Reader Question: Can I Get Partial Retirement Pay?

Can you receive a partial military pension?

The military retirement benefits is one of the best retirement plans around – with a pension starting after serving 20 years, and extremely low cast medical benefits for life. These benefits are well deserved and the least we can do to thank our veterans for their years of dedication and service. Though a military retirement may or may not pay enough to live on without taking another job, it is easy to value a military pension at over one million dollars over the average duration of a retirement.

In addition to the honor of serving our country, these generous military retirement benefits entice many military members to forgo possible higher pay in the civilian world and remain in military service long enough to earn a military retirement.

But what happens if you don’t stick around long enough to earn the standard retirement? can you earn a partial military retirement?

Can I Get Partial Military Retirement Pay?

I received a reader question this week:

Hi Ryan,

Let’s say an Individual put in 15 years active duty, then separated from the Army at his own request with a less than Honorable Discharge.  What would his entitlements be for the time he served in on Active Duty? Is he entitled to Partial Retirement Pay?  Or does he have to put in the 20 years to receive retirement pay?


Veteran, US Army

Hello A.T. – Thanks for your service to our country.

In most cases one needs to serve 20 years to qualify for military retirement pay and benefits, except in some cases such as disability. If you are looking to get paid, here are your options:

Join the Guard or Reserves. Your 15 years will count toward retirement through the Guard or Reserves. You would then need to complete 5 more years of service before you would be eligible for retirement pay. Keep in mind that you will not be eligible to receive retirement pay until age 60. Here is more information about the Army Reserves.

File a disability claim. Assuming you have a qualifying disability and it gets approved, you may receive a monthly disability compensation check and possibly health care benefits as a result of your disability. Keep in mind you need to file your claim shortly after leaving military service and you will need your medical records. I highly recommend visiting your local VA representative for assistance with completing the paperwork for your claim. Here are the current disability rates. The rates receive an annual increase for cost of living.

You should still be eligible for other veteran benefits such as the VA Loan, GI Bill, or other veteran benefits (check with your state or the VA for more information.

Good luck.

Search GI Bill Schools: You can use this GI Bill School search tool to help find available programs where you can use your GI Bill.

Print Friendly
Date published: November 19, 2008. Last updated: July 28, 2011.

Article by

Ryan Guina 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 also see his profile on Google


  1. Ryan you are right there is no partial retirement. I like the way you think about the disability and other VA benefits and applying for them but there is a problem. Some of those benefits require an HONORABLE discharge for you to be eligible. Unfortunately your reader points out that he does not have an honorable discharge. Also depending on the type of discharge he may not be able to enlist in the reserves.

  2. Jarhead: Very true – some benefits require an Honorable discharge, but the majority simply require any discharge higher than Dishonorable. I believe that all military members are eligible for disability regardless of which type of discharge the receive.

  3. I think that the suggestion of Reserve/Guard service is a great one, if indeed the reader is eligible to lead him/herself back into the military that way. It would be a great way to enjoy the benefits of service (GI Bill, insurance availability, etc.) on a part-time basis without sacrificing those 15 years for nothing.

  4. Ryan, USMC Officer that may be involuntarily separated if I do not make it to next rank. I will only have 14 years on active duty as an 04 by the time I may be separated. Is there a rank limitation to joining the Reserves?

    • ADA: Thanks for contacting me. I don’t know the specific requirements, but I believe you may be able to transfer into the USMC Reserves if you are required to separate because of high year of tenure requirements. For a firm answer, I recommend speaking with your personnel officer or calling the USMC Reserves Prior Service Recruiting Office at 1-800-627-4637.

      Best of luck to you, and thanks for your service.

Speak Your Mind