The Department of Veterans Affairs manages a wide range of benefits for America’s veterans and their families. For instance, it provides tax-free disability compensation for veterans disabled during active military service.
Veterans who no longer serve are also able to claim VA benefits disabilities related to their military service. If you or a family member has served, make sure you take advantage of as many military perks as possible. Here are seven different types of VA benefits that you could be taking advantage of.
1. VA Disability Compensation
The VA compensates veterans who have become disabled due to a service-related injury or illness. Those with existing injuries that were aggravated during service — and those whose disabilities that surfaced post-service — are also eligible for benefits.
Surviving spouses, children and parents can typically collect dependency and indemnity compensation. All disability compensation payments are exempt from taxation. Take a look at the qualifications for benefits:
- Who qualifies: Honorably discharged veterans who became at least 10 percent disabled through active duty, inactive duty training or active duty training are eligible.
- What beneficiaries receive: Benefits graduate based on the nature of the disability; the VA compensation rate table can help you figure it out.
2. VA Education Benefits
The VA delivers education-related benefits for veterans and their families. Members who served on and after 9/11 are entitled to higher education benefits.
Here are qualification details:
- Who qualifies: The post-9/11 GI Bill covers any service member with at least 90 aggregate days of service after Sept. 10, 2001. His status can be active duty, honorably discharged or discharged with a service-related disability.
- What beneficiaries receive: Beneficiaries get up to 36 months of full benefits for up to 15 years after discharge from active duty.
- What’s covered: A wide range of educational pursuits are covered, including entrepreneurship, flight, vocational and on-the-job training.
3. Home Loan Programs
The VA puts homeownership in reach for veterans, service members and surviving spouses. Although the VA doesn’t directly lend money, a VA mortgage guarantees portions of loans issued by private lenders, which usually offer good terms.
- Who qualifies: Duration and character of service — and duty status — figure into benefits calculations. Special programs are also available for Native American vets and those who were totally and permanently disabled through service.
- What beneficiaries receive: Eligible parties can get competitive loans that typically enable you to avoid paying for mortgage insurance and down payments. Beneficiaries also have the ability to refinance a current VA loan and take out cash.
4. VA Life Insurance
Because of the inherent risks of military service, the VA offers special policies for different groups of service members, veterans and their families, enabling them to save big on life insurance.
- Who qualifies: Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance covers service members until they’re 120 days out of service. Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance covers service members’ children and spouses. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance offers term protection for vets who carried SGLI during their service.
- What beneficiaries receive: Benefits vary among plans. For example, the SGLI plan provides severely injured service members with traumatic injury benefits for $1 a month. The current, basic SGLI premium rate is 7 cents per $1,000 of insurance and the premium includes the $1 for traumatic injury benefits.
5. VA Pension Benefits
The Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs provide eligible vets with supplemental income. The programs are based on beneficiaries’ needs and there’s a threshold for countable family income.
- Who qualifies: Eligible parties include veterans age 65 or older who served at least 90 days of active duty that includes at least one day of wartime service. Nursing home patients, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients and those who were totally and permanently disabled from service are also eligible. Other eligible recipients include surviving spouses who never remarried, minor children, permanently disabled children and children under 23 who attend a VA-approved school.
- What beneficiaries receive: Eligible parties get tax-free money based on need and income, plus VA survivor benefits for qualifying family members.
6. VA Health Benefits
With more than 1,700 care sites, the VA is the country’s largest integrated healthcare system. Every year, 8.76 million veterans receive VA healthcare services.
- Who qualifies: Anyone who served in the active military and was released under any circumstance other than dishonorable discharge is eligible. The VA determines who’s eligible after receiving individual applications.
- What beneficiaries receive: Benefits and co-pays vary depending on factors including service-related conditions and applicants’ individual financial situations.
7. VA Death Benefits
If you served in the military, you’re entitled to VA cremation or burial benefits. You’ll receive a ceremonial funeral and grave in any of the VA’s 135 national cemeteries with space. Services include — at no cost to the family — grave opening and closing, a burial flag and government marker or headstone, perpetual care and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
- Who qualifies: Veterans, their spouses and dependents are eligible. Family burial benefits include — at no cost to the family — burial beside the vet, perpetual care and the spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death inscribed on the vet’s headstone. The death benefit is available to eligible spouses and dependents if they predecease the vet.
- What beneficiaries receive: VA burial benefits include $2,000 for burial expenses — or $1,500 for those killed in service before 9/11. Qualifying VA death benefits for death not related to service include $749 for burial and funeral expenses.