What Is Combat Pay Fafsa?

Combat pay allows members of the military to exclude portions of their income when applying for federal student aid. This can help service members and veterans qualify for more financial aid. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what combat pay is, how it affects your FAFSA, and who qualifies for combat pay FAFSA benefits.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Combat pay FAFSA allows service members to exclude their combat pay when applying for federal student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This helps them qualify for more aid like Pell Grants and federal student loans.

What is Combat Pay?

Combat pay refers to additional compensation provided to military personnel who are serving in combat zones or are exposed to hazardous conditions while on active duty. This extra pay is designed to recognize the risks and hardships faced by service members in these situations.

Definition of combat pay

Combat pay, also known as combat zone tax exclusion, is a sum of money that is added to a service member’s regular salary as a result of their deployment to a designated combat zone. It is a way for the government to acknowledge the sacrifices made by military personnel in dangerous environments.

Types of combat pay

There are several types of combat pay that service members may be eligible for:

  • Hostile Fire Pay (HFP): This is paid to military personnel who are subject to hostile fire or are in imminent danger due to enemy action.
  • Imminent Danger Pay (IDP): This is provided to service members who face the threat of physical harm or injury due to hostile activities.
  • Hardship Duty Pay: This pay is given to personnel who are deployed to locations with particularly difficult living conditions or other challenging circumstances.

Who receives combat pay

Combat pay is typically received by active duty service members who are deployed to combat zones. These combat zones are designated by the Department of Defense and can include areas where there is ongoing military conflict or where there is a high risk of hostile activity.

It’s important to note that combat pay is not automatically given to all military personnel in these zones. Eligibility is determined based on factors such as the nature of the assignment and the level of risk involved.

For more information on combat pay and its eligibility requirements, you can visit the Department of Defense’s official website.

How Does Combat Pay Affect FAFSA?

Combat pay is excluded from FAFSA income calculations

When it comes to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), combat pay is treated differently than other forms of income. Combat pay is excluded from the income calculations on the FAFSA form.

This means that if you or a family member receives combat pay, it will not be counted as part of your income when determining your eligibility for financial aid.

Lowers your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The exclusion of combat pay from the income calculations has a significant impact on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a measure of how much a family can reasonably be expected to contribute towards the cost of education.

By excluding combat pay, your EFC is likely to be lower, which in turn increases your eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Can help you qualify for more need-based aid

Because combat pay is not included in the FAFSA income calculations, it can help you qualify for more need-based aid. Need-based aid is awarded to students who demonstrate financial need, and the exclusion of combat pay can lower your overall income, thus increasing your chances of receiving additional financial assistance.

Specific FAFSA questions related to combat pay

The FAFSA form includes specific questions regarding combat pay and its exclusion from income calculations. When filling out the form, you will be asked if you, your spouse, or your parents received combat pay.

It’s important to accurately report any combat pay received, as this information can impact your eligibility for financial aid.

If you have any questions regarding combat pay and its effect on FAFSA, it’s always a good idea to consult the official FAFSA website (https://studentaid.gov/) or speak with a financial aid advisor at your college or university.

They can provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding combat pay and its implications for your financial aid eligibility.

Who Qualifies for Combat Pay FAFSA Benefits?

Combat Pay FAFSA benefits are available to certain individuals who have served in the military and have received combat pay. These benefits can help them cover the cost of education and make pursuing a degree more affordable.

Here are the groups of people who may qualify for Combat Pay FAFSA benefits:

Active duty service members who received combat pay

Active duty service members who have received combat pay are eligible for Combat Pay FAFSA benefits. Combat pay is additional income that service members receive when serving in a designated combat zone.

It is important to note that combat pay is not included in the calculation of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) when applying for federal financial aid through FAFSA. This can significantly impact the amount of financial aid a service member is eligible to receive.

Veterans may qualify if combat pay received recently

Veterans who have recently received combat pay may also qualify for Combat Pay FAFSA benefits. This is especially beneficial for veterans who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life and are looking to further their education.

By including combat pay in their FAFSA application, veterans can potentially increase their eligibility for financial aid and reduce the burden of education costs.

