Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members (UCX)

The UCX governs unemployment benefits for veterans, but your state will process your claim.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law

The federal government provides unemployment benefits for service members leaving the military who've yet to find a civilian job. These benefits are provided through the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members (UCX) program.

While UCX is a federally funded program paid for by each branch of the military, it's actually operated by each state's unemployment office.

Read on to learn how to qualify for UCX compensation and how the program works—including how getting veterans disability and retirement will affect your unemployment benefits.

Am I Eligible for the UCX Unemployment Program?

If you're transitioning from military service to the civilian job market, you're likely entitled to collect UCS unemployment compensation. To be eligible for UCX, you must:

  • have served on active duty in the military (or active Reserve status)
  • have been discharged under honorable conditions
  • have completed the first full term of service for which you enlisted (if a Reservist, it's 180 days of continuous active duty), and
  • meet all of your state's other eligibility requirements.

The UCX program has no residency requirements. So you can file for benefits in the state where you live after discharge—even if you didn't live there before you went into service or at any other time.

When and Where Do I File for UCX Unemployment Benefits?

You should apply for unemployment benefits during the week you're discharged from the military. You can ask for help from the Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) at your state employment office.

You'll need to provide a copy of your certificate of release or discharge papers (DD-214) to your state employment office. In addition, you'll be asked to provide your Social Security card and a resumé that shows your employment history—both civilian and military.

If you need help creating a resumé, you can check the United States Department of Labor's CareerOneStop website to find assistance near you, or call 877-US-2JOBS or 877-872-5627 (TTY: 877-889-5627).

You might not have to go to your local employment office or state workforce agency to file an application for benefits. In many states, you can apply in one of the following ways:

  • by phone
  • online, or
  • by faxing or mailing in an application form.

To learn about the filing options in the state where you live, use the Department of Labor's Unemployment Benefits Finder.

It's a good idea to apply as soon as possible so your unemployment benefits aren't delayed longer than necessary. In many states, once your UCX unemployment claim is approved, you'll have a one-week waiting period before you begin receiving benefits.

The UCX Unemployment Application Process

When you apply for UCX, most states will interview you to determine your eligibility for benefits. If your state conducts interviews with unemployment applicants, your interview might occur at the time you apply or sometime later.

Whether during an interview or on a questionnaire, you can expect to be asked about your military service and how much your active duty pay was. You might also be asked why you left the military and under what conditions.

Once you've filed a UCX application, the next step will be for the state employment office to contact your military branch and confirm the information you provided. This verification process can take a few weeks or more.

If you don't receive your benefits within a week or so, you'll need to start filing a weekly claim or job search report—even though you aren't being paid yet (more on this below).

Do I Have to Submit Weekly Paperwork?

Once you begin receiving benefits, your state employment office will require you to continue to fill out a claim form every week to certify that you're still looking for work. Even if you can't find a job, you still have to certify that you're "ready, able, and available" to work.

You can often file this form online or by phone. Getting your claim or job search report in on time every week ensures that once your unemployment application is approved, you'll get all the UCX compensation you're eligible for.

How Much Do Ex-Military Get for Unemployment?

Your unemployment benefits will be a percentage of your prior earnings in the military. You'll receive up to 50% of your military pay in most states. The total amount you can receive is limited by state law, which varies by state.

If your military income was very high, you might get less than 50% of your active duty pay, to keep your unemployment benefits within the state guidelines.

What if I'm Receiving Retirement Pay?

If you're receiving disability retirement or retirement pay from the military, this will impact the amount of your unemployment check.

Your unemployment benefits will be reduced based on the amount of your retirement pay. For every dollar you receive in your retirement pay, your unemployment benefits will be reduced by a dollar. In some cases, this will mean that, even though you're technically eligible for unemployment compensation, you won't receive any, after the amount of your retirement pay from the military has reduced your benefit amount.

What if I'm Receiving Disability Compensation From the VA?

Disability compensation payments from the VA don't reduce your unemployment check. You can receive your full unemployment compensation along with your full disability payment from the VA.

Your VA disability benefits don't count as income for UCX unemployment. But remember that to qualify for unemployment, you must be able to work.

(Learn more about the disability benefits available from the VA.)

How Long Will I Receive UCX Benefits?

The number of weeks you can receive UCX unemployment benefits is based on the laws of the state where you live. Some states will pay unemployment for as many as 26 weeks, while others could limit your UCX payments to just a few weeks.

In some states, the unemployment rate and the maximum benefit amount can affect how long your UCX payments can last.

Your local employment office can tell you how long you can receive UCX unemployment compensation in your state.

Will My UCX Unemployment Benefits Be Taxed?

Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income. Unlike veterans disability compensation, unemployment benefits are subject to income taxes.

You might not have to pay income taxes on your UCX benefits, but only if both of the following are true:

  • you received only a small amount of unemployment compensation, and
  • you had little to no additional taxable income (putting your total earnings below the minimum taxable level).

But you're likely to owe taxes on your unemployment benefits, especially if you get a job and your new wages raise your earnings to a taxable level.

In most states, taxes won't be withheld from your UCX payments unless you request it. And if you don't have income taxes withheld, at tax time, you could be unpleasantly surprised by the amount of taxes you owe. To avoid this, you can:

  • ask to have taxes deducted from your unemployment payment, or
  • after you start working, have extra taxes withheld from your paycheck.

Where Can I Find More Information About UCX?

To learn more about getting unemployment compensation for ex-service members, see the U.S. Department of Labor's UCX page and the UCX fact sheet.

To learn more about all the benefits available to veterans, check Nolo's section on Veterans Benefits. And for more information about unemployment benefits in general, see Nolo's articles about Collecting Unemployment Benefits.

Updated June 27, 2023

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