Everyone in the Air Force, and the DoD for that matter, is paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Once you join the Air Force someone will set you up with a “myPay” account page on the DFAS web site. You can use myPay to manage almost anything finance related (e.g., download your W-2 tax forms, change how you claim on your W-4, set up allotments which are automatic transfers from your paycheck to separate bank accounts, or view your pay stubs.)
The first one you are likely concerned with is your military pay stub, which we call a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES.) There are a lot of other sites out there which explain how to view your LES, so I am just going to focus on how you can use the internet to calculate your military pay once you commission.
The LES is divided into three main financial sections; Entitlements, Deductions, Allotments, and Summary. Here is a breakdown of each:
Your entitlements are what the military owes or pays you. There are two main types of entitlements, Base Pay and Allowances. The main difference between the two is base pay is taxable, allowances are not. This is a huge unseen benefit of being in the military.
My LES is composed of the following entitlements:
- Base Pay
- Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
- Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
Base Pay is a publicly available number anyone can reference on the web. Here is a link to the DFAS site which has all of the military pay tables from 1949 to the present. To find your base pay, find your Time in Service (TIS) in Years at the top of the chart. If you are a non-prior at OTS, I assume your TIS starts the day you begin OTS, so your TIS will be “2 or less.” Next, find your pay grade and you will see your “Base Pay.”
The day you start OTS you will be a Staff Sergeant, which is pay grade E-5. The day you commission you will be separated as a Staff Sergeant and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, O-1. Prior enlisted officers (over three or four years TIS, I can’t remember), can qualify for O-1E which is a slightly higher rate.
The 2017 base pay for an O-1, 2 or less TIS is: $3,034.80 per month (taxable).
Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
The military pays us a standard rate per month for food. The military doesn’t control how you spend this money, so you could technically spend $100 on rice and beans for the entire month and pocket the rest, but this is the allowance you are given. Every time I search for an official site for this I always find a different site. When I did the search today, the .gov site actually had the wrong number (it wasn’t updated since 2014). Nonetheless, here is the site which matches what I get for BAS.
The BAS is the same rate for the entire year, one rate for officers and one rate for enlisted. Here is the site:
The 2017 BAS for officers is: $253.63 per month (non-taxable).
I honestly can’t remember how this works while in OTS. I think you get BAS but since you have the chow hall available for each meal you eat they deduct it from your pay in the form of “Meal Deductions” under the deductions category.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
The military also gives us an allowance for housing. This rate is calculated by zip code, pay grade, and whether or not you have dependents. In the Air Force if you are single, you have no dependents. If you are married you have one dependent; you are the sponsor and your spouse is your dependent. If you are married and have two kids you have three dependents; you are the sponsor, your wife and kids are the dependents. The “with dependent” rate is the same regardless if you have one or seven dependents.
While in OTS as a non-prior you will not get BAH because you will be housed in the dorms. After OTS, your BAH will kick in once you arrive at your first duty station. For some, your first duty station is your first operational base, for others your first duty station is your tech school. It depends on your tech school length.
Here is the link to my post about how to tell if your tech school is a PCS or TDY:
If you are a non-prior with dependents my understanding for how this works is unclear, so this is only an educated guess. If you have dependents, your BAH may kick in for the zip code where your dependents are located once you start OTS. If that is the case you will get that rate until you check in to your next base. Ask the Facebook Forum for more details on this, the people there are “closer” to the issue and therefore more “in the know.”
The BAH for an O-1 at Tinker AFB, OK, without dependents is currently: $1,140.00 per month (non-taxable). I picked Tinker AFB because I think it is one of the lowest BAH rates.
Here is the summary of what a O-1 entitlements as of June 2017.
- Base Pay $3,034.80 per month
- BAS $253.63 per month
- BAH (Tinker AFB) $1,140.00 per month
I don’t really know how the government knows what to take out for taxes (does anyone?) I am just going to give you guys hard numbers and you can use them to make an educated guess for yourself.
- BASE PAY: $4,533.90
- FEDERAL TAXES: $291.74
- FICA-SOC SECURITY: $281.10
- FICA-MEDICARE: $65.74
- SGLI: $29.00
- SGLI FAM/SPOUSE: $6.50
- ROTH TSP: XXXX
- MID-MONTH-PAY: XXXX
Here is what I know about these:
- SGLI is life insurance. I pay $29.00 per month for $400,000 of coverage.
- SGLI Family/Spouse is life insurance for my family. I think it is $100,000 for my wife and $10,000 for my kids, something like that.
- Roth TSP: Through myPay you can set up a portion of your base pay to go straight to your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP is similar to a civilian 401K.
- Mid Month Pay: Given all of your entitlements, deductions, and allotments, the government calculates about half of this and pays you 1/2 on the 15th and 1/2 on the 1st. The “mid month pay” is what they pay you on the 15th.
Through myPay you can have some of your check go into one account and some of your money go into another account. Your primary account is going to be the one for your primary pay, allotments are for wherever else you want your money. I have my pay deposited in my checking account but I set up a $1,000 for a separate savings account. The $1,000 will show up in this section as “DISCRETIONARY ALT.”
The only other thing on my Allotments category is TRICARE DENTAL which costs me $28.87.
If my base pay was $6,000 and I had $1,000 in deductions and allotments, the government would owe me $5,000 per month. The military will divide this in two and pay me $2,500 on the 15th and $2,500 on the 1st. The mid-month-pay in deductions is the former, the End of Month Pay is the latter.
After OTS you should be entitled to “Dislocation Allowance” or “Clothing Allowance” (ask me if you have no idea what these are), and these will show up as an additional line in your “Entitlements.” For that month you will get paid more so your mid-month-pay may or may not be the same. A lot of times they won’t adjust your mid-month pay but they will “catch up” what they owe you at the end of the month. Sometimes they will over-estimate your mid-month pay then correct it for the End of Month. Sometimes, they will mess up your pay then add a $389.17 deduction to your next paycheck. Bottom line, pay attention to make sure that what they are doing makes sense. If it doesn’t, ASK FINANCE. If you don’t, they will probably never know that something is wrong until 9 months later when they realize you were overpaid by $8,000. If you don’t pay attention you won’t notice something is wrong until you don’t get paychecks for two months because they are re-couping the cost. This sounds crazy, but this actually happens.
Here is a site I found which spells out how to read an actual military LES:
Update 1 December 2017
I just found a great site which automatically calculates your Base Pay, BAS, and BAH based on zip code: