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Incarcerated Veterans


Incarcerated veterans refer to former military service members who are currently serving time in a federal, state, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, or other correctional facility. These veterans may have their VA benefits affected due to their incarceration status. The term underscores the distinction between veterans living freely and those within correctional institutions for various reasons.

Key Takeaways

  1. Incarcerated Veterans are those who have served in the military and are currently held within a penal institution due to a conviction.
  2. While incarcerated, Veterans may still be entitled to certain VA benefits, such as healthcare; however, some benefits like disability compensation and pensions may be reduced or suspended.
  3. Upon release from incarceration, Veterans can regain access to benefits that were reduced or suspended, by informing the VA and providing necessary documentation for reinstatement.


The term “Incarcerated Veterans” is important because it specifically addresses the unique set of challenges and needs faced by veterans who are currently serving time in prison or jail.

These individuals have served their country, but due to various circumstances, may have encountered legal issues leading to incarceration.

This term emphasizes the governmental and societal responsibility to ensure that these veterans still have access to the benefits, programs, and support services they have earned, such as healthcare, disability compensation, pension, education, and vocational training, albeit with certain restrictions during their confinement.

Recognizing and addressing the specific needs of incarcerated veterans is essential for their successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society, promoting better outcomes both for them as individuals and for the community as a whole.


Incarcerated Veterans is a term that refers to former military service members who are currently serving time in prison for breaking the law. Although veterans may have served their country with honor, they can sometimes find themselves in situations that lead to incarceration.

The purpose of addressing the specific needs of incarcerated veterans is to ensure that they receive necessary support and resources during their time in prison, and also to help them reintegrate into society upon their release. As part of the VA benefits system, the proper assistance is provided to attend to their unique needs based on their military background, such as physical and psychological war-related traumas, and other service-connected issues.

The term encapsulates not only those actually incarcerated but also those under supervised release, or parole. While veterans are eligible for certain types of assistance like healthcare and education benefits even while incarcerated, their pension, compensation, and other financial benefits might be reduced or discontinued during the period of their incarceration.

Efforts made to address the needs of incarcerated veterans include various rehabilitation programs, such as vocational training and therapy, which can contribute to reduced recidivism rates and promote successful reintegration. Programs like the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) and Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV) work collaboratively with the VA and community organizations to ensure that former military personnel have access to healthcare, housing, employment, and other support services, as they transition from the correctional system to civilian life.

Examples of Incarcerated Veterans

Incarcerated Veterans refers to those veterans who are currently serving time in a federal, state, or local correctional facility for convictions of any kind. Veterans can continue to access some VA benefits and services while incarcerated, although some restrictions apply. Here are three real-world examples related to incarcerated veterans and VA benefits:

Reduction in VA Benefits: Carl, a war veteran receiving disability compensation, is convicted and sent to a state prison for a felony offense. Because he is incarcerated for more than 60 days, the VA reduces his disability compensation to a maximum of 10% after the 61st day of his incarceration. After his release, Carl can apply to have his disability compensation restored to the original rate, provided that the rating was not already set at 10%.

Educational Assistance for Dependents: Diana’s spouse, an incarcerated veteran, is currently serving a 5-year sentence. Her spouse was receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which can be transferred to dependents before their incarceration. Diana can apply for educational assistance using the transferred benefits for herself or their children. This allows her and her children to obtain education funding while the veteran is incarcerated.

Re-entry Support: Tom, a homeless veteran, is released from a state prison after serving a 2-year sentence for drug possession. As an incarcerated veteran, Tom can access support services for re-entry into society. The VA collaborates with local re-entry programs to provide information and assistance on employment and training resources, healthcare services, and housing opportunities for veterans like Tom, ensuring their successful integration back into society after imprisonment.

Incarcerated Veterans FAQ

1. What benefits are available to incarcerated veterans in VA facilities?

While incarcerated, veterans have access to health care, compensation and pension payments, and vocational rehabilitation and employment services. However, some benefits may be limited or reduced during incarceration.

2. What happens to a veteran’s VA disability compensation while they are incarcerated?

If a veteran is incarcerated for more than 60 days for a felony conviction, their VA disability compensation will be reduced. For incarcerated veterans with a disability rating of 20% or higher, the VA will reduce their monthly payment to the 10% rate. For those with a disability rating of 10%, the payment will be reduced by 50%. After release, compensation can be restored.

3. Can family members receive a veteran’s reduced VA compensation while they are incarcerated?

Yes, family members may be eligible to receive an apportionment of the incarcerated veteran’s reduced VA compensation. They must apply for this benefit by submitting VA Form 21-0779 (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by a Surviving Spouse or Child).

4. Can incarcerated veterans receive VA health care services?

Incacerated veterans cannot typically receive health care services through a VA facility while they are incarcerated unless under unique circumstances. However, the correctional facility is responsible for providing medical care to inmates. Once released, veterans may reconnect with their VA care and VA will help with re-entry and transition.

5. Are incarcerated veterans eligible for VA education benefits?

In general, veterans are eligible to use their education benefits while incarcerated, but may face limitations in accessing the necessary resources and services to use them. It is crucial to coordinate with the prison education staff and the VA to determine the best course of action.

6. How can incarcerated veterans apply for VA benefits and services?

Incarcerated veterans can apply for VA benefits and services by contacting the VA directly or by using the resources provided by their correctional facility’s veterans service office or re-entry program. Additionally, the VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program aims to help justice-involved veterans access services related to housing, health care, employment, substance use treatment, and mental health care.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Inmate Rehabilitation Programs
  • Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO)
  • Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV)
  • Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program (IVTP)
  • Veterans Treatment Courts

Sources for More Information

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – The official website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a wealth of information regarding VA benefits for veterans who are incarcerated.
  • Veterans Benefits Administration – The official site of the Veterans Benefits Administration is a great resource for those seeking information on VA benefits for incarcerated veterans.
  • Vets.gov – A comprehensive source for veterans and their families, offering easy-to-understand information on VA benefits and regulation regarding incarcerated veterans.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service – This site provides resources and publications related to justice and public safety, which includes VA benefits for incarcerated veterans.