There are many benefits offered to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, there are so many that a lot of veterans aren’t even sure what’s out there or what they qualify for.
The goal of this post is to create awareness and invite you to take advantage of the benefits you deserve for your honorable service.
We’ve compiled a list of the veteran benefits offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs and have highlighted what the benefit is, what requirements there are, and how to apply for them.
Here’s what’s covered in this post:
- Disability Compensation
- Health Care
- Education & Vocational Training
- Employment Services
- Home Loans
- Help for Homeless Veterans
- Life Insurance
- Memorial Benefits
- Lesser Known Benefits
Veterans Disability Compensation
You may be eligible for tax-free monthly benefits if you have disabilities, medical conditions, or injuries that were incurred or aggravated during your active military service. Veterans disability compensation is available regardless of when or where you served.
VA Requirements for Veteran Disability Compensation
- You have a physical or mental disability
- You’ve had an injury or disease from a service-related experience
- You experienced an event in service that caused an injury or disease
- A link exists between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease from your military service
Here’s a list of documents that you can submit with your claim if you have them:
- Your DD-214 (or equivalent)
- Records of service treatment and any supporting documents
- Private medical records and hospital reports
Surviving Spouses and Dependents Compensation
In addition to the disability benefits available to veterans, surviving spouses or dependent children may also be eligible for compensation benefits through the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This financial benefit is awarded to those who have experienced an economic loss through:
- The death of a servicemember during military service
- A veteran’s death that was caused by a service-connected disability
- The death (not service-connected) of a veteran who was rated by the VA as being totally disabled from a service-connected disability for a period of time before death
How to Apply
There are two ways to apply for compensation:
- Apply online with the Department of Veterans Affairs using your eBenefits account, or
- Contact an accredited Veterans Service Organization for a representative that can help you submit your claim.
If you have any questions, you can contact the VA toll-free by calling 1 (800) 827-1000.
Veterans Health Care
Veterans can get great health care, and many qualify for VA health care. With over 1,200 sites, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest health care system and is typically ranked as one of the nation’s top healthcare providers.
Here is a list of services that all enrolled veterans have access to:
- Preventive care
- Primary care
- Specialty care
- Mental health care
- Home health care
- Geriatrics and extended care
- Medical equipment/prosthetics
Additionally, female veterans can receive:
- Breast and cervical cancer screenings
- Prenatal care
- Maternity care coverage
- Other gender-specific services
VA Requirements for Health Care
In order to be eligible for veterans healthcare, you must have served in active military, naval, or air service. Dishonorable discharge does not qualify, but any other separation does.
Application requirements include:
- Your DD-214
- Your additional health insurance information, including coverage through a spouse/domestic partner
- Your financial information, including the previous calendar year’s gross income
How to Apply
Submit an application form with the Department of Veterans Affairs. From there, the VA will send you written notification of your enrollment status.
The VA also provides a Health Benefits Explorer tool online so you can check if you’re eligible for health care.
Education & Vocational Training Programs
Veterans can take advantage of higher education and other vocational training programs. These VA education benefits can go towards:
- Traditional degrees
- Non-college degrees
- On-the-job training
- Flight training
- Online career training programs
These benefits can help cover the costs of tuition, housing, training, or any other education-related expenses. Some veterans use their benefits to get a second college degree, if they have enough remaining entitlement from their GI Bill. The second degree might be in another field, or it might be an AA, BA, or MA in the same general field of study.
You can receive your benefits under one of the following programs offered by the VA:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
The Two Types of GI Bill
The GI Bill program, which supplies education benefits to veterans, is split into two types: the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you served before 9/11/2001, you may qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill. If you served after 9/11/2001, you may qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
If you started your service before 9/11/2001 and continued to serve after that date, you may qualify for both types of GI Bill, and you’ve likely been asked to pick one or the other. Each program has its own requirements and uses.
Chapter 30, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), can give educational benefits to veterans for up to 36 months. You can use it for degrees, certificates, apprenticeships, on-the-job trainings, and correspondence courses. You can also use it for remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses if they’re approved.
