Articles by Ryan Guina

Ryan is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life.

You can find him around the web at, Ryan Guina on Twitter, The Military Wallet on Twitter, and on Google.

2014 Veterans Day Free Meals and Discounts

Updated: Oct. 28, 2014. Veterans Day is soon approaching and there are many restaurants and companies who want to thank our veterans by providing them with discounts or a free meal. To those companies offering veterans a free meal or discount, the military community gives a collective thanks!

Download a PDF List of Veterans Day Meals & Deals!

Two notes before jumping in:

  • Proof of Military Service. Most companies require some form of military ID. These include: a Military ID Card (active/reserve/retired), Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), Drivers License with Veterans Designation, Photograph in uniform, be wearing uniform (if your service permits), Veterans Organization Card (e.g., American Legion and VFW), DD214, discharge paperwork, or other form of identification. Other restaurants and companies may go by the honor system.
  • Participation. Second, always call ahead to verify locations, times, and participation. Many of the listed companies are franchises and may have different policies. We will do our best to keep this page updated as we find new info.

2014 Free Veterans Day Meals

Veterans Day free meals and discounts for military and veterans

Please credit this resource: We are frequently updating this list with new deals and offers for the military community. If you use items in this list, please direct your visitors to this page so they can find the most up to date information: http://themilitarywallet.com/veterans-day-free-meals-and-discounts/ Thanks!

Applebees Veterans Day AppreciationApplebee’s – free meal, Nov. 11, 2014: Last year, Applebee’s served over one million free meals to military veterans and active servicemembers. Applebee’s is again offering a free meal to military veterans and active-duty service members on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. There will be 7 entrées to choose from, beverage and gratuity not included. Military ID or proof of service required. More.

BJs Restaurant and Brewery Veterans DayBJs Restaurant and Brewhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Complimentary lunch entree, up to $9.95 value. Offer valid to all active duty military and veterans, with proof of service. Locations.

Bob Evans, Nov. 11, 2014. Free All you can eat hotcakes. For active duty military and veterans with ID or proof of service. Locations.

California Pizza Kitchen, Nov. 11, 2014. Choose a pizza, full size salad, or pasta from the special Veterans Day Menu. Dine-in only. Please come in uniform or bring your military I.D. or other proof of service. Find a location near you.

Carraba’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free appetizer of your choice for active duty servicemembers and veterans. Military ID or proof of service required. Locations.

Cattlemens Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Free 8 oz Sirloin Steak Dinner and beverage on Veterans Day. Proof of service required. Locations.

CentraArchy Restaurants, Nov. 11, 2014
. Free meal with proof of service at participating restaurants, including Burrito Loco, California Dreaming, Carolina Roadhouse, ChopHouse New Orleans, ChopHouse ’47, Gulfstream Café, Joey D’s Oak Room, and New York Prime. Locations.

Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for active and former military members with ID or other valid proof of service. Find a location near you.

Chilis Restaurant Free Veterans Day DinnerChili’s – free meal, Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014. Chili’s is offering all military veterans past and present their choice of one of 7 meals during the dinner hour, or any lunch combo during lunch. Offer only available at participating Chili’s in the U.S. only. Dine-in from limited menu only; beverages and gratuity not included. Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service. Visit their website to find locations.

Cotton Patch Café, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for current and former military members. Choices include full-size chicken fried steak, or chicken fried chicken. Proof of service required. Locations.

Country Cookin, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for current and former military. Proof of service required. Locations.

East Coast Wings, Nov. 11, 2014. Free Appetizer or Desert. Proof of service required. Locations.

Einstein Bros Bagels, Nov. 11, 2014. Free coffee at participating locations. Available to all active duty members and veterans with ID or proof of service. Locations.

Fatz Eatz & Drinkz, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for current and former military members, up to $13.00 value. Proof of service required. Locations.

Fire & Ice Grill & Bar, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for military and veterans. Proof of service required. Locations.

Friendly’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Breakfast offering is free a Big Two Do breakfast, which includes a coffee and the choice between French toast, buttermilk pancakes, or regular toast along with bacon or sausage links, and some eggs. Lunch or dinner includes an All-American Burger served with fries and a beverage. Offer available for active military and veterans with ID or discharge papers. Participating locations only. Locations.

golden corral free veterans day mealGolden Corral – Free meal, Monday Nov. 17, 2014 (5pm – 9pm): The 14th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday dinner will is available to any person who has ever served in the United States Military. If you are a veteran, retired, currently serving, in the National Guard or Reserves, you are invited to participate in Golden Corral’s Military Appreciation Monday dinner. For more information visit http://www.goldencorral.com/military/.

Special thanks to Golden Corral: To date, Golden Corral restaurants have provided over 4 million free meals and contributed over $8.7 million to the Disabled American Veterans organization. Amazing!

See more Military Discounts and Veterans Day Deals.

Hooters Veterans Day - Free MealHooters, Nov. 11, 2014. Tuesday, Nov. 11, Hooters invites all veterans and current servicemen and women to enjoy a free meal, up to $10.99 in value with any drink purchase, by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location across the country. Locations.

Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal form the American Values Menu, Nov. 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Includes soup, salad, desert, and beverage. Dine-in only, valid ID or proof of service required. Locations.

Krispy Kreme free doughnut for Veterans DayKrispy Kreme – Free doughnut and small coffee, Nov. 11, 2014. Available only at participating Krispy Kreme stores. Offer available to all active-duty, retirees, & veterans. Be sure to call ahead to verify your local Krispy Kreme is participating. Locations.

Lone Star Steakhouse Veterans DayLone Star Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. All veterans and active duty military will be eligible for a free Starter. ID or proof of service required. Please call ahead for verification. Locations.

Longhorn Steakhouse Veterans DayLongHorn Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Complimentary Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage. Offer good for Veterans and active-duty military members. Proof of service required. Visit their site to find a location near you.

Max & Erma's free Veterans Day MealMax & Erma’s, November 11, 2014. Participating Max & Erma’s locations are offering military members and veterans a free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo, which includes tortilla soup or side Caesar salad, seasoned fries, and chocolate chip cookies. Dine-in only. Call ahead to verify participation. ID or proof of service required. More info. Locations.

McCormick and Schmicks Veterans Appreciation DayMcCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants – free lunch or dinner, Sunday Nov 9, 2014: McCormick & Schmick’s is celebrating their 16th annual Veteran’s Appreciation Event on Sunday, November 9th. Veterans will be able to choose a complimentary lunch or dinner entrée from a special menu. Veterans must provide proof of military service. Be sure to contact your local McCormick & Schmick’s as this is valid at participating restaurants only. Also, space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. For more information visit: M&S Veterans Appreciation Event.

Menchie’s, Nov. 11, 2014. All veterans and current servicemembers will receive a free 6 oz. frozen yogurt on Veterans Day. Locations.

Noah’s Bagles, Nov. 11, 2014. Free coffee for active duty and veterans. Proof of service required. Locations.

Orange Leaf, Nov. 11, 2014. Free frozen yogurt (up to 11 0z.). Proof of service required. Locations.

Outback Steakhouse Veterans DayOutback Steakhouse – Nov. 11, 2014. Outback Steakhouse is honoring America’s military veterans by offering active duty military and veterans a free Bloomin’ Onion and a non-alcoholic beverage. This offer is available to Military Personnel and veterans with ID. Also receive 15% off your purchase from Nov. 12-Dec 31, 2014. Locations.

Perkins Veterans DayPerkin’s Restaurant & Bakery, Nov. 11, 2014. Participating restaurants are offering current servicemembers and veterans a free Magnificent Seven meal which includes two eggs, three buttermilk pancakes, and a choice of two bacon strips or two sausage links. Beverage not included. Call ahead to verify participation. ID or proof of service required. Locations.

Pinnacle Entertainment (Casino Chain), Nov. 11, 2014. Select locations are offering a free buffet meal for current military members and veterans. ID or proof of service required. More info and locations.

Red Hot & Blue, Nov. 10-12, 2014. Free Entrée with purchase of another entrée of equal or greater value. Coupon. Proof of Service required. Website.

Red Lobster Veterans DayRed Lobster – Monday, Nov. 10 – Thursday Nov. 13, 2014. Free Appetizer on Veterans Day with military ID or proof of service. Vets may choose from a select list of appetizers. Find a location near you.

Rib City (St. Louis, Missouri), Nov. 11, 2014.  50% Military Appreciation Meal Discount everyday to all Veterans and Active Duty Military. Eat in or carry out. (Des Peres and Cottleville, MO) More info.

Shoney’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty servicemembers. Dine-in only, Proof of Service required. More info. Locations.

Sizzler Restaurant logoSizzler Restaurants, Nov. 11, 2014. Free lunch served until 4pm. Choice of 3 entrees, and a free coffee, tea, or fountain drink. Valid with proof of military service. Dine-in only, not valid for salad bar or gratuity. Locations.

StarBucks, Nov. 11, 2014. Free tall brewed coffee for active duty, veterans, and their spouses. Participating stores only. Please call ahead.

Tap House Grill, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for servicemembers and veterans with proof of service. Dine-in only. Locations.

Texas De Brazil Churrascaria, Nov. 11, 2014. 50% off for all current and former servicemembers at participating locations (please call ahead). Locations.

Texas Land and Cattle Steak House, Nov. 11, 2014. Free appetizer or shared plate for current servicemembers and veterans. ID or proof of service is required. Locations.

Tim Hortons, Nov. 11, 2014 – all US locations are offering a free donut to all active duty servicemembers and veterans. No purchase necessary. Proof of service required. Locations.

Travel Centers of America, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for CDL holders who are also veterans. Participating locations only; proof of service required. More info.

Twin Peaks Restaurants Veterans DayTwin Peaks, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal for current and former servicemembers with proof of service or valid ID. Locations.

UNO's pizza Veterans DayUno Chicago Grill, Nov. 11, 2014. Free individual pizza or entrée with the purchase of a pizza or entrée of equal or greater value. Available for all active duty and veterans. No coupon necessary; proof of service required. Don’t forget to tell the staff you are there that day to support Fisher House, and a portion of your party’s check will go to benefit the Fisher House Foundation, an awesome military charity. Find a location near you.

54th Street Grill, Nov. 11, 2014. Free meal, up to $12 value, valid for current and former service members (more info). Proof of service required. Locations.

Awaiting updates for 2014:

Many restaurants and companies offer an annual Veterans Day promotion. The following deals were active last year, but have not yet been confirmed for 2014. Please feel free to contact me if you have information about 2014. Please do not assume these deals are in place for 2014 – call ahead to verify! (We will continue to update this list until Veterans Day 2014, so check back!).

Bar Louie America - Veterans DayBar Louie, Free meal on Nov. 10th and 11th, 2013. From open to close Sunday, November 10th and Monday, November 11th every Bar Louie location across the country will offer veterans and military personnel a free meal up to a $12 value. Available at all locations, military ID or proof of service is required (source). Find a location near you.

Champps Americana Veterans Day MealChampps Americana, Nov. 11, 2013. Participating Champps locations are offering veterans and active duty servicemembers a free hamburger (7 to choose from) and waffle fries from open to close on Monday, November 11, 2013. Dine in only, valid at participating locations (call ahead to verify local participation). More info, Find a location near you.

Cheeseburger in Paradise, Monday, Nov. 11 2013. Free All-American Burger with fries with purchase of beverage and military ID or proof of service. Available to active military or veterans. Beverages and gratuity not included, dine-in only. Find a location near you.

Denny's Veterans Day DinnerDenny’s Veterans Day Appreciation Event, Nov. 11, 2013. Free all you can eat pancakes from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11 for all active, retirees, and veterans with a valid military ID or proof of military service. Offer available in every Denny’s nationwide. Locations.

Famous Daves Veterans Day CelebrationFamous Dave’s, Nov. 11, 2013. Free or discounted meals on Veterans Day. Offer varies by location, please check the Famous Dave’s Veterans Day page or call your local restaurant for more information.

Fox and Hound Bar and Grill Veterans Day OfferFox & Hound and Bailey’s Sports Grille, Nov. 11, 2013. Free Sandwich or Entree (up to $13) for active duty military and veterans with ID or proof of service. Dine-in only and at only at participating locations. Locations.

HoneyBaked Stores, Nov. 11 – Nov. 17, 2013. Free lunch to current servicemembers and veterans with valid ID. Lunch includes sandwich, chips, cookie, and a drink. Valid only at the St. Louis, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque locations, Please call ahead to verify participation. Locations.

Hy-Vee Celebrates Veterans Day with Free BreakfastHy-Vee, Free Breakfast, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Free Veterans Day breakfast from 7am – 11am at all participating Hy-Vee supermarkets with in-store dining. Please call ahead to verify participation, and bring proof of military service.

Little Caesars Pizza Crazy BreadLittle Caesars® Pizza, Nov. 11, 2013. Little Caesars is honoring the men and women of the United States armed forces this Veterans Day by providing veterans and active military members with a free Crazy Bread® with proof of military status or proof of service at participating stores nationwide. Call ahead to verify participation.

O’Charley’s, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Free entree from the $9.99’er menu for all active military and veterans with proof of service. Find a location near you.

On the Border Veterans Day SpecialOn The Border, Mon. Nov. 11, 2013. Veterans ans current servicemembers will receive a free entree from the “Create Your Own Combo menu,” featuring more than 150 possible dinner combination. On the Border will also donate 15% of your purchase to Carry the Load, a non-profit military organization (bring a copy of this flyer for the donation). Dine-in only, proof of service required. Find a location near you.

Red Robin Veterans DayRed Robin, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries for all Red Robin guests with a military ID or proof of service. Red Robin is also partnering with Heinz for Veterans Day to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Red Robin will also donate $10,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project. Find a location near you.

Ruby’s Diner, (Awaiting update – this is last year’s offer). Free Cinnamon Roll French Toast until 11:30am. Valid for all military service members past and present. Coupon required.

Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, (Awaiting update – this is last year’s offer). Free meal with purchase of another regular priced meal. Available to current and former military members with valid ID. Available at all Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes locations. More info.

The Spaghetti Warehouse Veterans DaySpaghetti Warehouse, Sunday Nov. 10 – Monday, Nov. 12, 2013. Buy one entrée, get one free, coupon required. Choose any of 11 Original Recipe Spaghetti entrées and receive a second entrée free. Friends and relatives are encouraged to treat a veteran to a meal.

Texas Corral Veterans DayTexas Corral – Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Free entrée (dine-in only). Offer available to all active duty members and veterans with ID. Note: All Texas Corral locations also regularly offer a 50% discount to active duty police officers, firemen and military personnel dining in. Call ahead for participation. Locations.

Texas Roadhouse Veterans Day MealTexas Roadhouse, Nov. 11, 2013, starting at 11am. Every Texas Roadhouse location across the country will participate in the free lunch event to honor the men and women of our armed forces. Choose from one of 10 free meals, plus sides and a drink. Offer good for All veterans – including all active, retired or former U.S. military. ID Required. Dine-in only. Call ahead to verify times and locations. Find locations.

