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Can I Lose My Veterans Benefits if I Get Charged With a Crime?

Published on November 28th, 2019

If you are facing criminal prosecution, your veterans benefits may be on the line. Although criminal charges alone will not affect your benefits, a conviction for a crime that results in imprisonment may result in a reduction of your disability compensation or the suspension of your non-service connected pension payments. For this reason, you should think carefully before pleading guilty to a criminal charge. If your sentence will be longer than 60 days, your guilty plea will very likely interfere with your veterans benefits. Fortunately, if you have a spouse or children, you may be able to divert some of your lost disability compensation to them.

A Jail or Prison Sentence Longer than 60 Days May Affect Your Benefits

A conviction for a serious crime will affect your disability compensation and military retirement pay differently. Only felony convictions resulting in imprisonment of more than 60 days will affect your disability compensation. If you are in a work release program, a halfway house, or under community control, your disability compensation will not be affected because this is not considered incarceration.

If your conviction triggers military disability compensation penalties, you will not lose the benefits altogether. Instead, they will be reduced by half. If your disability rating is 40%, for example, you will continue to receive the same benefits that you would if your disability rating was 20%. If you are able to prove that your children and spouse’s well being will suffer from this decreased compensation, you can request that the amount of reduced compensation be apportioned directly to your family.

Your veterans pension will terminate on day 61 of your incarceration–regardless of whether you are serving time for a misdemeanor or a felony. Upon your release, you may continue to receive your pension if you still meet the eligibility criteria. If you fail to notify the VA about your incarceration, you may be liable to pay them back for the pension payments they made to you while you were behind bars once they find out about your incarceration.

If you have service connected benefits from the VA, those will be reduced to only the ten percent level during incarceration.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not only about punishing veterans who offend–they also offer programs to help offenders get back on their feet upon their release. For example, the VA offers the Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV) program, which is geared towards reducing homelessness by helping veterans plan their reintegration into society. HCRV offers education and resources to make the transition back into the civilian world after incarceration as smooth as possible.

How Jackson & MacNichol Can Help

The loss or reduction of your veterans benefits can be disastrous to you and your family. But with an experienced lawyer by your side, you can ensure that you are getting the most benefits possible under the circumstances. At Jackson & MacNichol, we are dedicated to helping veterans and their families receive the benefits they need to live in dignity. If you are concerned about the loss of your veterans benefits, or if you need to challenge a bad ratings decision, our veterans benefits lawyers can assist you. Call us now at 1(800) 524-3339 to receive your free consultation.


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