If you bought into MGIB, you may remember that you were required to pay $100 per month during your first 12 months of active duty. Your benefits will expire 10 years after you’re discharged from the military, even if you’re enrolled in education when they expire.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t require a buy-in payment. You simply become eligible after 90 days of post-9/11 active duty, whether you were in the US military or under an order to active duty from the Reserves or National Guard.
In addition, you can be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill because of National Guard duty in which you were responding to a national emergency or were organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training for the National Guard.
You can see a helpful summary of the two different types of GI Bill in this video from Low VA Rates.
The Transfer of Post-911 GI Bill Benefits to Dependents
- Tuition and fees (paid to the educational institution directly). The payment amounts will be based on the maximum tuition rate at a public institution of higher education in your state.
- If institutions participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, extra funds may be available to cover all or part of the tuition that exceeds the maximum tuition rate. This includes tuition at private schools and out-of-state tuition at public schools.
- Books and supplies for each year. Benefits can be up to $1,000 a year.
- Housing and living expenses. These benefits are paid every month and are based on the school’s zip code.
VA Requirements for Educational and Vocational Benefits
- Copy of your DD-214
- Documentation of enlistment incentive or College Fund a.k.a. “Kicker”
- For housing, you must be enrolled in school for more than half-time (7 credits minimum)
How to Apply
Before applying, the VA recommends that you determine which benefits program is right for you. They provide a chart to assist you.
When you decide which program best fits your needs, you can apply online with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Make sure to plan ahead because VA educational benefits can take a few weeks to process.
Transitioning from your service to the civilian world can be tough. The VA offers benefits, resources, and services to help with your transition.
In addition to the Educational & Vocational Training benefits, the VA provides other pathways for you to explore:
- If you have a service-connected disability, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program can help with tuition, books, fees, supplies, monthly subsistence payments, etc.
- You can get access to the Veterans Employment Center portal.
- If you need help translating your military skills onto your resume, you can use the VA’s Military Skills Translator.
- You can also search here if you’re interested in a job in the private sector or at the federal level.
The U.S. Department of Labor offers the following online resources to veterans, which you can use to help you look for work and understand your career prospects.
- CareerOneStop: Use the veterans section to search for jobs, look at your training and education options, and find other benefits and assistance for veterans, such as housing benefits.
- My Next Move: On this website, you can search for jobs that are similar to the type of work you did in the military. You can also search by keywords and industries.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program
The benefits of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program are available to veterans who are rated by the VA as at least 20% disabled. Benefits can help you prepare for, search for, and keep employment. Also, for veterans with disabilities that prevent them from working, the VR&E program can help to improve their situation and give them more independence.
- An evaluation of your employment interests, abilities, and skills
- Career counseling
- The development of a rehabilitation plan
- Help in getting you ready to work
- Available job training
- Assistance searching for employment
- Assistance creating a resume
- Case management, medical referrals, and counseling
- Services to enhance independent living for veterans who are unable to work
- A monthly subsistence allowance
To be eligible for the VR&E program:
- Veterans must have received a discharge that was not dishonorable and must have a disability rating from the VA of 10% or more. or a memorandum rating of 20% or more.
- Servicemembers currently on active duty who expect to receive a discharge that is not dishonorable must meet any of the following:
- Have a VA memorandum rating of at least 20% disabled OR
- Get a proposed Disability Evaluation System (DES) rating from the VA of 20% or more OR
- Get a referral to a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) OR
- Participate in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
Your eligibility usually extends for 12 years after the date you were discharged, or the date you received your service-connected disability rating. The expiration will be based on whichever date is later. If you have a disability that prevents you from working, your rehabilitation counselor can extend your eligibility further.
There are two ways to apply to the VR&E program:
- Log in to your eBenefits account. You’ll need an account with Premium Access to apply online. Click on “Apply.” Then, under “Education and Training,” click on “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.” Follow the instructions on that page.
