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

March 03, 2012 | Kate Horrell

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.


  1. 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.

  2. Teppe2 says:

    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.

  3. JoeBlo says:

    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.

  4. deepseeded says:

    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.

  5. Dawndidit says:

    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.

  6. Ann says:

    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.

  7. Jensen says:

    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 says:

      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: http://paycheck-chronicles.military.com/2011/03/3… Be sure to look for the right branch as the guidelines are fairly different between the services.

  8. Thomas says:
  9. Jeriah says:

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

    • Kate says:

      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: http://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.

  10. Kira Shuman says:

    When you deploy, you lose all BAH. However, since he will be married, he automatically gets (or gets to keep) BAH allowances. Lowest BAH I've seen is $750, plus the separation, that's over $10,000 extra from being married.

  11. Ann says:

    When you deploy, you lose all BAH. However, since he will be married, he automatically gets (or gets to keep) BAH allowances. Lowest BAH I've seen is $750, plus the separation, that's over $10,000 extra from being married.

  12. guest says:

    See and everyone was telling me I was wrong. That is EXACTLY what happened to my husband (then boyfriend) two deployments ago. he deployed and lost BAH since "housing was provided for him on post"

  13. KateKashman says:

    Readers? I was sure that if you rated BAH before you deployed, you continued to receive BAH while you were deployed. What has been your experience? Guest, is your husband active duty? Now I've got more to learn.

  14. guest says:

    He is an active duty officer. He was an O2 when we were dating so he ranked for BAH based off of his rank. When he deployed he was told that since they were providing housing and he didn't have dependents that he would loose the money. Now we thought since he was deploying he would keep it but Finance said nope. He knew from when he PCS'd for year to Kuwait that he would loose BAH then since even though it was for a year, they considered it a PCS vs a deployment but he thought that a deployment he'd keep it and they said no. When he was in Kuwait, he lost BAH AND had to pay out of pocket for all his meals, how crappy is that.