Military Retirement Benefits

Military retirement marks a point in transitioning that requires a bit more planning and preparation than other milestones. Luckily, the military is on your side and does its best to prepare military and families for

Military Retirement benefits
Photo by 2nd Class Benjamin Wooddy

that ultimate transition to civilian life: military retirement. After all, it has likely been at least 20 years since families of a career-driven service member lived in one location for more than three years.

While a few VA retirement benefits will overlap with common veteran’s benefits, retirees receive a few extra benefits that only 20 years time in service can grant.

First things first: don’t forget to apply for a veterans retirement ID card. Unlike veterans serving less than 20 years, who have limited options in obtaining a veterans ID card, retired military veterans can be eligible to receive a DD Form 2 ID card, which is blue in color. See the Military and Veteran ID cards page for more information.

Next are military retirement benefits. Detailed information about these VA benefits can be found at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Anything that requires a form for enrollment, such as VA Health Care and the GI Bill, can be found at eBenefits.

Retirement Pay – Military retirement pay is dependent on the number of years served and when the service member enlisted. A breakdown of how military retirement pay is calculated can be found at “Understanding Military Retirement Pay.” This also includes a breakdown of retirement COLA and CBS/Redux. Military retirement pay can be managed on the DFAS website.

Disability – All disability is calculated on a per case basis. Disability claims must be submitted to the VA and processed; one claim per separate injury.

Veterans Group Life Insurance – The VGLI is just one type of life insurance available to retired veterans. The VA also offers Service-Disabled Veteran Insurance, or S-DVI, as well as Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance, which aids in the settling of a mortgage in the event of death. There is also Financial Aid Counseling for beneficiaries as well as assistance in online will preparation.

VA Home Loan The VA Home Loan is not only available to veterans, but to their surviving spouses as well. Active duty service members may also be eligible for this loan, which may be something to consider when approaching retirement.

VA Health Care – Enrollment can be done online or in person at a local VA Medical Center, at which time eligibility is determined. This health care is only coverage for the veteran. Additional health insurance would be necessary for dependents.

VA Dental Care – Although dental care through the VA is limited, it is available to veterans with a service-connected dental disability. A single visit is also available through for veterans within 180 days of discharge if a full dental examination was not conducted prior to discharge.

GI Bill – Education benefits are available for eligible veterans, or for their family members should they choose to transfer benefits. More information on the GI Bill can be found on our Veterans Education Page. Most likely, if you are a retired military veteran, you will receive 100% of your GI Bill benefits. This can be an opening step to your civilian career post military.

Veterans Discounts – Many businesses offer discounts that favor retirees. We’ve compiled lists of the most popular military and veterans discounts, which vary based on the business and the location.

For more information on veterans benefits available to you, visit the websites of the city, county, and state you reside in. These should have information on state and local benefits offered to veterans and retirees who live in those areas.

About The AuthorNatalie Zummo is a US Army veteran and wife of a Marine Corps veteran. She is currently living with her husband and son in New Hampshire, writing and studying in her free hours. Natalie holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and is underway to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on Military Counseling.


Military Transition to Civilian Life

Transitioning military can find general information and advice about transitioning from military life back to life among civilians. When transitioning, there are a number of things to prepare for, places veterans can look to for support, and even help finding jobs. The information below is meant to inform transitioning military and spouses about the most important steps to take and resources available when preparing for life as a civilian.

Photo by Sgt. Memory Strickland

Ok, returning to the civilian world is a little scarier than it sounds. But don’t worry! The best thing you can do for you and your family is to gather as much information as possible prior to actually transitioning out of the military. The “transition” period is usually during terminal leave, however, the actual transition can take a little longer than the short length of terminal leave. Here are some ways to get organized and to ensure the smoothest transition possible. The most important thing is simple: stay positive.

First, face the change.

You are here: You receive any combination of the following: base pay, BAH, BAS, COLA, FLPP, and maybe another specialized pay or two. You receive an annual uniform allowance. You have a stable job. You have health insurance. You have dental insurance. Plus a few more perks.

When transitioning: You will be in a little place called limbo: Mostly, you will be confronted with question, after question. Where will I live? What will I do? Should I go back to school? What about my family? And the list goes on…but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time.

