Take action today. Call our experts at: phone icon1-800-522-5221

Military Benefits

How Long Do Benefits Last after Leaving the Military?


Your dedication and service as a member of the United States military entitles you to certain benefits, from financial help with education, training, and healthcare to retirement. While these benefits provide a robust support system for both active-duty and retired servicemembers, not all of them last forever.

Take a moment to learn which categories of benefits you may be entitled to receive, how long they last, and whether extensions might be available.

Types of Military Benefits

There are three main categories of military benefits: education and training, healthcare/medical, and retirement. It’s important to understand these categories and how long each one lasts, as well as any expiration periods you need to be aware of.

VA Education and Training Benefits

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers a variety of educational benefits that can be used while you’re on Active Duty or after you leave the service. Educational and training benefits for servicemembers and Veterans include:

Post-9/11 GI Bill

For eligible servicemembers and Veterans who have served 90 days on Active Duty since Sept. 10, 2001, this program offers education benefits for up to 36 months. This benefit can be applied to any of the following:

  • College
  • Business, technical, or vocational courses
  • Correspondence courses
  • Apprenticeship/job training
  • Flight training
  • Licensing and testing programs

Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

This program offers education benefits to eligible Active Duty servicemembers and Veterans who have served at least two years for:

  • College
  • Business, technical, or vocational courses
  • Correspondence courses
  • Apprenticeship/job training
  • Flight training

Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

Servicemembers who have committed to a six-year obligation in the Selected Reserve can receive up to 36 months of education benefits at a reduced rate:

  • College
  • Business, technical, or vocational courses
  • Correspondence courses
  • Apprenticeship/job training
  • Flight training

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)

For eligible and entitled Veterans with a disability rating and an employment handicap, this program provides:

  • Counseling
  • Training
  • Education
  • Job placement assistance

Military Healthcare Benefits

Access to comprehensive healthcare is a major perk of military service. Here’s what you can expect.


TRICARE encompasses a range of services, including preventive care, specialty treatments, and mental health care designed to maintain the well-being of servicemembers and their dependents. Individuals eligible for these benefits include:

  • Active-duty servicemembers (ADSMs)
  • Active-duty family members (ADFMs)
  • National Guard and Reserve members and their family members
  • Retirees and retiree family members
  • Survivors
  • Certain former spouses worldwide

Combat Veterans Healthcare

For Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998, healthcare eligibility is extended for five years. Any condition related to a Veteran's service in a combat theater may qualify for VA Health Care and community living care under the "Combat Veteran" authority.

Veterans’ Healthcare Through the VA

VA Health Care covers regular checkups with your primary care provider and appointments with specialists (like cardiologists, gynecologists, and psychiatrists). Healthcare services for Veterans include home healthcare, senior (elderly) care, medical equipment, prosthetics, and prescriptions.

Military Retirement Benefits

Military retirement benefits secure your financial future after years of dedicated service. These benefits ensure financial stability as you transition to civilian life, recognizing and rewarding your commitment to serving your country. Common retirement and pension benefit plans include:

The High-36 Model

The High-36 plan is a retirement pay calculation method that uses 50% of the average highest basic pay earned over 36 months. For every additional year after 20 years of service, you receive an extra 2.5%. However, this retirement plan is no longer available for those who joined the service after December 3, 2017, as it is being phased out.

The Blended Retirement System/Thrift Savings Plan

The Blended Retirement System (BRS) is a modern military pension model that combines defined benefits and a portable Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for greater flexibility in retirement planning. It provides a comprehensive retirement package for a broader range of personnel, including those who serve for less than 20 years. Eligibility extends to those who entered military service on or after January 1, 2018.

Pre-Discharge Integrated Disability Evaluation System

Pre-Discharge Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) are for servicemembers who can no longer perform their duties due to physical or mental disability. DRB is calculated based on the years of service and disability rating assigned by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This is known at the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) and is a joint DOD and VA disability evaluation process. It's worth noting that there are two different ways of rating disabilities that result from military service: the military rating and the VA rating. The VA rating compensates Veterans for any service-connected disabilities. The amount of compensation a Veteran receives is based on the percentage rating they receive.

How Long Do Military Benefits Last?

Unfortunately, not all military benefits last forever. Let’s break down how long you can expect your particular benefits to last, as well as any extensions or eligibility requirements you should be aware of.

Duration of Education and Training Benefits

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Expires 15 years from the date of your last discharge or release from Active Duty if you were discharged before January 1, 2013. If you were discharged after that date, there is no expiration.

