This is probably the most common question that I see asked: “How much is military pay?” It is such a simple question, yet so complicated. The simple part is because there is one pay chart, and it is public record because it is made by law, and it is not at all complicated. It is long – 14 pages of PDF, but it is clear and uncomplicated. You can download the entire pay chart from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Base pay is calculated based on rank and years of service.
Now to the complicated part: special pays, allowance, and deductions. There are over 30 special pays and allowances, and it can be difficult to understand who is eligible for which special pay or allowance. A few are easy: everyone gets Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), and all enlisted folks get an annual clothing allowance. Others are more challenging. It is the responsibility of each service member to understand the special pays and allowances for which he or she is eligible, and ensure that he or she is getting those pays and allowances when they should. The service member is also responsible for making sure that they’re not getting any pay or allowances for which they are NOT eligible.
Once you’ve gotten past the pay charts and the special pays and allowances, we move into various deductions that can come out of a paycheck. Everyone pays Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Most people have federal taxes withheld, though the amount can vary widely depending on the taxpayers overall situation. Other common deductions include Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Family SGLI, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions, family dental coverage, and any allotments that the service member has set up.
When all the factors are computed, a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) could look like this:
**Please note: on this sample LES, I’ve put mid-month pay in the Summary column to make the math more clear. On a real LES, the mid-month pay is a deduction from the total month’s pay.
As you can see, lots of factors go into military pay. This makes it hard to answer the question, “How much is Military Pay?” Individual factors such as special pays, allowances, deductions and allotments make it so that each military member has a slightly different paycheck.
Questions? Please ask in the comments!
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