Your Free Guide to Veterans Affairs Programs

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Your Free Guide to Veterans Affairs Programs

You will learn about:
  • The different programs available to veterans.
  • How to qualify and apply for each benefit.
  • Ways to contact the U.S. Department opf Veteran Affairs.

459 min – Estimated reading time

Your Free Guide to Veterans Affairs Programs

Your Free Guide to Veterans Affairs Programs

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VA and COVID-19

To limit the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the VA has taken steps to ensure the safety of participants as well as department employees. VA health facilities are open to treat both veterans and non-veterans with COVID-19 symptoms. All individuals entering a VA facility are required to wear a facemask. Those who are fully vaccinated may be allowed to remove their facemask during their visit when prompted by a doctor or other VA employee.

Many facilities also provide COVID-19 vaccines to the following individuals:

  • All veterans (including those living or traveling outside of the U.S. and those who are eligible for the VA Foreign Medical Program)
  • Spouses and surviving spouses of veterans
  • Caregivers of veterans (including family members or friends who provide care)
  • Recipients of Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) benefits
  • Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who receive CHAMPVA benefit or help provide care or assistance to a veteran

To get a COVID-19 vaccine, veterans must find a VA health facility that offers vaccinations. The VA allows any eligible individual to sign up for a vaccine through the department’s website here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/sign-up/introduction. If the VA has a vaccine available, it will contact the individual and assist him or her with the appointment process. 

Veterans and other eligible individuals may also find a VA health facility that offers walk-in vaccine appointments. Anyone interested in getting a vaccine through a walk-in appointment should verify the facility’s walk-in hours. Find the nearest VA facility using the search tool provided by the VA: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=health&serviceType=Covid19Vaccine

Some individuals may require a booster shot or additional dose to remain protected from COVID-19. The following individuals may require an additional dose:

  • If you had 2 doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot if you are at least 18 years of age and you completed your Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech primary vaccine series at least 6 months ago.
  • If you had a single dose of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot if you are at least 18 years of age and you received a Janssen (J&J) vaccine at least 2 months ago.

Veterans enrolled in VA health care who meet the CDC testing criteria can receive a COVID-19 test for free. The VA is currently waiving copayments for these tests. To be tested for COVID-19, you must contact your primary health care provider or schedule an appointment online here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/schedule-view-va-appointments/

Many VA facilities are conducting virtual health appointments, known as telehealth. Through this service, veterans can consult their physicians for minor illnesses or health conditions and be seen for regular checkups. 

What is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a federal agency that provides comprehensive health care, benefits, assistance programs and other services to veterans and their families. While it is operated at the federal level, the VA has facilities and centers located throughout the United States.

Types of Military Personnel

The VA provides benefits and services to military personnel in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. These branches are:

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • National Guard
  • Navy

Types of Military Discharges

A military discharge is issued when a military member is released from service. There are two types of military discharges.

Administrative Discharge 

This type of discharge is given by a discharge authority, such as a commanding officer. He or she is responsible for rating the veteran’s military service and providing a discharge status. Administrative discharges can be issued in the following categories:

  • Honorable Discharge – the veteran has met the standards of conduct and performance while enlisted in military service and completed his or her tour of duty or service contract.
  • General Discharge (under honorable conditions) – the veteran has met the requirements of service but may have minor disciplinary actions or failed to meet certain standards of the branch. The veteran’s military performance is considered satisfactory.
  • Other Than Honorable Discharge – the veteran had a pattern of poor behavior or conduct during service.
  • Entry-Level Separation – the veteran separated from service in less than 180 days. 

Punitive Discharge

This type of discharge is given by a court-martial, which is a military court or trial held when a military member is accused of breaking a military law. There are three types of punitive discharges:

  • Bad Conduct Discharge – this is given to enlisted personnel (officers cannot receive this type of discharge) who are convicted of breaking a military law.
  • Dismissal – this is given to military officers who are convicted of breaking a military law.
  • Dishonorable Discharge – the veteran has been convicted of one of the highest offenses, which are often accompanied by a prison sentence in a military prison.

For most VA benefits and programs, veterans are required to have an honorable or general (under honorable conditions) discharge status. However, some veterans may be able to receive benefits if the VA changes their discharge status. Learn more in the “How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade” section below.

Discharge vs. Separation

A military discharge differs slightly from a separation, which is the most common status upon leaving military service. A separation signifies the end of a military member’s active duty service, but does not mean it is necessarily the end of their military service altogether. Many military members separate from active duty and transition to serving in the reserves. 

VA Locations

The VA operates hundreds of facilities throughout the United States. To locate a VA facility in your area, use the search tool provided on the VA website here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

You can search by state, ZIP code or type of facility. Learn more about the types of VA facilities in the next section.

Types of VA Facilities

The VA operates and oversees several types of facilities, each of which provides different VA benefits and services. These are:

  • Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Facilities – these facilities provide health services, medical treatments and other benefits related to VA health care. Veterans can receive care at the following facilities:
    • VA Medical Centers
    • Community-Based Outpatient Clinics
    • Outpatient Clinics
    • Vet Centers
  • Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Facilities – these facilities provide financial, education, employment and life insurance benefits. VBAF includes the following types of facilities:
    • Regional benefit offices
    • Application intake centers
  • National Cemetery Administration (NCA) Facilities – these facilities oversee VA cemeteries throughout the U.S.
  • VA Central Offices – these offices serve as headquarters for specific programs within the VA.

VA Contact Information Directory

Department / ProgramAddressPhone NumberMain Website
Department of Veterans Affairs810 Vermont Ave., NW 
Washington, DC 20420
1-844-698-2311https://www.va.gov 
National Cemetery Administration810 Vermont Ave., NW 
Washington, DC 20420
1-800-698-2411https://www.cem.va.gov 
Veterans Health Administration810 Vermont Ave., NW 
Washington, DC 20420
1-877-222-8387https://www.va.gov/health/index.asp 
Veterans Benefits Administration1800 G St., NW Washington, DC 200061-800-827-1000https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/ 
Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC)810 Vermont Avenue NW Washington, DC 204201-855-829-6636www.womenshealth.va.gov 
Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV) Health Care Benefits ProgramP.O. Box 469065
Denver CO 80246-9065
888-820-1756https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/dependents/cwvv/index.asp 
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)P.O Box 469063 
Denver, CO 80246-9063
800-733-8387https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/dependents/champva/index.asp 
Fisher House Program12300 Twinbrook Pkwy Suite 410 
Rockville, MD 20852 
888-294-8560 https://fisherhouse.org 
GI Bill ProgramN/A1-888-442-4551https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/ 
GI Bill Program Regional Processing Office – Buffalo 
States under jurisdiction: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Foreign Schools.
130 S Elmwood Avenue Suite 601 Buffalo, NY 14202
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 4616
Buffalo, NY14240-4616
800-827-1000N/A
GI Bill Regional Processing Office – Muskogee
States under jurisdiction: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, Trust Territories/Philippines.
125 S Main Street
Muskogee, OK 74401
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 8888
Muskogee, OK74402-8888
800-827-1000N/A
TRICARE EastP.O. Box 7981
Madison, WI 53707-7981
1-800-444-5445https://www.humanamilitary.com
TRICARE WestP.O. Box 202112
Florence, SC  29502-2112
1-844-866-9378https://www.tricare-west.com

Crisis Line and Suicide Prevention

The Veterans Crisis Line and National Suicide Prevention Hotline have merged into one toll-free service. It connects veterans in distress with qualified emergency responders and provides referrals to VA Suicide Prevention Coordinators. These lines are operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help veterans access the crucial care they need. 

Call 1-800-273-8255, then press 1 to be connected.

Or, text 838255 to message a responder.

You can also chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat. The chat is confidential.

Types of Benefits

types-of-benefits

The VA provides a wealth of benefits, including health care, to veterans, active military personnel, retirees and their families. Some benefits are reserved for specific individuals based on their military status. 

Benefits for Veterans

Benefits for Active Service Members

Time Sensitive VA Benefits to Consider When Separating or Retiring

Benefits for Spouses, Dependents and Survivors

Benefits for Caretakers

VA Health Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care coverage to military members, veterans and their families.Through the VA, beneficiaries can receive treatment and services for a variety of medical conditions at locations around the country. 

What if I’m just separating from active duty and don’t know where to start?

If you are just separating from active duty, you will be transitioning out of TRICARE coverage (health care coverage for active duty military members) and into another type of health care plan. Your eligibility for VA health care or other coverage options depends largely on your military service history.

If your service included the following missions or operations, you are eligible for free VA health care for service-connected conditions for five years:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
  • Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq

To qualify for this enhanced eligibility period, all of the following must be true:

  • You served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998
  • You were discharged or released from active duty service on or after January 29, 2003
  • You did not receive a dishonorable discharge
  • Your eligibility is verified by the following documents and items:
    • Military service documentation 
    • Receipt of combat service medals
    • Receipt of combat tax exemption, imminent danger or hostile fire pay

If you qualify for enhanced eligibility, you will be enrolled immediately in the priority eligibility group 6 (unless you qualify for a higher eligibility group). Learn more about priority eligibility groups in the “Health Care Eligibility Priority Groups” section of this guide. 

Otherwise, continue reading the sections below to learn about VA Health Care services, costs, application procedures and more.

VA Health Care Contact Information

VA Health Care

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Phone number: 1-877-222-8387

Secure Messaging Services

Most veterans who qualify for VA health care can utilize secure messaging to communicate privately with their health care team. To be eligible for this service, veterans must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in VA health care
  • Be currently registered as a patient in a VA health facility
  • Their VA health provider agrees to communicate through secure messaging

Also, veterans must have at least one of the following free accounts:

Secure messaging means that veterans’ information is not stored or shared. It is available through the computer and mobile phones 24/7. Veterans can utilize this service to:

  • Ask non-emergency health questions. 
  • Manage appointments and schedules.
  • Provide updates about their condition.
  • Renew prescriptions.
  • Request health referrals.
  • Ask for directions to the facility.
  • Receive health education information from the Veterans Health Library.

Participants cannot use secure messaging services to discuss urgent or emergency health care services. 

Health Care Eligibility Priority Groups

health-care-eligibility-groups

Veterans who are eligible for VA health care are placed into one of eight priority groups, which are applicant categories that determine how quickly individuals can begin accessing health care benefits and the cost of receiving care. Applicants are divided into these groups based on their:

  • Military service history.
  • VA disability rating.
  • Income.
  • Eligibility for Medicaid.
  • Eligibility for other VA benefits. 

Veterans who have service-connected disabilities are given the highest priority, while those without disabilities and a higher income are given the lowest priority. Veterans who qualify for more than one priority group will be assigned to the highest one.

Continue reading the sections below to learn more about the requirements for each priority group.

Priority Group 1

Veterans may be assigned to group 1 if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a service-connected disability with a rating of 50 percent or more
  • Have a service-connected disability that makes them unable to work (also known as unemployable)
  • Received a Medal of Honor (MOH)

Priority Group 2

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 2 if they have a service-connected disability with a rating of 30 or 40 percent disabling. Refer to the “VA Disability Ratings” section to learn how the VA issues disability ratings. 

Priority Group 3

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 3 if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

  • They are a former prisoner of war (POW)
  • They received the Purple Heart medal
  • They were discharged due to a disability caused by (or worsened by) active-duty military service
  • They have a service-connected disability with a VA rating of 10 or 20 percent disabling
  • They were awarded special eligibility classification under “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation”

Priority Group 4

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 4 if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

  • They are receiving VA aid and attendance or housebound benefits
    • These are monthly payments for individuals who require help with daily activities or who cannot leave their homes due to their disability.
  • They are “catastrophically disabled” as determined by the VA
    • This determination is issued to veterans who have a severely disabling injury or disorder that permanently affects their ability to perform basic, daily activities

Priority Group 5

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 5 if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Do not have a service-connected disability, or have a non-compensable service-connected disability with a VA disability rating of 0 percent, and a low annual income
  • Receive VA pension benefits
  • Are eligible for Medicaid

Priority Group 6

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 6 if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a compensable service-connected disability with a VA disability rating of 0 percent
  • Were exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Participated in Project 112/SHAD
  • Served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
  • Served in the Persian Gulf War between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998
  • Served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987

Veterans may also be assigned to group 6 if all of the following are true:

  • They are currently or newly enrolled in VA health care
  • They served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, or were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003
  • Were discharged less than 5 years ago 

Priority Group 7

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 7 if they meet both of the following eligibility criteria:

Priority Group 8

Veterans may be assigned to priority group 8 if they meet both of the following eligibility criteria:

For veterans who are assigned to priority group 8, eligibility for VA health care benefits will depend on which subpriority group they are placed in. 

Subpriority Group A

Veterans may be placed in this subpriority group if they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a non-compensable service-connected condition rated as 0 percent disabling
  • Enrolled in the VA health care program before January 16, 2003
  • Maintained enrollment since that date and/or were placed in this subpriority group due to a change in eligibility status
Subpriority Group B

Veterans may be placed in this subpriority group if they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a non-compensable service-connected condition rated as 0 percent disabling
  • Enrolled in the VA health care program before June 15, 2009
  • Have income that exceeds current VA or geographical limits by 10 percent or less
Subpriority Group C

Veterans may be placed in this subpriority group if they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Do not have a service-connected disability
  • Enrolled in the VA health care program as of January 16, 2003
  • Maintained enrollment since that date and/or were placed in this subpriority group due to a change in eligibility status
Subpriority Group D

Veterans may be placed in this subpriority group if they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Do not have a service-connected disability
  • Enrolled in the VA health care program on or after June 15, 2009
  • Have income that exceeds current VA or geographical limits by 10 percent or less
Subpriority Group E

Veterans in this subpriority group are only eligible for care that directly treats their service-connected condition; they do not qualify for general VA health care benefits. Veterans may be placed in this subpriority group if they meet both of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a non-compensable service-connected condition rated as 0 percent disabling
  • Do not meet the criteria for Subpriority Groups A or B

VA Income Limits

Depending on the priority eligibility group into which a veteran is placed, he or she may need to meet annual income guidelines. These income limits are determined by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and may change yearly to reflect changes in cost of living. 

The table below shows the current VA national income threshold based on the total number of dependents a veteran is claiming. The limits for the 2021 fiscal year are the most recent limits established by the VA; limits are based on income for 2020.

Veteran With…VA National Income Threshold
0 dependents$34,616 or less
1 dependent$41,539 or less
2 dependents$43,921 or less
3 dependents$46,303 or less
4 dependents$48,685 or less
For each add’l dependent, add:$2,382

Applying for Health Care Services

Before receiving any VA health care benefits, you must apply to the program. The application process requires you to verify your VA eligibility, gather necessary documents, provide certain personal and military information and submit an application. 

How to Apply for VA Health Care

apply-for-va-healthcare

You can apply for VA health care in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By phone
  • By mail
  • In person

Continue reading the sections below for step-by-step instructions for each application method. 

Apply Online

1. Visit the VA’s “Apply for Health Care Benefits” online portal here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction

You may sign into your VA.gov account before starting the application if you wish to save your progress and return to the application at a later time. You have 60 days to continue an application.

2. Gather all required documents and information. Refer to the “Information and Documents Needed to Apply” section for a list.

3. Enter all information as prompted.

4. Receive a decision in the mail within one week.
If more than one week has passed since you applied, call the VA at 877-222-8387. Do not apply again. 

Apply by Phone

Call the VA at 1-877-222-8387 Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 8 PM ET.

Apply by Mail

  1. Download, print and complete the Application for Health Benefits (VA Form 10-10EZ) here: https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/10-10EZ-fillable.pdf 
  2. Sign and date the form.
    If you are using a power of attorney (someone who has written consent to sign official forms and documents on your behalf), you must submit a copy of the Power of Attorney form along with your application. Download the form here: https://www.va.gov/geriatrics/docs/vha-10-0137-fill-2-26-20.pdf 

    If you sign with an “X,” two people you know must witness your signature. They will also need to sign and print their names on the form.
  3. Mail the completed application to:
    Health Eligibility Center
    2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200
    Atlanta, GA 30329

Apply in Person

  1. Download, print and complete the Application for Health Benefits (VA Form 10-10EZ) here: https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/10-10EZ-fillable.pdf 
  2. Sign and date the form. 
    If you are using a power of attorney (someone who has written consent to sign official forms and documents on your behalf), you must submit a copy of the Power of Attorney form along with your application. Download the form here: https://www.va.gov/geriatrics/docs/vha-10-0137-fill-2-26-20.pdf 
    If you sign with an “X,” two people you know must witness your signature. They will also need to sign and print their names on the Application for Health Benefits form.
  3. Bring the completed application to your local VA office. 
    Use the locator tool here to search for an office near you: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

Information and Documents Needed to Apply for VA Health Care

During the application process, you will need to provide the following documents and information:

  • Your most recent tax return
  • Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for yourself and dependents
  • A copy of your military discharge papers (DD-214 or other separation documents)
  • Refer to the “Records” section of this guide for more information. 
  • Financial information for yourself and your dependents
  • Account numbers for any current health insurance coverage you may already have (such as private insurance, Medicare or employer-sponsored health insurance)

After You Apply for VA Health Care

Once you have applied for VA health care, the VA will mail you a letter notifying you if your application has been approved. You should receive this letter within one week from applying for benefits. If more than a week has passed, do not re-apply; call the VA’s toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387.

If your application is approved, you will receive a welcome call from the VA. During this call, you will learn how to schedule your first doctor’s appointment and get answers to any questions you may have. 

You will also receive a VA health care handbook in the mail containing information about your specific health care benefits and any copayments. These benefits vary depending on your priority eligibility group. Learn more about eligibility groups in the “Health Care Eligibility Priority Groups” section of this guide.

You need to get your Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), which you will use during check-in at your VA medical appointments. You can obtain your VHIC in one of two ways:

  1. Contact your local VA medical center and speak to the enrollment coordinator.
  2. Request your VHIC at your next VA health care appointment.

If your application for VA health care is denied, and you believe that the denial is a mistake, you may request a decision review. The letter you receive from the VA will include a reason for your application denial.

It will also include instructions on how to initiate a decision review, which is sometimes referred to as an “appeal.” To learn more about application denials and decision reviews, see the “Health Care Denials and Appeals” section below.

Health Care Denials and Appeals

THE BELOW DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. THIS GUIDE IS NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING PROGRAMS, PLEASE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OR THE VA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE NUMBERS PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE.

If you disagree with a decision that the VA makes regarding your eligibility for VA health care, you have the right to request a decision review with the VA. 

The VA appeal process recently changed in 2019 from the legacy appeal process to the decision review process. In most cases, you will follow the decision review process, as the timeline for using the old legacy appeal process was one year from the date of expiration. The last acceptable day to file a claim dated for the old appeal system was February 18, 2019. However, if you are in the middle of an appeal that was initiated before the system changed, you can continue following the old system. 

You have three options for appealing a VA decision.

Supplemental Claim

Choose this option when you have new, relevant evidence to present to overturn a decision. Evidence is considered new when the VA did not have it prior to making the decision, and relevant when it can prove or disprove something in your claim. 

To file a Supplemental Claim, complete Form 20-0995 (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-20-0995-ARE.pdf) using the steps outlined below:

  1. Select a benefit type.
    In Part I of the form, choose the benefit type you are appealing. Your VA decision letter will advise you of the benefit type. You can only select one benefit type.  
  2. List the issue you want the VA to review.
    In Part II of the form, include the decision that you disagree with and the date that the decision was made.
  3. Gather new and relevant evidence to submit.
    Attach any and all supporting documents that you have. Or, identify any evidence that you would like the VA to collect on your behalf. 
  4. Submit the form in one of the following ways.
    • Mail it to the address that matches the benefit type listed in Part I of the form. You can find the address in your VA decision letter.
    • Bring the form to a VA office near you. Search for an office here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

Higher-Level Review 

Choose this option when you do not have any new evidence to submit. With this option, a senior reviewer will speak to you and analyze your case for a difference of opinion or to find possible errors. 

To file a Higher-Level Review, complete Form 20-0996 (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-20-0996-ARE.pdf) using the steps outlined below:

  1. Select a benefit type.
    In Part I of the form, choose the benefit type you are appealing. Your VA decision letter will advise you of the benefit type. You can only select one benefit type.  
  2. Request an informal conference with the reviewer.
    This is an optional step if you wish to speak with the reviewer over the phone to discuss why you think the decision should be changed and identify errors. To schedule an informal conference, provide a phone number and select the best times for a call in Part II of the form. A reviewer will call 2 to 4 weeks after the VA processes your request.
  3. List the issue you want the VA to review.
    In Part II of the form, include the decision that you disagree with and the date that the decision was made.
  4. Submit the form in one of the following ways.
    • Mail it to the address that matches the benefit type listed in Part I of the form. You can find the address in your VA decision letter.
    • Fax the form to (844) 531-7818. 
    • Bring the form to a VA office near you. Search for an office here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

Board Appeal 

Choose this option when you wish to have your case reviewed by a judge of veteran laws. You have three options for your board appeal request:

  • Option 1: Request a Direct Review
    A Veterans Law Judge will review your appeal based on evidence already submitted. You cannot submit new evidence and are not eligible for a hearing.
  • Option 2: Submit More Evidence
    Submit evidence within 90 days of the date the VA receives Form 10182, Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (continue reading to access the form below).
  • Option 3: Request a Hearing
    You can request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge and add new and relevant evidence during that time. Evidence can be entered at the hearing or within 90 days after the hearing. You have three options you can choose from for the hearing:
    • A virtual hearing at your home
    • A videoconference hearing at a VA location near you
    • An in-person hearing at the Board Office in Washington, D.C.

To file a Board Appeal, complete Form 10182 (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA10182.pdf) using the steps outlined below:

  1. Select a board appeal option.
    In Part II of the form, check off the option you wish to use.
  2. List the issue you want the VA to review.
    In Part III of the form, including the decision that you disagree with and the date that the decision was made.
  3. Submit the form in one of the following ways.
    • Mail the form to:
      Board of Veterans’ Appeals
      P.O. Box 27063
      Washington, D.C. 20038
    • Fax the form to (844) 678-8979.

Steps to Take After You Request One of the Three Decision Review Options From Above

appeals
  1. Choose your decision review option.
  2. Receive a decision packet.
    After the VA reviews your request for a decision review,  you will receive a packet containing the outcome. You can expect to receive the packet within four to five months after filing a Supplemental Claim or requesting a Higher-Level Review. It can take more than a year to receive your decision when filing a Board Appeal.
  3. Continue the appeal (if applicable).
    If you disagree with the result of your appeal, you can utilize one of the other appeal options that you did not already use. For example, if you filed a Supplemental Claim first, you may choose to request a Higher-Level Review or a Board Appeal. Or, if you have already received a Board Appeal decision (specifically), you can file with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
    Follow the steps below to file:
    • Complete a Notice of Appeal (NOA) within 120 days using the form found on the U.S. Court of Appeals website: www.uscourts.cavc.gov/documents/Form_1.pdf.
    • Submit payment for the $50 nonrefundable filing fee, paid by check or money order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
    • Submit the NOA and the filing payment to:
      Clerk of the Court
      United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
      625 Indiana Ave. NW, Suite 900
      Washington D.C., 20004-2950

The NOA can also be sent by fax or email. 
Fax: (202) 501-5848
Email: esubmission@uscourts.cavc.gov (for those represented by a lawyer) or self-rep@uscourts.cavc.gov (for those who are self-represented).

Legacy Appeals

If you are in the middle of an appeal that was started before the system changed in 2019, you may follow the old Legacy Appeal process. 

  1. File a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  2. Receive a Statement of Case.
    Your local VA office will send you a Statement of Case explaining the decision. Then, you may submit evidence or request the VA to review evidence of why you disagree with their denial. The VA will send a Supplemental Statement of Case for any evidence reviewed.
  3. File an appeal.
    For a Statement of Case dated before February 19, 2019, you must continue with the legacy appeals process by completing and submitting VA Form 9 (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA9.pdf) to a regional office within 60 days. For a Statement of Case dated on or after February 19, 2019, you may continue with the legacy appeal process or opt into the new decision review appeal process.
  4. Wait for the VA Board of Veterans Appeals decision.
    The Board can either grant, remand or deny your appeal. A remand requires more information to make a decision, meaning the appeal process will continue until the Board makes a concrete decision. If your claim is denied, you have several options:
    1. To file a new claim,
    2. To file a motion for a reconsideration,
    3. To file a motion for the Board to review your appeal again, or
    4. To file a Notice of Appeals with the United States Court of Appeal for Veterans Claims.

After Submitting a Decision Review Request

After you submit a decision review request, you do not need to do anything else unless the VA requests that you send more information. 

You can check the status of your request online by logging into your account with your DS Logon, My HealtheVet, or ID.me login information here: https://www.va.gov/claim-or-appeal-status/. If you do not have a VA.gov account, register for one here: https://api.id.me/en/registration/new 

Once you are logged into your account, follow the steps below to see the status of your appeal:

  1. Go to your “My VA” dashboard in the top right corner of the page.
  2. Scroll down to the “Track Claims” section
    • In this section, you will see a summary of the latest status information for any open appeals you have.
  3. Click the “View Status” button for a specific appeal.
    • You will see the status and any supporting evidence that you submitted.

Your Health Care Costs

health-care-costs

The cost of VA health care depends on your priority eligibility group as well as your treatment needs. You will receive free healthcare for any treatment or service to treat an illness or injury that is related to your service-connected disability. 

However, you may be responsible for making copayments for some services. A copayment (or copay) is a set amount of money that you pay to receive medical care, services or treatment. Copayments vary depending on the type of service or treatment you need. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about copay rates for each type of VA health care service.

VA Health Care Copay Rates

Copay rates vary depending on the type of treatment you need. They vary among the following services and treatments:

  • Urgent care
    • Minor illnesses and injuries that require immediate care
  • Outpatient care
    • Care received in a medical facility that does not require an overnight stay
  • Inpatient care
    • Care that requires an admission for an overnight stay
  • Medication
    • Prescription (prescribed by your doctor) and over-the-counter drugs (medicine you can buy without a prescription)
  • Geriatric and Extended Care (GEC)
    • Care for the elderly and long-term health services
  • Maternity care
    • Care for pregnant and postpartum women

Urgent Care Copay Rates

There is no limit on the amount of times you can use urgent care. To be eligible for urgent care coverage, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in VA health care 
  • Received care from the VA within the past 24 months (two years)
Priority GroupCopay Amount for First 3 Visits Per YearCopay Amount for Each Additional Visit in the Same Year
1 to 5$0 (no copay) $30
6If related to a condition that’s covered by a special authority*: $0 (no copay) 
If not related to a condition covered by a special authority*: $30 each visit
$30
7 to 8$30$30

*Special authorities are conditions that are related to military service and exposures (like Agent Orange, active duty at Camp Lejeune, ionizing radiation, Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense [SHAD/Project 112], Southwest Asia Conditions) as well as military sexual trauma (MST), psychosis and other related mental illness.

Outpatient Care Copay Rates

If you have a service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or higher, you do not have a copay for outpatient care. Otherwise, your copay is outlined in the table below.

