Enlistment and Reenlistment Bonus Guide – Everything You Need to Know about Bonuses

Enlistment bonuses and reenlistment bonuses are just one way that the military entices people to join the military or choose to reenlist for additional service. These bonuses aren’t available to everyone, however. Bonuses are most often used as a tool to get people to sign up for hard-to-fill jobs, those which require a lot of…
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Enlistment bonuses and reenlistment bonuses are just one way that the military entices people to join the military or choose to reenlist for additional service. These bonuses aren’t available to everyone, however. Bonuses are most often used as a tool to get people to sign up for hard-to-fill jobs, those which require a lot of training, and jobs that offer high-paying jobs in the civilian sector.

Let’s take a look at enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, including how much they can run, how they are paid out, and what you can expect if you receive one.

Get Everything in Writing – And Keep It Forever

A verbal promise is a contract. Except when it’s not. The military is a massive organization, and unless you have an enlistment bonus or reenlistment bonus in writing, it never happened. There are many stories of recruiters or retention officials making promises of bonuses for signing on the dotted line. But unless you see it in your contract, it isn’t official.

You also need to keep a copy of your contract forever. In fact, you should keep all important military records forever. Getting copies of them after the fact can be difficult, and sometimes impossible.

This is especially important for military records such as contracts, training records, enlistments and reenlistments, promotions, benefits, and similar records. If you don’t have copies of your records, you will need to contact your respective military personnel or human resources office (AFPC, Army HR Command, Navy BUPERS, etc.).

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Enlistment Bonuses

reenlistment bonus guide
Read this guide before reenlisting!

Some jobs in the military are eligible for an initial enlistment bonus of up to $40,000. Keep in mind this is only for the most difficult-to-fill positions, and bonuses are not available for every job. The size and availability of bonuses depends on your branch of service, job specialty, and the length of your enlistment (typically between 3 and 6 years).

As you can imagine, a 6-year enlistment bonus generally pays more than a 3-year enlistment bonus. If your job is eligible for a bonus, you will typically receive it after you finish your basic training and initial technical training.

This last statement is very important – you may sign a contract that wards you an enlistment bonus, but you don’t actually earn that sign-up bonus until you complete initial training. So if you fail AIT or Tech School, you may not earn that bonus.

Reenlistment Bonuses

Reenlistment bonuses may be available to current service members when they reenlist for another term, again, usually in 3-, 4-, or 6-year increments. As previously mentioned, reenlistment bonuses aren’t available for every career field. Each branch of service is able to determine which specialty (Rating, MOS, or AFSC) is eligible for a reenlistment bonus.

You may be eligible for a reenlistment bonus if you are a member of the uniformed service who:

  • has completed at least 17 months of continuous active duty (other than for training) but not more than 20 years of active duty;
  • is qualified in a military skill designated as critical by the Secretary of Defense, or by the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as service in the Navy; and
  • reenlists or voluntarily extends the member’s enlistment for a period of at least three years in a regular component of the service concerned; or in a reserve component of the service concerned, if the member is performing active Guard and Reserve duty (as defined in section 101 (d)(6) of title 10).
  • You are not currently receiving special nuclear-training pay.
  • You reenlist or voluntarily extend your enlistment for a period of at least three years.
  • You enlist in a regular component of the service concerned or continue in a reserve component of the service concerned.

How much can you receive as a bonus? Reenlistment bonuses cannot exceed the lesser of:

  • The amount equal to the product of 15 times the monthly rate of basic pay to which the member was entitled at the time of the discharge or release of the member; and
  • The number of years (or the monthly fractions thereof) of the term of reenlistment or extension of enlistment.
  • Reenlistment bonus not to exceed $90,000.

Note on Special Retention Bonuses: Some specialties are eligible to receive retention bonuses of more than $90,000. These are usually limited to those in the medical field, aviators, and those in select nuclear specialties. These are all on a case-by-case basis and are spelled out in U.S. Code: 37 U.S. C, Chapter 5.

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How (Re)enlistment Bonuses Are Paid

This is the section everyone wants to read! If you qualify for a bonus, you want to know when you get paid, right? Fair enough.

If your bonus is less than $20,000, you can generally expect to receive it in a lump sum upon completion of the terms in your contract. This is generally after the completion of your initial technical training.

If your bonus is more than $20,000, you can generally expect to receive half upfront (again, upon completion of training), and the remainder spread out among annual installments.

The Navy pays out its annual installments on October 1, which is the start of the fiscal year. The other branches of the service pay their enlistment and reenlistment bonuses on the anniversary of the date you received your initial installment.

Update: a reader recently wrote in to tell us the Navy now pays out reenlistment bonuses on the anniversary of your reenlistment, just like the other branches do.

Why annual installments? The military wants to ensure they are getting their money’s worth. You must continue to meet standards for your Rating/MOS/AFSC in order to be eligible to continue receiving your anniversary bonus payments. Failure to meet the technical standards for your career field, or failure to meet other standards may make you ineligible to receive your bonus payment.

Example: If you have a $40,000 bonus, you would expect to receive a $20,000 lump sum upon completion of training (or when your reenlistment actually begins). You would receive the remaining $20,000 in 5 annual installments of $4,000 each on the anniversary of your reenlistment.

Don’t forget about taxes! You will also have taxes automatically withheld from your bonus, generally at the 25% or 28% rate. This is automatically done by the government, and not something you can change. If the withholding is too high for your tax bracket, then you will likely receive a larger than normal refund the following year.

How to Estimate Taxes Owed on a Bonus

While 22% of the bonus is typically withheld on a bonus, that doesn’t mean that you’ll owe that amount when you file. As mentioned above, if the withholding is too high, you’ll receive the difference when you file your taxes for the associated tax year. That makes balancing the equation relatively simple.

However, there are situations where withholding 22% of the enlistment or reenlistment bonus isn’t enough to cover your tax obligation. Bonuses are taxed at the regular income rate. If you’re in a higher tax bracket, then you may end up owing money when you file your taxes.

How much you earn during a tax year determines the tax rate that applies. In total, there are seven tax brackets. According to the I.R.S., here are the 2024 tax brackets:

  • 10% for incomes of $11,600 or less ($23,200 or less for married couples filing jointly)
  • 12% for incomes over $11,600 ($23,200 for married couples filing jointly)
  • 22% for incomes over $47,150 ($94,300 for married couples filing jointly)
  • 24% for incomes over $100,525 ($201,050 for married couples filing jointly)
  • 32% for incomes over $191,950 ($383,900 for married couples filing jointly)
  • 35% for incomes over $243,725 ($487,450 for married couples filing jointly)
  • 37% for incomes over $609,350 ($731,200 for married couples filing jointly)

Each tax rate only applies to earnings above the listed threshold. For example, if you have $45,000 in taxable earnings (not including applicable deductions, like the standard deduction, or tax-exempt earnings), the first $11,600 is taxed at 10% and the rest ($33,400) is taxed at 12%.

Since bonuses are substantial, they can impact the tax rate that may apply to a portion of the servicemember’s earnings. For example, if a bonus causes total taxable earnings to exceed $100,525 for an individual filing as single, some of the earnings are taxed at the 24% tax rate.

In most – but not necessarily all – cases, if the total amount earned, including the enlistment or reenlistment bonus, keeps the servicemember’s taxable income at or below the 22% rate, the amount withheld from the bonus is sufficient. However, if the total exceeds the bracket for the 22% rate, the withholdings may fall short.

If you’re concerned that the 22% of the bonus that was withheld for taxes is insufficient, you can attempt to estimate what you’ll owe by using the I.R.S. Tax Withholding Calculator. You’ll need your pay details and bonus information to use that tool. The result is only an estimate based on the notion that the details you provided are accurate and represent all of your earnings for the tax year. Incorrect entries or missing information can make the estimate inaccurate. Still, it’s a potentially useful tool.

