Base Pay is Base Pay. Period.

I’m a little surprised that I have to write this, but it seems that I do. The military does not pay people more money because they have dependents. There is no increase in pay for getting married, or for having children. Base pay is base pay, period.

There are three pays that can be affected by your dependency status: Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), and Family Separation Allowance (FSH).

There are two ways that BAH is affected by having dependents. First, if you not authorized BAH due to your rank, and you acquire a dependent, you are automatically authorized BAH. Second, if you are authorized BAH at the without dependent rate, and you acquire a dependent, then your BAH rate will change to with dependents.

There are a few notes about BAH and dependents:

  • In most cases, BAH is paid for the location where the service member is stationed.
  • BAH is typically not paid to service members who reside in the barracks in the US. Geographical bachelors may request permission to live in the barracks and still receive BAH for their family, but it is not guaranteed.
  • BAH is paid to service members who are on an unaccompanied tour.  This BAH is paid for the location that the family is located.

COLA is a special allowance paid to offset the higher cost of living in overseas locations and certain high-cost areas within the US.  COLA is the only allowance that changes based on the number of dependents you have.

FSH is paid to service members who are separated from their families for more than 30 days due to military obligations.  It is not paid for voluntary separations, like when the service member moves ahead of the family to a new duty station.

I’ve tried to keep this short and simple, but I’m sure that will create some questions.  Put them in the comments, and I’ll answer!

Update 3/11/2011:  I have been seeing a lot of comments (here and on Facebook) saying that this is a stupid question.  I agree with the theory that it could be a stupid question.  However, I wrote it because I get TONS of questions from service members asking when they will see their pay raise for having a child, or new wives asking when their husband will get paid for being married.  I’m glad so many people understand the military pay system well, my job is to help educate the rest of the folks who are confused.


About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.

56 Comments on "Base Pay is Base Pay. Period."

  1. You can play the pay vs allowance game all day long if you want.

    The fact of the matter is that your "income" will be more than a fellow service member with the same quals/time in service duty station and grade if you have a dependant.

    Fair right….?

    This might just be me but I consider that as getting paid more !

  2. But the piddly bit that you get for having a dependent doesn't come anywhere close to the overall cost of that dependent.

  3. Here's an option… if you think the rules that are in effect aren't fair, you have 3 options. 1. Work with legislators to have them changed. 2. Accept that the rules were the rules when you joined. If you truly feel they are unfair, get out. 3. Complain about it online.

  4. Your wallet or checking account don't know where the money comes from. Base Pay, BAH Flight pay. It's alll just money. Don't be a smart ass….

  5. Yes it is fair. Kate said it right base pay it just that base pay. You get more in incentive or speaial pay only, however, you only get it for having a dependant which could be one or more the pay does not increase or decrease per dependant.

    "The fact of the matter is that your "income" will be more than a fellow service member with the same quals/time in service duty station and grade if you have a dependant." This argument can be made for other duty assignments in the military such as hazardous duty, flight pay etc.

    The basic fact is if you want more pay then pick up some NEC's that pay you for your training or study and advance to the next pay grade or just get out to make way for those of us who want to serve thier country with pride!

  6. I get so tired of hearing people complain about service members with dependents getting more money then non-dependent service members. You want to talk about fair, let's talk about service members who bust their behinds and make rank quickly yet get paid less then members who are 2 ranks below them but have more time in service. Where is the fairness there?
    Happens in my household and it is irritating!!!

  7. Navygirl1997_2005 | March 11, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    Dave, part of that is because there would be less taxes taken out of your base pay. That's really the only part that affects you if you have dependents. As far as the military paying you–they base it on your rank and # of years in service. It's what is taken out maybe that you are considering. The government would tax a single person more versus a married couple with 2 dependents.
    The COLA and BHA and BSA are also based on rank and time in service, AND if you have dependents or not. Someone with 1 dependent would get the EXACT same as someone with 12 dependents.

  8. Your bank acount should not be bigger because of a personal choice rather than getting promoted, NEC's or gaining quals as previously stated.

    I have a dog. That is a personal choice. Where is my DSA? He costs money?

    Equal PAY for equal work ! If you dont agree with that I dont know what else to say.

  9. I do not think that this is a stupid issue to address – I have addressed this this question several times over the years simply because folks that are new to the military do not understand how the pay system works. You cannot understand it if you do not ask. Thanks for posting this, Kate!

