US military members get 2019 raise

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Beginning Tuesday, many U.S. military members will start to receive bigger paychecks.

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The Defense Department raised base pay for most military members by 2.6 percent in 2019 – which President Trump has touted as the largest increase in a decade. The raise is slightly higher than the 2.4 percent members were awarded in 2018.

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In addition to pay, basic allowances for military members – which cover things like food and housing – are also set to increase.

Retirees and veterans receiving disability pay will see a bump in compensation this year. The cost of living adjustment for 2019 is 2.8 percent – the largest increase in at least six years – which translates to an extra $369 per month for some at the top of the retirement pay system.

Enrollees in the Survivor Benefit Plan will also receive the 2.8 percent increase.

While most military members can expect to receive their larger checks during the first pay cycle of the New Year, one section of the service – the Coast Guard – will not. Due to an ongoing government shutdown – the longest in U.S. history – 43,000 members of the force are working without pay, while another 10,000 are furloughed. The Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. The latter is funded.

A recent study showed that pay increases among active-duty military members rose meaningfully faster than those of civilians over the past 18 years. In 2000, a midlevel soldier made 10 percent less than the average American – but just 11 years later, the same soldier was making 10 percent more, without including benefits.

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As of 2016, a midlevel military member was earning base pay around $31,745, compared with $30,533 for a non-military employee. In 2000 those compensation rates were $18,905 and $20,957, respectively, according to the analysis, which named the military “one of the last bastions of middle-class social mobility.”

Military members also have access to one of the best pension plans, with benefits that begin upon the day of retirement, regardless of age. After 20 years of service, members receive a pension equal to between 40 percent and 50 percent of their last paycheck.