Dual Military BAH Warnings

A recent comment caused me to realize that perhaps we were due for a couple of Dual Military BAH Warnings here at The Paycheck Chronicles.  There is lots of confusion regarding Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for couples where both spouses are on active duty, or one is active duty and the other is a reservist or serves in the National Guard.  I’m pretty sure we’ve cleared up all the confusion in Dual Military BAH and Dual Military and Not Co-Located:  BAH.  However, there is one thing that we haven’t discussed, the non-regulation but just being smart aspect of being dual military and receiving BAH.  There’s also the regulation side of the house which can cause all sorts of problems.

If you are not co-located, dual military couples without other dependents are each considered single service members for housing purposes.  However, if you are dual military without other dependents, and you are co-located, you are able to receive BAH as if you were married to a non-military member or otherwise had a dependent.  Here comes the warning:

Do Not Making Housing Decisions Based Upon Both Members BAH.  Do not go out and rent the nicest apartment in town just because you are receiving BAH without dependents times two.  Do not buy a McMansion that requires both BAH to pay the mortgage.  This is a bad, bad idea.

“But Kate”, you ask, “why?”  Because even my 9 year old knows that there is nothing permanent about Permanent Change of Station orders.  Unexpected orders come through pretty regularly in the military.  Getting stuck with a lease that you can’t afford, and can’t break because one of the lease signers is still stationed locally, is no fun.  Even less fun is having a mortgage you can’t afford.

For sake of this conversation, let’s consider my friends Luke and Laura.  (Not their real names, though people of a certain age will get the joke.)  Luke and Laura are a married couple, both on active duty, and stationed in the same area.  One of them receives a $1200 housing allowance, while the other receives $1000.  Wow – $2200 a month will buy or rent a lot of house in most areas of the country.  Luke and Laura have a few choices:  they can rent a house that costs about one housing allowance, or they can rent a house that costs both housing allowance.  Keep in mind that we’re talking about a couple who has no other dependents.  There’s no reason that they need more than a few bedrooms, or to be in the best school district in town.

If Luke and Laura are smart, they’ll choose to live in a home where the cost is closer to one of their housing allowances.  The obvious reason is because they will then get to save, or spend, the other housing allowance.  The less obvious reason is because there is always the chance that one of them will have to move unexpectedly, and they probably don’t want to get caught paying $1000 a month out of pocket for rent.

The second warning in this post is about keeping your respective finance offices up-to-date about the status of your spouse.  If you are a dual military couple who is receiving BAH solely because you are co-located, and one of you PCSes, then be sure to let your finance office know about the change in your status.  Yes, it would be lousy to lose your BAH and your spouse at the same time, but it would be more lousy to continue to receive BAH and then owe the government a huge debt when the discover the situation.  Similarly, couples with a reservist have to ensure that the full-time servicemember’s BAH accurately reflects the current status of the reservist.

There are tremendous benefits to being a dual military couple, but there are also lots of pitfalls.  Being knowledgeable and smart is the best way to make the most of your situation.

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.
  • Lopez

    What happens if one goes to basic and the other lives at a apartment off base? Do they have to relocate to the barracks until Basic and AIT is done or can the other spouse remain living at the apartment?

  • kris

    i have a question. Heres the situation. E3 and E5 – both stationed in SD. E3 has orders to East Coast leaving E5 on West Coast. Do they both get BAH?

    • KateKashman

      Kris, dual military couples who are not co-located are treated as single servicemembers for purposes of BAH. Therefore, if there are no other dependents involved, the BAH determination would be made based upon the commands rules for the servicemember’s rank and situation. If other E3s in the command are automatically authorized BAH, then it’s easy. Otherwise, the member will have to request BAH and the command will have to determine how the request fits in with their policies and procedures. Same with the E5.

      Good luck to you!

  • brian

    Situation, Wife and I are PCSing to Korea. We are enrolled MACP however she will be different camp south from me. She is officer I am NCO if it matters. Is there a exception to policy for use to receive BAH ? She is doing a COT tour from Germany and I am PCSing from Texas. Long story short, we will meet in Korea, go to separate Camps about 56 miles apart, will one of us or both receive BAH


  • Tasha

    If I made E-5 before my husband do I get bah with dependents or will he?

    • KateKashman

      Tasha, the senior servicemember receives BAH at the with dependents rate unless the couple elects to have the junior servicemember receive BAH at the with dependents rate. Hope that helps.

  • mike

    What if my roommate signed a lease so He could get a higer BAH and then took his name off the lease and never told the army? He has no financial obligation to this house, I get stuck with his half of the rent, and he is walking pretty with a higher rate because of the zip code we live in?. Who could I contact to make sure he doesn’t get 1 more dime then what he deserves?

