What Benefits Are Offered by the VA?
VA Health Care
If you served in the active military service and were separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits. Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who were called to active duty by a federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty may be eligible for VA health benefits as well. Reserves or National Guard members with active duty for training purposes only do not meet the basic eligibility requirement unless the member was disabled by injury or disease during the period of federal service in active duty for training purposes.
Most veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty in order to be eligible. This minimum duty requirement may not apply to veterans who were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, for a hardship or “early out,” or those who served prior to September 7, 1980. Since there are a number of other exceptions to the minimum duty requirements, the VA encourages all veterans to apply so that the VA may determine their enrollment eligibility.
Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as a mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the veteran's disability on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent (in increments of 10 percent). Chart of the current compensation rates.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30% or greater. Your compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments.
There are numerous types of claims that apply to disability compensation. They can be based on disabilities that existed when entering military service, but were made worse, disabilities that occurred during service, or disabilities that arose after you left military service. Additionally, there are claims that are filed for special circumstances.
You must submit all relevant evidence in your possession and/or provide information sufficient to enable the VA to obtain all relevant evidence not in your possession. This includes the following as part of your application:
- Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
- Service Treatment Records if they are in your possession
- Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
SMC is an additional tax-free benefit that can be paid to veterans, surviving spouses and dependent parents. For veterans, Special Monthly Compensation is a higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances such as the need of aid and attendance by another person or by specific disability, such as loss of use of one hand or leg. For surviving spouses, this benefit is commonly referred to as aid and attendance and is paid based on the need of aid and attendance by another person. A veteran may receive additional dependent benefits if the veteran’s spouse requires aid and attendance.
Compensation is not always based on an in-service event. Additionally, other benefits may be available after disability compensation has been awarded. An overview of these VA benefits is available at the link above.
Section 1151 Claims
Title 38 U.S.C. Section 1151 allows the VA to pay compensation for death or disability "as if service-connected." Don't be confused with this subtle difference. The disability is not considered service-connected. Under Section 1151, benefits may be paid for:
- Injuries incurred or aggravated while receiving VA-sponsored medical treatment.
- Injuries incurred or aggravated while pursuing a course of vocational rehabilitation under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 or participating in compensated work therapy under 38 U.S.C. 1718.
If eligibility is established under Section 1151, the disability is considered service-connected for payment purposes ONLY. Many benefits that go along with service-connected disabilities, such as eligibility for VA healthcare, do apply to veterans receiving disability compensation, but other benefits, such as service-connected burial allowance, do not apply to Section 1151 benefits.
The VA helps veterans and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension benefit. Veterans Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime veterans.
Generally, a veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a wartime period.
In addition to meeting minimum service requirements, the veteran must be:
- Age 65 or older, OR
- Totally and permanently disabled, OR
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
For more information, please click here.
Aid & Attendance and Housebound
Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound, may be eligible for additional monetary payment. These benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension, and they are not paid without eligibility to Pension.
Since Aid and Attendance and Housebound allowances increase the pension amount, people who are not eligible for a basic pension due to excessive income may be eligible for pension at these increased rates. A veteran or surviving spouse may not receive Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits at the same time.
For more information on veterans pension, please click here.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after September 10, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after at least 30 active duty days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
For members with 90 days to 3 years of creditable Service time, everyone earns 36 months of benefits. How much time you have between the 90 days to 3 years determines the level of payment you receive from 40% (with 90 to 180 days) to 100% (with 3 years and more).
Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits expire after 15 years from date of Service separation unless you qualify under the recently passed Forever GI Bill act. Children’s’ benefits expire when the child ages out of the program at age 26.
The latest changes to the P9-11GIB under the 2017 Forever law include:
- No more 15-year expiration date (benefit does not expire) on Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you:
- Left active duty on or after January 1, 2013,
- You are a qualifying dependent Fry scholarship child who became eligible on or after January 1, 2013,
- You are a Fry scholarship spouse; all spouses qualify regardless of qualifying date.
- Purple Heart recipients going back to Sept 11, 2001 will receive full benefits regardless of time in Service.
- Service credited for the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) is now credited to the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
- Some in the science, technology, engineering and math fields will receive an extra year of eligibility to finish degrees.
- Service members impacted by a for-profit school closures since Jan 2015 will have their benefits reinstated.
- The Yellow Ribbon program expands to include surviving spouses and children starting in Aug 2018 and to active duty Service members starting Aug 2022.
- Work-study is a permanent authorization no longer requiring annual Congressional approval.
- The VetSuccess on Campus program becomes a national program.
- Members will get more VA assistance to identify schools offering priority enrollment.
See https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/ForeverGIBill.asp for more details on the Forever act.
You must attend an approved education or training program to use GI Bill benefits. Approved education and training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes the following:
- Correspondence training
- Cooperative training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Flight training
- Independent and distance learning
- Institutions of higher learning undergraduate and graduate degrees
- Licensing and certification reimbursement
- Vocational/technical training, non-college degree programs
- National testing reimbursement
- On-the-job training
- Tuition Assistance top-up
- Tutorial assistance
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also offers some Service members the opportunity to transfer their GI Bill to dependents.
Transfer of Post-9/11 GI-Bill Benefits to Dependents
The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family members.
While in the Armed Forces, transferors use the Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) website to designate, modify, and revoke a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) request.
Transfer website: https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp
You cannot transfer benefits to a new beneficiary after you separate or retire from service.
After leaving the Armed Forces, you can manage future effective dates, modify the number of months transferred, or revoke entitlement transferred by submitting a written request to the VA.
Military members retain ownership of the program and management of the program as ownership of the Post 9-11 GI Bill cannot be transferred due to divorce.
All Other VA Education Programs
For more information on all VA education programs go to https://www.vets.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program is authorized by Congress under Title 38, USC, Chapter 31 and Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21. It is sometimes referred to as the Chapter 31 program. This program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, this program offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.
Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 Veterans Retraining Assistance Program
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) offers up to 12 months of retraining assistance to veterans who meet all the following criteria:
- At least 35 but no more than 60 years old
- Have an other than dishonorable discharge
- Not eligible for any other VA education benefit programs (e.g., the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment)
- Not in receipt of VA compensation due to Individual Unemployability (IU)
- Not enrolled in a federal or state job training program
The online Career Center on eBenefits offers veterans and servicemembers in transition opportunities to translate their military skills into careers in the public and private sectors. The tools and resources available in the Career Center allow servicemembers and veterans the ability to search for jobs, identify professional strengths, and create and post resumes. Sign up for an eBenefits account.
Educational and Vocational Counseling
The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service provides educational-vocational counseling for veterans and certain dependents. This service can provide a wide range of educational and vocational counseling services to servicemembers still on active duty, as well as veterans and dependents who are eligible for one of the VA's educational benefit programs. These services are designed to help an individual choose a vocational direction and determine the course needed to achieve the chosen goal.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment VetSuccess program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VetSuccess offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.
There is a VetSuccess on Campus program to ensure that veterans receive the support and assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals. VetSuccess counselors are easily accessible on campuses, and can also provide referrals for health services through VA Medical Centers, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, or Vet Centers.
Purchase & Cash-Out Refinance Loan
Most VA Home Loans are handled entirely by private lenders and the VA rarely gets involved in the loan approval process. The VA "stands behind" the loan by guaranteeing a portion of it. If something goes wrong and you can't make the payments anymore, the lending institution can come to the VA to cover any losses they might incur. The VA loan guaranty is the "insurance" provided to the lender.
With a Purchase Loan, the VA can help you purchase a home at a competitive interest rate, if you have found it difficult to find other financing.
The VA's Cash-Out Refinance Loan is for homeowners who want to take cash out of your home equity to take care of concerns like paying off debt, funding school, or making home improvements. The Cash-Out Refinance Loan can also be used to refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan. The VA will guarantee loans up to 100% of the value of your home.
Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan
The VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) lowers your interest rate by refinancing your existing VA home loan. By obtaining a lower interest rate, your monthly mortgage payment should decrease. You can also refinance an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) into a fixed rate mortgage.
- No appraisal or credit underwriting package is required when applying for an IRRRL.
- An IRRRL may be done with "no money out of pocket" by including all costs in the new loan or by making the new loan at an interest rate high enough to enable the lender to pay the costs.
- When refinancing from an existing VA ARM loan to a fixed rate loan, the interest rate may increase.
- No lender is required to give you an IRRRL, however, any VA lender of your choosing may process your application for an IRRRL.
- Veterans are strongly urged to contact several lenders because terms may vary.
- You may NOT receive any cash from the loan proceeds.
Native American Direct Loan (NADL)
The NADL Program helps eligible Native American veterans finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land, or to reduce the interest rate on such a VA loan.
- Eligible Native American veterans can use these direct loans to simultaneously purchase and improve a home or to refinance another VA direct loan made under NADL to lower the interest rate.
- These loans are only available if a memorandum of understanding exists between the tribal organization and the VA.
- Veterans who are not Native American, but who are married to Native American non-veterans, may be eligible for a direct loan under this program. To be eligible, the qualified non-Native American veteran and the Native American spouse must reside on Federal Trust Land.
Survivors and Dependents
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military servicemembers who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. DIC may also be paid to certain survivors of veterans who held a total disability rating for service-related injuries immediately before their death, for a period of ten years (this time period is reduced for recent veterans and prisoners of war).
Children who have spina bifida or certain other birth defects and are biological children of veterans with qualifying service in the Republic of South Vietnam or Republic of Korea may be eligible for various VA benefits, to include monthly monetary compensation, health care, and vocational training depending on the child's degree of disability. The monetary compensation may be paid at one of three disability levels, based on the severity of the disability.
Survivors Pension, sometimes referred to as Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased veteran with wartime service.
