From The Mailbag: Retiree Pay Issues

As I’ve mentioned before, there are some topics that I feel like I talk about over and over and over.  And I worry that this is boring to you.  And then, I get another batch of email asking the same questions, so I’m obviously not talking about these issues enough.  What to do?

Here are a variety of questions that I have recently received that all ask about issues dealing with retirement pay:


My Dad receives military retirement benefits, and we need to change the direct deposit of where the monies are getting deposited. I can’t seem to find the correct form to use. Please help me either find me the correct form to fill out and mail in or other info.


You can change the address through his online myPay account, FastForms, or via the mail.  Complete directions are available in Retired Military Change of Address.


What is the monthly retirement pay supposed to be for an 0-5 who retired in 1991 after 27 years of service?


There is no single amount, but rather a calculation that includes retirement plan, date of retirement, rank at retirement, years and months of service.
In your example, the officer was probably under the final pay retirement plan.  By looking at the 1991 military pay charts, you can see that an 0-5 with 27 years of service appears to have a base pay of $5259.90 per month.  Exactly 27 years of service (with no additional days) would result in a payment of 67.5% of base pay.  In theory, retirement pay would have started at about $3550 per month.  However, that exact figure would depend on the additional months of service.Then, you have to apply the cost of living allowance (COLA) adjustment each year.  The first year may not be straightforward.  Currently, retirees who retire later than the first quarter of the year receive a reduced COLA the first year post-retirement.  I do not know if that was true in 1991, and that would require research.  COLA would have to be applied, cumulatively, to discover the payment for this year.

 Of course, military retirement pay is subject to the same withholding and taxes as regular pay, so you would need significantly more information if you are trying to determine take-home (net) pay vs. gross pay.
I know that does not answer your question, but I hope it helps you understand how to determine the answer yourself.


Hello, Kate.  My name is C.  I am retired and am on 100% disability.  Could you please tell me why I am paying $48.93 per month to DFAS?


Dear C.  Without seeing your retiree pay statement and your statement from the VA, I can not even begin to guess what that amount may be.  You need to contact that managing agency for the payment from which this amount is being deducted to determine what it represents.  Sometimes things can get coded oddly.  Good luck!

Keep those questions coming, and I will keep working on answer.

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.
  • Jack

    Hello. I’m a retired vet after 28 years service drawing my partial retirement pay since I’m also 40% service connected disabled. I have yet to see where our government is seriously taking this policy of taking our hard-earned retirement pay away from us by substituting a disability payment when the two have nothing to do with each other! What if anything are you hearing about removing the unjustified concurrent pay off-set from our retirements? I suspect if the uneducated American public would hear of this, they’d be outraged at how disabled vets of retirement age have been treated? Thank you.

    • Redleg37

      Some Retirees are eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) This must be applied for as it is not awarded automatically. The application goes to the appropriate Defense Retired Pay Agency and not the VA. The form used is DD Form 2850. I forget where I found it but it was on a website and can be down loaded and filled out . It has instructions on it. Also see The booklet Federal Benefits For Veterans Dependents and Survivors from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It has some information in it.

  • ken

    I deal with DFAS, VA, and SS and I am just confused.

  • Kate

    Ken, what are you confused about? We’d love to help.

  • Lars

    When will the Former Spouse Protection Act be amended to protect military retirees from paying exhoribant amounts of their military pay to ex-spouses for the rest of their lives? Civilians pay alimony but that is Not for the rest of their lives. Examples is when an ex-spouse gets remarried the alimony stops, etc.
    Why are retired military being treated so unfairly in this FSPA act ruling?
    My wife was seeing another man (my children have told me) when I was in the Persian Gulf and she then filed for divorce and go remarried within a month after the divorce. I am being forced to pay a huge amount of my retired pay to her and her husband does not work so I am paying for him in actual fact too!!
    I have written to numerous senators but no one seems to care about amending the FSPA act!!!!! Yes I could have left the military after 18 years of service when the divorce happened but then I would have given up all benefits I worked so hard for. So I have to die to have this FSPA payment to a women I have not seen in over 30 years and who has been remarried for all that time too. If I had to do it all over again I would have left the Military after 4 years but when I entered the military this FSPA act did not exist and when it became law no one told me about it and I never received any information about it when I was on active duty. This is the most unfair and unjust law ever created by this government and no one wants to talk about it!!