Otherwise, consult with a tax professional. They can help estimate what you may owe, allowing you to ensure that you keep enough money in savings to handle any taxes due when you file.

How Do I Check My Military Bonus Status?

The process for tracking your military bonus may vary depending on your branch of service and the terms of your contract. However, there are a few general steps you can take to check the status of your bonus:

  1. Contact your finance office: The first step in tracking your military bonus is to contact your unit’s finance office. They should be able to provide information on the status of your bonus and answer any questions you may have about the process.
  2. Check myPay: If you have a myPay account, you may be able to see information about your bonus payments there.
  3. Check your pay stubs: Your reenlistment bonus should be reflected in your pay stubs. If you notice that the bonus amount is incorrect or missing, contact your finance office immediately.

If you have concerns about the status of your bonus, it’s best to speak with your unit’s leadership to ensure that you receive the full amount to which you are entitled.

What About Tax-Exempt Bonuses?

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 26, Section 1.112-1 covers tax-exempt combat zones.

In short, money earned while you are serving in a combat zone is tax-free. This can include your reenlistment bonus, provided you signed the reenlistment paperwork while you were in the tax-exempt combat zone. This also covers your annual installment bonuses, even if they are later received when you are no longer serving in the tax-exempt combat zone.

However, if you signed the paperwork outside the combat zone, it is not tax-exempt, even if you receive the bonus or annual installment while you are in the combat zone.

Let’s look at U.S. Code – 26 CFR § 1.112-1 – Combat zone compensation of members of the Armed Forces, paragraph (b), Example 5 and Example 6 for more information.

Reenlistment Bonus & Annual Installments When Papers Signed in Combat Zone

From U.S. Code – 26 CFR § 1.112-1, paragraph (b)

Example 5.

In July, while serving in a combat zone, an enlisted member voluntarily reenlisted. After July, the member neither served in a combat zone nor was hospitalized for wounds incurred in the combat zone. In February of the following year, the member received a bonus as a result of the July reenlistment. The reenlistment bonus can be excluded from income as combat zone compensation, although received outside of the combat zone, since the member completed the necessary action for entitlement to the reenlistment bonus in a month during which the member served in the combat zone.

Reenlistment Bonus & Annual Installments When Papers Signed Outside Combat Zone

From U.S. Code – 26 CFR § 1.112-1, paragraph (b)

Example 6.

In July, while serving outside a combat zone, an enlisted member voluntarily reenlisted. In February of the following year, the member, while performing services in a combat zone, received a bonus as a result of the July reenlistment. The reenlistment bonus cannot be excluded from income as combat zone compensation, although received while serving in the combat zone, since the member completed the necessary action for entitlement to the reenlistment bonus in a month during which the member had neither served in the combat zone nor was hospitalized for wounds incurred while serving in a combat zone.

It’s not uncommon for people who are due to reenlist to request to go on an overseas deployment and reenlist at that location so they can receive a tax-exempt bonus. This tax exemption has another important factor which we cover in the next section about the Thrift Savings Plan.

Contributing Bonuses to the Thrift Savings Plan

You are eligible to contribute some or all of your enlistment or reenlistment bonus to the TSP, from 1-100%, provided your contributions do not exceed the federally mandated TSP contribution limits ($23,000 for 2024; $30,500 for age 50 and over).

However, there are some exceptions.

The contribution limit only applies to taxable income. If your bonus is tax-exempt, you can contribute up to the Annual Addition Limit of $69,000 ($76,500 for age 50+). You would be able to contribute up to $23,000 of your base pay, and up to $46,000 of your bonus pay, to reach the 69,000 limit.

Taking this a step further, tax-exempt TSP contributions are extremely valuable as the income has never been taxed. This gives you some advanced retirement planning options should you choose to go that route (we’ll save that for another article).

Refunding a Bonus – Paying Back Your Bonus

This is the part no one wants to read, but it must be understood. If you receive a bonus, you are on the hook for the term of your contract. You may owe a prorated refund to the government if you are unable to fulfill the terms of your contract. This will be based on the amount of money you have received and how much time remains on your contract.

Reasons you might have to repay your bonus can include, but are not limited to: voluntary separation, misconduct, failure to meet standards, failure to meet technical qualifications, cross-training into a new career field before completing the terms of your contract, and possible other reasons.

You aren’t generally on the hook to repay a portion of your bonus if you aren’t qualified to serve due to illness, injury, or other reasons for which you aren’t at fault. This may include involuntarily cross-training into a new career field. Be sure to speak with your finance and personnel office for verification.

Note on repaying a bonus due to early separation: Voluntary early separation often requires you to repay a portion of your bonus, but it may depend on why you separate. Repayment of bonuses has been waived at times during Reduction in Force (RIF) measures, but only in cases when the branch of service specifically waived the requirement. In other words, don’t take it for granted! Be sure to read the contract you signed when you received your bonus and the contract you will sign to separate early. The terms will spell out whether or not you will need to repay your bonus.

Meet with your finance and/or personnel office for more information: If it is determined you will owe a refund to Uncle Sam, be sure you know how much you will owe and how you will be required to pay it back. Your finance or personnel office should be able to help you with this.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay Back My Bonus?

If a bonus is subject to recoupment by your service branch, it functionally leads to a debt. While little happens long-term if you can repay what’s owed quickly, not paying it back comes with consequences.

First, interest can accrue on the debt, causing what’s potentially a large sum to grow even bigger. Second, wage garnishments may be part of the equation.

With a wage garnishment, a specific amount is essentially withheld from any future earnings, regardless of your employer. That withheld amount effectively serves as a debt payment, allowing your branch of service to retrieve what’s owed even if you didn’t want to provide the funds voluntarily. Garnishments do require a court order, so they don’t happen without due process. Still, it’s a significant financial hardship, and it’s challenging to avoid once a garnishment is approved by the court.

If you’re hoping to get the debt discharged by filing for bankruptcy, that isn’t typically as straightforward a solution as it sounds. Debts owed to the federal government are classically difficult to discharge.

According to Title 37 U.S.C. 303a(e), the debt isn’t dischargeable through Chapter 11 bankruptcy “if the discharge order is entered less than five years after— (A)the date of the termination of the agreement or contract on which the debt is based; or (B)in the absence of such an agreement or contract, the date of the termination of the service on which the debt is based.” Based on that, the debt is potentially dischargeable through Chapter 11 bankruptcy if it’s been more than five years after one of those dates.

Still, if you plan to use a bankruptcy filing to eliminate the debt, you’ll want to consult with an attorney. Bankruptcy is complex, and each situation is different. So, it’s best to speak with a lawyer that specializes in bankruptcy for additional guidance.

Which Jobs Offer an Enlistment or Reenlistment Bonus?

Great question, and I’m sorry, but it’s one I can’t answer because it’s a moving target. Each branch of service determines which specialties are eligible for enlistment or reenlistment bonuses, and they frequently change as the needs of the service change. They usually change on an annual basis, but sometimes it may occur more frequently. Also, these lists aren’t always made public, so you usually need to go through a recruiter or retention office to view the list.

If you are considering joining the military, then you will need to speak with a recruiter to find out if a bonus is available to you. If you are currently in the service, you can generally find a list on your service’s website or by contacting your personnel or retention office.

Word of advice: Don’t just do it for the money. A bonus is nice, but make sure 1) you want to serve; you aren’t just joining the military for a fat bonus, and 2) you want to serve in the job that is offering the bonus. Nothing will make the next few years drag more than a job you hate. Secure happiness first, then worry about the money.

What if I Never Received My Bonus?

