Financial Advantages for Military Couples: Salary Benefits

July 25, 2022
7 min

Military marriages bring together two individuals committed to serving their country while navigating the challenges and rewards that come with this unique lifestyle. The journey of a military couple is often characterized by frequent relocations, extended periods of separation, and a shared dedication to their nation's service. Amidst these trials, military marriages also offer a range of financial advantages, sparking curiosity about the potential salary benefits that come with being a military couple.

Military Marriage Pay

In the world of military employment, there is no direct salary increase solely based on marriage. While it might be appealing if every employer provided such benefits, the reality is that the military, like most employers, does not offer a pay raise simply because a service member gets married. However, it's essential to recognize that there are financial benefits available to married military personnel through various allowances, specifically provided to support their housing and living expenses.

The US military provides service members with allowances designed to ease the financial burden associated with housing and living costs. Two significant allowances that come into play after adding a dependent are the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and the Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA).

BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing)

The Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is a crucial financial benefit that assists service members in covering housing expenses such as rent, mortgage, and utilities. While the US military does not differentiate between married and unmarried personnel concerning basic pay, the addition of a dependent can increase a service member's BAH entitlement.

The BAH calculation takes three primary factors into account: the service member's pay grade, dependency status, and the location where they are stationed. Based on these factors, the military determines the appropriate BAH rate to accommodate the service member's housing needs. Adding a dependent through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is the primary way to enhance BAH benefits. However, it's important to note that adding multiple dependents, such as children, will not lead to further increases in BAH entitlements.

For dual-military couples, where both spouses are active duty military, the BAH entitlements can be especially beneficial. These couples, sometimes referred to as "mil-to-mil" couples, receive the standard BAH benefit without the addition of dependents. However, if one of the spouses adds a dependent child, they may qualify for a slightly higher BAH entitlement. Nevertheless, neither spouse is considered dependent, making this a unique circumstance where both partners can benefit from the allowance.

COLA (Cost-of-Living Allowance)

As military personnel can be stationed in various locations worldwide, the cost of living can significantly differ depending on the assignment's geographic location. To address this discrepancy and ensure fair compensation, the military provides Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA) to certain service members. The purpose of COLA is to help offset the higher living expenses faced by military personnel stationed in areas where the cost of living is higher than the average.

There are two main types of COLA: Overseas COLA (OCONUS COLA) and Continental United States COLA (CONUS COLA). Overseas COLA applies to service members stationed outside the continental United States in overseas locations. On the other hand, CONUS COLA is available to service members stationed within the United States, specifically in high-cost locations designated as military housing areas (MHAs).

The calculation of COLA takes into account various factors that contribute to the overall cost of living in a specific location. These factors include the service member's pay grade, the location of their duty station, the presence of command-sponsored dependents, and whether they reside onboard or in the barracks. The COLA payment increases with the addition of dependents, such as a spouse or children, but it is only applicable to service members stationed in areas where the cost of living is higher than the standard CONUS cost.

Service members may be eligible for CONUS COLA under the following circumstances:

  • Being stationed in a high-cost area of the continental United States: The military designates specific military housing areas (MHAs) within the continental United States where the cost of living is notably higher. If a service member is stationed in one of these high-cost areas, they may qualify for CONUS COLA.
  • Assignment to an unaccompanied tour of service outside the country: If a service member's primary dependent (spouse or children) resides in a high-cost location within the continental United States while the service member is assigned to an unaccompanied tour of service abroad, they may be eligible for CONUS COLA.
  • Requirement for major dependents to live in a high-cost place in CONUS: In some cases, due to duty station requirements or other factors, the military may determine that a service member's major dependents must reside in a high-cost location within the continental United States, making them eligible for CONUS COLA.

Military Wife Pay or Military Husband Pay

It's a common misconception among new military spouses that they will receive compensation or a specific "Military Spouse Pay." However, similar to various other benefit-related claims, such as free plastic surgery, these notions are not accurate. The truth is that there is no designated salary or payment specifically for being a military wife or husband.

Nevertheless, the military offers extensive support to spouses who seek employment opportunities through initiatives like the Military Spouse Hiring Preference Program. This program aims to assist military spouses in finding suitable job opportunities and advancing their careers. Additionally, there are various financial support programs available to help military spouses further their education, enhancing their skills and qualifications.

While there is no direct monetary compensation for being a military spouse, the military recognizes the importance of supporting families and providing resources to enhance their overall well-being. These initiatives are designed to empower military spouses, providing them with opportunities for personal and professional growth throughout their journey as valued members of the military community.

Benefits for Military Spouses

While military spouse pay is not a designated compensation, military spouses can access a wide range of wonderful perks and benefits provided by the military. Here are nine advantages that military spouses can take advantage of:

  • Military Pay: All service members, including married ones, receive their basic pay along with various allowances such as Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).
  • Educational Benefits: Military spouses can pursue higher education or certifications with financial assistance through programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which allows service members to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children.
  • Hiring Preference: The Military Spouse Hiring Preference Program offers spouses of active-duty service members an advantage when applying for certain federal jobs, including civilian positions within the Department of Defense.
  • Health Care Insurance: Military spouses and dependents qualify for TRICARE, the military's health care program, providing comprehensive medical coverage.
  • Travel Opportunities: Military life may involve frequent moves, providing opportunities for military families to experience new cities and countries. Overseas Cost-of-Living Allowance (OCONUS COLA) is provided to compensate for the additional costs of living abroad.
  • Military Recreation Benefits: Life on a military base offers a wide range of recreational activities managed by Military Welfare and Recreation, providing affordable options for sports, events, gyms, and more.
  • Community Support: Military life comes with unique challenges, but military spouses are part of a supportive community that understands and shares similar experiences, providing a strong support network.
  • Military Discounts: Many stores and restaurants offer year-round military discounts on goods and services, extending to the service member's spouse.
  • Marriage Counseling and Family Support: The Military and Family Life Program (MFLC) provides counseling and support for military families, offering assistance in adjusting to new circumstances or dealing with challenging situations.

Congratulations on embarking on your journey as a military spouse! While you may face some hurdles, these benefits and perks demonstrate the military's commitment to supporting service members and their families. Each military marriage brings its own unique set of challenges and blessings, and the military strives to provide essential support to ensure the well-being and happiness of military families.


Military marriages present their share of challenges, including frequent relocations and periods of separation, but they also bring blessings such as camaraderie within the military community, access to support programs and the opportunity for global exploration. Although there is no specific military spouse pay, the extensive perks and benefits provided to military spouses are noteworthy. These benefits encompass financial aid for education and career advancement, quality healthcare, recreational opportunities, and more, contributing to the overall well-being and satisfaction of military spouses.

Technological advancements have also offered convenient options, like online marriage platforms such as Courtly, enabling cost-effective and accessible ways to solemnize unions, regardless of geographical distances. Embracing both challenges and blessings, military spouses find excitement in the unique experiences and advantages that come with their commitment to each other and their nation.

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