Can You Join the Guard or Reserves if You Have a VA Service-Connected Disability Rating?

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Can you join the Guard or Reserves with a VA Disability Rating?You can join the National Guard or Reserves with a VA Disability Rating - if you can get medical clearance.
One of the biggest misconceptions about having a VA service-connected disability rating is that it closes the door on your ability to serve in the military ever again. Some injuries or disabilities may indeed prevent you from serving in the military again. But the service-connected disability rating isn’t what prevents you from serving again, it…

One of the biggest misconceptions about having a VA service-connected disability rating is that it closes the door on your ability to serve in the military ever again. Some injuries or disabilities may indeed prevent you from serving in the military again. But the service-connected disability rating isn’t what prevents you from serving again, it is the injury that does that.

Can you join the Guard or Reserves with a VA Disability Rating?
You can join the National Guard or Reserves with a VA Disability Rating – if you can get medical clearance.

How to Join the Guard or Reserves with a VA Disability Rating

If you have an injury or medical condition that is severe enough to warrant a VA disability rating, the chances are high that you will need a medical waiver to join the military again. It may be possible to transition directly from active duty into the Guard or Reserves without needing a waiver. But if you have been off active duty for some time, you will most likely need to process through MEPS again. This will almost certainly require a medical waiver if you have a VA service-connected disability rating.

Medical waivers are processed independently from your VA disability rating. There is no magic number that is too high to prevent you from joining the military – it all comes down to the type of medical condition and its severity. The primary factors the military considers is whether or not you are physically fit enough to serve in the military and whether or not your medical condition(s) will prevent you from serving or cause potential harm to you or the members of your unit. This article covers getting a medical waiver to join the military.

In short, the process starts by contacting a recruiter and expressing your interest to join the military. Provided you meet all other criteria (such as the right Reenlistment Code or RE Code, age, weight, and other factors) then the recruiter will process your application and submit it to MEPS for a medical review. The article linked above includes much more detailed information about this process and what to do if/when your medical application is denied and requires waivers.

For now, let’s take a look at how having a VA service-connected disability rating affects your ability to join the Guard or Reserves and how it affects your pay and compensation.

Dual Compensation from the VA and the Military is Prohibited

There is a law on the books often referred to as “concurrent receipt” which prohibits service members from being paid for active duty or active or inactive training concurrently with VA disability compensation or pension benefits.* You can find these laws written in 10 U.S. Code § 12316 – Payment of certain Reserves while on duty, and 38 U.S. Code § 5304 – Prohibition Against Duplication of Benefits.

You can read the full sections linked above, or check out these two excerpts which give you the gist of the law:

  • 10 U.S. Code § 12316: found under section (b) Unless the payments because of his earlier military service are greater than the compensation prescribed by subsection (a)(2), a Reserve of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard who because of his earlier military service is entitled to a pension, retired or retainer pay, or disability compensation, and who upon being ordered to active duty for a period of more than 30 days in time of war or national emergency is found physically qualified to perform that duty, ceases to be entitled to the payments because of his earlier military service until the period of active duty ends.
  • 38 U.S. Code § 5304: under section (c) Pension, compensation, or retirement pay on account of any person’s own service shall not be paid to such person for any period for which such person receives active service pay.

In short, the law states you can collect a pension, retainer pay, disability compensation or other earned pay, however, you must choose to suspend that benefit if you are called up for training or to active duty if you want to receive active duty or training pay.

*Note: There is a similar law often referred to as concurrent receipt which applies to receiving disability compensation while receiving retirement pay; this is a separate application of these laws, which you can read about here.

Typical Guard / Reserve Training Schedule – and How it Impacts Your Compensation

Let’s look at the numbers in a real world application, based on the typical number of days served in Drill Status.

Most traditional Reservists and Guard members receive pay for 63 training days per fiscal year. This accounts for the standard 48 Unit Training Assemblies (UTAs), and 15 days of Annual Training (AT) time. The 48 UTAs typically consist of 4 drill periods per month for 12 months. For our purposes in this article, we will consider 63 paid service days as a baseline. Just keep in mind this doesn’t account for further training, deployments, mobilizations, or other active time. So you may end up with more than 63 days for the calculations we will do later in this article.

Verifying Your Time with Dual Payments

Because you can’t be paid by both the military and the VA on the same day, you must choose which pay you wish to receive, and which you wish to waive. You can do this at the end of the year with VA Form 21-8951, Notice of Waiver of VA Compensation or Pension to Receive Military Pay and Allowances (PDF). You must fill out this form each year in which you receive VA service-connected disability compensation or pension benefits and you serve on paid status in the Guard or Reserves.

The VA should send you this form during the first quarter of the current year, for the previous fiscal year. If you haven’t received a copy, you should request an annual waiver from the VA. However, keep in mind, this is up to you to complete and return. If you do not receive a form from the VA, then you should initiate completing the form on your own.*

Completing the form: Once you have your form, you will need to verify how many days of paid military service you had in the previous year. If there are no errors on your form, then you can sign it and send it in. If there are any errors or omissions, then you will need to submit it to your Commander or his representative for correction or approval. The unit will keep a copy, a copy will be forwarded to the State if you are in the National Guard, and a copy is submitted to the VA. You should also keep a copy for your records, including the date it was submitted.

Instructions for filling out VA Form 21-8951.

*Note: This is the law, and you cannot claim ignorance. You were informed by the VA when you received your VA Disability Rating Decision, found on VA Form 21-8764 – Disability Compensation Award Attachment. This form states your payments may be affected by receipt of active duty or drill pay as a Reservist or member of the Federally recognized National Guard. It is important to inform your Guard or Reserve unit when you join that you also have a VA Disability Compensation rating. Your recruiter or Personnel office will help you get this information into the system so it doesn’t catch anyone off guard.

The Service Member Chooses Which Pay to Waive

You should always run the numbers before signing and submitting the document. But in most cases, it will be best to waive the VA Disability Compensation. Here is how it works:

You must choose to waive your VA benefits for the number of days you served in the military, or, you must waive the military pay and allowances you received during your training days. The latter will almost always give the veteran less money.

Remember the number 63 above? That represents the standard number of training days for most members of the Guard or Reserves. If you waive your Va Disability Compensation payments, you will choose to waive 63 days of VA disability compensation. If you choose to waive your military pay from the training days you served, you would be waiving everything you earned from the military from the previous year (basic pay, BAH, BAS, and other types of pay). Waiving your military compensation is rarely the correct choice.

Let’s look at an example:

Example of Waiving VA Disability Pay

Let’s look at an E-5 with 8 years and a 30% disability and no dependents (this example uses 2014 rates for both drill pay and disability compensation) .

The disability payments would equal $400.93 per month. $400.93 ÷ 30 days in a month = $13.36 a day in VA disability compensation.

The same E-5 would earn $385.80 per drill weekend (4 drill periods at $96.45 each). So 1 UTA = $96.45.

The E-5 can waive the VA disability compensation of $841.68 ($13.36 * 63 UTAs). Or he can choose to waive approximately $6,076.35 of military compensation ($96.45 per drill period * 63 UTAs & AT days).

It’s clear to see from this example that waiving the ~ 2 months of VA disability compensation is the right way to go!

Run your own calculations: Here are the current VA service-connected disability compensation rates, and a current Drill Pay Calculator. Simply plug in the numbers for your situation and run the numbers. It should be quick and easy to determine which pay is better to waive. Note: don’t just use 63 days – verify how many days of paid military service you had in the previous year.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Which Pay to Waive: VA disability compensation is tax free. Most drill pay will be considered taxable income. So if it’s close, you may come out ahead if you choose the VA service-connected disability payment. But you would need to bring in a lot of VA compensation pay to offset a year’s worth of drill pay. In most cases, it is best to waive the disability compensation. But be sure to run the numbers, just in case.

How Does the Government Collect What You Owe?

Great question. In most cases, the VA will not ask for the money back. They will simply withhold your future payments until they have collected the funds you owe. So if you had a standard year with 63 paid days, the VA would withhold your future earnings at a rate equal to 63 days of compensation pay. Keep in mind this equals just over two months, so you can expect to miss those payments after you submit your form. Be sure to verify the total number of paid military days you had in the previous year so you will know how long you will be without your disability compensation payments. You will want this information so you can work it into your budget so you don’t cause yourself any financial hardship!

You Can Suspend Your VA Compensation if You Return to Active Duty

You should contact the VA to suspend your VA service-connected disability compensation if you return to active duty for an extended period of time, including mobilizations, deployments, long TDYs, taking an AGR slot, and long training assignments, such as technical training, Officer Candidate School, etc. Failure to do so will force you to incur a large debt to the VA and could cause problems down the road.

The easiest thing to do, and the correct thing to do, is to suspend your compensation payment, then request its reactivation when you go off active duty orders. That said, the VA won’t penalize you if you don’t suspend your compensation. You will simply accrue a debt that must be recouped from future disability compensation payments.

Can You Join Active Duty Again if You Have a VA Disability Rating?

Yes, it may be possible to join active duty again, even if you have a VA service-connected disability rating. The process is largely the same as described above. We focused on joining the National Guard and Reserves, primarily because that is the most common situation. Not all branches take veterans back to active duty (it all depends on current policies and needs at the time of application). So many veterans choose to continue their service in the National Guard, Air National Guard or Reserve Component.

If you do join active duty, you should be prepared to waive all VA disability compensation for the duration of the time you are activated. This includes whether you join the regular Air Force, Army, Marines, or Navy. This also includes Active Guard Reserve (AGR) status.

Will Serving on Active Duty Impact My Disability Rating?

First, you must suspend VA disability compensation payments if you return to permanent active duty status. This is required by law. Whether serving on full-time active duty status will impact your disability rating is another story, and I can’t answer this with any certainty. Each situation is unique, and is handled on a case by case basis. But I can discuss the process and things you need to know.

Some VA disability ratings are temporary and some are permanent, so it is possible the ratings may change over time. This can include ratings increasing if the condition worsens or decreasing if the condition improves. Some VA ratings can become protected after a certain amount of time and the VA will no longer decrease the rating.

Based on this, I can tell you that in some cases, the VA may determine that your condition has improved because you are well enough to serve on active duty. This could impact your rating. In other cases, the rating may already be permanent, and the VA will not change the rating. You will need to contact the VA once your active duty service time ends and they will resume compensation payments or reexamine your ratings to determine what they should be.

I cannot comment or speculate on specific conditions (please contact the VA or a Veterans Service Organization with specific questions regarding your condition).

Here is more information on VA disability reexaminations and potential rating decreases.

Summary

You can join the National Guard or Reserves with a VA service-connected disability rating – if you are medically cleared. But it does affect your pay and benefits. Make sure you keep this in mind if you have a VA disability rating and you are considering joining the Guard, Reserves, or even active duty.

Note about individual applications to join the military with a VA disability rating: We are happy to answer questions in the comments about the overall process, but we cannot comment on individual medical conditions or the likelihood of a veteran being able to join with Guard or Reserves with their specific medical condition. Each application and medical waiver is handled on a case by case basis by MEPS, and if it gets far enough, the Surgeon Generals office of the respective branch the veteran is applying to join. It is recommended that you contact a recruiter and work closely with them on the process. Be prepared to do a lot of leg work on your own, as much of the work can only be done by you (such as getting medical notes from your doctor stating you are fit to serve in the military and coordinating appointments).

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. KDP says

    Hello, I am curious. I am 100% VA, SC, permanent and total. I was 40% disabled by the Army (Back, neck, knee hip injuries caused by rappelling). I have Tri-Care for life and a retiree ID card. I recently interviewed for a position with the Air National Guard. It is a Dual Status National Guard Technician position. What happens to my current benefits, if I take the position (assuming it is offered to me). Do I lose the Tri-Care? Can I receive it again when my commitment to the AR NG is complete? If so, do you know what regulation? Will i gain enough retirement points to make it worth while?

  2. Jon says

    Ryan Guina looking for your help here, I have an 80% rating and am also in the national guard, I am currently receiving both and as an E5 I am thinking its better to waive the drill pay, but I have not processed my reenlistment bonus of 20k that I should be getting soon. I wanted to know if this bonus money will be impacted if I choose to waive my Gaurd pay instead of my VA compensation?

    -Jon

  3. Harlee says

    Is there a limit to what disability percentage you can receive while being in the reserves? Current active duty looking to go reserves

  4. Jon L says

    This is no longer valid. I recently talked to a few ARNG recruiters and they told me MEPS has a max acceptance of 30% disability.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jon,

      I do not believe that is correct. I know many people who are serving with a disability rating above 30%, including many who have recently joined.

      There is a maximum 30% disability rating for a military disability (as determined by a military Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB), but not for a VA service-connected disability rating.

      The two ratings are different. However, this is something I have seen multiple recruiters get wrong. I would ask your recruiter for further information or contact a different recruiter.

      Best wishes.

    • Jon says

      If you have an injury or medical condition that is severe enough to warrant a VA disability rating, the chances are high that you will need a medical waiver to join the military again. It may be possible to transition directly from active duty into the Guard or Reserves without needing a waiver. But if you have been off active duty for some time, you will most likely need to process through MEPS again. This will almost certainly require a medical waiver if you have a VA service-connected disability rating

  5. John RN says

    Can anyone share any stories about someone who has 90% service connected and has gout and cardiac stent and was in the reserve and has attempted to re join the any reserve or guard. I am an RN who is very interested to get back in to the military as an RN to help care for those who have COVID-19.

  6. mae navarro says

    I have been recently awarded 70 percent service-connected disability rating because of my major depression while I was Active Duty in the Navy. I am currently in the Army Reserves. I wanted to go IRR but not sure how to go about it and how I would be processed. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Jorge says

    Can you give up drill pay completely and just drill for retirement? Will the income still show up on a W-2? Thus, as taxable income?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Jorge,

      You can drill for points only, but this is almost never a good idea. First off, it’s unnecessary. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table. Second, if you start off as only drilling for points, then you may have a difficult time switching back to a paid billet. Third, there are associated costs with drilling – travel, food, uniform items, etc. If you only drill for retirement points, you are going to spend a lot of money out of pocket. You would have otherwise been able to use your drill pay to offset the cost of drilling.

      The best thing to do is to waive whichever pay is less – either the VA disability compensation or the drill pay. In almost all cases, it will be the VA disability compensation, unless you have an extremely high rating and you are a relatively lower ranking individual.

      Keep in mind, everything is pro-rated. You do not have to waive the entire month of VA disability compensation, only the number of days that you receive military pay. And if you waive VA compensation, you don’t have to cut the VA a check, they will simply withhold a portion of future payments until they have recouped the amount that you received dual compensation for.

      The article covers the topic more thoroughly – take some time to compare the numbers.

      Now to answer your other questions:

      Can you give up drill pay completely and just drill for retirement? Will the income still show up on a W-2? Thus, as taxable income?

      No, if you drill for points you are not receiving any income whatsoever. You are only receiving points. So there wouldn’t be a W-2 or any taxable income. You would only pay taxes if and when you retire and begin drawing retirement pay.