    • Kate

      Lars, the FSPA does not set out the division of retirement pay between former spouses. It only allows for that pay to be divided. The actual division of pay was determined in your support agreement or divorce decree. The military has nothing to do with that. I am sorry that you are unhappy with the terms of your divorce settlement, but it wasn’t decided by the law.

      In theory, divorce settlements are supposed to be permanent decisions, but I have heard of cases where settlements have been changed, even years after the fact. If you feel that your settlement is unfair, you might possibly be able to have the case reopened. You would need extremely knowledgeable legal representation to be successful.

      • Steve

        I have sween these things go well, for thre retired military member. This person needs to get a lawyer, familiar with military retirement laws and fight it. If his ex wide is remarried, i think the has a great case to fight, win and matbe even get some reimbursement. Thanx Steve L

    • Jay

      Hey man you really need to read this link:

      if you are paying for her after she has remarried you either got the worst divorce lawyer in history or she got the best. Also it might be time to revist the VA….

  • ken

    It’s my friend Kate :)

    Is my army disability retirement pay and social security disability taxable and what kind of paperwork do I need to procure from the two organizations.

    • Kate

      Ken, your Army retirement pay is taxable, and you should get a 1099R from the Army. Your VA disability pay is not taxable. (There is a small loophole in this law, and it pays to understand it even though it applies to very few people:… Social security payments are taxable in most situations, and you should receive a form SSA-1099 for those benefits.

      If you have not receive your 1099R from the Army, and your SSA-1099 from the Social Security Administration, a quick internet search should provide directions for how to get copies of these documents.

      If you need help, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is great for most people. Google “VITA locations” to find a place near you.

      I hope that helps!

  • ken

    What if my ex who gained my retired military life insurance has not paid in 2 years? Any advice Kate?

    • Kate

      Ken, I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Can you clarify?

  • Marty Kloster

    Do you have an easy to understand, simple, complete checklist on how to start the SBP when a military member passes away? I have seen attempts to provide such information, but it quickly becomes muddled in the new terms and techniques of the government, and as I become more distant from dealing with the government, I need something that my spouse can use when the time comes.

    • Kate

      Marty, that’s a great idea. I will work on it!

      • Marty

        Thank you very much. I am sure this information will be of benefit to many, many spouses and military members.

  • ken

    My ex was supposed to pay for my retired SGLI but has not done so in 2 years. What can I do?

    • Kate

      Ken, I’m not really sure. How is she supposed to be paying it? Do you have some sort of written agreement? I suppose you could take her to court, but at what cost? Have you spoken with her about it?

  • ken

    I am sorry for being FUBAR. Per court agreement she is supposed to get my SBP and pay for it. In two years I have not received a cent.

    • Kate

      The DFAS system does not have provisions for any deductions like that to come out divisible pay. It is strictly between the two of you, aka, a civil matter. You could take her to court. Only you can decide if it is worth the aggrevation and hassle. It seems to me like you would have a pretty good case, if you are holding up your responsibilities in the case and she is not. But who can tell? Is there a base legal office near you? They might be able to give some guidance.

      • ken

        Thank you!

  • The $48.00 and some change that individual was asking about, may be a dental plan deduction

  • Art

    I happen to know of an individual that is trying to scam the system and receive military disability benefits for PTSD. The individual hired a lawyer for the first step, getting SSD. It took an appeal to win this. The individual is currently going to “sleep camps” to deal with his PTSD. While there he asks the other vets how to act and talk for the “show”. I have heard this first hand and am disgusted. After serving and being Honorable discharged many years ago I want justice to be served! There are to many vets who honestly need the benefits. This dishonorable conduct should not be encouraged by anyone. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.