What Is a Military Pension?


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps veterans to access several different types of public benefits, find jobs, receive health insurance coverage and pay for education, and also provides services to veterans' family members. The VA office offers three different pension benefits: VA Pension, Disability Compensation and Military Retirement.

Military Pension

As a veteran, you may qualify to receive benefits from any of these pension programs. Each program pays benefits based on different criteria for eligibility. If you are receiving VA disability benefits, you do not qualify to receive VA Pension benefits at the same time. Retirement benefits are available to all veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States.

VA Pension

This benefit is paid to any veteran who meets eligibility requirements. Eligibility requirements include honorable discharge and having served for at least 24 months or having fulfilled the term of active duty. This benefit is paid to veterans whose income does not exceed the allowable limits, which for 2011 is $15,493 if you have a dependent. You must also be older than 65 years of age to receive these benefits or, if younger, you must be considered totally and permanently disabled. The Department of Veterans Affairs analyzes all of your countable income such as job earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends and income from your own business. In addition to these benefits, you may be able to receive Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits, depending on how severe your disability is.

Military Retirement

The Military Retirement program is a retirement program that provides benefits for veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States regardless of retirement date. If you retire from service at age 37, you can start receiving your retirement benefits at that age. One of the main benefits of the military retirement program is that your retirement check grows with the adjustment of living cost. The exact amount you receive for military retirement depends on how long you served. If you serve in the military for 40 years, you are eligible to receive retirement benefits of 100 percent of your basic pay as a military member. People who have served for fewer years receive benefits according to how long they served and when.

VA Disability Compensation

The VA Disability Compensation program is a disability benefit paid to veterans who were honorably discharged from service and who served for at least 90 days, of which at least one day was during war. Although this benefit is not strictly a pension benefit, it is a substitute for VA Pension payments, since you cannot receive both benefits at the same time and the application form is the same for both programs. To receive these benefits, you must have a disability caused during service or made worse in service. Depending on the severity of your medical condition, the Department of Veterans Affairs may pay you higher benefits. You may also be eligible for higher payments if you support a family or have dependent parents.

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