T.G.I.-Fridays Veterans Day Free MealT.G.I. Friday’s, Nov. 11, 2013. Free lunch for all current military members and veterans from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Valid ID or proof of service required. Dine-on only at participating locations. Be sure to contact your local T.G.I Friday’s for details. Locations.

The Olive Garden Veterans Day entreeThe Olive Garden, Free entrée, Nov. 11, 2013. Offer good for veterans and active duty military, on Monday, November 11th during regular business hours. Choose from a special menu; all entrées inlcude freshly baked garlic sticks and choice of soup or salad. Offer good in US and Canada, proof of service required. Additionally, all current military members and their families are eligible for a 10% discount during the month of November during Military Family Appreciation Month. Olive Garden and the USO to donate 15,000 storybooks to support United Through Reading’s Military Program during this promotion. Locations.

Tony Roma's Veterans Day Free MealTony Roma’s, Nov. 11, 2013. Free Entree, up to $15 for current and former military members with valid proof of service. Valid at select locations only. Please call ahead to verify participation. Details.

More Veterans Day Discounts! Please click through to Page 2 – Parks and Entertainment and Page 3 – Retail and Regional Discounts to see more Veterans Day deals, including free National Park Admission, Amusement parks, and retail and regional discounts.

Veterans Day Meals and Deals image and all written content copyright this site. All other images copyright their respective restaurant or brand.


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Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday – Free Dinner for Veterans

It has become popular over the last few years for restaurants to offer free meals on Veterans Day. But Golden Corral has one of the longest running military appreciation events among national restaurants. This is the 14th consecutive year that Golden Corral has provided a free buffet meal and drink to current military members and veterans. This year, the 14th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday event is scheduled for November 17, 2012, from 4pm to 9pm.

Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday

Veterans and active duty servicemembers can receive a free meal at Golden Corral!

Military Appreciation Monday is offered to anyone who has ever served in the US armed forces. In the past the only requirement to receive the free meal was to inform the restaurant you are a veteran. They usually go on the honor system, and no proof required. That being said – please don’t abuse the system. Claiming you are a veteran just for a free meal is an insult to those who have served our country.

Here is more information about proving your military service:

These forms of ID are usually acceptable for most restaurants or Veterans Day offers. Many other places will accept a membership card from the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of American, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or another service organization. A photo of your time in the service may also be sufficient proof of service, depending on the location.

Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday Facts

Golden Corral has been a wonderful supporter of the military community – providing millions of free meals to veterans and servicemembers, and contributing millions of dollars to support veteran organizations. Here are a few amazing facts about Golden Corrals’ support:

  • Last year, Golden Coral provided over 433,500 free meals for veterans and active duty service members. Guests and restaurants combined to contribute over $1,409,000 for the Disabled American Veterans organization. These funds are used to assist disabled veterans.
  • In the 13 years this event has been running, Golden Corral has given veterans and active duty servicemembers over 4.0 million free dinners, and contributed over $8.7 million to the the Disabled American Veterans organization.

I would like to extend my thanks to the folks at Golden Corral for making this possible, and to all Americans who have served – thank you for your service!

For more details, visit Golden Corral’s website.

Visit our Mega-list of Restaurants offering free meals on Veterans Day. for other free meals and deals this Veterans Day!

2015 Military Retirement Pay COLA – 1.7% Increase

Military retirement pay is based on a percentage of your the base pay you received prior to retiring from active duty, or from the Guard or Reserves. One of the benefits that makes military retirement pay so valuable is the built-in annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

Military Retirement Pay COLA Increase

COLA is pegged to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a formula calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In layman’s terms, it tracks inflation for the cost of certain consumer goods. The final measurement is used for many government calculations, such as the Cost of Living Adjustment for federal pension plans (including FERS, CSRS, and military pensions), as well as COLA increases for Social Security Benefits, VA Disability Compensation, and other government benefits programs. In short, COLA is there to help your military retirement pay maintain its purchasing power over time.

Related: Did you know that your military service may increase your Social Security Benefits?

2015 Annual Military Retirement Pay Increase

The Cost of Living Allowance for 2015 will be 1.7%. This is the same increase that will be applied to Social Security recipients, VA disability compensation rates, and many other recipients of government pensions and other benefits programs (verify the final numbers with the parent agency if you receive a different form of compensation).

This military retirement pay COLA increase will take effect in your January 2015 payment.

Note about the term COLA: The term “COLA” has different meanings, depending on the situation. In this example, we are using it as a Cost of Living Adjustment. The military also uses this term to refer to a COLA for “Cost of Living Allowance” which is an additional form of payment given to some servicemembers living in areas with a high cost of living, including overseas locations. These are different uses of the same term.

Who Receives This COLA Increase?

If you retired under the Final Pay or High-3 retirement plans, and you have been retired for longer than one year, you should receive the full COLA increase. If you retired in 2014 (or plan to retire in 2014), your COLA may be affected. COLA is applied on a sliding scale if you retired during the calendar year.

DFAS hasn’t updated the final numbers for the 2014 retirees, so what follows are the numbers that affected military members who retired in 2013 (2014 had a 1.5% COLA increase). The numbers should be fairly similar for 2014 retirees, with the highest increase being the full 1.7% and the other COLA adjustments slightly higher.

Recent military retirees receive COLA based on the quarter in which they retired. For example, those who retired between January 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013 received a full or partial COLA, as follows:

  • January through March retirees received the full 1.5% COLA for 2014.
  • April through June retirees received 0.9%.
  • July through September retirees received 0.4%.
  • October through December retirees received no COLA in 2014.

Again, the 2015 numbers should be slightly higher, based on the 1.7% COLA increase. I would expect them to be around 1.7%, 1.0%, 0.5%, and 0%, or somewhere in that range. We will update this article when DFAS makes the official announcement. (DFAS page).

The reduced payment is a one-time deal, and only affects retirees following the year in which they retired. Retirees will receive the full COLA increase in subsequent years of retirement.

REDUX COLA Adjustments Will Be Smaller

If you signed up for the $30,000 Career Status Bonus at your 15-year mark and agreed to retire under the REDUX retirement plan, you will receive a smaller Cost of Living Adjustment each year. This is the agreement you made in exchange for receiving the $30,000 cash bonus. REDUX retirement recipients receive a COLA that is pegged at CPI – 1%. So for the 2015 increase, they would only see a 0.7% increase for the year.

One-time catch-up adjustment for REDUX retirees. There is a one-time adjustment at age 62 that brings REDUX retirees’ pay up to the level it would have been without the decreased COLA. However, this is a one-time adjustment. After this increase, the annual COLA of CPI – 1% resumes.

REDUX retirees in 2014. There is also a partial COLA given to military members who retired under the REDUX plan in 2014. Again, the COLA is based on the quarter in which you retired. Here are the 2013 numbers from DFAS (like the above example, we should see something very similar, if not slightly higher, for 2015).

CSB recipients who retired between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013 received a partial COLA based on the quarter they retired.

  • January through March retirees received 0.5% (the full 1.5% – the 1% REDUX adjustment).
  • April through June retirees received 0.4%
  • June – December retirees received no COLA adjustment for 2014.

Like the above example, the reduced payment is a one-time deal, and only affects retirees following the year in which they retired. Retirees will receive the full COLA increase in subsequent years of retirement.

