MyCAA – Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts – What You Need to Know

Are you aware the military has a Tuition Assistance program for military spouses? Though some refer to it as the Spouse Tuition Assistance Program, it is officially known as the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, or MyCAA. This program began in 2010 and is run through the Department of Defense. It is designed to help military spouses have better opportunities for employment – something that can be tricky when dealing with frequent deployments and relocations.

MyCAA Eligibility & Benefits

MyCAA Scholarship Military Spouse Tuition AssistanceUnfortunately, the MyCAA program is not open to every military spouse. It is only open to spouses of active duty servicemembers who are in the pay grades of E-1 through E-5, W-1 and W-2, and O-1 and O-2. Spouses of activated Guard members and reservists are also eligible for the program, provided the servicemember is on Titte-10 orders and the spouse will finish their sponsored courses before the service member is off Title-10 orders. Note: Spouses within all branches of the military are eligible, with the exception of Coast Guard spouses (this is a DoD program; the Coast Guard is covered under the Department of Homeland Security).

Here are some key points to the benefits:

  • $4,000 Max benefit: MyCAA participants are eligible to receive up to $4,000 in Tuition Assistance benefits, with a maximum of $2,000 per fiscal year.
  • Eligible Programs for Study: Participants are eligible to receive Tuition Assistance benefits for associate degrees, certifications, and licensures. These benefits cannot be used for advanced degrees or the completion of a bachelor’s degree.
  • 3 Year Limit: There is a requirement that the student must complete their study program within three years from the start date.

What is covered: The MyCAA benefits can be used for tuition for education and training courses, and licensing fees, to include certifications for teachers, medical professionals, and other professional certifications; licensing exams and preparatory courses; Continuing Education Units through professional associations; and degree programs leading to employment in a portable career field. MyCAA can also be used for GED tests, English as a Second Language, and some other classes.

What is not covered: The MyCAA program does not cover application or enrollment fees, lab fees, student ID cards, computer and technology fees, and many other associated education fees commonly found on college campuses.  Reimbursement for courses is not offered, so please ensure you have your MyCAA Financial Assistance (FA) document before enrolling in any courses.

Purpose of these limitations: There is a limited amount of funds to go around, so there have to be some limitations in place. The goal of the program is to help spouses of those servicemembers who likely need it the most. The program is limited to spouses of enlisted members through E-5, and junior officers. These are the folks who are generally younger and more likely to need a dual income household. The goal is to help make military spouses more employable. This is accomplished by limiting the TA benefits to programs that will result in an associate degree, certification, or an accredited license (there are many licenses which qualify; check with your education office for more information about available programs).

MyCAA Application Process

Eligible military spouses can begin the application process at the official MyCAA website. Spouses will need to create a profile, and their eligibility will be confirmed by linking their account with DEERS.  Once eligibility has been established, the spouse can then create a Career and Training Plan, which will need approval. As previously noted, the student must enroll in an education plan that will lead to a portable career (list of approved programs). The student can then request their Financial Assistance document within 30 days of the first class date. Spouses are required to apply to the school and enroll in the courses on their own.

You can also contact your school academic advisor for assistance. If they are unfamiliar with the program or you need additional assistance, then try contacting a Career and Education Consultant at Military OneSource. They can be reached at 1-800-342-9647 and can help you find a portable career that interests you, help you develop your Career and Training Plan, and help you navigate through the process.

Overall, this is a good plan to help spouses of junior military members get started on their degree plan or to obtain a license that can be used to help further their career.

Can the VA Reduce Your Disability Benefits?

When you are awarded a VA Service-Connected Disability rating, the VA retains the right to reexamine you to determine if your disability is still present and warrants the original rating. In short, it is possible for the VA to increase, reduce, or terminate, disability benefits based on a reexamination. But don’t let this scare you: not every veteran’s disability rating is scheduled for a reexamination, and not every rating will change.

For example, some service-connected disability ratings are considered protected, and will not be changed. Veterans with a P&T Rating (Permanent and Total) will usually not be scheduled for a reexamination. The same thing goes for injuries that are considered permanent or static. These include injuries that will never change, such as a missing limb.

Let’s take a look at VA Reexaminations to better understand the details of why, when, and how, the VA reexamines disability ratings, and whether or not your rating will be reviewed in the future. And if your VA disability rating is reviewed, keep in mind reviews work both ways: they can increase or decrease your rating, depending on supporting evidence and documentation.

Why the VA Reexamines Veterans with a Service-Connected Disability Rating

The why is easy to answer. Not all medical conditions are permanent. Some injuries heal over time, at least to some degree. The VA wants to ensure they are compensating you for your injuries at an appropriate rate. When you are assigned a disability rating, the VA also determines if they will want to reexamine you in the future. This typically only happens for injuries that have a reasonable expectation of improving over time. Reexaminations are usually scheduled within two to five years after the initial examinations, or they can take place any time there is material evidence in your change of condition. You will receive a Reexamination Letter detailing what will take place, and when.

Notice of Reexamination

The VA must send you a reexamination letter before they can change your service-connected disability rating. It’s essential that you attend this appointment, or work to reschedule it for a better time. If you don’t attend the appointment or provide supporting evidence for your case, the VA can reduce or terminate your benefits. The Notice of Reexamination should include contact information where you can reschedule your appointment if necessary.

The VA may send a Notice of Reexamination at  pre-scheduled interval (such as the aforementioned two to five years), or when they have material evidence there has been a change in your medical condition. This could be evidence that your situation has improved or disappeared. You have 30 days to request a hearing if you wish to contest the VA decision, and you have up to 60 days to submit evidence that a reduction in your rating is not warranted.

Keep in mind, the VA cannot reduce your service-connected disability rating without first sending you notice. Failure to do so on their end should result in a full reinstatement of your benefits.

When the VA Will Not Schedule You for a Reexamination

The VA will typically not request to reexamine your rating under the following conditions:

  • The veteran is over age 55.
  • The disability is static (such as a loss of limb).
  • The disability is considered permanent and is not expected to improve (e.g. blindness, deafness).
  • The disability is already at a minimum rating for that particular disability.
  • Reducing an individual rating would not affect the total combined disability rating.