      Anyway, don’t drill just for points. I know a Reservist who was doing this until we discussed it. He ended up being able to drill for pay and waive his VA disability compensation. The difference was several thousand dollars a year back in his pocket.

      Please don’t make the same mistake he made.

  8. Randy Fejes says

    I am being told I can receive 100% VA disability compensation and still remain in the National Guard, is this a true statement?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Randy,

      It can be possible, though it isn’t guaranteed. Each situation is handled on a case by case basis. The military will assess your service-connected disability ratings on their impact, not the total disability percentage.

      For example, the military will generally consider these 3 issues: (1) Are you physically able to perform your military duties, (2) are you able to pass your PT test without permanent waivers, and (3) are you worldwide deployable?

      There are also some underlying medical conditions that make service members ineligible for military service, regardless of their disability rating.

      For what it is worth, I have known people with a 100% disability rating who have been able to continue serving in the Guard or Reserves. And I have known people who were discharged and classified as permanently ineligible for military service with a 30% disability rating.

      So it all depends on the underlying medical conditions, not the rating.

      Final note – I don’t have a definitive list of medical conditions that are either allowed or disallowed. You would need to consult with the Department of Defense Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services, also known as the DoDI 6130.03. You can also consult with a recruiter or the MEPS office.

      Best wishes.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Randy, I have not seen this to be the case. Please see the answer to your above question. That said, there are two different disability ratings, the military disability rating and the VA service-connected disability rating. The military may start the Med Board process if your military disability rating reaches a certain level. However, that is a different rating system than the VA disability rating. You can consult with your recruiter or retention office for more information. Best wishes.

  9. Karaz Tilghman says

    So I am active duty army right now and I’m on a permanent profile for scoliosis that was found in the army I’m pretty sure I want to finish out my contract and go reserves or guard. I know ill be getting compensation for my back and I was told by someone who’s in the guard that they finished out their contract and during their out-processing portion they got with VA and received their rating for their injuries then also went straight to guard without having to worry about a wavier because they finished out their active contract started receiving VA and went straight to the guard all in the out-processing process. That sounds like exactly what I want to do im basically asking to see if that sounds right to you with that whole process he went through so I can know ahead of time.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Karaz,

      I have known several other veterans who had a service-connected disability rating and transitioned directly from active duty to the Guard or Reserves. This is the easiest way to join the Guard or Reserves while you have a disability rating, as trying to join after a certain amount of time means you may need to apply for a medical waiver.

      That said, I can’t say this method is guaranteed. There may be certain types of disabilities that may either require a waiver, or may prevent someone from serving in the Reserve Component after leaving active duty. I can’t comment specifically on your medical condition – that is something you would need to discuss at the time of your transition. 

      But this may come into play for some active duty service members who are going through a medical evaluation board and have a medical condition that prohibits them from further military service. Again, my suspicion is that this is handled on a case by case basis.

      I wish you the best!

  10. Jens says

    Thanks Ryan, your articles are very well written and informative. Appreciate the hard work, got all my questions answered.

  11. Antwan says

    I have 70% disability , would i make this process easier if I simply turned off or gave up my disability to go back in as active? And also can MEPs see that I had a rating ?

    • Likelol says

      Speak to a recruiter, they will work with you and each case is different. I tried joining reserves but due to me not getting cleared by my doctor I did not get a waiver to join the reserves, even with the correct RE code. I desperately want to go back. But good luck talk to your recruiter and va doctor and hopefully you can get back in!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Antwan,

      No, don’t try to turn off or give up your disability rating.

      First of all, it’s not necessary and I don’t know if it is even possible. And if it is possible, doing so would cost you a lot of money and future benefits.
      But the main reason is that trying to turn off your VA disability rating wouldn’t change the underlying medical conditions that resulted in the disability rating. That medical condition would still be there regardless of whether or not you had a rating. 

      Keep in mind, you must disclose any medical condition that is listed on the medical pre-screening form, regardless of whether or not you have a disability rating. Removing the service-connected disability rating wouldn’t change the fact that you would still be required to disclose the medical condition.

      I do not know if MEPS has access to this information. But since you must disclose everything listed on the medical pre-screening form, it doesn’t matter if they have this information or not. 

      Just fill out the information on the medical pre-screening form to the best of your ability. If you have a medical condition listed on the form, visit your doctor and request they write a letter on their organizational letterhead stating that you are medically fit for service.

      That is the best course of action.

      Best wishes!

  12. Barry says

    Allow me to clarify what I meant by activation. I do not believe a sailor with the Ohio Navy Militia could be federally activated, but a sailor could be activated by the state of Ohio.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Barry, This isn’t a federal position, so it shouldn’t have any impact on your VA disability compensation. So I am not aware of any conflicts or impact that may occur.
      Best wishes.

  13. Barry says

    I want to join the Ohio navy, which is an organized and voluntary militia. I was told that participating in the Ohio Navy Militia is non-paid but if activated by the Governor, the sailor would get paid. I previously served in the US Army Reserves and the VA awarded me 100% service-connected disability. My dilemma is: If I join the Ohio Naval Militia and get activated does my pay get reported to the VA? Could the VA take away my 100% service-connected disability?

  14. Brandon Lovelace says

    Im 90% disabled through the VA, i want to know if i can get into the Guard, and if i would be allowed to go to SFAS, i was in the infantry. i tried to go back to active duty, but the MEPS doctor denied me instantly. My disabilities are not huge, but i had two minor surgeries in the Army. I dont come to this website much, if you could email me your response that would be perfect, if not i will come back to this page in a few days.

  15. Blake Howard says

    Looking to join the National Guard as a Full-time Technician with a GS 9 level. I’m a 60% service connected disability rating with the VA.
    My question is:

    Do I have to forfeit my service connected disability rating entirely?

    Blake

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Blake, No, you do not have to forfeit your service-connected disability rating if you join the Guard or Reserves.

      That said, the VA may periodically reevaluate veterans with service-connected disability ratings. So it’s good to be aware of how this process works. Always go to your reevaluation appointments or reschedule them if you cannot make the appointment.

      Best wishes.

  16. Timothy (Tim) Isaac says

    Good morning Ryan,

    I am 33 years old and I am service-connected 100% (Marine Corps), total and permanent disability.

    I’m interested in joining the reserve component (Navy, Army, Air, or NG) as an officer of the nurse corps.

    I hold a registered nurse license and currently finishing up my bacholor’s of science in nursing by the end of 2020.

    I have one dependent and another on the way. If I’m eligible to join, which pay would be better to waive? Would I be collecting retirement points if I choose to waive the reserve or VA disability pay? And how does BAH or other allowances come into play?

    Thank you, in advance!

    Respectfully,
    Tim Isaac

  17. Bradlee says

    Hello!

    So, I am interested in joining the Maryland National Guard but every recruiter I speak to, tells me I HAVE to drop my disability ratings to 30% to be able to join. I’m currently at 60% and I cannot see where I must drop my disability ratings. I have asked multiple recruiters to show the registration that saids I need to drop my ratings, with zero response. Do you know of any laws/regulations that shows that this is true? If so, could you please show me a source to it. If this is not true, could you please give me a source as well?

    Thank you

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Bradlee, This is a common point of misunderstanding among military members and recruiters.

      There is a 30% limit for military disability ratings from a Physical Exam Board (PEB). Anything higher and you can no longer join the military.

      There is no limit for VA disability ratings. Check out this reference from the Wisconsin Guard.

      That said, just because there is no disability rating limit, that doesn’t mean everyone will qualify. Unless the member transfers directly from active duty, they may have to medically process through MEPS and be physically qualified. There are certain disabilities that are disqualifying, and others may require a medical waiver. This article has more information about medical waivers.

      For what it is worth, I have known multiple people in the Guard or Reserves with a disability rating greater than 30%, including one individual with a VA rating of 100%. The latter situation is very rare – usually, the only way this happens is when someone transfers directly from active duty to the Reserve Component (RC) and files a claim after leaving active duty. The award letter comes after they are already in the RC.

      I hope this is helpful.

  18. resvet says

    Hi Ryan,

    Have 100% VA. Considering getting back into the reserves as a Lt.

    Question: Should I even tell the recruiters about the VA compensation? If I don’t tell them, would they find out? I feel like if I tell them it’s going to make the MEPS and accession process more painful and will raise all sorts of questions.

    I know I can either suspend it before OCS or just let it pay out and then get pay-checked when the year turns over and they see that I got concurrent DOD and VA pay. I’m not worried about that. I’d just rather not inform the DOD at all.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Resvet,

      You will need to process through MEPS, which includes a medical prescreen form. You will need to answer those questions truthfully, even if it means applying for a medical waiver for certain medical conditions. Keep in mind, not all conditions are eligible for waivers and some medical conditions may prevent one from serving in the military. 

      I don’t recommend lying about a medical condition in order to serve again – that would be a fraudulent accession into the military and can be punishable. It’s just not worth it.

      In other words, I wouldn’t try to hide anything. Just answer all questions truthfully on your application and let things play out. It may take more time, but it’s the right thing to do.

      Best wishes.

  19. Steve says

    Hi Ryan Guina,

    I found your website to find answers to my questions about submitting for disability.

    I served 8 years active duty and joined the reserves 2 months ago. I wanted to join the reserves since I have a wife and child and keeping my tri-care was of high importance to me since my child is only a month old.

    I want to continue to serve in the Reserves for the next 12 years or to the point of when I can separate to become eligible for retirement which wouldn’t be for some time since it’s different with the Reserves. So that we have an understanding of why I wanted to join the reserves and that I want to retire from the military. Do you know if I apply for disability will it prevent me from re-enlisting. I feel I will receive anywhere from 60% to 90% depending on my medical conditions of course.

    I’ve heard that the military won’t allow you to serve if you receive anything higher than 30%. Is this true and should I wait to receive disability?

    On one hand I can receive additional pay but might lose out on re-enlistment and in the other, I could serve for another 12 and apply for disability after. But I could lose out on my service connect disabilities I feel since 12 years would have lapsed.

    Not sure what to do here as I could use the additional income and benefits from my rating. I understand that If I receive 600$ a month from drill and make $1500 from my disability I would only be paid $900 from my disability. Which is understandable (double dipping)

    Looking forward to hearing from you and anyone else that would like to comment.

    Thank you,
    Steve

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Steve,

      Thank you for your comment. There is no limit for VA disability ratings to prevent you from serving in the military. The 30% limit applies to a military disability rating (the military and VA ratings are separate, and the military disability rating would come from a Medical Evaluation Board).

      That said, the military does evaluate the underlying medical conditions that lead to the VA disability rating. They are primarily concerned with three things: 1) can you fulfill your military duties, 2) can you pass your PT test, and 3) are you worldwide deployable?

      If you can answer yes to all three questions, then you stand a good chance of being able to remain in the Guard/Reserves. It’s not a guarantee, as there could be some underlying medical conditions that prevent military service. But it’s a good rule of thumb.

      The financial aspect is also a bit different than you explained. You can only receive one of VA disability compensation or military compensation on the same day. But your drill pay only covers 4 days of pay (two drill periods per weekend day that you serve). So you would only have to waive 4 days of VA disability compensation for that period. In other words, it’s prorated and you don’t subtract the full amount.

      You will choose to waive whichever pay is lower on a full month period. In other words, take the full month of VA disability compensation, and your base military pay for a full month (not your drill pay; use the full month pay from the active duty charts). Waive whichever pay is lower.

      I hope this clears up any questions you had.

  20. Andrew G says

    Hello,
    I have seen several comments about how if you are transitioning from active to reserve, (not going through MEPS) you will likely not have a problem joining the reserves regardless of how high your rating is. Does this apply for the rest of your time in the reserves?
    For example, lets say you have approximately 10 years of service and submit a VA claim on your way out of active duty. You get accepted to the reserves and a few months or a year goes by and you your claim VA goes through for 100% Perm and total. Will you be able to make it to 20 years without having to go back through MEPS or get some physical cleared that can potentially kick you out?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Andrew, Military members only need to process through MEPS when they are entering the military. You wouldn’t be sent back to MEPS, especially if you transferred directly from active duty to the Guard or Reserves.

      Once you are in the Guard or Reserves, your ability to perform your military duties will dictate your ability to continue serving. In general, the military wants to ensure you can 1) perform assigned military duties, 2) are worldwide deployable, and 3) can pass required PT tests without waivers.

      It is possible for members to go before a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) or a Performance Evaluation Board (PEB) to determine if they are fit for continued military duties. When members go before the MEB or PEB, a panel of military doctors evaluates them and makes a recommendation for continued military service, medical separation, temporary military medical retirement, or permanent military medical retirement.

      That’s the broad overview. However, it would be impossible for anyone to predict whether someone with a 100% disability could make it through another 10 years of service, or if they would go in front of the MEB or PEB.

      My recommendation is that if the member wants to continue service after active duty, they should transfer, and fill out their VA disability claim when they make their transition. Then figure out the details later.

      I hope this is helpful.

      • Andrew G says

        Thank you Ryan! I knew that no one could say with certainty you can serve another ten years I was just curious, if when the rating comes back from the VA after the transition if it automatically prompted some action like an MEB/PEB.
        Sounds like as long as you you can perform/meet the 3 criteria you layout out you should be fine.
        Thanks again for the quick response!

  21. Sam Cooke says

    Hi Ryan!

    Thank you for breaking down the VA Disability Compensation vs Military Compensation better than I have seen anywhere! I really appreciate your level of detail!

    My big question is this:

    1) In choosing between the VA and military pay, can one decision each day specifically or is it an all or nothing choice?

    Example: FY18 military duty totaled 75 points. 13 points from 12 day AT plus 1 travel day, 24 points from 24 IDT periods for PAY AND POINTS, 10 points from 10 IDT periods for POINTS ONLY, and 28 points (ECI) for completing a correspondence course, plus the 15 membership points for meeting participation requirements.

    As the 15 membership points and 28 ECI points are not from being in military status, that leaves 47 points from military status duty (10 of which were “points only, no pay”).

    Related questions:

    2) Will the DoD indicate to the VA the member “served” or was “compensated” for 47 days or 37 days?

    3) If 47, can the member choose DoD pay for the 37 “paid” days and VA pay for the 10 “points only” days?

    4) When choosing the VA pay over the military pay and “allowances”, are the participation and/or retirement points also forfeited?

    I am trying to determine how many “points only” (aka “points, no pay”) days I would like to do. I would love to build military retirement points, but would hate to lose VA pay to do so.

    My stats, if they matter:
    Reserve E-6 with over 19yrs of service, intending to keep serving many more years
    60% VA service connected, married with 4 kids

    Thanks again for your contributions here!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Sam,

      1) I believe this is an “all or nothing” decision.

      From what I have seen, the VA is only concerned about the days you received both military compensation and VA compensation. So any points you received in a non-pay status should not count against you. That would include the 10 Points from your “Points Only” service, the 28 ECI Points for completing a correspondence course, and the 15 Participation Points.

