The Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits and services for veterans. In addition, several agencies provide benefits that veterans can use alongside those provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Such agencies include individual State Departments of Military and Veterans Affairs, State Employment Development Departments, and state education financial aid programs.
For personnel transitioning from the military to civilian life, understanding the various benefits and programs available to veterans may be confusing and just plain frustrating. Therefore, it is important to understand not only what is currently available, but also how each works both independently and collectively. Below are some benefits currently available.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Service-Connected Disability Compensation
Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are considered disabled due to physical and/or psychological injuries incurred while in the military. Since type and severity of injuries may vary amongst individuals, each case is handled on a case-by-case basis. As such, monthly amounts of compensation vary due to the percentage amount awarded to veterans who rate a disability rating.
V.A. Health Care
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers health care services for veterans and in some cases, at no charge. Stipulations such as service-connected disability percentages and type(s) of disability may warrant free medical coverage.
Montgomery G.I. Bill
The Montgomery G.I. Bill is the exclusive V.A. educational benefit for military personnel. Please note that the Montgomery G.I. Bill is not limited to college or university training. This benefit may also be applied toward apprenticeship, on-the-job-training, vocational flight training, and/or licensing or certification courses.
Vocational Rehabilitation/Ch. 31
Although similar to the Montgomery G.I. Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation is an education/training program covering all tuition, expenses, fees, and materials. Veterans must have a service-connected disability rating of at least 20% (although those with 10% may also qualify).
College Fund “Kicker”
Some branches of service offer the College Fund (also known as a “kicker”) as part of an enlistment or reenlistment contract, or for other reasons they determine. The College Fund is an additional amount of money that increases an individual’s basic monthly benefit and is included in his or her VA payment.
V.A. Work Study Program
Veterans attending school at least 3/4-time in a college, vocational, or professional program can “earn while you learn” through the VA work study program, working for the Department of Veterans Affairs and adjoining agencies.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or of Veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.
Social Security Administration
Social Security Disability Claims
Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security differ from those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.
State of California
Currently in the state of California, veterans rate Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits for a period of six months following discharge. Under certain circumstances, veterans may apply for extensions beyond this initial six month period. For regulations governing states other than California, please contact your state’s employment development office.
California Community Colleges Board of Governors Fee Waiver
For California residents who qualify, this waiver covers all tuition costs to California Community Colleges. Some community colleges also offer discounted rates for parking passes as well.
California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet)
CalVet Home Loans
If you are purchasing a home in California, you may be eligible to take advantage of a CalVet home loan. Benefits include a low interest rate on regular loans, low down payment, no limit to the number of times you can apply and receive a CalVet home loan, and no prior residency requirements.
College Tuition Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents
The College Tuition Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents benefit waives mandatory system-wide tuition and fees at any State of California Community College, California State University, or University of California campus. This program does not cover the expense of books, parking or room and board.