Montgomery GI Bill for Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

Expires 10 years from the date of your last discharge or release from Active Duty. Your eligibility will be extended by 10 years if the military upgrades your discharge.

Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

Expires 14 years from your date of eligibility for the program or until you are released from the Selected Reserve or National Guard. If a Reserve Soldier qualifies for Chapter 1606 MGIB-SR and is mobilized for more than one day, their MGIB-SR delimitation period can be extended by four months.

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)

If you were discharged from active duty before January 1, 2013 your eligibility ends 12 years from either the date you received notice of your date of separation or the date you received your first VA service-connected disability rating — whichever came later.

If you were discharged from active duty on or after January 1, 2013, there’s no time limit on your eligibility.

If a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) finds that a Veteran has a serious employment handicap (SEH), the basic eligibility period may be extended.

Duration of Healthcare Benefits

Some, but not all, of your healthcare and medical benefits will never expire. Let’s take a look.


If you need healthcare coverage after your separation date, you have 90 days to change your TRICARE health plan. There are two healthcare programs available for temporary coverage.

Combat Veterans Healthcare

Combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active service are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for five years from the date of discharge or release. The five-year enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the servicemember from active duty military service.

Veterans Healthcare Through the VA

This benefit never expires. Veterans who have recently separated from Active Duty, including National Guard or Reserve duty, may be eligible for VA Health Care for all or part of their healthcare needs. Eligibility determination will take into account service history, VA disability rating, and income, among other factors.

Special Considerations for VA Health Care Benefits

VA Health Care benefits for service-related injuries and disabilities have special considerations like coverage periods, continued healthcare options, and eligibility for benefits after separation. Let's break these down and address some common questions you may have.

Coverage Period for Service-Related Injuries and Disabilities

VA Health Care benefits typically cover service-related injuries and disabilities for the duration of the Veteran's life. This coverage includes medical treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation for disabilities incurred or aggravated during military service.

Options for Continued Healthcare for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities

Veterans with service-connected disabilities have several options for continued healthcare:

  • Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care: The VA provides comprehensive healthcare services for eligible Veterans. This includes hospital and outpatient care, prescription medications, mental health services, and more.
  • TRICARE: For certain retirees and their families, TRICARE may be available. This program extends military health benefits to eligible beneficiaries, offering various plans and coverage options.
  • Medicare and Medicaid: Veterans may also qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, depending on their circumstances.

Eligibility for Medical Benefits after Service Separation

To be eligible for VA Health Care benefits, Veterans must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The VA considers service-connected disabilities when determining eligibility for benefits. Veterans with service-connected disabilities are typically given priority in accessing healthcare services. The process of applying for VA benefits involves submitting a disability claim, which the VA then evaluates to determine the extent of service-connected disabilities and the corresponding benefits.

Common Questions About Eligibility

Can I receive medical benefits if my disability is not directly related to military service?

In general, VA benefits are designed for service-connected disabilities. However, other healthcare options, like TRICARE, Medicare, or Medicaid, may still be available.

What if I separated from service with a dishonorable discharge?

Veterans with dishonorable discharges are typically not eligible for VA benefits. However, certain circumstances may warrant a review of discharge status.

Veterans need to consult with the VA or other relevant agencies to understand their specific eligibility and benefits based on their service-related injuries and disabilities.

Duration of Retirement Benefits

For military retirement pensions, the duration of benefits varies based on different models and circumstances.

The High-36 Model

In the High-36 Model, military retirees receive a lifetime annuity. This annuity ensures a continuous stream of income until death, providing you with financial security. Survivor benefits for spouses and dependents include the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), offering a lifetime annuity after your death. Eligibility for SBP requires you to elect coverage and pay premiums prior to retirement.

The Blended Retirement System/Thrift Savings Plan

Under the Blended Retirement System (BRS), retirement benefits also last a lifetime. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) supplements the retirement benefit, allowing you to manage your portfolio of investments. Survivor benefits can include the SBP annuity if elected at retirement and transfer of TSP to ensure financial support for your spouse and dependents throughout their lives.

VA Disability Compensation Benefits

For VA disability compensation benefits, the duration of the disability compensation may be re-evaluated and can be reduced or increased depending on the severity of the disability. If you’re deemed permanently and totally disabled, you’ll receive benefits for life. Survivor benefits for spouses and eligible dependents must be applied for and the cause of death must be service related .

Understand Your Military Benefits with AAFMAA

AAFMAA offers military servicemembers and Veterans the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions that set them up for future success. Learn more about our Member benefits, and to discuss your life insurance coverage options, contact AAFMAA online today!

This article was originally published December 30, 2021.