13 Oct Complete Guide to Your VA Benefits
VA Benefits are available for veterans, their families and survivors. From disability to home loans, there are many options that may be available for you. Check out this complete guide to find the benefits that you may be eligible for.
What Benefits Does the VA Offer?
There are many vital services provided to America’s veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Former military personnel and their dependents have access to VA health care services, benefits programs, and national cemeteries.
There are three main areas of administration within the VA department: Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration. The three divisions have faced several challenges in carrying out their missions, including controversies surrounding VA hospitals and delays in providing services.
If you need additional help figuring out your benefits options, there are many veterans groups who can help.
The following are some of the VA benefits available to veterans after they have served:
- Compensation for Disabilities
- Home Loan Programs
- Employment Assistance Programs
- Memorials and Burials
Who Is Eligible for VA Benefits?
To be eligible for veterans benefits, veterans and their family members must meet different criteria depending on the type of benefit they wish to receive. These are listed below:
- Have served on active duty at least 90 days during wartime or have started on active duty before September 8, 1980.
- The veteran must have served at least 24 months as an enlisted person on active duty after September 7, 1980 (with some exceptions), and at least one day during wartime.
- Had been an officer since October 16, 1981, and hadn’t served on active duty for more than 24 months
- To qualify for benefits, a veteran should have received an honorable or general discharge. Veterans and their families are not eligible for Veterans benefits if they receive a dishonorable discharge.
To receive VA benefits, veterans and surviving spouses of veterans must meet financial eligibility requirements. The net worth of your relative must fall below $130,773, which is the limit set by Congress until November 30, 2021. The amount may change annually.
Including their assets and income, their net worth is as follows:
- A loved one’s annual income includes salary, hourly pay, bonuses, commissions, tips, anything their spouse and children receive, and any entitlement to Social Security benefits.
- A personal asset is a property that an individual owns. Other assets include land, investments, and furniture. A person’s assets could not contain their primary residence, automobile, and items they would not be able to take with them if they moved to another house.
Veteran long-term care benefits are typically available to those who are 65 and older. However, those younger than 65 and have a total, and permanent disability may also be eligible. Each type of benefit has different requirements.
Veteran’s Affairs offers health care benefits to active duty military personnel who separated from the service in an honorable manner. The VA also provides health care benefits to current and former members of the Reserves and National Guard who have been called or ordered to active duty by a federal order and completed the entire period.
Are All Veterans Eligible for VA Benefits?
No, not all veterans are eligible for VA benefits. An Honorable and general discharge is a minimum requirement for VA benefits. Secondly, the injury or disability should be linked to the service. Third, if they meet the terms of separation, they can receive housing and education benefits. In addition, you are entitled to disability payments, housing assistance, medical treatment, and other services through the VA if you become disabled due to service-connected injuries.
Certain benefits are available to prisoners and parolees. Those who have received bad conduct or dishonorable discharges from general courts-martial are generally ineligible to receive VA benefits. Veterans’ offices can clarify eligibility requirements for prisoners, parolees, or individuals discharged under different conditions at different times.
How Do You Sign Up for VA Benefits?
To apply for VA health care benefits, including enrollment, you must fill out an application for registration, VA Form 10-10EZ. You may obtain this form by one of the following means:
- Online – Apply through the VA’s website
- 877-222-VETS (8387) is the toll-free number to call
- Fill out the “Application for Health Benefits” at your local VA. Find a VA facility near you.
As an enrolled member, you will not be required to reapply for benefits each year. For some veterans, it may be necessary to update their financial information annually to remain eligible. The VA will notify you if and when their account information needs updating.
Important Documents Needed to Get Your Benefits
To qualify for VA benefits, veterans must submit the following documents & information:
- Your and your spouse’s Social Security numbers, as well as your dependents’ Social Security numbers
- The documents relating to your military discharge (DD-214)
- Provide details about all insurance companies you’re covered by, including coverage provided by your spouse or partner. It can also include Medicare or insurance through your employer.
- Provide details regarding all household income for the past calendar year.
- Expenses you have deducted from the previous year
How Do I Find Out My VA Benefits?