      2) Based on the information provided, you should only be charged the 37 Paid days. If not, you can fill out the VA Form 21-8951 with the correct information, provide the supporting evidence, and have it signed by your Commander.

      3) N/A. See answer to question 1.

      4) You should almost always choose the military compensation and waive VA disability compensation for the number of days you were paid in a military status. This is always done on a prorated basis, so you can compare the amount of VA disability compensation you would receive in a full month to the amount of military base pay you would receive in a full month, and waive the lesser of the two. As an E-6 with 19 years of service, your military base pay should be substantially higher than a 60% VA disability rating, even with your dependents.

      Based on your situation, I would never serve in a “Points Only” status unless I had to. I would drill for pay, receive the VA disability compensation as it comes, then fill out the VA Form 21-8951 each year. Once the VA determines the number of paid days, they will assess how much to withhold from future VA disability compensation payments. This is usually done as a percentage of future payments, so you won’t be out the full monthly compensation payment, just a portion of it.

      From answer 2) you mentioned 37 paid days. In this case, the VA will withhold the equivalent of 37 days of VA disability compensation, which would amount to one month and one week of future payments being withheld.

      In addition, I recommend checking out this resource, which explains how to waive your military pay using VA Form 21-8951.

      I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to follow up if you have additional questions and I will try to clarify.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  22. Carl says

    Hi Ryan,

    I am currently a drilling Reservist (3 years) with a soon approaching EOS. I have recently submitted multiple claims from AD (4 years) and am awaiting a decision.

    If I re-enlist, will my claims still remain or will be they affected in any way? I’m confused as I was directed to submit them within 90 or 180 days of my EOS/sep date. Basically, if I re-enlist and that date changes, will my claims remain unaffected?

    Thank you in advance!

    Carl

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Carl,

      I do not believe there will be any impact on your VA claim – this is handled separately. However, I am not certain what would happen if you go back on active duty orders. This is a question for the VA.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  23. Ted says

    If you are currently serving is there a limit to the amount of compensation you can receive that would cause you to NO LONGER be eligible to serve in the Guard or Reserves? For instance, I fully understand not being able to receive payment for both on the same day and having to pay back a certain amount base on the number of drill days. However, does receiving a higher percentage such as 80% – 90% or higher prohibit you in any way from continuing to serve? Or does the Guard or Reserve unit have the power to say that based on the compensation percentage you’re receiving that you can no longer drill unless you waive or reduce your compensation?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Ted,

      There is a bit of a gray area around this topic. The maximum military disability rating one can have is 30%. This is different from a VA disability rating. I do not believe there is a hard cap on VA disability ratings, provided the member is physically eligible to serve.

      I have corresponded with several members of the Guard and Reserves with very high disability ratings (ranging from 70% to 100%). But these instances are rare, and many of these individuals transitioned directly from active duty to the Reserve Component (RC). This is an important distinction because the transition from active duty to the RC is fairly seamless. However, things are different if you have a long break in service and have to process through MEPS again.

      When processing through MEPS again, members are required to file the medical pre-screen form and go through another physical. Often times, higher ratings mean the veteran has a serious physical condition that may prohibit serving again.

      If they are able to make it through MEPS, the military generally considers these factors:
      – Can you perform your military duties
      – Can you pass the PT test without permanent waivers
      – Are you worldwide deployable

      If the answer to all of these is yes, you may be eligible to continue serving. However, waivers may still be required to join.

      If the answer to any of the three questions is no, then the member would have a difficult time joining the military.

      Now for the gray area – I’ve read through forums and heard from others that some branches of the military are cracking down on this and there is added scrutiny toward RC members with higher disability ratings. And that some members with higher ratings are being separated from duty. (Anecdotally, I have heard this can be around 70% or higher, but I have not seen any written policy on this matter).

      Does the Guard or Reserve unit have the power to say that based on the compensation percentage you’re receiving that you can no longer drill unless you waive or reduce your compensation?

      Not that I am aware of. Some Guard / Reserve units may require drilling members to provide a copy of their VA award letter to their medical unit for record-keeping purposes. But I have never heard of a unit requiring a member to waive or reduce compensation because they also receive disability compensation (they are already required to waive one form of payment on each period they serve anyway). I’m not sure if it would be legal for a unit to require a member to waive their military compensation in order to continue serving – though that would be a question for the JAG.

      I’m sorry there is no clear cut answer here. There is a lot of gray area around this topic. However, I hope this is helpful.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  24. Stuart says

    Hello,

    I receive VA compensation from my time on active duty and I currently serve with the Reserves for points only. Thankfully I have had no issues with the Reserves or VA with payments as I elected to turn off Drill Pay.

    My question is, if I decide to stop showing up to my Reserve duty and the Commander gives me other than honorable (general, other than, or dishonorable) discharge, do I keep my VA rating/compensation from my time on Active Duty that I currently receiving? or Does that stop? I wouldn’t be applying for any new compensation with the DD214 for the time in the Reserves, I would only try and keep active duty time compensation..

    thank you for any clarification you can provide.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Stuart,

      I believe the VA will use your most recent discharge rating as it applies to veterans benefits. So a dishonorable discharge may impact your benefits. I suggest speaking with the VA customer service office for more specific details and how it would impact your benefits.

      This isn’t something I would play around with.

      Best wishes.

  25. Luke Sesler says

    Ryan,

    A lot of great information here, thank you for putting this together.

    I do have a question that I hope you’re able to answer….

    I’m doing the benefits on discharge program and will be directly transitioning to the reserves upon my separation from active duty. With that being said, I will have my disability rating as soon as I discharge from active duty (I’m ball parking 60-80%). When I transition into the reserves in March of 2020 and receive my disability rating at that exact same time, how will I know the amount of days of drill time to put on the waiver form if I’ve never drilled before. Or will I not submit this form immediately upon getting into the reserves and submit this form the following year in 2021?

    Hopefully my question(s) were not too hard to understand! lol

    Best,

    Luke

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Luke, Great question. The VA sends the waiver form out following the year of service. So you don’t have to worry about it until they send the form. They typically send it early in the year, but it can be delayed by several months in some cases.

      Right now, I would focus on the transition. The rest will take care of itself as you work through the process.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  26. Josh says

    Good evening Ryan,

    I just got out of active duty, received VA disability and am now in the reserves. I will be receiving a bonus for my new MOS that I will be acquiring. Do I have to pay the bonus back as well?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Josh, That is a great question. So far as I am aware, the law states you cannot receive both forms of compensation on the same day. But I’m not sure how that applies to bonuses. I would contact the VA for verification.

      I am interested to know the answer so I can add this to our site and help other veterans who may be in a similar situation.

      Thanks, and best wishes as you transition into the Reserves!

  27. Jason says

    Hello Ryan,
    Thanks for the post. Recently discharged. I would like to know if you know this. I am trying to go Warrant Officer Candidate School after joining the Reserves. I am also going to claim for disability.
    Will there be any problems if I apply for WOCS with disability?
    If I do get in, will my disability terminated/suspended depending on the condition?

  28. Derrick says

    Ryan,

    I am an AF Officer and am separating but transitioning to an IMA reserve position. I separate this summer and am contemplating applying for a VA disability rating for a few things but I am nervous on how it would affect my career as an IMA officer. I do not believe any of the things that would qualify me for a VA disability rating (i.e. HTN, anxiety) would prevent me from doing my job as they are under control with medication and what not. I have already been granted the IMA position. I am wondering if I should hold off an apply for my VA disability rating after I have started my IMA position as I don’t want a VA disability rating to affect my IMA position as I want to work towards my full retirement and have Tricare for my family. Would you recommend I hold off as well or do you think it matters? The conditions I would apply for are all on my PHA and documentation submitted to the IMA board except for the anxiety which just started treatment in the last couple of months.

  29. Ryan says

    Hello! So I got out of the Marines 3 months ago and received 80% disability rating. I am interested in joining the Guard and my recruiter has cautioned me that if I get back in I will not be able to ever claim the same injuries again once I eventually get back out. Is this fact? Or does he have the wrong information? Thanks for the article and your input.

  30. T-Roy says

    Question.
    I have a 60% rating. I am currently serving on the reserve side but want to switch branches and join the NCNG(reserves). My rating is not based on physical disabilities beside 10% for tenitus in my right ear.
    I have talked to a recruiter for the NG and he is saying I am a no go, due to my rating. But told me to look at the Army reserves.
    Again, I am not physically broke and maintain high PFT/CFT standards in my current branch of service.
    What are my options? Or find a new recruiter that will actually work with me?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello T-Roy,

      Many recruiters will tell you that you cannot serve if you have a disability rating of 30% or higher. From what I have read and had explained to me, this is only a partial truth.

      There is a 30% limitation on a military disability rating (one that is given by the military as the result of a Med-Board). However, there is no limitation for a VA disability rating (these are two different rating systems).

      That said, the member must still be able to serve. In general, they must meet a few criteria in order to be eligible to serve. This includes: being able to physically perform their job, pass their physical fitness tests, and be worldwide deployable.

      Additionally, some specific medical conditions may require waivers, or may not be eligible for waivers. For example, the military is taking a very close look at individuals who have had a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and similar medical conditions.

      I can’t dive into the specifics of medical conditions, as I am not medically trained, I am not a recruiter, and I don’t work for MEPS.

      So ask the recruiter what the underlying reasons are, which regs the decision is based on, etc. Always try to get to the underlying reason for the answer. If you need to, try another recruiter. Again, always try to get the reason behind the answer.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  31. Danielle says

    I just got a letter that said I had 7 days of reserve time the same time I got va disability in 2017 which is true I broke my leg and then got out. Which I’m at 70% .Im confused which one I give up in the letter it ask me. Waive disability or days ??

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Danielle,

      The best way to determine which pay to waive is the one that is lower. You can compare them by comparing your monthly VA disability compensation to your monthly base military pay. In most cases, the VA disability compensation will be lower than the military compensation. If so, that is the one that should be waived.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  32. Luis Sanchez says

    I am currently in the Air Force reserves since June 2018 My VA disability increased from 90% to 100%. Can the reserves kick me out because of my high disability rating?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Luis, From what I understand, you need to be able to meet the following criteria:

      – pass all PT tests
      – be worldwide deployable
      – be able to perform all duty requirements
      – not require waivers for the above

      There may be other requirements or rules I am not aware of. So you may wish to ask your personnel or medical office. If you wish to do so anonymously, then you could contact the personnel office at a different unit and ask them to provide more information if they are able to do so. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  33. Andrew says

    I am an Army veteran with 30% disability. I would like to join the Army again but I am afraid of losing my compensation if I try to rejoin and get denied. Am I able to see if I can get a medical waiver to see if I can join again without compromising my benefits or do I have to forfeit my benefits in order to try and rejoin?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Andrew, I am not aware of any requirement to forfeit benefits in order to apply to join the Guard or Reserves. I was able to join the Air National Guard without any change to my disability rating or compensation. I recommend speaking with a recruiter for more information.

  34. Emanuel Rios says

    Does collecting VA disability effect enrolment into an ROTC program?
    I got out of the military, joined the national guard and currently waiting to hear back about an ROTC scholarship. I passed my medical exams with no real issues and disclosed my injuries. two days ago found out I was rated at 80%. I had deep tissue frostbite in both hands and got 30% for each hand, also I have some tendon damage in my legs that got 10% for each leg. Will this impact my enrolment in an ROTC program?

  35. Ivan Kezer says

    My marine brother and I want to go into the National Guard as officers. We both have degrees, etc. Problem is, we are both 100% p/t through the VA. Advice?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Ivan, the best advice I have is to go through this article about joining the military with a medical waiver. That article outlines how to research if your medical conditions are eligible for medical waivers and how the waiver process works. Some medical conditions are not eligible for waivers. I don’t if you have any options if the DODI states the medical condition is not eligible for waivers (that is beyond my level of expertise).

      Once you have verified the medical conditions are eligible for waivers, you will need to gather the required documentation and work with a recruiter. They can help you with the rest of the process. Be up front with the recruiters about your need for medical waivers. Beyond that, you will need patience. Joining the military is not an easy process to begin with. Joining with medical waivers complicates the process.

      As for commissioning, again, you would need to work with the recruiter to ensure the unit has available openings. That is all on a case by case basis. Best wishes to the both of you!

  36. Jacob Morton says

    Greetings! I am Purple Heart veteran(multiple shrapnel wounds to legs and feet) who deployed with the 82nd ABN as an Infantry Recon scout AFTER being wounded in Iraq with 4-2ID. I also performed over 20 jumps with CE after ecoveing from my wounds. I received a MMRB for hearing, and the board voted for my retention despite some hearing loss in the high frequency range. I left active duty after 7 years and 7 months of service as an E5 that completed ALC. I am 36 years old. My discharge was for ETS; I served my full contract and had full eligibility for reenlistment on my DD214. I’ve earned 3 advanced degrees, AS, BS, and MS in IT, Cyberforensics, and International Relations-NSA respectively. I not necessarily concerned if I ever get another Army paycheck, I just want my security clearance to to be active again and perhaps have a shot a being a uniformed Cyber Warrior. I have a VA rating of 80% (with two dependents) that was given to me within a month of ETS from Ft Bragg in 2012. I love being a warrior, but I left the army in 2012 for the wrong reason (ex-wife promised to work it out if I left, she divorced me two months later). I just ran a 5k (in a professional competition) in about 26 minutes last weekend. I bench nearly 300 lbs, and can do push-ups and sit-ups for days (but I am a fat body at 5’9″ and 225lbs). Nonetheless, my hearing still sucks. Am I fool for wanting to join the Virginia National Guard in an attempt to join the Cyber unit in Fairfax? If this is possible for someone like me, how can it be accomplished? Is it possible for me to be an officer if I could join again? I sincerely appreciate any insight anyone could offer. I think this website is great, I had no idea people like me could ever serve again.

  37. James Dumas says

    I am currently a member of the NG in AGR status. I have 4 more years before I can retire with 20 full time years, although I have 32 good years in the NG. I have filed a claim for sleep apnea that is service related from a deployment prior to me starting the AGR program. I have requested no monetary compensation for the claim. I am trying to get enough of a rating for my children to receive in state tuition for college, something my state offers, without having to leave the AGR program. Is this doable?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello James, Thank you for your question. I’m not sure how the disability claim process works while you are in AGR status, since that is the equivalent to active duty. You would need to contact the VA to see how they handle applications while you are currently in a full-time military status.

      As for waiving the pay, yes, you can waive the disability compensation in lieu of military compensation while you are in military status. You can file a form with your finance or personnel office, or contact the VA to request they pause compensation payments. You don’t want to double dip while you are on an extended activation. Doing so would accrue a large amount of debt, which you would need to repay at some point.

      Sorry I can only offer a partial answer here, but I’m not privy to all the VA claims processes. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  38. William Pedroni says

    I just got rated 90% and recently just got out of active duty and transferred to NG. Can I opt out of the NG with my rating??