    • KateKashman

      Mike, BAH is based upon the zip code of the duty station. If a person is eligible for BAH, then they get that amount regardless of where they live or how much rent they pay. If you are having issues with your rental, I suggest you read your lease carefully. There are two ways to do a joint lease: one way holds either lessee responsible for the entire rent, and one way holds each lessee responsible for their own portion of the rent. Whether or not you are responsible for his half of the rent is dependent on how your lease is written. I’m not sure how he “took his name off the lease,” but that would be an issue between the leasing agent and the ex-roommate. It has nothing to do with the Army, unless you take him to small claims court and are awarded a judgement. In that case, you could pursue a garnishment to his pay to satisfy the judgement.

  • Yhadira
  • Santiago


    I am AD USAF stationed in Texas and my wife is AD USAF stationed in Ohio. We got married after I PCSed. We do not have any kids and both get Single BAH, everyone keeps telling me that we are missing on dependent BAH for one of us ?

    Tell me is this true ?

    Thank you

    • KateKashman

      No, this is not true. Neither of you is eligible for BAH at the with dependent rate because neither of you has a dependent. A servicemember can never be the dependent of another servicemember. Hope that helps!

      • Is this true of Guard as well? IE my wife is National Guard but obviously 28 Days a month is not earning income from the military and is for all intents and purposes a civilian as far as money goes. Does this mean that she does not rate as a dependent?

  • Luis

    Kate, I’m in a situation where I really need to email or speak to you. If you could email me that would be awesome!

    • Eddie
  • ayonna
  • Rosemary

    My son (E6) recently past away in November 2013. . He has base housing because he was primary custodian of his two children. He remarried July 2013 to an E5. Both in the Army.

    They gave his widow a check for E5 BAH of $13,000 with no dependants.

    Now, the exwife has custody of the kids, but the two women are going to raise the kids together. The new wife wants to stay in housing for the benefit of the kids, (school, etc) for at least 12 months, which she should be entitled to. But housing wants to charge her $1500 a month rent and her BAH is only $1100 leaving to pay $300 a month.

    Is this accurate?

    • KateKashman

      Rosemary, please accept my condolences on the loss of your son. I am not an expert on this, and your family’s situation falls into a variety of competing categories. I will try to work through it here, but I can not guarantee that I am correct. First of all, families of deceased service members are entitled to 365 days of housing at government expense. It sounds like that is what the check was for, though I am confused why it would be at the E5 without dependents rate if your son was an E6 with dependents. If the family received a check for housing benefits, then they do have to pay for the housing that they are occupying.

      Since the family has been paid for their housing benefits, then any housing they are receiving would be based on Wife #2. For active duty service members, the “cost” for housing is usually the same as the BAH being received by the service member. However, since Wife #2 is now a single soldier (no longer married, does not have custody of kids), she wouldn’t typically be residing in family housing. If she is receiving BAH, she is receiving it at the without dependents rate because she has no dependents. The housing office isn’t really set up to charge for units at the “without dependents” rate because people without dependents aren’t typically living in family housing. Does that make any sense?

      I’m not exactly sure this is what is happening, but it seems like a logical explanation to me. Perhaps Wife #2 could ask the housing office if this is the situation, and if it isn’t, they can use this to explain what is going on.

      Good luck to you.

  • Mac

    Me and my wife are dual military, stationed together and both recieve BAH w/o dependent rate but my BAH is taken due to i am the higher ranking. I just came down on orders to Korea for 1 yr. Will i still recieve BAH? and also will they continue to charge me for housing because she will still be living there or swap it and they start charging her and give me BAH?

  • Desiree

    Kate, me and my husband are PCSing to Okinawa. We just got married and moved out of the barracks so our BAH has not hit the system yet but shortly will. When we PCS, will the Camp Pendleton BAH stop automatically once we get to Oki?

    Also, When we are in Japan. we will mostly likely live on base. will we still get OHA (overseas housing allowance) or will they take away both of our OHA?

    • Kate

      Desiree, BAH will end when you arrive in Okinawa.

      OHA is a “use it or lose it” entitlement. If you do not have a lease for which you are paying rent, you will not receive OHA. If you live on base, you will not receive OHA. If you live on the economy, you will receive OHA in the amount of your rent, plus a utility allowance.

      Dual military couples are not authorized two OHA payments or one “double” OHA payment.

  • Darnel

    Kate, my wife and me are dual military. We are expecting twins this fall and these are our first children. Right now we qualify for BAH at single rate for each of us. Once the twins are born how would our BAH be setup as and what regulation or policy can I find this information? I also had a question about DLA? Because of the pregnancy with twins we will have to relocate from our overseas location back stateside. When we PCSd here we were told that only one of us qualify for DLA at single rate. Do you know this to be true?

