Do Felons Lose Veteran’s Benefits?

Despite running into hardships that can result in a veteran becoming convicted of a felony and potentially serving jail time, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stands by their veterans to continue providing benefits to eligible individuals. Depending on the severity of the crime, veterans may still receive VA benefits while incarcerated although these benefits may be reduced.

In many cases, the family, spouse, or dependents of an incarcerated veteran may be eligible to receive the unincluded portion of VA benefits assigned to the veteran for the entire sentencing period. These benefits may include, but are not limited to, disability compensation, pension payments, and education benefits.

Pension Benefits For Felons

The VA will continue paying pension benefits to incarcerated veterans so long as their sentence is less than 60 days. After the 61st day of incarceration, the VA will cease all pension payments and no longer provide the veteran with pension benefits until they are released from prison or jail.

Once the veteran has been released from incarceration, they will then have to meet the VA’s eligibility criteria to resume pension payments. It is the veteran’s responsibility to notify the VA once convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in order to avoid overpayments. Failing to notify the VA immediately after incarceration may result in fines and the halting of all other VA benefits. 

Disability Compensation For Felons

For veterans who are receiving disability compensation due to an injury caused by or made worse by their time spent in active duty will continue receiving benefits as normal despite being convicted of a felony. If the sentence is more than 60 days, however, the veteran will have their benefits reduced for the remainder of their incarceration period. Veterans with a disability rating deemed 20% or more disabling will have that number reduced to 10% for the remainder of their sentence. This will greatly affect the monetary value of their disability compensation.

Veterans with a disability rating deemed equal or less than 10% disabling will have their monthly payments cut directly in half. Once a veteran has been released from a Federal, State, or local penal institution can apply to have their benefits reinstated in whole through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

If the veteran in question serves their time in a work-release program, living in a halfway house, or are under community control they will not have their disability compensation benefits reduced. These payments will continue as normal for those individuals.

Education Benefits For Felons

Unfortunately, if a veteran convicted of a felony is sentenced to prison they will be unable to continue receiving full monthly benefits. If a veteran has been convicted of a misdemeanor, these monthly payments will continue as planned. Once a veteran has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to jail, the VA will only continue to make payments that are only to be used for tuition costs, fees, books, equipment, and supplies necessary for higher education as long as the veteran is not receiving aid from an additional Federal, state, or local organization. 

Who Can Receive Veteran’s Benefits If They Are Convicted Of A Felony?

As we mentioned before, many monetary benefits for veterans will be reduced as a result of incarceration due to a felony conviction. All or some of those benefits that are no longer being provided to the incarcerated veteran can be allocated to the veteran’s spouse, children, or parents. The VA refers to this process as “apportionment”, and will not automatically provide these benefits unless the veteran’s spouse, child, or dependent parents file for them personally.

The VA determines apportionment eligibility based on many factors such as income and living expenses, living expenses of all dependants, special needs requirements, and the overall amount of assets to be apportioned. At the time of conviction, the VA will notify the veteran about the reduction in benefits and their right to have those benefits apportioned. It is at this time that the VA will outline the details behind having those benefits resumed in full upon the release from incarceration.

Given that the VA can find the veteran’s dependents from the address or contact information, the VA will notify those individuals about the apportionment. It is imperative that the dependants file for apportionment on their own as the VA will not automatically do this at the time of notification.

Reintegrating Into Society After Prison

Along with reinstating existing benefits after a veteran has been released from prison, the VA has programs set in place to help incarcerated veterans adjust back to a normal lifestyle. These programs aim to help veterans get a job and maintain a healthy life while reducing the risk of becoming homeless due to drug or alcohol problems, mental health issues, or disability.

Being convicted of a felony may affect many aspects of a veteran’s life, but the VA strives to help improve the lives of veterans post-incarceration one warrior at a time. It is imperative to inform the VA immediately after being convicted of a felony to eliminate the risk of fines while quickly allocating those benefits to dependents who need it most. Visiting the VA website or calling your local VA office can shed more light on specific veteran’s benefits and how they may be affected due to incarceration for longer than 60 days.