Several readers have left questions in the comments section, or have contacted me via email to ask what they should do if they never received their enlistment bonus or reenlistment bonus. This is not a common situation, and each case will be unique. Here is how I would handle this:

Visit your Personnel, Human Resources (HR), or Retention Office. These are the units that handle the paperwork for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses. They should be able to give you an idea of whether or not you met the requirements for the bonus, and can help you make sure all your paperwork is in order. They may refer you to the Finance office if you have met the requirements, but the bonus hasn’t yet been paid. Keep in mind there may be a delay from the time you earn the bonus until it is paid.

What if you have already separated from the military and you never received your bonus? This is a tricky situation, and one we have been asked about several times. The best I can say is to review your contract and verify you should have earned the bonus. Each contract is unique, so I can’t offer much advice other than to review it thoroughly. From there, you should contact your main branch of service personnel section (AFPC, Army Human Resources, Navy BUPERS, etc.). Ask them to review your contract and see what you should do from there.

You may also wish to contact Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) once you have your paperwork in hand. They will need to review your contract and all your pay stubs to verify 1) you should have received the bonus, and 2) that you never received it.

Is there a statute of limitations? I have no idea. The military isn’t shy about going after people who owe them money. So it stands to reason that if you have a signed contract, you should be able to file a claim and receive the money that you are legally entitled to. Keep in mind this process will likely take some time, as they need to verify all records before they can authorize payment.

Don’t have a copy of your contract? Again, you will need to contact your personnel or HR command to try and obtain a copy of your contract. You may need to contact your Guard or Reserve unit if you served in the Reserve Component and not active duty. Each branch of service maintains records for a set amount of time before they send them to the National Archives. So depending on how long you’ve been out of the military, it may take some time to track down your records. As with everything, you will need to have patience.

Pros and Cons of Military Enlistment and Reenlistment Bonuses

Accepting a military bonus can have both upsides and downsides, and ultimately the decision to accept a bonus will depend on your specific circumstances and priorities. Here are some of the potential pros and cons to consider:


  • Increased income: A military bonus can provide you with a significant amount of money, which can be used to pay off debt, cover expenses or save for a future goal.
  • Increased job security: Accepting a bonus may require you to commit to additional years of service, which can give you some peace of mind about your future employment.
  • Career advancement: Depending on the bonus program, you may be eligible for additional training or education that can lead to career advancement opportunities within the military or in civilian life.


  • Long-term commitment: Accepting a bonus often requires a long-term commitment to remain in the military, which can limit your options for pursuing other opportunities.
  • Relocation: Military personnel are required to relocate frequently, which can be disruptive to family life and personal relationships.
  • Deployment risk: By committing to an additional term of service, you may be at an increased risk of being deployed to a combat zone.

Ultimately, it’s important to carefully consider the terms and conditions of any military bonus offer and weigh the potential upsides and downsides before making a decision.

The Future of Military Enlistment and Reenlistment Bonuses

It is difficult to predict how military enlistment and reenlistment bonuses are likely to change in the future, as it depends on a variety of factors such as government budgets, military recruitment needs, and global events. However, there are some trends that may influence changes to these bonuses.

For example, if the military is experiencing a shortage of personnel in certain areas, such as cybersecurity or intelligence, it may offer higher bonuses to attract and retain individuals with those skills. The military may also introduce bonuses to personnel with proficiencies in certain languages or those who have completed rigorous training and education programs. 

Global events and geopolitical tensions may also influence bonuses. If there is an increase in military operations or conflict, the military may offer higher bonuses to incentivize individuals to enlist or reenlist. Likewise, a decrease in military operations may reduce the amount or number of bonuses offered.

Overall, the types of military bonuses that may be introduced in the future will likely reflect the changing needs of the military and the skills that are most in demand.

More reading:

  • Enlistment and Reenlistment bonuses are part of the US Code: 37 U.S. C, Chapter 5, subchapter 1 (§ 309 – Enlistment bonuses), (§ 308 – Reenlistment bonuses)
  • There are special sections of the US Code that cover certain hard-to-fill specialties, particularly those in the medical, aviation, nuclear, and other professional fields. These are also listed in subchapter 1.
  • Contact your recruiter or personnel office for more specific advice regarding any bonuses you may be eligible to receive. And as always, get it in writing!

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  1. William Annussek says

    Question: my son enlisted and was ready to go but caught a snag so to the new “Genisis” health portal. It combined my military and my daughters military records into my sons and now where going back and forth clearing everything up. My big question is he missed his initial boot camp and had the $30000 bonus. Will he keep it once cleared to leave? Thank you in advance

  2. Charles Bird says

    I went back in right after 9/11. I qualified for SRB, but was told it was disapproved due to being out for 6 years. Odd thing was they sent out a NAVADMIN message afterwards stating that maximum break in service of 4 years to qualify for Selective Re-Enlistment Bonus. I didn’t pursue it then, because I didn’t want to argue about money-not when we had just been attacked and gearing up for war. I separated in 2006. Do I have any chance of getting that re-enlistment bonus now?

  3. Will says

    Great information Ryan!
    My son has just graduated as a Nuke. He would like to take his STAR bonus and apply directly to a house down payment. Is there any chance he could get more than 50% of his bonus as a lump sum?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Will, He should review the terms of his contract to determine how it will be paid out. So far as I am aware, there is no way to change the terms of the contract. Best wishes.

  4. Trevor DiColandrea says

    Ryan, I joined the National Guard in order to get the $20,000 infantry bonus. After returning from basic and after receiving the first $10,000, I failed to pass the standard test for the 2 mile run. Do I have to pay the bonus back? If so, will it be reinstated when I do qualify? What about the remainder of the bonus if I continue to qualify prior to it coming due? Thanks for your response.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Trevor,

      I recommend checking the language on your contract. There should be information on the contract stipulating when you will receive the bonus, which conditions must be met, etc. Your base legal office or personnel office (human resources) should be able to help you with your contract if you have trouble.

      Regarding failing your PT test – usually, one failure won’t make you have to repay your bonus. However, a failed test may prevent you from receiving a future bonus payment until you can pass the test, if the language of your contract stipulates that you must remain in good standing for all aspects of training (PT, upgrade job training, qualifications, etc.). Again, your human resources or JAG should be able to help you understand your contract.

      Right now, I would focus on passing the run. The rest should take care of itself.

      Best wishes!

  5. Joshua says

    I received my retention bonus in November of 2019, how long do I have to wait before starting a job as a tech.

  6. Chad Emanuel says


    I signed reenlistment papers overseas on a deployment. I have no problem getting my bonus, but it is taxed when it should be tax free. Just wondering if you know of a form or anything that I need to take with me to a tax preparer to try and get my money back.


    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Chad,

      I would take this up with your finance office or DFAS. They should have more information on this. In addition, your tax preparer won’t be able to correct the W-2 that was provided by DFAS. So if you try to claim the bonus as tax-free, it won’t match the information DFAS sent to the IRS. So you may get audited, or possibly fined.

      It’s best to work this through DFAS to ensure it is handled properly.

      Best wishes!

  7. Diego San Miguel says

    I have a 6 year contract and have completed 2 so far. I failed an ncoes school once already. If I fail the ncoes school again is automatic separation. It says on my contract ” if I don’t complete the full period of service or do not remain technically qualified and classified in the mos, I will have to pay back as much of the bonus as I already received for the unexpired part of the period of obligated service” will I have to pay back the full amount or just the remaining years that I couldn’t serve?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Diego,

      The way I read this, “if I don’t complete the full period of service or do not remain technically qualified and classified in the mos, I will have to pay back as much of the bonus as I already received for the unexpired part of the period of obligated service” means that if you are separated after 3 years of service, and you have been paid 3 years of your bonus, you don’t owe anything. But if you are separated after 3 years of service and have been paid 4 years of your bonus, then you would owe the military 1 year of your bonus.

      You can visit with your base legal counsel (JAG) or your Personnel/Human Resources office for more specific information. They can help you understand your full situation.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.

  8. Trey Martinez says

    Question – If I enlist as an E-4(MOS – 11B) for 6 years/$20K then later on that year go to OCS and become an Officer, do I have to pay the bonus back?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Trey, It depends on the terms of your contract. In many cases, you will not have to repay the bonus if the military determines the career change was in the best interest of the military. Your base JAG can help you review your contract and get a firm answer to your question. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service

  9. katelynn says

    how does the military go about taking bonuses back? I am getting separated early and would like to know the process of how I would pay it back. I have n oclue.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Katelynn,

      I don’t know the full answer, but I do know that it can depend on the situation. In some cases, the military may not recoup all of the debt. For example, the military may only recoup about half of the bonus if you sign a 4-year contract and you serve half of it. In other cases, they may not recoup any of it, if the separation was through no fault of the service member.

      The best thing to do is to contact your personnel or human resources office and discuss this with them. If they do not know, you can contact your finance office.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.

  10. Marie says

    Hello I am suppose to receive my bonus my 3rd year in the military in August. However, do you get it any time in August or do i get it on my sign on date August 11th?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Marie, I have no insight into the specific date you will receive your bonus. I recommend reviewing the terms of your contract or speaking with your base finance office. Best wishes!

  11. Alexis Ramirez says

    Hey so I just got back from AIT and already checked in my unit. I forgot to ask about my bonus. Who would you suggest I contact, or can I collect my bonus online?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Alexis, you should contact your Finance or Human Resouces office for more information. They should be able to help you look up the details of your bonus and explain when it will be issued. Best wishes!

  12. Julie says

    What if you enlist with bonus in National Guard but then contract with ROTC. Would bonus received after completion of Basic/AIT need to be paid back?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Julie, This is a question for your recruiter or base legal office. They can provide more specific information based on the terms of your contract. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  13. Sergio says

    I enlisted in the Army active duty with a 20k enlistment bonus. I received 10k when I came to my first duty station back in February 2018. Should I be recieving a portion on this date since it’s been a year? Or is the anniversary of when I enlisted?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Sergio, Payments are usually made on the anniversary date. You should contact your human resources or finance office for specific information for your situation. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  14. Alfred says

    I just received my SRB approval letter that lists the dollar amount I am eligible for, the first 50% installment and the following annual installments. Are these numbers already taxed or will the actual dollar amount I receive be less?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Alfred, You should look at your contract to determine what your bonus should be. For example, if the bonus amount in your contract is the same as the amount in your SRB approval letter, then the amounts have not yet been taxed.

      You can verify this with your finance office. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.

      • Alfred says

        Thank you for your response. I reenlist next week so I guess I wont see my contract until then. Thanks for the support!

  15. Regrets says

    Hello Ryan Guina, I transitioned from active duty to the ARMY Reserves not so long ago and have a bonus, I’ve tried talking to my unit administrator and she hasn’t done anything about it. I had a lot of financial issues from the transition, my report date was NOV 3 2018 and it is now FEB 12 2019 and still, no luck getting anything no Reserve pay no bonus, My mypay account just finally got fixed a week ago. How do I fix this? or at least track the status of where my bonus is at?.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello, Thank you for reaching out to me. Unfortunately, as you know, the military system isn’t always easy to understand. Mistakes can and do happen, and they are not uncommon when you are changing status, such as going from active duty to the Guard or Reserves, being activated from the Guard or Reserves and going off orders, etc.

      The best I can say is that you have to follow the process and work with your Reserve finance office to handle this issue. You may also need to work with your personnel or human resources office since you were changing status and have a bonus.

      I would start by bringing a copy of your signed contract that includes the details of your bonus and other enlistment details. That should state the terms of the bonus, including the amount, when it should be paid, etc. Then you will need to work with your chain of command.

      Hopefully, everything will follow shortly, since your MyPay account has been updated/fixed.

      As a side note, be sure to check with your personnel or human resources office to ensure your points have been calculated correctly from the time you made the transition. You want to ensure the error was only on the pay side, and didn’t also affect your points. That would impact your service credit toward a Good Year for retirement.

      I know this isn’t a firm answer, but this is really the only thing I can recommend at this time. I hope this will be resolved quickly!

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  16. Adrianne Lynn Silva says

    I was owed my REB Jan 2018, first payment. After months of working, talking, emailing, everyone and their mama… I was finally told the system went down and their is no ETA. So, if I understand this correctly, I will be owed my initial payout, plus the annual payout? I signed a 6 year, 12k REB with my anniversary date of 12/15 and I signed the REB contract in May 2017. So they owe me 6k and then 1k? Once the system is back online and I’ve met , which I still have, all my side of the contract; ht, wt, PT, Mos, etc., is that correct? Btw this for the CA Army NG.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Adrianne, You should still receive your bonus, as long you as can prove you have a valid signed contract. I can’t speak to the timing of the bonus. If the system is down, then there may be issues.

      Use your chain of command and your base legal system to ensure everything is done correctly.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  17. Turner says

    I’m a flyer and have been DNIF for over a year so because of that I have been taking off Aeronautical Orders. I’m suppose to get another bonus payment on June 20th, 2018. Will being off AO’s keep me from getting my bonus and if so will I get it once I return to flying?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Turner, Thank you for your question. This is a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. It will depend on how the contract is written, and whether or not you are able to fulfill the duties assigned. This may be case specific, and something that needs to be addressed on an individual basis.

      This is something you will need to take up with your personnel or human resources office, or your base retention office — whichever office typically handles retention bonuses.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  18. Ian McGoye says

    I already signed my reenlistment contract, but my original ETS date is not till after the new bonus comes into effect. Is there a way to get the new bonus?

  19. Khall says

    In the event that a contract is terminated due to no error by the enlisted and the forced rate conversion is denied by the enlisted, thus leading to the signing of a voluntary separation (though not actually voluntary) occurs, and said voluntary separation is approved, should a portion of the bonus need to be repaid? Sorry about such a complicated scenario that couldn’t be simply worded.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Khall, Thank you for contacting me. This is a very unique situation and will depend on how the contract was written, what the error was, and additional information. The only people who can answer this question will be those who are able to review the specific documents and the policies set by the DoD and/or your branch of service. This is something you would need to discuss with your personnel or HR office. You may also want to consult with your finance office, or base legal office.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  20. Travis says

    I currently haven’t recieved my bonus it’s 211 days overdue and I am considering going AGR or TECH, and in my contract it states that i cannot go full time what would happen if i break it and would i have to repay money that i have never recieved?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Travis, Thank you for your question. This is a question that can only be answered by reviewing your contract and other factors. You should do this in person at your unit. You need to discuss this with your personnel, recruiting, or retention office. They should be able to bring up a copy of your contact and help you review your options. You should also contact finance and bring a copy of your contract to discuss the bonus being overdue. It’s possible there is some paperwork error that can be corrected.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  21. Taylor says

    I get my last part of my bonus in April. will I get it the day of my enlistment anniversary? or will I have to wait longer?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Bobby, Check with your personnel or finance office. They should be able to look into this. It will also help if you have a signed copy of your contract so you can show the the amount of the bonus and when it should have been paid. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  22. Heather Pelletier says

    Our son graduates AIT October 5th and was wondering how soon after would he receive the initial installment of his signing bonus. He is a 92F (Petroleum Supply Specialist) and has a $24,000 bonus. We were thinking that it would be the following payday (Oct 15th) but wanted to be sure before we told him. He has some bills that he wants to pay off with it, so knowing a rough estimate would be super helpful for him.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Heather, Thank you for contacting me. The bonuses don’t always come in the next paycheck. He should refer to his contract to see if it specifies when the payment will be made. The contract may specify upon completion of tech school, or upon completion of tech school, plus X months of service, or something else.

