When a service member is unable to continue serving in the military as a result of disabilities, they are either separated from service with a disability severance payment or medically retired. The difference between separation and retirement has life long consequences. If faced with the decision of whether to accept medical separation or fight for a medical retirement, it is imperative that you know what benefits you will receive or forfeit.
A service member will be medically separated when the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) finds the service member rated less than 30%. This type of separation begins the process of severing Department of Defense (DoD) benefits. A service member separating will receive involuntary separation pay. That is calculated based on the following formula: (years of service) x (base pay x 2). Example: service member served 10 years, with a monthly base pay of $4,000. His or her severance payment would be $80,000. That sounds like a lot of money, but it is important to note that disability severance is often only a “loan” because most service members will have to pay it back. Generally, unless the disability was incurred in a combat zone, during performance of duty in combat-related operations, or for disabilities not compensated for by the Veterans Administration (VA), that severance payment will be recouped via monthly VA compensation payments. Besides compensation, Tricare (healthcare) terminates six months after separating from the military. Note, there is also a minimal severance payment calculation when a service member has been on active duty for a short duration. Years of service will be calculated as three years at a minimum, or six years if the disability was incurred in a combat zone or during performance of duty in combat-related operations.
A service member will be medically retired when the PEB finds the service member rated 30% or higher. This type of retirement, known as a Chapter 61 retirement, entitles the service member and his or her family to all benefits of a traditional military retiree. Examples include Tricare (healthcare) for the entire family and future family members, monthly military pension, military base access and privileges, and many more.
How does a medical retirement pension and VA compensation interact?
This is a common question we receive. If medically retired with less than 20 years of service, or otherwise ineligible for another type of non-medical retirement, you receive the higher of your military pension or VA monthly compensation. Example 1: service member is eligible for a monthly military pension of $2,000, and also eligible for monthly VA compensation of $2,500. The retiree will receive $2,500/month from the VA, tax free, but receive $0 from the DoD. However, there is an exception called Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC). CRSC may restore part or all of the DoD pension, allowing receipt of both DoD and VA payments. I will not be addressing CRSC in this article. Many great articles exist to explain CRSC. Example 2: service member is eligible for a monthly military pension of $2,000, and also eligible for monthly VA compensation of $1,000. The retiree will receive $1,000/month tax free from the VA and $1000/month taxed from the DoD. Overall, the retiree receives compensation most advantageous to him or her. There are some narrow exceptions that modify these calculations, but the majority of medical retirees will not fall into those exceptions.
If my VA compensation will be higher than my DoD pension and I don’t need healthcare or base access, why shouldn’t I accept severance?
Personally, my answer to this is treat a DoD pension as a “back-up” or safety net. If your VA rating is ever reduced below your DoD pension amount, the DoD pension will “kick-in.” Further, if something extreme were to happen such as an overhaul of the VA’s compensation system, your DoD pension is a back-up for life should it ever be needed.
The military’s Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a long and painful process. I know first hand because, like you, I was processed through it a few years ago. After fighting for so long you want to give up and make the pain end. That severance check becomes all the more appealing the longer the process drags on. But, if you can hold strong and ride the process out, a medical retirement is well worth the short-lived pain. There are many considerations that go into electing severance or continuing to fight for a medical retirement, which should always be addressed with competent representation. There is no one correct solution for all.
Do this apply for members in the National Guard and or Reserves? If so how can you get your statues changed from medically separated to medically retired without serving 20 years. All injuries occurred during overseas combat operations.
Good Afternoon Wing,
Yes, both the National Guard and Reserves are to comply with the Disability Evaluation System. Without going into to much detail, as these cases turn on each individuals facts, a member of the active military, reserves, or guard may be retired after separation by petitioning for a retroactive medical retirement. The applicable Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs), Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR), and Court of Federal Claims are the usual avenues for redress once separated.
How does medical retirement work for Reservist with more than 20 years and 100% VA service connection? Can you collect both medical retirement and VA disability under CRDP?
I have been serving for 19years 17in the marine corps both active and reserve and now I’m in the Air National Guard the past three years. I was diagnosed this past year with a connective tissue disease. I am Security Forces. there a disqualifying Disease it falls under for eligibility to join but is it also for detainment? If so what is my next step.?
I was chartered with 10% from US. Army after nearly 15 years and was not offered a medical retirement after neck fusion of vertebrae. Can I apply for a medical retirement?
Good Afternoon Roger,
If you can prove a 30% or higher rating was warrented for “unfitting” conditions at the time of separation, then yes, you may have a viable case for a retroactive medical retirement.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but the military gave me an Honorable Discharge Under Medical Conditions (4yrs before my enlistment was up). But they didn’t send me to a medical board before seperation & I had served 5yrs already. This was May 2007, I’m currently at 70% & I wanted to know what my options are &/or suggestions or recommendations.