These conditions are significant. The VA will not schedule are reexamination for permanent and static disabilities, so you can safely assume those ratings will remain the same. Age 55 is significant because it represents an age at which the VA assumes the veteran is too old to reasonably reenter the workforce (keep in mind VA disability ratings represent your ability to perform work at the level you were able to before you had the injury while you were serving in the military).

Finally, the VA will not look to reduce your VA disability rating when reducing one rating wouldn’t have a material impact on your overall disability rating. This applies to veterans with multiple medical conditions and disability ratings.

If you have been contacted by the VA to have your case reexamined and you meet any of the above criteria, then contact them with the phone number listed on your Notice of Reexamination and explain why you do not believe you should be reexamined. You may be able to have the reexamination canceled. The VA will not usually be able to reduce your disability rating without a reexamination, so your rating should be safe if you meet any of the above criteria.

Protected VA Disability Ratings

Certain VA disability benefits are considered Protected Ratings, according to the VA (though others say the term “protected” is a misnomer). This is where it helps to be able to find and read the appropriate regulations, or find an expert who can help you through the task. Here is a document that quotes some of the ratings protections for the 10 and 20 year rules (Word doc on VA site).

  • 5 year rule: If the rating has been in effect for 5 years, it cannot be reduced unless your condition has improved on a sustained basis (The VA must have documentation supporting this is a permanent improvement).
  • 10 year rule: A service connected disability rating cannot be terminated if it has been in effect for 10 years. Compensation can be reduced if evidence exists that the condition has improved. The sole exception is if the VA can prove fraud, in which case the VA can terminate the benefits.
  • 20 year rule: If the rating has been in effect for 20 years, it cannot be reduced below the lowest rating it has held for the previous 20 years. The only exception is if the VA can prove fraud.
  • 100% rule: The VA must prove your medical situation has materially improved and as a result, you are able to perform substantial work.

What do these protected ratings mean? Basically, if you have had a VA service-connected disability rating for 5 years or more, the VA must prove your condition has improved on a sustained basis before they can reduce or  terminate your disability rating. After 10 years, the VA can only reduce your rating; they cannot terminate it (absent proof of fraud). After 20 years, your rating cannot be reduced below the lowest rating you have held for the last 20 years. These distinctions are important, because some ratings can vary over the years, based on the medical condition.

For example, let’s say you have a knee injury that warrants a 30% disability rating when you complete your initial VA evaluation. After 5 years, the VA cannot reduce this rating below 30% unless they can prove the injury has healed on a sustained basis. If it has improved to the point the injury warrants a lower rating, or the injury no longer exists, the benefit can be reduced or terminated. After 10 years, the benefit can no longer be terminated, but it can be reduced if the VA can document substantial sustained health improvements. After 20 years at that rating, your benefit can no longer be reduced below its lowest rating or terminated (unless there is proof of fraud).

The 100% rule is much more difficult to have decreased. The VA must prove your health has materially improved, and you are now able to perform substantial work. If all of your injuries still leave you unemployable, then it is likely your benefit will not be reduced. Most veterans with a 100% rating have one or more major service-connected medical conditions, and possibly additional multiple less-severe injuries. The VA must prove the veteran is able to perform substantial work even with this assortment of medical conditions.

Reducing Your Disability Rating – VA Must Prove Change in Condition

The VA needs to establish substantial evidence of a change in condition before any change can occur to your service-connected disability rating. This puts the onus of the work on them. But you still need to be proactive to protect your rating. If the VA sends you a Notice of Reexamination, you need to show up for your scheduled appointment, or reschedule it, if possible. If you miss your scheduled appointment, the VA can reduce or terminate your rating without additional warning. Reestablishing your rating could take some time, or may be impossible, barring a legitimate reason for missing the appointment.

You can also request a hearing if the VA wishes to reduce your rating. You may find it helpful to enlist the help of a lawyer or your own medical professionals. You will want to ensure you have sufficient documentation to support your claims – whether you believe the rating should remain the same, or if it should be increased.

A Reexamination is Not the End of the World

A Notice of Reexamination can actually result in an increased disability rating if the situation warrants it. The VA will not go out of their way to increase your benefits rating for you. However, if the situation is warranted by your examination, then they will increase your disability rating. Keep this in mind if you are scheduled for a reexamination. It’s also important to understand that requesting an increase in disability ratings can result in a decrease if the VA can prove your medical condition has improved over time.

Bottom line: A VA disability rating is not always a static rating that will remain unchanged over the course of your lifetime. Your rating may remain unchanged, but it could also increase or decrease, depending on circumstances. If you feel there is a problem with your rating, it is best to find someone who specializes in VA disability claims and see if you can get them to help you with your claim.

2015 DoD Budget Consolidates TRICARE Plans, Increases Fees

The proposed 2015 military budget contains a few major changes that would replace the current TRICARE system with a consolidated system. The plan would basically eliminate the three current TRICARE programs (Prime, Extra, and Standard), and replace them with a single TRICARE plan that closely resembles TRICARE Standard. If passed, this new consolidated plan would include higher enrollment fees and more out of pocket expenses for many TRICARE beneficiaries. The government says these changes would also offer TRICARE recipients more choices regarding where they can receive their health care.

Here is an overview of the proposed changes:

  • Active duty: No change to benefits. Active duty members would continue to receive priority access to health care without any cost sharing. Active duty members would still require approval for off-base or civilian health care.
  • New Enrollment Fees (now called Participation Fees): Retirees, their families, and survivors or retirees would have a new participation fee of $286 for an individual, or $572 for a family. Electing not to pay the enrollment fee would result in forfeiting coverage for the plan year. Service members who are medically retired, and survivors of those who died while serving on active duty would be exempt from the participation fees, and would have reduced cost sharing.
  • Increased Catastrophic Caps: The enrollment fee would no longer count toward the catastrophic cap, and the cap for a family would be increased to $3,000 per person, or $5,000 per family.
  • New Cost Sharing: Cost shares will depend on several factors, including category of beneficiary (active, retired, medically retired, etc.), and where the beneficiary receives care. Costs will be lowest at military treatment facilities, higher in-network, and highest out-of-network.
  • Open Season Enrollment: Participants must choose to enroll for a 1-year benefits period or lose the opportunity for coverage.
  • Increased Co-pays for Prescriptions: Co-pays for brand-name prescription medications will cost $26 in 2015, and increase annually. They are expected to reach $45 by 2014. Generic medications would cost $14 by 2024. There would be no change for active duty members.
  • TRICARE for Life Enrollment Fees: TRICARE for Life participants would see enrollment fees based on their gross military retired pay. The fees would work out to 1% of base retirement pay in 2016; capped out at $300 per year, and $400 for Generals officers. By 2018 the enrollment fee would increase to 2% of retirement pay, capped at $600 and $800, respectively. Further increases will be based on inflation. Current TFL recipients would be grandfathered into the current system and will not pay enrollment fees.

