California

California's Veteran Benefits

There are numerous benefits available to California’s veterans and servicemembers. From tax exemptions to veteran home loans to state parks passes, some of these benefits could save you thousands of dollars.

Keep reading for a simple, helpful summary of California-specific benefits that you have earned through your service.

California Residents Save

$227/mth

Savings based on 2015 active loan data

28Lunches

*Based on an average lunch price of $8.08

Veteran Home Loans

California is a state with a rich military history. As you can see in the graphic below, it is home to many military bases:

If you’ve been assigned to one of these bases or are a veteran currently living in California, you could be eligible for one of the available home loan programs. There are two major types of home loan options for veterans and servicemembers: California loans and VA loans.

California State Home Loans

California offers direct loans to residents who are either veterans or current servicemembers. Because these loans are offered through the state government, they have highly competitive rates. They also require as little as 0-2% down.

For more information or to apply for a loan, call 866-653-2510 or visit the CalVet Home Loans website.

VA Loans & California’s County Limits

VA loans are available to qualifying veterans across the US. This type of loan is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and offered through VA-approved lenders.

Some of its major benefits include:

  • 0% down payment option
  • More lenient with requirements (like credit score) than other loans
  • No private mortgage insurance (PMI) required
  • Lower rates, on average, than conventional loans

The amount you can borrow with a VA loan is based on how much of your loan the VA is willing to guarantee. Limits vary across the country and can even vary between neighboring counties.

To see your loan limit, find your county in the graphic below:

For more information on VA loans, visit our VA Loan webpage or give us a call at 866-569-8272.

Veteran Housing Benefits

Property Tax Exemptions

California offers a property tax exemption for eligible veterans with disabilities and some spouses of deceased veterans. The exemption must be used on the veteran or spouse’s principal place of residence, unless the veteran is in a hospital and would live in the residence if they could.

Eligible Veterans with Disabilities & Surviving Spouses

To be considered an eligible disabled veteran, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a service-connected disability who has been rated as “100% disabled or [is] being compensated at the 100% rate due to unemployability” (California State Board of Equalization website)
  • Be blind in both eyes
  • Have lost the use of at least two limbs

Additionally, an unremarried surviving spouse may be eligible if their spouse was a veteran who either:

  • Had a service-related death, or
  • Qualified for tax exemption benefits (or would have on Jan. 1, 1977, had they been alive)

Visit this website for more information on exemptions for veterans with disabilities.

Veteran Tax Exemption Amounts

In 2018, California allows the following property tax exemptions on the assessed value of a home of a disabled veteran (amounts are adjusted annually):

  • Up to $134,706, if total household income is over $60,490 per year
  • Up to $202,060, if total household income is under $60,490 per year

In 2019, California will allow the following tax exemptions:

  • Up to $139,437 if total household income is over $62,614 per year
  • Up to $209,156 if total household income is under $62,614 per year

For more detailed information about tax exemptions, visit the California State Board of Equalization website; or contact your county assessor to to receive an application.

Housing Assistance

California offers low-cost residential, assisted living, and medical care centers throughout the state for disabled or aged veterans who are residents of California. It also offers affordable housing options, such as communities for low-income veterans in middle-class neighborhoods and veteran multifamily rental housing.

Additionally, the state has transition homes and other housing services to help veterans make the transition from military life to home life, including those listed below.

  • Veterans Transition Center – The Veterans Transition Center (VTC) provides services specific to homeless veterans and their families located in Monterey County. Some of the services it offers are housing, individual case management, rent assistance, and employment skill training. Further information on this program can be found by calling 831-883-8387 or visiting their website.
  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is a non-profit organization that works with groups across the nation that provide services to homeless veterans. Visit their website for information on some steps you can take if you are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.
  • (HUD-VASH) Vouchers – The Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program is a combination of services from the HUD and the VA. If you’re a homeless veteran or are at risk of becoming one, you and your family may be eligible to receive support from the program, which offers healthcare help, case management, and rental assistance. Visit the VA’s HUD-VASH webpage for more information on eligibility or for help finding aid. You can also visit your local VA Homeless Program or VA medical center or call the VA number for homeless and at-risk veterans, 877-424-3838.