    • Kate

      Once your children are born, one of you will receive BAH at the with dependent rate, and one at the without dependent rate. Typically, BAH at the with dependents rate is awarded to the higher ranking service member. In some cases, it can be more advantageous for the lower ranking service member to claim the with dependent BAH. You can request this via finance, but you need to make sure that both your paychecks are correct.

      In 99% of cases, dual military couples are only eligible for one DLA. You could be authorized two different DLAs if you are not PCSing to the same location, but there are very limited cases for this. You will receive DLA at the without dependents rate until those babies are born.

      Good luck to you both, and congratulations!

  • Confused Spouse

    I am an Army Active Duty E-6, my wife is an Army Active Duty E-5. There are 2 kids. We are BOTH stationed together at Fort Hood, and we live offpost. They are biologically hers from a previous marriage. She has 100% custody. I have been collecting the BAH/with DEP rate, and my wife has been collecting the BAH/without DEP rate. However, her unit is now saying that we MUST change it to myself with BAH without DEP and her to BAH/with DEP, because I have not legally adopted the children yet.

    I have looked in every section of the regulation, and there is nothing saying we have to do that. If we switch it around, we would be losing roughly $100 a month combined in BAH.

  • Andrew

    I am an Active Duty O-1, my wife is in the National Guard and is an E-4. Her unit just got a Warning Order that they will deploy to Europe next Spring. Right now I am getting BAH with Dependents since she is only an M Day soldier. However, when she is activated to title 10 orders, will she then get BAH on top of my BAH. We do not have children, and the Army will provide quarters for her Unit while they are deployed overseas.

    Thanks! Andrew

    • Kate

      Andrew, once your wife activates, be sure your finance adjusts your BAH to the without dependents rate, and then make sure they change it back when she deactivates. It might be a bother, but it is way better than trying to fix it all later. Good luck to you both!

  • mika

    Ms. Kate I need help. I am E5 collecting single BAH and my spouse also E5 collecting dependent rate. We have two kids and a mortgage. We are station here in San diego but i got orders to go to BAHRAIN in one year. My sponsor told me i am not going to get BAH and just COLA. Since i am claiming single, but technically i also have two kids to support and a mortgage. Is this true? How we are going to to afford to pay my mortage? Do we need to sell the house?

    • Kate

      Mika, you will either receive OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance) for your residence in Bahrain, or you will live in some sort of military quarters. Therefore, you will not receive BAH. This is why military members should never purchase a house based upon two BAH or even two incomes. If you can not afford the house without both BAH, then you will need to sell or rent it. I hope you can work it out.

    • Tasha

      Mika unless the rules have changed, you may switch the children under you while in Bahrain so you receive the dependent rate I would contact finance for verification. This is what we did when I went to Korea; however that was is 99-00.

  • Tamika

    I am an Active Duty MSgt in the USAF and my husband is an E-6 in the ANG. I receive full BAH since we have children. Should he receive partial BAH at any time when performing monthly drill or if activated?

    • Kate

      If activated, your husband should receieve BAH at the without dependents rate.

  • Justin

    I am dual military. my wife is stationed in korea, i am in Kansas…Since we are not co located i cannot receive BAH correct? we do not have children or anything together, meaning we dont have dependants. Also..our “erb” should show that we have 0 dependants right?

    • Kate

      You may receive BAH based upon your command or installation’s rules for BAH for single servicemembers. If you have enough seniority to rate BAH even though you do not have dependents, than you are eligible to receive it.

      I’m not familiar with the format of ERBs and I’m not the right person to answer that question. Most records departments are pretty good at handling dual military couples, as long as you are providing them with the right information. Your wife does not count as a dependent for BAH or other allowances, but she does count as your family for certain things like death benefits, etc.

      I hope that helps!

  • Dominic

    Ms. Kate, My wife and I are both Active Army. We married each other while we were stationed in different places. She at Fort Bragg and I oconus in Hawaii.
    She has recently been put on orders to come oconus. Im aware that we will receive bah at our respective oconus rate when she does arrive but I have heard many conflicting statements about back payments for bah for the time we were married but not together. I do understand we will not be entitled to family separation pay. My question for you is, from the time we were married up until the time that we become collocated will we receive some type of back payment for that time period? If yes would we collect rates for our respective locations or would she collect for the location she will be arriving at?

    • Kate

      Dominic, dual military couples who are not co-located are treated as single servicemembers for purposes of BAH. Therefore, your wife’s eligibility for BAH since your marriage was based solely upon her rank and the rules for her command or installation. Marriage did not change her eligibility for BAH.

      Dual military couples who are co-located overseas do not receive double Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA). OHA not paid at a set rate, but rather is authorized for actual expenses incurred, up to the maximum rate for each rank. When two service members share a dwelling, whether married or not, the contracted rental amount is divided between the two service members. How it is divided is not important, though it is common to split it in half. Each service member will receive OHA in the amount of the rent for which they are responsible. There should be no “overage.” If there is, that is an error and you need to notify your finance offices immediately so that overpayment can stop and you can repay the amount you were overpaid.

