The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a variety of benefits for veterans, dependents and survivors based on active military service. For National Guard members, that means being federally activated to serve, and being discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
General VA benefits
VA provides monetary support based on a variety of conditions. Veterans with low incomes who are either permanently and totally disabled, or age 65 and older, may be eligible for compensation if they have 90 days or more of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war. Disability must be for reasons other than the veteran’s own willful misconduct.
- Protected pension: Pension beneficiaries, who were receiving a VA pension on Dec. 31, 1978, and do not wish to elect the Improved Pension, will continue to receive the pension rate received on that date. This rate generally continues as long as the beneficiary’s income remains within established limits, or net worth does not bar payment, and the beneficiary does not lose any dependents. Beneficiaries must continue to meet basic eligibility factors, such as permanent and total disability for veterans. VA must adjust rates for other reasons, such as a veteran’s hospitalization in a VA facility.
- Medal of Honor pension: VA administers pensions to recipients of the Medal of Honor. Congress set the monthly pension at $1,329.
- Improved disability pension: Congress establishes the maximum annual improved disability pension rates. Payments are reduced by the amount of countable income of the veteran, spouse and dependent children. When a veteran without a spouse or a child is furnished nursing home or domiciliary care by VA, the pension is reduced to an amount not to exceed $90 per month after three calendar months of care. The reduction may be delayed if nursing-home care is being continued to provide the veteran with rehabilitation services.
More information about Compensation Benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit program for service members and veterans who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Benefits are payable for training pursued on or after Aug. 1, 2009. No payments can be made under this program for training pursued before that date. To be eligible, the service member or veteran must serve at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, and remain on active duty or be honorably:
- Discharged from active-duty status
- Released from active duty and placed on the retired list or temporary disability retired list
- Released from active duty and transferred to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve
- Released from active duty for further service in a Reserve Component of the armed forces (such as the National Guard).
Based on the length of active-duty service, eligible participants are entitled to receive a percentage of the following:
- Cost of tuition and fees, not to exceed the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education (paid directly to the school)
- Monthly housing allowance equal to the basic allowance for housing payable to a military E-5 with dependents, in the same ZIP code as the primary school (paid directly to the service member or veteran)
- Yearly books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 per year (paid directly to the service member or veteran) and
- A one-time payment of $500 to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas.
More information about Education Benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
VA home loan guaranties are issued to help eligible service members, veterans, reservists and unmarried surviving spouses obtain homes, condominiums, residential cooperative housing units, and manufactured homes, and to refinance loans. For additional information or to obtain VA loan forms, visit Department of Veterans Affairs website.
A VA guaranty helps protect lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan. It can be used to obtain a loan to:
- Buy or build a home
- Buy a residential condominium unit
- Buy a residential cooperative housing unit
- Repair, alter or improve a residence owned by the veteran and occupied as a home
- Refinance an existing home loan
- Buy a manufactured home and/or lot
- Install a solar heating or cooling system or other energy- efficient improvements.
In addition to the periods of eligibility and conditions of service requirements, applicants must have a good credit rating, sufficient income, a valid Certificate of Eligibility, and agree to live in the property in order to be approved by a lender for a VA home loan. Check out the Financial Management Awareness Program for more home-buying tips.
Veterans obtain VA-guaranteed loans through the usual lending institutions, including banks, credit unions and mortgage brokers. VA-guaranteed loans can have either a fixed interest rate or an adjustable rate, where the interest rate may adjust up to 1% annually and up to 5% over the life of the loan. VA does not set the interest rate. Interest rates are negotiable between the lender and borrower on all loan types.
More information about home loan benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment VetSuccess Program assists veterans with service-related 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.
Who is eligible?
Active duty are eligible if they expect to receive an honorable discharge upon separation from active duty, obtain a memorandum rating of 20% or more from Veterans Affairs, or apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment VetSuccess services. If you are a National Guard member, eligibility depends on whether you were federally activated. Veterans are eligible if they have received, or will receive, a discharge that is other than dishonorable, have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%, or a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the Department of Veteran Affairs, or apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess services.
Services that may be provided by the VR&E VetSuccess Program include:
- Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills and interests for employment
- Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services
- Employment services such as job training and job seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance
- Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations
- On-the-job-training, apprenticeships and non-paid work experiences
- Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical or business school
- Supportive rehabilitation services, including case management, counseling and medical referrals
- Independent-living services for veterans unable to work due to the severity of their disabilities.
More information about vocational benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is a program of low-cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies, and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. SGLI coverage is available in $50,000 increments up to the maximum of $400,000.
Other types of life insurance
- Veterans Group Life Insurance is post-separation insurance, which allows service members to convert their SGLI coverage to renewable term insurance. Members with full-time SGLI coverage are eligible for VGLI upon release from service.
- Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance applies to active-duty members, reservists, National Guard members, funeral honors duty and one-day muster duty. This benefit is also provided retroactively for members who suffered severe losses as a result of a traumatic injury between Oct. 7, 2001 and Dec. 1, 2005 if the loss was the direct result of injuries incurred in Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom.
- Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is a program extended to the spouses and dependent children of members insured under the SGLI program.
More information about life insurance through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Burial benefits 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.
Free burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include:
- Burial with the Veteran
- Perpetual care
- The spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death 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.
There are no benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.
More information about burial benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.