Military Disability for Reservists with 20 or More Years in the Reserves

The overall military disability system works the same for both active duty and reservists, but it’s different if the veteran put more than 20 years in the military. I discussed the system for active duty members with more than 20 years in the military last week, so check out that blog for those specifics.
As for reservists:
All reservists do not receive any retirement benefits from the DoD until they reach 60 years of age. This age is decreased by three months for every three-month period spent mobilized, but can never lower past age 50. The amount of benefits they receive are based on the number of points they have accrued from the amount of activity they did as a reservist.
If the reservist put more than 20 qualifying years (20 years with at least 50 retirement points/year) of service in, they will receive their full retirement benefits from the DoD once they reach 60 years of age. For the time in between their retirement from the reserves and their 60th birthday, a reservist will not receive any benefits from the DoD unless he has a disability. 
If he has a disability, the DoD will give him a military disability rating and give him the same benefits as all other disabled American veterans. Once he reaches 60 years of age, however, the DoD will then pay him either the standard reservist retirement benefits he has earned or the disability benefits, but he won’t receive both, whichever is higher.
So if Susy retires from the reserves after 20 qualifying years at the age of 40 with a disability, she will receive standard disability compensation from the DoD, and nothing else, for 20 years (until she turns 60 or her qualifying age). At that time, she will either switch to her retirement pay or continue with her disability pay, whichever is more. So if she receives $500/month for her disability, and then starts receiving $800/month for retirement pay, her disability payments will stop and she’ll just receive the $800/month for her retirement.
VA disability compensation is exactly the same for every veteran, no matter how long they are in the military or whether they were active duty or reserves. VA disability benefits are solely based on the rating that they give the conditions. If a veteran with 20 years has a 20% rating, and a veteran with 5 years also has a 20% rating, they will both get the exact same compensation since they received the same 20% rating. 
Now when you combine DoD compensation with VA compensation, any compensation you receive from the VA for a disability is subtracted from the amount of monetary benefits you receive from the DoD.
So if you receive $400/month from the DoD for anything, and then the VA starts giving you $300/month for disability, the DoD amount will decrease to $100/month (400 – 300 = 100). You still get the larger amount, but the VA will pay a part of it instead of the DoD giving it all.
While confusing, this is actually very beneficial to you since any money you receive from the DoD is taxed, while any money you receive from the VA is not. So instead of getting taxed on $400, you’ll only be taxed on $100. You still get the other $300, but it isn’t taxed. A pretty good perk, if you ask me.
This will happen any time you are receiving money from both the VA and the DoD.


  • I have a shoulder injurty that may have made an unrated prexisting service related shoulder injury worse than it already was. X-rays show nothing as there are no broken bones or obvious tears. I am in the docs office while writing thing. Any advice?

  • Hi Will –

    If you have records of your injury from your time in the service, it might be possible to get the condition rated. Have you ever applied for it? If so, and they just gave you a 0%, it won't be difficult to get the rating increased. If you've never applied for it, it might be harder since the VA will have trouble determining whether or not the condition is really your original or whether the new injury would have caused it regardless. It's a tricky area, and will ultimately be left up to the rating authorities' judgment.

  • I am a reservist and will have all 7300 AD points this August. If I receive a VA rating, will I be able to begin collecting both my DoD benefits (pay, medical, commissary, etc.) minus my VA compensation immediately? Does the distribution of (both VA and DoD) benefits differ from that of regular active duty?

  • I am a reservist who just hit 20 yrs and also found out the VA rating for me is 80% (and apparently I don't know how to properly post!). Should I submit for a DoD rating? If so how do I go about it? What about CRDP? I can use some advice.

  • DoD Disability is tricky for Reservists. The DoD only rates conditions that occurred in the line of duty, so even though the VA gave you an 80%, the DoD probably will not. But they definitely could still give you a rating.

    You have to be referred by your military physician to the MEB to be either medically separated or medically retired from the Reserves (you don't apply for submit).

    With your 20 years and 80% VA rating, you will automatically qualify for CRDP.

  • Freddie November 19, 2017 at 2056 PM: I am a 21.5 year retired PO1 from the US Navy that's VA rated at 100%. I would like to know if it's possible to receive Special Monthly Compensation (SPC) as well? If so, how do I apply or what can I read to learn how to apply?

  • Hi Freddie –

    Special Monthly Compensation is usually given automatically if you qualify. It's usually only given for loss of or loss of use of a body part or the need for aid and attendance.

    Without knowing your conditions, I can't say whether or not you qualify, but we list every type of SMC and what qualifies for it on our Special Monthly Compensation page:

    If you find that your conditions do qualify but you are not receiving it, then you can submit an appeal.