      Even then, it may take up to a few payment cycles before the bonus goes through.

      He should be able to contact his military pay office to get a better estimate.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello LCP, Thank you for contacting me. I am not certain. You will need to ask the MPF if there is a specific reason you can only reenlist for four years instead of 6. There could be reasons due to your current rank and projected high year of tenure, career field demands, or other reasons. They should be able to give you the definitive answer. I wish you the best and thank you for your service!

  23. SGT Jonathon Friel says

    I reenlisted in Aug 2014 while deployed to Afghanistan. My new contract started January 2015 and was paid $3000 of my $6000 bonus, tax free. All well and good. Now 2 years later, in January 2017, they pay me the next installment of $1500, but its taxed. I call DFAS and was informed that since I was no longer in a combat zone, that my installments would be taxed. Is this correct or did I just argue with someone that didn’t know what they were talking about?

  24. Mike welch says

    Hey I’m am 80% VA disabled and obviously I am getting offset for that which I understand. However I am getting ready to receive a 12000 sign on bonus and I was wondering how the VA looks at that as far as wanting that back I have researched everywhere and cant find a thing about it please let me know if you can answer my question and please email me back. Thank you

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Mike, Thank you for contacting me. I honestly don’t know how the signing bonuses work with VA disability compensation. My guess is there would be an offset, but I don’t have a reg for this. I suggest contacting your finance office and ask them to provide a reference to support the information they provide. You could contact the finance office at a different unit if you do not feel comfortable providing that information to people within your unit. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  25. shayne missildine says

    I was in the army from april 27 2006- april 28 2009 and I was given a sign on bonus but in my three years of my contract I did not receive any portion of my bonus…I was wondering what do I need to do since I’m out and it’s been years…how do I go about finding out on the matter or who do I call

    • Ryan Guina says

      Shayne, I have updated the article to answer your question. There is no clear cut course of action. You will need to do a lot of legwork and submit copies of your enlistment contract to your Human Resources Command and/or DFAS, and inquire about the next steps. I expect this will be a lengthy process. I wish you the best!

  26. amanda says

    My husband was told the only re-enlistment bonuses around right now are for ranger-qualified soldiers and SF folks. Is this so? I don’t trust recruiters anymore, lol. How do I find out what is around? And should we wait until after the election?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Amanda, Thank you for contacting me. The military authorizes enlistment and reenlistment bonuses based on the needs of the military. The military is currently downsizing in many career fields, and they aren’t having many problems meeting their quotas for most career fields. The bonuses are for those career fields that are having retention issues, or those where the military has the most difficult time getting qualified troops. These needs are generally reassessed on an annual basis. But waiting on the election probably won’t make any difference. It all comes down to the needs of the military and their budgets. I hope this helps.

  27. Diana says

    Hello! I was in a combat zone this month of October. I am due 50% of my reenlistment bonus. I had all my paper work in to finance so I could get paid this month, but they dropped the ball. They didn’t “establish” my bonus until Oct 21st and said I won’t see it until the LES pay period of November 4th.

    My question is, will the bonus go by the “established” date of October 21st? Or the day LES’s pay out, which is this coming November 4th? My pay guy didn’t know the answer. I am hoping the established dated would be annotated in my LES so I can get it tax free, but no one seems to know. Thank you in advance.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Diana, Thank you for contacting me. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. Your finance department will be the organization to contact. If your pay guy didn’t know, you can try contacting DFAS or try someone else in your finance department. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  28. Cesar Lopez says

    Hello i enlisted in the ARMY back in 2000 and got a 20,000 bonus. I got half while serving but never got the other half after separation. Its been over 12 years since then is there any way to reclaim this or is it a lost cause?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Cesar, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t have an answer for you. You would need to contact the Army Human Resources Command or DFAS, the Defense Finance Accounting Service. They would be able to answer your question. It will be helpful if you have a copy of your contract that specifies your bonus and the payment schedule. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  29. James smith says

    Do you have to repay your Montgomery GI Bill chapter 1606 school payments to the Army Reserves if you receive a Other Than Honorable Discharge? I was in good standing while I was receiving it then stopped going to school which meant I was no longer receiving the benefit. Then ended up getting a OTH discharge a yr later for not reporting to drill. Do I owe any of that back or was that good for while I was serving? I believe someone told me since I was in good standing when I was using it I don’t owe any of that back regardless of the discharge

    • Ryan Guina says

      James, this may be handled on a case by case basis. I don’t have a firm answer. But here is a quote from the Army site:

      Army Reserve MGIB-SR Recoupment Plan

      Effective October 1, 2002, the USAR implemented its MGIB-SR recoupment plan. Soldiers who lose their SELRES status (e.g. transfer to the IRR before fulfilling 6-year contract; med disqualification, etc) and who do not reaffiliate with a Troop Program Unit within a 12-month period following the date they lost their SELRES status, will have their MGIB-SR benefits recouped. During this 12-month period, Soldiers will be allowed the opportunity to reestablish their eligibility for MGIB-SR, if appropriate. Discharged Soldiers automatically have their MGIB-SR benefits terminated. DFAS will be directed to use all available means to recoup MGIB-SR benefits to which Soldiers are no longer entitled. If Soldiers received notice from DFAS about MGIB-SR recoupment, Soldiers will need to establish a payment plan with DFAS. If Soldiers have questions about their recoupment, Soldiers may email the HRC GI Bill Team at [email protected].

      Your best option may be to contact the Army or the VA (ask anonymously if you wish). They should be able to answer your questions. I wish you the best.

  30. Ryan Bradberry says

    I received the first installment of my sign on bonus 2 years ago and now I am halfway through my 6-year contract. I have already passed the day that I enlisted but not the day I received my first installment. Should I receive another installment this year or next year?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Ryan, Thank you for contacting me. I recommend reading your contract. It should clearly state the payout schedule. It’s possible the next installment will come in a paycheck in the near future. It’s also possible the bonus is contingent upon passing a certain qualification or reaching a certain status. Your contract should spell out the details. You can also speak with your finance or military pay department for more information. They should be able to look up your details and give you a specific answer. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  31. David Melendez says

    I am due to re-enlist while in a tax exclusion zone. I had to extend in order to go on the deployment and people in my unit are saying they are not allowing people to re-enlist while in a tax exclusion zone. My question is there any law or rule that says they cannot let me re-enlist in the desert because they don’t want me to get it tax free?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello David, Thank you for contacting me. I have never heard of any exclusions preventing servicemembers from reenlisting in combat zones. In fact, it’s fairly common. Many units encourage their members to reenlist while in a combat zone. I’ve even seen mass reenlistment ceremonies.

      That said, it’s possible there is a new policy for your branch of service or for your specific unit. If so, I would ask to see the policy in writing, or ask if it is just a preference. If you are due to reenlist, I don’t see why they wouldn’t allow it. Try to learn more, and if necessary, speak with your First Sergeant, your retention office, or even your base legal office / JAG / Inspectors General office if they are present in your deployed location.

      I wish you the best and thank you for your service!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Rocsane, Thank you for contacting me. If this is for the National Guard, then it may vary by state. You would need to speak with your unit recruiters, retention office, or the office you went through when you signed you contract. They should be able to check on the status for you or at least give you more insight into the process.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Ashley, Thank you for contacting me. Your contract will lay out the payment details. Contracts for first time enlistments usually stipulate that the member first complete technical training for their career field before they will receive any bonus payment(s). Reenlistment contracts will often pay the first bonus installment when the member reenlists (this will likely come with the next paycheck they receive). Subsequent payments, if any, will normally be made on the anniversary each year through the end of the enlistment. I hope this helps.