Good Afternoon Jeffrey,
If you can prove a 30% or higher rating was warranted for “unfitting” conditions at the time of separation, then yes, you may have a viable case for a retroactive medical retirement. The applicable Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs), Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR), and Court of Federal Claims are the usual avenues for redress once separated. Given your brief comment, you would likely need to petition the BCNR/BCMR or PDBR (if applicable).
Hey Luke so I had a MEB in the start process but decided not to push it so I was given an opportunity of a medical reclass. Now a couple months later almost a year and my physical problems are worsening, I talked to a physician at my duty station I was told I cant do MEB anymore because I got a medical reclass, so my only option is now a medical chapter. My question to you is this physician telling me the right information? What does a medical chapter entail? Please and Thankyou
Thank you for the question. While you were reclassed or cross-trained, that doesn’t preclude “triggering” the MEB again. An MEB convenes when a service member’s medical conditions require one. One of the criteria for disability evaluation is when a service member has “one or more medical conditions that may, individually or collectively, prevent the Service member from reasonably performing the duties of their office, grade, rank, or rating including those duties remaining on a Reserve obligation for more than 1 year after diagnosis.” MOS may be relevant to the inquiry, but is not the only consideration, and denial of an MEB simply because someone reclassed should not occur.
Thankyou so much Luke.
I am in a situation where I am facing either a medical separation or retirement. I have 14yrs of active service and had been in the reserves for 3+ years prior to returning to active duty. If I am medically retired, is there still some lump-sum payment for being involuntarily retired? If so, how does that interact with the VA?
If medically retired, you do not receive severance. You would not have a severance payment to be recouped.
I got a medical out with 20% for a back condition. As-soon-as I got out the VA found that I had a right leg issue (foot-drop & nerve pain), which was present during my service. Also caused by my back problem. The active duty doctors did not put that on my medical out condition therefore I was short changed by only getting a 20% rating. Since this time I have been bumped up for other medical issues that I had during service but were not rated.
My question is the following. This was 20 years ago and i’m just finding out that I could have gotten a medical out vs. a medical discharge. I think by linking the timeline of my leg and back issue I can prove that it was overlooked. Do you think I have a chance? I think there is a 6 year grace period, but man I had no clue until I read this article.
Retroactive medical retirements do occur. The Veteran must prove the severity of the “unfitting” conditions warranted a 30% or higher rating at that time (generally, time of seperation or shortly after).
I took a Medical Separation with a severance. Can I apply to have the condition reevaluated for a Medical Retirement?
Short answer, yes. The merits of your case would need to be analyzed to determine likely outcome.
Thank you for your article. Is there a way to ensure 30% DoD or higher ? I’ve been able to find VA rating charts but the DoD side is different. Is that the “fight” you speak of during the MEB/PEB process. Thanks again !
Generally, DoD is required to use the VASRD (VA Schedule of Ratings) like the VA.
Question I was medically discharged not retired with my disability’s being combat related. Can I apply for CRSC?
I believe I am in the same situation as Jeffrey. I got out in 2004 and had no team to help me through the process, no clue what I was doing. They have a whole team and lawyer for people now. I do believe I should have gotten Medical retirement and not medical separation, I was hurt in a hazardous duty zone, all tax free when I got severance pay, and I was found unfit for duty and I was at least 50% counting 1 injury when separated. I’m at 90% now. How do I go about filing a claim with the Boards for a correction of Military Records (BCMRs) the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) and Court of Federal Claim? Is there someone that can help me like the DAV or some organization so I don’t have to go it alone, again? It would be great to have someone on my side that knows what they are doing. Thanks for all your info and help.
Sir, I was in the AL ARNG from 2005-2015 and was injured while deployed to Iraq in ’07-’08. I requested to be sent to MEB to be medically retired. Long story short I was eventually given an Honorable Discharge even though I had requested medical retirement, and I was never sent to the MEB. Is there a way to be re-instated and go through the process to be medically retired? It has been almost 4 years since I was discharged.I have a total of 18 years time in service.
I’m Active Duty Navy and I’ve only been serving for just over 2 years.
A few months ago I was involved in a 4 car collision on the interstate while on duty. I was in uniform, in a government vehicle, at no fault, and was returning to base from a duty related task (Dropping off an officer at the airport).
I’m currently being treated for intense back and neck pain with signs of nerve damage, my condition is not improving. I’ve been light duty for a couple months and I’m terrified I could be medically separated if this continues.
What is the likelihood I could be awarded a Medical Retirement rather than separation IF I did get separated?
Thanks in advance.