Make a Plan: This is a given and you’ve probably heard it more than once. Try to start planning about a year out from your known end of service date, and be sure to incorporate terminal leave if that is the route you choose. If you know you want to go back to school, try to apply a year early so that you can start almost as soon as you’re out. Don’t be afraid to start applying to jobs – but before you do that, spend time on your resume and learn how to write a proper cover letter because these are the contemporary forms of “first impressions.”

Save: If you haven’t been saving for your transition out of the military, start now, and here’s how. Although the military pays for your move, the costs are only covered for travel to your home of record and anything further will be out-of-pocket. Don’t let this discourage you from choosing a different state – you can plan for this. Also, the military will only pay for one car to be shipped (if need be). Keep this potential financial strain in mind as you may want to sell any additional vehicles or find an alternative way of shipping. The car will go to the port closest to your home of record and will need to retrieved from there. If you plan to send someone other than yourself to retrieve the POV (privately owned vehicle) then be sure to specify this person when you drop off the car for shipment. Also, the military will not pay to ship your pets.

There will be unexpected expenses: You will have to wait for your home goods. If you are shipping from overseas, you will have to wait longer. Try to pack things that you will need while waiting for your home goods to arrive. Certainly, you can’t just fold up your mattress into a suitcase, but consider stuffing a duffle with some pillows and blankets. Kitchen items will be packed away too, so you may have to buy a pan or two to make do until your items arrive, and it’s a good idea to keep important documents with you in case of emergencies.

When the movers come to pack your home goods: Be there, and pay attention. If you’ve already moved a few times, then you know this. If not, review these tips. These movers go fast so sometimes they miss an item or two in a bathroom cabinet, but sometimes they miss entire kitchen cabinets. It would be better to have an extra set of eyes or two to ensure that everything is getting packed.

Next: stay positive. Do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow colleagues who are also transitioning, or have already done so. Take the transitioning process one day at a time and stay active in whatever you have chosen to pursue. Try to keep your same workout routine if you can. Wake up in the morning, have your coffee, and get busy.

When job searching, set goals: Today, I will apply to 3 jobs. There are great resources to help find jobs for transitioning military, including Veteran-specific Re-Employment Resources,  transitioning job assistance programs offered by the military, and military friendly employers who want to help.

If you are applying to schools, set goals: This week I will research 3 schools. Look at the programs they offer, do any of them interest you? Look at their credibility and be sure they are regionally accredited.

If you are looking for homes, take it slow: Be sure you have researched the area, visited the area, and maybe even spoken with a few locals in passing. And definitely find out if you are eligible for a VA Home Loan if you are looking to buy.

If you are starting a business, be a go-getter.

Resources During Transition

Utilize the resources offered to you during transition. Each branch of service, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, offers a variety of seminars and materials, some of which are mandatory and some that are not, to aid you in your transition. They offer resume and cover letter writing classes, interview preparations, career counseling, educational counseling, job search, etc. Take advantage of the resume and cover letter writing classes because civilians will not know what you mean when you say ETS, PCS, or any other military acronym.

Benefits of Being a Veteran

Being a veteran offers a lot more than you might think (just be sure you move to a military friendly state). The very day after your terminal leave ends, you are no longer a service member, but a veteran. Welcome, and thank you for your service. Although most military contracts, with a few exceptions, include the remaining 2-4 years of IRR (Individual Ready Reserve), all of your regular active service benefits end, and your veterans benefits begin. The IRR will require you to keep your information updated, such as address and phone number just in case the need arises to recall all troops back to service, but otherwise it does not pose too many obligations.

Here are some things to look forward to:

Post 9/11 GI Bill: Depending on the percentage of benefits you are eligible to receive, based on your years of service, you can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, which not only covers school tuition, fees, and books, but it also provides Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) based on the school’s zip code. Veterans can even receive MHA when enrolled full time for an online degree.

