Kate is Clueless: Adding Up The Cash Benefits of Military Marriage

A little while back, a reader commented that her new husband was going to earn an extra $14,000 over the course of a 12 month deployment, because they had married before he left.  Well, I am clearly clueless about this one.  As far as I can figure, there are two ways that getting married increases your cash income.  Number one is the difference between Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) without dependents and BAH with dependents.  Number two is Family Separation Allowance when he is actually gone.

Even if they lived in San Francisco or some other high BAH area, the difference between without dependents and with dependents is unlikely to ever exceed $650 per month, an in an average area it will be much, much less.  I just did a quick BAH query on the last three places we’ve lived, and put in random ranks, and the differences were  $410 per month, $183 per month, and $604 per month (Honolulu – wow!).

Family Separation Allowance is $250 per month, it begins after the 30th day of separation due to deployment or temporary duty, and it is pro-rated to the days actually separated.

Now, there are all sorts of financial reasons while couples who include a military member would want to get married.  Health insurance is hugely expensive in the real world, and the commissary and exchange can offer good value (depending where you live and what sort of competition is available), and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is not available to partners, just spouses.  However, I’ve never considered that military members could choose to marry for the extra cash compensation.

So, readers, help me out.  What am I missing here?  Are there other cash financial benefits to marrying if you are in the military?  I need to learn.

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.
  • I’m stumped. Is she talking about being able to use the Savings Deposit Program? I guess he’d get that whether he was married or single. Does their duty station have a COLA? Maybe she’s including his higher COLA for his new family member.

    Maybe she’s selling his pickup truck while he’s gone…

    By the way the Honolulu BAH pays for the “Paradise Tax” of being able to surf all year with sunshine and tropical tradewinds… but it doesn’t exactly raise the standard of housing. Unless both housing members are getting BAH, renting can be more expensive than giving up BAH for base housing. No complaints here, though– BAH has made huge progress in the last couple decades.

    • MiamiDiesel
    • MiamiDiesel
    • MiamiDiesel
  • Teppe2

    Depending on where he deploys to, Hazardous Duty Pay, Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay, Hardship Pay, Sea Pay, Sub Pay, no taxes on pay earned in a combat zone, and Per Diem are some I can think of.

    • KateKashman

      Okay, but none of those are affected by marriage, right?

  • JoeBlo

    If he was in the barracks, his BAH would go from zero to at least $1,000 per month. His BAS would similarly increase as he wouldn’t be on a meal card anymore. Plus family separation and you have your answer.

  • deepseeded

    Ok.. so the way I look at it is I lost money in marrying my wife. The problem is any pay extras and any healthcare simply does not out wiegh what I would have if employed. Frequent moves and moves to places where jobs are unattinaable make this a moot point.

    For instance, I have 15 years work experience, a graduate degree and a bachelors degree. If I were in one place I would have better chance to be employed. If I were in a household with two people full time employed, I have more assets and still have health care.

    This being said any BAH or extra pay will never match the ability for the spouse to have a job and to have a combined income. i believe most spouses marry Armed service members for something other then the “way of life” and “extra money”.


    P.s. don’t get me started on the commissary and PX … I can find better deals in the real world.

  • Dawndidit

    Just a thought here; what if he’s a Reservist…or an ART? I don’t know if that changes anything, but I read somewhere that a situation like that can affect income in a positive way.

  • Ann

    When he deployed he would lose his BAH. If married, he would keep his BAH pay, plus the extra for having a dependent, plus separation. I think it’s simply a matter of he gets to keep the BAH pay even though he’s deployed. So let’s say BAH is $1,000. If he deployed single, he would just get usual, combat pay, tax breaks, etc. When married, he also gets the $1,000 BAH for the base where his spouse lives, and separation pay of $250 ($1,000 + $250 = $1250 per month). In this scenario alone, we come up with $1,250 x 12 = $15,000.

  • Jensen

    I have been separated from my husband since the middle of July 2012. It was not due to him leaving on deployment or a temporary duty station. I have been told that i should be receiving money from his pay. Can any one tell me if that’s true and if so how much I should be getting each month or so?
    Thank you.

    • KateKashman

      Jensen, the number one thing is that you need to file for separation in order to have a legally binding support agreement. The military has guidelines, but they are only guidelines and they are designed to bridge the time between you separating and getting a support agreement. You can read all about them here: https://paycheck-chronicles.military.com/2011/03/3… Be sure to look for the right branch as the guidelines are fairly different between the services.

  • Thomas
  • Jeriah

    Do you think the spouse should get some amount of BAH while a divorce is going through?

    • Kate

      Jeriah, I *think* that it depends on the situation. However, what I think isn’t important. Each branch of the service has guidelines for how much support must be given during a marital separation: https://paycheck-chronicles.military.com/2011/03/3

      Remember that the military guidelines are meant to bridge the time between when the couple decides to separate and the time when a separation agreement or temporary support arrangement is made. They are not designed to replace the need for a temporary support agreement. The right thing to do is to have a temporary support agreement organized as quickly as possible.