Can You Receive 100% VA Disability and Military Retirement Pay?

Rendering military service is a privilege that comes with plenty of benefits. Among the many perks veterans are given are VA disability compensation and military retirement pay. But is it possible to receive both payments without sacrificing one for the other?

This article will explore if qualified veterans can obtain both payments. It can help retired veterans and those looking to retire from active service soon to understand the conditions they need to satisfy to maximize their rights.

Military man suffering from ptsd having psychologist session

What is VA Disability Compensation?

VA disability compensation, or simply disability pay, is a monthly tax-free payment given to veterans injured or sick while serving in the military. Veterans whose pre-existing conditions were worsened by military service also qualify for disability pay. People qualify for VA disability compensation because of physical conditions (like a chronic illness or injury) and mental health conditions (like PTSD) that developed before, during, or after service.

In short, to qualify for disability pay, you must have gotten a service-connected disability. For example, if you got in an IED explosion, you are qualified for this benefit. If you’ve got asthma, which worsened due to burn pit exposure, you’re also qualified. But you’re not eligible if you got into a car accident after active duty service.

Computing VA Disability Compensation

A common question veterans ask is: how do I calculate my VA disability rating? This is where ‘VA math’ comes in.

First, you should know that the highest disability rating that a person can get is 100%. The Veterans Affairs (VA) uses the Whole Person Theory to determine a person’s disability rating. This ensures that a person never receives a rating over 100 since a person can’t be more than 100% able-bodied or disabled. However, things get complicated when a person has multiple service-connected disabilities.

The VA disability rating you receive is based on the following:

  • The evidence you provide to the VA, like a doctor’s report or medical test results
  • Your VA claim exam result if it’s determined you need to take this exam and
  • Other information obtained from other agencies

If you’ve got multiple disabilities, you can use the VA combined disability rating calculator.

The amount you receive also depends on details about your dependent family members. As of December 2023, you won’t receive a higher rate even if you have a dependent spouse, child, or parent if you have a 10% to 20% disability rating.

If you’ve got a rating of 30% and above, the compensation would increase if you have more dependents under your care. The rates table changes yearly, so you must check the amount with the VA annually. Why? The VA must legally match the percentage of cost-of-living adjustments made to Social Security benefits.

What is Military Retirement Pay?

Military retirement pay is compensation that retired veterans are given at the end of their careers, provided that they have rendered at least 20 years of active service. The US military system now has two main retirement systems: the new Blended Retirement System (BRS) and the legacy High-3 system.

The system you must follow depends on when you joined military service. It also depends on whether you choose to opt into the BRS. The BRS went into effect on January 1, 2018. This system involves the following elements:

  • Matching Thrift Savings Plan contributions
  • Mid-career retention bonuses
  • A monthly annuity for life after 20 years of service. This is based on a calculation of 2% per year served. The legacy retirement annuity is based on 2.5% per year served.

Meanwhile, service members who started rendering active duty service by December 31, 2017, are qualified for the legacy High-3 system. Also known as the High-36 or “military retired pay,” you get a full pension if you’re a veteran who rendered at least 20 years of service.

Under the legacy High-3 system, the retirement pay you’re qualified for depends on the years you’ve served in the Armed Forces. This amount is 2.5% times your highest 36 months of basic income. It should be highlighted that the government does not match Thrift Savings Plan contributions under this plan.

Your military retirement pay is considered taxable income in most cases. Retirees are allowed to receive both Social Security benefits and their retirement pay. On the other hand, the majority of veterans who aren’t severely injured or disabled will have to choose between retirement pay and VA disability compensation. Most of the time, disability pay is usually bigger than military retirement pay.

Can You Receive VA Disability and Military Retirement Pay At The Same Time?

Yes, military retirees can receive military retirement pay and VA disability if they have served over 20 years. One must also qualify for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) by having a disability rating of at least 50%.

Combining VA Disability Compensation and Military Retirement Pay

Psychotherapy session for military man with post-traumatic stress disorder

Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP)

The VA requires military retirees to waive some of their gross pension to receive disability compensation. Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay is an exception to this waiver. This “phase in” of benefits gradually restores a retiree’s VA disability offset. There’s no need to apply for CDRP as it’s automatic.

CRDP Eligibility

You’re entitled to CRDP if you meet the following qualifications:

  • You’re a regular retiree with a disability rating of 50 or above
  • You’re a reserve retiree with 20 qualifying years of service, a VA disability rating of 50% or greater, and who has reached retirement age.
  • You’re retired under TERA or the Temporary Early Retirement Act and have a VA disability rating of at least 50%.
  • You’re a disability retiree who earned entitlement to retired pay under any provision of law other than solely by disability and a VA disability rating of 50% or greater.

Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)

Meanwhile, Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) entitles some veterans to tax-free monthly benefits. Unlike the CRDP, the CRSC doesn’t require a waiver. If you qualify for this particular benefit, the VA will still deduct the disability benefits from your pension.

How to Apply for CRDP or CRSC

If it’s your first time claiming CRSC, you must complete a DD Form 2860. If you need a decision review, request a reconsideration application from your service branch.

Once the VA receives your documents, they’ll be assessed, and you’ll receive feedback in writing. If you qualify, you will receive an approval letter indicating the monthly amount you get.

The CRDP doesn’t involve an application process. If you qualify for the benefit, the VA will remove the waiver and restore your full retired pay.

Conclusion

To maximize your retirement benefits, you should educate yourself on the various perks the Department of Veteran Affairs grants. Fortunately, information is more readily available nowadays.

FAQs

Can you get both VA disability and military retirement?

Yes, it’s possible. This is as long as you’ve got a disability rating of at least 50.

Does military retirement pay increase?

It depends. Retired pay depends on the changes in consumer prices, but usually, yes.

How do I calculate my combined VA disability rating?

You can use the VA combined disability rating calculator to compute this rating. It can get complicated to calculate on your own.

What is the largest VA back pay?

There is no ceiling or maximum amount for one’s VA back pay. This compensation is determined by the effective date of their claim and the date their benefits are granted.

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