DoD Disability Retired Pay

Regular Air Force: Active Duty

Benefit Fact Sheet

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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 1208or have service-connected disabilities that caused the airman or guardian to be unfit for duty and amount to a combined disability rating of 30% 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.


Active duty Airmen and Guardians are entitled to Disability Retired Pay if they meet all the criteria below:

  • The service member incurred a permanent disability (or permanently aggravated a pre-existing medical condition), which caused them to be unfit for military duty, while serving on active duty for more than 30 days

  • The service member was entitled to basic pay, or the disability was incurred while the airman was on active duty but was not entitled to basic pay due to authorized absence to participate in an educational program or for an emergency purpose as determined by the SAF

  • The disability was not the result of intentional misconduct or willful neglect; and

  • The disability was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence.

Airmen and guardians with medical conditions or physical defects that existed prior to service, e.g., incurred in a civilian status, may be administratively separated without referral into the DoD Disability Evaluation System (DES) if the medical Stethascope on a stack of folderscondition is identified prior to, or within, 180 days of the service member's initial entry on  active duty or inactive duty for training or full-time Air National Guard duty. The following criteria must all be met:

  • The condition was not aggravated while on active duty or otherwise performing military duty

  • The Entry Physical Standards Board must be convened by the 180th day

  • The medical condition does not disqualify the service member from retention under the provisions of DAFMAN 48-123. If disqualifying, Regular and Reserve Component service members on active duty must be referred to the DES. A Reserve airman, who is not on active duty, must be provided the opportunity for a fitness determination by the PEB under the "non-duty related referral process."

Pursuant to 10 USC 1207a, a disability incurred prior to active duty will be treated as if it were incurred while the member was entitled to basic pay, for the purpose of considering whether incurred in the line of duty, as long as the member has at least eight years of active service and was on active duty for more than 30 days when the fitness determination was made. The provisions of 10 USC 1206a modify application of 1207a to Reserve Component airman called to active duty. If the Reserve Component airman is released by the 30th day of active duty due to identification of a pre-existing condition not aggravated within the 30 days, the airman will not have met the 30-day active duty requirement. The provisions of 10 USC 1207a do not apply to Reserve Component service members who are referred to the DES after they are released from active duty.

Benefit Highlights

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%. 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% 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.

Additional Information

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

Document Review Date: 19 December 2023