Type of Outpatient CareCopay Amount Per Visit
Primary care services $15
Specialty care services $50
Specialty tests$50 per test

Inpatient Care Copay Rates

If you have a service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or higher, you do not have a copay for inpatient care. 

If you are in priority group 7 or 8, you will need to pay either a full or reduced copayment. If you live in a high-cost area, you may qualify for a reduced copay rate no matter what priority group you are in. To see if you are eligible for a reduced inpatient copay, call the VA at (877) 222-8387 Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 8 PM.

Priority Group 7: Reduced Copayment Rates
Length of StayCopay Amount
First 90 days of care during a 365-day period$311.20 copay + $2 charge per day
Each additional 90 days of care during a 365-day period $155.60 copay + $2 charge per day
Priority Group 8: Full Copayment Rate
Length of StayCopay Amount
First 90 days of care during a 365-day period$1,556 copay + $10 charge per day
Each additional 90 days of care during a 365-day period$778 copay + $10 charge per day

Medication Copay Rates

If you are in priority group 1, you do not have a copay for any medications. 

If you are in priority groups 2 through 8, you need to pay copays for the following medications:

  • Prescription medications to treat non-service-connected conditions
  • Over-the-counter medications you buy 

The cost of your medication copay depends on the type and amount of drugs you need. Medications are divided into “tiers,” which are categories of drugs based on whether the drug is:

  • Generic
    • “Preferred generic” drugs are those that are most commonly prescribed and are abundant. “Non-preferred” generic drugs are those that are less common and more expensive to find.
  • Over-the-counter
    • Drugs you can buy at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • Brand-name
    • The most expensive type of drug, which often has a generic counterpart.

The table below shows the copayment amounts for drugs in all three tiers, including the cost differential based on supply.

Medication Tier1-30 Day Supply31-60 Day Supply61-90 Day Supply
Tier 1 (preferred generic prescription medicines)$5$10$15
Tier 2 (non-preferred generic prescription medicines and some over-the-counter medicines)$8$16$24
Tier 3 (brand-name prescription medicines)$11$22$33

You have a copay cap, which is the maximum amount of money you need to spend on medication copayments per year, of $700. Once you hit your copy cap, you can receive your medications at no cost.

Geriatric and Extended Care (GEC) Copay Rates

You do not have a copay for geriatric and extended care services for the first 21 days of care in a 12-month period. Afterwards, you will pay a copayment based on:

  • The level of care you need
  • Your income information, which you provide during the GEC application process

The table below shows copay information for GEC services based on the level of care.

Level of CareTypes of Care IncludedCopay Amount per Day
Inpatient careShort-term or long-term stays in a community living center (formerly called nursing homes)
Overnight respite care (in-home or onsite care designed to give family caregivers a break, available up to 30 days each calendar year)
Overnight geriatric evaluations (evaluations by a team of health care providers to help you and your family decide on a care plan)
Up to $97
Outpatient careAdult day health care (care in your home or at a facility that provides daytime social activities, companionship, recreation, care, and support)
Daily respite care (in-home or onsite care designed to give family caregivers a break, available up to 30 days each calendar year)
Geriatric evaluations that do not require an overnight stay (evaluations by a team of health care providers to help you and your family decide on a care plan)
Up to $15
Domiciliary care for homeless veteransShort-term rehabilitation
Long-term maintenance care
Up to $5

Maternity Care Copay Rates

maternity-care

The VA covers a variety of maternity services and treatments for pregnant and postpartum women and their infants. Maternity copayments vary based on the type of service and priority eligibility group. The table below outlines current maternity copayments.

ServicesCopayment for Servicescolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspan
Priority Group 1Priority Goup 2Priority Group 3Priority Group 4Priority Group 5Priority Group 6Priority Group 7Priority Group 8
Breast Pumps and SuppliesNNNNNNNN
Education^NNNNN$15$15$15
Lab TestsNNNNNNNN
Labor & DeliveryNNNNNReduced* or Full** CopayReduced* CopayFull** Copay
Inpatient & Outpatient Newborn Care – Day of Birth & 7 Subsequent DaysNNNNNNNN
Postpartum ContraceptionNTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered Copay
Prenatal & Postpartum Visits***NNNNN$50$50$50
Prescriptions – VA PharmacyNTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered CopayTiered Copay
ProstheticsNNNNNNNN
Specialty ConsultationsNNNNN$50$50$50
Termination of PregnancyNot CoveredNot CoveredNot CoveredNot CoveredNot CoveredNot CoveredNot CoveredNot Covered
UltrasoundNNNNN$50$50$50

Services That Do Not Require Copays

The following services and treatments do not require copayments:

  • X-rays
  • Lab tests
  • Preventive screenings and immunizations
  • Individual and group mental health counseling (for combat veterans and their families)
  • Counseling and treatment for military sexual trauma (MST)
    • MST refers to sexual assault or threatening sexual harassment that occurred during military service. Learn more in the “Military Sexual Trauma” section of this guide.
  • Health exams to determine the risk for health problems linked to your military service
  • Flu (influenza) vaccines

Health Care Services

The VA health care program covers a variety of health care services and treatments. Depending on your priority group eligibility, you may receive coverage for all or some of these services. For more information about eligibility groups, see the “Health Care Eligibility Priority Groups” section of this guide.

Preventive Care Services

Preventive care refers to services that are meant to detect and prevent illness and disease. Through the VA health care program, you may be covered for the following types of preventive care:

  • Periodic medical exams
  • Dental care
  • Gender specific examsVision care
  • Hearing loss
  • Health education
  • Immunizations
  • Counseling on inheritance of genetically determined disease

Periodic Medical Exams

One of the most common preventive care services covered by the VA is a periodic medical exam, which screens for illness, injury and your risk of developing certain conditions. During the exam, your doctor will physically examine you to detect any abnormalities or risk factors.

He or she will also ask questions about how you perceive your health, and take into account any risk factors in your environment that could negatively affect your health. At the end of the exam, it is common for the physician to discuss positive health habits and educate you about your current health status.

Dental Care

Depending on your military service and personal situation, you may be eligible for dental care provided through the VA. To determine if you qualify for dental services, see the chart below:

Military Service / Personal SituationDental ClassCovered Services
Veteran with a service-connected disability and receives monthly disability compensationClass IAll necessary dental care
Former prisoner of war (POW)Class IICAll necessary dental care
Veteran with at least one service-connected disability with rating of 100 percent disabling;

Veteran is unable to work and has a service-connected disability with rating of 100 percent disabling

Note:  If you are being paid at the 100% disabling rate based on a temporary rating, you do not qualify for this benefit.
Class IVAll necessary dental care
Veteran served on active duty for at least 90 days during the Persian Gulf era 
All of the following must be true:
– You did not receive a dishonorable discharge
– You apply for dental care within 180 days of discharge
– Your DD-214 certificate of discharge does not show that you had a complete dental exam and received all necessary dental treatment before you were discharged
Class IIOne-time dental care 
Veteran has a service-connected non-compensable dental condition OR a disability due to combat wounds or service traumaClass IIAAny dental care necessary to ensure a functioning dentition (a working set of teeth)
Veteran’s dental care provider verifies that the dental condition is linked to a service-connected health condition and is making that condition worseClass IIIOnly dental care that treats the condition(s) that a VA dental care provider concludes are directly affecting service-connected disability
Veteran is actively enrolled in the Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) programClass VOnly dental care that a VA dental care provider concludes is needed to achieve at least one of the following goals:
– Makes it possible to be in the program
– Makes it possible to reach the goals of the program
– Prevents the veteran from having to stop participation in the employment program
– Helps get the veteran back to the employment program (if he or she had to stop)
– Makes it possible to get and adjust to a job during the period of employment assistance
– Makes it possible to be fully independent in daily living
Veteran gets VA care or is scheduled to receive inpatient care for a health condition and needs dental care for a dental issue that makes the health condition harder to treatClass VIOnly dental care that treats the dental issue that a VA dental care provider finds is making the health condition harder to treat
Veteran is enrolled in dental care through the Homeless Veterans Dental ProgramClass IIBOne-time dental care that a VA dental care provider concludes is necessary to achieve at least one of the following goals:
– Relieves pain
– Helps the veteran get a job
– Treats moderate, severe or complicated gingival and periodontal conditions, which are gum infections that can lead to pain, swelling and bone and tooth loss if not treated
Veteran receives inpatient care in a hospital, nursing home or other home setting (known as domiciliary care)Inpatient statusOnly dental care that a VA dental care provider, working with the primary care provider, concludes is necessary to manage a current health condition

Gender Specific Exams

The VA covers gender-specific examinations, some of which are routine and provided through preventive care services. The purpose of these examinations is to screen for any health risks and ensure both male and female veterans are receiving whole-body health care.

The VA covers the following gender-specific exams for female veterans:

  • Papanicolaou tests (Pap smears)
  • Breast examinations
  • Pelvic examinations
  • Osteoporosis screenings
  • Cervical cancer screenings

The VA provides comprehensive care for women veterans. To learn about additional health care services for women, see the “Women’s Health” section of this guide.

