Military Service Benefits

4 Benefits of Joining the Military

Military Men

(Photo Credit: Soda Head)

Some people join the military to serve their country, while others do so to travel the world. But a 2014 RAND Corporation study revealed that most enlistees today do so for economic reasons.  Older recruits (those who enlist well after high school graduation and into their mid-20s) comprised 56% of cadets in 2009, the latest data available.  That number is well above the 1992 level, when only 35% of cadets enlisted in their mid to late 20s.  One-third of those who joined in 2009 said they did so because there were no other jobs they could find at home.

Regardless of the reason you join, there are many benefits available to veterans when they return home from their deployment.

Here are four of the most useful benefits:

Educational Benefits

No matter what branch you join, veterans will have a plethora of options to help finance their college education.  Most service members can take advantage of the Military Tuition Assistance Program.  Each branch has it own eligibility requirements.  For instance, the Air Force covers all active duty and reserve personnel up to $250 per semester hour, or $166 per quarter hour.  The Army makes the benefit available to reservists as well.

The Montgomery GI Bill is available for up to 10 years after discharge.  Most veterans today must reduce their military pay by $100 per month for the first year of service, which is their contribution to the fund.  Veterans are then eligible for up to $1,368 per month in benefits for four school years.  The Post 9/11 GI Bill is another option for all veterans who have served at least 90 days since September 10, 2001.  The best part about the latter is that the benefit can be transferred to a spouse or child if you do not use it yourself.

Retirement Savings

All active duty personnel and reservists are eligible for the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  It’s one of the most economical savings plans available.  The typical 401(k) charges annual fees totaling up to 0.63% of assets, according to the Investment Company Institute.  The average net expense ratio for the TSP program was 0.029% in 2013.

Veterans have a choice of five different mutual or target-date funds, with a maximum annual investment of $17,500 in 2014.  A ROTH TSP is also available.

Discounts

Your peers will hold you in high regard when you return from deployment.  A 2013 Pew Research survey found that 78% of Americans believe members of the military make a significant contribution to society. Businesses also respect veterans and show their respect by offering discounts on their products and services to them.

Harley-Davidson offers a 5% discount on merchandise purchased through its military exchange. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members get a 10% discount on Lifelock Identity Theft Protection. Motel 6, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Disney World, Avis, and thousands of other businesses offer discounts as well.  Though most companies make their discounts known, you may have to ask a representative about military discounts in some cases.

Tax Breaks

Federal law allows military personnel to maintain residence in one state even if orders move them somewhere else.  This means you can be shielded from state taxes even if you are deployed to a high-tax state.

For instance, if your permanent residence (domicile) is in Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, or another state with no state income tax, you are obligated only to that state’s tax laws and not the state’s laws where you are deployed.  Your spouse is also covered by this statute.  If the state you’re deployed to has more favorable tax laws, you may claim that state as your domicile and be obligated only to its tax laws.

Of course, tax laws are quite complicated, so check with legal assistance on base for further details.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison