Military veterans can receive a number of benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These are some of the benefits available to those who qualify:
Veterans and their dependents may receive benefits for three types of service-related disabilities:
- Disability compensation. The VA rates disabilities and offers monthly payments between $127 and $3,000 or even more in some situations. Veterans with dependents or severe disabilities usually qualify for more.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This benefit is for surviving spouses, children, or parents of a service member who died during active duty, training, or from service-related disabilities.
- Special Monthly Compensation. Veterans, spouses, and surviving children and parents qualify for this monthly compensation in special circumstances. These special circumstances may include specific disabilities, like the loss of a limb, and veterans who need home aid.
The VA offers pension payments to veterans based on need. Several qualifications apply, but veterans who need a pension must have a permanent disability, a limited income, and may be completely unable to work.
Veterans can access low-cost or free healthcare through VA medical centers and hospitals. The VA provides all necessary healthcare. This benefit is not limited to medical care for injuries or illnesses related to military service.
Education and Career
The GI Bill provides benefits to pay for college tuition and the costs of graduate school and career or vocational training programs. Surviving dependents may also qualify for these education benefits. Vocational counseling and rehabilitation programs are also available.
Loans and Insurance
Many veterans qualify for guaranteed home loans through the VA. The loans often have no down payment, competitive interest rates, and financing without a mandated cap. The VA also offers a variety of life insurance plans for veterans and their families.
Burials and Memorials
Veterans’ families are entitled to bury their loved ones in a national cemetery at no cost, along with a headstone, flag, and memorial certificate. The family may also be eligible for burial allowances and may request military funeral honors.
Active Service Member Benefits
Some of the benefits to which veterans are entitled are also available to active-duty military members. These include GI Bill education benefits, VA home loans, and life insurance. Other benefits, based on qualifications, include:
- Active service healthcare
- Advanced and specialty training
- A 6% cap on debts, excepting federal student loans
- The ability to terminate home or vehicle leases when called to duty or transferred
Laws Protecting Veteran and Military Rights
Several laws provide veterans’ benefits and protect the rights of military members and veterans as a special class of citizens. Title 38 in the Code of Federal Regulations and the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill) outlines the benefits veterans are entitled to.
Two additional laws guarantee certain rights and protections:
- Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
This law caps interest rates on military members’ credit card debt, mortgages, and other debt and allows for lease termination. It also protects servicemembers from eviction for not paying rent in certain situations. SCRA provides a stay for court proceedings and exempts active service time from statutes of limitations in filing lawsuits.
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Relief Act (USERRA)
Congress passed USERRA in 1994 to protect military members from discrimination. Employers must give a servicemember their position back if they provided notice of leaving, were gone for less than five years, were honorably discharged, and requested reemployment within a certain amount of time.
Several states also have laws that protect military members from discrimination. They mostly address reemployment.
Are All Veterans and Service Members Eligible for Benefits?
The benefits offered by the federal government are available to many but not all active-duty service members and veterans. Congress wrote each benefit into law with specific requirements. For example, to qualify for a home loan guarantee, you must have been on active duty for a minimum number of days. If you were dishonorably discharged, you cannot qualify for disability benefits.
You can contact the VA to find out if you qualify for certain benefits. A lawyer specializing in helping veterans and military members is also a good resource. They can help you determine which benefits you qualify for and submit an application or appeal a denial.
How Do I Access Veterans Benefits?
The VA administers veterans’ benefits. There are processes for accessing each type of benefit, but you must go through the VA. For instance, if you believe you qualify for disability benefits, you must file a claim with the VA and wait for a response. For the GI bill, for both veterans and active service members, you must apply for education benefits through the VA.
What if the VA Denies My Benefits?
You may appeal the VA’s decision to deny benefits. There are three options for review and appeal, and you have one year from the denial to submit an appeal:
- Choose a Supplemental Claim if you believe you have new evidence that will change the initial decision of your benefits claim.
- A Higher-Level Review is a request for a senior reviewer to go over your claim. You cannot submit new evidence with this option.
- Board Appeals are reserved for review after trying one of the above options and still getting a denial. You can then appeal to a Veterans Law Judge.
Military service members and veterans make sacrifices for the country and its citizens. They are entitled to certain benefits for this reason. If you have been denied benefits, talk to a lawyer with expertise in working with the military and veterans.