Will TRICARE be Consolidated?

So far this is only a section of the 2015 budget proposal. But there is a good possibility some, or all of these proposals could be accepted. The bottom line is that the Department of Defense is faced with many tough decisions regarding the budget due to the Sequestration and pressure from Congress. Changes need to happen and they are looking at every possible avenue, including cutting weapons systems, reducing new weapon system acquisitions, Reductions In Force measures, cutting retirement benefits, and more.

Right now the best thing we can do is contact our lobbying groups and Congressional representatives to let them know how we feel about these proposals.

Sources: DoD 2015 Budget Overview, Military.com.

Proposed 2015 Military Budget: 1% Pay Raise, 6% Decrease in BAH, Other Cuts

The Department of Defense recently released a proposed military budget for 2015 (DoD). The results are along the lines of what we have come to expect lately: there will be budget cuts in order to reign in the DoD and federal budget. In the proposal, the strength of force will be reduced, weapon systems will be cut, and military pay raises will be capped at 1%, as they were in 2014. There is also an expected reduction of 6% for Basic Allowance for Housing. Other proposed cuts include consolidating health care plans and reducing commissary subsidies. Keep in mind everything that follows is still a proposal until signed into law.

Proposed Pay Raise – Just 1% for the Next 3 Years

The proposed 1% pay raise looks like it will be standard for the next few years, as the proposed 2015 military budget intends to extend a 1% pay raise for each of the next three years. Military pay has always been, and will likely always be, a contentious issue. Military members received larger than normal pay raises through the first decade of the 2000′s. The goal was to bring military pay closer to civilian pay. Now, the government wants to slow down the rate of the pay raises. While a 1% pay raise isn’t much, it is better than no raise, which is what federal employees received for three years, from 2011 – 2013 (source). Hopefully the era of small pay raises will be short lived.

Expect to Pay More Out of Pocket for Your Housing

The 6% decrease in BAH is a bit of a misnomer as it isn’t a direct cut, and it won’t happen overnight. However, the proposed cuts are real, and are expected to take place over the next few years. The goal is to shift 6% of housing expenses to service members over the course of the next several years. Part of this will be accomplished by slowing down the cost of living increases. So it’s likely that BAH wouldn’t be decreased as much as it wouldn’t be increased to keep up with inflation. BAH Rates are protected through a Rate-Protection plan, which freezes BAH rates for military members who already live in a location. When the government reduces BAH rates, they are locked in for members who currently live in the area. BAH is only changed for new members who move to the area. So it is likely people wouldn’t see an actual decrease in their BAH until they PCS to another location.

The proposal also changes how BAH benefits are calculated. The current method includes the cost of renter’s insurance in the calculation. The new method will remove renter’s insurance from the calculations.

Proposed Commissary Cuts

The Commissary has been a hot topic lately, and cuts have been discussed at many levels, including the possible closure of US Commissaries. The 2015 budget proposal includes a $1 billion reduction in commissary subsidies over the next 3 years. To put this in perspective, that will leave the Commissary with less than 1/3 of their current budget of $1.4 billion. The Commissary offers shoppers savings of close to 30% on their purchases (By law Commissaries are required to sell items at cost, plus a 5% surcharge). Several proposals have been made to reduce the proposed subsidies and increase the Commissary surcharge in order to reduce the amount of subsidies required to keep the Commissaries open. This would shift some of the cost to shoppers, but would result in keeping the Commissary doors open.

Reduction in Force & Weapon Systems

The Army is considering reducing their strength of force by roughly 13% – from close to 520,000 today, to around 440,000 to 450,000 Soldiers. Sequestration could further reduce that number to 420,000. To put this in perspective, this would be the smallest the Army has been since before World War II. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cites budget constraints and changing warfare strategies as the reasons for cutting such as large number of troops. The cuts, if approved, wouldn’t happen overnight. They would be phased in through 2019, and would take into account retirements, normal separations, and other factors.

The DoD is also considering retiring the A-10 and U-2 aircraft, citing changes in how air wars are fought. The missions these aircraft support can also be handled by other aircraft, at least to a satisfactory degree. The Navy could also see to half their current cruiser fleet retired. The Marines could see a Reduction in Force.

Budget Cuts Are the New Reality

The cuts we are seeing today are reminiscent of the Reduction in Force that occurred at the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and 1990s (though the Cold War cuts were much larger). But that doesn’t make things easier for those who are experiencing cuts today. The fact of the matter is the military is adjusting to the current environment. Cuts are part of today’s military environment, and will continue to be an issue in the foreseeable future.

Congress Restores Military Retirement Pay

President Obama recently signed a new law that reverses the Military Retirement Pay Cuts, which were set to cut military pension Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) pay raises by 1% until military retirees reach age 62. This law was only recently passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act, in early 2014. The backlash from current and former military members, and lobbying groups representing them, was strong. In the end, Congress got the message, and reversed most of the cuts. They did not, however, repeal the law. They simply grandfathered in military members who were serving as of December 31, 2013. Let’s take a look at the impact this has on current and former military members.

The Original Military Pension Cuts

The Bipartisan Budget Bill reduced Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for military retirees by 1% until they reached age 62. COLA increases are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a a measurement of inflation in the US. The CPI measures over 80,000 items to determine an average inflation measurement.

The resulting CPI rate is used by the government to determine cost of living adjustments for a variety of government benefits including Social Security Benefits, military and government pension plan raises, and VA Service-Connected Disability rates. These Cost of Living Adjustments help benefits recipients maintain purchasing power over time.

