Military Enlistment Incentives: Get All You Can Get

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With the economy stifled and the jobless rate soaring, the military can seem like an enticing alternative to the civilian job market with its long list of enlistment incentives. And there are plenty of people joining up. In 2008, every branch of the armed services met or exceeded their recruitment goals with nearly 400,000 people joining the military, according to the Department of Defense.

Here are a few of the incentives the military offers its new recruits:

Enlistment Bonus
The largest, most immediate incentive is the enlistment bonus. According to Military.com, these bonuses top out around $40,000 and vary based upon branch, job specialty and length of enlistment contract. They are also dependent upon recruits’ Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score. The test, developed and maintained by the Department of Defense, determines the possible careers for which new recruits are eligible.

Reenlistment bonuses are worth nearly twice as much, reaching up to $90,000. These cash incentives are limited to those who’ve served more than 17 months but less than 14 years of active duty, have a Secretary of Defense designated critical military skill, are not receiving nuclear-training pay and extend their commitment by at least three years.

Be warned though, servicemen and women who do not fulfill their enlistment obligation voluntarily or because of misconduct are expected to repay a prorated amount of the bonus.

G.I. Bill
All service members are eligible for benefits under the G.I. Bill. The main focus of the bill is to provide tuition assistance but the exact amount can vary greatly from state to state.

There are a number of different programs within the G.I. Bill. They include the following and you can find out about each of them at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website:

•    The Post-9/11 GI Bill
•    Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty
•    Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve
•    Reserve Educational Assistance Program
•    Veterans Educational Assistance Program
•    Educational Assistance Test Program

The law also details the health, pension and life insurance benefits that are federally mandated for all military personnel. Life insurance for servicemen and women will pay up to $200,000 for $18 per month.

Student Loan Repayment
Of all the armed service branches, the Army has by far the best student loan repayment program, offering up to $65,000. Even reservists can get in on it with a maximum payout of $20,000. There are several criteria both the recruit and the loan must meet to qualify for the full amount. Eligibility is based upon entering a critical job specialty and the score om the ASVAB.

The Army will not repay private equity, state-funded, institution or defaulted loans. It is also the branch’s policy that no soldier be enlisted with defaulted loans.

The Navy and Air Force will pay up to $12,000, while the Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard do not offer the program in most cases.

All branches, however, offer opportunities for continued education during their enlistment including tuition assistance and counseling, but the various programs vary widely and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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