The online platform makes VA benefits easily accessible for veterans. To review your VA benefits, use the following two government-endorsed websites.
VA.gov is the official website of the United States government for Veterans. The site allows vets to manage their prescriptions, appointments, and health records, including the Summary of Benefits Letter that can be used to apply for a Distinguished Veteran Pass. DS Logins, ID.me logins, or the MyHealtheVet website allows you to access this resource.
Veterans can access and manage their health and benefit records through eBenefits, a resource offered by the VA. There, you can print many VA letters to verify eligibility for various benefits, including the Summary of Benefits Letter that qualifies you for the Distinguished Veteran Pass.
How Do You Access Your Benefits Through the Department of Veterans Affairs?
Access to VA benefits is available offline and online for veterans. They can access their benefits via official websites like VA.gov and eBenefits, or Veterans can visit the branch near them.
Veterans can get free assistance from a Veterans Service Officer. Collect all supporting documentation, including your DD-214, private medical records, and buddy statements. For assistance, contact 1-800-827-1000 or eBenefits.va.gov.
How Are VA Benefits Calculated?
The VA offers a lot of benefits to Veterans. Each is calculated differently, but there are some common denominators. For example, how long have you been in service, your rank, or did you pay into something? Veterans can consider these factors when determining how their benefits are affected.
If a veteran has multiple disabilities, the VA uses a combined rating to calculate their disability rating. Disability ratings are not additive, so additional disabilities are factored differently. The combined value is rounded to the nearest 10%.
- First, the disabilities are arranged in order of severity, starting with the most severe condition and then combined using a Combined Ratings Table.
- The degree of one disability will be read in the left column, while the degree of the other will be read in the top row, whichever is appropriate.
- The figures appearing where the columns and rows intersect represent the total value of the two.
- A 10% rounding is applied to this value.
- If there are more than two disabilities, the combined value for the first two will be determined as previously described for two disabilities.
- Together, the exact combined value (without rounding yet) and the degree of the third disability are calculated.
- The process is repeated for subsequent disabilities, with the final number rounded to the nearest 10%
Level of Disability
According to your level of disability, you will receive a different amount of basic benefit. You submit evidence to VA or VA obtains records from your military records to determine the severity of your disability. There are 10 increments of 10% between 0% and 100% (e.g. 10%, 20%, 30%).
Are VA Benefits Paid for Life?
Benefits, such as disability benefits, are available to veterans until they pass away.
The following situations can result in permanent VA disability benefits.
Permanent and Total Disability
Those veterans who have permanent and disabled status, or P&T, have disabilities that are both total (rated by VA as 100% disabling) and permanent (no chance of improvement). VA benefits are available for life if your condition has been deemed permanent and total by government entities. P&T ratings are not subject to re-evaluation or reduction during your lifetime.
Same Rating for 20 Years
Veterans Affairs cannot reduce your disability rating lower than the lowest rating you received in the last 20 years after having had the same rating for 20 years. Your major depressive disorder has resulted in monthly benefits for 20 years. The majority of your reviews have been at least 50 percent. This means you now have a protected disability rating and can’t have it cut below 50 percent in the future.
VA Permanent Life Insurance
Permanent life insurance policies, such as properly structured whole life insurance, can provide more coverage and benefits than:
- Service Members’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI).
- Family Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (FSGLI).
- Veteran’s Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
What Is the VA 5 Year Rule?
According to the VA disability 5-year rule, a Veteran’s disability rating cannot be reduced if their condition has not improved in the first five years after receiving their initial rating. Veterans cannot have their rating reduced after five years unless their situation has significantly improved. The Department supervises their benefits if they qualify for disability compensation after five years.
In many cases, veterans can receive VA benefits indefinitely. If certain factors require the VA to re-evaluate a veteran’s condition, they may still be eligible for disability compensation.
VA Health Care and Medical Benefits
There are many healthcare services available to veterans through the VA. As part of the Medical Benefits Package, veterans are offered various services available for outpatients and inpatients, emphasizing prevention and primary care.
