Can you “double dip” when it comes to VA disability compensation and other VA benefits? Generally, you can’t. If you’re entitled to monetary benefits under more than one provision of the VA laws and regulations, you have to elect which VA benefit to receive. Below we’ll explain the situations in which “double dipping” isn’t allowed and also provide some exceptions to the rules.
Let’s start with an example scenario where we have an individual who is entitled to a VA pension and VA disability compensation. Generally speaking, that individual can’t receive both of those benefits simultaneously. The same is true for other beneficiaries. There can’t be more than one award for VA pension, disability compensation, DIC, etc., made at the same time to a widow, child, dependent, or other survivor of a Veteran.
But wait! As we’ve told you in many of our previous blogs, there are always exceptions to the rules. If you are a dependent and entitled to receive a pension or compensation because of your own military service, you can receive both. This is a pretty rare exception, but it happens.
There are also exceptions as it relates to receiving military retirement pay and disability compensation at the same time. The general rule says that you can’t receive both — you either get your full amount of military retirement pay or the full amount of your VA disability compensation. I don’t particularly like this rule because I think our Veterans that are entitled to both of these benefits deserve to receive both. They shouldn’t have to choose. But that’s another discussion for another day.
It’s important to note that these “double dip” rules don’t apply to benefits from sources other than the VA. If you are receiving VA disability compensation, you can still receive disability benefits from Social Security, private long-term disability policies, or State benefit programs. You just can’t receive two VA benefits at the same time.
How Do You Choose?
If you are entitled to multiple VA benefits, you can select the one you want to receive and waive entitlement to the other. Be careful not to select the benefit with the lower amount. That could hurt your bank account. I have seen cases where Veterans have accidentally checked the box for the lower amount and that’s no good.
In my opinion it’s better not to select because the VA will automatically pay you the higher benefit. If you apply for VA pension and disability compensation and are awarded both, the VA will pay you the benefit that would give you the highest amount of income. The pension for a single Vet is $1,800 a month. For a Veteran with a high disability rating, the disability compensation is usually the larger benefit. But for a Veteran with only a 10% disability rating, the VA pension award may be larger.
Although the VA will automatically choose the higher benefit for you, there may be some tax advantages to making that decision for yourself. Currently VA disability compensation and VA pension benefits are not taxable. But military retirement benefits are taxable. So if you’re choosing between military retirement and another VA benefit, you may want to choose the non-taxable benefit over the taxable one. I know many Veterans who choose to receive the full amount of VA disability compensation and waive their military retirement pay. I don’t believe they should have to do this, but that’s the way to avoid paying more taxes with the current rules.
Exceptions to the Rules
Let’s get back to some of these exceptions to the rules, especially as it applies to receiving military retirement benefits and VA disability compensation. There are four exceptions that we’ll mention here.
1. Retired Veterans with at least 20 years of service and a 100% service-connected disability rating can receive both VA disability compensation and retirement pay. If you meet both of those requirements, you can get both. The main point of emphasis here is that your disability has to be 100% service-connected.
2. Retired Veterans with over 20 years of service and who are rated as totally disabled due to individual unemployability can receive both benefits. This involves that Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) stipulation that we’ve discussed on other blogs. If you only have a 70% disability rating, you can use TDIU to get the extra bump to 100% disabled and receive both benefits.
3. Retired Veterans with at least 20 years of service and a service-connected disability rating between 50%-90% can receive both benefits. But if you are between 50% and 90% disabled, I’d suggest we work to get your rating to 70% and then use the TDIU stipulation to get you to 100%.
4. Retired Veterans who have been medically retired from the military under part of the code and have a disability rating of 10% or more for combat-related disabilities can receive both. The point of emphasis here is that the disability has to be combat related.
CRDP vs. CRSC
Now that we’ve listed the exceptions that allow you to “double dip” when it comes to military retirement pay and VA disability compensation, let’s talk more about CRDP. Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP) applies to Veterans receiving military retirement pay based on 20 years of active service. Qualified retirees do not need to apply for CRDP, as the amount and initiation of the payment will be automatically determined by the Department of Defense. If you’ve served 20 years, you don’t have to worry about doing anything.
Now we also have something called Combat Related Special Compensation, or CRSC. You can’t receive both CRDP and CRSC at the same time. Veterans who are eligible for both can elect one or the other during an annual enrollment period. When deciding which benefit to elect, be aware that CRDP is taxed and CRSC is tax-free. If you’re a Veteran and eligible for CRSC and CRDP, the VA will calculate both and elect the one that will pay you the most. But you can also override that selection if there are tax advantages for you receiving one over the other.
Pending VA Disability Compensation Claims
What if you have a VA disability compensation claim pending, but you die on active duty before the claim is decided? In this case your surviving spouse is entitled to continue that claim, so don’t worry about passing while your claim is being processed. Your spouse can continue it, but they need to take immediate action to make sure the VA has everything it needs.
We have a lot of Veterans who served in the Gulf War. When they returned from their first tour, many of them started claims for VA disability compensation. But they then had to go back and serve before those claims were processed. We get asked all the time if going back into a tour of duty will affect an existing claim.
The simple answer is no. The claim is just put on hold until you return. The VA will make exceptions for medical examinations and other required procedures while you are serving. If you are available for a medical exam, I’d highly recommend doing that. Payments for your VA disability compensation will be resumed after your release from active duty.
Contact Us So We Can Help!
If you need assistance with VA disability compensation benefits or other VA benefits, complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.