- Print out and complete VA Form 28-1900. Mail it to your nearest VA Regional Office. Add “Attention: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment” to the address.
If the VA decides you are eligible for the program, they’ll invite you to an orientation at your nearest VA Regional Office.
The VA home loan program is designed to help veterans become homeowners. The program offers many exclusive benefits for veterans and current servicemembers. These benefits are not offered to civilians and can’t be matched by conventional loans. VA loans help supply homes for veterans by making homes easier to buy.
Some of the key benefits of VA loans are that they:
- No requirement for a down payment or mortgage insurance
- Lower interest rates
- Reduced closing costs (or none at all)
- Lenient credit requirements that aren’t as strict as they would be for conventional loans
The three main types of guaranteed loans that VA approved lenders offer are:
- Purchase Loans
- Cash-Out Refinance Loans
- Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL)
Homes for Disabled Veterans
If you are a disabled veteran with service-connected disabilities, the VA offers grants to help accommodate your home. The grants can help cover things such as installing ramps, widening doors, or making any other modifications to help you live more independently.
There are three types of grants:
- Specially Adapted Housing
- Special Housing Adaptation
- Temporary Residence Adaptation
To apply, you need to fill out VA Form 26-4555 and submit it to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Native American Veterans
The Native American Direct Loan (NADL) is put in place for Native American veterans who want to live on Federal Trust land. For eligible Native American veterans, it provides a direct loan for purchase, construction, or improvement on a home.
What Happens When a VA Loan Becomes Delinquent?
In the case that a VA loan becomes delinquent, the VA works with the borrower to try and avoid a foreclosure. This can include providing financial counseling or direct intervention with the lender if needed. But, VA loans in 2013 had the lowest foreclosure rate compared to all other types of loans, and this is still the trend today.
If you have difficulty making your mortgage payments, you can call 877-827-3702 to speak with a VA Loan Technician.
VA Requirements for Home Loans
- Suitable credit
- Sufficient income
- Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to show lenders you qualify for the VA home loan benefits
- Form DD-214
- Certification demonstrating you’ll occupy the home
For your COE, most VA approved lenders have access to the VA’s automated system and can obtain your COE for you.
The Process of Buying a Home Using a VA Loan
Here are the typical steps that you’ll follow when buying a home using a VA loan:
- Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which your lender can do for you.
- Find a house to purchase.
- Complete a purchase contract that includes the condition that you’ll be approved for a VA loan.
- Apply for the VA loan with a lender.
- Get a VA appraisal of the house.
- Get the decision from the lender on whether or not the VA loan is approved.
- Go to the loan closing, at which the lender or an attorney will explain the loan details and you’ll sign the mortgage and related documents.
Requirements for Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grants
- The VA determines that you are eligible for SAH benefits
- The proposed property is considered medically feasible for you to live in
- There are no discrepancies between the cost of the proposed housing and your income and expenses
- The property is suitable for your needs
- You have proof of ownership so the property can be adapted
How to Apply
If you’re interested in purchasing a home using your VA benefits, you can contact a VA-approved lender. Also, click here to learn about what you can do before starting the application process. This will help save you time and will make the application process go a lot smoother.
Help for Homeless Veterans
Homeless veterans, or veterans at risk of becoming homeless, should contact a local VA medical center. You can call 877-424-3838 or go to va.gov/homeless. The VA can help you get the help you need to get you back on your feet.
The VA pension is a needs-based benefit there to make life more secure for veterans and their loved ones. It’s geared toward wartime veterans (65 and older) who may have limited or no income or who have permanent and total non-service-connected disability.
Veterans’ Survivors Pension
Spouses and dependent children of wartime veterans may also qualify for the Survivors pension if they meet the net worth and income requirements set by Congress.
Surviving spouses and dependent children who are housebound (or cannot perform the activities of daily living without aid) may be eligible for the Additional Pension Allowance.