The VA covers the following gender-specific exams for male veterans:

  • Prostate exams

Vision Care

vision-care

All veterans who qualify for VA health care are covered for routine eye exams and preventive vision tests, such as screenings for glaucoma. However, the VA will only cover the cost of eyeglasses for veterans who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Veteran has a compensable (meaning the veteran is receiving VA disability payments) service-connected disability
  • Veteran is a former prisoner of war (POW)
  • Veteran was awarded a Purple Heart
  • Veteran receives benefits under Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) 1151
    • This payment program is for veterans whose disability, illness or injury became worse while getting VA care or participating in a VA program.
  • Veteran receives an increased pension based on being permanently housebound and in need of regular aid and attendance

Veterans who do not meet the above criteria can qualify for free eyeglasses if they have one of the following conditions:

  • Vision problems caused by an illness (or the treatment of an illness) for which they are receiving VA care, such as:
    • Diabetes
    • Stroke
    • Vascular disease (a group of diseases that affect blood vessels)
    • Geriatric chronic illnesses (long-lasting illnesses affecting older veterans)
    • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Vision problems caused by an injury (or the treatment of an injury) for which they are receiving VA care, such as:
    • A negative reaction to a prescribed medication
    • Cataract surgery or other surgeries for the eye, ear or brain
    • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or polytrauma (injuries to more than one body part or organ)
  • Functional impairment to a body part that makes it difficult to do everyday tasks
  • Cognitive impairment (memory or thinking problems) that makes it difficult to do everyday tasks
  • Vision and/or hearing loss (dual sensory impairment) that interferes with the ability to care for oneself, and eyeglasses would help reduce the impact of the impairment

Hearing Loss

The VA covers services and items used to detect and treat hearing loss. These services are grouped under the umbrella of audiology, which is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of hearing disorders.

Veterans experiencing hearing loss can receive the following treatment options at VA facilities throughout the country:

  • Hearing aids
    • Small battery-operated devices placed in or behind the ear that are customized to amplify select sounds according to the person’s hearing loss pattern
  • Personal amplifiers
    • Non-customizable devices that amplify all environmental sounds
  • Cochlear implants
    • Small electronic devices that consist of an external portion that sits behind the ear and an internal portion that is surgically implanted under the skin

To determine the best solution for hearing loss, veterans must undergo a hearing evaluation at an Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic. The VA has clinics throughout the United States. To find a clinic that provides audiology services near you, use the facility search tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “VA Health.” From the “Service Type” drop-down menu, select “Audiology.”

If a veteran is determined to need any of the above hearing assistive technologies, the devices, repairs, replacements and future batteries will be covered at no cost to the veteran as long as he or she maintains eligibility for VA health care.

Health Education

The VA provides resources that veterans can use to educate themselves on various aspects of good health. The National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which is operated by the VA, has a website that allows veterans to learn more about how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The Healthy Living webpage has a list of topics that veterans and their families can read to learn more about promoting a healthy lifestyle. The topics are:

  • Sleeping well
  • Getting recommended screening tests and immunizations
  • Being involved in your health care
  • Managing stress
  • Being tobacco free
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Being safe
  • Striving for a healthy weight
  • Being physically active
  • Eating wisely

By clicking on any of the topics listed on the webpage, veterans will be brought to another webpage containing information and resources about that particular topic. Access the webpage here: https://www.prevention.va.gov/Healthy_Living/index.asp

Immunization

Immunization is the process of strengthening an immune response via a vaccination (although the terms are often used interchangeably). There are many viral infections and diseases that can be prevented through immunization. VA health care covers immunization against infectious diseases. Learn more about vaccinations in the “Vaccines and Immunizations” section of this guide.

Counseling on Inheritance of Genetically Determined Disease

Some veterans may benefit from genetic counseling, which is a method of analyzing one’s personal and family health history to determine if genetic conditions are present and, if they are, the likelihood of developing such conditions.

The following are the most common reasons for undergoing genetic counseling:

  • Managing one’s health
    • Veterans who are showing signs or symptoms of a condition that is linked to a family member’s health can use genetic counseling to determine the root cause.
  • Planning for pregnancy
    • Veterans who are planning on starting a family can benefit from genetic counseling to address any questions or concerns that could affect the baby or mother during pregnancy.
  • Caring for children
    • Veterans with children can benefit from the education obtained through genetic counseling to spot early signs or symptoms of genetic conditions.

Inpatient Hospital Services

VA health care covers inpatient hospital services. These services are provided to veterans who are admitted into a hospital or similar setting, usually overnight for one or more days.

Treatment Services

VA inpatient coverage includes the following treatment services:

  • Surgeries
  • Medical treatments
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Acute care
    • This is short-term treatment for a severe illness or injury or care rendered after surgery

Specialized Care Units

VA health care also covers care rendered at specialized or intensive care units. Veterans can receive the following specialized treatment services:

  • Organ transplants
  • Intensive care
  • For both mental and physical conditions
  • Care for traumatic injuries

Mental Health Care Services

mental-health-care

The VA covers an array of mental health care services for veterans and their families. The goal of comprehensive mental health care is to prevent, diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

Trauma refers to a distressing or disturbing event that causes lasting psychological effects. Many veterans experience trauma while completing their military service. Trauma can have a deep, lasting impact on one’s mental health and can result in posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is one of the most common mental health conditions among veterans. Understanding how trauma affects mental health can help veterans manage and treat the symptoms of PTSD. Learn more about this condition in the “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” section of this guide.

Mental Health Problems

The VA’s mental health care initiative provides services to treat a variety of mental health problems and conditions. Additionally, the VA has a 24-7 hotline that veterans and their families can use to receive immediate care and assistance. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to access resources and find help. Contact the Veterans Crisis Line by:

Continue reading the sections below to learn more about each mental health condition.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which a veteran experiences noticeable swings in energy, mood or hours of sleep needed. It involves periods of high energy lasting for several days, known as manic or hypomanic episodes. This is generally followed by long-lasting periods of low moods, known as depressive episodes.

Individuals experiencing manic episodes often experience the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of extreme energy
  • Increase in mood
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Higher level of activity
  • Little need for sleep

Individuals experiencing depressive episodes often experience the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep schedule
  • Lower interest in typical activities or hobbies
Depression

Depression is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences intense sadness, loneliness or hopelessness. The most common symptoms are:

  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Losing interest in daily activities
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Feeling tired almost every day
  • Lacking energy
  • Feeling guilty or self-conscious
  • Eating more or less than usual almost every day

Most veterans experiencing depressive disorder manage it with a combination of medication and psychotherapy, otherwise known as “talk therapy.” Talk therapy is divided into the following categories:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is meant to help veterans understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. During CBT, they will learn new patterns of thinking and practice positive behaviors like exercise, relaxation techniques and socialization.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which helps veterans learn how to combat their struggles with emotional pain. Through ACT, they learn how to recognize, commit to and achieve their goals.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which helps veterans promote positive relationships and learn how to solve problems within their own personal relationships.

Medication can be used to treat the symptoms of depression. Doctors often prescribe antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications and medications to improve sleep.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition in which individuals feel continually worried or anxious about events or activities in their daily lives. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of GAD are:

  • Excessive worrying about everyday decisions
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Feeling jumpy or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trembling or twitching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling dizzy, nauseous or lightheaded
  • Difficulty sleeping

GAD is commonly managed through the use of medication. Anti-anxiety medications reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines. It is important to consult a physician before starting, stopping or changing medications.

Another common treatment for GAD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This short-term treatment plan helps veterans learn about and understand the anxiety they experience. They will learn how to manage their thoughts and feelings and identify certain beliefs that add to their distress.

Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment and threats that occurred during a veteran’s military service. MST can happen to both men and women. It is often linked with other health conditions, such as depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and thoughts of suicide

The VA offers the following channels of treatment to help veterans who experience MST:

  • Treatment for physical and mental conditions linked to MST at VA medical facilities
    • Find a medical center near you by using the VA facility locator tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “VA Health.” From the “Service Type” drop-down menu, select “Mental Health.”
  • Free, confidential counseling at Vet Centers throughout the country.
    • Find a Vet Center near you by using the VA facility locator tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “Vet Centers.”
  • Specialized outpatient mental health services focused on sexual trauma
  • Specialized MST treatment in a residential or inpatient setting for veterans who require intensive care.
Specific Phobias

A phobia is an intense fear in response to a particular subject or activity. Phobias are often linked with anxiety disorders, as the fear itself evokes similar symptoms. Like general anxiety disorder (GAD), veterans can manage their phobia through therapy. They will learn how to recognize the fear and cope with it to prevent it from affecting their day-to-day lives.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
posttraumatic-stress-disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that develops after an individual experiences or witnesses a life-threatening event. PTSD is one of the most common conditions among veterans, especially those involved in combat.

