I’ve written previously about the interface between the VA disability benefit and drill pay. As previously written, you cannot receive both drill pay and your VA benefit concurrently. (See the post “How Does Your VA Compensation Interact with Your Navy Reserve Paycheck?” for the in depth explanation.)
I heard or read somewhere that you could submit a monthly form to notify the VA that you were drilling, and they would withhold the prorated amount on a monthly basis. This option would be attractive because under the current process, an awardee’s benefitis withheld for the entire year’s worth of training days – say 63 days (remember, each 4hr period counts as a day). Turning any income stream off for two full months is inconvenient at best. Smoothing it out with a monthly deduction of prorated drill days seems like a plausible rumor, so I decided to investigate. When the Google failed me on finding the correct form, I decided to go into the bear’s cave…
Unable to scare up anything on my own, I emailed the nice people at the VA and asked about it. Naturally, in the face of a monolithic government bureaucracy being scorched on national television for poor customer service, I expected little assistance. TO THEIR CREDIT, they responded within 5 days with a comprehensive answer to my question. Kudos to them. Its a point of success they can build on. Now if they can solve those other little rough spots, they’ll be in good shape.
Unfortunately, the answer to the question was not what I had hoped. The magical form does not exist. According to the response, you cannot alter the disbursement on a monthly basis. So, if you’re in this boat, you need to practice good cash management and ensure that you deduct the amount yourself and set it aside so that you retain enough to cover you through the withholding period.
This process is simple mathematically. Take your monthly disbursement and divide by 30. Each VA month is 30 days. For the sake of numbers we’ll use $3000.00/30days = $100.00/day. If you know you are drilling 1 weekend this month, then set aside 4 days worth of benefit, $400.00 into a separate account for that month. If you do your 14 days of drill, then set aside $1400.00.
To streamline the income for the year, you can figure that you’ll probably drill for 12 weekends and 2 weeks per year. 12 x 4 = 48 + 14 = 62. Take 62 and divide by 12 months to get a little over 5. If you withhold 5 days per month, then you’ll come out at right around two months worth of benefit.
There is no way that I’m aware of to establish allotments within the VA, but if you have Navy Federal or USAA, this is an easy task. Set up a checking account for the set aside and have the bank transfer the allotted amount each month immediately after the benefit arrives. The tricky part is keeping your fingers out of it throughout the year.