If you’re facing criminal charges, you may be worried about losing your VA benefits if you go to jail. Criminal charges alone won’t impact your benefits, but the events that follow may.
It’s important to understand how your benefits will be affected if you serve time in jail and the steps you can take to ensure your family’s financial needs are met.
Will You Lose Your VA Benefits if You Go to Jail?
No. If you’re convicted of a crime, you will not lose your VA benefits, but your benefits will be REDUCED if:
- You’re convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, AND
- You’re imprisoned for more than 60 days.
How much will your benefits be reduced? That depends on your disability rating.
- If your disability rating is 40%, you will be limited to the 20% rate.
- If you are rated 20% or more disabled, you will be limited to the 10% rate.
- If your disability rating is 10%, your payments will be cut in half.
Once you’re released from jail or prison, your payments may be reinstated if you still meet eligibility requirements.
If you receive service-connected benefits, these will be reduced to 10% while you are in jail or prison.
What About VA Pensions?
If you receive a VA pension, that pension will be terminated on your 61st day in jail and for the duration of your sentence.
Once you’re released, your pension may be reinstated, but this is not an automatic process. You must contact the VA and ensure that you still meet eligibility requirements.
If you are imprisoned, it is crucial that you notify the VA of the situation. If you don’t notify them and continue to receive payments (technically, “overpayments”), your pension will be terminated until the debt is repaid.
What About Work Release Programs?
If you’re participating in a work-release program or living in a halfway house, then your payments will not be reduced.
What About Education Benefits?
Education benefits will not be disrupted, even if you’re convicted of a crime unless the crime is a felony.
If you’re convicted of a felony, you will only be paid for tuition, books, supplies, equipment, and fees.
What Happens to Your Benefits While You’re Awaiting Trial?
Unless you are convicted of a crime, the VA will not withhold your benefits. While awaiting trial, you will continue to receive your benefits as usual. You are innocent until proven guilty, so the VA will not withhold your benefits unless there’s a conviction.
Can VA Benefits be Given to Dependents While You’re in Jail?
The VA can take part or all of the benefits that you’re losing and give them to your spouse, children, or other dependents through a process called apportionment.
Your family can apply for apportionment by contacting your local VA regional office. In order to receive your benefits, your dependents will have to provide income information. The decision isn’t automatic. The VA will need to review the application and consider several factors, including:
- The amount of available compensation through apportionment
- Living expenses
- Special needs
Your spouse, children, and/or other dependents will have to file a claim for apportionment using VA Form 21-0788. They won’t automatically receive your benefits.
Any apportioned amount will be divided amongst your dependents based on their financial need.
What if You Don’t Notify the VA of Your Jail Sentence?
You must notify the VA of your jail or prison sentence. If you don’t and you continue to receive payments, any compensation over 10% and any pension you receive will be flagged as an overpayment.
Overpayments must be paid back to the VA, which means you’ll lose your benefits after your release until your debt is repaid.
What Happens to VA Benefits if a Conviction is Overturned?
If, through the appeals process, your conviction is overturned, all of your withheld benefits will be returned to you.
But you must notify the VA of your overturned conviction. Otherwise, you will continue to have your benefits withheld or reduced. Once the VA is notified, you will receive a retroactive payment. If your family received apportioned benefits during your incarceration, these amounts will not be repaid.
Fugitive Felons WILL Lose Their VA Benefits
The VA will terminate all benefits if you’re a fugitive felon. A fugitive felon is someone who flees to avoid jail/prison or prosecution or violates the terms of their parole or probation.
Fugitive felons are ineligible for cash benefits, disability compensation, education benefits, pensions, medical care, life insurance, and other benefits. Their families cannot recover apportioned benefits either.
Once your outstanding warrant is cleared, benefits can be restored. A warrant can be cleared via surrender, arrest, a court document stating that you are no longer a fugitive or the dismissal of charges.
How a Criminal Attorney Can Help
If you are facing criminal charges, it is crucial to hire an experienced criminal attorney who will work hard to get your charges dismissed or negotiate a reduced sentence.
Your benefits and financial future are on the line. Don’t take any chances. Call us today for a free consultation.