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Incarcerated? You Could Lose Military Benefits as a Result

Updated on April 13, 2017

Being accused and charged with a crime is stressful enough. However, when you add in the fact that you could lose potential military and veteran benefits, the issue becomes much worse.

If incarcerated, you may wonder what happens to certain military benefits. While most likely you would be discharged from the Armed Forces upon incarceration; therefore, you would lose active duty benefits, and you may also lose veteran benefits too.

Can a Veteran Receive Military Benefits During His or Her Imprisonment?

In most cases, you can. If you are convicted of a crime, your federal pension is not affected. However, it depends on the crime for which you are convicted and serving time. If you are serving time for treason, sabotage, or espionage, you may lose all veteran retirement benefits.

What About a Veteran’s Family?

Luckily, your family will not lose out on essential benefits, such as Tricare for Life, and they should remain eligible to use their Tricare coverage. However, they must maintain Medicare Parts A and B to do so, and they must pay the premiums for Medicare Part B to keep Tricare coverage.

Your Benefits While in Prison are Limited – Sometimes Non-Existent

While you serve your sentence, no matter how long that may be, certain retirement benefits will be unavailable to you. The VA will pay certain benefits to those incarcerated in local penal institutions, state prisons, and federal prisons. However, your amounts may be reduced or denied entirely depending on the reason for your incarceration.

How Each Benefit is Affected by Your Incarceration

1. VA Disability Compensation

If you received or were qualified to receive VA disability payments, your monthly payment is reduced starting on the 61st day of your incarceration for a felony offense.

If you were receiving a payment based on a 20 percent disability or higher before being incarcerated, the new payment is reduced to the 10 percent rating. When already receiving the 10 percent rating, it will be reduced to half upon incarceration.

You can mitigate these discounts by being released from prison or participating in a halfway house, parole, or work release program.

2. VA Disability Pension

After you are convicted and imprisoned in a federal, state or local institution, regardless of whether it’s for a felony or misdemeanor, you will have all disability pension payments discontinued on your 61st day of prison time.

3. Education Benefits

Even if you are incarcerated for a felony offense, you could receive full benefits for education. This also applies to felons serving at work-release programs or in a halfway house program. However, you are only paid for the costs of your education while incarcerated, and the VA will not pay if another program is already paying these costs in full.

4. Limited Medical Care

While you do not lose your VA coverage, if a state or local penitentiary imprisons you, you will not be able to receive VA care services until you have been unconditionally released.

The Best Option to Save Military Benefits: Avoid Conviction

Sometimes, mitigating circumstances apply to criminal acts while in the military. Therefore, it is in a military member’s best interest to speak with a military criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can see what mitigating circumstances apply, and hopefully, keep the individual from a dishonorable discharge. The attorney could also prevent the loss of much-needed military benefits for the member, as well as his or her family.

A conviction can negatively impact your life, but also your benefits. The nature of the crime you are convicted of could have a dramatic impact on what benefits you do not receive, as well as what benefits are withheld from family members. Certain felony convictions will also prevent you from apportioning benefits to loved ones during your incarceration, which means that they could be left without compensation and coverage.


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