  10. Tara Gray Burkholder | March 11, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    Then there are the poor lower enlisted souls who think the more kids you have the more BAH you get. Uh, no. So wrong. And yes, we ran across a few of these guys at Ft. Benning. Usually E-1s and E-2s, with 3 or 4 kids, & wives that don't work. How they kept those kids clothed & fed is beyond me. Their pay is just barely above the poverty line as it is.

  11. For those of you arguing that having a dependent should not mean an increase in allowances, I have one point to make. I am a spouse who has a Master's degree and would love to be employed to help support my family rather than only relying on my husband's income…HOWEVER every time the military tells us to move I have to start over. I will NEVER make the same amount of money as my colleagues who have the same number of years working experience I do because I have to start over everywhere we go. That is of course, if I am lucky enough to even find a job!

    Military members are people. They want to someday have families of their own. Without a little bit of help, the sacrifices made by duty members and their families would be much greater and it would be much more difficult to support those families.

  12. Also, you said it is a personal choice, therefore they don't need to be paid more. Well…it's a personal choice for you as well to NOT be married or have dependants. Those allowances are available to you when you are ready to have your family and I am sure you will be thankful they are there. BAH is for housing…the housing you need as a single person is smaller than the housing you would need for a family. Therefore, BAH is higher to accomodate the need for extra square footage in your home.

  13. My husband's recruiter actually told us that he'd get paid more money if we got married (we were dating/engaged when he joined). I'm assuming he was just trying to make BAH sound better though, haha!

  14. When will we get pay it has been 3 weeks

  15. Why all the complaints about just married and/or having dependants getting BAH??? You get the same BAH if your single and a certain rate. My husband is an E5, married and has two children and gets the same BAH as his friend who is an E5 not married and no children. You want the allowance then either find someone who will put up with your arrogance or actually do some work and bust your butt to make rank to get it! Stop complaining…BAH isn't new….been around for a long time.

  16. Having tons of kids or getting married is a personal decision- no one is going to pay you for poor judgment.

  17. Um, no different out here in civilian world. My husband started out in his state job as a grade 8 employee, changed jobs to a grade 12 which is the only thing that made a difference in pay rate. Beyond the years when he got a raise (and there were many when state employees got 0%) there was no bump in salary – not even when/because we had kids, or when I lost my job. This is the norm. If you can't figure out how to afford a spouse and/or kids, don't acquire them, lol.

  18. Renee L. Ten Eyck | March 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm |

    You're right. Choice to have a family is not an employer's problem. The banker doesn't make more money because he has a family. The military gives money (IE:housing) once a service member has dependents. I don't know any employer that pays simply for dependents. That said, since base pay can be lower, other benefits are in place to compensate, such as housing allowance, commissary & Exchange privileges, & mostly free medical. And, service members who deploy receive extra compensation for that (hazardous duty & family separation pay)-no different than some other jobs (DEA, CIA, FBI, many SWAT teams & police personnel, firefighters, etc). Though, many civilian occupations pay better, they also have to pay health coverage, higher costing life insurance & retirement funds directly from their pay, where as these costs are minimal to service members. Military life isn't easy-I'm retired & a wife of a soldier over 20 years-but I do think we need to be rational & objective & see the big picture for what it is.

  19. Renee L. Ten Eyck | March 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    You've been misinformed about the pay and benefits system, but you can access the housing allowance charts at which will show you what each service member is entitled to based on rank, time in service, and whether or not there are dependents.

  20. It's simple to me. If there were no dependents, we would have a bunch of unstable clowns running around. Family, overall, brings stability to an often stressful and chaotic profession. They effect the lives of their spouses, parents, and even the single Airman in more ways than can be accounted for. That little bit of extra pay is a tiny, indirect, thank you from the Government and U.S. citizens for making it possible for us to Super Power. If pay is your concern, you are in the wrong profession. Get out, then let us know how much you miss your without dependents rate. Not trying to be rude, but I've done my circle. At ten days old I moved with my dad to Osan AB, Korea. Thirty-one years later, I'm back at Osan AB. My dependents back home, you better believe, make me a better Airman. They make me make better Airmen. And they make the military a better military.

  21. BAH is meant to cover the cost of your off base housing. As a single sailor you would only need a 1 bedroom, which is substantially cheaper than if you have dependents and need a 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom. The increase in BAH does not equate to extra spending money in your pocket, it just means we can afford the 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom which can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 more than the single bedroom. And if you have children there are actual laws dictating how many people you can have living in a home per bedroom. I heard that if you live on base you don't get the BAH listed on your LES so that family would qualify for say WIC or school lunches where as the same family living off base with their BAH listed would not. I find that irritating.

