The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits and services to meet the needs of veterans and service members. While many VA programs are designed to serve veterans, (particularly disabled veterans), VA services are not limited to those who have left the military. The VA also works with the service branches and TRICARE to provide high-quality programs to disabled active duty service members. You've earned these benefits through your service; make sure you receive them by understanding the VA programs and knowing what you're entitled to.
More than 1,400 medical centers and clinics form the core of the VA's services. In addition, the VA works with TRICARE to provide services for active duty service members who are disabled.
- Eligibility. Many veterans, including those with a service-connected disability, who served in a combat zone within the last five years and whose income falls below a certain level, are eligible for medical benefits. Income thresholds have changed recently. If you were denied benefits previously because your income was too high, you may want to visit VA Health Benefits to find out if you now qualify.
- Medical services. VA medical services include preventive care, inpatient care at VA hospitals, long-term care and nursing-home care. The VA also offers special programs for veterans, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, services for blind veterans, readjustment counseling, women veterans' health care, dental care, home health care and hearing aids. For a complete listing of VA health services, go to VA Health Care.
- Medical care for active duty service members. The VA works with TRICARE to make sure active duty service members receive the best possible medical care for their service-connected injuries or illnesses. Because the VA has experience treating combat injuries, their state-of-the-art treatment programs can greatly benefit active duty service members with service-related disabilities. Contact your service branch primary provider for a referral.
The VA's tax-free disability compensation pays veterans who have service-related disabilities. The amount is based on the severity of the disability, with additional payments available if the veteran has a spouse or other dependents. You can apply for disability compensation at the Veterans Online Application website. In addition to regular disability compensation, Special Monthly Compensation is available to veterans with serious disabilities.
Transition and employment services
The VA offers briefings on its benefits and services through the Transition Assistance Program. This outreach effort is intensified for service members leaving active duty due to a medical problem. The VA's goal is to make sure all transitioning service members fully understand the benefits and services available to them.
- Returning Service Members Program (OEF/OIF). This program helps ensure that service members returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom can easily access programs and benefits. For more information, visit VA's Returning Service Members Program.
- Disabled Transition Assistance Program. Service members separating with medical disabilities are encouraged to attend a DTAP class, which is designed to cover all the services available to veterans, including the disability compensation process, VA medical services and the vocational rehabilitation and employment program. More information is available through the VetSuccess website.
- Rehabilitation and employment services. The VA helps disabled service members and veterans transition out of the military by offering rehabilitation and employment services including counseling, education and training, job assistance and financial aid. To be eligible, you must have a service-connected disability and require vocational rehabilitation. The program is also available to active-duty service members awaiting discharge because of a disability. More details are available at the VetSuccess website.
Home and car adaptation
Veterans and service members with specific service-connected disabilities may be eligible for grants to help them adapt homes or cars to meet their disability requirements.
Housing grants. The VA's Specially Adapted Housing program offers grants for veterans who receive compensation for certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities. The grants include:
- SAH grants. An SAH grant can provide 50 percent of the cost of an adapted house and other allowable expenses, not to exceed the current maximum grant of $63,780. It may be used to help build, buy or adapt an existing home or pay for one that's already adapted. More information can be found at the VA SAH website.
- Special Home Adaptations grants. These grants cover the actual cost to the veteran for installation of certain adaptations and equipment. The grant may also be used to help a veteran buy an adapted home with special features that help meet the disability requirement.
Home Improvement and Structural Alterations grants. This benefit helps cover structural improvements necessary for a disabled veteran to access the home and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities. While most grants are for veterans with service-connected disabilities, the HISA grant applies to veterans with or without a Service-connected rating. Limits are as follows:
- Veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 50 percent or more may be eligible for a $6,800 lifetime benefit.
- Veterans who receive health care from the VA and have a disability that is not service-connected may be eligible for a $2,000 lifetime benefit.
More information is available through the VA HISA website.
Car adaptation. For veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities, the VA offers a one-time payment of up to $11,000 toward the purchase of an automobile. The VA may also pay for adaptive equipment, repair, replacement or reinstallation of equipment. Visit Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
The VA's life insurance program extends to veterans with service-connected disabilities by offering Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance. Basic S-DVI provides eligible veterans with up to $10,000 of coverage. Supplemental coverage is available at an additional cost. Service members remain covered by the VA's Service members' Group Life Insurance until they leave the military. For more information, visit VA Life Insurance.
Many VA benefits and services are extended to service members and veterans regardless of disability status, including these education and home loan guaranty benefits:
Education. The Montgomery GI Bill and the new Post-9/11 GI Bill help cover the cost of educational and certificate programs.
GI Bill entitlement. The GI Bill offers payment for college or other training courses for up to thirty-six months of entitlement.
Training programs. Many types of training are available through the GI Bill, including undergraduate or graduate degree programs at a college or university.
Transfer to family members. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to transfer your benefits to an eligible spouse or child.
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 guarantees a portion of the loan, but it is funded and processed through a bank or mortgage company. Visit VA's Home Loan Guaranty for details.