Military Benefits Offered During Basic Training
What military benefits are offered during basic training? If you are a new recruit and you’re wondering what to expect when you arrive in the training environment, keep reading. There are many benefits to be aware of. What follows are the benefits most commonly asked about–not all of those listed are accessible during initial training, but some definitely are available when in boot camp.
Military Pay And Allowances
Even though you are in a training environment, you still need to be paid for your time, which is why trainees are offered the base military pay amount for the rank they enter the service with. This is typically the lowest rank (E-1 for enlisted members and O-1 for officers) but some enter the military with a higher rank because of past college credit or other factors. Some may attend basic training as an E-2 and therefore are offered higher base pay.
You begin earning the moment you start training, but depending on when your training phase begins your first paycheck may be delayed a week or two since the DoD pays military salaries twice a month on the 1st and 15th.
If you join the military as a parent or spouse, you may also be entitled to draw a family separation allowance if you are away for 30 days or longer. This is above and beyond base pay. What you won’t receive during basic training?
Proficiency pay, foreign language pay (even if you speak another language fluently), hazardous duty pay, or other options are offered to those who have made it to their first duty station and are settling into their jobs. These special pays require you to meet certain requirements to draw them.
When you arrive at Basic Training, you may be given a clothing allowance that pays for your initial supply of uniforms, boots, cold weather gear, and dress uniforms. This typically happens during the first week and some branches of service may provide another clothing allowance–or require you to use a portion of the original allowance–at a certain point toward the end of training.
Medical Care During Initial Training
Officer candidates and enlisted recruits alike attend their initial training in a closed environment. That means you do not have the freedom to come and go, on and off base, as though you were working a traditional job. That freedom comes after the initial and any advanced training are completed and you are given your first military duty station assignment.
While you are in the training environment, if you get sick or injured you are typically treated at the on-base or on-post military medical facility there unless that installation has an agreement with a local provider instead.
That may be fairly unusual for some installations but when a military base experiences renovations, construction projects, or other improvements some facilities might not be available and require the use of an alternative care provider. But how do you pay for this coverage? Do you pay for healthcare coverage while in basic training?
TRICARE During Basic Training
All recruits receive medical insurance coverage through TRICARE while in training. You cannot use any other insurance, and coverage/enrollment are automatic. Members of the Guard and Reserve are also covered during training periods.
What you need to know regardless of your Guard, Reserve, or Active Duty status is that while coverage is automatic, you are required to enroll in TRICARE at some point.
GI Bill Eligibility During Basic Training
Many newcomers to the uniformed services want to know how quickly they can access their GI Bill benefits.
Some want to attend college at some point after they have arrived at their first duty station, others are keen to get the clock ticking on their time-in-service requirements so they can transfer their GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent. But you are not eligible for the GI Bill while in initial training. Your minimum time-in-service requirements generally begin counting down toward eligibility once you have reached your first military duty station.
VA Loan Eligibility During Basic Training
Your ability to obtain a VA Certificate of Eligibility for a VA home loan requires you to have served a minimum time in uniform AFTER you have left the training environment for your first duty station.
Some new recruits with families want to get the VA loan process started as quickly as possible, but until you know where your first duty station is, buying a home is likely a bad idea anyway. It’s not safe to assume you won’t have an overseas base as your first assignment and using your VA loan benefits is only possible once you’ve put in the time-in-service at that first assignment.
All military members earn 2.5 days of leave or vacation each month. You cannot use leave during basic training no matter how long it takes you to get through it, but some branches of service authorize a certain amount of leave following basic training and/or initial training.
You can apply to take leave between your basic and advanced training, but depending on the branch of service you may be limited. It’s more likely you will be approved for leave between your initial/advanced training and the time you depart for your first military assignment.
In the same way you cannot use leave during your initial training, Space-A travel is not a realistic option for those who have not graduated and are working at their first duty station.
Space-A travel is an option where military members can sign up for free flights on military aircraft assuming there are seats available on the mission. Space-A travel makes it incredibly cheap to fly, but there are no guarantees you will get a seat and mission needs always come first.
Even if you are on leave between basic training and your advanced training, Space-A is not a good option. Newcomers to the system frequently struggle with it at first, and if you are on a short schedule where your military leave is concerned, it’s not safe to bet on.
All military members being assigned to their first duty station will have their transportation to that station paid for, but when you travel on leave at your leisure, you must pay those expenses.
The Bottom Line
Many of the benefits you can look forward to in your military career are offered only after you have graduated and made it through your technical training where applicable. There may be exceptions, but for those interested in the GI Bill, VA home loans, spouse tuition assistance, and other options must look to the future–using these benefits while you are still waiting for your first duty station assignment isn’t possible.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.