How Does Incarceration Affect Veterans Benefits?

Question: I am a veteran receiving VA pension or disability benefits and have been arrested. What will happen to my benefits

Answer: The good news is that, unlike public benefits, you will keep your VA benefits until you are convicted of a crime and incarcerated after your conviction:

  • If a veteran is convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to more than 60 days in jail, he will lose his VA pension benefits on the 61st day of incarceration.
  • If a veteran is convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than 60 days in jail, he or she will lose his VA pension or up to 90 percent of his or her VA disability benefits on the 61st day of incarceration.
  • It is important to remember that you will only lose benefits if you are incarcerated post-conviction. If you are in Veterans Court, substance abuse/mental health treatment, probation, or other diversion programs you will not lose your benefits.
  • VA will not provide VA health care to you during incarceration.
  • If you are in danger of losing your VA benefits due to post-conviction incarceration, you can assign your pension or disability benefits to a spouse or child during incarceration (this is called apportionment). Send a letter to the VA requesting apportionment of benefits and demonstrating your dependents’ financial need (address below).
  • If you do not want to apportion your benefits, you still must notify the VA of your conviction to avoid an overpayment. If VA continues to pay your benefits after the 61st day of post-conviction incarceration, you will have to repay the overpayment.

Restarting Benefits After Your Release: Send a copy of your official release papers to the VA Regional Office within one year of your release. In your letter be sure to include your social security number, name, and current address and ask VA to reinstate your benefits.

VA Mailing Address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 5235
Janesville, WI 53547-5235
*Send all letters via certified mail and keep copies for your records