Military Disability Retirement

Man Holding Military Retirement Pay

You may have heard about people getting out of the military with a disability retirement. We will attempt to explain what a disability retirement is and the process of being separated with a disability retirement.

What Is Disability Retirement?

If you are determined eligible for a disability retirement that means the the military feels your disability would prevent you from doing your job. Military disability retirement is different than VA disability because you get it from DOD, not VA, and VA disability is based solely on an injury or medical condition - NOT the ability to perform your military duty.

To qualify for disability retirement, you must be determined to be unfit for military service and have a disability rated at least 30% by the military.

How Do I Get Disability Retirement?

You can't apply for disability retirement. If a doctor examines you and thinks you may have a qualifying disability, they will refer you to the Medical Examination Board (MEB) or the Physical Examination Board (PEB). (MEB and PEB are the same thing, the names change based on which branch of the service you are in.)

The board will then determine if your disability is severe enough to qualify you for a medical retirement. If so, you are put on the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL).

If the board thinks your condition may get better - or if they think it may get worse - they will put you on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL). Generally conditions like migraines, asthma, back and neck conditions, nerve damage, and mental disorders would qualify you for the TDRL.

Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL)
If you are put on the TDRL you will get retirement benefits including a monthly stipend plus medical coverage for you and your dependents until medical conditions can become stabilized or corrected. 

You are required to complete a physical examination when ordered, or at least every 18 months, you will get travel pay to a medical facility for your examination. If you are placed on the TDRL for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), then an additional exam is required at the 6 month point.

The examinations will include a complete physical examination, not just a review of the condition causing the placement on TDRL.

After each examination, the attending physician forwards their findings to the board for review. You can't stay on the TDRL for more than 5 years, however the board can make a decision on your condition after any 18 month examination.

Once the board makes a final decision they will rate your disability based on the same rating factors the VA uses to rate disabilities. The board can make one of four decisions on your case:

  1. If your disability is rated 30% or more and you have less than 20 years service you will be placed on the PDRL
  2. If you have over 20 years of service and ANY percentage of permanent disability you will be placed on the PDRL
  3. If your disability is rated less than 30% and you have less than 20 years service you will be separated with severance pay
  4. You may also be found physically fit and ordered to return to active duty.

Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL)
If you are placed on the PDRL it is just like you are retired due to length of service. You will be entitled to all the benefits of a military retiree. You will also get a retirement payment, this payment is different than a normal retiree would receive.

Severance Pay
Disability Severance Pay is a one-time, lump sum payment. Generally it is computed at the rate of 2 x (basic pay) x (years of service).

What Do I Get If I'm Found Eligible for Disability Retirement?

When you are placed on either the TDRL or PDRL you will get a monthly retirement check, just like as if you had served 20 years. The rate is figured like this:

  • (Years of Service) x (2.5%) x (Retired Base Pay) = Disability Retired Pay


  • (Disability % - not to exceed 75%) x (Retired base pay) = Disability Retired Pay

Upon retirement you will be given the option to choose either computation method. Your retired base pay is determined by when you entered the service and which retirement pay you are eligible for, or have chosen.

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