Military Pay and Pensions
Find information on basic pay, pensions, and retirement benefits for service members, veterans, and military retirees, including whom to contact with questions and concerns.
Military and Retiree Pay Information
DFAS Pay Charts and Military Retirement Calculators
Visit MilitaryPay.Defense.gov to get the latest news on
- Military pay charts
- Tax information
And find online calculators to help estimate your pension and retirement benefits.
Military, Civilian, and Retiree Pay Problems
Department of Defense (DOD) Employees, Reserve, and Retirees
If you’re active duty or in the Reserve, contact your post or base finance office first for questions about your military pay.
For additional help, contact the appropriate Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) office:
Coast Guard Employees, Reserve, and Retirees
Military Pay Complaints or Report Fraud
Learn how to file a complaint or report suspected fraud:
Pension Benefits for Military Retirees
The military has two retirement systems: the new Blended Retirement System and the legacy High-3 system. Which plan you can use depends on when you joined the military.
Blended Retirement System (BRS)
A new military retirement system went into effect on January 1, 2018. The new Blended Retirement System (BRS) includes:
- Automatic and matching Thrift Savings Plan contributions
- Mid-career retention bonuses
- A monthly annuity for life after 20 years of service. The annuity will be based on a calculation of 2% per year served, versus 2 ½% per year under the traditional legacy retirement pension.
Enrollment in the BRS depends on when you joined the service:
- If you joined before January 1, 2006, you’ll remain in the legacy retirement system.
- If you joined between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2017, you have the choice of staying in the legacy system or enrolling in the new one. The last day to enroll in the BRS plan is December 31, 2018. To learn how to enroll, watch a video from your branch of service:
- If you joined the service on or after January 1, 2018, you were automatically enrolled in the BRS.
Legacy High-3 (High-36) System
Service members in the legacy High-3 system must have begun their military service by December 31, 2017. Also called High-36 or “military retired pay,” this is a defined benefit plan.
- You’ll need to serve 20 years or more to qualify for the lifetime monthly annuity.
Your retirement benefit is determined by your years of service. It’s calculated at 2.5% times your highest 36 months of basic pay. Compare the BRS and High-3 Systems
Military Retirees and Pension Benefit Questions
If you’re a military retiree with questions about your benefits, contact your branch of service:
Stay up-to-date with news about changes to your military retiree benefits, cost of living adjustments, and more from the Defense Finance Accounting Service.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers an online tool and an online publication to help you determine if your pension or annuity payment is taxable.
Military Retirement and Social Security Benefits
Retirees can get both Social Security benefits and their military pension. Learn how the Social Security Administration (SSA) credits military service for your benefit.
State and Federal Benefits for Military Families
If you receive military or veterans benefits, you may also qualify for other state and federal benefits. This includes Social Security, unemployment benefits, health insurance coverage, welfare, and food assistance.
- Welfare and food assistance - Military and veteran families with a low income can get help with food costs from a wide range of nutrition programs. This includes Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits, or “food stamps.” Learn how to apply for SNAP benefits. You may also qualify for welfare or temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). This can give you help with housing, home energy, child care, job training, and more.
- Health benefits - Members of the military and their families receive a wide range of health coverage through TRICARE health plans. If you have a low income, you may also qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Once you turn 65 or older, or meet other requirements, you can sign up for Medicare. Get information on how to use Medicare and TRICARE together.
- Social Security - You can qualify for both Social Security benefits and military retirement. You’ll receive your full Social Security benefits based on your earnings. To get your benefits, you must earn credits by working and paying Social Security taxes. Learn more about Social Security and how it works.
- Unemployment benefits - If you recently left the military, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation for ex-service members (UCX). You may also qualify for your state’s unemployment insurance program. These programs pay money to workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Find out how to apply for unemployment benefits.
VA Disability Compensation Benefits
Veterans who are disabled due to service-related injury or illness may be entitled to VA disability compensation. It’s a tax-free monthly benefit.
Survivors of veterans may receive compensation benefits in certain situations.
Visit VA.gov to learn:
- Which conditions qualify you for benefits
- How the claims process works
- Where to file your claim
- The way to appeal a decision you disagree with
If you're currently receiving disability benefits, you may be interested in downloading the free publication How to Save and Invest Your Disability Benefits: A Guide for Warriors in Transition.
VA Pensions for Low-Income Veterans and Survivors
Low-income wartime veterans and their survivors may qualify for a Veterans Pension or Survivors Pension. These tax-free monthly payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are based on financial need.
Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension Eligibility
Both pensions base eligibility on the veteran’s service time, financial need, and age or status of the veteran or survivor.
How to Calculate VA Pensions
The amount for both pensions is the difference between the recipient’s "countable" income and the annual pension limit set by Congress.
How to Apply for a VA Pension
Visit explore.va.gov/pension for forms and steps to apply for a Veterans or Survivors Pension.
Aid & Attendance (A&A) and Housebound Benefits
If you receive a VA pension, you may also qualify for additional payments if you need ongoing help from another person (Aid & Attendance) or if you’re housebound. You can only get one of these types of additional payments. Each program has its own qualifications.
Learn about eligibility and how to apply for Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits. Watch a short video explaining Aid & Attendance.
Some people confuse military retirement benefits with a VA pension. Here are two ways to tell the difference:
- Military retirement is taxable but a VA pension is tax-free.
- Military retirement uses years of service (not necessarily wartime). But a VA pension is based on wartime service and financial need.
Veterans Pension Versus Disability Compensation
In some cases,veterans can receive disability compensation. It is not the same as the VA pension for low-income wartime veterans. Here’s a way to tell the difference:
- Disability compensation is for an illness or injury that happens because of or was made worse by your military service. It’s not income-based and war service is not required.
- A VA pension is for low-income war veterans who may have a disability that is not service-related.
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Last Updated: March 6, 2019