Navigating VA benefits in the justice system


Navigating VA benefits in the justice system

by: Kim Suchek | .
. | .
published: May 07, 2014

Hello Military community,

Today in the news we are hearing more frequently about criminal charges filed against service members for various reasons, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The question that remains unanswered for many is what happens to the families left facing the crumbling of everything they know and understand.

How does the service member reintegrate back into the civilian world with a criminal record, and military experience accompanied by a possible dishonorable or less-than-honorable discharge? For many, this may be compounded by PTSD and other emotional or physical issues. It can be extremely frustrating for service members’ wives and children.

It is important for veterans and their families who run into legal issues to be aware of their Veterans Affairs benefits, including what benefits they may still be eligible to receive. They should also know what happens to those benefits if they become incarcerated, and what programs are available to assist them with reintegrating back into the community once released.

Despite the circumstances, some veterans involved in criminal legal issues may still be eligible for disability, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment and burial. For an in-depth description of the eligibility requirements, go to:

Here are some highlights from what the VA’s website says regarding “VA Programs for Justice-Involved Veterans.”

Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV) Program
The HCRV Program is designed to help incarcerated veterans successfully reintegrate back into the community after their release. A critical part of HCRV is providing information to veterans while they are incarcerated, so they can plan for re-entry themselves. A primary goal of the HCRV is to prevent Veterans from becoming homeless once they are reintegrated back into the community.

Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) Initiative
The VJO initiative is designed to help veterans avoid unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration by ensuring eligible legal involved veterans receive timely access to VA health care,  specifically mental health and substance use services (if clinically indicated) and other VA services and benefits as appropriate. 

The VA can pay certain benefits to Veterans who are incarcerated in a federal, state or local penal institution; however the amount depends on the type of benefits and reason for incarceration.

VA disability compensation payments are reduced if a veteran is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Veterans rated 20 percent or more are limited to the 10 percent disability rate. For a veteran whose disability rating is 10 percent, the payment is reduced by one-half. Once a veteran is released from prison, compensation payments may be reinstated based upon the severity of the service-connected disability at the time.

Payments are not reduced for recipients participating in work release programs, residing in halfway houses (also known as “residential re-entry centers”), or under community control. The amount of any increased compensation awarded to an incarcerated veteran that results from other than statutory rate increase may be subject to reduction due to incarceration.

Veterans in receipt of a VA pension will have payments terminated effective the 61st day after imprisonment in a federal, state or local penal institution for conviction of a felony or misdemeanor. Payments may be resumed upon release from prison if the veteran meets VA eligibility requirements. Failure to notify VA of a veteran’s incarceration could result in the loss of ALL financial benefits until the overpayment is recovered.

Payment to Spouse or Children
All or part of the compensation not paid to an incarcerated veteran may be apportioned to the veteran’s spouse, children or dependent parents on the basis of individual need.

Each VA regional office has a homeless veteran coordinator to assist legal-involved veterans. They are a direct point of contact for such issues. To find yours, call the VA’s National Call Center at 877-424-3838.

For more details on this, visit:

Blessings from my family to yours,

Kim Suchek

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to share a story or situation, contact me at and visit my website at for updated information and other resources not listed in my book.

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