Military Benefits + Life on Base

Beyond the natural bonds and camaraderie that can thrive on military bases, there are also many dedicated programs and services that help support the basic sustenance and living quarter needs of all service members who call them home. While serving on base, you’ll find that all of the services and needs you would experience in a civilian practice are met, and often with lower- or no-cost options that are only available to service members and families.

Work–Life Balance

Service members are expected to work hard, just like at any job, but it’s a myth to say they don’t experience quality downtime or personal growth opportunities.

In fact, service members living on or near a base are provided with a variety of personal enrichment options that can help ensure their off-duty time is balanced, recreational and rewarding.

Unless you are deployed, your call schedules will be similar to a civilian physician. Since you also won't need to manage your own practice or deal with multiple insurance companies, you may also have more free time to spend with your family.


Generally, every service member will be afforded housing while living on a military installation. While living on base, housing is determined by rank, location and family situation, with new recruits typically starting their military career in a shared bedroom and bathroom facility called barracks. As service members move up in rank, they are offered higher quality housing options, if available, that range from modern college style dormitories to apartments and single-family homes. 

  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

    Service members who choose to live off base are given a nontaxable BAH as part of their compensation. This consists of a monthly sum that is calculated using the area’s cost of living, the service member's pay grade and number of dependents (if any). Ultimately, BAH is in place to make sure all service members get the support they need to cover their living situation.

Food + Dining

On base, you can expect to find a variety of dining options for service members and their families, from cafeteria-style dining facilities to the name brand restaurants seen in any city or town across the country. Some bases may even offer food delivery services and/or food trucks that rotate throughout the week.

  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)

    BAS is a military program that offsets meal costs for officers and enlisted service members. It is a monetary, nontaxable monthly allowance provided as part of a physician’s military benefits and compensation that can be traced back to the early beginnings of the Military, during which room and board and rations were included as part of payment. Please note that the BAS is not intended to offset the costs of meals for family members.


Military bases resemble large towns with their own dedicated fire departments and postal facilities. They also offer shopping centers, grocery stores, entertainment, and more. These essential amenities are referred to by different names but as you’ll see, they’re similar to their civilian counterparts (and can be cheaper, too).

  • Exchange and Commissary

    The Exchange is a large retail shopping location that resembles a contemporary mall or department store where service members and their families can enjoy discounts on an incredible variety of household goods. Exchange products include electronics, clothing, furniture, housewares, recreational gear, jewelry, and overseas automobile sales, just to name a few.

    The Commissary is the base grocery store, complete with produce, boxed goods, butcher, seafood and numerous brand name food items that one would expect to find in any supermarket located off base.

    Both locations offer products at a discount and with the convenience of being right down the road from where service members live and work on base.

  • On Base Recreation and Entertainment

    Service members and their families living on and off base have access to a wide selection of no cost recreation and entertainment services, including gyms (multiple per base in some cases), recreation fields, movie theaters, bowling alleys, running tracks and parks. Additionally, an organization called Armed Forces Entertainment hosts exclusive shows on bases every year featuring well-known musicians, comedians, athletes and actors.

Vacation + Travel

Even though you will be busy, you will still have leisure time as a military physician. Plus, you’ll have access to travel opportunities and discounts that make it easy and affordable to explore the world or your own backyard.

  • Travel Opportunities

    A program called Space-Available Travel allows you and your family to fly for free if there is room on military flights and when air transport eligibility criteria is met. To participate, service members register and wait for an unused seat to the destination of their choice. While it’s not always something you’ll have to depend on for trips, this travel method can be a great way to plan an inexpensive vacation or to travel home while you’re on leave.

  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)

    The MWR exists to give service members and their families a wide range of choices that can help everyone stay active and engaged while living on base. These can include:

    • Alpine skiing
    • Arts and crafts
    • Barbecues
    • Bike trails
    • Boat rentals
    • Bowling tournaments
    • Cabins
    • Coffee shops
    • Hunting areas
    • Libraries
    • Marinas
    • Organized sports teams
    • Paintball fields
    • Picnic sites
    • Whitewater rafting


    Each Service branch has an MWR office dedicated to helping personnel connect with vacation and leisure opportunities. You can learn more by visiting each program’s site:

    Army MWR 

    Navy MWR 

    Air Force MWR

Additional Discounts

To recognize and support those who serve, many companies offer special military discounts, including for airfare and other vacation or travel-related activities. While these perks are not offered as an official extension of Department of Defense benefits, they are common and found throughout the country.

Support for Family Members

The Military wants to set its service members up to succeed and provide them a stable environment and that extends to their family’s well-being too. This is because strong communities—on base and off—are as important to a service member’s career as any training or certification.

Quality of Life

Today, approximately 51.5% of active-duty service members are married, and 37.3% have children. There are several support programs in place to help strengthen the quality of life for these families, including: