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Disability, Your Next Job and Retirement: How the Pay Works

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

What does disability mean for your pay and can you get another job? I’ll go over how the pay works with or without retirement and your options for getting a job with partial or permanent and total disability.

*Marine Corps, South Korea, before Sept. 11th 2001. What a different place and time!

First, we will go over disability for non-retired service members. This one is easy. You get a set payment each month for anything over 0% disability. The compensation does change based on the dependents you have in DEERS. You can find the actual payment schedule here.

Next, disability for retired service members changes depending on disability rating, and one thing to remember is that while disability is not taxed, your retirement check will be federally taxed. You can do a quick internet search to find what level of tax your state places on your pension.

10% to 40% Disability

50% - 100% Disability

With Retirement

A portion of your retirement check is tax free, based on disability rating. No separate disability payment.

You receive disability payment once a month in addition to your retirement once a month.

No Retirement

You receive disability payment once a month.

You receive disability payment once a month.

For a disability rating between 10% and 40%, the calculated amount is not paid out to you - it is the portion of your retirement check that will be tax-free. From 50% to 100%, you get both disability and retirement. That’s right, with 50-100%, you get two payments a month; one for disability and one for retirement.

VA disability is a set rate and pays regardless of rank. You make the same amount as a PFC and a Four Star General. Disability is also not taxed. The pay will change based on your family situation however. You can find that payment information here. It’s far too complicated for me to cover every situation accurately.

So, can you get a second job while collecting VA disability? You know the limitations of the disabilities you claimed. That is your limiting factor. If you're receiving disability for inability to lift objects over 10 pounds, don't get a job in a warehouse lifting 20 pound bags of dog food. The VA can lower the percentage for your disability if you take a job that exceeds your limitations. This could be considered Fraud, Waste and Abuse. The VA can also request a reexamination when evidence indicates the disability has improved.

That being said, I know several people working full time jobs who have 100% permanent and total VA disability. You are the one who tells the VA if you can work or not. If you can’t hold a job due to a mental or physical disability, the VA can rate you 100% TDIU (Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability). This gives you access to VA payments at the full disability rating no matter what your actual rating is. This is typically the rating people refer to when they say "you can't work with 100% disability." That statement is only sometimes true and now you know.

You are not gambling on whether or not you can get a job when you apply for VA disability. VA disability covers you for the things you can no longer do and pays for your medical insurance concerning those items you claimed. In the end, being honest during your claim is the only way to go. It’s ok to be unemployable due to disabilities and it’s ok to have a good job while collecting 100% disability. You know which category you fall into in most cases.

If you are reading this and have valuable input or personal experience, please share! The only way to help-out fellow service members is to share our experience. I know many are hesitant to pursue disability for fear they can’t have a job with disability and I know that to be untrue.

Good luck with your claims and get what you deserve!


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