A Guide to Veteran’s Benefits
Millions of Americans have served in the United States military. According to the most recent U.S. Census, CNN reports that upwards of 17 million Americans are veterans. In addition, more than 50 percent of these veterans receive one or more services or benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Let’s explore what some of the benefits available to veterans are.
Which Benefits Are Available to Veterans?
Before exploring some of the specific programs that are available to help veterans and their families, it is important to note who technically qualifies for these benefits. Almost everyone who served in the U.S. military will be eligible for the benefits highlighted below. However, the most important qualification is a person’s military discharge. To qualify, a person must have an honorable or general discharge. A dishonorable discharge will disqualify a person from almost all benefits. In addition to discharge status, the government will also ensure that the person meets the minimum time of service required.
Key Benefit Categories for Veterans
- Free and/or low-cost medical care through Veterans Affairs (VA) medical providers and clinics
For many years, the VA’s medical system seemed to be overwhelmed, and many veterans expressed extreme dissatisfaction with their care, especially for mental health issues. However, in recent years, the federal government has recognized the importance of providing the country’s veterans with outstanding medical care and there have been numerous upgrades in the care provided.
The Department of Veterans Affairs places veterans in what it terms a priority group. There are eight priority groups, labeled 1-8. The priority group an individual is placed in will determine the type of care that they qualify for and the costs, if any, that they must pay for that care. Most veterans who were injured or disabled in the military will qualify for free care to treat these injuries. Priority group placement also depends on the type of military service that a person had and their current income level.
Individuals in priority groups 1 – 3 generally have varying degrees of disability, ranging from 10 percent to more, have been a prisoner of war, or alternatively, they have received awards such as a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor.
In recent years, the vast majority, upwards of 80 percent, of veterans are satisfied with the care that they receive from the VA. They are also mostly pleased with how the cost of their care compares with private insurance. In fact, experts seem to concur with their conclusions, stating that access and quality are high in the VA system. The medical benefits veterans are privy to include:
- Medical care
- Dental care
- Mental health and addiction services
- Vision care
- Hearing aid support
- Prescription drug coverage
- Coverage for various home health care equipment
- Home health care services
Educational programs are one of the most important incentives that drive many people to enlist in the military. These educational benefits are referred to as the GI Bill, which first came into existence after World War II. The GI Bill is an umbrella term, but there are many specific programs that fall under this large umbrella. These programs are listed below:
- The post-911 Bill may provide up to 100 percent of tuition assistance for veterans who saw active duty following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This program also offers generous book and housing assistance. Another interesting feature is that under some circumstances, these benefits can be transferred to a spouse or other dependent.
- The Montgomery GI Active bill is a bill that is designed to provide tuition support to individuals who have more than two years of active duty. Associated with this program is the $600 Buy-Up program that can help participants get an additional $5400 in tuition assistance
- The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve. This bill offers 36 months of assistance for individuals who have committed to serve six years in our nation’s reserves. During these 36 months, qualified recipients may get up to $384 in direct payment support each month.
- Many schools across the country recognize the invaluable sacrifices that our veterans have made. These schools, known as Yellow Ribbon Schools, often cover any costs of tuition that is not covered by the post-911 bill.
- Tuition Assistance Top-Up provides additional tuition assistance for up to 36 months if there is a gap between what the GI Bill covers and what tuition costs.
- The military recognizes that STEM skills are in great demand both inside the military and in the civilian world. Recognizing this, the military offers additional tuition assistance to those pursuing STEM education via the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM program.
The military may also offer tutoring assistance and other support to individuals who may be struggling with their coursework.
Dependents’ Education Assistance
Another educational benefit program is specially set up to help educate the children of parent(s) who died in duty. This program is commonly known as the DEA, or Dependents’ Education Assistance. Also, the U.S. military increasingly recognizes that college may not be everyone’s specific road to future success. Because of that, programs have become increasingly flexible in recent years. Funds can now be used for vocational and professional schools, as well as for internships.
The U.S. military recognizes that financial security is essential for many of its veterans. One of the most effective ways to provide for financial security is via pension plans. The benefits programs are available to individuals over the age of 65. People also need to meet service requirements. An eligible individual will have served at least 90 days in total and at least one day in an active war zone.
There are other restrictions on participation in the plan. An individual must meet strict maximum income levels to qualify. The eligible individual must also have served a specified number of active service days during certain time periods. More information about these requirements can be found online.