Spouses may qualify under certain circumstances

Under certain circumstances, spouses of active duty service members or veterans who have received combat pay may also qualify for Combat Pay FAFSA benefits. This can be particularly helpful for spouses who are pursuing their own education or career goals while their partner is serving in the military.

It is important to review the specific eligibility criteria and requirements for spousal benefits under Combat Pay FAFSA to determine if you qualify.

For more information on Combat Pay FAFSA benefits and eligibility, visit the official Federal Student Aid website.

How to Report Combat Pay on FAFSA

Correct FAFSA questions to answer

When filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), it is important to accurately report any combat pay received. Combat pay refers to the additional income earned by military personnel while serving in a designated combat zone.

To report combat pay on FAFSA, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Question 91: “Enter the total amount of combat pay or special combat pay received in 2021. This may include nontaxable combat pay if it was reported in your adjusted gross income.”
  2. Question 94: “Enter the total amount of nontaxable combat pay received in 2021.”

By accurately answering these questions, you can ensure that your combat pay is properly accounted for in the financial aid calculation process.

Documentation needed to support combat pay

When reporting combat pay on FAFSA, it’s important to have the necessary documentation to support your claims. The documentation required may vary depending on your specific situation, but generally, you will need to provide proof of your combat pay. This can include:

  • Leave and Earnings Statements (LES) or other military pay records
  • Documentation showing your deployment or service in a designated combat zone
  • Any other official documents that verify your combat pay

Having these documents ready will help ensure that you can accurately report your combat pay and avoid any delays or complications in the financial aid process.

Deadlines for reporting combat pay

When reporting combat pay on FAFSA, it’s important to be aware of the deadlines. The FAFSA allows you to report combat pay for the relevant tax year. For example, if you are filing the FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year, you will report combat pay received in the 2021 tax year.

The FAFSA deadline for most states is June 30th, but it’s important to check with your specific institution for any additional deadlines or requirements. It’s always best to submit your FAFSA as early as possible to maximize your chances of receiving financial aid.

Remember, accurately reporting combat pay on FAFSA is crucial to ensure that you receive the financial aid you are eligible for. By answering the correct questions and providing the necessary documentation, you can navigate the process smoothly and potentially receive additional aid based on your combat pay.

Additional Aid Available with Combat Pay FAFSA

Pell Grants – increased eligibility

Combat Pay FAFSA refers to the inclusion of combat pay as part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) calculation. This means that combat pay can now be considered when determining a student’s eligibility for financial aid, including Pell Grants.

Pell Grants are a form of need-based financial aid provided by the federal government to undergraduate students. Previously, combat pay was not included in the FAFSA calculation, potentially limiting the amount of aid a student could receive.

However, with Combat Pay FAFSA, the eligibility for Pell Grants has been expanded, allowing more students to qualify for this valuable form of assistance.

Federal student loans – higher limits

In addition to increasing eligibility for Pell Grants, Combat Pay FAFSA also allows for higher limits on federal student loans. Federal student loans are a common form of financial aid that can help students cover the costs of tuition, books, and living expenses.

With Combat Pay FAFSA, students who receive combat pay can now include it when determining their borrowing limits for federal student loans. This means that students who serve in the military and receive combat pay can potentially borrow more money to fund their education, helping to alleviate the financial burden associated with pursuing a degree.

GI Bill and other military benefits – can be combined

One of the key advantages of Combat Pay FAFSA is that it allows for the combining of military benefits, such as the GI Bill, with other forms of financial aid. The GI Bill is a comprehensive education benefit program for veterans and active-duty service members that provides funding for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses.

With Combat Pay FAFSA, students can now include combat pay when determining their eligibility for the GI Bill and other military benefits. This can result in a more comprehensive financial aid package, allowing students to maximize the resources available to them and further reduce the financial burden of pursuing higher education.


In summary, combat pay FAFSA provides significant financial aid advantages for military service members and veterans. By excluding combat pay, applicants can qualify for more grants, loans, and other assistance. Both active duty and former service members may benefit depending on their circumstances.

Following the FAFSA guidance and reporting combat pay correctly is key to receiving this well-deserved aid.

We covered what combat pay is, who qualifies for FAFSA benefits, how it affects your application, and how to report it accurately. Combat pay FAFSA provides essential college funding for our brave service members. Take advantage of this financial aid as you pursue your educational goals.

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