VA Requirements for Pension
- Your proof of income and information on your net worth (bank statements and pay stubs)
- Your private medical records
- Any medical records held at a federal facility (for example, your records from visits to a VA hospital)
- Completed applications such as the VA Form 21-527EZ for the Veterans Pension and the VA Form 21-534EZ for the Survivors Pension
- If applicable, VA Form 21-2680 for the Additional Pension Allowance
How to Apply
The VA recommends for you to file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC), as it is the fastest way to obtain pension benefits.
The typical steps are:
- Selecting the type of pension and gathering the required evidence
- Collecting military medical records and private medical records
- Confirming there’s no more evidence
- Submitting your application*
*How you submit your application will depend on the type of pension you are applying for. For specific instructions, visit the VA’s pension page and click on the “How to Apply” tab below the slideshow box, towards the right side of your computer screen.
Life insurance is a great benefit that’s offered through the VA that provides coverage for veterans, servicemembers, and their families. You can choose from a variety of life insurance options:
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Disability Extension (SGLI-DE)
- Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
- Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
- Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI)
- Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)
For most servicemembers, SGLI is automatic, but VA Form SGLV 8286 could be used to designate beneficiaries. It can also reduce, decline, or restore your coverage.
SGLI can also be converted to VGLI. The VA supplies you a chart so you can see when you should apply.
There’s also the Accelerated Benefits Option. This allows anyone who is terminally ill with less than nine months to live to access their insurance. Typically, you can access about half the value of your policy.
How to Apply
You’ll need to decide which life insurance policy best suits your needs. The VA provides decision-making tools that can help you in your decision.
After you make a decision, you can get started here.
A benefit that a lot of individuals don’t know about are the VA memorial benefits. The VA provides these benefits to honor and pay a lasting tribute to those who have served and sacrificed their lives.
There are 135 VA national cemeteries located in 40 states and Puerto Rico, and the department is looking to increase this number so that veterans and eligible family members can be close to home.
Additionally, the VA offers the benefit of a final resting place for eligible spouses as well as dependents. Click here to learn more about eligibility.
Burial in a VA national cemetery includes:
- Opening and closing of the grave
- Burial of cremated remains or placement in an above-ground vault
- A government-furnished grave liner
- Ongoing care of the gravesite
- Inscription on the headstone or grave marker
- A burial flag
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Transportation of the flower arrangements to the gravesite
The VA also provides some benefits to veterans who choose to be buried in a private cemetery, including:
- A government headstone, marker, or medallion
- A burial flag
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate
Survivors may also be entitled to VA burial allowances for a partial reimbursement of the burial costs.
VA Requirements for Memorial Benefits
All you need are the discharge papers to verify eligibility.
How to Apply
Check out the Department of Veterans Affairs’ memorial benefits page to learn about what you need to do to prepare for any memorial benefit.
Here are a few veterans benefits you may have never heard about. See if any apply to you!
- Free Credit Repair: With errors in as many as 70% of credit reports, veterans need an advocate to help them repair their credit. Visit this website for a free consultation and trustworthy free services.
- Free Sporting Events and Concerts: The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a non-profit that provides free event tickets to veterans. The organization helps veterans attend events that can lower stress levels and bring families closer together.
- Shades of Green: Shades of Green is a resort that provides an affordable vacation experience for military servicemembers, veterans, and their families. It’s part of Walt Disney World Resort, with a PGA golf course on either side.
- Free or Discounted Admission to Theme Parks: At certain times, active duty military personnel and veterans can receive free admission to high-quality attractions, such as Legoland. Some parks offer discounted military tickets year-round.
- Free Meals: As a veteran or active duty servicemember, you can get a free meal on Veterans Day from popular restaurant chains. Restaurants include IHOP, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and many more.
- Lowe’s Military Discount Program: Get a discount on your building and construction materials at Lowe’s. You’ll sign up online and verify your military service.
As you can see, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for all of you who have served and sacrificed your time and your lives. We hope this post was helpful and that you’ll take advantage of the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.
For further questions regarding any of these benefits, contact your local VA office.