Salary & Benefits
For the most part, Commissioned Corps officers enjoy the same benefits as their counterparts in their sister uniformed services.
Total compensation varies depending on factors such as education and training, professional experience, and geographic location of assignment. While it is somewhat difficult to compare your take-home pay with someone in the private sector, your base pay, coupled with a generous assortment of nontaxable income and benefits, provides a very competitive compensation package that grows with years of service and promotions.
Please use the USPHS Pay Calculator and the pay table examples available in the Nurse Best Kept Secrets to forecast your total compensation as a nurse officer. Note that the USPHS Pay Calculator requires you to include your estimated grade/rank within the Commissioned Corps. Rank is determined by training, education, and your professional experience. The minimum starting pay grade/rank for a Registered Nurse in the Commissioned Corps is 0-2 or Lieutenant [PDF] with less than two years of experience.
- Starting Base Pay: This is your competitive starting pay that increases with promotions and years of service.
- Accession Bonus (Signing Bonus): Registered nurses reporting to Call to Active Duty for the first time receive a $20,000 accession bonus when they sign a 3-year active duty agreement, and the Corps offers a $25,000 accession bonus for officers who sign a 4-year active duty agreement. Read more about the signing bonus for nurses.
- Special Pay for Nurse Practitioners
USPHS understands the financial burden of an education and, in coordination with certain Federal agencies, may offer loan repayment and other educational and family support programs. The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) offers loan repayment to health professionals who are willing to commit to an initial two-year service obligation while working in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. More information is available on the PHS Student Opportunities and Training page or via the IHS LRP Web site. The HRSA Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program is a selective program of the U.S. Government that helps alleviate the critical shortage of registered nurses currently experienced by certain types of health care facilities by helping nurses working at them to repay their student loans.
Officers in the Commissioned Corps have opportunities for mobility among government agencies and career advancement in diverse work settings. The Corps encourages you to expand your knowledge base and grow professionally so that you can effectively deal with the challenges of improving public health.
In addition, as a Commissioned Corps officer you may have access to the educational benefits provided in the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you have not used the bill previously. After 90 days of active duty service, you are eligible to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. For more information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, visit the Veterans Affairs Web site.
As a Commissioned officer, you and your family are automatically covered by a comprehensive health care plan called TRICARE that provides medical and dental care at little or no cost. This becomes active on your first day of service. Visit TRICARE Benefits At-a-Glance to view the nine different health plan options offered through TRICARE. Your health care benefits include:
Long-Term Care and Disability Insurance
Commissioned Corps officers are eligible for:
- Low-cost life insurance
- TRICARE For Life – TRICARE’s Medicare-wraparound coverage available to all Medicare-eligible TRICARE beneficiaries upon retirement from the Corps
- Veterans Affairs benefits, such as survivor and disability benefits, home loans, and burial allowances
Work/life balance is an important component of serving in the Commissioned Corps. Officers receive:
- Thirty days of paid vacation per year – beginning the first year
- Paid Federal holidays (depending on assignment)
- Paid sick leave
- Paid maternity leave
- Tax-free housing (Basic Allowance for Housing) and meal allowances (Basic Allowance for Subsistence)
- If you claim residency in a state that imposes no income tax (Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) at the time of your call to active duty, you will not be subject to the state income tax regardless of where you are stationed. If you are assigned to active duty in one of these states, you can establish residency in that state for the rest of your uniformed service career.
- A retirement pension plan (determined by an average of 50 percent of your three highest years of base pay) with benefits eligibility beginning after 20 years of service. Each additional year of service garners 2.5 percent.
- Thrift Savings Plan [retirement saving and investment plan similar to a 401(k)]
- Financial support for education through the Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Paid relocation when you join the Corps and relocation expenses when relocating between positions afforded by the Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR)
- Relocation expenses to your home of record (or a shorter distance) upon retirement or separation
- Paid expenses for travel related to your job
- Access to military base lodging and “morale, welfare, and recreational” facilities (e.g., MWR Navy or MWR Army)
- Shopping privileges at military base grocery and department stores (e.g., AAFES and NEX)
- Space Available flights for you and your family domestically and internationally
- Access to exclusive insurance and banking products targeting the needs of active duty officers
- A host of VA benefits such as the VA Loan Guaranty Home Loan Program, VA Disability benefits, Group Life Insurance, and VA Survival and Death benefits
Page Last Modified on 1/23/2012
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