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello William, Thank you for your quesiton. I don’t have a good answer for you. You will need to speak with your human resources or personnel office for more information. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  39. David St. John says

    Thank you for this article. I have a 80% rating. Did 6 years Navy, was considering doing active again or ARG. You said its case by case on wether or not they will not allow me to keep my 80% rating after I retired. Is there a way to find out if which case I am without possible screwing myself over? I just don’t want to get rejected on reenlisting and also lose my 80%. Thank you for your time.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello David, Thank you for contacting me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for that.

      The article lays out pretty much everything I know about the process for military accessions, the document they use to medically qualify someone, or the reasons someone would be medically disqualified.

      Basically it boils down to this:
      – Are there any medical conditions which are prohibited by the DODI?
      – Can you physically perform your military job?
      – Can you pass the physical fitness test?
      – Are you worldwide deployable?

      I recommend reviewing the DODI for each of the items for which you have a disability rating. If everything appears to be good to go, then the next step is to speak with a recruiter.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  40. Sanjin S says

    Hello Everyone,

    I just wanted to say that this is a very informative website and i learned a lot here before wanting to contact the Reserves recruiter, Thank You for that!!

    I just have one question:
    My disability is rated at 50% and i am thinking about working as a civilian for US Military here in Germany, possibly as a Government Employee (on a GS Pay scale) or as a Contractor (as Local National Hire). How would that/would that affect my Compensation in any way?

    Thank You in advance!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Sanjin, Thank you for contacting me. Working in the civil service system will not impact your military pay or disability compensation in any way. The only things to consider are how you military pay is impacted by receiving disability compensation, which is covered in the article. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  41. Colin says

    Ryan,

    I’ve seen you mention that a GS job does not affect your payments from the VA. Where is the instruction/ documnt that states that?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Colin, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t have an instruction or document for that. But the GS and military pay systems are not connected. I haven’t seen any documentation or instructions stating either affects the other. Additionally, none of the GS members I have worked with have ever mentioned their pay has been impacted by their VA service-connected disability status. I recommend contacting the VA or your Human Resources office for specific inquiries.

  42. daniel says

    if I was in the Army Reserves for 7 yr and had 7 yr working for usp and I got sick with pstd. I did not go back. I was put in a VA hospital and lost my job. I am 100% saves cont. with ups and Army Reserves. I had 14 yr service. Can I get comp from the Reserves?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Daniel, Thank you for contacting me. I recommend working with a Veterans Service Organization for your inquiry. Thy can answer specific questions and help you file a disability claim if you are eligible. Some recommended organizations include the VFW, DAV, AMVETS, American Legion, and similar organizations. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  43. Kevin says

    I was medically separated for the Army for a back issue. I recieved separation pay and then years later was awarded a combined service connected VA disability of 100% I want to serve again. Can I enlist in the Navy Reserves? Thanks

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Kevin, Thank you for question. Unfortunately, I am unable to comment on specific medical condition(s) or the odds of being able to serve again. These are questions that only a recruiter or MEPS can answer. I have updated this article to include more information about the process of joining, links for the medical waiver process, and who to contact. I hope this points you in the right direction. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

      • Mike says

        Hey Ryan, just wanted to piggyback on this comment. I was interested in rejoining Navy reserves, however, a recruiter had said to me that if I go to MEPS that the VA can use their medical opinion to lower my rating. Is there truth to that?

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Mike, The VA can reassess veterans at different points. I cannot say whether they will or will not assess an individual if they go to MEPS. I would contact the VA for more information about the review process, how and when it happens, and what can cause a change in your rating. This will give you the information you need to help you determine if you want to go this route or not. Best wishes!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello C MC, Thank you for contacting me. I’m not sure – you would need to talk to your unit about that. PTSD can be a complicated situation for military members, and each case is handled on an individual basis. I’m not familiar with the current policies, or how they may impact you or your ability to serve or be deployable. This is something you will need to address at your unit level, or with the assistance of your medical provider.

      Sorry I don’t have a better answer, but each case is unique and it’s not possible for me or anyone else to get into that level of detail via email.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

    • Matt says

      I’m 80%….Did you have to report your rating to your unit or do they find out during your yearly PHA? Thanks.

      Matt

  44. Bill says

    I heard the Navy just came out with a new protocol/procedure. If you are serving in the Reserves and have a VA Disability clam, you must disclose it,sign a form or affidavit during your Annual physical. If your rating is above 30% they will separate you from the reserves. If that happens and I have 19yrs, I fear loosing my retirement benefits. What can I do? is the Permanent Disabled List possible? fight the separation?

  45. Shaun says

    I am currently in the US Army Reserves and have received a non permanent VA disability rating of 50% once I got off of Active duty. I submitted my OCS packet and I have my DD form 368 signed so that I can attend Active Duty OCS. However I am having some setbacks with this process because my recruiter doesn’t think he would be able to get me back in, I have since then requested all medical documents from the VA so I can show him but haven’t received anything back yet. My Recruiter told me that once I loose the disability rating I cant ever get it back, is this true? What do I need to do in order to get back into Active duty?

    • Dan says

      I’d love to hear an answer to this. I’m currently rated high enough to be a major problem trying to join, and I’m willing to throw the whole VA disability out of it means I can go back on active duty. However, if throwing it all out means I could never get it back again (e.g. After retirement), that wouldn’t bother me if I was pre-guaranteed active duty status, but I doubt would ever be given.

      I think that the catch-all of “you’re disabled, so you can’t go back in” is a gross mistake by the military.

  46. Brian Maes says

    I was early-retired under the TERA in 2015. I have 15 years of Active Duty experience in the AF. Is it possible for me to join the AF Reserve, and if so, what is the overall process? Will I have to waive my military retirement pension and VA compensation for the days that I am paid by the AF Reserve?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Brian, Thank you for contacting me. Once you retire it is extremely difficult to join the Guard or Reserves. It is usually only allowed when your specific skills are in need and can’t be filled elsewhere. As you can guess, each situation is handled on a case by case basis.

      You will need to work with a recruiter to determine if it would be possible for you to join the Reserves. They should be able to help, and then go over how it would impact your benefits if you are able to join.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  47. chris says

    I was separated in 2015 via medical I am currently at 90% and wanting to go in the national guard but have been told that because I was medically separated I cannot is this true or can I go and serve.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Chris, Thank you for contacting me. It may be possible to join the Guard or Reserves with a VA service-connected disability, but things can be different if you have a military disability rating or received a medical discharge. If you were medically separated, you would most likely have to prove to the military the medical conditions no longer exist or there was an error in your discharge. Some medical conditions are not eligible for medical waivers, so it may not even be possible to get back into the service.

      The best thing to do is contact a recruiter and ask about your situation. But without having more information, it sounds like it may not be something easy to do, or it may be impossible. The only way to know for sure is to ask a recruiter.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  48. Russ G says

    I am currently 100% service connected. I received a letter of indemnity or a “you owe us” letter. They intend on collecting 62 days. They are basing this off of working two four hour periods in one workday, and calling them both a work day each.

    During this period (Dec 2015 to Sep 2016) they were also recuperating my Separation Bonus, under which provisions I had to enlist in the reserves. I did not receive any VA monetary benefits.

    1) How can they say I work two full work days in one calendar day? That isn’t legal is it?
    2) If they weren’t paying me how can they recoup something they had no claim to in the beginning?

    This recoup would bring undo financial hardship for me and my family. Can I make payments?

    • Adam F. says

      Russ, did you enlist for the reserves/guard with 100% rating or did you enlist prior to ETS from active duty? I want back on but my rating will not allow it. Also, the 2 drill periods per day is essentially designed to favor the service members. Gives them more money in the pocket and more retirement points.

  49. Levi Funches says

    Ryan,

    I just received news that I was awarded a VA disability rating. I am currently serving in the National Guard. I am thinking of taking the VA compensation instead of my drill pay, since the VA compensation is tax free. I know I may have to pay the drill back, since the VA did award me back pay for this year. However I did sign for a specialty/retention bonus from the National Guard. If I elect to take the VA compensation, would I have to pay the bonus back as well?

      • Ryan Guina says

        Michelle, Thank you for your comment. I don’t have an answer for this question. This is something you will need to contact the VA about.

        Regarding which pay to waive — in most cases, it’s best to take the military compensation. The few exceptions are when the member has a very high disability rating and is a lower-ranking military member. Otherwise, it’s almost always best to take the military pay and waive the VA pay.

        The waived pay is only for the number of days served, not the entire month, and it is prorated at the rate of 1/30th per day. So if you receive $300 in monthly VA disability compensation and $300 for a Drill weekend (4 days), you would actually be earning $10 a day in VA disability compensation and $75 a day for military compensation. You will have to do the math for your situation to understand which is best.

        I hope this is helpful.

  50. Red says

    I am currently rated at 80% disability. I am an instructor in the Army Reserve. So I have some questions. 1) If I go to Fort Wherever, USA for two weeks or a month to instruct ALC or SLC how does that effect my VA disability payment? 2) If I get a GS-7 job on post will that effect my VA disability payment? 3)If I am selected for ADOS orders will that effect my VA disability pay?

    • Matt says

      Red, I’m also 80% Did you have to tell your unit you were at this rating or do they find out on your PHA?

      Thanks

    • Mike says

      I am a GS employee. You can get va comp and be a GS employee. One doesn’t affect the other. I was a GL-06 at the Fed Bureau of Prisons and half the correctional officers there are prior service disabled vets. Fed service outside of military employment is 10% safe with VA disability.

  51. Michael Aschinger says

    So I just received my annual letter. As expected they are going to recoup 73 days of disability for the last fiscal year. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get my VA rating until March, mid-way in the fiscal year, but the letter claims they intend on recouping the entire fiscal years worth of pay. It really doesn’t bother me either way but shouldn’t I only be recouped for those days served in an active status after my disability took affect? Is there a way to deal with this specific conundrum?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Michael,

      Thank you for contacting me. The VA will generally provide back pay to the date you filed your claim, or the date you separated from active duty (depending on how you filed your claim). So it’s a good idea to double check to verify you didn’t receive back pay that covered that same period of time.

      Also, double check your dates for fiscal years and calendar years – that can cause some confusion at times. If you have double checked your dates and for back pay, then you should contact the VA to explain the situation.

      I hope this points you in the right direction. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  52. Josh says

    If a servicemember left the Army with 35% disability after 10 years of active duty service and then joined the reserves can they collect their retirement AND their 35% disability?

    • Terry Ybay says

      You should be able to collect your retirement. However, keep in mind that disability under 40% comes out of your retirement pay and is given back to you tax free. If you are 40% or more, then there would be a separate payment from your retirement pay and the funds for your disability will be coming from the VA pot.

  53. Joey says

    Hello Ryan,
    I am currently in the NG and am in the process of transferring to the reserves via IRR. My state has taken such a long time to honor my transfer request (July 2016)and I thought I would have had my transfer done before my ratings came back. I have just received my VA ratings at 80%. My recruiter told me that I will be okay to join up as long as my MEDPROS is green. My last physical done in December 2016 has no medical disqualifications listed, but that was before I received ratings. Will this affect my transfer request into the reserves or can they just discharge me altogether?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Joey, Thank you for contacting me. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to your question. Your recruiter or personnel section would be the best point of contact. I wish you the best with this transition!

  54. David Addison says

    I was medically retired from active duty , however i did not want to get out. since then my injury has healed and is not causing me problems like before, and all that I want to do is return to the military and serve my country once again! how can I do this, can I join the national guard?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello David, Thank you for contacting me. I’m not sure if this is possible. I recommend speaking with a recruiter to see if it is possible to come of the medically retired list. It may depend on whether it’s the Temporary Medical Retirement list or Permanent Medical Retirement. And there may be other factors. I just don’t have any direct experience and don’t want to lead you in the wrong direction. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

    • Rob says

      Hi David,
      I feel you. I got medically retired and got 90% from the VA. I keep hearing from people that I can go back in through the NG but I don’t know what the steps are or if it even possible. Did you have any luck?

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello David, I’m not sure if it is possible to return to the Guard or Reserves if you have been medically retired. You will need to contact a recruiter for more information. if it is possible, you would need to be removed from the retirement rolls, and would most likely need multiple waivers. Speaking with a recruiter is your best bet for more information.

  55. Francis Cumagun says

    I joined the reserves to get my HYT pay. Now that is being recouped becuase i got 60% disability. Can i drop the reserves since i am paying that back. Thanks

  56. Jonathon Munn says

    I currently just received my rating of 90%, I am supposed to report to my National Guard unit on 10 Feb, what affect will this have on my current disability compensation? I’m confused in the whole process, and just need someone who is more knowledgeable on the subject to guide me along, or provide insight. Thank you gentlemen.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jonathan, Thank you for contacting me. Please read this article about waiving VA disability compensation to receive military pay (or you can choose to waive the military pay and keep the VA pay). In general, it is almost always better to waive the VA pay, unless you are very junior ranking and have a high disability rating. Be sure to read the details to understand which option is best for your specific situation. It should help you understand how the pay works.

  57. Lyle Yazzie says

    Hello
    I am at 90%, I transferred from active to reserves. After a year I was bumped to 90%, my profile is updated with my injuries from active. I only drill for retirement points, cause I don’t want to deal with payment later on. I have a few others in my company with the same issues. Is there a reg, that says we have to sign in? our leadership is forcing us to sign in for drill.
    I also heard from a old friend on mine (in the same boat), that his leadership only has him come into drill once per quarter (once every 3 months), is this ok?
    I have been trying to dig for regulations, and in writing if a disabled vet, has a choice to continue his/her service after being rated a disability from active duty service.

    thanks
    Lyle

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Lyle, Thank you for contacting me. I’m not sure if there is a reg that requires individuals to sign in. But it’s likely for record keeping so they can record your Drill participation. I would welcome any requirement that ensures I receive credit for my service. I recommend checking your Points every few months to make sure everything is being recorded correctly.

      Quarterly Drills: Commanders are allowed to authorize this in certain situations if it does not interfere with training or operations. This makes it easier on some Drilling members, especially those with long commutes or demanding civilian occupations. Commanders are not required to authorize this, and wouldn’t be able to authorize it for everyone. It is usually handled on a case by case basis, and with certain limitations. I hope this answers your questions.

  58. James Mitchell says

    I’m 30% disabled and been trying to join the Navy reserves. I’very been approved to go to MEPS in Dallas Texas, but MEPS keeps sending letters about them not processing me, based on their courtesy review of my records for my right elbow tendinitis and both shoulders for tendinitis. I’ve supplied multiple doctor full physicals from VA doctors and civilian doctors showing my results are good and there’s no pain in my right elbow or either of my shoulders. Can someone, please advise me how to get my review actually done correctly and get admitted to do my physical at MEPS in Dallas Texas and even a good contact?

    Thank you,
    James Mitchell

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello James, Thank you for your comment. Your recruiter is the best Point of Contact for the entire process. From what I understand, they do not share the MEPS doctors’ contact information. The recruiter’s job is to be the liaison between applicants and MEPS.

