Military Pay and Free or Reduced School Meals


Kids are back in school, and applications for free and reduced school meals have been coming home.  When your pay is more than just pay, like in the military, it can be hard to know how to fill out those forms.  Free and reduced price school meals can help stretch a tight budget, and many military families qualify.  Filling out the forms is the first step.

But what pays and allowances do you include in your "income?"

What's Included As Income?

Basic allowance for housing is included if you live off base, but you do not include the value of on-base housing or privatized military housing.  Per the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Military and Veterans page, "Any in-kind benefit, such base housing, is not considered income."

I agree that this makes no sense, but I don't make the rules.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), incentive pays, alimony, child support and any other income are supposed to be included as income.

What's Not Included As Income?

However, pays received solely as the result of being in a combat zone are not included.  This would include Imminent Danger or Hardship Duty pay based upon location.

Location based overseas cost-of-living allowances are not included.

Do I Qualify?

You can find the 2017-2018 income limits at this webpage.  There are three different charts for income eligibility guidelines - one for the continental US, one for Hawaii, and one for Alaska.  Overseas locations use the same rates as Alaska.  In addition, families who receive  SNAP/FNS (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Food and Nutrition Services), or Cash Assistance (formerly Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)) benefits are automatically eligible (but may need to apply.)

If you think you're borderline, I'd check with the school and ask some specific questions. With the high price of school meals, this benefit could really help your family budget.

Hopefully I've answered every question about the application for the school meals program.  If you have more questions, ask them in the comments and I'll find out the answers!

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