By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several valuable services to military veterans. Ideally, people separating from the military should understand what VA benefits are available to them and how they could qualify for those benefits.
The History Behind Assisting Veterans
According to the VA website, the U.S. has the most comprehensive assistance programs for military veterans than any other country in the world. In fact, the VA has roots in the support of veterans as far back as the 1600s and 1700s.
For instance, the Pilgrims passed a law for disabled soldiers to be supported by the Massachusetts colony, and the Continental Congress of 1776 provided pensions to disabled soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Similarly, the federal government authorized the first medical facility for military veterans in 1811.
VA Healthcare Benefits for Veterans
There are various ways to qualify for VA benefits. If you served in the active military or reserves and you were discharged or released from the military under conditions other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA benefits.
If you are a veteran who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or you entered active duty after October 16, 1981, you are required to have served 24 continuous months or your full duty if you were called to active duty to be eligible for VA benefits. One exception is veterans who were discharged for hardship or a disability in the line of duty.
The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (also known as the Choice Act) created the Veterans Choice Program. This program allows eligible veterans to receive medical care from community healthcare providers that are closer to where they live versus needing to visit a VA medical center.
The Veterans Choice Program is an excellent benefit, because eligible veterans can more quickly obtain medical care without waiting for VA medical center availability. For more information on VA medical benefits and eligibility, you can contact the VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET or through the VA’s online application.
Other Benefits Offered by the VA
However, the VA provides much more benefits than just pensions and medical care. For example, qualified veterans may be able to obtain a VA Home Loan. This type of loan enables qualifying veterans to buy a home without a down payment. Also, competitive interest rates are offered with VA loans, there are no prepayment penalties and eligible veterans may be able to get a home loan without the expense of private mortgage insurance.
Additional VA benefits include education benefits and veterans life insurance. This life insurance replaces the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance when a military member separates from the service.
One of the biggest education benefits of the VA is the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Servicemembers who served on active duty for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001, may be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
A major advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is that fully eligible servicemembers may be able to transfer up to 36 months of education benefits to a spouse or dependent child. Other education benefits available through the VA include:
- The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship
- Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC)
- The Yellow Ribbon Program
- Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve
- The National Call to Service Program
- Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program
- Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
- The post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program
In addition, the VA offers:
- Education and career counseling
- Veteran-owned small business support
- VA transition assistance out of military service
- Assistance in seeking post-military service employment opportunities through the Jobs for Veterans Program
If you are a veteran who is eligible for VA programs and services, consider taking advantage of all of the benefits offered by the VA. You may need to research various programs and talk with VA benefits coordinators, and a good place to start is the Veterans Benefits Administration.