      I’ve described the process as best I can in the article. I don’t have much to add, since there isn’t a formal method for contacting MEPS doctors directly.

      So the first course of action is to contact your recruiter and ask if there is anything else that can be done. The next course of action would be to contact a recruiter in another region and explain the situation. They may or may not wish to get involved. But sometimes working an application through another region may be helpful. That said, you should only have one application going at any given time, so you would want to withdraw your application at the Dallas MEPS if you were to try to process this in another region.

      Finally, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, often with little to no communication in the interim. So patience is key. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.

  59. Tyler Pearce says

    Just to clarify, you can continue serving with a VA disability rating. However, if you try to join with one it cannot be over 30%. I have been fighting this battle with every branch of service. No one will allow you to join if you are of 30%. I am 40%. My only two options are to drop down to 30% and risk being turned away at MEPS or not join.

  60. George Stuart says

    Question, How can the VA recoup more money than what i have recieved from them? I was 20% from Oct 1 2014 to Sept 30 2015 but i was retroed back to July 1 2015 to 30% single rate. When Oct 1 2015 (FY 2016)i got a letter stating that i was able to add my wife since i am receiving 30% or higher. I am still in the guard and was in the guard during that duration..So i waived VA benefits for that…I have calculated that I received $666.37 worth of overpayments (64 days worth of at/drill) but they insist that I be recouped at 30% with spouse no kids which comes out to be $972.27. Someone tell me how is this legal?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello George, Thank you for contacting me. The VA should only recoup the exact dollar amount you received. You should be able to verify this via eBenefits online. You could also do this by getting copies of your bank statements. and adding up the totals. Be sure to include the amount of the back pay for the retroactive rating.

      If you have further problems, I recommend speaking with a veterans benefits counselor at the VA or with a Veterans Service Organization. They have counselors who offer free claims assistance. Here are some recommended organizations.

    • Brian Andrews says

      Hello to answer all the questions. Yes you can enlist with the Reserves or National Guard while receiving a VA compensation up to 100% workable. If your disability compensation is 100% non workable then of course no. I am going to receive my compensation in November for 80%. The difference is that you can’t collect a check from the VA and one from the Reserves or National Guard, besides that the check from the VA is based on your percentage maybe at with dependants rate. This site does not have a clue of how it works at all. Just in a nutshell you would be drilling for retirement points only if you where receiving compensation instead of both. I know some of them that are reservist and National Guard that are 100% workable from their active duty injuries. You know that severance pay that you get when for signing up with Reserves or National Guard because of RCP. You may have to pay it back before receiving the compensation money but I do know that they let you with disabilities.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Brian,

        Can you please clarify this comment: “This site does not have a clue of how it works at all.”

        Are you referring to the article, or to the comments?

        I cannot vouch for the veracity of all the comments left on our site, but I try to clarify or correct where appropriate.

        For example, your comment includes a false statement: “Just in a nutshell you would be drilling for retirement points only if you where receiving compensation instead of both.”

        The member can receive VA disability compensation and compensation from the Guard or Reserves. However, they cannot receive both on the same day of service. So they must waive one of the two payments, which can be done by submitting VA Form 21-8951.

        This article is written based on federal law and includes the following references to the appropriate section of the U.S. Code: 10 U.S. Code § 12316 – Payment of certain Reserves while on duty, and 38 U.S. Code § 5304 – Prohibition Against Duplication of Benefits.

        This article further explains how to waive either VA disability compensation or military pay.

        Please include a reference to a statue or other official documentation if you have something that contradicts the references included on our website. I will be happy to make corrections that are based on facts and include references. Thank you, and best wishes with your career in the Reserve Component.

      • Adam F. says

        That was a lame comment. This article made perfect sense. And good luck getting past MEPS with 100%. I would bet all them 100%ers that you know enlisted to the guard before they ets’d.

  61. Jeremiah McKenna says

    I have a question for you Sir,

    I understand how the pay works, but will I still be able to go to the V.A. M.C. for my medical coverage, or is that also not available to a DAV once they re-enlist in the Guard?

  62. eliezer says

    Hello Ryan. I’m sure you got this question a lot in this thread but before I go on I read your article about Guard and Reserve vs VA pay and I know that you can still get pay both ways you just have to waive one to get less pay. Now my question is that I file a claim months ago and I’m still waiting on a decition while I still doing my drill duties every month. When I get my compensation rate and I choose to waive my va payement would that mean that according to my calculator going by the 63 day a year the VA would reduce 63 days of pay from my VA payment and than the rest I would get paid regular and if so would that mean that I won’t see a VA payment after 63 days after a decition reaward from VA?

  63. Dianna smitherman says

    Can someone, anyone give me the contact information to these recruiters that are mentioned so I can get some help. Ive been given a 100% disability rating for ptsd and tbi with cognitive disorder. I got the injuries during a deployment. Ive gone through extensive therapy and I honeslty feel good as new. Ive tried the civilian life and its not for me, I cant imagine doing anything else with my life than going back into the army. Recruiters keep telling me I have to give up my rating but now I know I dont have to. Theres got to be someone out there that can help me with this situation bc the only thing im missing from my life, is being able to rejoin. Any recruiter info would be priceless to me!!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Dianna, Thank you for contacting me. You will need to work directly with your recruiter and MEPS to determine if you are eligible to serve. It can be possible to serve with a VA disability rating, but it is not guaranteed. There are certain types of injuries and injury histories that may prevent certain members from being able to join the military again.

      I recommend contacting recruiters in your region and asking them to help you through the process. I wish you the best of health and the best of luck with the application process. Thank you for your service!

  64. Derrick Palmer says

    Hey not sure if this thread is still active. I’m in the Army Reserves right now. I submitted an AGR packet and I’m waiting to see if I’ll get selected and get an assignment. I have 15yrs of service and was hoping to knock out the last 5ish on AGR. However my disability rating for PTSD just got increased to 100%(I was at 70% before). Long story short is I’m wondering if I should even pursue AGR now considering that my commander told me that he doesn’t even know whether or not I can still continue to be in the reserves. But if that’s the case, what’s the process? Do they med board me or what? Everything I’ve found on the internet is very vague….

  65. Ty G Garner says

    Good Afternoon Ryan, Great article, it answered my question that I had about VA Disability/Reserve pay. But my burning question is, if I waive my VA Disability, does my medical care go with it?(i would assume, yes) Getting medical through my current job isn’t the hard part, but I have a great rapport with my current doctor as well as they have all my medical record for future use. Thank you in advance.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Ty, Glad you found this helpful! To answer your question, to my knowledge, no, you do not waiver your VA disability or the medical care you receive with it. You only file a form each year in which you decide to waive the military pay or your VA disability compensation. Your rating and VA benefits should not change at all. You can speak with the VA for more specific information. Good luck with joining the Guard or Reserves!

  66. Donald Flowers says

    I have a question. I am currently getting 80%. I am on active duty orders foe 179 days. I have contacted the VA to stop my comp pay but they have yet to stop it. In fact the just backed paid me for my children. I call every month on the 1st to inform them that the paid me again. If the continue to pay me what do I do besides contact them. I do not what to owe Uncle Sam cause I know they will get they money one why or another. Do I put the money to the side or will they just with hold my future payment a year from now when I come off order which is actually when I will need the extra cash.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Donald, Thank you for contacting me. They will most likely withhold future payments after you file your form 21-8951 next year. The VA will send you a Form 21-8951, you will need to verify the information is correct, then the VA will calculate how much they will withhold from future payments. It will take some time for the VA to process this information. Then the VA will send another letter confirming the withholding, including how much, and when the dates will start. The process can take several months, or it can happen quickly. From what I understand, these forms are handled on an individual basis.

      My recommendation: If you will need that money in the future, then don’t spend it now. Put it into an online savings account where it will earn some decent interest and you won’t be as tempted to spend it. That way if the VA comes to collect it, you have it available. or if they withhold future payments, then you can make withdrawals when you need that cash. I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  67. Perrish says

    With a service connected disability, is there a way to refuse military pay as a whole, rather than completing a 21-8951 form each year? Or is that they only option, Completing 21-8951 form each year?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Perrish, Thank you for contacting me. I’m not sure if it is possible to entirely waive your military pay. The only method I am aware of is filling out the required Form 21-8951 each year. Unless there are any changes, you can sign it and return it without having to get it signed by your chain of commend (if your privacy or other issues are a concern).

      Why would you want to waive military pay? In most cases, military pay is more valuable than VA disability compensation. The only time the disability comp comes out ahead of military pay is when the individual has a very high disability rating and is lower ranking. This is actually pretty rare, as it is difficult to continue serving in the Guard or Reserves with such a high disability rating.

      As for waiving military compensation – some branches of the Reserves allow members to drill for Points only, and not pay. So these individuals pay for everything out of pocket, including travel, billeting, etc. This may be an option in your unit. But that puts a large financial burden on the individual, and once you start down that road, I’m not sure how easy it is to get back into a paid billet.

      This is all a long way of saying: I’m not sure. Most people prefer to receive their military compensation, then waive disability compensation later. If you are in the opposite situation and wish to waive your military compensation, then I would contact DFAS or your unit and ask if it is possible to do so.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  68. Brian says

    Ryan,
    Im currently trying to join the reserves and have a few questions you can maybe answer.
    1) I was medically retired in 2012 with a rating greater than 30%, however, when the board reviewed it in 2014, they dropped it down to 20% and took away TDRL. Is this going to make it more difficult to get my codes changed on my DD-214?
    2) Have you heard or read anything recently that would tell me how my VA pay would be effected if I rejoin? Is it the same as before where you waive the training days, or do I have to waive 100% of one or the other?

    Hopefully those questions make sense.
    Thanks for your time.

  69. Angela says

    Thank you for that very informative article. What is the most effective way of determining what your total number of paid military days (for all of 2015, and what’s been accomplished so far of 2016)?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Angela, Each branch of the military should have a place where you can check your number of days served. The Air Force has the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC). I’m not sure what it is for the other branches, as I don’t have first hand experience. You should also be able to go to your personnel office and ask for a report or printout that shows all of your paid military days (keep in mind this may be different from your total number of Points if you have earned Points that are not from a paid status, such as for funeral duty, correspondence courses, or other sources).

  70. Rich says

    I recently saw a position with the National Guard on USAJobs, the position is listed as a GS position but the job outline states that you must enlist in the Guard. I am service connected and currently receiving VA pay and benefits. Does this type of position require giving up the disability pay since it is a full time GS position?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Rich, Thank you for contacting me. No, you do not have to give up your disability pay to work in the civil service, or in a GS job. You do, however, need to waive either your disability pay or your military pay for the days in which you receive both disability pay and Drill pay. See this article for more information – Instructions for filling out VA Form 21-8951.

  71. Derek Jump says

    Ryan,
    This is great information! One question that I have been unable to get answered is can I get back into the military with a commission if I left with a 60% disability with PTSD being included in that rating?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Derek, It can be difficult to join the military with a disability rating – sometimes because of the rating itself, but often because of the underlying medical issues that give the rating. So far as I am aware, there isn’t a disability rating limit for VA service connected disabilities, but there is a 30% rating limit for military ratings through a Performance Evaluation Board. The best course of action is contacting a recruiter and working with them on the application process. Also, follow the steps in this article for getting a medical waiver to join the military.

  72. K says

    Dear Mr. Guina,

    First off, thank you for breaking this down for us, it really is such a relief to know there are people like you helping us.
    My question is similar to a couple above, but I’m hoping for some clarity on exactly what I need to do. I was active Navy for 6 years and then signed a 3 year active reserves contract for a bonus. I’ve served 7 months of that. This week I learned that the VA has given me 70% disability. All I know is that I can’t double dip and that means I can’t collect drill pay and disability pay on the same day.. Can you please tell me what I should do? My NOSC seems like the would be trigger happy and kick me out. I haven’t told anyone. Please help!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello K, Thank you for contacting me. I can understand your concern, but I don’t think you have to worry too much. And you also don’t have to tell anyone your rating. Here is how military pay works with disability compensation:

      By federal law, you can’t earn both on the same day. But DFAS and the VA don’t work together in real time. What this means is you will receive your disability pay each month, and you will receive your drill pay each month you drill.

      Early in the following calendar year, usually in the spring, the VA will send you a letter (VA Form 21-8951) in which you will need to confirm the number of days you received both military and VA disability compensation. Keep in mind each drill weekend is worth 4 Points, and you are paid for 4 days of service. In a typical year, Reserve members will receive military compensation for around 63 days (48 Drill Points, and 15 AT Days). This is an example, as every situation is different.

      On VA Form 21-8951, you need to sign and return the form indicating which pay you wish to waive for the number of days compensation you received. In most cases, you will wish to waive your disability compensation because it is typically less than military compensation.

      If you have 63 days of military pay the previous fiscal year, you would choose to waive either 63 days of military pay, or 63 days of VA compensation. If you choose to waive the VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold the 63 days of pay until they have recouped the amount you received. So they would withhold VA disability compensation for roughly two months. Then your payments will resume.

      The VA will send you a notification indicating they will withhold your disability compensation, how much they will withhold, and the dates. Here is more information, and instructions for filling out VA Form 21-8951.

  73. Dionne says

    Hi Ryan,
    I’m glad I came across this website and I would like to thank you for the info. I read some of the comments listed, and I notice that some recruiters really don’t know what they are talking about; that shows laziness, lack of help and not wanting to do their job the right way. The VA and the military needs to get on the same sheet of music when it comes to informing Veterans.
    My question I have for you is, I’m thinking about going Reserves or Guard but I have 20% connected disability. I read that if you go Reserves, you can still have the VA benefits, but you cannot get paid the same time. If I go into the Reserves, serve X amount of years and get out or retire, can my VA compensation disability resume after I get out(meaning can my payments start back for my connected disability) or is it done and over with? And if so, can I refile? if my questions makes any sense.

    Dionne

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Dionne, Thank you for contacting me. The pay rules for having disability compensation and military compensation is the same for Guard and Reserves. The way it works is you actually receive the disability compensation the entire time you are serving. You also receive your military compensation for your time served. The following year, the VA will send you VA Form 21-8951 and you have to choose which pay you wish to waive – your VA disability compensation or your military compensation. If you choose to waive your VA disability compensation, then the VA will withhold your disability compensation for the number of days you received military pay. Once you leave the military you will no longer have to choose to waive your VA compensation. This article explains the process – Instructions for filling out VA Form 21-8951. I hope this is helpful. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  74. Tony says

    Hi Ryan,

    I got out of the ANG in 2010. I started working on getting back in 2014. When I went to MEPS in 2014, I had not applied for VA compensation benefits. I had my physical in August of 2014 and they cleared me except I was overweight and I had to lose the weight prior to being cleared. During that time I have lost most of the weight and I also put in for a VA disability and was awarded a 40 percent rating for some knee injuries and a sprained ankle while I was active duty. I am still able to run and jump and do everything that would be expected of me for military service. I can run 2 miles but the days of running 4 or more miles are behind me. My current MEPS physical expires in August 16, I only have to go back to MEPS and pass the weight and I am all done. I am just wondering if they don’t ask me about the VA disability rating that I shouldn’t volunteer it. MEPS isn’t going to do another physical unless my current one is expired. Thanks.