VA Health Care: Enroll in your free health care. You can do this in person at your local VA Medical Center, or online at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Thanks to the recent Affordable Care Act, there is no need to enroll in additional health care coverage to meet the nation’s standards, and to declare health coverage when filing your taxes. Unfortunately, VA Health Care does not extend to dependents and is only valid for the veteran. If you do have dependents, look into your state’s health care as you are most likely eligible for medicaid due to your recent status of unemployment.

Disability: File claims for injuries received during your time in service, physical or psychological. These claims are assessed after a few visits to the doctor, and you are then notified of your eligibility.

Life Insurance: Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is available to continue for most veterans and is much less expensive than other civilian options for Life Insurance. Many will receive information in the mail, or you can enroll online. Apply before during the first 120 days after your departure date to avoid extra unnecessary health questions. The process is similar to that of the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI).

Home Loan: This is a great benefit to have in your back pocket when you find yourself a civilian looking for a place to live. Before applying, be sure you are ready to be a homeowner. Research for schools in the area, job opportunities, accessibility, and even the weather. It’s easy to buy a home, but it’s not nearly as easy to sell one.

The VA does not offer small business loans, but it does recommend going through the Small Business Administration (SBA) if you are starting a business. Don’t forget you can also look to your military friendly banks for this kind of support, such as USAA and Navy Federal.

Veterans License Plates: Now this does not come with any special privileges per se, aside from the occasional parking spot dedicated to veterans in mall parking lots, but it may make you feel connected to your brothers and sisters in arms. You can also have a veterans indicator placed on your driver’s license.

Store discounts: Always ask if a store has a military discount, many businesses extend their discounts to veterans. Although the discount is not usually not more than 10%, it can still take a bit off the bill.

About The AuthorNatalie Zummo is a US Army veteran and wife of a Marine Corps veteran. She is currently living with her husband and son in New Hampshire, writing and studying in her free hours. Natalie holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and is underway to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on Military Counseling.


How to apply for VA Disability Pay

VA disability claims are an important benefit for Veterans because they have done some of the most important work in the world, not only without complaint, but with discipline and honor. However, there is a backlog in unprocessed claims for Veterans disability pay because the Veterans Affairs system is backlogged. The VA is in the process of reforming their systems to reduce the wait, but with the right preparation you can prevent your claim from being lost in the mix.

45% of America’s 1.6 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are actively seeking service-related

By Lance Cpl. Courtney White
Photo by Lance Cpl. Courtney White

disability claims. In 2013, this high demand resulted in a VA backlog of around 608,000 cases. The average wait time peaked at 282 days, causing returning soldiers to live with physical and psychological impairments for months at a time before receiving compensation.

The process is getting smoother, but the system is still making improvements. Returning veterans can expect to wait for up to six months just for a primary care visit. And those waiting to receive a disability rating could be left in the lurch for as long as two years.

Despite the VA backlog, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances at having your application processed in a timely fashion. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Prepare a Veterans Claim

  1. The key to getting a Veterans disability claim processed in a timely fashion is preparation. Take the time to gather together all medical evidence at your disposal, including any records from your visits to physicians’ offices and any records from hospital stays. If you think it might be important, it probably will be. Get organized early, and then stay that way.
  1. Make sure to assemble any documents related to dependents, since the benefits sought will apply to their needs as well. These documents might include birth certificates for children or marriage certificates if you have a spouse.
  1. The third step in preparing a veteran disability case is perhaps the most important. Veterans need a physician’s report to help establish the fact that the health condition developed while they were in the military, and that it was related to military service. This will help the VA to establish the type and severity of the veteran’s disability, and will assist them in applying the VA rating criteria to your particular case.

Hopefully the next step will be to receive VA compensation and view the VA Disability Benefits Rates. However, even with thoughtful preparation, some people fall through the cracks or have their application for benefits denied. If this happens to you, your next step is to contact a lawyer. Disability lawyers are familiar with the VA system and can be an important ally as you navigate the process.

Don’t Despair

Most importantly, if you find yourself in the VA’s backlog or if your application gets denied, know that you’re not alone. What was once swept under the rug is becoming a consequential campaign issue, with relief not far off. As of September 2015, the VA backlog had shrunk from 608,000 to around 82,000 — a turnaround that has almost certainly resulted from additional public attention being paid to this issue.