The decision to reduce military pensions for retirees under age 62 was based on veterans’ ability to continue working. The cuts would have saved $6 billion over the coming decade.

Impact of the Bipartisan Bill Act COLA Cuts

The Bipartisan Bill Act was passed before there was much opportunity to debate the topic of military pension cuts. And predictably, many military and veterans groups were upset with the bill when it passed. The bill was initially set to go into effect in 2015, then pushed back to January 2016.

The Military Officers Association of America estimated the retirement cuts would have had the following impact:

The cuts will have a devastating and long-lasting impact. By age 62, retirees who serve a 20 year career would lose nearly 20 percent of their retired pay.

For example, an E-7 retiring this year with 20 years of service would see an average loss of over $3,700 per year by the time he or she reaches age 62. For an O-5, the average annual loss would be over $6,200. An E-7 retiring at age 40 today would experience a loss of $83,000 in purchasing power – an O-5 would lose $124,000 (source).

Lobbying groups representing current and former military members voiced their opinions through a variety of means, and they were heard. Both the House of Representatives and Congress voted to retract the largest portion of the bill. However, it was not a full repeal of the bill.

Changes to the Bipartisan Bill Act COLA Cuts

Neither the House nor the Senate wrote bills that would repeal the original language of the law. Instead, they voted to rewrite the law to essentially grandfather in service members who joined before January 1, 2014. Under the new proposed laws, anyone who was serving in the military as of December 31, 2013, would still fall under the old retirement system (High-3 and REDUX, with the current COLA rules).

Anyone who joined the military on or after January 1, 2014, would fall under the COLA-minus 1% rule that was passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act.

Impact for Future Retirees

The Department of Defense has traditionally grandfathered military members when they make changes to pay and benefits. At this point it is too early to say what changes may happen between now and the time military members reach retirement. The hope is that the COLA reductions under the Bipartisan Budget Act will be repealed in their entirety, allowing military members who joined after January 1, 2014 to enjoy the same retirement benefits as current service members. If that is not the case, the next best outcome is Congress leaving retirement alone for everyone who is currently grandfathered into the current retirement plans.

The main takeaway is to understand that pay and benefits are under fire. There is only so much the federal budget can handle, and Congress will continue to look for ways to save money, whether that is through retirement benefits, TRICARE cuts, reductions in pay raises, cuts to current benefits, Reductions in Force, cuts to weapons systems acquisitions, or other means of reducing the impact of the military and retirees to the federal budget.

Now is the time to begin taking matters into your own hands and preparing for retirement as though cuts may happen. That means contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan if you are still serving, opening an IRA, contributing to a 401k if you have a post-retirement job, or looking for other ways to earn or save money for retirement. The extra planning can go a long way toward improving your quality of life during your retirement years.

USERRA – Employment Rights for Military Members

Serving in the military can be a difficult task. It can be more difficult if you are a member of the Guard or Reserves who has to balance family, military duties, and their civilian day job. The possibility of being called to active duty with only a moment’s notice can create stress, both at home, and at the work place. The last thing a service member needs to worry about is losing his or her job due to military obligations.

If a Guard member or Reservist is activated for a long period of time, they may find themselves at a disadvantage for promotions, career advancement, or even keeping their job. At least, in theory.

Thankfully, the government recognizes the sacrifices of our military members. Since 1940, there has been a law on the books that gives uniformed service members the right to reemployment after completing required military training or service. The law, originally known as the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights (VRR), was expanded in 1994 by President Clinton to become known as Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA. (the full version of the law can be found in Title 38, United States Code, at chapter 43, Sections 4301 through 4333).

What Guard Members and Reservists Need to Know About USERRA

USERRA gives members of the uniformed services reemployment protection and other benefits when military duty forces them to miss time from their civilian jobs. Provided that members of the Reserve Corps meet the eligibility criteria,

USERRA mandates that returning service members must be promptly re-employed in the same position that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment. (source).

USERRA applies whether the activation is voluntary or involuntary, in peace time or in war time.

What does this mean? If you are called to active duty and you are eligible for protection under USERRA, your job is protected when you return from military service. At the minimum, your company must offer you another comparable job within the organization.

Of course, it isn’t always that simple. Let’s take a look at eligibility, requirements, employee and employer rights, and some other situations so you can get an idea if USERRA applies to you or not, and what options you may have available to you.

USERRA Eligibility

Service members: In general, if the employee is absent from a position of civilian employment by reason of service in the uniformed services, he or she is eligible for reemployment under USERRA by meeting the following criteria:

  • The employer had advance notice of the employee’s military service
  • The employee returns to work in accordance with USERRA guidelines
  • The employee has not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge or under other than honorable conditions

Uniformed services includes members serving on active duty, in the Guard or Reserves, or members serving in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.

Qualified service includes:

  • Active duty and active duty for training
  • Initial active duty for training
  • Inactive duty training
  • Full-time National Guard duty
  • Absence from work for an examination to determine a person’s fitness for any of the above types of duty
  • Funeral honors duty performed by National Guard or Reserve members
  • Duty performed by intermittent employees of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, when activated for a public health emergency, and approved training to prepare for such service (added by Pub. L. 107-188, June 2002). See Title 42, U.S. Code, Section 300hh-11(d).

Duration of service limits: With some exceptions, USERRA limits the cumulative length of absence to five years. Some exceptions include initial service obligations exceeding five years, involuntary extension of service requirements, times of war, and times of domestic or national emergencies.

Disqualifying service: Separation from the service with a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, or under other than honorable conditions. Other situations include the dismissal of a commissioned officer through a court martial or certain other situations, or when a service member is dropped from the rolls due to being AWOL or being incarcerated in a civilian jail.

USERRA Requirements for Employers

Employers: The law applies to virtually all public and private employers in the United States to include federal, state, and local governments, regardless of size. Providing that the service member meets all criteria, USERRA requires employers to provide the following:

  • Allow employees to participate in military service
  • Prompt reinstatement back into job following military service
  • Accumulation of seniority, including pension plan benefits
  • Reinstatement of health insurance
  • Training or retraining of job skills, including accommodations for disabled
  • Protection against discrimination

Rights Under USERRA

As stated, service members are entitled to their old job, or a comparable position, upon return from their military obligation. This includes accumulation of seniority and reinstatement of all benefits. Employers must provide refresher training, and any other training necessary to update a returning employee’s skills so that he or she has the ability to perform the essential tasks of the position.

