Incentives and Special Pays
While on active duty, service members may receive various types of special pay, incentive pay, bonuses, and allowances that are not counted in regular military compensation (RMC). Those cash payments help compensate service members for unique features of military life. They may be awarded to personnel who possess particular skills or undertake hazardous duty, including deployment and combat. Personnel may also earn bonus payments when they agree to remain on active duty or in an active status. Because those special types of pay are earned irregularly or by a small number of specialists, they are generally excluded when comparing military and civilian compensation.
37 U.S. Code § 211: Officers may participate in Thrift Saving Plans (TSP).
37 U.S. Code § 332: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Service Secretaries may pay bonuses to officers upon accepting a commission or appointment, affiliating with a reserve component, agreeing to remain on active duty or serve in an active status, transferring from a regular component to a reserve component or vice versa, or transferring from one uniformed service to another. The bonuses are limited as follows:
- Accepting a commission or appointment: not to exceed $60,000 for a minimum three-year period of obligated service.
- Affiliating with a reserve component: not to exceed $20,000 for a minimum three-year period of obligated service.
- Agreeing to remain on active duty in a regular component: not to exceed $50,000 for each year of obligated service
- Agreeing to serve in an active status: not to exceed $12,000 for each year of obligated service.
- Transferring from one component to another or from one service to another: not to exceed $10,000.
- Different limits and terms are established for Navy nuclear officers (37 U.S. Code § 333), aviators (§ 334), and health professionals (§ 335).
37 U.S. Code § 351: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Service Secretaries may pay hazardous duty pay, not to exceed $450 per month for duties performed at risk of hostile file or hostile events; and not to exceed $250 per month for other types of hazardous duties.
37 U.S. Code § 352: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Service Secretaries may pay assignment pay or special duty pay, not to exceed a rate of $5,000 per month. Reserve component officers performing inactive duty training may receive assignment pay or special duty pay proportionate to their compensation for inactive duty pay.
37 U.S. Code § 353: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Service Secretaries may pay skill incentive pay for career fields or skills designated as critical. Active and reserve component personnel are eligible, as are certain senior ROTC students. Skill incentive pays and proficiency bonuses may not exceed a rate of $1,000 per month.
37 U.S. Code § 354: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Service Secretaries may pay a bonus to military personnel who have completed 15 years of active duty and agree to remain continuously on active duty until reaching 20 years of active-duty service. The bonus is $30,000 and at the member's choice may be paid in a single lump sum or in two to five installments.
37 U.S. Code § 355: This bonus authority is renewed annually as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Military personnel with a critical military skill, as designated by the Secretary of Defense, may be paid a retention bonus in exchange for additional active duty or active-status service commitments. Retention bonuses may not total more than $200,000 for active component personnel, or $100,000 for reserve component personnel. The limits do not apply to health care professionals. Officers who will reach 25 years of service before the end of the retention bonus period are ineligible, unless they are health care professionals, are qualified in a critical skill related to special operations forces or are Navy nuclear-qualified officers.
37 U.S. Code § 371: Special and incentive pays shall be paid to uniformed service members in addition to other pays and allowances. A member may not receive multiple incentive or bonus pay for the same skill or periods of service. This includes bonus or incentive pays under both subchapter I and subchapter II of Title 37 Chapter 5. Subtitle II covers §331 through 355.
DOD FMR Vol. 7A: This document outlines accession bonus, retention bonus, and special pay opportunities, requirements, and restrictions for certain officers, including, inter alia:
- Nuclear qualified and surface warfare officers (chapter 3)
- Medical officers, health professional officers, dental, veterinary, and nurse corps, and other medical specialists (chapter 5)
- Aviators (chapters 20 & 22)
- Officers with submarine duty (chapter 23)
- Reserve officer incentives and special pay (chapter 57)
Aviation Incentive Pay (Officers): AvIP is restricted to regular officers, who hold, or are in training leading to, an aeronautical rating or designation. Entitlement to AvIP is determined on the basis of monthly flight requirements and amount is determined by years of aviation service. Monthly payments are limited to $1000 per month. Monthly rates by Service are listed in tables in Chapter 22.
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP): HDIP for flying duty is payable to service members who participate in frequent and regularly in sustained, powered, controlled aerial flights. Members of the Regular Force, as well as members of the Reserve Components on extended active duty or on active duty training are eligible. Service members are eligible if they meet minimum monthly flying times. HDIP may not exceed $250 a month, while HDIP for non-aircrew members is $150 per month. Service members may not receive both AvIP and HDIP for flying.
Hardship Duty Pay: Hardship duty pay is additional compensation for personnel assigned to locations or performing missions where conditions are substantially below conditions in the continental United States.