    Tony

    Tony

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Tony, Thank you for contacting me. If all you need to do is pass the weight test, then MEPS may not ask you further questions. However, there is always the possibility that MEPS may ask if anything has changed. If they do, then you would be required to answer their questions truthfully. So keep that in mind when you return to complete your MEPS physical. I wish you the best in continuing your military career!

  75. Bill says

    Ryan, I just wanted to thank you for your help and assistance in regards to this comment board. It is greatly appreciated and you are performing an invaluable service to Vets. I specifically wanted to ask you about disclosing your VA disability rating to a recruiter. I am 70% disabled veteran with a rod in my right leg. My injury occurred on duty and after healing, I deployed multiple times. However, I am finishing law school and thinking about commissioning into the JAG reserve and wanted to know whether you have a “legal duty” to disclose your service connected disability rating. I totally understand I have to disclose previous physical injuries (i.e. the rod in my leg), but is there any legal rule requiring me to disclose my VA disability rating?

    Thank you for your assistance and time, Sir.

  76. Roger Forsythe says

    Hello, I am a veteran on 50%. I’ve been out 5 years now. I’m probably in the best shape of my life still in the age requirement window. I just plane simply want back in and honestly I don’t care what I have to do. Ideally i could go back active duty into a combat MOS but again I don’t care if i have to be a water purification specialist reservist and drop all my disability benefits. I love freedom but I love fighting for it even more. I was born to be a soldier and my biggest regret in life was turning my back on something so great. Please help me find a way to lace up those boots and slap on that forward facing flag again. Thank you
    Former US Paratrooper SGT Forsythe

    • Ryan Guina says

      Roger, Thank you for contacting me. The first step is contacting a recruiter. Just look them up online or in your phone book. Explain that you are prior service and that you want to serve again. Before proceeding, you may wish to read up on medical waivers, which you would likely need to be able to serve again. Finally, in some cases, it may not be possible to join again, depending on your medical conditions that led to the disability rating. Each situation is on a case by case basis.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  77. Courtney H. says

    Hi Ryan,

    I am a recently separated active duty service member (July 2015) and I joined the Washington Army National Guard prior to ETS’ing. I am currently rated at 50% for VA disability. I was recently offered a short term active duty operational support (ADOS) position and I am seeking guidance on the financial ramifications of taking the position.

    Clearly I cannot have VA disability pay and Title 32 pay concurrently. Do you have any knowledge and/or experience on how long it takes the VA to process requests for temporary suspensions and how long it takes to activate VA disability payments?

    Thank you in advance for any guidance you may have!

  78. Todd Ashley Miller says

    Sir~
    Can you please give me where you gained your information from. (list of References) My local recruiting stations state that if I am 30% or higher I can not rejoin. If I can provide where this information is coming from then and only them will they try to get me back into the Army. They are informing me that they are being told by the Raleigh MEPS station that the limit is 30%. Thank you for your time.

    Ash~

  79. sally mae says

    What if a bonus ($10,000) was received when joining the Reserve component…will that interfere with the VA Claim or remain untouched?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Sally Mae, I am not aware of a VA clam interfering with a sign up bonus for joining the Reserves. You could inquire with your finance or personnel department, But from my understanding, these are completely separate systems.

  80. Adam says

    Great site Ryan and very informative. I have a tricky question for you though.

    I served 13 years active duty, but was involuntary separated by RIF this past year receiving separation pay. I was able to transition to the Reserve and hope to be able to retire from the Reserve; from which I understand my separation pay will be recouped from my retirement pension. However, I also have started receiving disability over 50%; as expected, my separation pay is currently being recouped and as such, I will not receive disability pay until 2019.

    My question: When I start receiving retirement pay at age 60 will that separation pay again be recouped even though it already was from my disability pay? If so, will I then receive back pay for the years of disability pay that I didn’t get? Or will face double jeopardy and have the separation pay recouped twice?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Adam, Thank you for contacting me. From my understanding, DFAS and the VA should only recoup the money one time. The difference is that it is happening no instead of when you retire. If either DFAS or the VA begin withholding retirement pay or disability pay during your retirement, you should contact them immediately and inform them the funds have already been recouped.

  81. Justin says

    Hi I am in the AF Reserves and am an E-6 with 17 years the majority of it has been as a reservist with several deployments. I have recently been awarded 40% service compensation and have received back pay payment totaling a little more than $5000. I am wanting to know how I should go about totaling up what I need to return to the Gov’t for the duty days performed while this compensation was being determined and how to determine which payment to defer from this point and into the future? Thanks in advance…

    • Ryan Guina says

      Justin, Thank you for contacting me. Here is an article that will cover you going forward – Waive VA Compensation for Military Pay – VA Form 21-8951. You will need to fill out this form each year.

      I’m not sure about the back pay – that will depend on when you filed, how long it took, and other factors. Your best bet is to contact the VA and ask them to walk you through the process. It may require filling out the same form, then getting someone in your chain of command to sign off on the days served. I hope this points you in the right direction!

  82. Levi Lucas says

    I am wanting to re enlist in guards or reserves and I have 60% service connected…I guess my question is would it be easier to re enlist without saying anything to the recruiter about the disabilities?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Levi, Thank you for contacting me. I wouldn’t recommend doing that if you have to go through MEPS, as you are required to disclose everything when you apply for the Guard or Reserves. The 2807-2 (Medical Pre-screen form for MEPS) requires you to disclose certain medical conditions. Lying about them, or not disclosing, them would be fraud and could get you kicked out of the military if you are caught.

      That said, if you are recently separated and don’t have to go through MEPS again, then you may not be required to disclose the VA disability rating when you join. However, you will be required to inform the personnel section at your unit once you join. This is required for tracking purposes, and won’t prevent you from joining. They just need to have it for record keeping purposes.

      The best option is to give your recruiter full disclosure and go from there.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  83. mary says

    My husband currently receives a 90 percent va service connected disability rating . He is still in contract with the marine corps irr. He was once in and got out, now he is thinking about joining the corps as a reservist under his irr since he has two years left under IRR. Can he still receive va compensation while giving up his drill just to serve in the marine corps reserves. he wants to one day retire in the marine corps reserves

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Mary, I answered this via email with more detail. In regard to joining, it may be difficult to join the service again with a 90% disability rating. He should contact a recruiter and go through the process to find out if he is eligible. The email contained more details. Best wishes to you both!

  84. Jo says

    Hi Ryan,

    Just submitted all my paperwork to my recruiter and they advised to put a sleep study I had done at TAMC.

    It is for sleep apnea and I did not get rated for it from the VA. I do have the CPAP

    Do you think a waiver is possible? It goes up to USAREC after the DQ from MEPS.

    Thanks,

    Jo.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Joe, Thank you for contacting me. I can’t make any guesses for waiver approvals for individual medical conditions. I’m not a doctor and I don’t work at MEPS, so I don’t know enough to research these conditions and make any guesses as to whether the waiver will be approved or not. The only thing I can comment on is the process, which is where my experience lies. Here is an article that covers more information about getting a medical waiver to join the military.

      The best thing to do is speak with your recruiter and ask for their opinion, and if they have additional information or if they have a contact at MEPS they can put you in contact with.

      Sorry I don’t have a better answer, but I would hate to give incorrect or incomplete response and give false hope or lead you in the wrong direction. I wish you the best, and I hope you will be able to join the military!

  85. John Tate says

    Hello Ryan, I have a 40% rating from the VA and I have been trying to get into the Guard or Reserves since I got out in 2012. I keep hitting brick walls with recruiters saying that it just isn’t possible to join. I do not know if it’s just because they do not want to do any paperwork or if its because I just need to lower my rating. Any response is greatly appreciated.

    • Ryan Guina says

      John, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t have a specific answer here, because there are many moving parts. It can be difficult to join the Guard or Reserves with a disability rating – sometimes because of the rating itself, but often because of the underlying medical issues that give the rating.

      To the best of my knowledge, there is no set limit for a VA service-connected disability rating that will prevent you from joining the Guard or Reserves. The “30% rating” has often been mentioned, but it refers to the military disability rating in a Performance Evaluation board, which is different than a VA disability rating. Here is a reference from the Wisconsin Guard.

      Personally, I’ve known many people with higher ratings than 30% who have served in either the Guard or Reserves. The most important things are whether the medical conditions are waiverable for military service and whether or not you are physically able to perform your job. This is where your individual medical conditions are important. There are some conditions that may prevent you or anyone else from being able to serve again. And some of those conditions are not waiverable. Here is a reference on how to get a medical waiver to join the military. You may find this helpful if you need to get a waiver.

      As for the recruiters – be sure to tell them you have a VA disability rating but no rating from the military or a Performance Evaluation Board. You can also spend some time on your own filling out the medical pre-screen form and obtaining a statement of health from your doctor for each item you highlighted in section 2 of the pre-screen form. Doing the work in advance will save you a lot of time.

      Finally, you may have to contact recruiters at several locations before you find someone willing to work with you. This isn’t a common situation, and some recruiters either aren’t aware that you can join with a VA disability rating, or aren’t willing to put in the work. So be patient and explain that you are willing to do as much on your end as possible. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  86. Jesse Rios says

    Ryan,

    Hopefully this has not been covered and I just missed it, but if I were to re-enlist into an ANG unit and eventually retire, would I receive my retirement pension and disability pay concurrently then?

  87. Benny says

    Hi Ryan,

    I think your information is beneficial. I do know a former Marine who has 50% VA serving in the Army National Guard, but he got the rating after he processed through MEPS in the Guard. I need some advice Ryan. I am prior service Navy. I am 60 % VA. I contacted a Army National Guard recruiter and he already knows that VA and Guard have nothing to do with each other. I got lucky with him, since he whiling to work with me. I don’t have a PEB or medical discharge. I have RE-1 code and Honorable discharge, he telling me I should not disclose any VA information or disability at MEPS. Since MEPS doesn’t seem to know the difference between a VA and PEB rating. I also assume I won’t have to go through loops with waivers either. I am sure that a battle with MEPS and Guard that applicant and recruiter don’t have to fight for, since I have a high rating of VA. I hear all this stuff and stories about how MEPs can or will give you a dishonorable if you lie or don’t disclose any information. I don’t know how those punishments usually occur or span out. The recruiter seems to know what he’s doing. A former Army Ranger turned Guard recruiter, he been doing this for about 5 years. I ask him what if MEPS or when I get to AIT or my Guard unit finds out I didn’t disclose it at MEPS. I don’t want to get a dishonorable for not being honest. The recruiters assuring me they won’t. I did talk to that gentleman on that site from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, he told me I should admit I receive VA but don’t disclose my rating. My recruiter told me I think he mentioned something about creating two different packets of my information through the process as I go through MEPS and Guard. I kind of confused on that as well(I have to ask him), as that may help my situation. I been calling like 10 other Guard recruiters in the past like crazy and they told me that I would have to get the disability down to 30 % VA even though I think it only for PEB. I couldn’t find anything in Army National Guard regulations or Army information regarding 30 % VA or PEB. I was shock he knew the difference of VA and the Guard, I don’t know if more informed or what. I don’t think he stick his neck out and chance it if he didn’t know the inside and outs of MEPS, even though he is a recruiter. Sorry for this being long Ryan, I need some advice on how to go about this. Thanks!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hi Benny, Thank you for contacting me. The individual I spoke to from the Wisconsin Guard was also very helpful when I was going through this process. I would follow his advice here and disclose that you do have a VA service-connected disability, but not disclose the actual rating percentage. Here is why this is important:

      The paperwork you fill out requires you to disclose your medical history and at some point in the application process, I had to sign a form stating I had a VA service connected disability (I don’t recall exactly where in the process this was, but I recall having to state I had the disability rating). I do not recall ever having to list or state the rating percentage. Failing to disclose the rating, then signing a document stating you do not have any such rating could get you into trouble, up to an including dishonorable discharge for fraudulent enlistment. It’s simply not worth it.

      But your recruiter is also right – some MEPS officials will only look at that rating percentage and deny your ability to serve based only on that number, regardless of whether the rating is from a PEB, or from the VA. So far as I’m aware, veterans with a PEB rating of 30% or higher are not allowed to serve in the military regardless of whether that is active duty, Guard, or Reserve. But I haven’t seen any official documentation regarding limitations based VA disability ratings.

      Regarding waivers: You may need a waiver, even if you don’t think you will. Fill out the Form 2807-2 Medical Prescreen of Medical History Report. Then read this article, which discusses the waiver process.

      In short – anything you check “Yes” on in section 2 requires additional information. The more complete the information you submit, the better. You may or may not need a waiver based on the information provided and the condition. Be thorough, but as concise as possible. Finally, be very organized with your documentation – the easier you can make this on the doctor who reviews your forms, the better.

      To wrap this up – I cannot recommend lying on your application. This can get you in a lot of trouble and just isn’t worth it. But I also don’t recommend volunteering any information not necessary for the doctor to review your form 2807-2. Do the MEPS folks need to know you have a VA disability rating? Yes. It’s a question they ask, and you have to sign an official government document attesting everything you filled out on your form is correct. But I don’t recall there being a section for the exact disability rating. And if it isn’t required, I wouldn’t volunteer that information. I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  88. Kim Kase says

    Hello, how are you?

    I’m a spouse of an Air Force member. He’ll be separating under high year tenure. He gave me his GI Bill and I was able to get my Bachlors of Information Technology Degree. I decided I want to join the Air Force as Officer, but the thing holding me back is my weight. I had two c-sections from both my kids. I want to get a tummy tuck to meet waist requirements with it involves liposuction.

    I have been working out and dieting. The weight is going down, but I would like to join before my husband gets out.

    I hear about people getting tummy tucks / lipo as long they get commander’s approval. If I want to get a tummy tuck with lipo before I join, will I be disqualified? By any chance would you know what the reg/AFI is for it?

    Thank you very much!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Kim, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t know if there is a reg regarding a tummy tuck before you join the military. The DODI (mentioned in the article) lists the items the folks at MEPS look at when you join. If you go through with the surgery, you would have to list your surgery on your medical pre-screen form, and most likely get a note from a surgeon stating the surgery, reason for it, your current condition, and whether or not (in their opinion) you are fit to serve at this time.

      That said, most people would recommend hiring a fitness instructor and nutritionist before undergoing surgery. This will be more cost-effective and will work better in the long run. Liposuction is painful and while it will reduce your waist size, it doesn’t do anything to improve your fitness, and it only removes the girth from that specific area of your body. In some cases it can leave people looking disproportionate. A good fitness regimen and supporting diet will help you shed the weight and girth, and help you make it through Office Training School. And if you maintain the diet and fitness routine, it will be easier to pass your required annual fitness test.