VA Healthcare Cost
If your military service caused or worsened your health conditions, you would be entitled to free health care from the VA. The VA may be able to assist you with all your medical care, not just those services related to your injuries if you have severe injuries or disabilities. If your income falls below certain levels, you can also receive more VA care. VA medical care is free for veterans and former prisoners of war with a 50% disability rating.
Veterans Affairs Medical Benefits
- Mental health and addiction treatments
- Outpatient care includes medical and surgical treatments.
- Treatment for substance use in hospitals, medical centers, and surgical centers.
- A national formulary system for prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, medical supplies, and surgical equipment.
- Members of the veteran’s immediate family or legal guardians can receive a consultation, professional counseling, training, and mental health services.
- Prosthetics, durable medical equipment, and eyeglasses and hearing aids.
- Health care at home.
- Palliative care, hospice, and respite care.
- The payment of eligible veterans’ travel expenses.
- Under the law, delivery and pregnancy services are available.
- VA hospitals provide emergency care.
Tricare is a health insurance program offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to military personnel. It is available in four varieties: Tricare Prime, Tricare Extra, Tricare Standard, and Tricare for Life. It covers all service members – active-duty personnel, retired military personnel, and their families.
Eligibility for veterans health insurance (Tricare):
- Served active duty and are retired.
- 60 years of age or older and retired from the reserves or National Guard.
- A military spouse who died while serving in the military.
- You must be the ex-spouse of a military retiree or serving member if you were married (as of the date of the divorce) to them for at least 20 years and they served (or were on active duty) during the whole marriage.
VA disability compensation pays tax-free monthly payments to veterans who have been injured or sickened while serving in the military or whose injury worsened an existing condition.
A physical illness or mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have developed before, during, or after your military service. If so, you may qualify for VA disability benefits.
VA Disability Benefits Eligibility
- If you served as an active duty military member, active duty military trained, or inactive duty trained.
- The illness or injury you are experiencing affects your mind or body in some way.
- It may be possible to link a condition to your illness or injury while serving in the military (called an in-service disability claim).
- An injury or disability arose during your active-duty service. Still, it only became apparent after your service ended (referred to as a post-service injury or disability claim).
You may be eligible for the following benefits as a disabled veteran:
- Veteran’s Disability Compensation
- Medical benefits provided by the VA
- Veterans Affairs Home Loans
- Educational benefits through the VA
- Pensions for veterans
- Readjustment Counseling
- Career and educational counseling
- Support and Counseling in Confidentiality
- (If 100% disabled) Commissary privileges
- (If 100% disabled) Military ID Card
- Benefits specific to each state
Veterans Education and the GI Bill
Veterans and active-duty service members can benefit from the Post-9/11 GI Bill with generous educational benefits. The program includes:
- Tuition and fees.
- A housing allowance.
- A textbook allowance.
- Stipends for supplies and textbooks for up to 36 months.
A history of the GI Bill can be traced back to World War II when the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was passed to provide education and training to veterans, as well as home loan guarantees.
GI Bill Eligibility
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to active-duty military personnel who have served at least 90 days since September 10, 2001. The amount of benefits you can receive depends on how much time you spend on active duty.
- After September 10, 2001, you must serve 30 continuous days and be discharged because of a service-connected disability.
Veterans may need to request their VA Records for a variety of reasons. This could be to obtain new coverage, prove their veteran status, obtain a copy of their DD214, receive new benefits, or a variety of other things.
The VA has a responsibility to assist veterans in obtaining documentation supporting their disability benefits applications. However, Veterans may also wish to get their records for themselves.
File for VA Claims
Veterans who have previously applied for VA benefits can request a copy of the claims file (also known as the C-file) from the VA Regional Office.
To get your claim file, you will need to submit Form 3288, Request for and Consent to Release Information Form for Individual’s Records.
You may have to file a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) if you don’t receive the requested records within a few months.
VA Medical Records
Any veteran treated at a VA Medical Center (VAMC) can request copies of their medical records from the VAMC directly. Simply request a copy of your health information by visiting or calling your local VAMC.
VA Service Member Benefits
When you’re serving on active duty in the United States uniformed services, including the National Guard and Reserves, you may be eligible for VA benefits both during service and at the time of separation or retirement. You may also qualify for some VA benefits if you are a traditional or technical member of the National Guard or Reserve.
Below are some of the benefits that Service Members received:
- Disability compensation.
- Small businesses owned by veterans are supported.
- Pensions for veterans.
- A housebound allowance or attendance allowance.
- Grants for housing for disabled people.
- They are increasing the number of life insurance options.
- VA national cemeteries determine preneed eligibility for burial.
Veterans Family Member Benefits
In some cases, VA health care coverage is available for the family members of Veterans. They died while serving our country or were totally and permanently disabled while serving our country.
The following are some of the benefits received by family members.
Veteran Child and Spouse Pay
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly benefit paid to surviving spouses whose spouses died on active duty or after entering active duty with a service-connected disability or who died after being considered permanently disabled by the VA. A service member who retired from the military may have contributed to the Survivors Benefit Plan. In that case, a spouse or a disabled dependent child might be entitled to receive payments from the plan.
Veterans’ Education Benefits
The Post 9/11 GI Bill can be transferred to a dependent if the service member meets specific requirements, such as time in service and a service contract extension. However, the money can be used after the service member leaves the military.
Veteran Family Health Insurance
You may qualify if you’re the spouse, child, or surviving member of a Veteran with disabilities or a veteran who died in the line of duty. If you are not eligible for Tricare, your health insurance may be available through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This program covers a portion of the cost of your health care services and supplies.
Veterans & Military Funeral Honors
Military funeral honors are provided by the Department of Defense (DOD). Veterans who have defended our nation are offered dignified funeral honors through a program called “Honoring Those Who Served” by the Department of Defense. According to Public Law 106-65, every eligible Veteran must be honored with a military funeral honors ceremony, including folding and presenting an American burial flag and the playing of Taps.
Eligibility for Funeral Honors:
- Active duty or selected reserve military personnel.
- Former military members served on active duty and left their service under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Military personnel has completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligatory service in the reserves. They have departed under circumstances other than dishonorable.
Veteran Housing Assistance
Veterans are provided with housing assistance by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Veterans who are homeless and their families can access supportive services through a program that combines HUD housing vouchers with VA housing vouchers offered in collaboration with the VA. More than 78,000 HUD housing vouchers were distributed to Veterans in 2015, according to HUD.
Veterans who are homeless and eligible for VA medical services can receive rental assistance vouchers from public housing authorities. Veteran case managers may give the Veteran access to wellness and mental health services and substance abuse counseling to assist in the recovery process and prevent homelessness. Veterans with long-term or repeated homelessness enrolled in VA’s homelessness continuum of care program HUD-VASH are the most significant number and the largest percentage.
Disabled Veteran Housing Assistance
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers housing allowances to veterans with 100% disability. This can be used for rent or to pay off a mortgage. If the veteran does not own a home, the federal government will provide a grant that covers up to 50% of the home’s value and not more than $46,000.
The Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant is also available to veterans who are 100% disabled and own a home. From 2020 on, veterans can get up to three of these grants per year for a total of $18,074. Veterans can use the money to renovate their homes so they’re more accessible for disabled vets.
Homeless Veterans Programs
There are hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk Veterans served by VA’s specialized programs each year. Veteran Programs provide Veterans with housing, employment, health care, justice, and reentry services independently and in collaboration with federal agencies and community partners. Below are some of the VA’s Homeless Veterans Programs.
Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program
Federal, state, tribal, and nonprofit agencies provide capital grants and per diem payments to develop and operate transitional housing and service centers for homeless veterans.
Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program
In this residential program, both sheltered and unsheltered residents with multiple illnesses and rehabilitative needs are supported. Veterans are given a structured environment to foster independence and mutual support at DCHV.
Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES)
In this program, the VA Medical Centers will hire new vocational development specialists to recruit and train Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) to boost employment rates for homeless or near-homeless Veterans.
VA Home Loan
VA helps eligible surviving spouses, Servicemembers, and veterans purchase homes. With the mission to provide you with the best service possible, the VA offers home loan guaranties, as well as other housing-related programs to assist you with the purchase, building, repair, retaining, or modifying of homes to suit your unique needs.
