From the constant moving to having to spend months apart from each other, a military marriage comes with a lot of challenges. However, it also comes with a lot of benefits. A very common question is if military service personnel get paid more if they're married.

The short answer? Yes, well kind of. Let’s get into it.

What is Military Marriage Pay?

It would be an ideal world if every employer gave us a raise once we got hitched. Though the military can be a great employer, we live in a far from ideal world. So, no – the military will not increase your salary just because you got married. This doesn’t mean you don’t get an increase of money though. The military provides service members with an array of allowances through their BAH and COLA services after adding a dependent.

If you’re trying to save some money for your future life together and want an affordable way to get married, here at Courtly, we’d love to help you complete the entire wedding process online—from anywhere in the world at an affordable price.

What is BAH?

Although there isn't a distinction made between married and unmarried service members in terms of military pay, getting hitched does increase your "Basic Allowance for Housing," which helps service members cover the costs of mortgage, rent, and utilities.

Even if your spouse or other dependent does not live at your duty station with you, you are still eligible for a boost in your "BAH" benefits when you add a dependent through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). In fact, the only way to enhance your BAH benefits is by adding a dependent. However, this is a one-time thing, and your BAH will not increase if you add another dependent (like a child).

If you were wondering, your BAH calculation is based on three factors: 

  1. Your pay grade
  2. Your dependency status
  3. The location where you’re stationed

While not technically military marriage pay, the raise can have a similar impression.

Even though BAH entitlements are typically tiny, one-time events, they can effectively double up for dual military couples, sometimes known as "mil-to-mil" couples, where both spouses are active duty military. Each spouse is given the standard BAH benefit without the addition of a dependent. One of them can claim a slightly larger entitlement by adding a dependent child, but neither of them would be deemed a dependent.

What is COLA?

Being in the military means that you could be stationed all over the place.  From bases in other countries to different areas in the continental United States, each with its own cost-of-living expenses. That’s where COLA comes in.

Cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are given to some service personnel. Unlike BAH entitlement, this increases with each dependent you have. It will increase when you get married and it will increase for each kid you have, but it is only available to military personnel who are stationed overseas or in places where the cost of living is higher than usual.

There are two kinds of COLA: overseas COLA and continental US COLA Overseas COLA (OCONUS COLA) is available to soldiers stationed overseas, while CONUS (Continental United States) COLA may be available to soldiers stationed in high-cost locations of the United States.

The Overseas Cost of Living Allowance was created to balance out the spending power between overseas service members and their CONUS-based colleagues. The average monthly supplement is $300. The basic calculation is a comparison of the average costs of necessities in CONUS and OCONUS locations.

Your command-sponsored dependents, pay grade, location, and whether you live onboard or in the barracks all affect how much your COLA payment.

CONUS COLA was created to make up for being stationed in some "expensive" areas of the continental United States (CONUS).

 Any of the following criteria could make you eligible for CONUS COLA: 

  1. You've been stationed in a high-cost area of the continental United States (CONUS). There are currently 20 such zones (also known as military housing areas, or MHAs) in the United States.
  2. Your primary dependent resides in a high cost location in the continental United States, and you have been assigned to an unaccompanied tour of service outside the country.
  3. Due to your duty station or other factors, it is decided that your major dependents must live in a high cost place in the CONUS.

Is There Military Wife Pay or Military Husband Pay? 

There is a misconception among new military spouses that they’ll get compensation or Military Spouse Pay. But just like the notion that every military spouse receives one free plastic surgery or a number of other benefit-related claims, military wife pay and military husband pay don’t exist.

That being said, the military does give a plethora of support to spouses who want to find employment through the Military Spouse Hiring Preference Program or further their education through several financial support programs, but there is no compensation solely for being a military wife or husband. 

What benefits do you get as a Military spouse?

Even though military spouse pay does not exist, the military nevertheless offers a wide range of advantages to military spouses. Instead, it offers military spouses a plethora of wonderful perks. Here are nine advantages that military spouses can take advantage of!

  1. Military Pay - All service members receive their basic pay, along with an array of allowances. While there’s no marriage pay, married service members also receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) 
  1. Educational Benefits - Military spouses who want to pursue a college degree or a certification can do so with financial assistance from the military, either through the Post 9/11 GI Bill (the service members' GI Bill may be transferred to the spouse or children in order to pay for education) or the MyCAA Program (the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, which offers a maximum of $4,000 to pursue a license, degree, or certification).
  1. Hiring Preference - The military has a program called the Military Spouse Hiring Preference that gives spouses of active-duty service members an advantage when applying for certain federal jobs, such as some civilian posts in the DOD.
  1. Health Care Insurance - Active service members qualify for the military’s health care program TRICARE, which extends to their dependents (spouse, biological and adopted children) as well.
  1. Travel Opportunities - Being in the military means you may have to move cities and countries every few years, but it also provides you with an opportunity to see the world. The US military can station you and your family all over the world, from Japan to Hawaii. The military also provides Overseas Cost-of-Living Allowance (OCONUS COLA) that acts as extra compensation given to your spouse.
  1. Military Recreation Benefits – Base life shouldn’t be boring! There’s a lot to do while living on base as a military spouse. Military Welfare and Recreation offers and manages programs like gyms, bowling alleys, event centers, and more at a more affordable price than civilian options.
  1. Community – It’s easy to imagine that military family life brings a unique set of challenges that civilian couples don’t normally face. However, you’re not alone. The military community is made up of people going through or have gone through the same thing and will be there to support you.
  1. Military Discounts – There are a plethora of stores and restaurants that offer a military discount on their goods and services all year round. These discounts also extend to the service member's spouse, so make sure to make use of it! 
  1. Marriage Counseling and Family Support – If you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new life or if you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage or even if you just want to go through some counseling - the military offers the MFLC (Military and Family Life) program. The program offers individual and/or marriage counseling without it going on record. Meeting areas for sessions can also be arranged off-base if you’re more comfortable with that.

Congratulations on stepping into your new life as a military spouse. Not only are you now aware of the possible hurdles that may get in your way, hopefully you’re now more excited as you look forward to the definite perks that come with a military marriage as well. It just goes to show that marriages of all kinds truly come with their own set of unique of challenges.and blessings as well. 

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