From The Mailbag: VA Disability and Retirement

I regularly receiving letters from family members who are worried about their current or former servicemember.  The military is confusing enough if you are in it, and it is more confusing for people who don’t have experience.

Today’s letter is fairly typical:

Perhaps you can help me. My son spent 6 years in the military with 2 overseas missions. He is now retired and keeps telling me he hasn’t been paid. He has been back home now since Nov. 2012. Does it take THAT long to get paperwork collected and checks to be distributed for his pay? He is collecting unemployment but he tells me that when he speaks to anyone that they just say you need to write to your congress. What kind of answer is that? I can’t believe it and I’m wondering if the Military has his WRONG address. He was down in Ft. Campbell, KY and he moved up to Minnesota to live. Who can help him find some answers? The Vet’s Hospital in Mpls? I just don’t think he is seeking the right answers. Please help. R

Here’s my reply:

Dear R,

I am not an expert, but there are a lot of things that don’t seem quite right here.  First of all, was your son medically retired?  Six years service does not equal a regular military retirement.  If he was medically retired, he should have begun receiving his retired pay within a month or two of his retirement date.
If he was not medically retired, then you might be talking about VA disability benefits.  This would be a VA issue and yes, it can take months for a claim to be processed through the VA system.  If you do an internet search on “va backlog,” you will find tons of stories about delays in the VA claims process.
I would recommend you find a veterans service officer (VSO) to help your son navigate his benefits.  VSOs can be found through veterans groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion.  Some counties employee Veterans Service Officers as well.  The VA hospital may be able to point your son in the right direction.
Good luck to you,
While I didn’t answer her questions, I hope that I gave the reader enough information to move forward.  For civilians, the difference between military retirement and VA disability benefits can be quite confusing.  Heck, it can be confusing for the people who are receiving them!
I love being able to publish letters here so that others with the same question can find answers.  I don’t get to answer or publish every email I receive, but they help me immensely in learning about the issues that are most important to you.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Shannon
  • Fatty8

    How is he retired after just 6 years?? If he wasn’t medically than your son is blowing warm smoke up everyone’s butt..

    • Annoyed
  • Edward Yandall

    My debit card was compromised
    and was cancelled. Now that I have a new card, do I need to notify VA.

    • michael

      no cause the new card still uses the same account number

    • Kate

      Mr. Yandall, is this a debit card tied to your bank checking account? If so, and the bank account remained open, then you do not need to do anything, as the deposit is deposited based upon your bank account number. If you closed the account as a result of the debit card issue, then you need to notify the VA of your new bank account number.

      If the compromised debit card was one issued by the VA in lieu of depositing your payments into a bank account, then you should probably double check with the VA to ensure that they have the new information.