There are two other pension programs:
- The VA Survivors Pension may be awarded to the spouse and/or dependents of individuals who served during wartime and had qualified for pensions themselves. Dependent children under the age of 18 or those who are under the age of 23 but in a recognized school may potentially qualify.
- The VA Aid and Attendance Benefits and Housebound Allowance is an additional financial benefit that pensioners may qualify for if they are housebound or require additional assistance from a caregiver.
Home Loan Benefits and Guarantees
Home loans are another important added perk that veterans may qualify for via the United States’ government. In fact, many veterans believe that this is the most important benefit. Under a VA home loan, veterans may purchase a home with $0 down. Also, a veteran who qualifies for this loan will not need to pay traditional mortgage insurance (PMI). Under PMI, individuals need to buy insurance if they do not put at least 20 percent down on a property. This insurance is to protect against possible foreclosures.
It is worth noting that more than 20 million veterans have qualified for this attractive loan program since it was first launched decades ago.
The chart below lists what VA loan centers cover which geographic areas of the country:
|STATE||COUNTY||2019 VA LIMIT||Regional Loan Center|
|AK||KUSILVAK CENSUS AREA||$726,525||DENVER|
|AK||LAKE AND PENINSULA||$726,525||DENVER|
|AK||PETERSBURG CENSUS AREA||$726,525||DENVER|
|AK||PRINCE OF WALES-HYDER||$726,525||DENVER|
|CA||SAN LUIS OBISPO||$667,000||PHOENIX|
|DC||DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA||$726,525||ROANOKE|
|VA||FAIRFAX INDEPENDENT CITY||$726,525||ROANOKE|
|VA||KING AND QUEEN||$535,900||ROANOKE|
|VA||RICHMOND INDEPENDENT CITY||$535,900||ROANOKE|
|VI||ST. CROIX||$726,525||ST. PETERSBURG|
|VI||ST. JOHN||$726,525||ST. PETERSBURG|
|VI||ST. THOMAS||$726,525||ST. PETERSBURG|
Below are the contact details for each of these loan centers:
Address: Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Loan Center, 1240 East Ninth Street, Cleveland, OH 44199
Denver Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Loan Center, 155 Van Gordon Street, Lakewood, CO 80228 (Mail: Box 25126, Denver, CO 80225)
Honolulu Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Office Loan Guaranty Division (26), 459 Patterson Rd., Honolulu, HI 96819
Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center, 3333 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402
Roanoke Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Loan Center, 210 First Street Roanoke, VA 24011 Mailing Address: 116 N. Jefferson Street Roanoke, VA 24016
St. Paul Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Loan Center, 1 Federal Drive, Ft. Snelling. St. Paul, MN 55111 (Mail: P.O. Box 1437, St. Petersburg, FL 33731)
St. Petersburg Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Loan Center, 9500 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33708 (Mail: P.O. Box 1437, St. Petersburg, FL 33731)
Burying a loved one in the United States can be extremely costly. The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes this and looks for ways to make the process more affordable for its veterans. One way that this is accomplished is by giving free-of-charge headstones to the buried individual. There are other honors that a buried veteran may receive.
- Service related death. If an individual dies in the line of service, the family may be reimbursed up to $2,000 for burial expenses.
- Non-service related death. In this case, there is a $300 cash benefit offered and the VA will also compensate for the cost of a plot up to $796.
- VA hospitalized allowance. If an individual was hospitalized at a VA hospital at the time of their death, then they will receive both a cash allowance and a plot payment. Both of these payments will be in the amount of $807.
- Any veteran who was honorably discharged from the military will also receive a flag for their casket or their funeral service.
VONAPP Web Platform
The programs highlighted above are important benefits that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers to individuals who have sacrificed for the country.
In the past, people applied via the VONAPP web platform. However, this platform has been entirely phased out. Instead, you should use the links below to apply for the appropriate benefits for yourself or a loved one.
There are several links to follow to apply for educational benefits:
- VA education benefits
- VA education benefits, National Call to Service Program
- VA education transferred benefits
- VA education benefits for dependents
- Disabled veterans vocational education and training
Veterans Benefits Summary
The U.S. military’s men and women have sacrificed so much to keep our nation and way of life safe. To honor this, the United States’ government has set up a variety of benefit programs and incentives to help them in a wide range of areas.