Adrienne Erin is a writer who has spent the last 3 years covering health and the healthcare industry. Her interest in the veteran disability system grew when her brother-in-law began pursuing his disability rating and hitting hurdles along the way. You can read more of her work on her blog, Miss Rx.

2017 Military Pay

The 2017 military pay increase has been signed into law at 2.1% keeping with private sector wage growth. This increase is .8% higher than the 1.3% increase in 2016. The pay increase will mean about $550 more a year for most junior enlisted troops and about $1,800 for officers.

The 2.1% increase went into effect on January 1, 2017, as approved by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Typically Congress and the President agree on a final version and sign into law in December.

See the 2017 proposed military pay chartsMilitary money

The annual pay increase for service members is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Cost Index and growth in private-sector wages. However, by law, Title 37, Chapter 19, Section 1009, the President can set an alternate pay raise which is being proposed in the 2017 Defense Budget, and was also proposed and implemented for 2016.

Historical Military Pay Raises by Year

YearMilitary Pay Raise %YearMilitary Pay Raise %
2007 *2.70%19787.10%
2004 *4.20%19755.52%
2003 *4.70%19746.20%
2002 *6.90%19736.70%
19942.20%1965E: 11% O:6%
19933.70%19642.5% - 8.5%

* 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007 are the average percentage raise as military pay raises differed for various military pay grades.

2017 military pay increases are for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, and Reserve forces where applicable.

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2017 Defense Budget

The 2017 defense bill has been signed into law by President Obama and includes a 2.1% military pay increase.

Highlights of the 2017 Defense Budget:

  • A 2.1% military pay increase effective January 1st, 2017.
    • The pay increase will mean about $550 more a year for most junior enlisted troops and about $1,800 for officers.
  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) was increased on average by 2.4%.
    • Congress removed a proposal to award BAH only for actual expenses where proof of rent and utility costs would have be provided.
  • Basic Allowance for Sustenance (BAS) was not increased.
  • The bill includes plans to significantly increase the number of service members. Plans are:
    • Army 476,000 to 492,000
    • Marine Corps 182,000 to 185,000
    • Air Force 317,000 to 321,000
    • Navy would remain unchanged at 324,000
  • The 619 billion bill is about $3.2 billion more than Obama’s request.
  • Both houses passed the bill with veto-proof margins with significant Democratic support.
  • President Obama’s statement read “”Congress again failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead, and modernize military healthcare.”
  • The NDAA includes language prohibiting base closings.
  • Congress further added language restricting the closing of detention facilities at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
  • Language was added to fix the The National Guard bonus clawback.
  • Expanded telehealth access for active duty military personnel and veterans
  • Tricare will be restructured where new service members entering in 2018 and beyond will incur additional fees and costs.


March, 2016– Congressional committees submitted “views and estimates” of spending and revenues.

April –  June, 2016 – House & Senate Armed Appropriations Committees worked on the FY2016 defense bill.

July – October, 2016 – House of Representatives and Senate passed their versions of the defense bill and negotiated differences.

September 30, 2016 – President Obama signed a continuing resolution (CR). The CR maintains department and agency funding as is through December 9, 2016, but it does not answer the question of what comes after that date. This is avoided a government shutdown.

November 14, 2016– Congress returned post elections. The lame duck period until the new Congress is sworn in on January 3, 2017.

December 2, 2016 – The House of Representatives passed their final version of the defense bill.

December 6, 2016 – The Senate passed their final version of the defense bill.

December 23, 2016 – President Obama signed the defense bill into law.

Compare to the 2016 Defense Budget that went into effect on January 1, 2016, or for more detailed information read about 2017 Military Pay, 2017 BAH, and 2017 BAS. For more detailed information on the 2017 Defense Budget proposal, visit the Defense Budget Overview document starting on page 57.

Related Articles
2017 Military Pay Raise 2017 BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) Rates
2017 BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) Rates Armed Forces Comparative Pay Grades and Ranks
2017 Military Pay Charts Military Allowance, Incentive, Bonus & Special Pay
Military Pay Dates Military Reserve Pay Dates
Military Pay Allowances List Military Clothing (Uniform) Allowance Rates