Benefits and Pay
Many of the Commissioned Corps benefits are equivalent to those of the other uniformed services. Commissioned Corps officers can separate from the service at essentially any time of their choosing, or to remain at their current duty station until they choose to relocate or separate. In other words, the officers decide themselves when and where they will move.
Officers are encouraged to remain in the service for at least two years. Upon so doing, they earn two additional benefits: Unused annual leave assumes a cash value upon their separation, and the officer's relocation home or equivalent destination is covered. Officers leaving prior to having served at least two years relinquish these two additional benefits.
Another benefit of the Commissioned Corps is the officer's discretion in selecting his or her assignment. A commissioned corps applicant is not called to duty until and unless a favorable job match is achieved. Geographic preference is therefore given primary consideration when attempting to find suitable assignments for the applicant. Once a position is identified that appeals to the applicant, he or she may then accept that specific assignment and establish the call-to-duty date. If no opportunities appeal to the applicant, then no assignment is made. That is, there is no obligation whatsoever in applying to, and qualifying for, the Commissioned Corps. The application is good for a full year; if no match is made or the applicant finds employment elsewhere, the paperwork is simply withdrawn.
The following list summarizes key benefits of uniformed service assignments:
- An exciting blend of clinical and community services and mobility among agencies
- Job stability
- Career advancement opportunities
- Opportunities to transfer throughout much of the country
- No overhead expenses
- Non-taxable earnings in addition to basic pay
- Comprehensive health care
- Continuous pay during sick leave
- Thirty days of paid vacation every year
- Ten paid Federal holidays every year
- Moving expenses covered for call-to-duty and change-of-station relocation
- Administrative leave for professional meetings, courses and seminars
- Station leave as needed
- Opportunity to compete for long-term training
- Insurance program for dependents
- Survivor benefits
- Retirement (noncontributory) after 20 years of service
- Military post exchange and commissary privileges
- Space-available transport on military aircraft, on-base lodging and recreational facilities
- Miscellaneous service-related discounts
The pay and benefits of the Commissioned Corps are equivalent to those of the other uniformed services, e.g., the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. All newly graduated engineers are commissioned at the O-2 pay grade, which is the same rank as an Army First Lieutenant or a Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade. The USPHS uses the same designations as the Navy; thus, newly commissioned Officers enter at the Lieutenant Junior Grade rank. The basic pay is established according to that pay grade. With an increase in rank (eligibility for promotion occurs just 4 years after graduation), the basic pay increases substantially. Pay also increases over time, starting with a pay raise on one's second anniversary, another on the third anniversary, and again on the fourth anniversary. Additional pay raises generally occur every other year thereafter. Cost-of-living adjustments further increase the basic pay.
U.S. PHS Basic Pay and Allowances
Commissioned Corps income includes at least three components, the monthly Basic Pay, Basic Allowance for Subsistence, and Basic Allowance for Housing (described below). For more information please visit the U.S. PHS Pay Calculator.
Basic Allowance For Housing (BAH)
As of 1998, Basic Allowance for Quarters has been combined with Variable Housing Allowance, and is now called Basic Allowance for Housing. BAH is based upon the average cost of living for civilians at the location to which the officer is assigned. This figure is adjusted in accordance with the officer’s rank and dependency status. BAH is calculated to cover at least 80% of the typical officer’s housing expenses for that particular location. It is included with the officer’s monthly pay and is non-taxable.