As a military member, you’re probably quite familiar with the more popular benefits of service like TRICARE healthcare and the G.I. Bill.
But you might be missing out on a whole lot more.
At some point in the early stages of your enlistment, you were probably briefed on an overwhelming amount of information. It’s unlikely you read all of the literature given to you.
And, if you don’t live on base, you likely don’t see a ton of advertisements regarding some of the more unique benefits like MWR concerts, legal services, and more.
Ready to take advantage of even more of your benefits?
Here’s a list of military benefits you won’t want to miss:
1. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
This benefit is a great one to give yourself and your family peace of mind given your line of work. This benefit is activated in the event of your death, and it will pay out the coverage amount you purchased. Life insurance benefits are a way for your family to continue paying bills like the mortgage or car payments upon your death.
The SGLI program provides low-cost term life insurance coverage to eligible members of the armed forces. The highest coverage amount is for up to $400,000.
You’re automatically insured under full-time SGLI if you are:
- Active duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard
- Commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service
- Cadet or midshipman of the U.S. military academies
- Member, cadet, or midshipman of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) engaged in authorized training and practice cruises
- Member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard (scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year)
- Servicemember who volunteers for a mobilization category in the Individual Ready Reserve
You may also purchase Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) for a spouse. Dependent children are insured for free.
2. Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR)
If you live on base, you likely see this benefit in action quite a bit. This includes the free concerts by big name bands, festivals, and other entertainment activities frequently held on military bases.
Some of the best perks of MWR include access to:
- Family programs
- On-base fitness centers
- Discounted attraction tickets
- Golf courses
- Discounted travel
- Financial counseling
MWR events and activities are a great way to connect with other military families and service members in casual and fun environments.
3. Legal Services
Lawyers are expensive. Luckily, as an active duty member, you essentially have a lawyer on retainer to help you at any time during your service years. This department is more commonly known as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) office. You don’t need to get into trouble to use a lawyer, either.
Some of the JAG services available:
- Will & estate planning
- Family law (adoption, divorce, etc.)
- Landlord tenant issues
- Military matters
- Special victim counsel
- Notary services
Prior to deployment, most attorneys recommend you set up a Power of Attorney (POA) for a family member or spouse. A POA allows a trusted person to take care of your affairs while you’re away, like selling a house, buying a car, or even opening a bank account.
4. Psychological Services
Military life can be challenging for individuals, families, and children. While you may not ever need to use the psychological services offered, it’s good to know you have access to compassionate professionals. Service members and their families can also take part in workshops, seminars, counseling services, and more.
Some ways to get mental health assistance:
- Victim Advocacy Program – This program supports victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
- Chaplain’s office – Along with spiritual guidance, a Chaplain can offer unique perspectives on the military lifestyle overall and how to best handle stress.
- Military Treatment Facility (MTF) – Therapy services may be available at your local MTF.
- Civilian counselors – If you prefer to keep this part of your life off base, you may decide to see a civilian counselor. Check with TRICARE as certain copay fees may apply.
- Military Crisis Line – This resource is available 24/7 for all vets, active duty (including National Guard and Reserves) and family. Text, chat, or call 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1) to get immediate help from qualified VA responders.
You may be concerned about sharing private details of your mental health with a professional and how it could impact your career. With some extreme exceptions, every detail you share with a mental health counselor is confidential, meaning it won’t be shared with your command.
5. Tax Assistance
Ah, tax time. There’s no better reminder of Uncle Sam than tax time. Luckily for you, there are several ways to get your tax prep done for free or nearly free.
Here are a few options:
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) – The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helps with preparing and filing state and federal tax forms at no cost. The volunteers usually set-up on base with specific hours of operation. Volunteers assist service members or family members as they fill out their taxes online.
TurboTax Military Discount – Receive free or discounted tax help depending on your rank:
E1 – E5
- Free federal and state filing with Free Edition or Deluxe
E6 and above
- $5 off discount or more for Premier, Self-Employed, and TurboTax Live federal products
Free File through the IRS – If your income is below $66,000, you can use this service to file your federal and state returns.
6. Lodging Discounts
If you love to travel, be sure to take advantage of your branch’s lodging accommodations. This is especially useful when you’re relocating for a PCS move and need a place to stay before establishing residency.
Many military installations have on-base lodging that include:
- Free WiFi
- Pet-friendly rooms
- Breakfast options
- Complimentary laundry
- Mini kitchen
- Coffee makers
Even if you stay off base, most hotels and motels offer a military discount to active duty members and their families. Don’t forget to ask for the discount when booking to maximize your travel savings to put toward local activities and attractions!
7. VA Home Loans
You can use your VA loan after you’ve completed 90 days of continuous active duty service. These loans are provided by private lenders like mortgage companies or banks. The best part? It requires zero down payment, and there’s no mortgage interest.
VA home loans may be used to:
- Purchase a home or condo in a VA-approved project
- Build a home
- Buy a manufactured home or lot
- Refinance an existing VA-guaranteed or direct loan for a lower interest rate
- Improve a home’s energy efficiency
Because the VA guarantees a portion of the loan, it usually provides a better interest rate for you. And, as long as you don’t default on your loan, you get to use this benefit again and again.
Use Your Military Benefits
We hope you find this list of military benefits helpful as you navigate through your service career.
The military always has new programs and services being created, so keep an ear open for ones that would benefit you most. Some benefits are automatically built-in like Base Allowance Housing (BAH), but other ones may take some effort to seek out.
Don’t let that deter you from using them.
From home loans to lodging, you’ve got a long list of military benefits to take advantage of throughout your time in service and beyond.
All of these perks were established specifically to benefit service members like yourself, so you don’t need to be shy about using them!
What benefits do you have questions about? Share in the comments below!