Escalator Position Clause: There is an “Escalator Position” clause, which states the service member must be reemployed in the position the person would have occupied with reasonable certainty if the person had remained continuously employed, with full seniority. This works both ways. It could mean the service member should be promoted upon return if it was reasonably certain they would have otherwise been promoted. However, it could also mean that the service member moves to a lateral position or is demoted if there were organizational reorganizations or layoffs during their time on military duty. It could also mean the person is laid off if they would have otherwise been laid off while they were serving in the uniformed services (for example, if there was a reduction in force, or mass layoff in the company).

Continuation of health care benefits: Employers are required to continue offering employees health care benefits while the military member is performing military duties (for up to 24 months). If the member is activated for longer than 30 days, the employer may require the service member to pay 102% of the premium in order to continue receiving health care benefits (this is similar to COBRA heath care laws).

Protection from discrimination: This applies at all times, and not just when being called to active duty. Employers are forbidden from discriminating against people based on past, current, or future military obligations. This extends to hiring, promotions, benefits, and terminations. In other words, a company cannot deny you a job or promotion because you are currently serving, or have served in the military.

Reemployment Timetable Under USERRA

To be eligible for protection under USERRA, the service member must report back to work or apply for reemployment within the following guidelines:

  • 1-30 days of military service – Report next scheduled work day*
  • 31-180 days of military service – Apply within 14 days following completion of service.
  • 181+ days of military service – Apply within 90 days following completion of service.

* After 8 hours rest plus normal travel time from military training site to place of civilian employment.

Communication with your employer is essential. It’s important to keep the communication lines open during your activation so you can express your expectations and intentions to your employer. If you want to go back to your job, do your best to inform them when your activation period will end and when you will return to work.

Notice the terms state “report back to work or apply for reemployment.” In some cases, your employer may need to work with you to find a new (comparable) position within the company if your previous position was filled while you were activated on military orders. This is fairly common for people who were activated for several months or longer, as companies need to fill the civilian positions left vacant. Communicating with your employer can help you get the process started more quickly.

USERRA and Disabilities

Injuries and disabilities are a sad fact of the military profession. USERRA gives disabled veterans additional protections. Employers are required to make a reasonable effort to accommodate disabled veterans, and service members recovering from injuries received during service or training may have up to two years from the date of completion of service to return to their jobs or apply for reemployment.

Note the language states, “reasonable effort to accommodate disabled veterans.” It’s entirely possible in some situations that some reemployment may not work out. An example would be someone who works a physically demanding job and can no longer perform the tasks. The employer should try to find something comparable within the company, and offer training to help the service member (if available). But employers are not required to create a job out to simply keep someone on the payroll.

USERRA Enforcement

USERRA is a federal law, and can be enforced several ways. The Department of Labor has an organization called Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigates complaints and attempts to resolve them by working as a mediator between the employer and the employee. Employees also have the right to contact their state Attorney General, or hire a private lawyer and file a lawsuit with their jurisdiction.

Additional USERRA Resources

This is only a top level overview of USERRA. This is a complicated law and it wouldn’t be possible to cover every possible scenario in an article on this site. The best course of action you can do is familiarize yourself with the laws, and keep the lines of communication open with your employer to ensure they are aware of your service commitments and your desire to return to work with their company.

Here are some additional resources to help you gain a better understanding of your rights under USERRA:

Bottom line: USERRA offers many employment protections for service members, but there are also some limitations. Familiarize yourself with the scope of the law, and inform your employer of your rights if you feel they are being abused.

DoD Reduces Number of Locations for Imminent Danger Pay

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced they have reassessed the areas that qualify for Imminent Danger Pay (IDP). Imminent Danger Pay is a benefit given to troops serving in locations that are deemed to be hostile or dangerous. The benefit provides troops in imminent danger areas a bonus of $7.50 per day, up to the maximum monthly rate of $225.

Qualifying for Imminent Danger Pay: IDP is a location and risk based benefit. In general, the DoD considers areas where service members are at high risk for subject to the threat of physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions. This includes exposure to gun fire, mines, rockets and mortar attacks, and similar acts of aggression.

Changes reportedly not budget driven: The statement released by the DoD stated the areas were removed from the IDP zones as part of a routine recertification process, and not due to budget constraints.

The review concluded, “The imminent threat of physical harm to U.S. military personnel due to civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions is significantly reduced in many countries, resulting in the discontinuation of imminent danger pay in those areas.”

Locations removed from Imminent Danger Pay Zones:

The DOD news release noted the following areas would no longer be designated as imminent danger areas for IDP purposes:

  • The nine land areas of East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
  • The six land areas and airspace above Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro.
  • The four water areas of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea.
  • The water area and air space above the Persian Gulf.

Locations still included in the IDP zones include Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen.

The DoD estimates this will produce approximately $100 million in savings, based on 2012 service numbers.

Source.

These changes go into effect on June 1, 2014.

Big Changes to Army Tuition Assistance Benefits for 2014

The Army recently updated their Tuition Assistance (TA) program with a focus on ensuring their Soldiers are more focused on military readiness and training as opposed to spending more time on college classes. Soldiers will still have the opportunity to use Tuition Assistance to achieve their educational goals, however, Soldiers must first meet more stringent criteria to be eligible to participate in the TA program.

Army Tuition Assistance Benefits

Big changes are coming to Army TA benefits.

While not everyone will be happy with these changes, the Army was compelled to make these changes to meet readiness goals and to help stretch the ever shrinking budget. Let’s dive in and take a look at what the Army TA program offers, who is eligible, which educational programs are covered, and how to take advantage of this valuable benefit.

2014 Army Tuition Assistance Benefits Updates

The following rates are effective immediately, and are in place from October 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014.