  22. Mrs. Perry | May 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm |

    One thing we are forgetting is that the Military does not pay for over time or holiday pay as in Civilian jobs, Our soldiers dont work 9-5, 7-3, or 11-7…many times they are leaving at 4-5 am just to come home at the latest, 6-8 pm. Not only that they have WLC and FTX days that require them to work for days on end, basically around the clock. No over time pay. So I agree that the pay and benefits are compensatory to what they do, my husband actually all together gets paid less that what he would be as a civilian with his job title and experience, dont believe me, look up Logitics Specialist with 5 years experience. Every job has its ups and downs and benefits and bonuses.

  23. Anna-Marie | June 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    Could you point me to an article that discusses BAH while serving an unaccompanied tour! A friend of mine says that we’d get BAH for our current base, and I say we’d get it for where we decide to live. I’m planning to move closer to my family, which is not near our current base. Thanks in advance!

  24. Bah shouldnt depend on if your married or not. There’s plenty of military guys and I’m sure equal amount of girls that just get hitched for the bah or have contract marriages plus once you reach E5 you can have geo bachelor bah. Which were I’m at is only a $100 difference and those ppl earn it just as much as somebody that married. There’s plenty of single guys that have familys or dependents/kids to provide for that aren’t married that deserve to rate bah. Oh and you can rate bah if your married living in the barracks. My ex did for three almost 4 years. I think they should just have one pay and have bah and bas added into your basic. That would keep the military divorce rate down too.

  25. I am AD and my husband is in the Guard. I currently get w/ dependent BAH rate. When he deploys for 6 months what will our BAH be? Do we both get single rate?

  26. I am currently on an unaccompanied tour receiving BAH for FL. I got 4 dependents and my wife is planning to visit me for about 45 days, now one of my superiors is planning to STOP my BAH entitlements, not just the FSA, if she stays for over 30 days. He says is in the regulation but I couldn't find it, I think he's wrong, how about the rest of my dependents living at the house? any suggestions?

  27. my daughter husband is not and have not send her bah in two months what can i do or she can do to get her money to live on hes in san diego and he left her here with me but correct all the income he is in th navy on the carl vinson

  28. I have read all the comments and a lot them raise great points. I was once married so I have seen both sides of the coin. I will only point out one aspect of entitlements and that's BAH. I am greatly disappointed in how the system applies dependent rate vs single rate BAH. I am a 19 year E-7 living in Northern California. My single rate BAH is less than a E-5 of 5 years with Dependents, that's two ranks below me with less service time and he still gets payed more. Does anyone else see something wrong with that picture? Some people in this forum explain how it is fair for the military to compensate individuals for having families vs single individuals and people should stop complaining. Really? Remember it doesn't matter if you have one dependent or fifty dependents you only get one dependent rate. Which begs the question why have separate compensation in the first place. Yes I'll jump on the band wagon. Having dependents is a personal choice. The military should not carry the burden of compensation because a person chooses to incur expenses due to him or her aquiring a soulmate or dependents. Having to pack up and leave every time a member relocates is tough, but hey we all do it and that again is a personal choice you got into and knew you were making from the start. Just to give you and example of what I'm talking about here are BAH figures for Yuba city California: E-5 w/dependents – $1500; E-7 without dependents – $1293.00 Don't trust my figures? look them up. So rather than rant and rave aimlessly, I propose the following solution. If the DoD refuses to fix this; and they probably won't, I say the adjustment should be made to allow the higher rank's entitlement to remain higher than the one rank below it. Ex. an E-6's dependent rate BAH entitlement should never be higher than a single E-7's rate etc. I strongly feel BAH should be fair across the board. No adjustments should be made for dependents. Just like alot of other choices in life, the member should eat the cost, not the DoD.

  29. My fiancee deployed again to Afghanistan Nov 1. Is missing our child's birth by 27 days. Since we are not married do I need to provide a paternity test or court order stating that he is in fact the father, or will the birth certificate with his name on it be sufficient? Next question, will he get BAH with depn since he is deployed and our child cannot reside with him? Thank You.

  30. um you're an idiot. . . you DO get paid more money to have a family. because if you are a junior enlisted member such as myself, you do not collect bah and you make less. do your research and maybe you should've joined the military before you started talking this bs that you clearly have no idea what you're talking about.

  31. If a military couple has a child but are not married how does the BAH work. We are both E4 and I get BAH with dependant but will he also be able to collect BAH single or will he have to reside in a barracks or on a ship? Also How does family seperation pay work? We live in different states.

