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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

Find military pay charts, military retirement calculators, contact information for problems with military, civilian, and retiree pay, and contact information to report military pay fraud.

Military Pay Charts and Military Retirement Calculators

Visit to get the latest information on

And look up your basic allowance for housing on the Defense Travel Management Office’s BAH calculator.

Military, Civilian, and Retiree Pay Problems

Department of Defense (DOD) Employees, Reservists, 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, Reservists, and Retirees

Military Pay Complaints or Fraud Reports

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.

Food Assistance

There are many nutrition programs that can help military and veteran families with food costs. This includes Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits, or “food stamps.” Learn how to apply for SNAP benefits.  

Welfare Benefits (TANF) 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the program commonly known as welfare. TANF includes help with housing, utilities, child care, job training, and more. If you are in the military, you may be eligible to receive TANF.

Health Insurance

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 meet other requirements, you can sign up for Medicare. Get information on how to use Medicare and TRICARE together.  

Social Security Benefits

You may 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 two types of unemployment benefits:

  • Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX)

  • Your state’s unemployment insurance program

You should apply for UCX as soon as possible after you're discharged. Find out how to apply for unemployment benefits.

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 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.

VA Pensions for Low-Income Veterans and Survivors

Low-income wartime veterans 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 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 low-income war veterans who may have a disability that is not service-related.  

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. 

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Last Updated: September 15, 2020