Are You Eligible for VA Benefits?
Both the people who serve our country in the military and the family members that support them are eligible for a number of benefits provided by the government. Your efforts and sacrifices are important for the country as a whole, and as such the government provides resources to show appreciation for your service.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that navigating those resources and figuring out who’s eligible for what is often complicated. The government’s known for working as a bureaucracy and the system for providing veterans their benefits is no exception.
If you are eligible for veterans’ benefits, don’t let them go unused! You earned them and deserve to take advantage of the resources at your disposal.
Types of Veterans Benefits
Veterans and their families have access to a wide array of benefits from health coverage to competitive home loans to special scholarships. Eligibility for each can vary based on factors like the time spent in service and the level of need. Here are some of the main benefits available and how to find out who’s eligible for them.
Health Care Benefits for Veterans
Veterans can receive care from any one of the Veterans Administration’s 1,700 healthcare sites. For many veterans the care provided is comprehensive and free, although some may find their plans require occasional copays.
Eligibility: Any veterans who have served in the active military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge. For those who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, you must have served at least 24 continuous months or the full period you were called to active duty.
Educational Benefits for Veterans
Between the GI bill and a few other veterans assistance programs, veterans can receive significant aid in paying for college or any other postsecondary training. The main two programs veterans can receive this funding from are the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. Each provides up to 36 months of benefits that can be put toward the cost of any eligible courses or training programs.
Eligibility: For either benefit, the program you choose must be one that’s approved by the Veterans Administration. To qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill, you must have received an honorable discharge, have a high school diploma or GED, and meet the requirements of one of the four categories outlined here. For the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you must have served for at least 90 aggregate days of active duty service after September 10, 2011 and either have been honorably discharged or still be on active duty. If you were discharged due to a service-connected injury after 30 days of service, you may be eligible as well.
Home Loans for Veterans
The VA offers several types of home loans and housing assistance programs based on the needs and situations of the veteran applying. These include home purchase loans that require no down payment, as well as grants to help adapt a home for veterans with a disability to their state of need.
Eligibility: To apply for a VA home loan, you need decent credit and proof of income, a certification that you plan to occupy the home, and a certificate of eligibility that shows you’re a veteran that qualifies for the loan. To receive a Specially Adapted Housing grant, you need to show proof of ownership, be rated by the VA as having a service-related disability, and be able to show that its medically feasible for you to live in the home.
Employment Services for Veterans
All veterans are eligible for a number of employment services including help with resumes, career counseling, and the job search tool at the Veterans Employment Center. Veterans that are rated as having a service-connected disability can also apply for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefit that provides counseling and training to help you continue in your career.
Eligibility: All veterans are eligible for most employment services, and those with a service-related disability are eligible for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
The VA pension is available for veterans who can’t earn their own income either due to age or a disability. Wartime veterans who qualify will earn a set monthly amount based on their particular need. If a veteran or their spouse needs a high level of day-to-day care, they may qualify for the aid and attendance benefit in addition to the pension.
Eligibility: You must have limited or no income and be either over the age of 65 or have a disability. You’ll have to show records of your net worth and medical situation in order to qualify. Find out if you are eligible by using the eligibility calculator on VeteranAid.org.
Life Insurance for Veterans
Active duty service members are automatically enrolled in the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance plan, so they can count on family being covered in the case of their death. When leaving the service, the insurance can be converted to a Veterans Group Life Insurance plan.
Eligibility: Veterans who are or have been active duty.
Memorial Benefits for Veterans
Veterans have the option of being buried in one of the VA’s 134 national cemeteries. Many of the costs involved with a burial, including those for opening and closing the grave or setting the marker will be covered, although the family may still need to cover related expenses like those for transportation to and from the cemetery.
Eligibility: Any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge.
Benefits for Family Members of Veterans
In most cases, when a veteran is eligible for benefits, some version of those benefits also extends to their spouse and children. If a service member is killed in the line of duty, their spouse and children usually retain many of the benefits they’d have received if their loved one had lived.
If you’re the spouse or dependent of a veteran or service member who was killed in action, check with your local benefits office to determine your potential eligibility for the benefits described above. While the sacrifice that family members make looks different than that of the veteran themselves, it’s still one worthy of earning the resources our country makes available.
Figuring out eligibility for veterans’ benefits can often be a headache. Since every situation’s a little different, you’ll probably have an easier time figuring out what you and your family qualify for by talking to a representative that can speak specifically to your needs. Check to see where the closest benefits office is in your area so you don’t miss out on any of the help you could be getting.