2014 Tuition Assistance Rates: Effective January 1, 2014, the Army will fund 100% of the tuition for up to 16 hours of credit, not to exceed $250 per credit hour (for a total of up to $4,000 per fiscal year). This replaces the previous limit of 18 semester hours of credit (with a cap of $4,500 per fiscal year).

Army Tuition Assistance Eligibility

Perhaps the biggest change to the Army Tuition Assistance program pertains to eligibility requirements. The following is applicable to all Soldiers, regardless of component, who apply for Tuition Assistance.

Army Tuition Assistance Benefits Program Eligibility (source):

  • Soldiers will be eligible for TA upon successfully completing one year of service following graduation from Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
  • Soldiers can use TA for a second, higher level degree (post Bachelor’s) once they have 10 years of service, if any portion of the undergraduate degree was funded with TA. There is no 10 year requirement if TA did not fund any portion of undergraduate work.
  • Soldiers may take up to 16 semester hours (SH) per fiscal year at the rate of $250/SH each year.
  • Soldiers can use TA for 130 SH for a bachelor’s degree and for 39 SH for a master’s degree.
  • This level of funding permits soldiers to complete one degree at each level as part of an approved degree plan.
  • As other fully funded programs are available for first professional degrees (PHD, MD, JD), TA is not designed for this purpose.
  • To be eligible for TA, Soldiers must meet army physical fitness test (APFT) and height/weight standards and not have a DA adverse action flag.
  • The procedures will remain in effect until superseded or rescinded.

As you can see, the focus is on ensuring Army Soldiers first meet Army training standards before they can participate in Tuition Assistance benefits. There are a couple points worth highlighting:

Soldiers must complete one year of service after completing AIT. This doesn’t mean you have to complete AIT and have 1 year of service. You must serve one year after completing AIT. This ensures Soldiers are focused on upgrade training and proficiency before focusing on college.

The 10 year rule is also new, and worth noting. This doesn’t mean you have to wait 10 years after completing your Bachelor’s Degree before the Army will help pay for your Master’s Degree. This simply means you need to reach the 10 year mark in service. This is when the Army considers Soldiers as Career Soldiers. The Army knows they will get a better return on their investment with this rule. This also may not affect many soldiers who started their college courses later in their careers. (No word if there will be exceptions to this rule for prior-enlisted officers who used TA to achieve their Bachelors and receive a commission).

Eligible Study Programs: Tuition Assistance is available programs offered by accredited schools that are registered with GoArmyEd. Professional degrees such as a PHD, MD, or JD were listed as ineligible for the Army Tuition Assistance program. However, these degrees are required for hard to fill billets, and are almost always in high-demand. There are special programs to help Soldiers achieve these degrees.  See your Education and Training Office for more information regarding eligible study programs and schools.

Why the Army Changed The Tuition Assistance Program

Budgets are being crunched from all directions, and each branch of the service has been tasked with doing more with less. The Army TA program was briefly halted last year due to the automatic spending cuts that were part of the Sequestration. After the programs were reinstated, each branch took a long look at how they could reduce the budget while still offering their troops education benefits. Each branch altered their TA program to some degree, with the Air Force making many changes similar to the Army TA Program. The Coast Guard had the most drastic changes, in which they reduced the benefit to a 75% tuition payment with the member paying the remaining 25%. The Coast Guard also reduced the total number of credit hours per year.

Alternative Ways to Pay for College

Army Soldiers who aren’t eligible for the Tuition Assistance program still have options to continue their education while they are serving. For example, the DoD offers military members the opportunity to take credit by examination tests, including the CLEP and DANTES tests. Passing these test gives students college credits at a variety of colleges and universities. They can be a great way to reduce the amount of time needed to achieve a degree. I used these extensively while taking classes on active duty. Many colleges and universities also offer credits for military service.

Other ways to pay for college include using the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, military scholarships, federal grants, grants and scholarships from schools, and other tuition assistance programs.

With a little planning, it may be possible to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree with little to no out of pocket expense, without using the Army TA program. This would allow enlisted members to complete a Bachelor’s Degree, then begin working on a post-bachelor’s degree without having to wait to reach the 10 year service mark.

Congress Cuts Military Retirement Pay

Updated: Feb. 18, 2014. President Obama signed a new bill into law that restores military retirement benefits for most military retirees and those currently serving. The new law grandfathers in military service members who were serving on or before December 31, 2013. Those who joined on or after January 1, 2014 will still receive the reduced military retirement benefits. Learn more in this article: Congress Restores Military Retirement Pay.

Updated: Jan. 14, 2014. The initial bill to cut military pay was passed by the House of Representatives in mid December 2013. The House and Senate have negotiated some changes to the bill, which have been reflected in this article. We will updated the final rulings if/when they become official.

Military organizations and lobby groups were blindsided recently when the House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, a bill that called for the reduction of pay raises for current servicemembers and decrease the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for working age retirees (under age 62). One of the purposes of the Bipartisan Budget Act is to reduce the impact of the automatic budget cuts mandated by the Sequestration. Avoiding the mandated cuts will be paid for, in part, by shifting resources from working age military retirees, by reducing the annual Cost of Living Adjustment by 1% less than the current standard.

In other words, if you are a military retiree under the age of 62, you may start seeing smaller annual pay raises. This can have a huge impact over time. Let’s take a step back and look at military pensions, how the pay raises are determined, and how this may impact you.

Military Pension Benefits Overview

The military has a few different retirement plan options. The two active duty retirement plans this new bill would affect are the High-3 Retirement Plan, and the REDUX Retirement Plan.

  • The High-3 Retirement Plan gives retirees a pension based on 50% of their average base pay of their three highest annual salaries when they retire after 20 years of service (plus 2.5% of base pay for each additional year served above 20 years of service). There are annual cost of living adjustments based on CPI (explained below).
  • REDUX Retirement Option: Retirees who choose the REDUX plan receive a $30,000 lump sum payment at year 15, in exchange for locking in a lower annual cost of living adjustment, which is fixed at CPI-1%. (You will notice this is similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act proposal). There is an adjustment at age 62 to bring their pension up to the amount it would have been without the reduced COLA, then the COLA-1% resumes. This rarely works out to the benefit of the retiree, and in most cases, REDUX is a poor retirement option.

