Skip to main content

Military Pay and Pensions

Help us build the next

Check out the new version of this page on our future website. We want to know what you think.

Military and Retiree Pay Information

Find military pay charts, military retirement calculators, and contact information for problems with military and retiree pay.

Military Pay Charts and Military Retirement Calculators

Visit Military Compensation to find military retirement calculators and to get the latest information on

Military and Retiree Pay Problems

Department of Defense (DOD) Active Duty, Reservists, and Retirees 

If you’re on 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 Active Duty, Reservists, and Retirees

  • If you’re active duty or in the Reserve, contact your unit administrative yeoman for questions about your military pay. 

  • Coast Guard retirees should contact the Coast Guard Pay & Personnel Center. Call 1-866-772-8724

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.

Military Retirees and Pension Benefit Questions

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

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. 

VA Pensions for Veterans and Survivors With a Low Income

Wartime veterans with a low income and their survivors may qualify for a tax-free pension. These 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 Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits. You can only get one of them. Each has its own qualifications.

Veterans Pension Versus 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's not the same as the VA pension. 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 war veterans with a low income and who may have a disability that is not service-related.  

Share This Page:

Do you have a question?

Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They'll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.

Last Updated: January 18, 2023