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Military surgeons live and work throughout the world, from stateside hospitals on military bases across the country to mobile military hospitals providing emergency care for wounded warriors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some military surgeons work full-time for their respective services; others serve part-time in the Reserves and National Guard, working in their regular practices full time and serving approximately two days per month and two weeks per year with their units.
All military officers receive a standard basic monthly salary according to the military pay scale, which the Defense Finance and Accounting Service publishes annually. Monthly basic pay is a function of the officer's rank and time in service. A newly appointed physician holding the rank of O-3, or captain (lieutenant in the Navy) will receive a monthly base pay of $4,221.90, assuming no prior enlisted time and less than two years as an O-1 or O-2. An O-6 colonel, or captain in the Navy, with over 20 years in service, would earn a base pay of $8,796.90 per month. Military personnel are paid twice per month, typically on the 1st and 15th, except when these dates fall on a weekend.
Basic Allowance for Housing
Military officers stationed in the United States or its territories, or whose families are residing stateside while they are deployed, receive a basic housing allowance, or BAH. There are two types of BAH: officers with no dependents receive Type I, while officers who have children, a spouse or both receive the higher BAH Type II. The amount varies with rank and location, but it is generally intended to cover approximately 80 percent of the typical local costs to house the officer and his family. Officers also receive $223.84 per month in Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Both BAH and BAS are non-taxable.
Medical Professional Pay
The military must compete with the civilian sector to retain physicians, and therefore supplements basic pay and BAH with special pay for health professionals. The amount varies with the officer's time in grade and specialty, but can range from $20,000 to $38,000 per year. Additionally, medical officers can qualify for retention bonus pay of up to $1,000 per month, depending on their time in service. The highest retention pay, called "variable bonus pay," applies to officers with between 6 and 8 years of service and declines from that point.
Surgeons can also qualify for an additional $225 per month in hostile fire pay for serving in a combat zone designated by the Secretary of Defense, and family separation pay of $250 per month. Depending on the officer's branch and duty assignment, he may also qualify for career sea pay or flight pay.
Leslie McClintock has been writing professionally since 2001. She has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Senior Market Advisor," "The Annuity Selling Guide," and many other outlets. A licensed life and health insurance agent, McClintock holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California.