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
  • Benefits
  • 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 (BRS)

  • The legacy High-3 system

Which plan you fall under depends on when you joined the military and whether you chose to opt-in to the BRS.

Enrollment in the BRS Depends on When You Joined the Service

  • If you joined before January 1, 2006, you remained in the legacy retirement system.

  • If you joined the service on or after January 1, 2018, you were automatically enrolled in the BRS.

  • If you joined between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2017, you could stay in the legacy system or enroll in the new one. The last day to enroll in the BRS plan was December 31, 2018.

Blended Retirement System (BRS)

The Blended Retirement System went into effect on January 1, 2018. It includes:

  • Matching Thrift Savings Plan contributions

  • Mid-career retention bonuses

  • A monthly annuity for life after 20 years of service. The annuity is based on a calculation of 2% per year served. The legacy retirement annuity is based on 2 ½% per year served.

Calculate your pension under the BRS.

Legacy High-3 (High-36) System

Service members in the legacy High-3 system must have begun their 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.

  • Thrift Savings Plan contributions are not matched by the government.

Calculate your pension under the legacy High-3 System.

Learn more about the two retirement plans.

Military Retirees and Pension Benefit Questions

If you ’re a military retiree with questions about your benefits, contact your branch of service:

Visit the Defense Finance Accounting Service for news on:

  • Changes to your military retiree benefits

  • Cost of living adjustments

  • Other issues affecting your pension

Pension Taxes

You may not have to pay federal income taxes on your military pension. Use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) online tool and online publication to find out.

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.

VA Disability Compensation Benefits

Veterans who have a service-related injury or illness may be entitled to VA disability compensation. It’s a tax-free monthly benefit.

Visit VA.gov to learn:

  • Which conditions qualify you for benefits

  • How the claims process works

  • Where to file your claim

  • How to appeal a decision you disagree with. The process changed in February 2019.

Survivors of veterans may receive compensation benefits in certain situations.

If you get disability benefits now, you may want to check out 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

See how to apply for a veterans pension, including online.

See how to apply for a 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. 

Military Retirement

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.  
Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter Email

Do you need help?

Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.

Last Updated: June 18, 2019