- Hardship Duty Pay for Location Assignment (HDP-L) is payable for either permanent change of duty station or temporary/deployed/attached duty of over 30 days duration in specified locations. HDP-L is payable on a monthly basis in the amount of $50, $100 or $150 depending on the location.
- Hardship Duty Pay Missions (HDP-M) is payable for performing designated hardship missions. HDP-M is payable to both officers and enlisted personnel of the active and reserve component, at the full monthly rate of $150 whenever any part of the month is served fulfilling a specific mission.
- Hardship Duty Pay — Tempo (HDP-T) is payable for performing extended or excessive amount of time outside of one's permanent duty station. Secretaries are responsible for establishing Service-specific criteria for eligibility criteria. HDP-T pay is limited to $500 per month.
- The combined maximum of HDP-L, HDP-M, HDP-T, and any other assignment and special duty payable is $3500 per month.
Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay (IDP): Personnel subjected to hostile fire or explosion of a hostile mine or on duty in an area in close proximity to a hostile fire incident and in danger of being subjected to the same dangers may be entitled to hostile fire pay (HFP) of $225 per month. HFP is payable in the full amount for each qualifying month. Personnel on official duty in a designated imminent danger pay area may be eligible for IDP. IDP is payable monthly in the amount of $225.
Special Pay for Health Professions Officers (HPO):
In an effort to narrow the gap between military and civilian compensation for HPOs, the Services may provide additional compensation through five main areas: Accession Bonus, Critically Short Wartime Skills Accession Bonus, Board Certification Pay, Incentive Pay, and Retention Bonus.
- Accession Bonus (AB): An individual who accepts a commission as a HPO to serve on active duty or in an active status in a reserve component is entitled to an accession bonus. Amount vary by profession and specialty. Specialties have different bonuses for 3 and 4 year obligations, and across the reserve and active components.
- Critically Short Wartime Skills Accession Bonus (CSWSAB): Individuals meeting the same criteria above and are fully qualified in a critically short wartime specialty are entitled to an accession bonus. The bonus varies by specialty. All dental and medical specialties are for 4 year obligations.
- Board Certification Pay (BCP): HPOs serving in an active or reserve component in a designated clinical specialty that hold a post-baccalaureate degree in a specialty and are certified by a professional board are entitled to an annual BCP of $6000, prorated monthly. BCP for the reserve component is paid at a daily rate of one-thirtieth the monthly BCP rate.
- Incentive Pay (IP): HPOs serving in an active or reserve component in a designated clinical specialty are eligible for IP. IP rates vary by specialty and whether an individual is in a Retention Bonus agreement. IP for the reserve component is paid at a daily rate of one-thirtieth the monthly IP rate.
- Retention Bonus (RB): HPOs under the O-7 grade who are qualified in a specialty or sub-specialty may be eligible to sign a RB contract (or sign a new RB contract if already in an existing contract). Rates vary by specialty and agreement length, and across the reserve and active components. Agreement lengths can be 2, 3, or 4 years (some specialties also have 6-year agreements).
- Affiliation Bonus for RC (AFBRC): HPOs serving or having served on active duty may be eligible for an Affiliation Bonus for the RC of up to $10,000.
- An HPO may only receive incentive pay and a retention bonus for one specialty even if the HPO is qualified in more than one.
Air Force Policy
AFM 36-3004: Air Force aviators are eligible for an Aviation Bonus if they meet the following requirements:
- Have completed or be within one year of completing the service commitment for Undergraduate Flying Training, or previously signed an AvB contract for the aviation specialty in which the officer is currently qualified and eligible for
- Are qualified for aviation service
- Are entitled to aviation incentive pay (ACIP)
- Are in a grade of O-5 or below at the time of incurring the AvB contractual obligation (Have between 6 and 24 years of aviation service)
- Meet all other eligibility and service commitment criteria specified in current FY implementation plan for each component
- Hold a valid security clearance (minimum SECRET).
AR 37-104-4, Chapters 5-10: Implements DOD FMR 7A for special and incentive pays.
OPNAVINST 7220.8: Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) are eligible for a continuation bonus of up to $50,000 for additional active duty obligation leading to one or more tours of duty if they meet the following requirements:
- Are serving as a SWO
- Have been selected as department head on a vessel and offered a contract.
- Have completed the initial service commitment.
- Are able to complete the afloat department head tours or a single longer tour.
- Are designated to fill department head sequencing plan billet.
- Apply for bonus before graduation from the Department Head School.
Reserve officers may apply for this continuation bonus upon reporting for active duty. The program is designed to be an incentive to officers to stay in the SWO community to complete the full afloat department head requirement.
