The Department of Defense is known for its military terms, abbreviations, and acronyms. How the heck are you supposed to know what all those letters and weird words mean?
This list is not meant to be comprehensive for every acronym, but it is supposed to hit all the financial ones. So let me know what I’ve missed!
AAFES: (pronounced A-fees) Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Runs on-base retail establishments. Usually AAFES refers to the main non-commissary store on an installation. Sometimes also called “Post Exchange” or “The Exchange.”
AIT or “A School”: Advanced Individual Training: Further training after initial military training. This is where a service member learns to do their exact job.
BAH: Basic Allowance for Housing. An allowance to offset the cost of living off of the installation. The amount is based on the service member’s pay grade and duty location.
BAS: Basic Allowance for Subsistence. An allowance toward the cost of the service member’s food. There are different BAS rates for officers and enlisted members.
BCT: Basic Combat Training. The Army’s first training school. Also known as “boot camp.”
BRS: Blended Retirement System. This is the “new” retirement system for everyone who entered the military on or after 1 January 2018, and anyone who opted-in from the old system.
CO: Commanding Officer. The person in charge of a unit.
CONUS: (pronounced “cone-us”) Continental United States, which are the 48 states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii and Alaska are treated as CONUS for certain programs and benefits.
Commissary: The grocery store on base.
Cost of Living Allowance (COLA): An allowance for service members stationed in high-cost-of-living locations. COLA may be available CONUS or OCONUS.
Date of Initial Entry Into Military Service (DIEMS): The date that a service member first entered the military.
DECA: The Defense Commissary Agency. They run the commissary.
DEERS: The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. This is the database that lists all military personnel and dependents, and tracks what benefits they are eligible to receive. Enrolling in DEERS is the first step to register a new dependent with the military.
DFAS: Defense Finance & Accounting Service. DFAS is responsible for pay for all DoD military and civilian personnel, retirees, and annuitants.
Dependency Status: Whether the service member does or does not have dependents. A service member either has dependents or does not have dependents.
Dependents: The people who the Department of Defense recognizes as family members of the service member for purposes of pay and benefits. Except for the case of children ages 21-23, and incapacitated adult children, it has nothing to do with whether the person is actually dependent on the service member.
DITY: Do It Yourself Move. Now called a Personally Procured Move. When you move your own Household Goods instead of letting the military’s contracted movers do it.
DLA: Dislocation Allowance. A payment when you move to cover some of the costs of setting up a new household when you move.
DoD: The Department of Defense. The individual military branches fall under the DoD. (Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. It’s complicated.)
FDS: First Duty Station. The first “permanent” assignment after finishing training.
Geographic Bachelor, or Geobach: Slang for the situation where a service member chooses to live separately from their family because the family does not want to move to the service member’s duty station. Also can be used as a verb: geobaching.
GI Bill: The GI Bill describes two different educational programs offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs: The Montgomery GI and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
HHG: Household Goods. The stuff you own: furniture, pots and pans, clothes.
JTR: Joint Travel Regulations. The rules regarding certain pays and allowances.
LES: Leave & Earnings Statement. A monthly document given to members of the United States military which explains their pay, allowances, deductions, and allotments. It also includes information about leave, Thrift Savings Plan contribution, and taxes. Similar to a civilian “pay stub.” The LES can be viewed online or downloaded at the MyPay website.
MTF: Military Treatment Facility, often called a clinic or a hospital.
MOS: Military Occupational Specialty. Your job in the military.
NEX: Navy Exchange. The Navy’s on-base retail store and management of non-NEX retail spaces. Also called “The Exchange.”
OCONUS: (pronounced “oh-cone-us””) Outside the Continental United States. Hawaii and Alaska are treated as OCONUS for some programs and benefits.
OHA: Overseas Housing Allowance. The housing allowance you receive when stationed overseas and living off post.
OPSEC: Operational Security. Being aware of what you say regarding the operations of the military.
Partial PPM, or Partial DITY: When you have the government-contracted movers move part of your Household Goods, and you move some of it yourself.
PCS: Permanent Change of Station. This is moving to a new place. There’s nothing permanent about it LOL. Here’s an amazing checklist to help you get ready.
PERSEC: Personal Security: Being aware of what you say about your personal actions and activities.
PPM: Personally Procured Move. When you move your Household Goods instead of letting the military’s contracted movers do it.
PT: Physical Training, aka working out. PT may be done as a unit or individually, depending on the command’s rules.
Reserve Component: Members of the National Guard and reserve.
Secondary Dependents: Family members who would not normally be considered a military dependent but qualify under special rules. This typically includes parents who are financially dependent on the service member or disabled adult children. Secondary dependency comes with additional benefits that vary based on the type of dependent relationship.
Special and Incentive Pays: Extra pays based on qualifications, job type, responsibilities, or service obligation. May be paid monthly or as a bonus.
Sponsor: The military member. Used when describing dependents and eligibility for benefits.
TDY or TAD: Temporary duty assignment or temporary duty travel. It means the service member is going somewhere else for a while.
TLA: Temporary Lodging Allowance. Temporary Lodging overseas as part of an OCONUS PCS move.
TLE: Temporary Lodging Expense. Jotels, within the United States, at either end when you move (rules apply)
Tricare: Health care coverage provided by the Department of Defense. (It’s not technically insurance, but it works like insurance.)
TRICARE premium: The monthly amount that must be paid for specific Tricare programs including Tricare Young Adult, Tricare Reserve Select, Tricare Retired Reserve, and Continued Health Care Benefit Program. Premiums do not count towards catastrophic caps.
TSP: The Thrift Savings Plan. The federal government’s employer-sponsored, defined contribution retirement plan. Similar to a civilian 401k.
VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs is the government agency that handles benefits for veterans and their families. It also administers some benefits used by currently serving members and their families.
Knowing these terms, and reading more about them, can make military life a lot easier.
And I really mean it – I’m looking for suggestions to add to the list!
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