More Info on CPI and Threats to CPI-Based COLA

How is CPI Determined: The measurement the government uses is called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), but you will often hear it simply referred to as CPI. The CPI is determined by measuring the price increases for consumer goods, such as food and beverages, housing, clothing, transportation, medical care, recreation, education, communication, and more.

Threats to CPI and Military Retirement COLA. The government has recently examined several methods of decreasing the annual COLA pay increases for military retirees and other government benefits recipients. Two of the more stringent methods are explained below:

  • Chained CPI. Chained CPI is a measurement that reduces the overall CPI used today. The theory is that as the cost of some goods increase, people replace them with lower-cost goods. An example would be, as the price of steak increases, people eat less steak, and more chicken. And as the cost of gasoline increases, people will carpool, drive less frequently, or take public transportation. There are flaws in these assumptions, but that is the gist of it. Here is a full-length article on how Chained CPI can erode your purchasing power.
  • Congress decreased Military Retirement Pay – then restored it. In early 2014, Congress agreed to cut military retirement pay, or should I say, they agreed to decrease the annual Cost of Living Adjustment similar to the REDUX option. Retirees would receive an annual COLA of (CPI – 1%), up to the age of 62, at which point they would receive a one-time adjustment to bring their pay back to the level it would have been under the full COLA method we have now. Then full COLA increases at the CPI rate would resume. This was later voted back to the current method.

While these last two examples didn’t end of happening, it’s important to keep in mind that there are threats to your military retirement pay.

Tax Filing Deadline for Extensions – October 15th

Every year, millions of American taxpayers mark April 15th as the deadline for filing their income tax return.  While the vast majority of taxpayers meet this deadline, it is actually possible to request an extension to file your tax return.  For those taxpayers, time is just about up to get their taxes filed.  The final deadline for those who requested an extension is October 15th.  Here we review the process of requesting an extension and what happens if you miss the final deadline.

How do you get a tax deadline extension?

Tax extension deadline - file by October 15th

File your tax return by October 15th if you requested an extension

Taxpayers who know they will be unable to make the April 15th deadline for filing their income tax can request a six-month tax deadline extension by filing Form 4868 by the April 15th deadline.  Once the IRS receives your extension request, the deadline for filing your taxes is pushed back to October 15th.

Military extensions may extend beyond October 15th. While the majority of US tax payers are required to file by the October 15th deadline, some military members may be eligible for an automatic extension if they were deployed to a tax free combat zone for part of the previous or current tax year. There are several rules for this extension, so be sure to visit the IRS website for specific information.

Note: According to the IRS, this extension may “also apply to individuals serving in the combat zone in support of the U.S. Armed Forces, such as merchant marines serving aboard vessels under the operational control of the Department of Defense, Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents, and civilian personnel acting under the direction of the U.S. Armed Forces in support of those forces.”

Why File an Extension?

In most cases a person files for an extension when they have a tax liability that they owe, yet are unable to pay by the April 15th deadline.  It is important to note that just because you are granted extra time to file your taxes, you do not get an extension for paying taxes owed.  When you request an extension to file, you will avoid the penalty for failing to file, however you will still be held liable for any taxes that are owed.  Taxes owed that are not paid in full by April 15th will accrue interest and penalties until the time at which they are paid in full.

What You Need to Know about the October 15th Deadline

If you have requested an extension, it is very important that you file your taxes on or before the final deadline.  The IRS has already granted additional time to prepare your tax return and any filers who miss this extended deadline will be subject to a 25% failure to file penalty.  For this reason it is imperative that anyone who has not yet filed to get their taxes in order and filed before the deadline passes.

Options for Those Who Owe Back Taxes

If you do not have the money to pay taxes owed by the deadline, consult with a tax professional to learn what options are available to you.  Again, the most important thing to remember in this situation is that an inability to pay cannot justify not filing your taxes by the established deadlines.  The IRS views failure to file as a serious offense, which may be punishable by one year in jail and a fine of $10,000 per year.  To avoid this, you need only file your taxes in a timely manner.  A tax specialist will be able to help you navigate the many options available to taxpayers who owe taxes but are unable to pay in full.  By filing on time, you reduce the penalties and fees and possible jail time that results from failure to file.

Understand There Are No Other Extensions

October 15th marks the deadline for filing extended tax returns. There are no additional extensions offered to individuals who fail to file by October 15th, except those noted above regarding combat zone tax extensions.  If the IRS does not receive your tax return by the deadline, they may file a return for you.  Understand that when the IRS files a “Substitute for Return,” you are not off the hook for taxes owed.  Any tax liabilities owed remain your responsibility and will grow over time until the issue is addressed and resolved. See more about penalties for not filing taxes.

New In-State Tuition Rule for GI Bill Recipients

Last month, Congress passed a new rule for GI Bill benefits, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. In effect, the rule requires states to offer the “in-state” tuition rate for all military veterans using the GI Bill, regardless of their actual state of residence. This will go into effect during the fall semester of 2015. The delay gives colleges and universities time to review their policies, and time for state legislatures time to amend applicable laws.

What the New GI Bill Rule Does

This new rule requires colleges and universities that accept the GI Bill to allow veterans using the GI Bill to pay only the in-state tuition rate while attending classes. There are currently 27 states that offer non-resident veterans the in-state tuition rates. So the primary benefit of this new rule will extend to students in the 23 states that don’t currently have similar provisions.

States will have until July 1, 2015 to offer non-resident veterans the lower in-state tuition rates if they want to continue to be eligible to participate in the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill programs. The GI Bill generally provides a lot of guaranteed cash flow to colleges and universities, so it is expected that virtually all states will comply with these new GI Bill rules.

Who is Affected

The primary beneficiaries of this new GI Bill rule are students who have recently left military service. This is because veterans often move to a new state after leaving the military, and it typically takes up to one year to establish residency for schooling purposes. Under the current system, many veterans are paying the higher, out-of-state tuition rates because they haven’t had time to establish in-state residency yet. Transfer students are also among those who are hit hard by the higher out-of-state rates for tuition and fees. The new rule allows these veterans to save a lot of money on tuition and fees while they wait to establish residency.

Dependents would also be eligible for in-state rates. The in-state resident rate rule will also be extended to non-resident dependents of veterans who use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Learn more about transferring post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to your dependents.

More about the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 also includes provisions that require the VA to provide veterans with access to timely health care, and it provides accountability measures to hold senior VA officials accountable for poor performance or misconduct. You can learn more about the the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.

AAFES to Allow Veterans to Shop Online?

AAFES Online ShoppingLike many retailers, the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) is looking for ways to improve their business model. But unlike many other retailers, better business for AAFES means better quality of life for military members, as some of the profits are distributed back to the military communities. Due to the changing environment and force reductions, Thomas C. Shull, the AAFES CEO, recently proposed allowing honorably-discharged military veterans to shop at their online store.

Currently, only active duty servicemembers, members of the Guard and Reserves, military retirees, and the families of these groups are eligible to shop at AAFES locations, either online or on base. Note that this proposal only includes allowing veterans to shop online, not at the physical stores located on bases. There is no current proposal to allow veterans to shop at on-base locations.

Impact of Allowing Veterans to Shop at AAFES Online Stores

AAFES officials estimate there are approximately 18.8 million veterans with an Honorable Discharge who would be allowed to shop at AAFES online stores under this proposal. Allowing these veterans to shop at AAFES online stores would give these veterans access to savings on a variety of products and could provide an additional $100 million for base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) and quality of life programs. Increased sales could also allow AAFES to negotiate discounts on larger, bulk orders of goods.

