Do You Qualify for Veterans BenefitsUpdated: April 25, 2021
Do you qualify for veterans benefits? There are several factors that apply for those with questions about their eligibility.
A veteran with an honorable discharge qualifies, at the very least, for consideration when it comes to most federal benefits. But others in different circumstances may or may not qualify for veterans benefits depending on the nature of their circumstances.
Who Does Not Qualify For Veterans Benefits
Most anticipate that this section deals with people who left military service with discharges not characterized as Honorable. Believe it or not, even those with Dishonorable discharges may qualify for certain VA benefits, but definitely not all.
There is only one category of military service that does NOT qualify for veteran benefits across the board. That category is made up of those who did not complete basic training, troops who washed out of advanced training, etc.
Sometimes those who make it a bit farther along in the process but are ultimately released from their military obligations due to issues such as failure to adapt to a military training environment, etc.
In other words, those who do not make it past the initial training phase and wind up back in civilian life are not considered veterans and do not qualify for veteran benefits.
You must graduate basic training and meet the DoD standards for advanced training, OJT, or other requirements and be assigned to your first duty station as a “permanent party” member of that branch of service.
Do You Qualify For Veteran Benefits?
There are some basic types of applicants for certain veteran benefits:
- Dependent spouses
- Military spouses
- Veteran spouses
- Dependent children
Benefits for veterans are not necessarily offered to dependents, but there are several categories where they are provided. What follows is a list of common benefits, and who generally qualifies. Federal benefit rules are subject to change, what is found here is current at press time but always contact a VA representative to learn what the latest rules and requirements are.
Veterans Hiring Preference for Federal Jobs
Veterans with honorable discharges are offered hiring preference for federal jobs. Some family members may also be entitled to this preference depending on circumstances.
FedsHireVets.gov discusses something called Derived Preference which is a benefit for spouses, surviving spouses, and parents of a veteran who “may be eligible to claim veterans’ preference when the veteran is unable to use it,” adding that both parents and spouses may qualify for that preference at the same time under the right circumstances.
VA Home Loan Benefits
VA home loan benefits include a no-money-down mortgage with no VA-required mortgage insurance and no VA-required minimum FICO score.
The VA official site lists the criteria for VA home loan benefits which include a minimum time in uniform. This requirement varies depending on when you joined the military. Veterans who served the minimum time qualify for the VA loan program regardless of whether they are still serving or not.
VA literature reminds that to qualify for VA benefits, “the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under other than dishonorable conditions.”
Dependents are generally not entitled to VA home loan benefits. There is an exception for certain qualifying surviving spouses of military members who have died as a result of military service. These benefits must be applied for by the surviving spouse and are not automatic.
GI Bill Benefits / VA Education Benefits
This section can be confusing for those new to veteran benefits programs. For GI Bill benefits, there is a requirement that the applicant have an Honorable Discharge. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can be used by a veteran or currently serving military member.
They can be transferred to dependents including spouses and college-age children, but only while the service member is on active duty. Doing so requires a revised service commitment and you must serve a minimum time on active duty.
Other VA educational benefits programs such as Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance simply require the veteran’s discharge be anything other than Dishonorable.
VA Insurance Benefits
VA life insurance is provided specifically for the veteran. There is no discharge requirement for VGLI or Veterans Group Life Insurance. Service Disabled Veterans Life Insurance and Veterans Mortgage Insurance, no Dishonorable discharges are allowed.
VA Disability Compensation
VA disability pay itself is reserved for veterans. You must file a claim for service-connected medical conditions as part of your discharge process or shortly afterward, and the VA has the final determination as to what will be compensated, how, and for how long. Spouses and dependents do not qualify for this compensation.
That said, the VA official site reminds dependent spouses and children, “In certain cases, you may also qualify for health care benefits due to a disability related to your Veteran’s service”. Military members who qualify for VA compensation for their medical issues may also be entitled to additional financial consideration if they have a severely disabled spouse. This is handled on a case-by-case basis and is not automatic.
Primary caregivers including family members may qualify for VA disability benefits relating to the care of a disabled veteran.
VA Disability Pension
Anything other than a Dishonorable discharge qualifies a veteran to be considered for VA pension benefits and services.
The VA Disability Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans with limited income who are no longer able to work. In this case, “wartime” includes the Gulf War era which began on Aug. 2, 1990 and has no end date at the time of this writing.
You may be eligible for a VA disability pension if you served 90 days or more of active duty with at least one day of military service during a wartime period. However, those who serve today generally have to be on duty for 24 months or “the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty”.
Other qualifying criteria include being permanently and totally disabled or being age 65 or older with family income below a federal cap. Those without military discharges (civilian spouses, dependents) are not eligible to receive this specific VA benefit.
VA Medical Care
In general, a veteran must have any military discharge other than dishonorable conditions to qualify for VA health care. However, some veterans with Dishonorable discharges may still qualify. The VA will make a determination based on your application.
VA health care is limited in part by budgetary issues. To mitigate this, the VA established priority groups who would receive VA health care first, and who would fall in line behind them. You must apply for health care benefits to be considered, there is no automatic process.
Dependents and spouses may qualify for certain VA health care benefits. They include, but are not limited to:
- Surviving spouse
- Dependent child
- Family caregiver
Qualifying family members of active-duty, retired, or deceased service members including Guard and Reserve members may qualify for TRICARE. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Former spouses
- Medal of Honor recipients and their families
TRICARE offers health coverage for those with special needs.
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
Current spouses, surviving spouses, and children of qualifying deceased veterans or veterans with disabilities who do not qualify for TRICARE may still qualify for health insurance through CHAMPVA. This is a cost-sharing program.
The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program
Those who lived on U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station with an active-duty spouse or parent for “at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 through December 1987” may qualify for medical conditions related to contaminated drinking water in those areas.
If you have a medical condition associated with this contaminated water issue, you may qualify for VA health care benefits.
The Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program
“Biological children” of Korean War or Vietnam War veterans diagnosed with spina bifida may qualify for VA health care and disability benefits.
Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Benefits Program
Children of veterans of the Vietnam War diagnosed with “certain birth defects” may qualify for VA health care related to “covered birth defect and related medical conditions” according to VA.gov.
For those who qualify for CHAMPVA, Spina Bifida, and Children of Women Vietnam Veterans programs, may qualify for VA prescription benefits.
Burial in a VA National Cemetery
VA national cemetery burial benefits depend on the nature and duration of military service. A veteran who dies on active duty is eligible. So are those who served a minimum amount of time-in-service, those who have any discharge besides Dishonorable, and qualifying family members.
The VA official site states that VA burial benefits include “burial with the Veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the Veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family” according to the VA official site.
Military Funeral Honors
Funeral honors are separate from VA National Cemetery criteria, since all eligible veterans qualify for DoD-provided military funeral ceremonies including flag presentation, the playing of Taps, etc. Funeral honors such as these are offered for the servicemember.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News