum, with the remainder paid in installments. Each service has its own program. Currently, the maximum active-duty enlistment bonuses are $40,000 in the Army, $15,000 in the Navy, $14,000 in the Air Force and $10,000 in the Marine Corps.

The estates of service members who die on active duty or service members who retire or separate due to a disability that is determined to be combat-related cannot be forced by their service branch to repay the unearned portion of any bonus. The services also must pay out the remainder of any bonus not yet paid in such instances.

Enlistment bonuses are taxable.


Flight pay is intended to keep pilots, navigators and other aviators in the military.

Aviation Career Incentive Pay. ACIP goes to officers and warrant officers with at least six years of active aviation service. The lowest rate, $125 per month, starts after the sixth year of aviation service, and the highest rate, $840 per month, is paid to aviators with more than 14 but less than 22 years of cumulative aviation service.

Aviation Continuation Pay. ACP is a targeted force-shaping tool to retain aviators in specified year groups. Generally, officer aviators who remain on active duty after their initial commitment expires are eligible. The services tweak their programs each year, depending on their needs, so the bonuses can change. The annual bonuses historically have maxed out at $25,000.

Career Enlisted Flight Pay. Enlisted members in the Air Force and Navy receive Career Enlisted Flight Pay, also known as Career Enlisted Flier Incentive Pay, at a rate of $150 per month for less than four years of aviation service, to $400 per month for more than 14 years of aviation service.

Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for Flying. Nonpilots who are required to fly a minimum of four hours per month while serving as crew members performing duties essential to the operation of an aircraft, or duties required for a mission that can be accomplished only with an in-flight aircraft, are eligible for this pay if they are not already drawing Career Enlisted Flier Incentive Pay.

Monthly payment levels are based on rank. For enlisted members, the pay starts at $150 for E-3s and below, and tops out at $240 for E-7s and above. For warrant officers, it ranges from $150 for W-1s and W-2s to $250 for W-5s. For officers, it ranges from $150 for O-1s and O-2s to $250 for O-5s and O-6s. For flag and general officers, the payment rate drops back to $150.

Flight pays are taxable except for service in designated combat zones.

For details on flight pay, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


In an effort to expand language capabilities, the services offer up to $12,000 per year for active-duty members with needed language skills. The highest rates of pay go to those with proficiency in the most critically needed languages, such as Arabic, Pashto, Persian-Afghan (Dari) and Mandarin.

The amount of pay also varies depending on the level of proficiency in speaking, reading and writing the foreign language.

Foreign language proficiency pay is taxable except in combat zones.


There are two types of hardship duty pay: HDP-L for serving in a hardship location and HDP-M for serving on special hardship missions.

The maximum amount of hardship duty pay allowed by law is $1,500 per month. The services have authority to pay the amount that a service member earns or is expected to earn for a specific hardship duty assignment in a lump sum, rather than in monthly payments. No service pays anywhere close to the maximum hardship duty pay allowed by law.

HDP-L. This is for enlisted personnel and officers serving in more than 150 locations around the world that are deemed austere and/or arduous. Members who serve 30 or more days in a designated hardship area get $50, $100 or $150 per month, depending on the area and the level of austerity.

The danger level of a particular location also factors into hardship duty pay. Locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, which qualify for both hardship duty and imminent danger pay, are rated at $100 per month for HDP-L. Thus, service members can draw up to $325 per month in a location qualifying for both imminent danger pay and hardship duty pay.

HDP-M. This is for troops assigned to, on temporary duty to or under operational control of Joint Task Force Full Accounting or the Central Identification Lab Hawaii. The rate is $150 a month to perform investigations and excavations of crash sites to recover remains of U.S. service members in remote areas of nations such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea. Troops assigned to the task force could qualify for both HDP-L and HDP-M, earning a maximum of $300 per month if they spend 30 or more days in Laos, Vietnam or North Korea.

Hardship duty pay is taxable unless received in a designated combat zone.

For the areas that qualify for hardship duty pay, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


People in especially dangerous jobs, such as those who handle toxic chemicals, are entitled to hazardous duty incentive pay. Officers and enlisted personnel in such positions collect an extra $150 per month. An especially dangerous kind of parachuting &dmash; high-altitude, low-opening, or HALO, jumping &dmash; qualifies service members for $225 a month.

Hazardous duty pay is taxable unless received in a combat zone.