This proposal is an important part of supporting the military community. AAFES distributes dividends to the MWR programs and other military activities. Over the last few years, AAFES sales have decreased substantially as military members and their families shop at other locations, and as the size of the military continues to decrease. The continued drawdown will have a dramatic impact on AAFES sales and how much money they can give back to the military community. AAFES officials estimate their sales could drop to one third of their current levels within the next few years. Extending the privilege of online shopping to qualified veterans would be a good way to thank veterans for their service, increase sales for AAFES, and increase distributions to base programs.

Roadblocks to Allowing Veterans to Shop at AAFES Online Stores

Right now this is just a proposal. AAFES first needs to obtain approval, then find a way to implement the program. Let’s start with approval: There are some officials who fear “benefits creep,” if veterans are allowed to shop at AAFES online stores. Basically, they fear this would be the start of veterans gaining access to other military support programs. Implementing this could also prove to be problematic. AAFES would need to find a fool-proof method of verifying veterans’ identity and discharge status before allowing them to shop at online stores. Doing so would possibly require a method of collecting and securing sensitive information, including veterans’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

Will it Happen?

It’s too early to say right now. But overall, I see this as a positive development. The implementation could be tricky, but hopefully that would be a one-time up-front cost, followed by annual maintenance. But the increased revenues from additional sales should more than make up for the added administration expenses. Beyond the added admin costs, there isn’t much negative impact. Online stores scale easily, which means added sales, and potential costs savings on the part of AAFES. The proposal also doesn’t include access to shopping on base, so there is no negative impact to the active duty counterparts, such as buying up base inventory, more crowded stores, and increased reliance upon military resources (security, parking, traffic, etc.).

We should know more soon. The Executive Resale Board meets on Nov. 4, 2014. They hope to make a decision on this proposal shortly afterward. Implementation could take up to a year.

What are your thoughts—should honorably-discharged veterans be allowed to shop at AAFES online stores?

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

You may not know it, but you are at risk. In recent months there have been major hacks in a variety of industries. Target had more than 40 million credit card and debit card numbers and related information stolen over the course of several months. Home Depot admitted hackers got access to over 60 million credit and debit card numbers (source).

Prevent identity theft

You are at risk of Identity Theft.

In 2006, the VA lost a laptop that contained medical records, disability ratings, and social security numbers of over 26.5 million veterans (source). In 2014, hackers broke into a medical network’s computer system and stole over 4.5 million records, including names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and phone numbers – everything thieves need to steel your identity (source).

Chances are high that your records, or the records of someone you know were exposed at some point.

Military members and veterans at greater risk. You have also likely been exposed if you served in the military. The default form of identification used by the military is Social Security numbers. I remember having to sign in with my name and Social Security number when I ate in the chow hall. My name and Social Security number is probably floating around on hundreds or even thousands of documents. I am at risk. And so are you.

The High Cost of Identity Theft

Having a stolen credit card is an inconvenience. But you should be protected by your credit card company. Having your debit card stolen can be worse, because thieves can empty your bank account in a matter of days or hours – causing you to bounce checks or overdraft your account. Talk about expensive and embarrassing!

But having your identity stolen can be far worse. It can decimate your credit score, cause legal issues, and cost you an untold number of hours as you try to clean up the mess. The cost has often been measured in thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

So what can you do?

LifeLock is your one-stop shop for protection against identity theft. Learn more here.

How to Protect yourself From Identity Theft

Prevent identity theft

Shredding documents is a must!

You can’t protect against every data breach. Some things are out of your control. But you can try to limit who has access to your data, and you can take personal actions to limit your exposure. Let’s cover what you can do to protect yourself.

Guard your private information. Safeguard all documents that can be used to steal your identity, including your checks, Social Security Card, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, and other personal documents, including military records. Keep these under lock and key in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.

Shred anything you don’t need. I shred anything and everything someone could use against me. This includes personal documents, old medical or financial statements, duplicate checks, etc. Do the same.

Be wary of unsolicited phone calls or emails. I never give my personal or account information over the phone or email, unless I initiate the action. No reputable company will call you and ask to confirm your credit card or account number.

Additional Tips:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security Card in your wallet.
  • Review your Account Statements Regularly
  • Opt out preapproved credit card and insurance offers by going to com.
  • Don’t use public computers for confidential information, such as banking.
  • Use secure passwords and change them frequently.

LifeLock will protect your good name from identity theft and fraud. Learn more here.

Actively Monitor Your Credit Profile

The most proactive way to protect yourself is by monitoring your credit profile. Each of the three major credit bureaus will give you a free credit report once a year. You can stagger these and get one report every 4 months.

If you want to take things a step further, you can sign up for active monitoring and identity theft insurance. There is a monthly fee for this type of service, but it comes with active monitoring and insurance that will help you cover the cost of getting all fraudulent charges removed.

LifeLock Identity Theft ProtectionOne of the longest running and best companies in the industry is LifeLock, which monitors your credit profile and certain banking accounts and notifies you of any suspicious activity.

LifeLock Ultimate™ Protection offers:

  • Alerts for checking and Savings account applications under your name and information
  • 24/7 online access to your annual credit report and updated monthly score
  • Expanded credit alerts for new account inquiries
  • Alerts when contact information changes on existing checking and savings accounts
  • And more

They back this up with a $1 Million Total Service Guarantee. The guarantee is a no-deductible insurance policy. If you become a victim of identity theft while a LifeLock member, they will spend up to $1 million to hire experts, lawyers, investigators, consultants and whomever else it takes to help your recovery.

Limited-time Military-friendly offer: LifeLock also features a military friendly offer, good for 30 days free, + 15% off. This offer is good for all military members, veterans, and their families. You do have to submit your credit card information when you sign up, and you will be automatically enrolled after your trial period. But you are free to cancel without penalty at any time by calling 1-800-LifeLock.

You can learn more by visiting their military discount page – http://www.lifelock.com/offers/military15/

LifeLock Identity Theft Protection

How VA Disability Compensation Affects Military Retirement Pay

If you have a VA service-connected disability rating of 10% or higher, you are eligible to receive a monthly compensation check from the VA. The monthly compensation payments vary by your disability rating—and if your rating is 30% or higher—the rates are increased, depending number of dependents you have filed on your claim.

VA Disability Compensation Affect Mliitary Retirement Pay

You can be eligible to receive VA disability compensation even if you didn’t retire from the military. But if you are retired from the military and are also eligible for VA disability compensation, determining how much you get paid, and from where, can seem complicated. You see, until 2004, it was against the law to receive military retirement pay and VA disability compensation at the same time. Retirees had to choose which pay they wanted to receive, and if they chose to receive their VA disability compensation, those funds were “offset,” or deducted, from their military retirement pay.

There have been two major changes to this law in the past decade, and some veterans may be eligible to receive their full military retirement pay along with their VA disability compensation. These laws are:

It is possible to be eligible for both of these programs, however, you can only receive the additional monetary compensation from one of them. Veterans who qualify for both plans will be given the choice of which they wish to receive when they apply for their benefits. But you can also change your election if your situation changes. CRDP sends out open season letters annually each December; veterans must select their choice by the end of January.

Let’s examine your options if you are eligible for military retirement pay and VA disability compensation: There are a lot of rumors, myths, and misconceptions about how VA disability compensation affects military retirement pay. So let’s take a look at some of those rumors and misconceptions and break them down so you have a clear understanding of how these forms of compensation work together.

Comparing VA Disability Compensation and Military Retirement Pay

Military retirement pay and VA disability compensation are entirely separate forms of compensation. They are paid from different agencies, and paid from different buckets of money. They also represent two different forms of compensation. Military retirement pay is a pension that is based on your years of service. VA disability compensation is a monetary award that is based on your decreased ability to perform work after leaving the military.

