Veterans

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

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Happy Memorial Day

Filipino American World War II veteran in Hawaii

Filipino American World War II veteran in Hawaii (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

On this Memorial Day, I would like to give a special thanks to the men and women who serve so bravely and honorably in our American military. While great arguments and protests occur between civilians in America about foreign policy matters, the men and women who serve in uniform defend our liberty within our borders and abroad. I am so grateful for their service and sacrifice. The single greatest selfless act of compassion is for one to make the decision to commit himself or herself to defending our country. The purpose of this brief article is to celebrate our troops and veterans on this Memorial Day.

 

While you are debating about whether or not you support “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and whether or not you support wars being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, I want you to realize that there are men and women who do not have time to worry about what side you come down on—they have to fight to keep you safe everyday so that you can continue to have these discourses. Our brave troops deserve our deepest support and appreciation. They face great dangers and threats so that we can live in peace in America. Our troops are our greatest treasure—we must value our precious treasure.

 

I really think that people should make a serious effort to thank our veterans in a meaningful way for their service, and pay homage to those who have given their lives in combat to protect our liberty. On a day like Memorial Day, Americans should united by the great purpose of this holiday. I am proud of what our veterans have done for this country. In the most personal way, they understand the real meaning and importance of freedom. We must never forget the great work of our veterans, and we should never allow a veteran to be homeless and/or to struggle economically. The great work that veterans have performed for freedom’s cause is enough for them to never have to worry about the basic necessities of life—we must make sure that they have these basic necessities too.

 

Today, I am thankful for all of my relatives and friends who serve and have served in our American military. I would just like to list some of them: Larry Tape, Willie Fred Flowers, Jerome Flowers, Xavier Kimbro, Ebony White, and Nicholas Head. I would also like to thank their family and friends who have to sacrifice so much for their loved ones who service in uniform. Far too often, we forget the sacrifices of the family and friends of people with loved ones in the military and those who have lost family and friends in combat. This is why I highly support First Lady Obama’s commitment to spouses of military families.

 

Instead of just throwing meat on the grill, make a special effort to show your support to our troops and veterans who allow us to enjoy this holiday. We live in such a great country and we should think deeply about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to have the great country we have today and those who continue to allow us to enjoy this great nation. I am humbled and honored by all who wear and have worn an American military uniform. Today, I celebrate you and want you to know that you are truly appreciated!

 

Antonio Maurice Daniels

 

University of Wisconsin-Madison