Q: I'm a former active duty Marine, I was wondering if there was a sign on bonus or any other incentives for joining the Army Reserves? – Kris
A: Right now Kris, only non-prior service enlistees can get enlistment bonuses, however, that can change at any time. However, there are some great benefits you could get as a prior servicemember joining the Army Reserves.
Depending on how many years you had in the Marines, and what pay grade you come into the Reserves, your yearly pay can range from around $4,000, as an E-4 with less than two years of service, to almost $6,000 as an E-6 with six years of service. That is not bad pay for drilling two days a month and two weeks in the summer.
And it gets better. Stay in until you have at least 20 good years for retirement purposes (between your active duty Marines and Army Reserve time) and you will qualify for a monthly retirement at age 60.
You can also participate in the Thrift Saving Plan (TSP). It is a 401K-type savings plan where you can contribute a percentage of your base pay. Because what you contribute is either tax-deferred or tax-free, it lowers the amount of money you are taxed on.
As a Reservist, you can buy both life and health insurance. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is available in $50,000 increments up to $400,000. The cost is 65 cents per month per $1,000 of coverage.
You would also qualify for TRICARE Reserve Select health insurance for just you or your whole family. If you currently are not covered by any health care plan, this can be a godsend. Monthly premiums for just you are $53.16; for both you and your family, coverage costs $197.76. Coverage is similar to TRICARE Standard which is basically an 80/20 plan – TRICARE pays 80% and you pay 20%, until you reach your catastrophic cap and then they cover 100% of the costs.
You can also buy a dental program through the TRICARE Dental Program which is underwritten by United Concordia Companies. For self only, the monthly premium is $12.69. For self and family, it costs $91.98 per month.
Depending on when you were in the Marines, you may or may not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you do, but didn’t qualify for the dependent transfer option, an enlistment in the Army Reserves could get you to the eligibility point. Once you have served six years (Marines and Reserve time) and agree to serve an additional four years, then you could make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer request to your spouse, dependent children or both. This might not sound like much now, but it can be huge once your children are ready to start college or if you spouse is looking to go to school and start a career.
So as you can see there is more to joining the Army Reserves, or any of the reserves for that matter, than receiving an enlistment bonus. The long term pay, insurance and education options can far outweigh the one-time bonus for enlisting. Semper Fi, Kris!