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One of the great things about military benefits is that you can receive benefits from more than one program at a time. However, when it comes to collecting GI Bill®, BAH, and retirement pay benefits, this doesn’t hold true.
The short answer to the question, can collect GI Bill®, Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and retirement pay benefits concurrently is no, you can’t collect on all three benefits at the same time.
But there’s an option that can effectively give you the same thing:
If you’re a veteran, you CAN collect retirement pay benefits while also receiving a monthly housing allowance if you’re using Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits.
Let’s break it down.
1. You can’t collect both BAH and retirement pay at the same time.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is reserved solely for active-duty soldiers stationed in the U.S.
Government (on-base) housing isn’t always readily available or desirable for some service members and their families, which is where BAH comes in. As an active-duty service member stationed at a U.S.-based duty station, you are eligible to receive housing, either in the form of government housing or in the form of a monthly allowance (BAH) that allows you to reside off-base.
BAH is designed to provide uniformed service members with “equitable housing compensation” based on the cost of living in a specific housing market when government housing isn’t available or chosen. In other words, the Department of Defense (DoD) determines a fair monthly housing allowance that is close to area rental market rates.
Your BAH is calculated according to:
In general, single service members who have access to government housing aren’t eligible for BAH. Instead, it is reserved for service members with at least one dependent/spouse who choose/need to live in off-base housing. However, if you live in government housing and you have no dependents, you may receive partial BAH.
There are other circumstances when you could receive BAH:
You can calculate BAH rates using the Department of Defense’s BAH Calculator.
How much you decide to pay for housing is ultimately your call when living off base. For example, you may decide to use your entire BAH pay to rent a home. Or you may decide to rent a home a bit farther from the base in a more affordable area and pocket the difference between your BAH and rent.
Retirement pay is reserved only for veterans who have completed at least 20 years of military service.
Once you complete at least 20 years of active military service (as determined by your Date of Initial Entry into Military Service – DIEMS), you are eligible to receive Retired Pay at the end of your career. How much you receive will depend on whether you qualify for active duty retired pay or non-regular retired pay (the Reserve component).
While active duty retired pay is pretty straightforward, reservists earn “retirement points” based on service and training and at the anniversary of every year in the military. A qualifying year equals 50 retirement points, and the service member must have accrued 20 years of qualifying service (1,000 points) to be eligible for non-regular retired pay by age 60.
The military currently has two retirement systems (Legacy High 36 and the Blended Retirement System), although you may also be enrolled in another system depending on the year you entered service:
2. You can collect retirement pay OR BAH while also taking advantage of Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits – just not both.
Eligibility to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits is fairly straightforward. You must:
You may also be eligible if you were wounded in action on or after September 11, 2001 and honorably discharged, or if you served at least 30 days and were honorably discharged due to a service-related disability.
Because you can use Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits as either an active-duty solider or as a veteran, it’s possible to either collect BAH and Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits concurrently or retirement pay and Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits concurrently – just not both.
Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits include up to 100% of the cost of tuition for in-state colleges and universities for up to 36 months, depending on the amount of time you served. But it also includes a monthly housing allowance (MHA) and an annual stipend of $1,000 for books and supplies.
Ah, yes, the MHA. It’s your ticket to receiving a monthly housing allowance while receiving your retirement pay and Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill® Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA): What Is It and How to Get It
Veterans receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits may also qualify for a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) as part of this program, regardless of whether they’re receiving retirement pay. So, in this instance, it is possible to receive retirement pay, Post-9/11 GI Bill® tuition benefits, and a housing allowance at the same time.
It’s not BAH – remember, that’s reserved only for active-duty service members. However, it mirrors the BAH in terms of benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill® MHA is equal to the BAH in that it’s calculated using an E-5 rank with dependents and the zip code of your school (not where you reside).
If you are studying more than half-time, you’ll receive the MHA. If you’re enrolled in an online program, you’ll be eligible for half of the MHA.
You won’t receive MHA if:
You’ll automatically be eligible to receive MHA once you apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.