California Veterans Benefits

Updated: November 4, 2022
In this Article

    Find California veterans benefits including education, employment, healthcare, home loans, tax exemptions, recreation and much more below. California is home to nearly 2 million veterans according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and that population enjoys access to state assistance to many veterans benefits.

    California Veteran Education Benefits

    College/University Veteran Tuition Waivers

    Eligible California veterans and qualifying military dependents may be eligible for a waiver of statewide tuition and fees for California State University, University of California and any state a community college.

    This veteran benefit program will not cover expenses related to books, housing or meals. There is also a non-resident college fee waiver for qualifying veterans good at the institutions mentioned above. Ask your admissions advisor how to apply for and use these California-specific education benefits.

    California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program

    This program is specifically for those who have served a qualifying amount of time in either the California National Guard (CNG) or the State Military Reserve (MSR). It offers up to 100% coverage of fees at the Universities of California, California State Universities and California Community Colleges.

    This benefit may also be used at qualifying California “proprietary and public institutions.” There are specific qualifying circumstances which must be met in order to be approved for this veteran education benefit including a minimum of two years of service in either the CNG or MSR, plus an agreement to continue serving through the use of the benefit. The applicant must be pursuing a degree “not currently held” and must not receive a Cal Grant award during the same academic year the Education Assistance Award funds are used.

    CalVet Education Benefits

    The California Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as CalVet, provides services and programs for some 1.6 million California veterans and their families. Those programs include educational programs/benefits that, combined with the GI Bill (where applicable) or on their own, can make a big difference in how a veteran and veteran family members pay for higher education.

    Troops to College

    While the California State Troops To College program doesn’t offer any specific financial benefit, it does address the unique needs of military members and dependents who want to attend classes at California state colleges and universities. Some participating institutions offer transition assistance classes, on-campus military liaisons and there are credit transfer evaluation programs for those who want to turn their military experiences and training into college credit.

    California Veteran Employment Benefits

    Veteran Employment Programs

    CalVets Jobs is an employment resource offered by California and has options for veterans in association with the California Department of Veterans Affairs official site.

    The California Employment Development Department helps veterans and eligible military spouses “maximize their employment and training opportunities.” That includes “a veteran 24-hour priority hold on all job listings” plus the ability to make appointments to get personal help from a veterans’ representative “for personalized services and assistance to achieve professional goals.”

    California, like many other states, offers veteran hiring preferences for selected state jobs. Proof of service, discharge paperwork and other identification may be required at application time and/or when taking a Civil Service exam for certain jobs. You’ll need to consult the requirements of the job portal you’re applying to (including for specific paperwork submission rules.

    Employment Development Department (EDD)

    This California State resource for veterans includes CalJobs, which allows military members to search for jobs based on the member’s Military Occupational Specialty code or other such identifiers (include Air Force Specialty Codes, Navy Enlisted Classification Codes, etc.)

    EDD offers qualifying veterans and family members priority services. To qualify, the service member must have a discharge characterized as other than Dishonorable. Surviving spouses of those who have died on active duty, POW/MIAs and spouses of military members rated at 100% disability by the Department of Veterans Affairs are also eligible for priority services.

    Department of Industrial Relations Apprenticeship Finder for Veterans

    Veterans interested in finding vet-friendly apprenticeship programs should explore the resource offered by the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS). These programs combine classroom experience with job training, but there is a large number of apprenticeships within the State of California, which is one reason why DAS makes consultants available to veterans to help navigate the system and learn how to find and properly apply to the right program.

    Troops to Trucks program

    The California Troops To Trucks program offers qualifying service members a commercial driving license test waiver for non-passenger driving. This program is for military members who have been employed within a year leading up to the application, “in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a commercial motor vehicle on public roads and highways,” according to the California DMV.

    California Veteran Housing Benefits

    Farm and Home Loans

    CalVets offers eligible veterans home loans and farm loans as direct, “manually underwritten” mortgages. These loans are offered from the State of California, and do not have a California residency requirement, so you do not have to be a resident of the state, or list California as your home of record in your military paperwork.