Hi Luke…just came across your article researching my issue. I was medically separated (10% DOD/70%VA) for my knee. They did not consider my PTSD or other injuries as unfitting, even though my PTSD doctor said that I should not continue further military service. I fought it all the way to DC. In the final report they told me that my PTSD us not unfitting because I got a high GPA in grad school and that in one of my records I stated “I was feeling better”…which was totally taken out of context. My PTSD rating at time of discharge was 50% and now is 70%. I am also now rated at 100% P&T. This has always bugged me. Other injuries that I had was a broken shoulder with surgeries and stomach issues..stating they were not unfitting, even though I was not able to complete a PFT due to knees and shoulder. Any thoughts on where to turn or what to do? I was in the USMC from 1995-2012. Any direction would be greatly appreciated!
I was medically separated for an injury in 1999 and my first va rating was 30% do I qualify to upgrade?
In the article it says that if you are medically retired with less than 20 years of service, you do not get both VA and DOD pay. Is that 20 years of service, or 20 years of “active” service? For example a soldier that started in the National Guard, becomes active, has 25 years of total service but only 16 active years. Would that soldier receive both or still the higher of the 2?
I am looking at becoming Medically retired. Will I receive both my DOD retirement pay based on my career points and VA compensation pay at age 60? Or is the over 6300 points I have accrued mean nothing.
Hey sir, so I’m getting medboarded with 30% and recieving around $600 monthly as far as to my knowledge are you saying there’s more than just this that I can receive for medboarding
Thank you for the initial portion of this article. Unique situation, I have 28 years as a reservist and the SG has issued a letter with “determined that he is medically disqualified for continued military duty.” There is no specific rating established. What be the best option? Medical Retirement, Regular Reserve retirement? I still have 10 years left in order to draw payment and benefits under a reserve retirement. Looking for some advise and direction
For purposes of getting my wife TRICARE I am trying to determine if my medical separation was just that, or a medical retirement. My separation authority was AR 635-40 Para 4-24B (3), code JFL, Honorable, reason for separation (box 28 of my DD-214) states “disability/severance pay”. My VA rating is 40%. Does this qualify me as medically retired?
I’m currently in navy reserves and have been since 2010 with 1 deployment where I sustained injuries that are rated at 30% through VA (might get increased). I have a LOD started and in beginning phase. I’m not sure I want to stay in till 20 years and have end date in Sep 2021.
What is my best option financially and for future health coverage?
Dear Mr. Miller,
I am currently on active duty with an indefinite service obligation (an officer in the U.S. Navy). I am one year from completing my 3rd tour of duty. Although I did deploy during OEF in recent years, all my assignments have been non-combat related. My Psychologist has recommended a “med board” for my mental health diagnosis and another physical diagnosis. Considering this possibility is very new to me and feels very overwhelming. I have been serving 8 years, and it is difficult to envision continuing my career for 12 more years. My greatest concern is to have healthcare coverage for my family (wife and 4 children) and myself. Clearly, a medical retirement pension would be nice; however, I don’t want to receive a handout. But my diagnoses are related to my career and I don’t believe I can continue serving in good faith… My heart isn’t in it anymore and my symptoms are worsening. I would very much appreciate your general advice.
I’m currently going through the MEB process with a 90% VA rating with at least 15 years as a Reservist. Will I likely be medically separated or retired & what benefits can I expect for my dependents & I?
So what if you have 31 yrs in and due to retire in18 months but are now facing a med board. Already have a rating of 75% (estimated) Will they medically retire or medically separate ? After serving AD this long i would they would medically retire…..
How do i find the status of my medical separation? I’ve have a med board and accepted, my admin is telling me I have to wait for pers. Its been almost 6 weeks and I still haven’t heard anything.
I was forced out of military and awarded 40% 14 years ago and have been receiving monthly benefits from VA. It was recently dropped to 30% enen thoufh service connected issues are continuing to get worse. My questions are about my separations status being Honorable but as the years go by I realised i should have been medically discharged. What are my option into changing discharge status on DD14 and would it be wise? They gave me the option because ro choose either but i thought i would get better and rejoin. This didn’t happen, my health continues to worsen.
I was honorably forced out of military and awarded 40% 14 years ago and have been receiving monthly benefits from VA. My rating was recently dropped to 30% even thoough my service connected issues are continuing to get worse. My questions are about my separation status being Honorable but as the years go by I realised i should have been medically discharged. What are my option into changing discharge status on my DD14, and would it be wise? They gave me the option to choose either medical or honerable but i thought i would get better and rejoin. This didn’t happen, my health continues to worsen.