Veteran Education & Employment Benefits

Education Benefits

California provides support programs and a non-resident college fee waiver to qualifying veterans and servicemembers. It also provides aid to eligible dependents and spouses of servicemembers.

Programs for Veteran Students
Troops to College

The Troops to College program is an important part of the California state college and university system, offering veteran-specific student assistance.

Among the benefits it offers are courses to help veterans, particularly those returning from combat, learn about some of the issues many veterans face when returning to civilian life. It aims to provide these veterans with knowledge and techniques that will help them succeed in different aspects of their lives. Veterans and their families can enroll.

Other support programs and benefits are available within the program, including:

  • Priority registration
  • Academic and financial services that are specific to veterans
  • Credits for military training
  • Student leadership opportunities

For more information, visit the Troops to College website.

Non-Resident College Fee Waiver

California offers a non-resident college fee waiver at its California State University, State of California Community College, and University of California campuses. The following students may be eligible:

  • Active duty members of the Armed Forces who are stationed in California and are pursuing an undergraduate degree
  • Students who are seeking up to two years of graduate-level study and are active duty members of the Armed Forces stationed in California
  • Armed Forces veterans who served on active duty in California for at least one year immediately prior to discharge from service

For more information on eligibility and application, contact a California state college or university that falls under the categories listed above and speak to the admissions office.

California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNG EAAP)

If you’ve been an active member of the California Army or Air National Guard, Naval Militia, or State Military Reserve for at least two years, you may qualify for the California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNG EAAP). This program could cover up to 100% of your fees at qualifying colleges and universities.

Visit the official CNG EEAP website for more information or to apply.

Education Aid for Dependents & Spouses

California provides an exemption from mandatory tuition fees and non-resident tuition fees to eligible spouses and dependents of veterans, among other benefits.

For a tuition fee waiver, an eligible dependent must meet the following criteria:

  • Be the child of a parent who is a veteran with disabilities and is officially rated at 0% or more disabled
  • Earn below $11,945 per year, unless the veteran parent either has a VA disability rating of 100% because of a service-connected condition or had a service-connected death, which both remove income limit requirements
  • Take graduate or undergraduate courses at an eligible college or university (which include campuses of California State University, California Community College, or University of California)
  • Meet the school’s requirements for in-state residency
  • Provide paperwork that confirms their relationship to the veteran (copy of a birth or adoption certificate)

For a tuition fee waiver, an eligible spouse must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a spouse who died from a service-connected cause or has a disability rating of 100% due to a service-connected condition
  • Take graduate or undergraduate courses at an eligible college or university (which include campuses of California State University, California Community College, or University of California)
  • Meet the school’s requirements for in-state residency
  • Provide paperwork that confirms their relationship to the veteran (copy of marriage certificate)

Additionally, a spouse or dependent (child, adopted child, stepchild) of an active duty servicemember stationed in California may qualify for exemption from non-resident fees if they are pursuing:

  • An undergraduate degree, or
  • Up to one year of graduate study

Visit the CalVet College Fee Waiver page for more information about the fee waiver. To learn about non-resident fee exemption, contact a California qualifying university.

Additionally, for information about other programs for dependents and survivors, visit the California State University page here.

Employment Benefits

Work-Study

If you’re an eligible veteran or a dependent of one, you may want to take advantage of VA work-study opportunities, which allow you to work at multiple VA facilities or other approved California state offices while attending school.

To qualify for the program, you must be both going to school at least three-quarter time and currently receiving VA education benefits. Visit your school’s veterans office to get the necessary application form.

For more information on wage, eligibility, and acceptable work, visit California’s VA Work-Study Program page.

