Should Military Members Receive Special Benefits?

One longstanding tradition in the military is the benefits Congress has enacted on the behalf of military members and veterans. As any military member can attest, military base pay is nothing to write home about (check out the military pay charts). Without the benefits included in the compensation package, most military members would not be able…
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One longstanding tradition in the military is the benefits Congress has enacted on the behalf of military members and veterans. As any military member can attest, military base pay is nothing to write home about (check out the military pay charts). Without the benefits included in the compensation package, most military members would not be able to survive, especially if they have a family.

Congress has passed many benefits packages to help military members live a better life. One such example is the proposed extension of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit for military members. The proposal was made to offer military members who spent more than 90 days overseas this year the opportunity to take advantage of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit, which they wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of since they were overseas. Sounds fair. But some people disagree.

Disagreeing with special military provisions and benefits

The First-time Home Buyer Credit Extension article for military members was posted on the personal finance blog, Bargaineering.com. It elicited multiple comments, including this reader comment by daemondust, that disagreed with the provision.

Yes, actually, I do have a problem with a lot of those programs. What makes military personnel special? They chose the job, they weren’t forced into it. Yes, it’s dangerous, and yes, they have to be away from home for long periods of time, but a lot of other jobs have exactly the same problems but don’t get those benefits.

Don’t misunderstand me, they are doing a service to the country, but I don’t see anything that makes their sacrifice so much more than anyone else’s.

If things were different and they were forced into it, i.e. drafted, then I would be all for compensating them in ways like this. But they weren’t. They chose the job.

Why not extend this benefit to everyone? Even just everyone in the original class? I wasn’t looking for a house when it was first introduced, but financially I’m in a place where I will be soon. Why does it expire for me Nov 30, and these special people have another year? It was their choice to enter a job where they would likely be away for extended periods of time.

Freedom of speech. I love it. As a military veteran, I fully support an individual’s right to speak his voice disagree with public policy. And I exercise my right to respond. You see, I believe this is an instance of someone not truly understanding how military benefits work, and why the system is set up the way it is.

In response to the comment

Many military personnel volunteer for military service *because* of those benefits you disagree with. These benefits are considered part of the total compensation package. Again, I will point out the basic military pay chart. The lowest pay grade earns less than $17,000 per year. After 5 years and an average promotion rate, a reasonable salary expectation would be roughly $28,000 per year (E-5 at 5 years). Officers earn more, and require a college degree – the lowest rate is just under $32,000 per year and after 5 years it should be around $56,700 (O-3 at 5 years). These numbers represent base pay only. Congress has enacted several different benefits provisions to make life easier on military members, however, these are not included in base pay.

The benefits are kept separate from basic pay for several reasons, but the main reason is that military retirement pay is based on the member’s base pay. The lower the government can keep base pay, the lower the retirement pay.

Many military members also receive other pay and allowances, such as Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), which is a fixed rate based on whether the servicemember is an officer or enlisted. Other benefits may change by locale, such as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), or Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). COLA is a location pay, which is often found in the civilian world as well. You wouldn’t expect to earn the same amount of money for the same job in Wichita, Kansas as in LA or New York City. Benefits such as BAH, COLA, and other benefits are not included in retirement calculations and are subject to change.

Additional Military & Veterans Benefits

There are dozens of different military benefits, however, not all of them are available to all military members or veterans. These are two of the most popular benefits.

GI BIll. The GI Bill actually costs service members $1,200 to join. That money is not refundable if the benefits are not used, including if a military member dies in combat. The majority of eligible participants never use their full GI Bill benefits, even though they paid into them.

VA Loans. VA Loans offer military members a way to buy a home without a down payment and avoid paying PMI. It is also easier for veterans with poor credit to qualify for a VA loan than a conventional loan. However, it is still possible to default or foreclose on a VA Loan. In addition, interest rates for VA loans are often slightly higher than comparable conventional loans because of administration fees that go toward paying for the program.

Is Military Compensation Enough?

Congress has enacted special pay and benefits to entice military personnel to continue serving in jobs that are often more dangerous and often pay substantially less in salary than they could earn in the civilian world (even in government civil service). The benefits that are available make life a little easier for some of the people who put their lives on the line every day.

Military compensation is a complicated topic, and one that requires study to truly understand how much, and in some cases, how little, some military members earn. And even with study, you can still ask the question, “Do Military Members Get Paid Enough?” The answer is not an easy one to answer, as it is easy to create a scenario to make it appear as though someone is vastly under or overpaid. On the whole, I think the program does a good job of giving military members the opportunity to live a comfortable, but not extravagant life. And I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Related information about military benefits:

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Richard says

    As a vet myself, I have found that the most vocal of the military members defending their their benefits are those who have not served in combat zones. Please explain to me why some fatbody E-7, who spends most of his day pounding beers at the NCO club, when he’s not at his desk job talking crap, should have any special consideration from any civilian? I’ve seen it first hand myself. Fact is, and I live in an extremely heavy retired vet area, most of these people expect to be treated better than the civilians who pay them to sit on their butts, and, frankly, as a vet myself, I find it upsetting. Plenty of vets around here are tapping VA benefits they have no business getting. How does a vet end up with PTSD working the avionics bench of an aircraft carrier? By lying, and being dishonorable, that’s how. I’ve been told multiple times I should “tap those bennies” by obese Harley Davidson riders down at the AmVets…I could get 10%….for life! What a deal. Reality is, these guys are socialist whiners, who expect people to kiss their ***** for their “service,” especially those who’ve never heard a gunshot in their entire service “career.” I respect those who have been in combat. They do deserve their benefits. The others? Not so much. There’s plenty of dirtbags in the military. I been exposed to a lot of them.

  2. Marge says

    Hahaha, military benefits too good? Make me laugh. Active is not great. A General doesn’t get the benefits or the paycheck my lawyer friend will get his FIRST year after law school. Subpar benefits and pay. Not complaining, but no one should be jealous – ha!

  3. Bob says

    One more comment…to those telling people to sign up if they are jealous, please keep in mind that many have health conditions that keep them from signing up.

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