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Military Survivor Benefit Plan 101

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Clothing Allowance


The Military Clothing Allowance is one of the many allowances given to service members to help augment income. Other common allowances are the Basic Subsistence Allowance that helps to pay for food and the Basic Housing Allowance that helps to cover the cost of lodging. The military provides most personnel with basic clothing or a Clothing Allowance to help them purchase their uniforms. There are three basic types of Clothing Allowances:

  • Initial Clothing Allowance
  • Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance
  • Extra Clothing Allowance

Each section of the military dictates its own clothing policy and Clothing Allowance amounts. Generally the rules listed in this article apply to Clothing Allowances granted by the military. Enlisted members are given an Initial Clothing Allowance that is established and published by their Department. Then they are either given clothing or required to purchase uniforms that meet the amount of the allowance. The Army and the Marine Corps do this without establishing a per-item monetary value for each item. Should an item be in short supply, it is ordered and then given to the service member when it comes in. On the other hand, in the Navy and the Air Force, if the item has not appeared by the end of Basic Training, the remaining balance may be given out in cash.

For enlisted service members, the clothing allowance is given upon enlistment. In cases of reenlistment (for a variety of reasons), the rule is generally that three months must have passed since an individual was last released from active duty to receive the Clothing Allowance. Reserve members who are called to duty for longer than six months are also entitled to an Initial Clothing Allowance.

For Officers and Warrant Officers, the rules are a bit different. Officers are only able to get an Initial Clothing Allowance once every four years.

Special Initial Clothing Allowances are available to enlisted personnel who are required to wear a special uniform like a Chief Petty Officer. If you are in this group, you will be given the Special Clothing Allowance instead of the Standard Initial Clothing Allowance. Only one Special Initial Clothing Allowance is available for special uniforms during any tour of active duty.

Enlisted service members who are on active duty also receive a Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance to help replace uniquely military items that are wearing out. Enlisted personnel who are in Officer Training Programs or who are attending any of the Academies are not eligible for the Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance. This Allowance is paid yearly for the first three years of active duty service. After three years of service, the Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance becomes the Standard Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance. This is also applicable in the case of the Special Cash Clothing Replacement Allowance.

Extra Clothing Allowances are exactly what the title implies. If an enlisted service member is assigned to a special detail where a special uniform is required, he or she may be entitled to an Extra Clothing Allowance. With the exception of maternity uniforms, extra clothing cannot exceed more than 30% of the Standard Initial Clothing Allowance.

Both Enlisted and Officers are also entitled to a Civilian Clothing Allowance if civilian clothing is required for them to carry out their duties. Officers can only claim this allowance if their Primary Duty Station is outside of the United States.

If your clothing is damaged related to training or duty, you will be able to get a free replacement. However you are not entitled to any replacement if the damage is due to negligence. Often the Clothing Allowance does not cover the entire cost of uniforms. It is important to note that service members who must purchase clothing using their own money may be eligible for a tax deduction. Common fatigues are not tax-deductible; however, any other uniform that you are required to wear that could not be worn in any other environment is considered a work expense if you have had to pay for it beyond the Clothing Allowance. Any uniform that has restrictions stipulating that it must not be worn unless while on duty will also count for this type of tax deduction.

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