      So that was a long answer for: I don’t know if this is a disqualifying surgery, but I don’t think it would be, provided you are otherwise qualified to serve. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best.

      • Chris Covington says

        Hi Ryan,

        First off, great information! I would like you to clarify something for me though, if you could please. I understand how it works if you simply have a VA rating and want to join the Guard/Reserves. What if you were actually medically retired? Would it still be the same? Get cleared by a doctor and take the proper steps to make sure you don’t mess yourself up financially between military pay/VA benefits?

        Either way, thank you for your time!

      • Ryan Guina says

        Chris, Thank you for contacting me. To be honest, I am not aware if it is even possible to serve in the military again after a medical retirement. The military and VA disability rating systems are entirely different. The military sends members through a Performance Evaluation Board (PEB) and returns a disability rating. Members can either receive a permanent disability rating, or a temporary rating, in which members are placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL). Members with a temporary rating can be reevaluated and can return if the military deems them fit to serve. Members who are given a permanent military disability rating cannot return to duty. I am unsure if there are exceptions or waivers for this.

        My recommendation is to contact a recruiter and have all pertinent documentation available during your call, including your DD214 (your RE code is important), and any relevant medical documents stating your medical retirement rating, reason for medical retirement, etc. The recruiter will be able to tell you if a waiver is possible, and what the required steps will be. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  89. Tuichan says

    Hi Ryan,

    I hope all is well? Like many questions on here, it may be the same. I am a currently at 60 percent from VA and not PEB, but I don’t have to many conditions that would disqualify me at the moment, as I can function normally as I was before I got the rating. I still have no criminal record and I am discharge honorable with a RE 1. I have called guard Army recruiters all over this country and they all tell me you can only waive up to 30 % disability, regardless if it is PEB or VA? I had even one talk to his recruiter boss MSG and he even said it had to be at 30 % or less. Are they any regulations or references that I can show a recruiter that it is only PEB and that you can have more 30 % collecting from VA? I was told that the Army Reserve doesn’t even waive any disability period, no matter where it comes from? I am just at a loss after reading your website, how to go about this with the recruiters to prove their are wrong? I even called the Army National Guard Recruiting Center and they just like the recruiters? Some advice or help, would be much appreciated!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tuichan, Thank you for contacting me.

      This is the reference I used, which states:

      “In accordance with NGR 600-200, Table 2-1, an enlistee must not have more than a “30% disability” to meet enlistment criteria. NGR 600-200, table 2-1 clearly states that a 30% or greater Physical Exam Board rating is not waiverable. A PEB is a military service designation, not a VA disability rating. The two are very different items and are not interchangeable.” – (source)

      As I’ve mentioned, I have known many people with higher ratings than 30% who have served in either the Guard or Reserves. The most important thing is whether or not you are physically able to perform your job and do not pose a risk to yourself or anyone else.

      Now it is possible there is a directive or reg that came down that specifies the Army National Guard will not allow anyone with a VA disability rating above 30% to join, but I am not aware of it.

      I recommend calling the phone number on the page I linked to. The gentleman who put together this brief was very helpful when I called him before I joined the Air National Guard. Another option is to look into joining a different branch of service if you cannot get into the Army.
      I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  90. Tasha says

    With in the last few weeks this has actually changed and they no longer allow you to double dip va and drill pay, if you waive va for drill pay, you are waiving all of your va (according the the VA rep we spoke to today) (this is at the assumed 60% rating…) It sounds like they no longer do it as broken down by day?? Maybe someone can find better info, none of this is making sense anymore

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tasha, I haven’t heard anything about this, and the VA Rep I spoke with two weeks ago did not mention this (June 2015). Can you please send me a regulation or a reference for this? I will be happy to update this site with the correct information if something has changed. Thanks.

      • Tasha says

        I’m trying to find the same thing, my SO was in his re evaluation I waited outside so it’s what he was told by the rep, I will try to get a hold of her tomorrow and see if I can get more clarification since you’re explanation makes perfect sense but hers (it’s a lump some all of none) is far more confusing. It was an email the rep was sent on July first. I’ll try to find more info

  91. Harrison says

    Hey Ryan,

    Sorry if this is a redundant or an all too common question:

    I have a service-connected disability rating of 60% from a mild TBI. I chose to ETS on my own accord from the army, which I did in November of 2011.

    My RE code on my DD-214 is 1, and my PULHES score is also all ones. I was still awarded the rating because of the documentation from the blast and minor residual effects from it. I have since managed to graduate college with a BA and I was interested in joining the Reserves or the National Guard.

    I have talked to a few recruiters, all of which have said it is literally impossible to join with a rating of over 30%. After reading your comments to everyone, I now know that is incorrect.

    My question for you is this: is it likely I can still join the Guard or Reserves with that RE code and PULHES score on my ETS physical? I wish to waive ALL my military pay and simply keep my VA compensation, even during an AT period — unless of course I am mobilized or activated (in which I would suspend it). I am not trying to hide my ‘disability’, as it obviously affected me. But I am still competent to serve.

    I know ratings and injuries are completely subjective to the individual. Maybe I just need to find a recruiter that is actually willing to step up and help. Thanks for everything you do, Cheers.

    Harrison

    • Ryan Guina says

      Harrison, Thank you for contacting me. This is not a redundant question at all – every situation is unique.

      To the best of my knowledge, there is no limit for a disability rating that will force you to be removed from service. The “30% rating” has often been mentioned, but it refers to the military disability rating in a military Performance Evaluation Board (PEB), which is different than a VA disability rating. Here is a reference as it pertains to the Guard.

      Personally, I’ve known many people with higher ratings than 30% who have served in either the Guard or Reserves. The most important thing is whether or not you are physically able to perform your job.

      That said, Traumatic Brain Injuries are receiving a lot of scrutiny right now, and the military may not let you in due to the history of a TBI, not because you have a specific disability rating. (this applies to prior service members, as well as anyone applying from the civilian ranks). To get in, you would almost certainly require a medical waiver.

      With that, you would need to get a letter from an independent medical specialist stating you are fit to serve in the military and you aren’t a danger to yourself or anyone else. This needs to be on the medical professional’s letterhead. You would need to submit that with your application for a medical prescreen at MEPS, and yes, you would need to have a recruiter who is willing to work with you through the process.

      Regarding pay – I wouldn’t recommend waiving your military pay. In almost all cases, you will earn more through the VA. It may seem like the “noble” thing to do to prove you are willing to serve, but it won’t increase your odds of getting in, and by law you can choose. So electing to waive your VA pay for the period you serve would be the way to go. I hope this helps, and best of luck in your journey toward joining the military again!

  92. Nicholas says

    I palaced chased into the reserve. I understand that I will have to waive either the VA compensation or drill pay. I think I am going to waive the VA compensation. My question is, I started reserve duty on January 27th. I started receiving VA compensation on the same day. Since I don’t have any drill days from the previous year (2014, as I was still active duty), will the VA withhold, or waive benefits? Or will I have to waive benefits since a full year did not pass?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Nicholas, Thanks for your question. The pay issue is handled next year. The VA will send you a VA Form 21-8951 – Waiver of VA Compensation to Receive Military Pay. Basically, you choose next year which pay you want to waive. If you choose to waive your VA compensation, then the VA will determine how many days you served in the Reserves and withhold a corresponding number of days pay for VA compensation. So if you were paid for 60 drills, the VA would withhold 2 months of disability compensation the following year.

  93. Tyler Hogue says

    I was medically discharged for asthma in the Air Force. I have since been cleared by a doctor of not having it anymore and I really think I never had it but it was just a bad area and bad time of year. But would I be able to get a waiver for a Air Force 2Q rating and entering the army national guard or reserve?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Tyler, Asthma is a tricky condition and one I can’t give you a good answer on. You will need to visit a recruiter and have them work with you to get the proper documentation submitted to MEPS. Then it’s in their hands whether or not they will accept your application. A recruiter should be able to give you a better idea than I can. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  94. Dustin Lockhart says

    Hey Ryan a question for you,

    If you are rated 90% disabled due to TBI, can you still sign up for reserve?
    And will the VA take your disability away because you can serve in the Military?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Dustin, Thank you for contacting me. I haven’t seen any written regulations which limit the disability rating at which you can join, but I’ve heard that it can be more difficult when you have a high rating.

      The big question that needs to be answered is this: can you perform your required duties in the military with your current disability, and would you present an added risk to yourself or others?

      I can’t answer that – that is something that needs to be determined by the medical professionals. You would need to start the process with a recruiter and they will take it from there. I will say that the military is taking a hard look at Traumatic Brain Injuries for all prospective recruits, even those who have never served in the military before. At the minimum, I would expect you to need a medical waiver to be able to join. Here is more information on that process.

      Regarding pay, the military and the VA don’t take away your pay, but you are only allowed to earn one type of pay on any given day. The process is explained above, but please let me know if you have specific questions, or if it isn’t clear.

      All of that said – I don’t want to get your hopes up (or tell you it’s impossible). The military is doing a lot of studies on TBI and trying to minimize the effects of multiple concussions. I expect you may be facing an uphill climb to get back in. But don’t let that stop you from making the inquiries. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

      • Nick says

        Ryan…thanks for the insight here. Do you have an regulations that prove I do not have to voluntarily waive my VA disability in order to pass through MEPS. I can’t believe this is such a complex topic when there should be something that clearly states….members can re-enter the military regardless of VA status, so long as they can pass a physical.

        I may be joining a guard unit and have 60%, but will need to go to MEPS. Many things online (and a different unit) have told me I’ll lose that 60% while at MEPS. I need something in writing one way or another.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Nick, Thank you for contacting me. I haven’t seen anything stating servicemembers will lose a 60% rating if they try to go through MEPS. It can be difficult to get waivers, depending on the severity of the medical condition(s). But I haven’t seen anything that gives MEPS the authority to reduce a VA disability rating, or require a member to waive their rating in order to get through MEPS.

  95. Jeremy says

    I transitioned from Active Duty to the Army National Guard for three year. I filed a claim with the VA and I received a 80% service connected rating, I am wanting to be medically chaptered but my Unit doesn’t seem to want to chapter me now. Last month they informed me that since I had a 80% rating that that I was non-deployable so they had no choice but to medically chapter me, but this month something seems to have changed. My question is there any truth to my Unit’s claim, am I non-deployable since I have such a high rating and is there a cut off of percent, if so what is the cut off that automatically makes you ineligible for military service and do they have to give me a waiver to keep me?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Jeremy, Thank you for contacting me. I haven’t read any regs that list a cut-off percentage for disability ratings. But each branch of the military may have different guidelines. From what I understand, the most important thing isn’t the disability rating, but rather whether or not the disabilities prevent the servicemember from being able to perform his or her duties.

      In your case, there may be a medical condition that disqualifies you from being worldwide deployable. Or, there could be an Army reg that states a limit for disability ratings. I don’t have an answer for you (and most of these situations are on a case by case basis).

      My recommendation is to talk to as many people as possible to find out more about your situation. Recruiters can be a great source of information on these types of topics because they deal with medical eligibility issues on a daily basis. You can also try speaking with your unit deployment manager, someone in your medical unit, etc. It sounds like you’re going to have to do some digging to get a firm answer. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  96. Abner says

    I’m on the same boat as Rob. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea while in the navy. I’ve been out since July on 2013 and as of lately have been wanting to serve again in the ANG. However after talking to a recruiter he said that my chances would be very slim. I would love to speak to a recruiter who knows the rules and would be willing to help me get back in. He said that I wouldn’t be able to “have my cake and eat it too” since I get 60% disability. I would love nothing more then to serve again even if it just in the Guard. He also mentioned that he doubts any CMDR of a guard unit would be willing to sign off on my waiver to let me back in because of the sleep apnea .What do you recommend I do?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Abner, Thank you for contacting me. The 60% disability rating by itself won’t stop you from joining, but the underlying medical conditions may. I’m not sure if the sleep apnea condition is a waiverable condition. You would need to speak with a recruiter and the doctors at MEPS to find out that information. You can also look it up in the Department of Defense Instruction for medical standards (DODI) – which is found within this article that discusses applying for medical waivers.

      The best advice I can give you is to be honest with the recruiter, explain every potential negative item on your profile, and let your recruiter know you are willing to do whatever it takes to get back into the uniform. Just understand that you have a red marks against you, and it may not be easy. In fact, it may be difficult to find a recruiter willing to work with you, depending on how taxed the unit is (in my opinion, a good recruiter will tell you straight up what your chances are, and will let you know the exact steps to take to fill out and submit the necessary application(s). Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  97. Tamara says

    http://dma.wi.gov/DMA/retirees/briefs/11.pdf

    You need to go to your recruiter and show him this.

    If he won’t listen, then go to another recruiter, until you find one that will either listen to you, or knows what he’s talking about. That’s one thing I’ve learned in the military–a lot of people don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, they just push RUMINT as actual regulation without doing any research. Never take anyone’s word for it, ESPECIALLY a recruiter. Good luck.

    • Jeremiah McKenna says

      Keep in mind that the attitude the ‘entitlement crowd’ has is still in their minds even if they were to enlist.

  98. Rob says

    Hi Ryan. I recently contacted a Navy Reserve recruiter because I too was looking at coming back in as a reserve officer via a DCO program. As soon as we got to the VA disability question, and I told him it was for sleep apnea, which I had on active duty, he said I would not qualify to serve. He said anything above 30% automatically disqualifies a veteran from serving in a reserve or guard capacity. I was disappointed because I am fine, and actually was diagnosed with sleep apnea about 4 years in the Navy when I was about 140 pounds. I am still within standards now, but since I am drawing above the 30%, he says no go. Is there something I can do here? I know you have said it doesn’t matter, but I am being told something totally different. Thanks.

  99. Jonathan says

    I was reading your article and its great and very informative, however after viewing the regulation from the VA’s website it clearly states your Commander does NOT have to sign unless there is a mistake in your reported number of drill days.

    This is straight from the VA-“VA does not require a Veteran’s unit commander to sign VA Form 21-8951 unless the Veteran asserts the actual number of training days is less than the number the Hines ITC printed on the form”

  100. Kody says

    So just to be clear, I completed 4 years enlisted and plan on going back as an officer upon completion of my BA and I have a 10% rating. As long as I suspend my entitlements I can go back to active duty?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Kody, Thank you for contacting me. Yes, you would have to waive your benefits if you go back on active duty. However, you would not have to waive them if you go into the Guard or Reserves. You just can’t receive income from both on the same day. The way it works is you actually receive income for both and you file a form at the end of the year in which you declare which pay you wish to keep and which one you wish to waive (most people waive their VA pay because it is less). Then the VA will withhold pay for the number of days you received pay for military service. A standard year of drill days + 2 week training time is approximately 63 days. So you would have to elect to waive VA compensation for that number of days served. If you do that, the VA will withhold the next 63 days of VA compensation, after which it will resume. I hope this helps. Best of luck with your studies and your plans on receiving a commission!

