Every year, we celebrate Veteran’s Day to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve our country. A veteran is defined as a “member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” Veterans are the reason for our freedom and safety. In return for their service, the government provides these men and women with benefits once they return to civilian life.
What types of benefits do veterans receive?
Veterans of the United States Military may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA provides benefits such as health care; compensation and pensions; education and training; housing; vocational rehabilitation and employment; and burial and memorial services.
- Health Care: The VA Medical Benefits Package provides the following:
- Veterans-only health care facilities, including hospitals, community clinics, and counseling centers. Click here to find the closest VA facility.
- Portable health insurance coverage (if you travel or move)
- No enrollment fees, monthly premiums or deductiblesMinimal out-of-pocket costs for doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, etc.
- Compensation: In order to receive certain compensation benefits, your injury/ disability must be service-connected. There are special compensations such as Disability Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
- Disability Compensation: A monthly tax-free benefit paid to veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training. Click here to see if you are eligible
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): A tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. Click here to see if you are eligible.
- Special Monthly Compensation: A higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances, such as the need for aid and attendance by another person, or by specific disability, such as loss of use of one hand or leg.
- Pension: The VA helps the veterans and their families with financial stability by providing income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension programs.
- Veterans Pension: A tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime veterans. Click here to see if you are eligible.
- Survivors Pension: A tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, non-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased veteran with wartime service. Click here to see if you are eligible
- Additional monetary amounts: Veterans and survivors who are eligible for pension benefits and are either housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible for additional monetary amounts.
- Education and Training: Veterans can receive education benefits for themselves and their families. The GI Bill will pay for at least part of college tuition and fees as well as a monthly housing allowance. Click here to apply.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: Veterans are given benefits for vocational rehabilitation and employment. The VA also offers counseling, training, education, job placement, and other services to smooth the transition into civilian employment. Click here to see if you are eligible.
- Burial and Memorial Services: Burial benefits include burial at a national cemetery, an inscribed headstone, marker or medallion, an allowance to partially reimburse the burial and funeral costs of a veteran, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and an American flag to drape over the veteran’s casket.
Who is eligible for veterans benefits?
Eligibility is determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and depends on the individual’s case and service record. However, to even be considered for benefits, the veteran must have served 24 months of continuous active duty. There are some exceptions, including disease or injury while on active service.
How do I apply for veterans benefits?
When applying for benefits, the veteran needs to provide certain documents, including:
- Original military service record
- A copy of the service record issued by the military branch, with the certification that it is a true document or a copy submitted by an accredited agent, attorney or service representative with special training, who certifies that it is a copy of an original military service document or a copy of a copy of such a document
- The copy of the service record must contain data regarding the length, time, and character of the service and the VA must believe that the document is genuine and accurate
If the veteran does not provide the required documentation or other evidence, or the submitted documentation does not meet the requirements, the VA will verify the veteran’s military service directly with the appropriate military branch.
Veterans may apply for VA health care benefits at any time. If you are a veteran seeking heath care coverage, you can apply here , call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visit your local VA health care facility.
If I have Medicare and the VA Medical Benefits Package, can I use both?
Yes, but it depends – Medicare and the VA Medical Benefits Package are separate programs.
- In a non-VA hospital:
- Services must be pre-authorized by the VA in order to be covered by the VA Medical Benefits.
- If the VA does not cover all the costs, Medicare may fill in the gaps. However, there may still be out-of-pocket costs.
- In a VA hospital:
- An enrolled veteran cannot use his or her Medicare card at a VA facility because the VA cannot bill Medicare. The veteran is responsible for fees not covered by the VA.
- Veterans without Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)
- Veterans not enrolled in Medicare Part D must fill their prescriptions only at VA pharmacies or pay full price at non-VA pharmacies.
- Veterans without Medicare Part B (outpatient medical care)
- Veterans who do not enroll in Medicare Part B must go to VA facilities for all outpatient medical services such as doctor visits, preventive care, and durable medical equipment.
Where can I get more information?
Department of Veterans Affairs. (2014). Healthcare. Retrieved from http://www.va.gov/health/
Moulta-Ali, U. (2014). “Who is a Veteran?” – Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42324.pdf