When military personnel serve on land, aboard ship or in aircraft within an officially declared “imminent danger area,” they are entitled to be paid an extra $225 a month.

Troops do not have to be committed to combat to qualify for imminent danger pay; they just have to be on official duty in an officially designated area. Members who unexpectedly come under hostile fire in a foreign country are entitled to hostile fire pay, which is $225 a month. However, a member may not receive both imminent danger pay and hostile fire pay in the same month.

Under a significant change that took effect in February 2012, this pay is now prorated at $7.50 per day when a service member spends less than a full month in a qualifying area. Previously, a service member arriving in a qualifying area on the last day of a month and departing the first day of the next month, for example, could collect $450, two full months of danger pay. Under the new policy, that member will collect $15.

Exceptions will be made for troops are “exposed to a hostile fire incident” as designated by local commanders; those troops will be eligible for the full monthly rate regardless of what portion of the month they spend in the qualifying area.

Imminent danger pay is tax-free if earned inside a designated combat zone or hazardous duty area.

For the areas that qualify for imminent danger pay, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


Special pay for medical personnel is intended to narrow the gap between military and civilian salaries for medical professionals and provide a means to attract and retain them beyond initial obligation. All medical pays are taxable.

The major medical pays include:

Board-certified pay. Paid monthly to eligible physicians, dentists and other health care providers who are board-certified in their specialties. Annual amounts range from $2,500 to $6,000, depending on specialty and years of creditable service.

Medical special pay. Medical and dental officers with critical specialties are eligible if they are in paygrades O-7 and below and meet the service-specific creditable service requirements and/or have no remaining active-duty service commitment for medical education and training. Creditable service is the time an officer spent in internship and residency, plus active-duty time spent as a medical or dental officer.

Officers must have completed initial residency training and must sign a written agreement to stay on active duty for two, three or four years. Bonuses vary by specialty and length of service agreement.

The current maximum is $60,000 annually for a four-year pledge for anesthesiologists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons and radiologists; the minimum is $10,000 annually for a three-year pledge for a variety of specialties.

Additional special pay. Medical officers who agree to serve one more year on active duty can get $15,000, provided they are not in an internship or residency. For dentists, the amount ranges from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on years of creditable service.

Variable special pay. This goes to medical and dental officers on active duty for at least one year and varies based on years of creditable service. Annual payments range from $1,200 to $12,000 for medical officers and $3,000 to $12,000 for dental officers.

Incentive special pay. Physician specialists below the grade of O-7 who are not in internship or residency programs are eligible for annual bonuses of $20,000 to $36,000 a year if they agree to serve on active duty for at least one additional year.

Dental officer accession bonus. Qualified dentists who agree to accept a commission, be assigned dental duties and remain on active duty for four years may receive an accession bonus of up to $75,000.

Pharmacy officer special pay. Pharmacists in paygrades O-6 and below who have completed their active-duty obligations for education and training and agree to remain for at least two years qualify for retention special pay of $15,000 per year.

Registered nurse accession bonus. Qualified RNs who agree to accept a commission and be assigned nurse duties may receive an accession bonus of up to $20,000 for a three-year contract and $30,000 for a four-year contract.

Registered nurse incentive special pay. Qualified RNs may receive annual incentive special pay of up to $5,000 for a one-year contract; up to $10,000 per year for two years; up to $15,000 per year for three years; and up to $20,000 per year for four years.

Registered nurse anesthetists incentive special pay. Certified registered nurse anesthetists may sign a written agreement to remain on active duty for one to four years for a bonus that varies by length of service agreement. The minimum is $20,000 for a one-year pledge; the maximum is $50,000 per year for four years.

Critical skills wartime accession bonus. The military services may pay wartime accession bonuses to medical and dental officers who agree to serve at least four years. During the active-duty service obligation for which they qualify for the bonus, they are ineligible for multiyear special or incentive pay. Bonus amounts vary by specialty; they currently range from $180,000 for aerospace medicine to $400,000 for neurosurgery, vascular surgery and general surgery.

For details on medical and dental special pays, go to and click on “Pay Charts.”


Navy officers with critical skills in the nuclear field are eligible for several kinds of special pay:

♦ A one-time accession bonus made up of two parts: a nuclear officer accession bonus and a nuclear career accession bonus. The first is paid to those who sign a contract to participate in naval officer nuclear power training; the second is paid upon successful completion of officer training in connection with the supervision, operation and maintenance of naval nuclear propulsion plants.