PTSD can occur days, months or years after the triggering event. It is characterized by the following primary symptoms:

  • Reliving the event
  • Avoiding things that serve as reminders of the event
  • Having more negative feelings or thoughts than before the event
  • Feeling on edge

There are two main courses for the treatment of PTSD:

  1. Medication
    • Many veterans with PTSD have a low level of certain chemicals in the brain that help manage stress. Medications can help raise these chemical levels. It is common for veterans to try several different medications to find one that works. Medications can treat PTSD symptoms alone or with therapy, but only therapy treats the underlying cause of symptoms.
  2. Trauma-focused psychotherapies
    • This treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. There are three different types of psychotherapies that help treat PTSD:
      • Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy invites thoughts, feelings and situations that a veteran has been avoiding in order for him or her to gain control over them.
      • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) identifies negative thoughts and feelings and helps the veteran learn how to change the way he or she perceives them.
      • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) focuses on specific sounds or movements while the veteran talks about the traumatic event. Repeated sessions help the veteran work through negative memories and change the way he or she physically reacts.

All VA medical centers offer PTSD treatment, but only some have specific, comprehensive PTSD programs. Use the PTSD Program Locator tool to search for a facility that provides this program here: https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/PTSD.asp.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a condition in which an individual has a difficult time thinking clearly or making sense. The most common signs and symptoms of this condition are:

  • Changes in feelings and behaviors
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Delusions and misconceptions, like the feeling of being followed 
  • Seeing things that are not there
  • Difficulty feeling and expressing positive emotions
  • Limited facial expressions
  • Reduced eye contact
  • Difficulty completing daily tasks, like socializing or maintaining relationships
  • Slow thinking

There are two primary methods of treatment for schizophrenia:

  1. Medication 
    • The most common medication prescribed to individuals with schizophrenia is an antipsychotic medication. 
  2. Psychosocial treatments, which are therapy treatments that help individuals develop skills and support needed to be successful in their daily lives and cope with symptoms that may remain. Veterans may implement one or more of the following psychosocial treatments:
    1. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)
      • This type of therapy helps veterans access treatment regularly by providing clinicians who visit them in their home or in their local community. Within the VA, this approach is known as Intensive Community Mental Health Recovery (ICMHR) Services.
    2. Supported Employment
      • This service helps individuals with schizophrenia find and maintain a job. 
    3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
      • This type of therapy helps veterans understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
    4. Illness Management and Recovery (IMR)
      • This type of therapy helps veterans set goals and learn skills to support their mental health and recovery.
    5. Social Skills Training (SST)
      • In SST, veterans learn effective social skills that help their recovery. It involves education, creating an outline to reach goals, modeling, role-playing and group support.
Social Anxiety

Social anxiety refers to a phobia (fear) of social situations. It often prevents individuals from participating in activities or attending events. Like general anxiety disorder (GAD), veterans can manage social anxiety through medication and therapy, during which they will learn how to recognize and cope with anxiety to prevent it from affecting their day-to-day lives. 

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Misusing alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with stressful situations can lead to substance use disorders (SUD). These disorders can negatively impact an individual’s health, employment and personal relationships. 

The most common signs and symptoms of an SUD are:

  • Increased tolerance 
    • This refers to the need to drink more alcohol or use greater quantities of drugs to get the desired effect
  • Inability to stop drinking or using drugs despite negative consequences
  • Feeling sick when drinking or drug use stops

Veterans suffering from a SUD can receive psychotherapy, otherwise known as “talk therapy.” Talk therapy is divided into the following categories:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders (CBT-SUD) helps veterans reduce their substance use to improve their quality of life. During these sessions, veterans can learn how to manage the urge to drink or use drugs, effectively refuse the opportunity to use alcohol and drugs, take a problem-solving approach to substance use and achieve personal goals.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counseling session between the veteran and health care provider to examine the reasons why the veteran wants to make a change, and the positive effects of that change. 
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a type of MI that incorporates a brief assessment with feedback that narrows in on the substance use. This treatment method is generally implemented in the beginning stages, when the veteran is considering making changes or is unsure about the extent of their substance use.

Another treatment method for individuals with an SUD is known as contingency management, or CM. In this method, veterans are rewarded for abstinence (the lack of drugs or alcohol in their bodies). When they pass a drug test, they receive the reward.

Medication may be prescribed for individuals with an SUD. This medication can help reduce cravings for drugs or alcohol, prevent relapse and reduce the risk of death from substance use disorder.

Suicide Prevention

Veterans who are experiencing a mental health crisis and have thoughts of suicide or are thinking of hurting themselves can get immediate help from the VA. The Veterans Crisis Line and National Suicide Prevention Hotline have merged into one toll-free service. It connects veterans in distress with qualified emergency responders and provides referrals to VA Suicide Prevention Coordinators. These lines are operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help veterans access the crucial care they need. 

Call 1-800-273-8255, then press 1 to be connected.

Or, text 838255 to message a responder.

You can also chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat. The chat is confidential.

Veterans can receive the following types of ongoing suicide prevention support at their local VA health care facility or regional office: 

  • Every VA medical center has specially trained suicide prevention coordinators who connect veterans with mental health resources.
  • Veterans can receive career and civilian transition guidance at Vet Centers throughout the country. 
  • Veterans Benefits Administration offices help veterans apply for and receive disability benefits, get job training, apply for home loans and get other benefits from their military service. 

Family members who are concerned about a veteran’s mental health should know the signs of someone who may be thinking of suicide. These are:

  • Not caring for personal appearance or hygiene
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, sad or agitated almost every day
  • Sleeping too much or not enough 
  • Pushing away family, friends or society
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies, work or school
  • Feeling trapped
  • Expressing feelings of failure, excessive shame or guilt or lack of purpose in life 

Certain actions may also indicate a veteran is having thoughts of suicide, such as:

  • Acting violently
  • Performing poorly at school or work
  • Taking risks 
  • Giving away personal items
  • Making a will
  • Obtaining guns, pills or other threatening items

Inpatient Mental Health Care

The VA provides short-term inpatient care for veterans who are suffering from severe or life- threatening mental illness. The purpose of inpatient mental health care is to provide the veteran with treatment they need to continue their care in a less-restrictive environment. It is common for veterans to receive mental health care in a variety of settings; when they are admitted into an inpatient facility, they may transfer to a non-emergency or outpatient facility to finish receiving care. 

Inpatient treatment generally includes medication alongside individual and group counseling sessions. The VA will check the veteran’s progress within one week of getting discharged from the hospital. 

Some inpatient treatment centers provide services for a specific group of individuals. For example, some facilities may only treat women veterans, while others only focus on issues related to or caused by military sexual trauma (MST).

Mental Health Service Appointments and Online Assistance

To schedule a mental health service appointment when you are already receiving VA medical services, you can speak to your VA health provider. 

If you are not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to schedule an appointment. Use the locator tool here to search for an office near you: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

If you cannot visit a VA facility in person, you can receive online assistance through the following services:

The Veteran Training Online Self-Help Portal 

This free online service can help you learn to manage personal mental health struggles. You can access tools that teach you problem-solving skills, anger management techniques, tips for sleeping through the night and more. Access the portal here: https://www.veterantraining.va.gov 

Downloadable Apps

You can download a variety of apps you can use to manage your physical and mental health. These free apps are offered in partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) so that they are tailored to the unique needs of veterans. 

The VA has a list of smartphone apps available through the App Store and Google Play store. Access the list here to find them: https://ncgwg.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Resources_-Apps-for-Veterans.pdf 

The VA Telemental Health Program

You can speak to a VA mental health specialist through a computer or mobile phone if you cannot physically visit a VA medical facility. You must be enrolled in VA health care in order to access this program. Ask your health care provider to connect you with this program. 

Coaching Into Care for Family and Friends of Veterans

The VA offers other mental health assistance programs designed to provide veterans and their families with comprehensive mental health care. If you are a family member or friend seeking mental health care for a veteran, the Coaching Into Care program can help you access critical resources. It is a national phone service operated by the VA that educates, supports and empowers family and friends to get veterans the help they need.

Through this program, you can locate appropriate services at your local VA facilities or in your community. You can also receive coaching to learn how you can help your veteran cope and adjust to civilian life. This coaching is provided free of charge by licensed psychologists or social workers.

To access the Coaching Into Care hotline, call 888-823-7458 Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 8 PM ET. Most calls take between 10 and 30 minutes.

Non-VA Mental Health Resources and Support Options for Veterans

non-va-mental-health-resources

Aside from the mental health resources provided through the VA, veterans and their families can receive assistance through many other programs operating in the U.S. 

Assisted Living, Nursing Homes and Home Health Services

Veterans may be eligible to receive long-term care in assisted living facilities, nursing homes or within their own homes using home health services. Eligibility for these services depends on the veteran’s health or disability status and the availability of the service or space within a specific facility.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide round-the-clock medical care and assistance to individuals who live in the facility full-time. Veterans can receive nursing home care in the following settings:

  • Community living centers
  • Community nursing homes
    • These are non-VA nursing homes that have contracts with the VA to provide care to veterans near their homes or families. 
  • State veterans homes

Assisted Living

Veterans who do not need nursing home-level care but still require assistance with daily living tasks can get community residential care in assisted living facilities. In these settings, veterans receive live-in care that helps them with daily tasks, such as bathing and dressing. Veterans can receive this type of care in the following settings:

  • Medical foster homes
    • These are private homes that house just a few residents at a time. A trained caregiver (or team of caregivers) provides supervision and care 24 hours a day.
  • Adult family homes
    • These facilities contain private rooms that veterans and other individuals can rent. They typically have six or fewer residents at any given time. The homes often have shared common spaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms, and have a trained caregiver to provide supervision and care 24 hours a day.
  • Assisted living facilities 
    • In these facilities, veterans can rent a room or apartment and access shared common spaces. Some assisted living facilities may offer private kitchens. Trained caregivers provide supervision and care 24 hours a day.