  • I am a 28 year MSG Army Reservist with my 20 year letter of course. I am age 50. I did 9 years Active duty. The remainder has been in Reserves. I injured my knees while deployed in the reserves. Had surgery on each around 2004. I just had a second operation on right knee but also have been diagnosed with Chronic severe sleep apnea (service connected) due to head injury on AD and had deviated septum , which required rhinoplasty and septoplasty. In, 2015 I was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. I have been given a 31311 in my pulhes and am being put thru a MEB board. I know I'll be found unfit and retired. Whether its a medical retirement or not that's yet to be determined, obviously I can retire without it. My questions are these: If I get rated 30% or more then I get medically retired at age 50 with 28 years of service and about 4400 points…..What age will I collect medical retirement pension/compensation? What would be the amount? (I cant find anyone to give me a guesstimate/formula). Thank you.

  • The amount will be based on the disability percentage. You'll only get what you qualify for based on your disability percentage, not your retirement percentage. So if you retirement percentage qualifies you for more, then that won't be awarded until retirement age. But you will collect what you qualify for based on your medical retirement immediately.

    Here's a discussion about the formula used:

  • I am currently active duty still with nine years in, a little over a year ago I had a moderate TBI with brain hemorrhage and complete hearing loss in my left ear. I am being put on a medboard and am still getting treatment for my vestibular problems as well as physical therapy. I looked up all my ratings from my TBI, for instance, I still have balance and dizzy episodes with vertigo, I got a bone anchor hearing aid surgically installed, migraines, memory loss etc. How are all these conditions going to be rated from one incident? My peblo explained to me that my TBI is the unfit condition, but not all of my other conditions from my TBI were included.

  • The VA will rate all of your conditions caused by the TBI, but the DoD will only rate the ones that also make you Unfit for Duty. So if there is a TBI-caused symptom that doesn't interfere with your ability to do your job, the DoD won't rate it, but the VA will.

    When rating TBI, they will rate each symptom that affects a different area of the body (hearing, memory loss, etc.) separately. We go into detail about how TBI is rated on our site:

  • I am a 33 year Air Force veteran with 31 of those years being a reservist working around jet aircrafts. For twenty of the those years I also worked on these same aircrafts as a DOD civilian. Having hearing loss in my left hear the VA has denied my claim due to the fact that I have no proof of this condition happening during active duty even those I deployed with my unit to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf war in 1992 and served numerous weeks of summer camp over 30 year period in the reserves. Do I qualify for any disability due to hearing loss? I am presently 63 years old and collecting my military retirement as MSGT.

  • This is a tricky case. Since you were exposed just as much time (if not more) to the aircraft via your civilian job, it's difficult to prove that it was strictly your military service that caused the hearing loss.

    Regardless of your civilian occupation, however, if your MOS is on the Noise Exposure Listing as moderate to high probability, then it should qualify regardless. If not, then you need to submit as much evidence of your active duty noise exposure as possible. A NEXUS letter claiming that your military service contributed significantly to your hearing loss could help. However, if the VA already has evidence of your civilian occupation, they could still end up denying it, claiming that your civilian occupation is more likely than to the military one to have caused it.

  • I am a retired MSgt from the Air Guard, I claimed obstructive sleep apena as a secondary condition due to DJD arthritis of both knees. The VA denied it. Saying it was not service connected. In spite of submitted a nexus letter, a DBQ and 3 medical studies supporting the claim. JDJ arthritis made exercise difficult and Weight Gain (BMI over 35) was aggravating factor for causing Obstructive sleep apena. How did that happen because I was in the Air Guard

  • I am a former reservist currently receiving a disability retirement and VA disability, which offsets a portion of my disability retirement. I just turned 60. I thought at my 60th birthday the VA offset would stop. I was told by personnel that I must use a DD Form 2656 to apply to become a 60 year old retiree. But they also gave me their estimate of my non-disability retirement and it is less than half of my disability retirement. My question is if I do apply to be a 60 year old reservist, will my retirement pay be lowered to the estimate? Thank you so much for your time!

  • Greetings.

    I am a reservist who went on COADOS (Contingency Operation for Active Duty Operational Support), Title 10 over a year ago.

    I was severly injured during a training mission involving a helicopter (Line of Duty) that has left me as a paraplegic and currently going through the IDES process. Because the accident occurred while on active duty and currently still active, if my DoD ratings are greater than 30% and VA ratings at 100%, would I be able to receive both DoD Military Retirement Disability and VA compensation immediately after being separated? I do have over 20 years of credible service (20 year letter) but only 16 years active.

  • Thank you. Just to be clear, disability benefits are considered to be both DoD Military Retirement Disability and VA compensation unless I qualify for CRDP or CRSC, correct?

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