Serving in the military can be a dangerous job. Congress has chosen to compensate those individuals who protect our country in a variety of ways. If you serve or have served in the military, you may be eligible for one or more of these benefits. Some of the most popular include:
- Active duty compensation
- VA disability compensation
- VA pension program
- Full military retirement
Active Duty Compensation
Just like most jobs, you're entitled to compensation for your service work. Your Basic Pay at the start will depend on your military rank. The amount increases based on a variety of different factors. These include:
- Annual pay raise - which links usually with the increase in civilian wages
- Number of years in service
- Increase in housing, clothing and food allowances
- Special pay - extra pay for jobs that require special skills or extra responsibility
VA Disability Compensation
Most benefits are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). One of the most important benefits is disability compensation. There are three requirements to receive this compensation:
- Your disability must have been caused or made worse by your military service
- Your disability must be one that the VA has assigned a disability rating
- You must have a general or honorable discharge
You can't receive disability compensation for injuries that have no connection with your military service. Even if it's connected, the disability must be a type that's recognized by the VA. These disabilities are assigned a rating that determines the compensation amount. You must also not have been dishonorably discharged.
VA Pension Program
Unlike VA disability compensation, a VA pension doesn't require a service-related disability. There are four requirements to receive a VA pension:
- You're age 65 or older, or you have a permanent and total disability
- Your family income is below a certain limit set by Congress
- You have at least 90 days of military service, with at least 1 day during wartime
- You have a general or honorable discharge
There are certain time periods that Congress has designated as wartime. If even a small part of your military service falls within one of these times, you're considered to have wartime service.
You can't receive both VA disability compensation and a VA pension at the same time. However, you can apply for both. You'll receive whatever benefit is the greater amount.
Full Military Retirement
Receiving a full military retirement plan is a great way to award long military service. You can receive this plan after serving for 20 years. The amount you receive is 50 percent of your Basic Pay. This percentage goes up the more years you serve beyond 20 years. You reach 100 percent if you serve 40 years. The retirement pay may also be adjusted for cost of living increases.
Until recently, you couldn't receive both military retirement benefits and VA disability compensation. However, the law changed in 2004, and you're able to receive both.
You must be honorably discharged to receive this retirement plan. A simple general discharge won't cut it. An honorable discharge means that you met the conduct and performance standards of military duty.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What are the benefits of having an attorney help me receive my benefits?
- Will it affect my VA benefits if I am dishonorably discharged?
- Is it better to receive VA disability compensation or a VA pension? Which is usually more money?