The Navy is authorized by law to pay up to $20,000 in combination for both parts of the bonus, but currently limits payments to $15,000 for the nuclear officer accession bonus and $2,000 for the nuclear career accession bonus.

♦ Nuclear officer continuation pay of $17,500 per year for an initial three-year agreement for officers not obligated to serve department head tours; and $30,000 per year for three-, four- and five-year contracts for officers who have completed a department head tour or are on contracts that obligate them for a department head tour.

Nuclear officers are eligible for this pay up to 30 years of service.

♦ A nuclear career incentive bonus of $10,000 per year for warrant officers and limited-duty officers; $12,500 per year for unrestricted line officers and lateral transfer officers; and $22,000 per year for those who are serving or have served as major command unrestricted line officers or major program acquisition professionals.

All nuclear duty special pays are taxable.


The services have the authority to pay bonuses to service members with certain skills to extend their overseas tours in certain locations. When the services choose to pay it, those who qualify can select one of four options:

♦ A payment of up to $80 per month for each extra month they are overseas.

♦ An annual bonus of up to $2,000 for each year of the extension, payable as a lump sum or in monthly installments.

♦ Thirty extra days of rest-and-recuperative leave.

♦ Fifteen extra days of rest-and-recuperative leave, plus government-paid, round-trip transportation to the nearest point of debarkation in the U.S. (only for service members; family members are not covered).

Overseas tour extension incentive pay is taxable unless the service member re-enlists in a designated combat zone.


Sea pay is intended to offset the hardships of sea duty. Technically, all the services offer sea pay at different payment rates, but most service members who receive it are sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Amounts depend on length of time on sea duty and paygrade.

In the Army, monthly sea pay ranges from $50 to $646 for enlisted members; $182 to $730 for warrant officers; and $150 to $380 for commissioned officers.

In the Air Force, monthly rates are $50 to $520 for enlisted members and $150 to $380 for officers.

In the Navy and Marine Corps, monthly rates are $50 to $620 for enlisted members, $180 to $700 for warrant officers, and $100 to $535 for officers.

The Coast Guard has a complex set of sea pay rates with three levels of payments for all paygrades, based on the type of ship to which members are assigned. Monthly payments across all three levels range from $20 for E-1s to $750 for E-9s and O-6s.

Sea pay is governed by a host of regulations, but the main requirement generally is that the service member be assigned to a ship, ship-based staff or a ship-based aviation unit whose job is performed while underway.

By law, sea pay goes to all members of two-crew missile submarines, even though only one crew is at sea at a time. Sea pay also goes to personnel serving aboard submarine and destroyer tenders.

Sea pay is taxable unless earned in a designated combat zone.

For current sea pay rates, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


Sailors in paygrades E-4 and below are entitled to an extra $100 a month in sea pay after serving three consecutive years on sea duty. The extra benefit is built into regular sea pay for E-5s through E-9s. Officers are entitled to the same $100 benefit at any point in their careers during which they serve more than three consecutive years at sea. The premium is in addition to career sea pay.

Sea pay premiums are taxable unless earned in a designated combat zone.


To keep some experienced, highly skilled people in uniform, the military can offer re-enlistment bonuses.

The selective re-enlistment bonus is calculated based on length of re-enlistment, time in service and need of skills. The bonus may be paid in an upfront lump sum or in installments.

Maximum bonuses are $90,000 in the Army, Navy and Air Force and $74,438 in the Marine Corps. The Army offers a “critical skills retention bonus” for personnel in certain job fields; the top payment under that program is $150,000 for Special Forces personnel who agree to stay in for an additional six years.

The services are prohibited from requiring repayment of the unearned portion of any bonus, and must pay out the remainder of any bonus not yet paid, to the estates of service members who die on active duty or to service members who retire or separate due to a disability that is determined to be combat-related.


This is an incentive for submariners on top of sea pay, based on rank and years of service. Monthly rates are $75 to $600 for enlisted members; $285 to $425 for warrant officers; and $230 to $835 for officers.

Some personnel are eligible for submarine duty pay while based ashore. To qualify, they must meet specific criteria for time in the submarine service. Enlisted members may get submarine pay ashore if they agree to serve another tour on a sub after their shore assignment.

Sub pay is taxable unless earned in a designated combat zone.

To see submarine pay rates, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”

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