  32. Will the military help pay for your first child? The father is in the Army.

  33. More money is more money, whether or not you call it BAH/COLA/etc…
    Civilian employers won't pay you more to have kids or get a spouse-the most you'll get is a handshake from the boss and some time off work for the wedding/honeymoon/maternity leave. If you have a nice boss and cool co-workers, you may even get a card or cake, but no salary increase.

  34. Disappointed | January 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

    My husband is in the AF and just recently has been sent on an unaccompanied tour to Korea. We were based in Minot, ND before hand and we had his orders changed to show that I have been relocated to CA. Not only did he have me put on his orders that I was relocated but we had to get them amended so that we would get CA BAH. We were informed that we would be getting DLA for our move and that we would also be getting BAH for CA. When we got here and looked at his bank account we noticed that we had only gotten BAH for Minot. My husband called and spoke with financing in Minot and they informed him to talk to financing in Korea. When he got to Korea they told him because the AF did not pay for our move to CA that we would not be getting BAH for CA. Though if we wanted BAH for CA we would have to give up our follow on to Germany. So now I'm in CA living off of my parents because I currently can not afford a place of my own, even though we were told emphatically told that we would be getting BAH for CA. I'm upset with getting DLA because it took us a 3 days longer to move here and we ended up spending far more money then we expected. Not to mention we were also told that as long as we save all of our receipts from our trip that the AF would reimbursed. I will settle for DLA because I have no choice, but this BAH part is BS. I have to say you've got to love the military for all the abbreviations.

  35. Army Wife in AK | February 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

    Author is 100% correct…Base pay is base pay. It will only change when you are promoted or lose rank or at the annual pay adjustments. PERIOD. Allowances will change based on duty assignment and family status.

    Whether you agree or don't agree isn't the question. Your overall paycheck bottom line will change, but BASE PAY remains the same no matter your family status.

  36. I have just posted a link to the rules and regulations of BAH. I have read most of them and understand that my daughter and her husband are entitled to BAH and FSA They should not have to provide anymore information then proof of marriage and her SSN. This has been provided more then once and yet she has been force to live with out BAH while her husband is in japan. This has been going on now since july of 2011. What i Need is a person or department that i can get to help me . He tried in japan now 3 times to get this worked out with no luck. thanks for any help you can give us.

  37. Thank you Randall Shumate, I was going to say about the same thing but not as PC.

    My 2 cents comes out though.. You people need to learn how to manage your own finances I do just fine w/dependants. My friend same rank LESS time in service makes almost 1k more than me he has a roomate and lives off post. seems he knows what he is doing with his money.

  38. My Grandoughter has triplet's (2- boys and one girl) born Oct 24 2011. She is living with her parents, and has not receaved anything from her husband. He is in the army,and now is asking for a devorce. She is taking care of the three babies without any money from her husband????

  39. Enter text rightCall his commander . Bet you she will get money ASAP here!

  40. I just got married so that we could make more $$$, so it is ridiculous to argue that military do not receive more $$$ for having dependents. As an anarchist and radical feminist, I see absolutely no reason to have the government recognize my relationship with my significant other – – EXCEPT for the $$$ reason that the military offers. My husband is going to Afghanistan for a year deployment, and this is his second year-long deployment to Afghanistan. We calculated he will earn $14,000 more dollars during his deployment, just because we went to the courthouse and got married. Sorry but that is a JOKE! I make more $$$ than my husband but why the hell shouldn't he get the extra money, especially since we have lived with each other and been in a monogamous relationship for the last 10 yrs? Can you imagine how much more $$$ he would have made during that time if he were married??? It'd be at least $60,000. With all this said, the military should NOT pay members just for being married. I can tell you I am sure as hell not "dependent" on him or anyone else.

  41. If you are single and have lived in the barracks for 6 years and were unable to have your property moved from your parents house when first enlisting will the Army pay for moving your property from your home on record when you are eligible to move out of barracks?

  42. My daughter died she was married to an Air Force person for 18 months. They lived together only three weeks of their marriage. She knew it was a mistake from the beginning. She wanted a divorce, he convinced her dur to the income he would get being married as he had a couple heavfty bills to pay . He even filed less than a year after getting married then dropped the divorce after he found out about the fact that he would get a “bonus” how she put it when he got back from being deployed and more if they stayed married. He was originally to be deployed 6 weeks after they got married it ended up he wasn’t until 13 months after. Now that she is gone, legally he gets all of her things including a home she owned and fixed up by herself prior to their getting married. My point being he stayed married for the MONEY HE COULD MAKE from the military…anything we can do about this. He is not good with money. Their joint account had over $3200. WHEN HE RETURNED YET HE IS TELLING EVERYONE HE NEED MONEY TO PAY THE FUNERAL COSTS OF $2300. He is a liar and now a thief in my mind.