I haven’t yet seen word on whether or not the REDUX option will be affected by the Bipartisan Budget Act, and if so, how it will be affected. We will update this article when we learn more.

How Military Pension Pay Raises Are Currently Made

Military pensions are currently tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of inflation in the US. The index measures over 80,000 items to determine an average inflation measurement. This rate is used to determine the overall inflation rate for many government measurements. For example, the CPI rate is used as the basis for Social Security benefits increases and VA Service-Connected Disability rates increases. The idea behind tying these payments to the Consumer Price Index is to help maintain purchasing power over time.

While this is good for the recipients, it’s a cause of contention for the bean counters in D.C. These raises are cumulative and compounding. Over time, even small changes add up to tens of billions of dollars when spread out over hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of benefits recipients. This is why the government is considering Chained CPI as an alternative to using the CPI. Diving into Chained CPI is outside of the scope of this article, but suffice it to say it isn’t something that the government put together to help pension and benefits recipients.

How Proposed Retirement Pay Cuts Will Work

The Bipartisan Budget Act calls for military retirement pay raises to continue following the CPI. However, working-age retirees under age 62 would receive 1% less than the CPI for that year. Once retirees reach age 62, they would receive a one time adjustment to bring their pension up to where it would have been had they received full COLA adjustments the entire time. Subsequent annual COLA adjustments would be at the full CPI.

Here is a quote from the summary of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013:

This provision modifies the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by making the adjustments equal to inflation minus one percent. This provision would go into effect in December 2015. At age 62, the retired pay would be adjusted as if the COLA had been the full CPI adjustment in all previous years, and the service members would receive the full COLA from then on. Service members would never see a reduction in benefits from one year to the next and it will save approximately $6 billion over ten years.

On the surface, this proposed retirement pay system is very similar to the REDUX retirement option mentioned above, minus the $30,000 Career Bonus payment (and a few other details). The REDUX option resumes cola payments at CPI-1% after pensions are adjusted as if the COLA had been the full CPI adjustment in all previous years, which is different than this system.

How Much will This Cost Retirees?

While 1% may not seem like a lot on the surface, it adds up quickly. And when you consider the effects of compound interest, the long-term results can be significant.

The Military Officer’s Association of America (MOAA) ran some numbers based on average ranks at a 20 year retirement, and they came up with the following (emphasis mine):

The cuts will have a devastating and long-lasting impact. By age 62, retirees who serve a 20 year career would lose nearly 20 percent of their retired pay.

For example, an E-7 retiring this year with 20 years of service would see an average loss of over $3,700 per year by the time he or she reaches age 62.  For an O-5, the average annual loss would be over $6,200. An E-7 retiring at age 40 today would experience a loss of $83,000 in purchasing power – an O-5 would lose $124,000.

Other groups measured the loss in retirement pay around the 10% mark. Both measurements can easily be correct, depending on several important factors such as the age and rank of the retiree. Remember, it’s easy to make numbers say what you want them to say, depending on your agenda. In general, the numbers provided by the MOAA are a realistic measurement based on average age and ranks of military retirees who retiree immediately after reaching 20 years of service. Your specific situation will be dependent upon your rank and the age you retire.

Either way, a 10-20% loss of income over a lifetime is a significant loss, and one that is not easy to make up if you haven’t prepared for it.

How This Will Impact You

The decreased pensions won’t start immediately. The initial plan was to phase these changes in over a three year period and would be in full effect by the year 2016. However, it now looks like this won’t start until December 2015.

Those who retire at a younger age will see the largest impact on their bottom line. This is due to the compounding nature of how pay raises work. The longer you stick under this proposed plan, the lower your final retirement pay will be.

Those who will be the least impacted are retirees who served longer, and thus retire at a later age. For example, a retiree who serves 30 years and retires at age 50 would only see 12 years of reduced pension increases, versus 22 years of reduced pension increases for a veteran who retired at age 40.

Retirees from the Guard or Reserves may see the smallest affects from this new law, as the traditional retirement age for the Reserve Corps is age 60. However, it is possible for some Guard and Reserve members to retire early.

Exemptions to Reduced Pensions

There are some military pension recipients who may be exempt from these changes. A recent provision to the bill would exempt disabled veterans and the survivors of combat casualties from these changes (source). As of right now, I have not been able to determine the minimum disability rating to be exempt from the reduced pension, or whether the disabilities have to be combat related. Updates will follow when the information is readily available.

Other Changes in the Bipartisan Budget Act

There are several other major changes in the Bipartisan Budget Act, including giving the President the authority to lower the currently scheduled 2014 military pay raise from 1.7% to 1.0%, which President Obama has vowed to do, and a provision that would change how much federal workers contribute toward their pension plans. Currently federal workers contribute 0.8% of their pay toward their pension. The revised plan would grandfather in the current contribution rate federal employees pay, and would increase the required contribution to 1.3% for federal employees hired after January 1, 2014. There are no other changes to federal pension plans.

The Bipartisan Budget Act Hasn’t Been Passed Yet

Keep in mind this is still just a bill at this point, and it hasn’t been signed into law. The Republican led House of Representatives created this bill, and overwhelmingly passed it with a 332-94 vote. The Democratic led Senate will soon vote on this budget and will have the opportunity to pass it as written, or make changes to the bill. Then it goes to the President for approval.

Even if this passes, there is a buffer built into this change: it doesn’t go into effect until December 2015. There is an election in 2014, so there is time to make a difference by communicating with your representatives and with your votes.

Voice Your Opinion – Contact Your State Representatives: The MOAA has a system to contact President Obama and your state representatives. All you need to do is visit this page, enter your information, customize your message, and send an email to the selected individuals.

VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation Rates

If you were injured or became seriously ill while serving in the military, you may be eligible for certain veterans benefits, including VA disability compensation, which is a benefit paid to certain military veterans based on illnesses or injuries received while serving on active duty. Certain veterans may also be eligible for VA health care benefits.

There are many factors which go into determining compensation eligibility and levels, most of which are outside the scope of this article. Treat this article as a primer for VA disability benefits as we show you the VA’s definition of a service-connected disability, where to apply for benefits, and the current VA disability compensation rate tables, as provided by the VA.

