What benefits may be available to veterans?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers dozens of programs to assist veterans and their families with everything from housing to medical care to entrepreneurship. Just a few of these benefits can include:
- Short- and long-term disability compensation.
- A pension through a veteran’s pension program.
- Access to free or inexpensive medical care and treatment at VA-sponsored hospitals and facilities.
- Higher education programs and student loan assistance.
- Mortgage guarantees and housing assistance.
- Job training and certification.
- Death, pension, or accrued benefits (called the DIC) to a surviving spouse and/or minor child if the veteran passes away.
- Small business loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Funeral and burial assistance and services, including a headstone at no cost and burial in a national cemetery.
Because these benefits span such a broad range of needs, knowing which ones you qualify for (and which ones you’d like to take advantage of) can require some further investigation.
Who qualifies for veterans benefits?
The length of service for each type of benefit can vary, but most veterans will qualify for benefits if they are discharged from active military services and their discharge was not dishonorable. This service requirement encompasses service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or other commissioned officers of governmental organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Veterans should know that they are legally entitled to these benefits if they qualify based on the length of their service and the circumstances of their discharge. If a veteran is denied benefits they should qualify for (or discouraged from applying for benefits in the first place), legal action may be necessary to enforce the veteran’s rights.
How do I request information about my veterans benefits?
Although the VA’s website has links to help veterans (or their family members) apply for many of the above-listed benefits, checking the eligibility criteria for each individual program can be time-consuming. By submitting a general request for information to the VA, you’ll be able to have someone tell you exactly which benefits you qualify for (and any you don’t qualify for) based on your unique service history. If you’d like to contact the VA personally, you can call your closest regional office at 1-800-827-1000 or visit their website at www.va.gov.
At Rocket Lawyer, we’ve prepared a Veteran Benefits Request for Information document that will help you request a broad array of information about the benefits to which you may be entitled. You can also contact a lawyer from our national network of attorneys if you have any questions or concerns about your right to receive benefits.
What information do I need to apply for my veterans benefits?
Having your documentation in place before you apply for benefits can make the process go much more smoothly. The VA’s response to your request for benefits should indicate what documentation you’ll need to proceed. Your discharge paperwork may be required, including your service dates and the type of discharge you received. If you don’t have a copy of your discharge paperwork, you may be able to have the VA access it on your behalf by providing your full legal name, your branch of military service, your social security number, and the dates or years of service. (However, it’s still a good idea to get a copy of your discharge papers to have on hand, being sure to keep them in a safe, secure place).
If the veteran is unable to apply for their own benefits due to death, disability, or absence, a spouse or family member may request information about benefits on their behalf and assist them in completing the necessary paperwork.
Are there veterans benefits available for family members?
Yes, there are certain benefits that are made available exclusively to veterans’ spouses and dependents. These family members are always free to apply for their own benefits. Some of the benefits available to family members include:
- Health care for spouses, dependent children, and surviving spouses and children.
- Education assistance through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program or the GI Bill.
- Home loan programs or financial counseling.
- Life insurance.
- Burial benefits.
- Caregiver support services if caring for a veteran who was injured in the line of duty.
Don’t let the benefits you’ve earned through your military service slip through your hands—get started on your request for veteran benefits today. The sooner you access the services and coverages available to you, the more you and your family will be able to benefit from them.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.