  32. Frank says

    I re enlisted in Nov.2013 for 6 years(10,000).I received the 1st half already.But I medically retired in Feb.2016.I have read my REB and it says I can still receive bonus if separated due to injury from combat.My old unit is taking too long in researching this ,to see if it’s true.Can you give me some advice in what to do in this situation?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Frank, Thank you for contacting me. I’m sorry to hear about your injuries and I hope you will receive the medical care you need.

      As for the bonus – I would contact your local base personnel office and work with a single point of contact. This will generally get you the best results so you can consistently follow up with the same individual. If the personnel section can’t give you a firm answer, then take a copy of your contract to your base legal office and ask them to interpret the language of the contract. Getting legal involved should speed the process along.

      If neither of these get you anywhere, then you can consider contacting the Inspector Generals office, or some other authority. You could also contact the national personnel office for your branch of service (Army Human Resources Command, Air Force Personnel Center, Navy BUPERS, etc.). I don’t know exactly how this will shake out, but this should get you moving in the right direction.

      Again, I wish you the best of health, and I hope you get this resolved. And of course, thank you for your service!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Gerald, you will need to read your contract to verify what qualifies for receiving your bonus. You generally need to complete your qualification training to be eligible. Your personnel section should be able to help you interpret your contract and inform you whether or not you qualify for the bonus. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  33. Johnathan says

    I received $15,000 for my 6 year enlistment bonus. $7,500 was paid upon completion of AIT and ill be getting $2,500 every 2 years. I will be completing my first 2 years in Feb. but I want to reclass to a different MOS. My question is, would I have to pay back all that has been paid to me if I reclass? I was told that I would just forfeit the remainder of the bonus but ive been told that I would have to payback the entire $15,000 even if I didn’t receive it all.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jonathan, I don’t have the full details. The best thing to do is review your enlistment contract – it should state the terms of your bonus. Another course of action would be contacting your personnel office or local legal office. They can give you the relevant regulations regarding sign up bonuses.

  34. Sandra says

    Some one I know just re enlisted with a sign in bonus. Is at new duty station and is being told there’s no paperwork summited. Tried calling place he left he getting the run around. Yes papers were sent no hasn’t been done. Doesn’t belong here or there how do you get it fixed.

  35. Jennifer DeCicco says

    I reenlisted in March of 2015 in the NYARNG. I was eligible for a $4000 signing bonus payable upon start of contract which was 04/04/2015. I was discharged 04/29/2016 for medical issues. I am not a PT failure and am still meet criteria to entitle me to the bonus. Its now 06/03/2016. This bonus is over a year unpaid as stated in my contract that was signed. This is a breach of contract on the military’s part. How do I fight for my bonus? I fought to stay in and remained in good standing regardless of ultimately being medically discharged. I just want the bonus I signed for!!!!!!!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jennifer, Thank you for contacting me. I would contact your former unit and show them a copy of your enlistment contract with the bonus. You could also contact DFAS with the same. If that doesn’t work, I suggest contacting your former JAG office to see if they can give you insight into the process. I don’t know if they will be able to do anything if you are no longer in the military, but they may be able to offer legal guidance or point you in the right direction. The final option I can think of is to contact a civilian lawyer who specializes in military law. This would be my final choice, since they would likely charge you a fee (whether upfront, or contingency based). I hope this points you in the right direction. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  36. Apollo Anguiano says

    If you completed almost 3 years of service in the army reserves and got a $15000 bonus for enlisting how much has to be payed back if discharged on a apft failure. I have only received two bonuses so far.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Apollo, Thank you for contacting me. You will need to take your contract to your personnel section and have them help you determine the answer. They will need to review your contract, determine how much time you served, and look at other details. All of that information is required to give yo a reasonably accurate answer.

  37. Miller says

    Hello, I’m currently in a TBA non deployable unit and can’t receive an reenlistment bonus correct? If so, I wanted to know if there was anyway to put in my contract that I’m willing to deploy since I’m a deployable soldier still

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Miller, Thank you for contacting me. I’m not familiar with the specifics of this situation. You will need to contact your personnel unit for more specific information. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  38. Brandon says

    If I took the active duty CSB at 15 years and I want to leave active duty and apply for palace chase to a reserve unit prior to the end of my 20 years of active duty service, will I have to pay back the CSB?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Brandon, Thank you for contacting me. You will need to read the contract you signed, but I believe you would be required to repay the bonus if you do not remain on active duty until you reach at least the 20 year mark. There may be some circumstances that allow you to avoid repaying the bonus, but those are typically things like medical retirement, being physically unable to serve, needs of the military, etc.

      Your best bet is to speak with your personnel section for more information. And whatever you do, make sure to get everything in writing before you take action. You don’t want to leave active duty thinking you don’t have to repay the bonus, only to later find out someone gave you bad advice. So read your contract, speak with your personnel department, get it in writing, then make your decision and take action. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  39. Richard Roman says

    I just reenlisted for 6 years, so they told me, what they did not tell me was that i would get paid for a 5 year reenlistment unless i waited until i am 29 days out from my DOS. Can i take this to legal for with-holding information?

  40. Richard says

    I recently had to reenlist for 4 year since my enlistment was up 31 Jan 16. They released the SRB list dated for 01 Feb 16 and I would have been eligible for an SRB. Is there any way of getting the SRB that I’m eligible for now or is renenlisting one week before the release going to cost me $60k. I would greatly appreciate your help can’t seem to find anything to help.



    • Ryan Guina says

      Hi Richard, So far as I am aware, there is no way to retroactively receive a reenlistment bonus. You would need to contact your retention office to see if there is anything that can be done, but I don’t know of anything. Sorry.

  41. Kristin says

    I have a question. My wife received a reenlistment bonus of $6,000. $3,000 paid this year right after reenlistment. The rest after 4 completed years. The problem is I did our taxes and we went up a tax bracket because of this bonus. What was a 11,900 federal return quickly turned into 5,562 federal return all for 1,755 over our tax bracket how is this fair? Is this right? They tax the bonus then at the end of the year it is added to the W2 and we loose roughly $6,000 in tax credits? It seems to me maybe my wife should have just got out. especially if I’m paying it back plus another $3,000. Am I doing something wrong or is this just my worst nightmare come true?

    • Ryan Guina says


      Thank you for contacting me. The US has a graduated progressive tax system, which means that even if you move into a higher tax bracket, you don’t pay a higher tax rate on all of your income. You only pay the higher tax rate on the income above that level.

      For example, let’s say you have an $80,000 income, which is in the 25% tax bracket. You wouldn’t pay $20,000 in taxes. IN a graduated system, the first $10,000 of your income might be taxed at the 10% income rate, the next $30,000 might be taxed at 15%, and the next $50,000 of income taxed at the 25% rate.

      $10,000*10% = $1,000
      $30,000*15% = $4,500
      $50,000*25% = $12,500
      Total = $18,000

      These numbers aren’t the exact numbers in the current rates, but are used to simplify the math.

      Using the graduated system, you would only pay $18,000 instead of $20,000. Also keep in mind this would be for the Adjusted Gross Income, and apply after tax deductions, credits, etc.

      How does this affect you? I’m not sure. I’m not a tax professional, and I haven’t seen your tax return. But it doesn’t sound like an extra $3,000 of income should have that much of an impact on your tax return. The only way I can see that happening is if made an impact somewhere else, and affected other tax credits or deductions.

      At this point, I would strongly consider hiring a tax professional to help you with your return. You would likely have to pay some money to get your return done (usually anywhere from $50 up to a few hundred dollars), but the professional advice might help you save several hundred dollars (or more) in the long run.

      Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  42. Durrell Clayton says

    I’m looking to reenlist and was offered $9000, however with the tax on it how much will I be looking to get back? Also being less than $20k when can I expect to receive the funds?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Durrell, Thank you for your comment. Taxes are automatically withheld at around 20% and the reenlistment bonus is typically paid within about a month of reenlisting (not the date you sign the paperwork, but after your new contract begins). Your finance or personnel department should be able to give you a more accurate number based on your exact reenlistment date and other information.

  43. Jason says

    I reenlisted on Oct 8th and I’m getting a SRB.I’m just wondering when will I receive that first installment.It showed up on my Les but its nov 2nd and I already received my normal pay.

  44. Andrew G says

    Can I separate from the military if the Air Force doesn’t pay me my SRB even though it clearly states it in my Extension Contract?

    • Andrew G says

      Also I am not eligible based on a contractual error made by the MPF and have a signed MFR from the MPF stating they gave me bad information.

  45. Lupe says

    I reenlisted my bonus has been one year over due and more. I seen retention NCO’s they claim to fixed the problem and it has not. Can I get out since I have not gotten my bonus. I am in the Army Reserves.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Lupe, Thank you for contacting me. I do not believe you can get out just because you have not received your bonus. The first step is to get a copy of your enlistment contract that shows you are supposed to receive the bonus. You should always keep a copy of your military documents, especially important paperwork such as enlistment and reenlistment contracts. But if you don’t have a copy, you may need to get a copy from your unit. Next, verify you have a bonus written into your contract and that you have satisfied the requirements to earn the bonus. This usually includes completing basic training, initial technical training, and sometimes a certain portion of your service time, such as serving 1 year beyond your technical training, or a similar minimum time frame.

      If you have a copy of your contract, it lists the bonus, and you have verified you have met all requirements to earn the bonus, then you should speak with your First Sergeant about the bonus and ask him or her to help you receive what you have rightfully earned. If that doesn’t work, then you should go to your base legal or JAG office and request legal assistance in getting your bonus issued t you. If you meet all of the above criteria, you should receive your bonus. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  46. Tametra Little says

    When I signed up for the Navy Reserves back in 2006 a sign up bonus of $20,000 was in my contract. I was supposed to receive my bonus after completing “A” school. Once completed, I checked out on one base an was sent to check in for my drills at a base closer to my home. I was never assigned a unit because in the middle of everything, my files were ‘misplaced’ and never surfaced. For maybe a year I went back and forth with different officers and recruit teams trying to straighten things out when I got a letter in the mail saying my status had changed from Active Drill to IRR. I never filled out the paper work for this, which as it was explained to me, had to be requested by the military member. I had no idea of what IRR was until receiving the letter. It’s been 8 years and I’m exhausted trying to figure out how and why I got lost. I can’t be found no matter who I talk to. And yet, although I can’t be found I still get Post 9/11 and other benefits. You may ask who would complain about this but joining the military was an honor for me and not only could I not fulfill my dreams, I was also denied my bonus money which I’ve patiently waited for. SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP. I just need answers. Good answers.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tametra, Thank you for contacting me. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds like your original unit dropped the ball. They should have been up front with you or at the minimum, helped you find a unit where you could serve.

      I understand your frustration – not being able to serve or fulfill your dream of serving is a terrible disappointment when you were able to join and go through training. That said, I don’t know how to handle this situation. This isn’t a common situation, and it’s been a long time. Now that you are in the IRR (or possibly have been discharged from the IRR) I’m not sure what happens. I’m also not sure how the military handles situations such as these. You have a signed contract, which is important. But there may be some clause that states who pays the bonus, and the bonus may be dependent upon your serving in the job you trained for. You will need to look closely at the language of your contract to see if you have met all the stipulations for earning the bonus.

      The best I can say is to contact your former unit, and speak with the recruiter there. They probably won’t have any direct answers, but they can look into it. If that doesn’t work, try moving things up the chain of command. You could also try contacting the base legal department or JAG office to see if they can help you with the contractual issue. You may also need to consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in military law.

      Beyond that, you may have options if you still wish to serve. If you are still in the IRR, it may be possible to transfer from the IRR to a drilling Reserve unit. This may be difficult, depending on manning situations, and may require you to go through a different A-School (or tech school) if you need to change jobs. If you have already been mustered out of the IRR, you would need to apply to join the military again, which means another application, you would have to go through MEPS again, etc. But at this point, you would have the option of applying to any branch you could qualify to join. That includes Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, etc. You would need to contact a recruiter and start the process from scratch. I hope this points you in the right direction. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  47. lu says

    Hi, my husband got a re enlistment bonus that he needs to pay back now, we’ve fallen on financial troubles can he get that added in a bankruptcy claim? and or what happens if he can’t pay it back?

  48. Kathleen says

    My husband reenlisted state side a couple of years ago. He will be deployed when the anniversary installment is issued. Will that be taxed?
    Thank you,

  49. GoNavy says

    Where exactly does the paperwork go for an SRB? The yeoman says he has processed my reenlistment paperwork, but a call to DFAS says they have nothing about it? Who exactly does it need to go through? I should also mention that it clearly states in my paperwork that I will be receiving an SRB. Just wondering about the specific paperwork process.

    • Ryan Guina says

      GoNavy, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t have the specific process for the Navy – I’m only familiar with the Air Force, since that is my branch of service. You will need to contact your personnel section or ask around your unit. But as long as you have it written in your contract, you should be able to get it. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  50. Raul Ibanya says

    This is a bit of a crazy question that I cannot find anything on. I was looking at my old initial enlistment contract and realized that I failed to get my initial enlistment bonus back in 2002. After I finished AIT I immediatly deployed to Iraq after arriving to Fort Hood. They did not do the bonuses automatically back then. I have since reenlisted several times and obviously fullfilled the terms of that contract. Is there any way that I would still be able to collect this?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Raul, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t see why not – the military is obligated to fulfill the terms of their contract with you. I would take this to your personnel section and see if you can get this bonus paid out. Be sure to keep a copy of your enlistment contract because this is your proof that you were supposed to receive it. You may have to get your finance or personnel section to pull all your previous LESs and mid-month statements to verify you never received the bonus. But they should be able to do this. If they don’t have records that go back that far, then you should be able to get them from DFAS. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  51. Jerome Rodriguez says

    After your ets date if you report to your national guard unit overweight will you lose your bonus or will they hold it until you lose the weight?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Jerome, Thank you for contacting me. I can’t speak for your unit, but my guess is that it depends on your unit, career field manning numbers, how desperately they need to fill that spot, and other factors. The best thing to do is ask them. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  52. Jessica Costin says

    Hello, my husband was in the Air Force for 6 years. Before he left he was told in an email that he was going to get his enlistment pay. Well we were waiting for it and a few weeks later after his enlistment was up we were told that he could not get it because he was not considered active duty? He emailed the House of Representative they said that there was not much he could do. Please help me understand why they are doing this. Shouldn’t he have gotten his pay on the like the last day?!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Jessica, Thank you for contacting me. He should have a copy of his enlistment contract that will specify the bonus amount and the payment terms. Enlistment bonuses are normally paid to the member when they join the military, or on the anniversary of the year they joined. But it’s always paid at the beginning of the year, not at the end of the year. So I’m not sure why they would tell him he was scheduled to receive an enlistment bonus at the end of his term.

      I’m not familiar with the situation you described, so the best I can do is refer him back to his former unit to see if they can access his records to determine what went wrong. He was either supposed to get the bonus and didn’t, in which case he may be able to file a claim for the funds, or he wasn’t supposed to get a bonus and the email was in error.

