Military Pay Allowances ListUpdated: December 22, 2022
Military pay allowances are perhaps the second most important element of military pay behind basic pay.
Service members receive allowances for specific needs such as food or housing when the federal government does not provide them.
The good news is that most military allowances are not taxable.
The basic allowance for housing (BAH) offsets housing costs when service members live off base. BAH is based on average rental costs in local civilian housing markets, as well as the service member’s pay grade and dependency status.
Enlisted service members and officers receive the basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) to offset the cost of their food. It does not cover the costs of their family members’ meals.
The cost-of-living allowance in the continental United States (CONUS COLA) is a taxable supplemental allowance that helps offset the higher costs of living in areas of the U.S. where prices exceed the national average by 8% or more.
Service members receive allowances in U.S. dollars, but overseas service members pay many expenses in local currencies. Fluctuating exchange rates can reduce the purchasing power of overseas service members. When this happens, overseas allowance payments are adjusted to offset these fluctuations.
When service members must relocate for permanent changes of station (PCS), the dislocation allowance (DLA) partially reimburses them for their expenses.
Government Meal Rate
The government meal rate provides for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE). The rate is reviewed annually and revised if necessary.
When a service member uses their privately owned vehicles (POV) for local, permanent change of station (PCS) or temporary duty station (TDY) travel, they may receive a mileage allowance. The allowance is calculated as a rate per mile rather than covering actual operating expenses.
Overseas Cost-of-Living Allowances (COLA)
The overseas cost-of-living allowance (COLA) offsets the higher costs of goods and services outside the continental U.S., including in Alaska and Hawaii. It is a non-taxable allowance.
Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA)
The overseas housing allowance offsets the costs of housing when service members assigned overseas live off base.
Per Diem Rates
Travel per diem rates provide a limited daily allotment to reimburse service members for out-of-pocket food, lodging and incidental expenses incurred while on military business or temporary duty away from their home stations.
Permanent Change of Station Allowance
Service members who move from one duty station to another receive permanent change of station (PCS) allowances. Examples include temporary lodging expense (TLE), temporary lodging allowance (TLA), dislocation allowance (DLA), house hunting, per diem for PCS travel, travel by privately-owned vehicle (POV) and dependent travel within the continental U.S. other than by POV.
Service members assigned or deployed on an unaccompanied tour of duty receive a family separation allowance (FSA) of $250 per month to offset expenses incurred during separation from their families. Service members are also entitled to FSA if their families are unable to accompany them overseas because of medical reasons.
Active-duty service members serving outside the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam and whose households qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be eligible for family subsistence supplemental allowance (FSSA) assistance.
Service members receive clothing allowances to help pay for their uniforms.
Initial clothing allowance: Officers and enlisted service members receive an initial clothing allowance when they enlist.
Extra clothing allowance: Service members who need additional uniforms or who must wear civilian clothing to perform their duties may receive an extra clothing allowance.
Cash clothing replacement allowance: Enlisted enlisted service members receive this allowance annually to replace their uniforms.
Military clothing maintenance allowance: After three years of active duty, service members receive this allowance to replace and maintain military items.
Pay Allowance Continuation (PAC)
The pay allowance continuation (PAC) program provides for service members who are hospitalized when they incurred wounds, injuries or illnesses while serving in a hostile fire area or while exposed to a hostile fire event.