How Does a Felony Affect me as a Veteran and my Benefits: Sam Mangel, White Collar Consultant

I recently spoke with a former client who was sentenced in 2021 to 27 months in federal prison for theft of medical products. The government was asking for his guideline of 47-54 months. He served a total of 9 months in prison, with the rest in a non-custodial environment.

Kevin is a veteran, having served our country in the US Air Force. He was honorably discharged from the military, and served only 9 of those months at the camp at Talladega. He is now starting his 3 years of supervised release. We discussed what programs are available in prison solely for veterans which are also FSA eligible.

Prior to his entering prison, Kevin was very concerned about his wife and daughter and if they would be receiving his veteran benefits, or how his family would be affected by his conviction. We discussed how a felony conviction can impact your Veteran benefits depending on the nature and circumstances of the conviction.

Here are some general considerations, as well as many of his initial concerns:

1.    Incarceration: If a veteran is incarcerated in a federal, state, or local penitentiary, jail, or other correctional institution for a felony, the VA may reduce certain benefits. Disability compensation payments might be reduced after the 61st day of imprisonment, and the amount of reduction depends on the disability rating. Pension payments may also be reduced or discontinued.

2.    Character of Discharge: The nature of your military discharge can also impact your VA benefits. For example, a veteran with a dishonorable discharge based on a general court-martial is not eligible for VA benefits.

3.    Home Loan Guarantees: While a felony conviction doesn’t directly impact your eligibility for a VA home loan, it can indirectly affect it. This is because a criminal record might make it more difficult for you to obtain credit or affect your credit score, both of which can impact your ability to secure a home loan.

4.    Education and Training: There’s no explicit rule that a felony conviction impacts the eligibility of a veteran to receive benefits under the GI Bill for education and training. However, specific educational institutions or training programs might have their own rules about accepting students with felony convictions.

5.    Healthcare: As of 2021, a felony conviction doesn’t directly impact eligibility for VA health care.

6.    Life Insurance: A felony conviction does not affect a veteran’s eligibility for VA Life Insurance.

7.    Burial Benefits: As long as the veteran wasn’t dishonorably discharged, they’re still entitled to burial and memorial benefits, regardless of a felony conviction.

8.    Firearms Ownership: Federal law restricts firearms ownership for individuals convicted of certain felonies, including those involving domestic violence or violent crimes. This may also affect veterans with felony convictions.

Keep in mind that while a veteran’s benefits might be reduced during periods of imprisonment, these reductions do not typically apply to dependents. If a veteran with dependents is incarcerated, the VA can apportion benefits to the dependents. Also, once the veteran is released from prison, they can apply to have their full benefits reinstated.

Please note that laws and regulations can change, and the actual impact may vary depending on a wide variety of factors. Always consult with a legal professional or a VA representative to get the most current and personalized advice. If you or your loved ones have any questions, please call, text or email me.

Sam Mangel


Member: American Bar Association