What Happens to Your VA Benefits If You Go To Jail?
Veterans Facing Criminal Charges
If you are a veteran facing criminal prosecution, it’s essential to start thinking about and preparing for the repercussions this can have on your VA benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs has the power to reduce or eliminate your VA disability benefits. Work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to create a defense plan to reduce or avoid the penalties associated with your incarceration.
What Happens To My VA Benefits After An Arrest Or If I Go To Jail?
If you are receiving VA benefits and you’ve been arrested, the Department of Veterans Affairs can reduce your disability compensation significantly.
It’s important to note that benefits are only reduced after 60 days of detention (on the 61st day); UNLESS the veteran or beneficiary receiving the benefits is identified as a fugitive felon.
A fugitive felon includes any person who:
- Flees or avoids custody after a felony conviction.
- Is fleeing to avoid prosecution for a felony.
- Is found in violation of a condition of their parole or probation that was imposed for a felony.
When the VA finds out about your felony warrant, they will suspend your healthcare and services (including medications).
Even if your services are not suspended immediately when a warrant is issued, it may ask you to repay the benefits you received when the warrant was active once the VA finds out about the warrant.
If you are a veteran with an outstanding warrant, contact us at Rose Legal Services right away. Often we can get a veteran’s warrant recalled or arrange for you to be booked and released after posting a bond. Once the warrant is resolved, you can provide evidence to your VA office to restore your veterans’ benefits.
VA Benefits While Awaiting Trial
Veterans who are waiting for their trial date will still have access to all of their VA benefits — if they are on bond. Veterans who cannot or do not bond out, however, will remain in jail awaiting trial.
What Happens To My VA Benefits While I’m In Jail?
When a veteran has been sent to jail, they will continue to receive their pension and disability compensation benefits for the first 60 days. On the 61st day, payments are either discontinued or significantly reduced.
It’s important to note that the person must actually be in custody for more than 60 days.
If the execution of the sentence is suspended (meaning the veteran does not serve the sentence), then benefits are not interrupted. But after 60 days in custody:
- Non-service-connected disability pension payments are discontinued.
- VA disability compensation for a service-connected disability will be reduced to 10%. If the veteran was only receiving a 10% disability rate, it would be reduced by half. However, there is no reduction in the service-connected disability compensation rate if the veteran was incarcerated for a misdemeanor crime.
There are some ways to work around the reduction. Suppose there are dependents such as children, spouses, or parents that rely on the incarcerated veteran’s VA benefits. In that case, they can apply to have the benefits made available to them.
If there are programs available, such as work-release programs and halfway houses, the veteran may still be eligible to continue receiving their monthly benefits.
Visit the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to learn more about the effects of incarceration on your VA benefits.
What Happens If My Conviction Is Appealed?
If you win your appeal after your VA benefits have been interrupted, the VA will compensate you for your missed disability benefits in the form of a retroactive payment. This will reimburse you for any payments that were withheld since your initial conviction.
For pension payments, veterans must notify the VA that their appeal was successful and the conviction has been overturned.
Will I Ever Get My VA Benefits Back?
Upon the veteran’s release from jail, whether the conviction was overturned or the sentencing was fully satisfied, they are entitled to the EXACT SAME VA benefits payments given before the incarceration.
As soon as there is official paperwork stating a scheduled release date, the VA can be contacted to arrange for all of the benefits to be resumed promptly.
If you are a veteran who has never claimed these benefits but believe you may be entitled, being incarcerated does NOT prevent you from applying for disability compensation benefits. In fact, you can apply for these benefits while incarcerated so that you can get the help you need once you are released.
Missouri Veterans Court Programs
Many veterans suffer from alcoholism, pain pill addiction, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and such problems can often be traced back to combat-related injuries or experiences.
In recognition of the special circumstances that veterans often face, many jurisdictions have developed a Veterans Court. St. Louis County Circuit Court and Jefferson County Circuit Court have excellent Veterans Court programs, and more and more jurisdictions are adding Veterans Courts all the time.
The veteran will undergo an assessment, and a treatment plan specifically tailored and customized for that veteran will be developed. The treatment plan may include specific programs and counseling at the VA at Jefferson Barracks or the John Cochran Veterans Hospital in St.Louis.
One of the best things about Veterans Court is the other veterans in the program. Our client will meet and get to know several other veterans going through the program — often with similar problems. They tend to develop a real bond with each other, and they often stay in touch after completing the program. In Veterans Court, the judge and prosecutor are often even veterans themselves.
We have successfully represented many veterans by arranging for them to complete a Veterans Court program.
When our client enters and successfully completes a Veterans Court program, we can often get the criminal charges reduced, or sometimes we can even get the charges completely dismissed.
And when we have a client graduate from Veterans Court, we always proudly attend the graduation ceremony.
National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
Veterans who are homeless or who are at risk of being homeless can contact 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) or visit the Veterans Justice Outreach Program.
Veterans Crisis Line
Veterans and service members in crisis can contact 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online.
Woman Veterans Call Center
Female veterans looking for additional services and resources can contact 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) or find more information online.
Program providing information and resources about psychological health, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries. Veterans can contact 1-866-966-1020 or chat online.
Need Help Protecting Your VA Benefits After An Arrest?
Facing criminal charges can place a lot of stress on a veteran. Especially one whose family relies on their VA benefits to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.
If you are a veteran and you’ve been arrested, or fear an arrest is coming, there is a lot we can do to help you and your family. Whether that involves benefits to family members, working with Veteran Court Programs, or getting you the best possible outcome for your case, we can help.
We understand the importance of protecting your VA benefits (and keeping you out of jail), we are prepared to use every tool and resource available to veterans to help get you out of this mess.
Be sure you inform your criminal defense attorney of your veteran status.
Contact us right away for a free consultation.