Several private lenders provide VA home loans, including banks and mortgage lenders. As a result of VA’s guaranteed part of the loan, your lenders can offer more favorable terms on the loan.
Benefits of VA home loans:
- There is no downpayment required.
- The lowest interest rates available
- Close at a lower cost
- PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) is not necessary
- VA home loans are a lifetime benefit that you can use multiple times
Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension Eligibility
Veterans who meet certain income and net worth limits defined by Congress can receive a VA Survivors Pension. These pensions are monthly payments to the surviving spouse and unmarried dependent children of veterans who served in the military during World War II or Korea.
Eligibility for VA Survivors Pension:
- Served at least 90 days on active duty between September 7, 1980, and at least one day during a covered wartime period, or
- A former officer who started on active duty in 1981 and who had not previously served on active duty for more than 24 months
Eligibility for Children of deceased veterans receive VA Survivors Pensions:
- If you’re under 18
- A VA-approved school allows you to enroll if you are under 23 years old
- You are unable to care for yourself due to a disability that occurred before you turned 18
VA Life Insurance
The VA life insurance program can provide financial security to Veterans, service members, and their spouses and dependent children.
As an armed forces member, you are eligible for up to $400,000 in life insurance coverage through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI). You will continue to receive this benefit after leaving military service for 120 days. You will have the option of converting your current SGLI policy into a civilian policy within 120 days of leaving service.
Some companies offer particular policies for veterans. Listed below are a few options for VA life insurance.
- SGLI (Servicemembers’ group life insurance) – You can get life insurance through your group while serving in the military.
- FSGLI (Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance) – Include the spouse and dependent children living with you in your coverage.
- TSGLI (Traumatic Injury Protection) – Get immediate financial support after a severe injury.
- VGLI (Veterans’ Group Life Insurance) – Once your service is over, get group life insurance.
- S-DVI (Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance) – If you have been injured or become ill while serving in the military, you must continue your life insurance policies after you leave the military.
- VMLI (Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance) – Mortgage protection insurance can help you afford a home that meets your needs if you have a severe service-connected disability.
Active Military and Veteran Commissary and Exchange Privileges
Those honorably discharged veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100 percent, their un-remarried surviving spouses, Medal of Honor recipients, and their dependents and orphans are eligible for free access to exchange and commissary stores in the United States.
The VA handles disability certification. The VA may also accept applications from Reserve members and their dependents. The government of the foreign country can only grant privileges if the government agrees with the law.
Veterans can contact the nearest military installation for detailed information, even if these benefits are administered by the Department of Defense (DoD). The VA provides assistance in completing DD Form 1172, “Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card.”
What’s an Exchange?
Retail store with smaller shops and service vendors all around. It’s often set up like a department store or a strip mall. Several installations feature an exchange and a laundry and dry cleaning service, convenience stores, gas stations, fast food outlets, and lawn and garden shops.
What Is a Commissary?
Military installations worldwide have commissaries, which are grocery stores. Members of the armed forces and their families have exclusive access to commissaries. The following are the benefits of a commissary:
- There are often lower prices at the commissary than at other grocery stores. Compared with in-town prices, you can typically save about a third on groceries.
- During commissary particular case lot sales, you can save 50% or more.
- Furthermore, most commissaries are installing in-store Wi-Fi so you can access digital coupons to save even more.
VA Unemployment Benefits
Individual Unemployability (IU) is a unique part of VA’s disability compensation program. It allows VA to pay certain Veterans compensation at the 100 percent rate, even though VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at that level.
The VA pays Individual Unemployability (UI) benefits to veterans who can’t gain employment due to their service-connected disabilities. A veteran can get unemployment benefits if they have a service-connected mental or physical impairment. Individual unemployment is available on a scheduled or extra-scheduled basis.
- Veterans with more than 60 percent disabling service-connected disabilities should also select this option.
- A veteran who has more than one service-connected disability is rated 70% or more for each condition, with at least one condition rated at least 40%.