  43. if you join the army will they just let you stay on base or will you have to go to war?

  44. My chids mother has been deployed ranked E-6 with 12years she left us with no money and were not married but I have sole custody of my child do i get support and if so how much.

  45. I have a daughter that i'm trying to claim for my dependent pay, and I was wondering if you could tell me about alittle on the process i need to go through in order to recieve dependent pay.


  47. My granddaughter father called my daughter to tell her that she's very stupid. That she will only receive the $166.00 per month of his base pay. He goes on to tell her that he receives BAH and she wont get a penny of that money. Question is that true? if not how can she receive additional child support? Yes, she receives support via the court system the monthly $166.00 per month. Please advise. thank you

  48. I have a question . For the past 7 months I have been taking care of a service members kids because she is over seas in an unaccompanied tour we had a verbal agreement that she would give me the child support money . Well she has only been giving me 400 a month for me taking care of both her children 24/7 and keeps saying that she cant get the kids dad to pay his portion of child support . However she is getting bah and fam sep and she is keeping it all . Should she be sending any of that money to her kids since the dad isnt giving anything , or is it ok for her just to send 400 a month ? I though bah was for the family in the states to have a place to live ?

  49. My husband is a AGR in the Airforce serving on his 22 year and E7 and getting wrong pay. His pay is 4365 basic pay.Should he not get 4487?

  50. I am a new military spouse and my husband and I are not agreeing on our housing issue. We live off post and decided to keep desperate bank accounts so he says we should split all bills 50/50. I thought with his BAH that would at least cover our rent and I’d be splitting just utilities and house hold costs but he says his BAH only covers his half of rent ($450/month). I thought married w/ 2 dependents was about double that, plus if we were living on post we’d just be staying there free, but he says they would take money out of his check just for us living on post. I don’t want to be unfair but I don’t think this is accurate….?

  51. Margaret Beever | September 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

    I would like to know if your married to a solder and living off base if you leave him and go back home (to stay) will he still get to live off base and get the housing allowance?

  52. Me and my gf are getting married after high school

    So when I go to af boot camp am I getting paid there or after that?


    I want to be close to my future wife when I’m out is that possible?

  53. Do I need to be married when I go in the army to get full BAH?

  54. There are reasons that they help with the dependents! I am a military wife and even though I have not enlisted myself. I might as well have! When they say jump "WE" jump! Single soldiers just pack themselves and go. They dont need to worry about it. When he deployed, I don't have a husband for a year and sit here state side worrying everyday whether I will be getting that call!! You obviously have no idea what that is like. Then I hear people say so, "well, then don't get married!" So what these people are saying is even though a soldier is fighting for OUR freedom, they don't think that he/she deserves to have a normal life with a family that loves him/her in between FIGHTING for OUR freedom! WOW That is so upsetting! If you are in the military and choose not to start a family.. I understand that it might not seem unfair to you, but if you could only think past yourself in the position you are right now. Maybe one day you will want to get married. If you don't that is your choice but if you do, it would be very hard for you to survive with the ones you love in whatever place THEY decide to put you. Then when you deploy, you get to sit there and wonder how your family is going to be ok, because now you have 2 separate costs, you deployed and your family at home. People for some reason think that the money you get is so much but you don't even get that extra if you live on base, so it is almost like you don't get it at all! If families could live in the barracks then this would no longer be a problem.

  55. Hi Kate,

    I have a question and I'm hoping you can assist me with it.
    I'm a Navy wife and I'm considering a legal separation from my spouse. I currently reside in the state of GA. How would a legal separation affect my spouse's current BAH rate as well as any benefits I currently have (Tricare, Commissary and Base access). Also, would the separation paperwork would have to be submitted to either DFAS, DEERS or my spouse's Commanding Officer? Thank you in advance.

  56. Hi! I've served in the Coast Guard from (1973-1981) I got out on a Hardship Discharge, because of my Ex-Wife.
    I've worked all the way up until my Doctor told me to get a sit down Job, but in my field which is Retail there is no sit down Job, so I had no money coming in the house.I am single,but live with my girl friend.

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