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Incarcerated Veterans

Prison bars held by hands.

What happens to a veteran's benefits if he/she is incarcerated? The following is a summary of how imprisonment affects veterans benefits:

Can A Veteran Receive Retired Military Pay While In Prison?

Generally, yes. Being convicted of a crime almost never jeopardizes a federal pension – the rare exception to this rule are charges relating to criminal disloyalty to the United States: espionage, treason, sabotage, etc.

Is A Veteran's Family Still Eligible For TRICARE?

Yes, retirees who have Tricare For Life in conjunction with Medicare are eligible to maintain their TRICARE coverage. One of the requirements for TRICARE For Life is that you maintain Medicare Parts A & B. Medicare Part B has premiums which must be paid in order to maintain coverage.

Can A Veteran Receive VA Benefits While In Prison?

VA can pay certain benefits to veterans who are incarcerated in a Federal, state or local penal institution. However, the amount they can pay depends on the type of benefit and reason for incarceration.

How Will Your Imprisonment Affect The Payment Of:

VA Disability Compensation

Your monthly payment will be reduced beginning with the 61st day of your imprisonment for a felony. If your disability payment before you went to prison was based on a rating of 20% disabled or higher your new payment will be based on the 10% disability rating. If you were receiving disability at the 10% disability rate your new payment will be cut in half.

Note: If you are released from incarceration - participated in a work release or half-way house program, paroled, and completed sentence, your compensation payments will not be reduced.

VA Disability Pension

If you are imprisoned in a Federal, State or local penal institution as the result of conviction of a felony or misdemeanor, such pension payment will be discontinued effective on the 61st day of imprisonment following conviction.

Education Benefits

If you are incarcerated for other than a felony, you can receive full monthly benefits, if otherwise entitled. Convicted felons residing in halfway houses (also known as "residential re-entry centers"), or participating in work-release programs also can receive full monthly benefits.

If you are incarcerated for a felony conviction, you can be paid only the costs of tuition, fees, and necessary books, equipment, and supplies. VA cannot make payments for tuition, fees, books, equipment, or supplies if another Federal State or local program pays these costs in full.

If another government program pays only a part of the cost of tuition, fees, books, equipment, or supplies, VA can authorize the incarcerated claimant payment for the remaining part of the costs.

Are You Eligible For VA Medical Care While Imprisoned?

While incarcerated veterans do not forfeit their eligibility for medical care, current regulations restrict VA from providing hospital and outpatient care to an incarcerated veteran who is an inmate in an institution of another government agency when that agency has a duty to give the care or services.

However, VA may provide care once the veteran has been unconditionally released from the penal institution.

Can Your Spouse, Children Or Dependent Parent(s) Receive Any Of The Money Not Paid To You Because Of Imprisonment?

VA can take all or part of the amount of compensation you are not receiving and apportion it to your spouse, child or children and dependent parents on the basis of individual need. They should contact the nearest VA regional office for details on how to apply. They will be asked to provide income information as part of the application process.

Will Your Benefits Be Automatically Resumed When You Get Out Of Prison?

Your award for compensation or pension benefits shall be resumed the date of release from incarceration if the Department of Veterans Affairs receives notice of release within 1 year from following release. Depending on the type of disability, VA may schedule you for a medical examination to see if your disability has improved. You will need to visit or call your local VA regional office for assistance.

For more information call toll-free 800-827-1000, or visit the VA website.


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Veteran Benefits