Taxable vs. Non-Taxable Income: Military retirement pay is taxable by the federal level, and is taxed by most states (some states do not have an income tax or do not tax military retirement pay). VA disability compensation, however, is considered non-taxable income by the federal government (I am not aware of any states that tax VA disability compensation). This has a big advantage: dollar for dollar, VA disability compensation gives veterans more spending power than military retirement pay because VA compensation is never taxed.

What Happens When You Are Eligible to Receive Retirement Pay & Disability Compensation?

To best answer this question, we need to examine your disability rating. If you have a combined disability rating of 50% or greater, you should be eligible to receive Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP). If you receive CRDP, you will receive your full military retirement pay along with your full VA disability compensation. There will be no reduction to your military retirement pay.

If you have a combined VA service-connected disability rating of 40% or lower, then you are not eligible for CRDP. However, if you have a service-connected disability that is considered a combat-related disability, then you may be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC). CRSC also replaces the VA disability offset, and will increase your total compensation, even if you don’t have a combined rating of at least 50%. We will explain CRSC in more detail later in the article, and link to a full length article that gives even more detail.

If your combined disability rating is 40% or lower and you do not have a combat-related disability, then your military retirement pay will be offset, or deducted, by the amount of VA service-connected disability compensation you receive.

Let’s take a look at these special conditions in more detail, and run some numbers to show you how valuable these benefits are.

Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP)

Concurrent Receipt Laws: Up until 2004, the law prevented military retirees from receiving part or all of their military pay if they also received disability compensation from the VA. Military members had to choose which payment they wanted to receive: military retirement pay, or VA disability compensation. If they chose to receive both forms of payment, they had to offset, or waive, a portion of their military retirement pay equal to the amount they received from the VA. Basically, it prevents servicemembers from double-dipping and receiving compensation from both the VA and the military.

In 2004, the law was changed, and military retirees were eligible to receive both military retirement pay and VA disability compensation, but only if they had a VA service-connected disability rating of 50% or higher.

Here is how the compensation breaks down if you are eligible to receive both types of compensation:

  • VA disability rating of 40% or lower. Military retirees who choose to receive VA disability compensation will have their military retirement pay offset by the amount of compensation they receive from the VA. Most retirees choose to receive their VA disability compensation because it is tax-free income, while their military pension is taxed by the federal government and by most states. They still receive the same amount of total compensation they otherwise would have received, however, the VA compensation portion is tax-free, giving them more spending power.
  • VA disability rating of 50% or greater. Military retirees with a disability rating of greater than 50% are eligible to receive both payments under CRDP. They will receive their full military retirement pension, along with 100% of their VA disability compensation. They do not need to offset their military pay by the amount of the compensation they receive from the VA.

The difference between a disability rating of 40% and 50% can literally mean a difference of thousands of dollars per year because the difference comes in the form of the increased disability compensation at the higher rate, along with the full military pension that is not offset by the concurrent receipt laws. Let’s run through an example.

Example: How is Military Retirement Pay Offset by VA Compensation?

If your VA disability rating is 40% or lower, your military retirement pay is offset by the amount of your VA compensation. In other words a 40% disability rating doesn’t mean 40% of your retirement pay is tax free. It means you receive tax-free compensation from the VA at the 40% rate, and your military retirement pay is deducted by that amount.

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say our retiree earns a monthly retirement check of $2,000. Let’s also assume he has a VA service-connected disability rating of 40%, and he has one dependent (a spouse). His VA disability compensation would be $641.28/mo (2014 rates; see full rate chart here).

He would receive $641.28 from the VA, which would be tax-free. He would then receive $1,358.72 as his military retirement pay ($2,000 – $641.28 = $1,358.72).

The total amount still equals $2,000 per month. But $641.28 of that is tax-free income. The overall affect gives the veteran more spending power.

You can also see how this uniform method for computing the VA disability offset is easier than awarding retirees a percentage of their pay as tax free.

The Value of Concurrent Receipt is Enormous

As you can see from the example above, the main benefit of the VA disability offset is receiving the tax-free pay from the VA. The final dollar amount is the same, but the tax-free portion gives the veteran greater spending power than if he received the full value of his pension from the military with no VA offset.

But the amount would be much greater if the veteran received both forms of compensation under Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay laws. The increase would mean the full value of the military retirement pay, plus the full value of the VA disability compensation. Going from a 40% rating ($641.28) to a 50% rating ($901.83) is huge. Not only does the VA disability compensation increase by $260.55 per month, but the $641.28 is not deducted from the military retirement pay. The net effect is this:

  • 40% disability rating: $2,000 total ($1,358.72 taxable; $641.28 non-taxable)
  • 50% disability rating: $2,901.83 total ($2,000 taxable; $901.83 non-taxable)

The difference is an increase of $10,821.96 per year, none of which is taxable income.

Learn more about Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP):

Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC)

Now that we have discussed Concurrent Receipt, we need to add one more special case for receiving both military retirement pay and VA disability compensation: Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC). To qualify for CRSC, you must have a service-connected disability rating that is considered combat-related. There are a few other eligibility criteria:

  • You must be a military retiree (Active or Reserve with 20 years or creditable service; Chapter 61 medically retired with less than 20 years of service; Retired under Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA); or  retired under the Temporary Disabled Retirement List (TDRL)).
  • You must have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10% that is considered to be combat-related.
  • Your military retirement pay must currently be reduced by the VA disability offset.

Here is the interesting part: the injury doesn’t have to be from direct combat. Disabilities may be considered combat-related for CRSC purposes if they are a direct result of:

  • Armed Conflict / Combat: direct or indirect wounds that happened during armed conflict.
  • Hazardous Duty: demolition duty, diving, parachuting, aerial flight, and more.
  • An Instrumentality of War: An injury sustained from exposure to an instrumentality of war, such as a weapon or weapon systems specifically designed for military duty or warfare. This can include certain military combat vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or an injury or sickness caused by exposure to fumes, gases, or chemicals. Agent Orange exposure would qualify as an instrumentality of war.
  • Simulated War: Activities such as military training, exercises, airborne ops, live fire exercises, hand-to-hand combat training, and more. This does not include standard physical training such as running, jogging, or group sports activities.

Eligibility Dates: Anyone can be eligible so long as they meet the above criteria. This includes military retirees who have been retired for decades, or someone who retired last month. There is even the possibility of back pay, however, it can only be extended back to the effective dates of the laws, which are June 1, 2003 for those with 20 years of service, or January 1, 2008, for those who were medically retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service.

You must apply with your branch of service. Concurrent Receipt is automatically applied by DFAS and the VA. However, the CRSC program is administered by each branch of the military. You will need to complete an application and send in supporting documentation to receive this benefit.

There is a lot more to this law, so I suggest further reading if you believe it may apply to you.

Will Concurrent Receipt Be Extended to Everyone?

In a perfect world, all military retirees who have a VA service-connected disability rating would be eligible to receive the disability pay in addition to their retirement pay. Unfortunately, the government budget isn’t limitless and the current payment methods are being used to help control budgets. Concurrent Receipt was phased in over a ten year period, with veterans receiving incrementally larger amounts of VA compensation added to their retirement pay each year. If the government were to open Concurrent Receipt to everyone, they would likely do something similar, as it would otherwise be a massive budget increase.

