*As of May 2021*
The months leading up to a military deployment are filled with anxiety and confusion. Many questions will come to mind like what is my family going to do while I’m gone? Will my wife/husband be able to care for the children? Will they be ok financially?
The answer is there are so many military deployment benefits that the family of a deployed service member should be just fine. From taxes deductions to extra pay to support services, the benefits are plentiful. Let’s dig into all of those perks starting with the cash.
Deployment Benefits for Servicemembers
Do you have questions about how much your monthly income will be impacted by a deployment? The answer to that question is it depends on a lot of factors. Rank, time in service, dates and length of the deployment, etc.
That seems like a lot to calculate. How is one person supposed to figure this out on their own while trying to manage daily family affairs and everyday life?
The military understands that’s a tough ask and they have made life simpler. Each branch has a deployment calculator that will give you the exact monthly amount for pay bumps, or at least as close as possible. There is some nuisance that’s not mentioned (special assignments might not be able to be accounted for) but overall, it's a simple and great tool for military families. The Army calculator can be found here. (LINK: https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Benefit-Calculators/Deployment)
Below is a list of potential pay, some based on eligibility.
Hardship duty pay is based on living locations and varies from $50 to $150 a month depending on the locale. To summarize, the worse the living conditions for the service member the better they get paid each month.
Special Duty Assignment
Some jobs just suck more than others. Joining the military to become an admin specialist is just as important as a bomb technician, but one comes with a bit more cash when the two are overseas, and it’s not the guy filling out forms. The bomb tech, for example, can earn somewhere between $75 to $450 depending on the location and the degree of difficulty for his or her job.
Hostile fire pay is not automatically awarded as the name suggests. To earn this pay, the service member must have been shot at or near an explosion; killed, injured, or wounded by hostile action; or be close enough to the action the military person could have been injured or killed.
Much like the other incentive payments, hazardous duty pay is not something you want to write home about. Only those in true danger are eligible for this cash as the jobs range from jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, handling explosives, dealing with toxic chemicals, and other exciting careers that will keep your parents awake at night.
A servicemember can receive either hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay. To see if you qualify, check out this easy to read chart from DFAS
Family separation pay is pretty much an automatic for those leaving immediate family behind. The flat rate is $250.
There are other monetary benefits that were either mostly the result of legislation, to recognize those serving their country, or came out of necessity to meet the needs of the families.
Depending on your insurance carrier, there may be one or more plans that a military family can take advantage of while the service member is deployed. This can range from reduced rates to extra protections and peace of mind.
One of the most popular carriers is USAA which is known for going above and beyond when it comes to assisting Military families. They have created their own deployment landing page that consists of a checklist and the benefits they offer. (LINK: https://www.usaa.com/advice/deployment?akredirect=true)
Geico also has military rates and specific discounts for those serving overseas, although they don’t advertise how much you will save. (LINK: https://www.geico.com/save/discounts/military-discounts/)
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
It’s a fact that those in the Armed Services do not get paid well and the average age of a Marine, Soldier, etc., is, well, young. And young people generally are not as wise with their income. The good news is that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects those who protect our nation.
Some of the protections of the SCRA include eviction prevention, protections from vehicle repossession, court ordered foreclosure relief, avoidance of civil proceedings, and storage facility reassurance.
A few of the benefits include the ability to terminate telephone, cable, internet, and other contracts. Vehicle and other leases can be cancelled and interest loans obtained before joining the Armed Service can be limited to just 6%.
Savings deposit program
The DoD Savings Deposit Program was established to assist our Military members in earning a good chunk of change while they protect our country. Basically, up to $10,000 can be deposited into the savings program and it is eligible to earn up to 10% interest; however, there are restrictions. For example, the account cannot be closed until after the servicemember returns from their assigned combat zone.
To sign up for the savings program contact:
Toll Free (Stateside Only): 1-888-332-7411 option 4, 2, 2
Fax: (Attention SDP): 216-522-5060
Tax season for the military is much like a bonus given to those in the private sector. For those married living on one income, the tax return can mean you can finally replace the broken refrigerator, or buy you kid the toy they always wanted.
While deployed, the tax benefits increase exponentially. Income may be excluded from federal tax income and some states follow in the federal government’s footsteps. Additionally, according to TurboTax (LINK:https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/military/combat-pay-tax-style-benefits-when-serving-in-a-hot-zone/L6GU08lPe#:~:text=Generally%2C%20any%20form%20of%20military,excluded%20from%20federal%20income%20tax.&text=Any%20form%20of%20pay%20earned,excluded%20from%20federal%20income%20tax.) combat pay tax exclusion could mean up to $14,000 to $16,000 of pay could be nontaxable.
Per their website, Turbotax is free for active duty and reserve; although, generally there will be a tax preparer on the base that is free for active duty and reserve.
Deployment Benefits for Spouses and Dependents
People tend to think that when a unit deploys, everyone is gone. That’s not even close to the truth. Command operations must go on back home, but at a much slower rate. Those without enough time on contract, suffering from injuries, legal troubles, or other issues may cause a Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Marine, etc, to remain behind as support staff. There will also be a high ranking officer around as well to assume the responsibilities of the unit commander.
That means there will be people around to answer questions. While this may not seem like a big benefit to those who haven’t been in a situation where a loved one is deployed, being able to speak to someone who knows what’s going on can be the biggest benefit of all. Typically, each unit will have a family advocate whose sole purpose is to speak to the families as questions arise and assist with any issues. These are the people who will know what benefits a family is entitled to and they will know how to apply.
This has a two-fold effect. One, the family knows they have the support of the military and two, the deployed service member doesn’t have to worry about family issues while they are risking their lives in a foreign country.
Commercially, UPS assists families by offering free boxes and shipping for their service member as a Military Care Kit (LINK: https://store.usps.com/store/product/shipping-supplies/military-care-kit-P_MILITARYKIT).
For those who can’t decide what to send their loved one, cookies are always a great option and there are some dedicated people over at Treat the Troops who will send the assorted goodies on anyone’s behalf. (LINK: https://www.treatthetroops.org/request-cookies).
What else is out there for my family?
As you can tell, there are so many helpful tips and tricks on the internet to get anyone through the lonely months while their significant other serves overseas, but what about all of those daily duties and responsibilities the deployed spouse used to handle while they were home? Maybe they were a coach, or they read to the kids every night.
Fortunately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of free services – some community specific – that might fill the void. The Seasoned Spouse (LINK: https://seasonedspouse.com/the-giant-list-of-deployment-resources-for-military-families/) has assembled an impressive collection of perks from exercise classes to breast pumps. One important thing she notes are the helpful hotlines and online community support groups. Facebook groups can be a great place to find friends on the same base, or at least they can provide a sense of community support and encouragement.
Benefits at a glance
In summary, the world has taken a no soldier left behind approach to our service members risking their lives. It seems that everyone is doing their part to ensure each deployed member of the military receives the maximum financial benefit and assistance.
From insurance to taxes to incredible interest rates, the benefits are unmatched - as they should be - as long as they are taken advantage of through application or via a couple of phone calls.
One of the most important takeaways is the financial piece of the deployment. It can be so simple, with a little bit of effort and creativity, to come out of each cycle with at least a substantial down payment or more in savings. Families who stick to a budget will be significantly better off than those who use the extra cash on an expensive car or those who adjust their monthly budget based on temporary extra pay.
Three final thoughts:
Stick to a budget while maximizing savings.
Find out who the family advocate is and don’t be afraid to contact them, even if you think the request is ridiculous.
Send care packages.
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