DoD Disability Retired Pay
Benefit Fact Sheet
The Department of Defense (DoD) compensates Airmen and Guardians who are retired for physical disability (Title 10 USC Ch. 61). The Secretary of the Air Force (SAF) may retire a regular component Airman or Guardian who is deemed physically unfit to perform their duties as the result of an injury incurred in the line of duty. To qualify for disability retirement, the Airman or Guardian must have completed at least 20 years of creditable service, in accordance with 10 USC 1208, or have service-connected disabilities that caused the Airman or Guardian to be unfit for duty and amount to a combined disability rating of 30 percent or more. The 20-year threshold established by 10 USC 1208 includes Reserve "equivalent duty service" (the product of the Service member's membership and Inactive Duty Training (IDT) points divided by 360). This service is applicable to Regular Service members with former Reserve Service.
Air Force Reserve Service members on drill status are entitled to Disability Retired Pay when determined unfit for a permanent disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while: Performing active duty or inactive training:
Traveling directly to or from the place at which such duty is performed
After 23 Sep 1996, an injury, illness, or disease incurred or aggravated while remaining overnight, immediately before the commencement of IDT, or while remaining overnight between successive periods of IDT at or in the vicinity of the site of the inactive duty training in certain circumstances, there is no longer the requirement for the site of the IDT to be outside reasonable commuting distance.
Airmen with medical conditions or physical defects that existed prior to service may be administratively separated without referral into the DoD Disability Evaluation System (DES) if the medical condition is identified prior to, or within, 180 days of the Airman’s initial entry on active duty or inactive duty for training or full-time Air Force Reserve duty. The following criteria must be met:
The condition was not aggravated while on active duty or performing IDT or otherwise while in one of the covered statuses.
The medical condition does not disqualify the Airman from retention under the provisions of AFI 48-123. (If disqualifying and the Airman is not on active duty, the Airman would be processed under the procedures for Airmen who do not meet medical retention standards. Airmen not on active duty are processed under the medical disqualification procedures. Airmen on active duty are referred to the DES.
The DoD Disability Evaluation System (DES) implements retirement based on physical disability. The DES consists of:
Medical evaluation to include the MEB, impartial medical reviews, and rebuttal
Disability evaluation to include the PEB and appellate review, counseling, case management and final disposition.
Pursuant to DoD Directive 1332.18, the sole standard to be used in making determinations of unfitness due to physical disability shall be unfitness to perform duties of the member's office, grade, rank or rating because of disease or injury. The assignment of disability ratings shall be based on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD).
The military disability retirement plan is a defined benefit plan that incorporates basic pay history and either the number of years of service (YOS) or severity of the disability. To qualify for disability retirement, the Service member must be deemed unfit for military service and have a disability rating of at least 30 percent. The monthly retirement pay begins immediately after retirement and continues for the duration of the retired member’s lifetime. A member deemed unfit with less than a 30 percent disability receives a Disability Severance payment.
The basic retirement formula is:
YOS x 2 ½ % x retired base pay; OR
% of disability (not to exceed 75%) x retired pay base.
The retired pay base is the average of the highest 36 months of basic pay earned for those Service members who entered service on or after September 8, 1980.
When a member is retired for disability, they are is entitled to all the rights and privileges of any other military retiree. This includes entitlement to a military retired identification (ID) card that authorizes medical care, base Exchange and commissary shopping privileges, and use of morale, welfare and recreation facilities (space-available). There are no provisions in the law for increasing or decreasing a Service member's compensable disability rating after the effective date of permanent retirement.
For more information, visit the following DoD web links to obtain the DoD disability directive, instruction, and policy memorandums modifying this document:
Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program IDES:
Online Resource for Americans with Disabilities:
Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2):
DoD Office of Warrior Care:
The Air Force Office of Airmen’s Counsel (OAC) are Air Force attorneys who provide legal services to Airmen going through the disability evaluation process. They can be reached at:
210-565-0739 / DSN 665-0739 or via email at email@example.com