  • jessica

    I have a Pretyy complicated situation maybe somone has some knowlede. I Currently just joined the military and my husband is already enlisted. We werent residing together before i left for bootcamp because of family issues. He is now on Korea and We actaully seperated and i was wondering since im still married and he is in Korea will i recieve any BAH

    • Kate

      The military only recognizes two marital statuses: married or not married. If you are not divorced, you are still married.

      You did not mention if you have other dependents such as children, but I suspect that you do not. Dual military couples who do not have other dependents and are not co-located are treated as single servicemembers for purposes of BAH. Therefore, you are subject to the same BAH rules as any other single member of your school, unit, or command. You will not receive BAH during your basic military training or subsequent schools that provide housing. Once you reach your first command, you will be subject to the same BAH rules as the other single members of your command. This typically means that you do not rate BAH until you reach a certain rank.

  • Megan

    Hello. I am currently an ART (E-6/GS9) for the Air Force Reserves. My ex-husband is Active Duty Air Force (E5) and pays me child support. I am the primary custodian to our daughter and live states away. He claims her on his military pay and receives dependent rate BAH. I do not receive dependent rate BAH for the reserves, but I will placed on orders for longer than 30 days soon and should be entitled to separation pay. Will I still receive this is she is not claimed by me? Shoud he be allowed to claim her for higher BAH?

    • Kate

      Megan, this is a tricky issue and I am hesitant to answer because I don’t want to steer you wrong. Unfortunately, I suspect that most of your finance folks won’t know the answer, either.

      One option, it seems, is that the BAH entitlement for your daughter would move from her father to you. However, it sounds like he warrants higher BAH based upon his child support, not his physical custody of the child.

      I would really like to take the time to research this through, but I am getting ready to travel and don’t have several hours right now. Readers, can you help Megan?

      Good luck to you!

  • April

    I have a Marine who is Active Duty stationed in Okinawa, Japan and his wife who is also Active Duty is stationed in Quantico, VA. They got married after orders were cut so they don’t currently rate separations pay. They are both living in the barracks and aren’t receiving BAH. I feel as though at least one of them should be receiving at least half BAH since she isn’t living in geo-bachelor quarters. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

    • Kate

      April, the general rule is that dual military couples who are not co-located are treated as single service members for purposes of housing. Therefore, they are treated just like the other single Marines in their unit. For each of their respective units, if single Marines of the same rank get BAH, then they warrant BAH. If single Marines of the same rank do not get BAH, they do not warrant BAH.

      Regardless, you can not receive BAH if you are occupying military quarters, except in certain exceptional situations where the dependents are living elsewhere, such as an unaccompanied tour or if the dependents are at a different location for an exceptional reason, such as to obtain specific medical care. This always an exception and never the rule.

  • Tasha

    Not sure what geo-bachelor quarters is ;however I believe the reason they are not receiving BAH is because they are both residing in the barracks which means they are not paying rent. BAH is to cover housing expenses; therefore if you are not paying rent you are not authorize it even if you are married unless you having children and you carry them. Once they move out of the barracks, one will receive Full rate and the other single rate if they reside off base unless the on base housing is privatized at which time the highest ranking individual will lose theirs and the other will receive the single rate. I would recommend they have the higher ranking individual receive full if they live off base. Please note, there are different rules for living overseas. I would recommend they contact their DFAS office or go to the website for all of the rules and eligibility requirements.

  • Tasha

    Sorry, it should save they have children.

  • Tasha

    Also note, if they don’t have children they will both receive the single rate, full rate is for children which they probably don’t have since they are living in the barracks. Sorry for the 3 posts. Hope this helps.

  • Kathy

    Can multiple single military members living in a rental unit collect full their BAH no matter the rental cost of the apartment? If so, what regulation/instruction covers this?

    • Kate

      Every servicemember is eligible for BAH, regardless of the amount of rent or mortgage that they pay. Sharing or choosing less expensive housing is a great way to save money!

      This is all covered in excruciating detail in the Joint Travel Regulations.

  • Joe snuffy

    Im currently the higher rank in my marriage and i am deployed in Afghanistan. My wife is also six months pregnant. are we both going to keep receiving bah?

    • Kate

      I’m not aware of any situations in which you would not continue receivingyour BAH. Once your child is born, you will need to inform your finance office. The “with dependents” BAH typically goes to the higher ranking spouse, but you can request that it be paid to the lower ranking spouse if you desire.

      Congratulations on becoming parents!

  • kaitlyn


    i have a question. my husband is currently in the air force, and i am about to join. We live together now, but since i am going to basic training and then straight to tech school, we will be separated for about a year. Will we recieve separation allowance pay for the time while we are apart?