VA Disability Compensation Benefits Pay Rates

Find the updated VA Disability Compensation Benefits Pay Rates

What is a Service Connected Disability?

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Disability Compensation is:

a benefit paid to a veteran because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. It is also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care. The benefits are tax-free. Source.

If you are considered to have a service-connected disability, then you may be eligible to receive a monthly compensation payment, and under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to receive additional compensation, usually if you have a service-connected rating of 30% or higher and have dependents (spouse, children, and/or parents under your care), if you have missing limbs, or if you have a severely disabled spouse.

Applying for VA Compensation Benefits

Detailed instructions for applying for VA disability benefits are outside the scope of this article, but in general, it is best to supply as much supporting information as possible, including how the injury or illness occurred, any medical treatment you received, current health status, and how your life has been affected by the injury or illness. You will need to fill out VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension or apply online using VONAPP. Also be sure to have a copy of your DD Form 214.

VA Disability Ratings Are Not Always Permanent

Many disability ratings are temporary and the VA retains the right to reexamine the disability rating at any time. If they wish to reexamine you, you will receive a Notice of Reexamination letter in the mail which will include a scheduled appointment date. Make sure you attend this appointment or reschedule, as the VA can reduce or terminate your benefits rating if you fail to attend this scheduled appointment. After the VA reexamines your condition(s), they will make a recommendation to increase, decrease, or leave your benefit at its current rating. There are times when your ratings may be protected, based on the type of disability, how long you have held the rating, your age, or other factors. Here is more information about VA Disability Reexaminations and Benefits Reductions.

A Change in Your Family Status Can Change Your VA Disability Payment

Remember to contact the VA whenever you have a change in family status as your rates may change as well.  If you have a 30% disability rating or higher and you are also supporting qualified dependents such as a spouse, child, or parent, you may be eligible to receive a higher VA disability payment. If your disability rating is 20% or lower, changes in your family status should not affect your VA disability payment rates.

The VA will not know when there is a change in your family status, so you will need to inform them immediately when something changes – such as a birth, wedding, a parent moving in with you, divorce, child coming of age, or the death of a qualified dependent. It is always best to inform the VA of a change as soon as possible, however, in some cases you won’t be able to do so until you have more information (such as when a child is born, as you can’t do anything with the VA until your child has received his or her Social Security Number). Keep in mind that the VA will sometimes backdate payments to make up for any shortfalls, or in the case of the loss of an eligible dependent, your payment may decrease. Be sure to contact the VA disability center for more information.

Receive your disability check faster. When you file your disability claim, be sure to give the VA the routing number to your bank so you can enroll in direct deposits. This is faster and more secure – and a requirement as of March 1, 2013. I recommend using a high yield savings account so you can earn more money on any interest that your money earns.

Current VA Disability Compensation Pay Rates

The 2014 VA Disability rates increased by 1.5% on December 1, 2013. If you receive disability payments from the VA, you will see a small raise in your monthly check, starting on January 1, 2014. Increases in VA Service-Connected Disability Rates are tired to the same Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) the government uses for determining cost of living increases for Social Security recipients, military retirees, and federal civilian retirees. 2014 marks the first year the VA has included amounts above a flat dollar amount. In previous years, the amount was rounded down to the nearest dollar. This change won’t make a huge difference now, but if this policy remains in place, it will compound over time.

You can view the current VA Disability rates here, but for your convenience, we have included them in this article as well.

VA Disability Rating: 10% – 20% (No Dependents) 

PercentageRate
10%$130.94
20%$258.83

VA Disability Rating: 30% – 60% Without Children

Dependent Status30%40%50%60%
Veteran Alone$400.93$577.54$822.15$1,041.39
Veteran with Spouse Only$448.74$641.28$901.83$1,137.01
Veteran with Spouse & One Parent$487.11$692.44$965.78$1,213.74
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents$525.48$743.60$1,029.73$1,290.47
Veteran with One Parent$439.30$628.70$886.10$1,118.12
Veteran with Two Parents$477.67$679.86$950.05$1,194.85
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$43.85$58.47$73.08$87.69

VA Disability Rating: 70% – 100% Without Children

Dependent Status70% 80%90%100%
Veteran Alone$1,312.40$1,525.55$1,714.34$2,858.24
Veteran with Spouse Only$1,423.95$1,653.04$1,857.76$3,017.60
Veteran with Spouse & One Parent$1,513.47$1,755.35$1,972.86$3,145.49
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents$1,602.99 $1,857.66$2,087.96$3,273.38
Veteran with One Parent$1,401.92$1,627.86$1,829.44$2,986.13
Veteran with Two Parents$1,491.44$1,730.17$1,944.54$3,114.02
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$102.31$116.93$131.55$146.16

VA Disability Rating: 30% – 60% With Children

Dependent Status30%40%50%60%
Veteran with Spouse & Child$483.75$687.97$960.19$1,207.04
Veteran with Child Only$432.90$620.17 $875.54 $1,105.34
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child$522.12$739.13$1,024.14$1,283.77
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child$560.94$790.29$1,088.09$1,360.50
Veteran with One Parent and Child$471.27$671.33$939.39$1,182.07
Veteran with Two Parents and Child$509.64$722.49$1003.34 $1,258.80
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18$23.75$31.67$39.59$47.50
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)$76.73$102.31$127.89$153.47
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$43.85$58.47$73.08$87.69

VA Disability Rating: 70% – 100% With Children

Dependent Status70%80%90%100%
Veteran with Spouse & Child $1,505.66$1,746.41$1,962.81$3,134.32
Veteran with Child Only$1,387.01$1,610.81$1,810.26$2,964.82
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child$1,595.18$1,848.72$2,077.91$3,262.21
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child$1,684.70$1,951.03 $2,193.01$3,390.10
Veteran with One Parent and Child$1,476.53$1,713.12$1,925.36$3,092.71
Veteran with Two Parents and Child$1,566.05$1,815.43$2,040.46$3,220.60
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18$55.42$63.34$71.25$79.17
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)$179.05$204.62$230.30$255.78
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$102.31$116.93$131.55$146.16

If you have specific VA benefits related questions, it is always best to call or visit your regional VA medical center, as they will be able to access your file and answer your specific questions.