      Again, refer back to the enlistment contract to determine what the correct bonus payment should be, and when it should be paid. If he doesn’t have a copy of the contract, then he can try contacting AFPC to see if they have a copy. Best of luck.

  53. Christopher D. says

    I was promised a (reservist) reenlistment bonus and have had nothing but problems getting my bonus package through the system. As of a couple of months ago, I was told any evidence of my bonus package has vanished, possibly due to the many errors and problems I have had. For a time, I simply gave up on it as my career counselor kept bringing up problem after problem on their side as to why my package still didn’t go through. I had everything in writing such as orders, reenlistment contract, what have you, but lost it along with a number of other valuables. Where can I get a copy of my reenlistment contract and/or orders? Seems I need to have a bunch of paperwork such as my orders to my first reserve duty station, contract, etc. but I just don’t have them anymore and my electronic service record (OMPF), and the electronic pay and personnel system we have (NSIPS) only has orders from when I was in active duty. Would the recruitment office I reenlisted at still have any of my records even after two years, or my previous Reserve command after one? Apparently my current command can only help me so much until I do all the leg work to get the paperwork I need, and it is only due to severe monetary constraints that I’m so gung ho about it now when the reenlistment money didn’t mean that much to me before. With less than a year remaining on my contract, I am getting a little nervous. I apologize for this wall of text but would be extremely grateful for any advice you may have. Thank you.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Christopher, Thank you for contacting me. You will need to contact the unit where you enlisted. They should maintain copies of your enlistment contract. If they don’t have it, the parent branch of service should keep a copy on record somewhere. Call the unit where you enlisted and ask then how to get a copy of the contract. They should have it as a permanent record. If they do not have it, they should be able to tell you where to get a copy. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Michael, Thank you for contacting me. I believe this is decided on a case-by-case basis. Factors that could affect the outcome include how much time is left on your enlistment, the reason for changing careers in the middle of an enlistment, whether you were fully qualified in the career field with the bonus, etc.

      For example, if you joined an MOS, but didn’t complete the training, and were then required to lat-move into a new career field, then you most likely wouldn’t be eligible for any of the bonus. If you changed to a new MOS later in your career (after initial upgrade training was complete), then it would depend on the reason for the move. If the move was completely out of your control, such as an over-manning situation or medical reasons, then you may remain eligible for the rest of your bonus. The situation may be different if you voluntarily left the MOS for something else.

      Your contract should include some information that will help you understand the benefit. Otherwise, you will need to see your personnel section for a specific determination.

      • Eric says

        I received a 5K bonus for enlisting and a 20K bonus for my MOS field. I failed out of the MOS and was reclassed. Would i receive my 5K bonus for the enlistment, or would i lose that too?

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Eric, Thank you for contacting me. Your contract should specify those details. You describe this as two separate bonuses – one for enlisting, and one for your specific MOS. The MOS bonus should no longer be valid, since you did not complete the course. Read your contract for the language on the enlistment bonus. It should be stated clearly, and usually requires you to complete technical training before it is awarded. I hope this helps.

  54. Curious Khaki says

    So I am a Zone C (10-14yrs) Navy member with 13yrs 9 months of service. I have been told that I will not recieve anything for the Zone C bonus that is authorized for me because my re-enlistment will cross me over the Zone.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tonia, I don’t know for certain if the bonus is paid out on the completion of your reenlistment. You will need to read your reenlistment contract. That will list the schedule of payments. If you can’t find the information on your reenlistment contract, then you should contact your personnel department.

  55. Riley says

    Is there a date in the contract to where if you pass it you no longer have to pay it back. Also if yout have to pay it back, does it come out all at once or in installments?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Riley, I’m not aware of any cut off dates in the contract. Usually if you have to pay back a bonus, it is prorated based on the amount of the bonus you received and how much time you have left on your contract. In regard to repayments, I’m honestly not sure. Your personnel section can give you more specific information to both of these questions.

  56. Michelle says

    I was just medically discharged on 30 March 2015. I received severance on April 10 that was a lot less than what I was told. I looked on my LES and it showed I was paid on April 8 for severance as well. I was paid $9000 and they took approximately $6000 for re-enlisment debt. I re-enlisted in December 2009. It was my understanding that if you were discharged medically in LOD and it was not due to your own negligence, then you would not have to repay. What is my next course of action to make sure I am reimbursed for this? I was in the Army Reserves.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Michelle, Thank you for contacting me. You need to contact your base personnel and/or finance section. If you are unable to get help through them because you have already been separated, then you may need to contact DFAS, or possibly even the Army Human Resources Command.

      You may be in for a lot of phone calls and emails, so do your best to take good notes and keep records of your conversations, who you speak with (including their name, phone number, email, etc.). If possible, try to work with one individual in an ongoing basis, once you determine which organization can help you. Working with one person will make things much easier in the long run because you won’t have to explain your situation over and over again. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  57. Scharles says

    I just reenlisted 03152015 contract doesn’t expire until 11072015. I will be getting a reenlistment bonus was wondering if I would receive it on my initial entry date or now since I have reenlisted?

  58. Tod says

    Im being medically discharged sometime in the near future but am scheduled to recieve the second half of my reenlistment bonus. Will I still get the 2nd half of my reenlistment bonus? Considering I had no control over my medical issue

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tod, You may receive the second portion of your reenlistment bonus, or you might not. But be careful if you receive it, because you may be required to pay it back if you don’t fulfill your reenlistment contract (even through no fault of your own). I would speak with your personnel department ASAP to let them know about the situation and find out if you will receive it, and if so, if you will be required to pay any of it back if you are not able to fulfill the full terms of your contract. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Don, Thank you for contacting me. Yes, they will deduct taxes for annual installments, unless you signed your reenlistment paperwork in a tax-exempt zone. In that case, all future SRB payments are tax-exempt as well. Taxes are usually withheld at a rate of 25%. But yo can contact your personnel department or finance department to verify the percentage of taxes they will withhold.

  59. joel says

    Hey my recruiter told me I was going to get a bonus for my job in the air force reserves. Everything went good I swore in and signed my contract but when I got home and actually took my time to read it I dint find the bonus part. Does these mean he lied to me??

    • Ryan Guina says

      Joel, Thank you for contacting me. Any bonus would be written into the contract. If it’s not in there, then there won’t be any bonus. I strongly recommend contacting your recruiter and verifying there is supposed to be a bonus. It’s possible that there was a bonus when he first mentioned it, but that the bonus went away before you were able to swear in and sign your contract (this happens sometimes, and is outside the control of the recruiter). So it may not be that he lied to you, but that the situation changed. Contact your recruiter to find out what happened. Best of luck!

  60. roxana oberst says

    Husband reenlisted last week is there anything he can do? The bonus list came out today and his career was on it. I know it’s a long shot

  61. Tara says

    Just curious, on a re-enlistment bonus for Army National Guard. If I read correctly you stated that it would be issued on the original date of the first initial bonus. Just wanting to make sure I understand because his original ETS was 150121, but he re-enlisted Feb of 2014, so would disbursement date fall according to when he signed the paperwork, or from the date he received his first bonus 6 years ago, because he did not receive that until June of that year. So was just curious. Hope that makes sense.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tara, It will probably be on or near the anniversary of his first bonus, but each branch of the military may be slightly different. The best way to know for certain is to contact the finance department and ask if they have a specific date.

  62. Tony says

    The Navy has changed their policy on SRB installments. It is no longer distributed on Oct. 1st, but on the anniversary of your reenlistment like the other branches.

    Source: Navy guy waiting on his SRB installment.

  63. The Wallet Doctor says

    I didn’t realize you could save so much by being in a tax free combat zone and reenlisting! It sounds like that is a great choice, if you can work your plans to accomplish that. Thanks for the great breakdown!

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