New Basic Needs Allowance for Military Families Begins in 2023

A soldier counts his money
A soldier counts his money. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

The military has announced a new Basic Needs Allowance for military families that will begin on Jan. 1, 2023.

What Is the Basic Needs Allowance?

The new allowance was announced by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a Sept. 22, 2022 memo. It is designed to assist military families who are struggling financially in the current economic situation.

The Basic Needs Allowance, or BNA, will only be available to military members stationed in the U.S. who have dependents and whose gross household income is below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines.

All household income is considered when determining a service member's eligibility to the new benefit. This includes income from all military pay and allowances, income from other household members, investment income and any other household income.

Currently, a family of four in the continental U.S. earning less than $3,000 monthly would be eligible for the new allowance. The cutoff for families stationed in Hawaii is $3,300, and in Alaska, it is $3,500. Different limits apply for different family sizes, and the guidelines change annually. 

How to Apply for the Basic Needs Allowance

Individual services will screen service members for eligibility, and notify them of their potential eligibility. The military says it will begin accepting applications for this new benefit by December 2022; that means most eligible military families should begin receiving notifications shortly.. 

The Defense Department will require potentially eligible service members to provide proof of their family's income, such as a tax return or W-2 before the allowance is paid. Members are required to apply for the benefit and provide all necessary income information before receiving the BNA.  

You do not need to have received an eligibility letter from your payroll office to apply for this benefit. If you believe you are eligible, you can submit an application at any time. 

Again, you must apply for this benefit, you will not get it automatically.

How Much Is the Basic Needs Allowance?

The BNA will pay a service member a monthly payment that is designed to bring their gross household income up to 130% of federal poverty guidelines. This amount will vary by location and family size, and it also will depend on a member's monthly pay and other family income.

For example, if a military family's income is $500 less than the monthly federal poverty guidelines, the monthly BNA will be $500. 

The BNA is taxable, and no back pay is authorized.

More information will be forthcoming from individual military branches on specific application guidelines and payment procedures.

For more details, see the BNA fact sheet from MilitaryOneSource.

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