OPNAVINST 7220.9: Naval aviators are eligible for Aviation Career Continuation Pay if they meet the following requirements:
- Are entitled to ACIP
- Are serving in a COMNAVPERSCOM-designated billet
- Are in a pay grade of O6 or lower
- Have completed less than 24 years of aviation service
- Are recommended by a commanding officer
- Are qualified for flying duty
- Have completed any aviation ADSO or are within 1 year of completion of such commitment
- Are able to complete the full period of the continuation pay service obligation
- Are not currently on a continuation pay contract
- Agree to a specified period of additional ADSO
OPNAVINST 7220.10: Judge advocates are eligible for JACP if they meet the following requirements:
- Are an officer in the grade of O4 or below
- Are qualified and certified in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice
JACP payment will come in 3 phases:
- Phase I: $30,000 after selection by the career status board and finishing the initial ADSO, with an additional ADSO of 3 years.
- Phase II: $15,000 on the first anniversary date of graduation from NJS Basic Lawyer Class after promotion to O4, with an additional ADSO of 2 years.
- Phase III: $15,000 on the first anniversary date of graduation from NJS Basic Lawyer Class after 10 years of continuous service, with an additional ADSO of 2 years.
OPNAVINST 7220.11C: Nuclear-qualified officers (or officers training for nuclear qualification) are eligible for several special incentive pays.
Officers selected for nuclear propulsion training are eligible for the Nuclear Officer Accession Bonus of $15,000.
Officers who successfully complete the nuclear propulsion training program are eligible for the Nuclear Career Accession Bonus of $2,000 if they are on active duty and thereby entitled to receive basic pay.
Nuclear-qualified officers who have completed their existing service obligation are eligible for Nuclear Officer Continuation Pay (COPAY) if they meet the following requirements:
- Are on active duty and thereby entitled to receive basic pay.
- Are in grade O6 or below. Officers selected for promotion to O7 may continue to be paid under an existing agreement until promoted or frocked to O7.
- Are not serving under any existing service obligation unless the obligation was incurred for graduate or joint professional military education. Officers within 1 year of completing an existing service obligation may apply for COPAY to begin at the end of the current obligation.
- Are qualified as engineer officer of a nuclear-powered ship if they have not completed their minimum service requirement.
- Have not completed 27 years of commissioned service.
- Have not been selected for lateral transfer or participation in a program resulting in a change of designator.
- Have not been designated as "not cleared" for Department Head (DH), Principal Assistant, Executive Officer, or Commanding Officer, except for those officers who are selected for Assistant Reactor Officer.
- Have their commanding officer's endorsement that they have the potential to succeed as a DH if they have not yet screened for it.
Eligible officers may enter a contract for 3 to 7 years. The contract generally pays $30,000 per year unless the officer has not yet completed a DH tour and signs a 3-year contract that will not obligate completion of a DH tour.
Nuclear-qualified officers who have completed their initial service obligation who remain on active duty for an additional year are eligible for the Nuclear Career Annual Incentive Bonus if they meet the following requirements:
- Are on active duty and thereby entitled to receive basic pay.
- Are in grade O6 or below.
- Are not serving in a period of obligated service incurred as a result of a COPAY contract.
- Are not entitled to receive ACIP unless serving in a billet that requires the officer to be nuclear qualified and qualified for performance of operational flying duties.
- Have completed their minimum service requirement.
- Have nuclear AQDs if in a retire/retain status.
Eligible officers receive $22,000 per year if they are O6s with at least 26 years of commissioned service; are serving or served in a major command; or are serving or served as major program acquisition professionals. Other eligible officers receive $12,500 per year.
OPNAVINST 7220.14: Military personnel who are eligible for basic pay are entitled to Career Sea Pay (CSP) if they meet the following requirements:
- Are permanently assigned to and serving on vessels whose primary mission is accomplished underway.
- Are the off crew of a two-crew submarine.
- Are permanently assigned to and serving on vessels whose primary mission is accomplished in port while the vessel is away from homeport.
- Are part of a permanent staff, mobile unit, or naval aviation unit assigned to a qualifying vessel.
- Are temporarily assigned on a qualified vessel (one day CSP accrual for each 8 consecutive hours of qualifying service.
OPNAVINST 7220.15: Active duty military personnel are eligible for Continuous Submarine Duty Incentive Pay (CONSUBPAY) if they meet the following requirements:
- Hold a submarine-related designator.
- Have a valid submarine service entry date.
- Have obtained the prescribed amount of Total Operational Submarine Service (TOSS) at the completion of the 12th and 18th years of submarine service.
- Are physically qualified.
CONSUBPAY may be given to officers who have completed their ADSO in order to extend that obligation.
Operational Submarine Duty Incentive Pay (OPSUBPAY) is available to active duty naval officers and enlisted personnel who are assigned and serve in submarines when TOSS minimums are not met.