Employment Programs

California offers the following programs to assist veterans in finding employment:

  • Employment Development Department (EDD) – EDD helps California’s veterans and eligible spouses find employment by working with local employment and training agencies that help match veterans and their skill sets to work opportunities. Visit EDD's Services for Veterans page for further information and support.
  • Veterans’ Preference Program – For state positions requiring a minimum college education and less than two years of work-related experience, eligible veterans and spouses of veterans who have either deceased or been rated 100% disabled can receive additional points to a passing entrance examination score. Visit the CalCareers website for more information
  • Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) Program – Disabled veterans who own at least 51% of a business and have a service-connected disability rating of 10% or higher may be eligible to participate in the DVBE Program. Under this program, your business contracts with the state of California, which aims to use a 3% minimum of its contract money on DVBEs. For more information, visit the DVBE Eligibility page.
  • Unemployment Benefits – Veterans who recently separated or retired from the military and are unemployed may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which allow for a maximum of 26 weeks of payments. You should apply for benefits immediately after separation from active duty service. Visit the Unemployment Benefits page for more information.

Other Veteran Benefits

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Discounts

Registration Waiver & Free License Plates

You may be entitled to both free license plates and the waiver of registration fees for one passenger vehicle, commercial motor vehicle under 8001 pounds, or motorcycle. The following individuals are eligible:

  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Former American prisoners of war (POWs)
  • Eligible veterans with disabilities
  • Eligible surviving spouses of Medal of Honor recipients and former POWs

Your application process depends on your status. The following is a basic guide, but make sure to contact your local DMV office for details before you apply:

  • Medal of Honor Recipients – Provide proof that you received the award and complete DMV form REG 17A
  • Former POWs – Complete DMV form REG 17 and provide proof that you were a POW
  • Veterans with Disabilities – Complete DMV form REG 256A and have a medical provider complete the section verifying your disability status; you’ll also need to obtain a letter from the VA or military service that discharged you stating that you are eligible
  • Surviving Spouses – Elect to keep the plates of your POW or Medal of Honor veteran spouse

You can apply at your local DMV office or by sending required materials to:

Department of Motor Vehicles
Special Processing Unit, MS D238
P.O. Box 932345
Sacramento, CA 94232-0001

Visit the California Department of Veterans Affairs website or contact your local DMV office or for more details.

Disabled Veteran License Plates

Eligible veterans with disabilities can qualify for free registration and disabled veteran handicap parking license plates for one passenger motor vehicle, motorcycle, or commercial motor vehicle weighing less than 8,001 pounds. You may be eligible if:

  • You have a VA rating of 100% disability from a service-related cause
  • You are permanently blind
  • You cannot move without an assistant device
  • You have lost use of at least one limb

To receive a disabled veteran license plate, you must complete DMV form REG 256A (including the signed medical certification). For more information on eligibility or to apply, go to your local DMV office, contact the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or visit CalVet’s License Plates website.

Recreational Benefits

State Parks and Recreation Passes

Veterans who are former prisoners of war, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, or disabled with a service-connected disability rated at 50% or more may be eligible for a lifetime pass to parks in the California State Parks system. Visit the Distinguished Veterans Pass page for an application and further information.

Hunting and Fishing Licenses

Veterans with disabilities who have a 50% or more service-connected disability rating are eligible for reduced annual fees on sport fishing and hunting licenses. To obtain the fee reduction, you must provide proof of your disability rating and honorable discharge.

If you are a recovering servicemember, you may also be eligible for a reduced license fee. You’ll have to provide proof of this status with a letter from a doctor or your commanding officer.

Visit the Fishing and Hunting Licenses page for more information on eligibility and how to apply for reduced-fee licenses.

Veteran Benefits Assistance

California Women Veterans Roster

Historically, female veterans utilize their veteran benefits less than their male counterparts, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

California’s Women Veterans Roster is a confidential roster that allows women who have served to stay updated with resources, programs, and benefits available to them in the state of California. Visit this website for more information or to sign up for the roster.

Claims Representation

If you’re a veteran or servicemember, a dependent of one, or a survivor and you’re trying to find or apply for VA benefits, California offers professional assistance. Accredited representatives can help you understand what benefits you may qualify for and help you with the claims process.

For district office contact information, visit the Claims Representation page.

About Low VA Rates

We are a VA-approved mortgage company that works primarily with VA mortgages. We’ve specialized in VA loans since day one as a company, so our veteran-specific loan expertise is extensive and hard to beat.

If you’re looking for a VA loan in California, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll work to find you a loan that fits your individual situation.

For more answers to your VA loan questions or to get a free quote, call Low VA Rates today at (866) 569-8272.