Military Permanent Medical Retirement Vs. VA Benefits

By: Tara Thomas | Reviewed by: Ryan Cockerham, CISI Capital Markets and Corporate Finance | Updated April 08, 2019

Armed Forces retirees who are medically retired due to a permanent injury or disability are eligible to collect a military pension as well as disability pay from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, but you generally cannot claim them concurrently. According to legal information website, Nolo, “Under Title 38 of the United States Code, Sections 5304 and 5305, you cannot receive both.” Navigating the ins and outs of military disability benefits can be a bit confusing, however under some circumstances, you may be able to receive both military permanent medical retirement pay and VA disability benefits at the same time.

Dept. of Defense Vs. VA Disability Ratings

When you are assigned a Department of Defense, or DoD, permanent disability rating, you will have that same rating for the rest of your life. This differs from VA disability ratings that could possibly change over time if it is determined that your injury or disability has improved. For example, if the DoD assigns you a disability rating of 40 percent, and places you on the Permanent Disability Ratings List, or PDRL, then you will keep this rating and remain on this list for the remainder of your life. On the other hand, if you are assigned a VA disability rating of 30 percent, in 20 years it could be determined that your disability no longer warrants such a rating.

The DoD takes into account your years of service, rank and the disability rating when determining your retirement disability pay; the VA bases its disability ratings solely on how severely you were injured. The Department of Veteran Affairs will also take your overall medical health and condition into account when factoring your disability ratings, whereas your military permanent medical rating is based entirely on the condition for which you are claiming disability.

Which Disability Benefit To Choose?

If you do not qualify for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay, or CRDP, then you must decide which military disability compensation you wish to receive, and which you wish to waive. It generally makes more financial sense to waive your DoD disability and take the VA's disability benefits. This is because disability benefits are not taxed, while medical retirement pay may be offset by however much you receive from disability. However, if the DoD has assigned you a higher disability rating than the VA, then you could receive more disability compensation from taking the DoD military retirement pay while waiving the your VA compensation.

You May Be Eligible for Concurrent Benefits

If you served for at least 20 years by the time you are medically retired, and have been assigned a disability rating of 50 percent or higher by the Department of Veterans Affairs for a service-related injury, then you could be eligible for a program that restores a portion or all of your military disability retirement pay that would have otherwise been used to offset your VA compensation benefit. This means that if you choose to take both disability benefits, then all or a portion of your military disability retirement pay would not be deducted from your VA disability benefits.

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About the Author

Tara Thomas is a Los Angeles-based writer and avid world traveler. Her articles appear in various online publications, including Sapling, PocketSense, Zacks, Livestrong, Modern Mom and SF Gate. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach and spent 10 years as a mortgage consultant.

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