These facilities are not operated or funded by the VA, but the department does inspect each one to ensure they meet quality care standards. Similarly, the VA will not pay for veterans to reside in these facilities, but it may cover the cost of having VA health professionals visit veterans at their respective facilities to provide necessary medical care.

Home Health Services

Veterans with chronic health conditions may be able to receive the care they need while staying in their own homes. Eligibility for home health services depends on the availability of these services in a veteran’s home area. Veterans may be eligible to receive the following types of home health care:

  • Home-based primary care
    • A team of VA health professionals, led by a VA doctor, provides necessary treatment and primary health care inside veterans’ homes. Veterans can receive home-based care even if they are not completely homebound. Eligible candidates are those with illnesses or injuries that make it difficult to visit a clinic or those with caregivers who are experiencing burden. 
  • Homemaker/home health aide (H/HHA) services
    • These services are provided by a trained caregiver who is supervised by a nurse. The purpose of H/HHA services is to help individuals care for themselves and perform daily tasks, including eating, dressing, bathing, cleaning and grocery shopping. 
  • Adult day health care
    • Veterans can socialize and receive care at adult day health care facilities, which operate during specific hours in the daytime. Most veterans who utilize this care go to an adult day health care center multiple times per week. This option also provides respite care for caregivers. 
  • Hospice care
    • Veterans with terminal illnesses can receive end-of-life care in their homes if they are not seeking any treatment other than pain management. 
  • Palliative care
    • This is care provided by a trained caregiver in the home that is meant to ease chronic pain. Veterans who receive palliative care may find it easier to complete daily tasks.

Geriatrics and Extended Care

geriatric-and-extended-care

Geriatrics and extended care (GEC) services are available for senior veterans who have complex medical needs. Extended care, also known as long-term care, is for veterans of all ages who need the daily support and assistance of another individual. 

Through this benefit, senior veterans can receive the following GEC services:

  • Round-the-clock nursing and medical care
  • Physical therapy
  • Help with basic tasks, like bathing, dressing and following a medication schedule
  • Pain management and comfort care
  • Respite care 
    • Allowing the primary caregiver to rest or complete errands

Geriatric and extended care (GEC) services are provided in the following settings:

  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Private homes
  • Adult day health centers

Senior veterans who qualify for other programs like Medicare and Medicaid can use their benefits alongside VA benefits to receive the care they need.

Prescription Services

VA health care covers prescription medications ordered by VA doctors. Veterans can fill their prescriptions at VA pharmacies, which are pharmacies that are contracted with the VA and located in or around VA facilities or bases.  

In some cases, veterans may be eligible to fill their non-VA prescriptions, which are ordered by non-VA community providers. Non-VA prescriptions may be covered by the VA if all of the following are true:

  • The veteran is enrolled in VA health care
  • The veteran has a VA primary care provider
  • The veteran has given the VA provider all medical records from the non-VA (community) provider
  • The veteran’s VA provider agrees with the prescription

Prescription medication ordered by a non-VA provider can be filled at a non-VA pharmacy as long as the supply is 14 days or less. Non-VA pharmacies are facilities that are not contracted with the VA, like retail pharmacies. Medication supplies of more than 14 days must be filled at VA pharmacies. 

Filling prescriptions with the VA is the easiest way to refill and track medications. Veterans can use the VA’s Prescription Tool to keep track of their prescription medications. In order to use the Prescription Tool, veterans must meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in VA health care
  • Be registered as a patient in a VA health facility
  • Have a refillable prescription from a VA doctor that was initially filled at a VA pharmacy and handled by the VA Mail Order Pharmacy
    • The VA Mail Order Pharmacy is the way that veterans receive initial prescriptions and refills of prescriptions. When a VA doctor orders a prescription, it is mailed to the veteran at the address on file with the VA. They can then use the Prescription Tool to order refills and track delivery to their address.

Veterans must also have one of the following online accounts in order to use the Prescription Tool:

Most prescriptions are filled and delivered to a veteran’s home within three to five days. To ensure refills arrive on time, veterans should request prescription refills 10 days before they need more. This will help prevent gaps in medication usage.

Some prescriptions may not be eligible for delivery by mail. In these cases, veterans would need to pick up their prescriptions from the VA medical facility where they receive their care. The VA doctor notifies veterans when they would need to physically pick up their prescriptions. 

Maternity Care

The VA provides maternity care to women throughout pregnancy and after childbirth. Through partnerships with community health centers and local resources, women veterans can receive the following services as part of their maternity care:

  • Prenatal care
    • This is health care a woman receives during pregnancy. It begins as soon as she knows she is pregnant. Prenatal care includes the following services:
      • Full physical exams and lab tests
      • Prenatal education and screenings
      • Obstetrical ultrasounds
      • Genetic tests and specialty consultations
      • Prescription drugs
  • Delivery
    • Delivery refers to childbirth. The VA covers the costs associated with giving birth at a community health care provider.
  • Postnatal care
    • This is health care a woman and her newborn receive after childbirth. VA health care covers the following postnatal services:
      • Newborn care for the first seven days after birth
      • Breastfeeding support
      • Support and services in case of miscarriage or stillbirth
      • Social work and mental health services 

There are some services that are not covered by VA health care. These are:

  • Home deliveries
  • Services by doulas
  • Deliveries by a lay midwife (a midwife who is not a medical nurse)
  • Experimental procedures and procedures outside the standard of care
  • Termination of pregnancy

Veterans who are members of the LGBTQ+ community can also qualify for maternity care provided through the VA. To determine eligibility, call the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-829-6636 or contact the LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator at your nearest VA facility. 

Health Services for Active Duty Service Members

Active duty service members receive their health care coverage through TRICARE, a health care program available from the Department of Defense (DoD). As such, they typically do not receive treatment through VA facilities unless they receive a referral or prior authorization from a TRICARE provider for a specific service. 

However, active duty members in need of urgent or emergency care can receive it at VA facilities without prior authorization. Once the member is stable, the VA will seek authorization from TRICARE.

Active duty personnel who are about to separate from duty undergo a transition from TRICARE to VA health care. Learn more about this transition in the section titled “What if I’m just separating from active duty & don’t know where to start?” of this guide. 

Health Services for Veterans’ Families and Caregivers

health-services-for-veterans-families-and-caregivers

The VA provides health care coverage options and services for veterans’ family members and caregivers. These programs have different eligibility criteria and offer a variety of benefits. Continue reading the sections below to learn about the following health services for veterans’ families and caregivers:

  • TRICARE
  • The Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program
  • The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Benefits
  • Pharmacy benefits
  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Caregiver support
  • Fisher House Program

TRICARE

TRICARE is a comprehensive health insurance program available to uniformed service members, retirees and their families. The program offers a variety of free or low-cost health coverage plans, each designed to fit the unique needs of qualifying beneficiaries. 

TRICARE eligibility requirements vary based on the type of health care plan and the beneficiary’s military status, but there are some general guidelines all applicants must meet in order to enroll in any plan. 

To become a beneficiary of any TRICARE plan, applicants must identify as one or more of the following:

  • A uniformed service member
  • A member of the National Guard or the Reserve
  • A retired U.S. military member
  • A family member of a current or retired military, National Guard or Reserve member
  • A dependent parent or parent-in-law of an active-duty military member
  • A former spouse or child of a deceased active-duty military member 
  • A survivor of a deceased active-duty military member
  • A medal of honor recipient or a family member of one such individual 

Depending on military status, age and other qualifying factors, beneficiaries may be eligible for one or more of the following health insurance plans:

  • TRICARE Prime
    • TRICARE Prime Remote
    • TRICARE Prime Overseas
    • TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas
  • TRICARE Select         
    • TRICARE Select Overseas
  • TRICARE Reserve Select      
  • TRICARE Retired Reserve
  • TRICARE for Life        
  • TRICARE Young Adult           
    • TRICARE Young Adult Prime
    • TRICARE Young Adult Select
  • U.S. Family Health Plan  

Learn more about TRICARE plans in our free guide here: http://s3.amazonaws.com/onpointglobal.com/tricare-2.0-cd.pdf 

The Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program

Biological children of certain Korea and Vietnam veterans who have been diagnosed with spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta) may be eligible to receive help through the Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program (SBHCBP).  

Spina bifida is a birth defect that causes part of the spinal cord to be exposed through a gap in the backbone and can lead to lower limb paralysis, foot deformation, back pain and mental handicap. Qualified applicants can receive monetary allowances, vocational training, rehabilitation and VA-financed health care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To qualify for this program, individuals must be diagnosed with any form of spina bifida other than spina bifida occulta. Contact the Office of Community Care for more information about the program and to learn how to apply:
HA Office of Community Care
Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program
P.O. Box 469065
Denver CO 80246-9065

Or, call the customer service center at 888-820-1756.