  101. Kevin says

    Ryan, thanks for the information. I have a question you might be able to answer if you don’t mind….

    I’m 53 years old. Retired from the ANG with 26 years (9 years enlisted and 17 years officer). My retirement was honorable. Now I am completely retired and would like to go back into the Guard for a few years, maybe till I’m 60. Do you know the rules on this?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Kevin, Thank you for contacting me. To be honest, I don’t know the answer to this question. I do know that retired active duty members cannot come out of retirement to join the Guard or Reserves again, but I do not know whether retired Guard or Reserve members are able to do so. They are eligible to be recalled to active duty in an emergency, up to age 60, but I do not know if they can voluntarily come back to the Guard or Reserves. The best I can recommend is to contact a recruiter and ask if it is possible.

  102. Chandler says

    This law is not fair. I am a veteran and a Reservist. I am enlisted and only make about $200 a month, and I don’t have a job that makes enough to even qualify me for Obama Care. I have a 10% disability rating which is $100 a month that pays for my physical therapy to recover. Now they are taking it away because I serve the country. The VA also says I owe them a lot of time for being paid but my claim took forever to go through. Plus I was told to put in a claim for injuries on Active Duty. The VA will never get it right. I have no idea why they are always out for themselves in this type of situation.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Chandler, I can understand your frustration. I encourage you to look into TRICARE Reserve Select, which is an individual health care plan that qualifies for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It only costs about $50 a month for an individual (about $200 a month for a family plan) and the coverage, copays, and maximum out of pocket expenses are comparable or even better than most health care plans under Obama Care. Here is more info on TRS.

      If you are paying $100 a month for your physical therapy for a service-connected disability, then you can also look into receiving care from the VA. They provide health care for all your service-related injuries or illnesses for which you receive compensation. This should save you $100 a month, and get you the health care coverage you need to recuperate.

      Regarding the VA disability compensation – the law states you cannot earn both VA disability and military pay on the same day. At the beginning of the year you should receive a VA Form 21-8951 that states the number of days you received military pay in the previous year. You should elect to waive your VA pay for that numb or days, which the VA will withhold in the coming months. Most people have around 63 training periods in a year, which means the VA will withhold roughly 2 months worth of disability pay. The rest of the time you should receive your VA disability compensation unless you it is being recouped for other reasons (for example, if you received separation pay).

      The VA isn’t out there for themselves – they are simply following the law as it is written in Title 10 of the US Code. Thankfully, you have some great options within the VA and military system to get medical coverage for your current injuries through the VA, and to get ongoing medical coverage at a very affordable rate through TRICARE. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  103. Eddie says

    I have a couple questions. I just received my notice today 2/13/2015. The letter says I have 38 training days for the “fiscal year”. Are they counting from the entire year of 2014 or the military fiscal year from October 2013 to September 2014. Either way it doesnt seem to match up when I look at my points details in HRC. My second question is I only started receiving VA benefits in June of 2014 so isnt that the month that it should start counting from since that is when I started receiving double pay?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Eddie, Thank you for contacting me. This should only apply to the fiscal year, which is Oct 1, through Sept 30. If the numbers on your VA Form 21-8951 don’t add up, then you should contact the VA to have them verify your service dates.

      Keep in mind the following details before contacting the VA: Each Drill weekend is 4 duty days, a morning drill and an afternoon drill, so you would typically receive military compensation for 4 days during a standard drill weekend. Regarding the starting time of your VA compensation: many times your compensation may be awarded in a given month, but it may be retroactive to your separation date from the military, or from the day you filed your claim. So the VA may have used the filing date of your claim in their calculations.

      If your VA Form 21-8951 still doesn’t add up after taking those two things into consideration, then contact the VA and ask how to proceed to get your VA Form 21-8951 corrected. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  104. Rich says

    I was involuntarily separated from active duty and received separation pay. I also have a VA disability rating of 60%. My VA benefits are being withheld for five years in order to recoup the separation pay. I joined the reserves when I got off active duty. During this five year period where I am “paying back” my separation pay and not receiving my disability benefits but am collecting drill pay, will that drill pay eventually have to be paid back?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Rich, This is a situation where I honestly don’t have an answer. Here is what typically happens:

      If you receive separation pay and then have a VA disability, the VA will recoup the amount of separation pay you received. This is what is happening right now.

      If you receive separation pay and then join the Guard or Reserves, the DoD doesn’t recoup those funds immediately. However, they would recoup the separation pay if you eventually receive retirement benefits. However, in your case, the VA will have already recouped those funds, so that shouldn’t apply.

      The gray area that I don’t know about is what I think your question is asking: will you have to pay back any of the drill pay you receive while the VA is also recouping your separation pay. My gut reaction is no, because you technically aren’t receiving VA pay, because it is being used to recoup your separation pay. However, I cannot find a reg or the law to back that up, so please understand that is only a guess on my part. My recommendation is to contact DFAS and ask them about your situation. Sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer.

      Best of luck in your Reserve career!

      • Jon B says

        This is a subject that really needs to be clarified. Kudos to you Ryan for putting out some good information that i’ve been reading through. The whole separation pay/VA disability/Reserve,Guard scenario really needs to be put out in black and white. I’m in almost the exact same situation as the guy above.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Thanks for the kind words, Jon. I was out of the military for over 8 years because I didn’t know how the process worked. I had to dig to find it. That was my goal for bringing this information to everyone else. Hopefully it saves everyone a lot of time.

        Here is some further reading: Separation Pay, When the VA Can Withhold Disability Compensation, Waive Disability Compensation When Serving. Reading these additional articles will help give you a big picture view of how everything works together.

        Best of luck with your future service goals!

  105. David says

    I also am interested in reenlisting in the service. I did almost four years of active duty and was med-boarded for a lower back condition. My separation code is JFO and my reentry code is 3. Right before I got out they offered me a spinal fusion surgery, but I opted out and took the honorable discharge instead. I am currently rated 60% service-connected by the V.A. I feel like I’m in a state of disillusion with civilian life and was curious to know if there was any likelihood that I could rejoin? Could my condition be waivered at all, either in the guard or reserve? Or is it officially time to move on? Thank you.

    • Ryan Guina says

      David, I can’t comment on your specific situation, because medical conditions are unique to each individual. And to be honest, a recruiter can’t give you any guarantees either. The only way to find out is to apply to join the military again. But before you apply to the military, you will need to get some medical evaluations from a medical specialist stating your history for that condition, his/her expert opinion on your current condition, and whether or not he or she believes you would be able to serve in the military again without bringing additional harm to yourself or anyone in your unit.

      I don’t know enough about your current physical condition, so you will need to make a judgment call. Do you believe you are healthy enough to serve? If so, then you may try to apply to join the Guard or Reserves. If you don’t believe you are healthy enough, then you may need to consider surgery to improve your health before applying (this isn’t advice to get surgery; only you and your doctor can determine if surgery is the right option). Keep in mind that if you have surgery and your condition improves, the VA may change your disability rating.

      The application process for you would be a little different this time around because you would need medical waivers to join. Here is a recent article and podcast I wrote and recorded which explains How to Get a Medical Waiver to Join the Military.

      This will give you the process about how everything works, so if you decide to try and enlist, you will know what to expect. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  106. Stephanie Seward says

    hi….I have a question. My husband just got off of active duty in aug 2014. He joined the army reserves. He didnt have his rating till recently and he Is 60% with the VA. He has an apointment for TBI and Sleep Apnea. If his rating goes up…will he have to get out of the reserves? I see you were 100%, but almost ready for retire, but he isnt. What should we expect? The thing is is that he just receivdd a military tech position with the reserves and he needs to stay in reserves. Thanks in advance.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Stephanie, Being able to join the Guard or Reserves, or remain on duty in the Guard or Reserves with a VA service-connected disability, all depends on the extent of the disabilities and whether or not the individual can still perform the job duties required of him or her. This also includes being deployable. It doesn’t mean the person will deploy, but the individual needs to be able to deploy if called upon. A 60% rating by itself wouldn’t disqualify someone from serving, provided they can meet the service requirements.

      Each situation is handled on a case by case basis, so there is no way for me or anyone else to give you a firm answer about your husband’s future. All I can recommend is that he learn as much as possible about how the medical boards work, just in case he has to go in front of one to keep his job.

  107. Confused a bit says

    I am in what I believe is the opposite position. If you could please help me understand. I have done the calculations, I have been paid for 39 uta by my unit although I have requested my pay be withheld. I am an E-5 with 5 years, so my drill pay for a MUTA 4 is 340.68 or 85.17 per uta.
    At the same time I receive 100% VA Disability ( my unit did not push for medical discharge because I am very close to getting out.) my va disability is 3500.00. or 116 per day.
    Disability 116.00 * 39 uta = 4,524
    or
    Drill pay 85.17 * 39 uta = 3,321.63

    It might be extremely simple, but I am not understanding which to waive and which to keep to benefit me. Is the one that I waive the one I pay back? Please shed some light on this for me.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Thank you for contacting me. Typically, you will waive whichever pay is lower. In your case, you would want to waive your Drill Pay, because it is lower than your VA pay. I’ve only seen examples with waiving VA pay, which is withheld from future paychecks. I see that you weren’t able to have your pay withheld, which would be the easiest way to go. So it’s possible you may be required to repay the government by writing them a check. But I’m not 100% certain how this would work. I recommend contacting your personnel department for a more specific answer. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  108. Salvador says

    Are you sure that’s still current? I got a letter and then eventually called the VA because according to them, an audit showed that I was getting drill pay and getting disability pay around 2011. The person that I talked to said ” You can’t double dip the government.”

    I got out of active duty after 4 years, then did 1.5-2 yrs of national guard. A few months ago in 2014 I got the VA letter saying more or less what I mentioned above and that I would have about $100 buck deducted because of it. Anymore information would be greatly appreciated as I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t make anymore of my active duty service than I could’ve and wanted to make up for it by joining the guard.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Salvador, Yes, this is current and accurate information. I have a VA service-connected disability rating, and I just joined the Air National Guard. The VA representative was correct in the statement that you cannot “double-dip.” However, he didn’t explain it well.

      You can receive VA disability compensation while you are in the Guard or Reserves, however, you cannot receive the payment for the same day you receive military pay. At the end of the year, you will be required to fill out a form to select which pay you wish to receive – either your military pay, or your VA Compensation. Most people choose the military pay, because it is almost always more.

      If you choose your military pay, you will be required to forego the VA Compensation for the days you received military pay. In the Guard or Reserves that would typically be 4 days per month (4 drill periods), plus your AT days (active training days, or usually about 12-14 days per year). Combined that will be roughly 60 days of military pay per year for a normal year. Although it is possible to have more military days if you are activated or are required to attend training, you deploy, etc.

      The VA will then withhold your VA disability compensation for the number of days you served the previous year. If you had 60 days, then they would withhold the first two months of your VA compensation. Then your VA Compensation would resume.

      • Christopher Kelley says

        I have a question. I just recently received 90 percent disability and i know i have to decline reserve pay. that is no issue. however my question is i know there are people with 60 and 70 percent that have to decline pay that only show up for retirement points and only have to come in 4 times a year instead of every month. How do i find the regulation for this and is this for real. I know a person that does it but i am unable to speak to him at this moment. so i was hoping you can help me. thank you.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Christopher, Thank you for contacting me. Units have a lot of flexibility when it comes to scheduling certain members’ drill dates. Most units require everyone to participate on the regular unit drills, but some units may permit members to participate at different times if the mission and operations permit. The individuals you mention may fall into this category. Some members may also be IMAs (Individual Mobilized Augmentees) which have more leeway in when they serve.

        My guess is their disability rating has no effect on how and when they serve. It’s probably a function of their unit granting them permission to participate at different intervals. My recommendation is to speak with the individual you know when you get the chance, and go from there. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

      • ENNIO says

        I have a big question. If you may please try to answer my it, it would help the proccess. I did 4 years of active duty from the U.S.M.C and now I am a veteran. Currently I am 80% on compensation. I want to join a different branch as a reservist and they are telling me I can’t be over 30%. Is this true? But the prior enlistment of U.S.M.C have no problem taking me back.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Thank you for contacting me. It can be difficult to join the military with a disability rating – sometimes because of the rating itself, but often because of the underlying medical issues that give the rating. To the best of my knowledge, there is no set limit for a VA service-connected disability rating that will prevent you from joining the military. However, some recruiters state you can’t join if you have a disability rating over 30%. The “30% rating limit” refers to the military disability rating from a Medical Board or Performance Evaluation board. This is different than a VA disability rating. Here is a reference.

        The most important things are whether the medical conditions are waiverable for military service and whether or not you are physically able to perform your job. This is where your individual medical conditions are important. There are some conditions that may prevent you or anyone else from being able to serve again. And some of those conditions are not waiverable. Here is a reference on how to get a medical waiver to join the military.

        The only way to know if you will be able to serve again is to go through the application process. You may need to take some time to find a recruiter willing to work with you. You face an uphill battle, but it may be possible to join. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

      • Timberowl says

        I realize this is an old post, but I would like to add that I am swearing in for the Army National Guard next week, and have a 90% VA disability rating. You just have to do your own research, cite reliable references, fight relentlessly, and find a recruiter that will actually listen to you. It took about 8 months to get a medical waiver, but I got it. Good luck, and never give up!

      • Brandon Mihalik says

        This is all good information, but I’m still trying to figure out how getting medical clearance for waiver purposes to re-enlist, doesn’t cause any problems with the VA paying disability and compensation payments. I could be 100% wrong with this line of thinking, but if a MEPS physical declares an individual that is collecting VA Disability to be fit for military service(Reserve or Guard in this case) then why wouldn’t the VA then turn around and lower that individuals disability rating due to their condition having improved enough to rejoin the service?

        Any insight would be much appreciated, as I’ve been feeling the itch to rejoin, but have always thought that it was impossible with the fact that I am receiving disability pay from the VA. Thanks kindly and co to used success to you with your service in the Guard.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Brandon,

        Thank you for contacting me. Each situation is unique. There are some disabilities that may be caused by military service, but may not impair an individual enough to prevent further service. A common example is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. This is one of the most common disability ratings, due to the nature of military service in loud environments. Having that rating is usually permanent – it rarely goes away. However, it may not prevent someone from serving in the military if it doesn’t impair their ability to perform their duties on a daily basis.

        Other disability ratings may be similar. I cannot comment on specific ratings or medical conditions, as I am not a medical professional, and I don’t work for MEPS or the VA. So I don’t’ have an official answer for you. But I hope this is helpful.

  109. Fredrick Wilson says

    Thanks for this article. I have been scouring the internet for hope of being able to reenlist some how. I would gladly trade my disability payments for my honor and dignity back. I am very thankful for this up to date information.
    -Fred

  110. No Nonsense Landlord says

    Great job and thanks for your service. As a disabled Vet myself, I know the sacrifices that are put in to serve. If only some of the younger, entitlement, crowd would man-up and enlist, we would not have many of the problems that we have.

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