Will Concurrent Receipt Laws Change? There are many military organizations and lobbying groups that are working hard to get the Concurrent Receipt laws extended to all retirees, regardless of their disability rating. But it has yet to be approved by Congress. The Military Officer’s Association of America (MOAA) has repeatedly attempted to get the law repealed that requires military retirees to forfeit their military retirement pay in order to receive their VA disability pay. You can read about their most recent efforts here.

Do you think Concurrent Receipt should be extended to all military retirees? Leave us a comment below and tell us why.

Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) Benefits – Replaces VA Disability Offset for Military Retirees with Combat-Related Disabilities

Did you know that if you are a military retiree with a combat-related disability you may be eligible to receive additional compensation through the Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) program? This is a relatively new law that many retirees are not aware of.

Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) Benefits

You may be eligible to receive additional compensation.

Until 2004, there was a law on the books that prevented military retirees from receiving both military retirement pay and VA service-connected disability compensation at the same time. Military retirees could choose to receive VA disability compensation if they were eligible, but their military retirement pay would be offset by the exact amount of compensation they received from the VA. The veteran received the same total compensation as their full retirement pay, however, the spending power was greater because VA disability compensation is tax-exempt.

In 2004, a law called Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP) was passed. CRDP allows military retirees to receive both military retirement pay and VA disability compensation if they held a VA disability rating of 50% or greater. This is a substantial increase in compensation for these veterans who are eligible to receive their full military retirement pay and their full VA disability compensation.

But retirees with less than a 50% disability rating were left in the dark when it came to receiving greater compensation. While lawmakers didn’t extend the concurrent receipt laws to cover all disability ratings, they did create a similar law for veterans with a “combat related” disability, even if they do not have an overall disability rating of 50%. In 2008, Congress passed a law called the Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) (10 U.S. Code § 1413a), which allows military retirees to receive monthly compensation to replace some or all of their VA disability offset if they have a combat-related injury. Let’s take a deeper look at CRSC, what it is, who it affects, and how to apply for this benefit.

What Is Combat Related Special Compensation?

Combat-Related Special Compensation was created to replace the VA disability offset for service-connected disabilities that are a direct result of combat related injuries, to include injuries that occur during combat or armed conflict, or during combat training, training that simulates war, while performing hazardous duty, or from exposure to an instrumentality of war (such as military combat vehicles, agent orange exposure, etc.).

Combat-Related Special Compensation provides compensation to eligible military retirees that will replace some or all of the VA disability offset. Their military retirement pay will no longer be deducted by the amount of their VA disability compensation. Instead, they will receive their full military retirement pay, and a CRSC payment based on the percentage of their disability rating that is considered combat-related. It’s important to note that CRSC payments only apply to the disabilities that are considered combat related. So it is possible that your CRSC payment can be less than your overall VA disability rating, and thus less than your VA disability offset. Like VA Disability compensation, CRSC payments are tax free.

Combat Related Special Compensation Eligibility

Here are the eligibility requirements, according to DFAS — To qualify for CRSC:

  • You must be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay (Active or Reserve with 20 years or creditable service; Chapter 61 medically retired with less than 20 years of service; Retired under Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA); or  retired under the Temporary Disabled Retirement List (TDRL)).
  • You must have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent
  • Your military retirement pay is currently being reduced by your VA disability compensation (VA disability offset)
  • You must file a CRSC application with your Branch of Service

Disabilities that may be considered combat related include injuries incurred as a direct result of:

  • Armed Conflict / Combat: This can include direct or indirect wounds which occurred during armed conflict.
  • Hazardous Duty: This can include activities such as demolition duty, diving, parachuting, aerial flight, and more.
  • An Instrumentality of War: An instrumentality of war is a device such as a weapon or weapon systems specifically designed for military duty or warfare. This can include certain military combat vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or an injury or sickness caused by exposure to fumes, gases, or chemicals. Agent Orange exposure would qualify as an instrumentality of war.
  • Simulated War: This can activities such as military training, exercises, airborne ops, live fire exercises, hand-to-hand combat training, and more. This does not include standard physical training such as running, jogging, or group sports activities.

Eligibility Based on Service Dates and Back Pay: Anyone can be eligible to receive benefits under CRSC as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. This means it can apply to veterans who retired decades ago, or as recently as a month ago. There is even the possibility of receiving back pay if you are determined to be eligible for this benefit. However, if you retired with full longevity (20 or more years of service), you can only receive back pay as early as June 1, 2003, which was the effective date authorized by Congress. If you were medically retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service, back pay can only go back to January 2008, which was the effective date for authorizing veterans who retired with a medical retirement.

How to Apply for CRSC Benefits

Combat-Related Special Compensation is not automatic. You will need to apply for these benefits with your respective branch of service. They will assess your claim and determine your eligibility. To apply, you will need to fill out DD form 2860, along with the required documentation mentioned below, and send it to your respective military branch.

CRSC can be a complicated benefit because each case is unique. As always, it would be a good idea to consider using a Veterans Service Officer to help you with your benefits claims. They are often well-versed in applying for military and veterans benefits, and usually offer free assistance to veterans.

Documentation of Combat-Related Injury Required: You must be able to show a causal link between your service-connected disability rating and a combat-related event. You will need to provide documentation of your military service, including your Form DD-214 or Form DD-215, military medical records pertaining to your injuries, military personnel files, line of duty determinations, safety mishap (accident) reports, military personnel data system printouts, prior military disability board decisions, casualty reports, official orders or travel vouchers, VA summary letters, or other official documents that can substantiate your claims. Here is the important thing to remember: your records must clearly show your injury is combat-related.

Here is the contact info for submitting your CRSC claim:

Air Force
CRSC Program Office
HQ AFPC/DPSDC
550 C Street West, Suite 6
Randolph AFB
TX 78150-4708
Phone: 1-800-525-0102
Website: http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/combat.asp

Army
Department of the Army
US Army Human Resources CMD
ATTN: AHRC-PDR-C (CRSC)
1600 Spearhead Division Ave
Dept 420
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5402
Phone: 1-866-281-3254
Fax: 1-502-613-9550
Email: crsc.info@us.army.mil
Website: https://www.hrc.army.mil/TAGD/CRSC

Coast Guard
COMMANDER (PSC-PSD)
Personnel Service Center
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7200
4200 Wilson Blvd., Ste 1100
Arlington, VA 20598-7200
(703) 872-6626
Website: http://www.uscg.mil/adm1/crsc.asp

Navy and Marine Corps
Secretary of the Navy Council of Review Boards
Attn: Combat-Related Special Compensation Branch
720 Kennon Street SE, Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374
Fax: 202-685-6610
Email: crsc@navy.mil
Website: http://www.public.navy.mil/asnmra/corb/CRSCB/Pages/CRSCB%20main%20page.aspx

More Info About Combat Related Special Compensation

Here is some additional information about CRSC:

What Happens When You Fail Out of AIT or Tech School?

I recently received an email from a reader who was interested in what type of discharge he would receive if he failed out of Army Advanced Individual Training, or AIT (also called Technical School or Tech School by other branches). Here is his full question, and my answer:

Fail out of AIT or Tech School

Question: I’m in AIT and on my 9th week here and I realized that the Army is not for me. Do you know what discharge I would get for failing out? I have one negative counseling and it was for being late. Will the discharge affect my career outside the military?

Answer: The first and most important thing I can tell you is that technical training is not the same as the operational military. Things are much different, and in most cases, much better, once you leave training. Start with Basic Training: you learn all the basics of being in the military—discipline, customs and courtesies, how to dress, how to march, how to maintain and fire a weapon, teamwork, and on and on. You will be whipped into shape both physically and mentally.

