The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to serving active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. It offers a wide range of services, including home-loan guaranties, education benefits, medical care and survivor pensions. Some benefits target specific veteran groups, such as disability compensation for disabled veterans. Many VA benefits and services are available to active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members, and their families. The overview below will help you understand the full range of VA benefits.
The Montgomery GI Bill® helps cover the cost of education and training programs for service members, including reservists. The MGIB programs can include undergraduate and graduate degrees, technical training and vocational programs. Many service members use the MGIB after they leave active duty, but benefits, in combination with tuition assistance, are also available while service members are on active duty.
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill®. The newest chapter of the GI Bill® (available after Aug. 1, 2009) boosts the amount of tuition traditionally covered by the GI Bill®. It is offered to service members who have served on active duty at least 90 days since Sept. 11, 2001. Like other GI Bill® programs, the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers 36 months of entitlements that must be used through an institution of higher learning. Service members enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill® may be able to transfer their benefits to their spouses or children. To transfer your benefits, you must meet specific time-in-service requirements. For more details, visit the GI Bill® website.
- Other VA education programs. Your dates of military service determine whether you are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill® or one of the other programs, including the MGIB-Active Duty, the MGIB-Selected Reserve, the Reserve Education Assistance Program and Veterans Educational Assistance Program. Service members who previously qualified for one of the older MGIB programs and the Post-9/11 GI Bill® may choose to receive benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill®.
- Work-study program. While using the MGIB benefits, veterans may be eligible for the VA's work-study program. Participants in the program earn money on a part-time basis while attending college or a training program.
More information on VA education benefits is available on the VA's GI Bill® website.
VA medical centers, clinics, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are at the core of the VA's services. Separating service members who served in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom should enroll at a VA Medical Center or clinic within five years of separation to be eligible for benefits. More information is available on the VA's Returning Service Members website.
The VA offers low-cost term life insurance to active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members, veterans and their families. Servicemember's Group Life Insurance covers service members, while Veterans' Group Life Insurance covers those not on active duty or serving as a reservist. Family SGLI is available to family members of active-duty service members or members of the ready reserve for an additional premium. More information is available on the VA's life insurance program website.
The VA administers tax-free benefits paid to veterans as a result of injuries or diseases that resulted from active duty military service. To be eligible, you must be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. The basic amount varies depending on the severity of the disability. More information and instructions for applying are available on the VA benefits website.
The VA guarantees home loans made by private lenders to active-duty service members, veterans, and, in some cases, surviving spouses. To apply for a VA-guaranteed home loan through a lender, you will need a certificate of eligibility. More information is available on the VA's home-loan website or through the Loan Eligibility Center at 1-888-244-6711. In addition to home-loan guaranties, disabled veterans may receive grants to adapt their homes to suit their disabilities.
Programs to overcome and prevent homelessness
There is no "typical" veteran who experiences homelessness, and homelessness can take many forms. Veterans living on the street, sleeping in a car, crashing on a friend's couch, staying at a family member's house or facing eviction or foreclosure can use the resources the VA offers to prevent homelessness during or after their transition to civilian life. If you or a veteran you know are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, make the call to 877-4AID-VET, or chat online to be connected to the resources the VA offers. Learn about all the programs that can help you or a veteran you know overcome or prevent homelessness, at www.va.gov/homeless.
The VA serves disabled service members and veterans by offering rehabilitation and employment services. The program helps service members and veterans transition out of the military with counseling services, education and training, job assistance and financial aid. To be eligible, you must have a service-connected disability and require vocational rehabilitation in order to find a job. The program is also available to active-duty service members who are awaiting discharge because of a disability. More information is available on the Veterans Benefits Administration website.
Burial and memorial benefits
As a service to our nation's veterans, the VA offers burial and memorial benefits. Veterans may be eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery, as well as for headstones or markers, presidential memorial certificates and burial flags. Reimbursement of burial expenses is available under certain specific circumstances. More information is available on the VA's Burial and Memorial website.
The VA offers a program designed to help survivors of deceased military members and veterans. The services offered by the VA include:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This tax-free benefit is paid to eligible survivors of service members or veterans who died on active duty or who died from service-related disabilities. In some cases, survivors of veterans who were being paid 100 percent disability compensation at the time of death are also eligible. More information is available on the Veterans Benefits Administration website.
- Death pension. Based on financial need, this pension is paid to surviving spouses and children of wartime veterans. More information is available on the Veteran's Benefits Administration website.
- Civilian Health and Medical Program. This health-care benefit helps eligible survivors and dependents by reimbursing the costs of some health care. The program is not available to survivors eligible for TRICARE. More information is available on the Veterans Health Administration website.
- Education benefits. The Dependents' Educational Assistance program offers survivors up to 45 months of full-time education benefits. To be eligible, you must be the son, daughter or spouse of a veteran who died in the line of duty or who is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability. More information is available on the Veterans Benefits Administration website.
- Your military support services. Each service branch sponsors information and support programs for service members and their families. You can call or visit any installation Army Community Service Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Fleet and Family Support Center or Airman and Family Readiness Center regardless of your branch affiliation. If you aren't near an installation, National Guard Family Assistance Centers are available in every state. The Local Community Resource Finder on the National Guard Family Program website will identify your closest center.
- Military OneSource. This free 24-hour service is available to all active duty, National Guard and reserve members (regardless of activation status) and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues. Face-to-face counseling sessions (and their equivalent by phone or online) are also available at no cost. More information is available on the Military OneSource website or through 800-342-9647.
- Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of VA benefits and resources and is updated regularly.