Hello i recently got diagnosed with coronary heart disease and now have two stents in place. Im currently on a 90 day trial and my doctor did briefly talk to me about a MEB. I also have obstructive sleep apnea and have had a couple surgeries to fix Achilles. Im active duty 13 years SFC. I have been wondering whats going to happen. My question, is general speaking would i be a candidate for a med retirement?
I have 21 years in FL National Guard and I’m a combat service connected veteran. My unit is processing a medical unfit for duty discharge stating that my injury in not in the line of duty and I currently received VA benefit for that injury being service connected. How does medical retirement work and can my unit prevent this by filing a wrongful medical unfit discharge stating not in the line of duty without my permission.
Is it in my best interest to fight for my medical retirement and what’s the process
What would you do if you were discharge honorable 20+ years ago and you were actually being discharged for medical reasons. Are you able to fight for you discharge to be medical? If so, how would you start the process?
I am needing to get my percentage changed from 20% to at least a 30% rating. I have had multiple Drs. Tell me they misdiagnosed me. When I was separated I received a $68,000 severance. If I am able to get this overturned do I have to pay back that $68,000? I need to weigh my options if it would be beneficial or not. Please help
I went into military through National Guard, end of Vietnam War, then I decided to go active duty. I got injured on Active Duty. I then ended up being shipped back and forth from ND to Fitzsimmons every three months and then was also followed by request of Fitzsimmons to Fargo Clinic in between times. This went on for two years. Women were not allowed at VA at that time. Then one day, the Army walks in my door and forces me to resign. They asked me if I wanted a honorable discharge of medical discharge. I was young, I had no resources to make a proper decision. I asked the officer, what was the difference and he said none, but suggested , with pen in hand, that I take the honorable discharge. I had like 5 seconds to decide, so I took the honorable.
By doing so, I had to fight for years and years to get disability. Then in 2002 after requesting all records, to include records from Fargo clinic, a diagnoses that was made during the time I was going between Fitzsimmons and Fargo Clinic , a doctor made a serious diagnoses, that answered all the problems I have had since the original injury. So now I’m rated 100%. But because my discharge papers say honorable instead of medical, I cannot get a COE.
I had one issued many years ago, but never used it. Now would be a critical help for me… They say it had to be updated, and I don’t have enough points and because of honorable instead of medical discharge, I no longer qualify. Said it was changed by the Federal Government.
Do I have any options?
Hi,Luke ,thanks for the post. I was 3.5 years active army and 7 years national guard. I receive 60% for anxiety. I just got P3 profile from doctor for my left knee problem and she already started meb process for me. I applied for disability on my left knee But got denied and was told unless I can get statement from doctor says my left knee is service related. My question is can I get medical retirement because of my 60% anxiety or I must get 30% and above for my left knee? Another question is what is the whole process look like? The doctor told me that about one week my unit commander will receive the notification, that’s the only step she knows.
Am 68 I went in the army in February 1969 I received a medical retirement for the loss of one eye at 40% I was very unhappy with only 40 percent I complained to no avail I receive 100 percent now for my pi polor PTSD etc. Can I request retroactive pay from DoD for the difference. My sight in my remaining eye has gotten worse and they finally gave me 60 percent then for my other conditions I was gave 100 percent service coenicted that’s 160 percent awarded I am paid at 100 percent now it only took 48 years.
I have 40% Army and 80% VA. With an SEJ code on my DD214. I am trying to see if I am getting VA percentage and army retirement check?
If I understand your question, you want to know if you’re being paid the correct amount. Unless you are eligible for CRDP or CRSC, you should only receive your DoD pension or VA payment amount, but not both. Note, the monthly amount is the same (higher of the two), but could be paid in full via VA compensation (untaxed), or in part via VA compensation (untaxed) and DoD pension (taxed). DoD “kicks in” when DoD pension is higher than VA compensation. So, veteran receives full VA payment with overage amount from DoD.
Hi Luke your support here is great. MUCH needed, and extremely appreciated! First and foremost thank you. I hit 19 yr in the AF in June 2021 and recently was put up for review for MEB for migraines, depression, and insomnia. I currently have a 10% rating for my back from my 9ish yrs on Active duty. I have read many different things you had mentioned to other veterans on here and thanks very helpful. Are all the branches and military medical boards operate the same? I am curious of worst case scenario at this point. I didn’t plan to go past 20. I have heard these cases can take a long time. Am I able to retire during the process? As m 422 abilities are limiting. Thank you.
Thank you for the post. Generally, the boards operate the same. Some different policies, but the actual process in controlled by DoDI and therefore to be applied the same to all branches. At 19 years the most important part is hitting 20, so don’t be in a rush. They’re can allow retirement during the process, but generally only if retirement papers previously filed before MEB. The process can drag on, but typically 6 to 12 months.