By default, Basic Training must be rigorous and rigid in its format and teaching. You will be yelled at. You will be put under stress. You will be force fed your branch’s history, and structure, and way of life. In short, you must learn all you can learn about living and functioning in your branch of service in just a few short weeks. It is stressful because it has to be. It is stressful because the military needs to weed out those who aren’t cut out for the military way of life. They aren’t trying to weed out people who decide one day they don’t want to be in the military—they are weeding out those who can’t physically or emotionally meet the criteria. You made it through Basic Training, and that is an accomplishment.

What You Really Need to Know About AIT & Tech School

Here is something your recruiters probably never told you: AIT and Tech School are in some ways an extension of what you learned in Basic Training. You see, the Army or any other branch of service just can’t let you cut loose right after leaving Basic Training. If they did, they would have a huge problem on their hands. Trainees would go crazy and unlearn everything the Army just put them through. Instead, the Army must ease their training population into the active duty service. And this means they must enforce standards on their trainees that won’t be found outside of a training environment. Things like falling into formation at O-Dark-Thirty for crazy fun runs. Marching to class. Remaining in uniform 24-7 for the first few weeks or months of class, confinement to base, room inspections, and all kinds of details that seem over-the-top to trainees. It also means more yelling, quick-paced learning, lots of tests, and lots of stress.

In many ways, the military keeps the stress level high on purpose. There are several reasons for this: They need to keep students focused on completing their training. Otherwise students will let their newly found discipline slack, and they will fail out of their training and be kicked out of the military. That costs everyone a lot of time and money.

The quick pace is designed to put students through the course as quickly as possible—again to see if they can handle it, but also because it costs the military a lot of money to train their troops. Finally, the stress level is high because each branch needs to see if their trainees are physically, mentally, and emotionally tough enough to handle the stress the military will throw at them. You are training for war, after all. And if you can’t handle the stress of AIT or tech school, how can you handle being in a war zone?

Can You Fail out of AIT / Tech School?

The answer, as you well know, is yes. You can fail AIT or Tech School. But I’m not going to recommend it, for several reasons. First, it takes a lot to fail out of AIT. If you fail a section, they will simply roll you back a couple weeks and you will repeat those weeks of training. During that time you can expect tutoring or extra homework to make sure you pass.

If that isn’t enough and you fail the same section more than once, you may fail your AIT. At that point, the Army is simply going to reclass you into a different MOS. This can take several weeks, or even a couple months. During your waiting time, you will have the honor of performing details around the squadron, including fun tasks such as cleaning, checking passes, and whatever else they can find for you. All the while you have to watch everyone on your squadron graduate and move on to the operational Army while you wait around for your next assignment. Not only will this be boring and make you hate the Army more, it will feel demeaning to bear the social stigma of being someone who couldn’t hack it through the training.

Then you get your assignment and get shipped off to your next Tech School. At that time, you start over at the beginning in a new career field. It’s likely you will also have to start your restrictions back at week one (meaning you must wear the uniform 24/7, must remain on base, etc), until you reach the same level as the rest of your classmates.

What happens if you fail a second AIT? At that point they may look to separate you from the service, or they may try one more time to reclass you into another career field. Either way, it will take several more weeks for them to process you. That’s several more weeks that you have to perform mind-numbing details. And that’s several more weeks you will be stuck in the training environment that you don’t like.

Did you join the Guard or Reserves? In that case, you may or may not be reclassed into a new job immediately. The Army may send you back to your unit for them to determine what to do with you. That could mean reclassing you into a new job, or it could mean kicking you out. Either way, it will probably not be a quick process.

What About Failing Your PT Test?

Sure, you can get kicked out of the military for failing your PT test. But don’t try it at AIT / Tech School. You wouldn’t be the first person to try it. All they have to do is look at your scores from Basic Training and where you are now, and they will see that you aren’t trying. All that means is you will get put on remedial physical fitness training, which will be monitored, and you will have to test every week or every other week until you pass. It will be very difficult to fail your test under these conditions. Sure, you could fail on purpose, but that’s not a good idea. I’ll cover that when we discuss discharges.

What Type of Separation Do You Get from AIT / Tech School?

And now to answer your question… There are a couple types of discharges you could get if you are forced to separate from AIT / Tech School. The most common type of separation is an Entry-Level Performance and Conduct Separation, which is also commonly referred to as “failure to adapt.” This is an uncharacterized separation, meaning it is neither good, nor bad.

But here’s the deal: you can’t request a “failure to adapt” discharge. This can only be initiated by your Commander. Here’s the other thing you need to know: to grant this discharge, the Commander must view your actions as unintentional. In your case, he must believe you simply cannot pass your training. A commander will not grant this type of discharge if he believes you are intentionally failing your coursework.

If your Commander believes you are purposely failing through AIT, then it’s possible you may receive a non-judicial punishment, a court-martial, or a more punitive discharge. If you are very lucky, that could be a general discharge. But more than likely, it would be an Other than Honorable Discharge. This can have a negative impact on your future employment potential, especially if you want to ever work for a state or federal government, both of which will require you to disclose any and all military service, including your discharge status.

Final note on discharges: yes, it is possible to get a discharge upgraded. But don’t listen to the barracks lawyers who “know everything about everything,” including how to get out the military and get your discharge upgraded. It can be done, but it is usually a lengthy process and requires you to prove there was an error during the discharge process. In short, don’t count on it.

(Here is the Army Reg on Enlisted Separations; read this to understand the types of discharges, and what they mean for you).

Say Goodbye to Military and Veterans Benefits

If you are like most people who joined the military, you probably did so for several reasons, including a sense of honor and duty to your country, to face and pass a major challenge, and possibly for the numerous benefits you are eligible to receive through your military service. But most of those benefits are only available while you are serving, or after you serve a minimum amount of time. You won’t qualify for most, of not all, of the major military and veterans benefits if you throw in the towel during training.

Say goodbye to your Tuition Assistance benefits, and the opportunity of earning a free college degree while you are on active duty. Say goodbye to the Montgomery GI Bill and all the money you paid into it if you signed up for the MGIB in Basic Training. Say goodbye to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the opportunity to transfer it to your wife and/or children (this could be a huge benefit, even if you aren’t married or don’t have children right now). You can also say goodbye to a variety of other benefits, including access to home loans through the VA loan program, job training, and various veterans benefits programs.

Do You Really Want to Set This Precedent for the Rest of Your Life?

I’m all for freedom of choice. We make decisions big and small everyday. And these decisions define us in the long run. I chose to join the Air Force. It was difficult at times. Sometimes very difficult. But I don’t regret that decision at all. In fact, I’m proud I pressed through, even when times were hard. I am a better man because of it. And I believe you will be too, if you stick with it.

Here’s the deal. Basic training is tough. So is AIT / Tech School. But it’s designed that way for all the reasons listed above, and more. The military wants to weed people out. They want people to quit, because it means their force is stronger than it would be if they opened the doors to everyone.

But how will you handle quitting? Knowing that you went back on the oath you swore to your country when you enlisted? Knowing that you could have performed better, but you chose to take the easy way out? Will taking the easy way out now make it easier for you to quit when things get hard in the future? Because they will. You will face difficult times many times in your life. The decisions you make now will impact your future decisions.

Only you can answer these questions. But I would encourage you to stick with your training, graduate from AIT, and enter into the operational military. You will quickly see that life on the other side of training is much different than living and working in a training environment. You will also gain the satisfaction of staring down a difficult task, and defeating it. Give it a shot. It’s much easier and more beneficial than purposefully failing your way out of the military.