The deceased veteran must have met the following service requirements:
- For service on or before September 7, 1980, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a war time period.
- If he or she entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty with at least one day during a war time period.
- Was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions.
Survivors & Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA or “Chapter 35”)
DEA provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training.
You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:
- A veteran who is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability.
- A veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability was in existence.
- A veteran who died as the result of a service-connected disability.
- A servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
- A servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
- A servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability. This change is effective December 23, 2006.
The spouse of a veteran can also apply for home loan eligibility under one of the following conditions:
- Un-remarried spouse of a veteran who died while in service or from a service connected disability, or
- Spouse of a servicemember missing in action or a prisoner of war
- Surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003
- Surviving Spouses of certain totally disabled veterans whose disability may not have been the cause of death
Survivors’ Beneficiary Financial Counseling
The VA’s Insurance Service provides beneficiaries with free, professional financial advice from FinancialPoint®, an independent company whose team of professionals are experts in handling a wide range of financial matters. Beneficiaries can access this service online 24/7 to request a financial plan. They simply enter their information into FinancialPoint’s website, and a financial professional will prepare a customized financial plan based on the details provided.
Online Will Preparation Service, provided by Financial Point™,enables beneficiaries to quickly and easily prepare a will without an attorney. After answering a series of straightforward questions, the beneficiary will receive a legal will, valid in all states, ready to print and sign.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
SGLI is a low-cost group term life insurance program for servicemembers. Coverage can be extended for up to two years if the servicemember is totally disabled at separation.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Coverage is automatic for most active duty servicemembers, Ready Reserve and National Guard members scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the U.S. military academies, and ROTC members.
Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
VGLI allows veterans to convert your SGLI to a civilian program of lifetime renewable term coverage after separation from service.
Servicemembers with full-time SGLI coverage are eligible to convert SGLI to VGLI after separation from service.
Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
FSGLI insures spouses and children of servicemembers with SGLI coverage. Spousal coverage may not exceed the servicemember's coverage. Dependent children are automatically covered at no charge.
Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) Term life insurance coverage is automatically provided to spouses and dependent children of servicemembers insured under SGLI.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
TSGLI is an automatic feature of SGLI that provides payments to servicemembers who suffer losses, such as amputations, blindness, and paraplegia, due to traumatic injuries that occur in service.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) provides automatic coverage for all servicemembers insured by SGLI.
Service-Disabled Veterans' Life Insurance (S-DVI)
S-DVI provides life insurance coverage to veterans who have been given a VA rating for a new service-connected disability in the last two years. Totally disabled veterans are eligible for free coverage and have the opportunity to purchase additional life insurance.
Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance (S-DVI) servicemembers who were released from active duty under other than dishonorable conditions after April 25, 1951, and were notified of a rating for a new service-connected disability (even 0 percent) within the last two years may be eligible.
Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)
VMLI provides mortgage life insurance protection to disabled veterans who have been approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant.
Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) is available to veterans who received a Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH), have title to the home, and have a mortgage on the home.
Burial benefits available include a gravesite in any of the VA’s 131 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.
Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the name and date of birth or death for the spouse and/or dependent(s) inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried, even if they predecease the veteran.
Requests for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemetery cannot be made via the Internet.
To schedule a burial: Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
Mortgage Delinquency Assistance
In cases where loan servicers are unable to help veteran borrowers, the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service has Loan Technicians in eight regional loan centers and a special servicing center who take an active role in interceding with the servicer to explore all options to avoid foreclosure. Servicemembers, veterans or survivors with VA-guaranteed home loans can call (877) 827-3702 to reach the nearest Loan Guaranty office where Loan Specialists are prepared to discuss potential ways to help save the loan.
Commissary or Exchange Privileges
Unlimited exchange and commissary store privileges in the United States are available to honorably discharged veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100%, un-remarried surviving spouses of members or retired members of the armed forces, recipients of the Medal of Honor, and dependents and orphans of military retirees. For surviving spouses of non-retirees, death must be service-connected. Dependents of Reservists also may be eligible. Privileges overseas are governed by international law and are available only if agreed upon by the foreign government concerned. Though these benefits are provided by Department of Defense, the VA does provide assistance in completing DD Form 1172, "Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card". Find the nearest RAPIDS ID card site.
The VA's Fiduciary Program was established to protect veterans and other beneficiaries who, due to injury or disease, are unable to manage their financial affairs. The fiduciary is responsible to the beneficiary and oversees financial management of VA benefit payments. Generally, family members or friends serve as fiduciaries for beneficiaries; however, when friends and family are not able to serve, the VA looks for qualified individuals or organizations to serve as a fiduciary.
The Independent Living program is designed to make sure that each eligible veteran is able, to the maximum extent possible, to live independently and participate in family and community life increasing their potential to return to work. Those who may qualify are veterans whose service connected disabilities are so severe that they are currently unable to pursue an employment goal.