Like their active duty counterparts, Guard and reserve service members can take advantage of benefits and services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Certain benefits - such as medical care - may require active duty service, but many Guard and reserve members who have never been called to active duty will still qualify for the VA's most popular benefits.
The Montgomery GI Bill is available to Guard and reserve members, whether or not they have been called to active duty. With the MGIB - Selected Reserve program, you can attend school while you serve in the Guard or reserve. The program helps cover the cost of educational programs such as undergraduate and graduate studies, apprenticeships and flight training. Those called to active duty since Sept. 11, 2001 may be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These programs, administered by the VA, also help Guard and reserve members pay for undergraduate and graduate programs, apprenticeships and other programs. More information on these benefits is available on the VA's GI Bill website.
- Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve - With this program Guard and reserve members can attend school while serving. Like the MGIB - Active Duty, this program pays a monthly rate, which is adjusted each year. To qualify, you must have an obligation to serve six years in the Selected Reserve. Officers must agree to serve six years in addition to their original obligation. You must also complete your initial active duty for training. As long as you remain in good standing with your Selected Reserve component, you are eligible for benefits for 14 years from the date you became eligible for the program.
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill - If you were called to active duty for at least 90 days since Sept. 11, 2001 by the federal government, you may be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This program covers more of the cost of tuition for approved programs. In certain circumstances, service members may transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their family members.
- Reserve Education Assistance Program - For Guard and reserve members called to active duty for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001, the Reserve Education Assistance Program is available. Those who are eligible will receive 36 months of full-time training, which can be used as long as you remain in good standing with your reserve component.
Home loan guaranties
The VA's Home Loan Guaranty program helps service members secure competitive rates on home loans with little or no down payment. The VA-guaranteed loans are made by private lenders, such as banks or mortgage companies - not by the VA.
- Eligibility - If you're a member of the National Guard of reserves, you're eligible for a VA loan guaranty after you have completed six years of service in the Selected Reserve. However, if you are called to active duty, you must serve only 90 days before you are eligible. For more information, visit the VA's Home Loan Guaranty website, or call the Loan Eligibility Center at 888-244-6711.
- Benefits - Lenders generally put a cap on the amount they will lend on a VA-guaranteed loan. The limits change periodically, and you may be able to secure a higher loan amount in a more expensive area (such as Hawaii). For a current listing of VA loan amounts, visit the VA's Home Loan Guaranty website.
- Funding fee - A percentage of the loan - between .5 and 2.40 percent - is charged as a funding fee. Guard and reserve members pay the higher fee, but the amount is reduced if you are making a down payment of at least five percent. The funding fee can be included in the loan.
Homelessness Prevention Programs
Homelessness can take many forms. The VA can help members of the National Guard and reserve who are sleeping in a car, crashing on a friend's couch, staying at a family member's house, facing foreclosure or any other kind of homelessness as they transition out of military service. The VA provides individualized, comprehensive care to members of the National Guard and reserve, and other veterans who are looking for safe, stable housing. If you or a veteran you know are struggling to find permanent housing or facing eviction or foreclosure, make the call to 877-4AID-VET, or chat online at to learn more or be connected to the support services the VA offers. Learn about all the programs that can help you or a veteran you know overcome or prevent homelessness on the VA website.
National Guard and reserve members can purchase up to $400,000 of life insurance through the VA's low-cost Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program.
- Eligibility - To qualify, you must be assigned to a unit in which you are required to perform active duty or active duty for training and will be scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive duty creditable for retirement purposes. The insurance coverage is in effect 365 days of the year, not just when you are drilling or training.
- Cost - Life insurance coverage is available in increments of $50,000. Currently, the VA charges 7 cents per month per $1,000 of coverage, regardless of the service member's age. For a $400,000 policy, your cost would be $28 per month.
- Beneficiaries - Don't forget to designate a beneficiary or beneficiaries to receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy. You can designate your beneficiaries by completing form SGLV 8286, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance and Certificate. The form, along with additional information, is available at the VA's Life Insurance website.
- Life insurance for your family - You can purchase up to $100,000 of additional life insurance coverage for your spouse and up to $10,000 of coverage for each dependent child through the VA's Family SGLI program.
- Conversion to Veterans' Group Life Insurance - After you leave the Guard or reserve, you may choose to convert your SGLI to Veterans' Group Life Insurance. Visit the VA's Life Insurance website.
Other VA benefits
The VA oversees additional benefits for service members and veterans, such as medical care, disability compensation and survivor benefits. Eligibility is generally based on veteran status and most benefits require a minimum period of active-duty service.
- Medical care - Veterans Affairs medical centers, clinics, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are at the core of the VA's services. Veterans can receive medical care from the VA based on a priority system. Veterans with service-connected disabilities get the highest priority at a VA medical facility, while other veterans receive care based on availability.
- Disability compensation - The VA administers tax-free benefits paid to veterans with injuries or illnesses resulting from active-duty military service. The amount is based on the severity of the disability.
- Rehabilitation - The VA's Rehabilitation and Employment Program helps service members and veterans with service-connected disabilities transition out of the military. The program offers counseling services, education and training, job assistance and financial aid. Visit the VA's VetSuccess website for more information.
- Survivor benefits - Spouses and dependent children of service members who died on active duty or as a result of service-related disabilities may be eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Other survivor benefits include the Civilian Health and Medical Program and the Dependents' Education Assistance Program. For details on any of these survivor benefits, visit the VA's Veterans Benefits website.