As a soldier, you’re proudly putting the interests of the United States of America and its people before your own life, wherever and whenever it is required. You are ready to pay the ultimate price to protect the American way of life and ensure that peace prevails throughout the world. Your good deeds don’t go unnoticed – your fellow citizens know of your sacrifice and are ready to support you once you leave the military.
When you decide to stop serving and transition to civilian life, it’s perfectly natural to feel confused and lost. After all, ordinary life is radically different from being on active duty and comes with many problems that you won’t encounter while in the military.
But just as our armed forces leave no one behind on the battlefield, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vows to do the same with ex-military personnel.
Serving as a soldier makes you eligible for many benefits guaranteed by the VA. The resources VA has at its disposal can really make a difference when it comes to your health, family, career, and much more.
The full list of programs is available on the website of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For your convenience, below you’ll find a short summary of the most important benefits. Read on and learn more about the sort of help you can expect!
The Department of Veterans Affairs understands that military service is a high-risk activity that may result in sickness and injury, or even make your preexisting condition worse. If that is so, you might want to take advantage of the VA disability compensation, a monthly and tax-free payment for Veterans who suffered a service-connected decline in health.
Whether you qualify for the VA disability compensation or not is dependent on a number of factors. First of all, you had to serve on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. You also need to have an illness and injury that has a negative effect on your physical or mental health. Both of the above have to be true for you to stand a chance of receiving the VA disability compensation.
To be eligible for the compensation, you also need your conditions to manifest in at least one of the following three ways:
You became ill or injured during your military service, and it happened as a result of being a soldier.
Your condition (injury or sickness) manifested before you joined the armed forces, but serving in the military made it worse.
Your condition is related to being on active-duty service but didn’t manifest until you left the armed forces.
You also might be eligible for VA disability benefits if your current condition was caused by being a prisoner of war (POW) and it became at least 10% disabling following your service. VA disability compensation may also be granted if your military service got you exposed to hazardous materials and chemicals.
Unfortunately, if you received bad conduct or dishonorable discharge, you might not be eligible for the VA disability compensation. To qualify, you may need to apply for a discharge upgrade.
The Department of Veterans Affairs may provide you with a tax-free, monthly payment under certain conditions.
To be eligible for the VA pension, you need a few things. The first requirement is that you can’t be dishonorably discharged from service. You also need to meet limits specified by Congress on your yearly family income and net worth. The latter includes all of your personal property excluding the house, vehicle, furniture, and debts. Your spouse’s net worth is also included in your own net worth.
To qualify for the program, one or more of the following statements concerning your service need to be true:
Your active duty started before September 8, 1980, and lasted a minimum of 90 days, including 1 day during wartime.
You became an active duty enlisted member after September 7, 1980, and served a minimum of 24 months, including 1 day during wartime.
You were an active-duty officer after October 16, 1981, and didn’t previously serve on active duty for 24 months or more.
There are further conditions, and you need to meet at least one of them to be eligible for a Veterans Pension. Possible conditions include:
Being at least 65 years of age.
Being a nursing home patient for long-term care due to a disability.
Having a permanent and total disability.
Being the beneficiary of the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
For the purpose of the program, VA considers wartime periods as the Mexican Border period, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Gulf War.
Education and Training
The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes several education benefit programs that are available to servicemembers, including veterans.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) exists to help you cover the expenses of job training or schooling. Under this bill, you may get a total of 36 or 48 months of VA education benefits.
The benefits may include the full coverage of any public in-state tuition or fees (assuming you qualify for the maximum benefit), money for housing (based on the cost of living in the area your school is located in), educational expenses such as books and supplies (up to $1000 per school year) and funds to make it possible for you to move from rural areas and get schooling (a one-time payment dependent on your location).
You may be eligible to receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you were on active duty 90 days or more after September 10, 2001.
Servicemembers can transfer unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the eligible spouse or child.
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
Another program that can help you fund your education and training is the MGIB- AD. The amount of money you may get depends on a number of factors, including how long you served, the sort of education or training course you choose, whether you qualify for kicker or college fund, your participation in the $600 Buy-Up program, and your category.
To get the MGIB-AD benefits, you need to be honorably discharged and have a high-school diploma, GED, or at least 12 hours of college credit, among other things.
You’re limited to one education benefit for a period of service. If you go for the Post-9/11 GI Bill over the MGIB-AD, you can’t switch to the latter later on.
You should also check out if you’re eligible for the Personalized Career Planning and Guidance program.
While you were serving in one of the branches of the US military, you probably heard about the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), a low-cost life insurance program for active-duty personnel. As a veteran leaving the armed forces, you can ensure that you will still benefit from this program.
Former armed forces personnel can use the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) to convert the SGLI into lifetime coverage after transitioning to civilian life. If you experienced a service-connected disability, you may additionally be eligible for the S-DVI or Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance.
Converting your SGLI into VGLI needs to be done as soon as you leave the military - you have a period of one year and 120 days to make it happen.
As a veteran, you’re likely familiar with the issues ex-military members experience while looking for a place to live. To make this part of the transition easier, you can use the VA housing assistance. This program can potentially benefit veterans in many ways:
The Department of Veterans Affairs can help you refinance your loan, even if you have a non-VA mortgage.
VA may guarantee a part of the loan from a private lender so that you have it easier to purchase a home for your own personal use. VA may also guarantee loans related to building, maintaining or improving your home.
Certain disabled veterans may be eligible for grants aimed to help them buy housing suited to their unique needs (or adapt their existing home).
VA loans don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance premiums.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides vets with comprehensive medical services, including but not limited to:
Hospital, dental, prosthetic, and pharmacy services.
Nursing home care.
Alcohol and drug-related treatments.
Help with disorders connected to environmental hazards.
Specialized services for female vets.
Combat veterans are also eligible for individual, group, or family-oriented readjustment counseling services. There are several aims of these services:
Counseling may make it easier for you to deal with the military-civilian transition.
Counseling services can be used to help treat your mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Counseling can be useful to help with other service-related issues.
Benefits for Dependents and Survivors
It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes servicemembers pay the ultimate price for protecting the peace and prosperity of the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is there to help the dependents and survivors of those who sacrificed everything for their country.
The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) can be paid on a monthly basis to surviving spouses of armed forces members who died in active service or from a disability connected to their military service. It also includes the spouses of the veterans who were totally disabled at the moment of their death. The size of help is bigger if there are dependent children.
If you’re eligible for the DIC, you might also apply for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) which provides repayment for many medical expenses, and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (the benefit made to help pursue eligible education and degrees).
Spouses and children of deceased wartime veterans can also benefit from the VA Survivors Pension. Eligibility is determined by the income and net worth of the surviving spouse and the dependent children.
Surviving family members can also apply for VA burial benefits to help lay the deceased to rest. The help can take many forms, including:
The permission for the veteran in question and their dependents to be buried at the VA national cemetery.
A VA-provided US flag to cover the veteran’s casket.
A VA-provided Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) for the loved ones of the deceased veteran.
Partial compensation for the burial and funeral costs.
The creation of a specially inscribed headstone to honor the deceased former military member.