OPNAVINST 7220.16: SEAL officers are eligible for Special Warfare Officer Continuation Pay SPECWAROCP if they meet the following requirements:
- Are on active duty and entitled to receive basic pay.
- Are in the Regular Navy.
- Have a Naval Special Warfare Officer designator and a SEAL-Qualified Additional Qualification Designator.
- Are serving in grade O3 or in grade O4 and are not currently recommended for promotion to O5.
- Have between 6 and 14 years of active service.
- Have completed their initial ADSO.
Officers may incur between 1 and 5 years of additional ADSO under continuation pay, for the following amounts:
- 1-year ADSO: $6,000
- 3-year ADSO: $10,000 per year
- 4-year ADSO: $12,500 per year
- 5-year ADSO: $15,000 per year
OPNAVINST 7220.17: Medical, Dentist, Medical Service, and Nurse Corps officers are eligible for various special pays supporting recruitment and retention, including:
- Variable Special Pay for Medical and Dental Corps officers
- Board Certified Pay for certification in designated specialties
- Additional Special Pay for retention of Medical and Dental Corps officers
- Incentive Special Pay for retention on active duty of Medical Corps and Nurse Corps officers in selected specialties
- Multiyear Special Pay for retention on active duty of Medical Corps officers
- Dental Officer Multiyear Retention Bonuses for retention of active duty of Dental Corps officers
- Optometry Retention Bonuses and Pharmacy Officer Special Pay for retention on active duty of those Medical Corps officers
- Accession and retention bonuses to Medical, Dental, Medical Service, and Nurse Corps specialties.
The various special pays generally have grade and certification requirements and many incur an additional ADSO.
OPNAVINST 7220.18: Regular and reserve officers are eligible for continuous ACIP if they meet the following requirements:
- Are entitled to basic pay.
- Hold an aeronautical designation.
- Are qualified for aviation service under regulations prescribed by SECNAV.
- Are in grade O6 or below.
- Meet minimum months of operational flying (MOF) requirements at 12-, 18-, and 22- year career gates.
- Have fewer than 25 years of aviation service.
Flight surgeons and other medical officers who meet the requirements are eligible to receive conditional ACIP for performance of operational flying duties. Officers who do not have the required MOF at the various career gates are still eligible for conditional ACIP related to their duties.
Monthly rates of ACIP range from $125 to $840 depending on the years of aviation service, including flight training.
Marine Corps Policy
MARADMIN 548/20: Marine Corps Aviation Incentive Pay Program and Pending FY21 Changes (22 September 2020).
Aviation Incentive Pay (AvIP) is a pay for the frequent and regular performance of operational or proficiency flying duty authorized per ref (a) and (b) and intended to attract and retain officers in a military aviation career.
Awarding Aviation Career Incentive Pay as a entitlement pay was discontinued on 1 October 2017 and replaced by AvIP which is an incentive pay and may be given to officers with aeronautical designations at the discretion of the Marine Corps.
On 1 October 2021, receipt of continuous AvIP while serving in non-flying billets requires meeting flight gate criteria per SECNAVINST 7220.88, Aviation Incentive Pays and Bonus Program and serving in the following billets:
- Positions on the Joint Duty Assignment List (JDAL);
- Resident professional military education or a fully-funded graduate education program authorized by the USMC;
- Aviation-specific positions that must be filled by officers with aeronautical ratings;
- Any billet not covered above for a period not to exceed 48 consecutive months.
Marine Corps Total Force System (MCTFS) will track aviation pay for officers.
MARADMIN 514/20: FY21 Aviation Bonus.
The Marine Corps Aviation Bonus Program (AvB) is a special pay program used to increase inventory stability of the aviation officer population. The program provides a proactive, short-term incentive for aviation officers in certain grades and communities with current or forecasted inventory shortfalls. Contract lengths and monetary amounts are set based on current and projected aviation officer inventories. The AvB will be offered to Marine aviation officers who meet eligibility requirements defined in paragraph 3. Eligibility criteria apply.
MARADMIN 0361/09: Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP) (Demolition Duty). Clarifies the policy for payment of hazardous duty incentive pay. Identifies the activities that qualify for this pay category, the intent behind the policy, and the billets authorized to receive it. Includes reference to timing and orders requirements.
MARADMIN 047/14: Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) and Hardship Duty Pay — Location (HDP-L). Announces recertification of some locations as imminent danger pay areas while discontinuing the designation for other locations. Also announces changes to the pay rate for certain locations. IDP is payable on a prorated basis not to exceed $225 per month. HDP-L is additional compensation paid to members in designated hardship duty locations over 30 days in duration.
Implements U.S. Law, DOD policy and Navy policy.