    These loans feature little to no down payment requirement depending on financial qualifications, and have low interest rates. Borrowers do not have to be first-time home buyers, and may be able to use this California veteran benefit a second time if they meet certain requirements.

    Veteran Property-Tax Exemption

    This California veteran tax benefits offers eligible residents a property-tax exemption up to $4,000 at the time of this writing for qualifying properties. Those currently serving, those honorably discharged, the unmarried surviving spouse of a qualifying service member or the parent of a deceased qualifying veteran may be able to take advantage of this tax benefit.

    Additional qualifications including property valuation rules may apply. When taking advantage of tax breaks related to military service, it’s best to get the assistance of an experienced tax professional who can help guide you through the process.

    There is also a property tax exemption for qualifying disabled veterans and/or qualifying spouses. This benefit includes a “basic” $100,000 exemption, plus a “low-income” version. To qualify, veterans must suffer from conditions that include but may not be limited to blindness in both eyes, loss of two or more limbs or a VA-rated total disability condition. These conditions must be as a result of military service.

    Veteran Affordable Housing Programs

    The CalVet Residential Enriched Neighborhood program is designed to help low-income veterans find permanent housing. Requirements for this program include qualifying for a CalVet home loan and complete a “sweat equity” program that may include participating in the construction of the home and completing self-sufficiency training at no cost to the veteran.

    Another CalVet program, the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program, funds California agencies for the specific purpose of creating veteran-oriented multi-family rental housing. This program does not provide funds directly to veterans, but provides financial incentives for companies to focus on veteran housing needs.

    Veterans Homes of California

    California has 8 veterans homes located in the following cities:

    • Barstow
    • Chula Vista
    • Fresno
    • Lancaster
    • Redding
    • Ventura
    • West Los Angeles
    • Yountville

    Visit the National Association of State Veteran Homes for a California state home directory with contact information, eligibility requirements and much more.

    California Veteran Financial Benefits

    There are a variety of private financial relief funds available in California including the VFW Unmet Needs program, which provides financial help for military members and their families who run into financial difficulty. On the state level, the California Military Family Relief Funds offers grants to California National Guard members and families who are negatively affected by deployments and mobilizations.

    Qualifying criteria for this program include being a California resident, a member of the CNG in good standing deployed for at least 60 consecutive days in Title 10 USC status, and having a financial difficulty that results in a reduction of household income by a minimum of 10%.

    Additional California Veteran Benefits

    Department of Motor Vehicles Benefits for Veterans

    Qualifying service members can receive veteran designation (including disabled veteran designation for those who provide proof of disability) on license plates, and are eligible to legally operate motor vehicles registered in other states without transferring to the State of California as long as the military member’s orders are not temporary. There is also a renewal penalty waiver offered for those who are California residents but have been deployed outside of California. (Certain restrictions apply.)

    California Links to Veterans Services

    County Veterans Affairs Offices

    Each county within California provides additional unique benefits specific to each each county. Locate the county you reside in below to find additional veterans benefits. Also, check with your local city or veterans service organizations for even more veterans benefits.

    Established in 1946, this CVAO offers veterans assistance and advocacy via county offices that can help veterans, surviving spouses, qualifying dependent children, and Gold Star families with VA claims, veteran education benefits, home loan assistance, outreach for “hard-to-reach veterans” and referral services.

    California County Veterans Affairs Offices
    Alameda Amador Butte Calaveras
    Colusa Contra Costa Del Norte El Dorado
    Fresno Glenn Humboldt Imperial
    Inyo/Mono Kern Kings Lake
    Lassen Los Angeles Madera Marin
    Mariposa Mendocino Merced Modoc
    Monterey Napa Nevada Orange
    Placer Plumas/Sierra Riverside Sacramento
    San Benito San Bernardino San Diego San Francisco
    San Joaquin San Luis Obispo San Mateo Santa Barbara
    Santa Clara Santa Cruz Shasta Siskiyou
    Solano Sonoma Stanislaus Tehama
    Trinity Tulare Tuoloumne Ventura
    Yolo Yuba-Sutter    
    Written by Team