We’re touching on a
confusing topic today: regular 20-year retirements with disability.
As you all know, 20
years in the military is the basic requirement for a full retirement from active
duty. After 20 years, you can retire any time, and you’ll receive complete
retirement benefits, including retirement pay, full medical care, commissary
privileges, etc. All of these benefits are given by the DoD, not the VA. If you put in 20 years, you will get all
this from the DoD no matter what
So if you are a 20-year Retiree and have a
disability, the DoD will give you a military disability rating
, but it won’t affect your benefits at all. You
won’t get any extra for this disability, since you are already receiving the
full benefits from the DoD. So whether you get a 20%
rating or a 90% rating from the DoD, nothing will change. The only real benefit you
get from the DoD acknowledging that you have a disability is that the VA
will not be able to doubt that your disability was caused by military service,
and you’ll be able to get full VA disability benefits, no problem.
Now for VA disability benefits.
The benefits you receive from the VA for a disability are not affected at all
by how long you were in the military. It doesn’t matter. It is all based on the
rating the VA gives your condition. So if someone was in the military for 5
years and was given a VA rating of 40%, and someone else was in the military
for 25 years and was given a VA rating of 40%, they will both receive the same
amount of benefits from the VA since both received a 40% rating.
That’s all pretty
straightforward, but now I’m going to throw a wrench in the works. Whenever
anyone is receiving both VA disability benefits and
DoD retirement benefits
(whether disability or not), the amount of the DoD benefits are decreased by
the amount of the VA benefits. Basically, the government will not pay you
twice, only once.
So, if Bob is
receiving $1,000/month from the DoD, and then the VA begins giving him
$500/month, the amount he gets from the DoD will be decreased to $500 ($1,000 -
$500 = $500). Do you feel like this guy yet?
While this may seem
unfair or just plain confusing, there is actually a huge benefit to this
system: any money received from the DoD is taxable, while any money received
from the VA is not. You still get the overall amount you deserve, but instead
of all of it being taxable, only a portion is. And if the amount you receive
from the VA is more than the amount you receive from the DoD, you will simply
stop receiving any monetary benefits from the DoD (all the other benefits will
remain the same), and you’ll only receive the larger amount from the VA, which
is all not taxable. Sweet.
To sum up, you will
receive full retirement benefits from the DoD if you retire after 20 or more
years on active duty. Your DoD disability
will not affect these benefits at
all. You will also receive VA disability
based on your disability rating,
and that amount will be subtracted from the amount of retirement pay you are
receiving from the DoD. And again, this is awesome since VA money is not
This system is only true for veterans with
20 or more years on active duty. The system works a bit differently for
reservists with 20 or more years, and I’ll discuss this next week.