The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV) Health Care Benefits Program

The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV) is a federal health care benefits program from the VA for children with certain birth defects born to women Vietnam Veterans. It is a fee-for-service health care program, which means beneficiaries pay for most services out of pocket.

However, they receive reimbursement for medical care related to covered birth defects.

To be eligible for the CWVV program, individuals must:

  • Be children of women who served in Vietnam during the period beginning on February 28, 1961 and ending on May 7, 1975; and
  • Have a birth defect certified by the VA as being associated with the military service of the mother in Vietnam which results in permanent physical or mental disability.

The Veteran Benefit Administration (VBA) determines whether a birth defect qualifies an individual for the CWVV program. The VBA’s Denver VA Regional Office makes the determination regarding that entitlement. To see if a birth defect qualifies, you must complete and mail the Application for Benefits For Certain Children of Vietnam Veterans With Disabilities (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0304-ARE.pdf), along with medical evidence, to the Denver VA Regional Office at:

CWVV Health Care Benefits Program
P.O. Box 469065
Denver CO 80246-9065

Pharmacy Benefits

health-services-for-veterans-families

If you qualify for CHAMPVA, SBHCBP or CWVV, you can receive prescription medication benefits through the VA Meds by Mail program or at your local retail pharmacy. Medications must be approved by the Food and Drug Association (FDA).

If you are a part of CHAMPVA and do not have any other health insurance plan with pharmacy coverage, you can use the Meds by Mail program for nonurgent maintenance medications. These prescriptions will be mailed directly to your home. You can also use a local retail pharmacy for other prescriptions as long as the pharmacy is within the OptumRx network. The pharmacy will collect a copayment of 25%.

If you are a part of the SBHCBP or CWVV programs, you can use the Meds by Mail program or a local pharmacy within the OptumRx network. You will not have a copayment. 

If you are enrolled in the CWVV program, you can only use OptumRx to obtain prescriptions for your rated disability or conditions related to your disability. Your first prescription will require you to pay 100% out-of-pocket. Then, you must submit a claim with medical evidence to show it is related to your disability. If it is related, you will be reimbursed and can use the program for future refills. 

If you have questions about the OptumRx program, call the help desk at 888-546-5502. 

If you have questions about the Meds by Mail program, call the East Region office at 866-229-7389 or the West Region office at 888-385-0235.

To refill a prescription through the Meds by Mail program, call the Automated Refill Line at 888-370-1699.

Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)

If you are the current or surviving spouse or child of a veteran with disabilities or a veteran who has died, you may qualify for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This VA cost-sharing program helps you manage your health care budget by covering the cost of some health care services and supplies. 

You may qualify for CHAMPVA if you do not qualify for TRICARE and at least one of the following is true:

  • You are the spouse or child of a veteran who received a permanent and totally disabled rating from the VA for a service-related disability
  • You are the surviving spouse or child of a veteran whose death was caused by a VA-rated, service-connected disability or who, at the time of death, rated totally and permanently disabled due to a service-related disability
  • You are the surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty 

Covered services and supplies must be medically necessary and ordered by an authorized provider. These include ambulance service, ambulatory surgery, durable medical equipment (DME), family planning and maternity care, inpatient and outpatient services, mental health care, transplants, skilled nursing and hospice care and pharmacy services. 

To apply for CHAMPVA, download and complete the Application for CHAMPVA (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/vha-10-10d-fill.pdf). You must also provide your Medicaid card if you qualify for Medicaid benefits. Mail your completed application and required supporting documents to: 

VHA Office of Community Care
CHAMPVA Eligibility
P.O. Box 469028
Denver, CO 80246-9028

Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS)

The Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) helps caregivers of veterans find resources and support services to improve their quality of care. To be eligible for this program, the veteran:

  • Does not need to have a service-connected condition
  • May have military service in any era
  • Must be enrolled in VA health care

To enroll in PGCSS, contact the VA Caregiver Support Line (CSL) at 1- 855-260-3274 Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 8 PM. After a brief intake process, a representative will determine your eligibility for the program and decide which services you can access.

There are three main types of services that caregivers can access through the PGCSS. They are:

  1. Education and Training
  2. Support Services
  3. Home and Community Based Care
Education and Training

Caregivers can learn helpful tips and techniques for caring for themselves as well as the veteran. Through the PGCSS, caregivers can access:

  • Workshops and courses, both online and in the classroom
  • Videos
  • Self-guided material and online modules that cover medication management, self care, financial planning and emergency preparedness
  • Group educational calls
Support Services

Support services are those that are backed by the VA and the local community. The PGCSS offers the following supportive services:

  • Peer support mentoring
    • This service provides caregivers with guidance and the opportunity to share their experiences with individuals experiencing similar situations. Mentoring sessions typically last at least six months and may involve email, face-to-face and telephone communication.
  • Compassionate Connections
    • This service entails one-time mentoring sessions for those who cannot commit to a long-term mentoring program.
  • Resources for Enhancing All Caregivers Health (REACH)
    • This service offers education and support through individualized mentoring sessions that usually last between two and three months. Sessions may be held face-to-face, by phone or by video conferencing.
Home and Community Based Care

Caregivers can receive care and services in their home or in the veteran’s home as well as within their own communities. The PGCSS offers the following home and community based services:

  • Primary care
  • Adult day health care at community centers
  • Home health aides and homemakers
  • Respite care 
    • This occurs when caregivers receive a break or time off to rest while another caregiver takes over primary care duties.
  • Home telehealth
  • Skilled home care
  • Home hospice care
  • Remote monitoring 

Fisher House Foundation

The Fisher House Foundation is a charity program that builds houses that can be used by veteran and military families when a loved one is in the hospital. Families can stay in these houses free of charge, which typically feature private rooms and shared common spaces. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers throughout the United States and Europe.

To view a list of all available Fisher Houses, view the “Current Houses” webpage available on the Fisher House Foundation’s website here: https://fisherhouse.org/programs/houses/current-houses/

If a family member is currently receiving care at a VA facility, contact that facility directly to learn the status of the Fisher House. The facility will be able to tell you if there is space available.

Health Services for LGBTQ+ Veterans

lgbtq-veterans

The VA health care program provides coverage for veterans with specific health needs, including those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Male and female veterans can access special services to ensure all of their health care needs are met, regardless of sexual orientation or identification. Every VA facility has an LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) to help veterans access LGBTQ+ health care services.

Transgender Veteran Health Care

Transgender veterans require certain health care services that may make it difficult to find quality health care. They face higher risk of developing certain physical and mental conditions as well as increased use of illegal substances and tobacco. Transgender veterans can receive care through the VA to help with the following common treatments, conditions and ailments:

  • Hormone treatment 
  • Substance use
  • Alcohol use
  • Intimate partner violence (ITV)
  • Depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental conditions
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs)
  • Tobacco use
  • Diet and exercise
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

Male Veterans: Gay and Bisexual Health Care

Gay and bisexual male veterans can receive pertinent health care treatment through the VA. Compared to heterosexual male veterans, they face unique challenges and higher risks of certain physical and mental conditions.

Through the VA health care program, gay and bisexual male veterans can receive help with:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
    • The most common STDs and STIs affecting gay and bisexual males are HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Prostate, testicular, colon and anal cancers
  • Heart health
  • Diet and exercise
  • Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Female Veterans: Lesbian and Bisexual Health Care

Lesbian and bisexual female veterans also have unique health care needs for which they may require specialized treatment or screenings. Through the VA, they can seek health care treatment and services for the following:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
    • The most common STDs and STIs affecting lesbian and bisexual females are HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer
  • Heart health
  • Diet and exercise
  • Intimate partner violence (IPV)                             

VA Medical Center LGBTQ+ Programs 

Each VA facility has an LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) who is responsible for providing resources and referrals to competent and respectful health care providers. It is important for all patients to be honest and comfortable with their doctors, but LGBTQ+ veterans face an added challenge of feeling accepted and validated. The VCC is an unbiased third party that veterans can go to for guidance and advice, especially if they feel they need to switch providers.

Health Services for Rural Veterans

Many veterans reside in rural areas far from VA medical centers and facilities. The Office of Rural Health (ORH) oversees this initiative, which seeks to connect millions of veterans living in rural areas with quality health care. 

The program promotes and establishes the following initiatives in rural areas throughout the U.S.:

  • Tele-Intensive Care Units
    • Also known as a tele-ICU, this technology allows clinicians to communicate with bedside staff and consult on patient care even when they are off-site. 
  • Telemental Health Hubs
    • This refers to telemedicine (virtual patient-doctor communication) surrounding mental health care. The “hub” refers to the team of mental health professionals that serve rural veterans.
  • Rural Patient Aligned Care Team
    • The ORH added social workers to the Rural Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) in order to expedite the time it takes for rural veterans to receive care. Through this initiative, social workers can arrange transportation to appointments, conduct a psychosocial exam to identify mental health risk factors and arrange in-home support for veterans with functional disabilities.
  • Veteran Transportation Service
    • This initiative provides transportation to veterans who find it difficult to attend medical appointments. 
  • Rural Health Training and Education Initiative 
    • This initiative provides rural health care education to professionals training for a career in health care.
  • Remote Cardiac Rehabilitation
    • This is a telephone-based service that allows veterans to receive rehabilitation for cardiac-related issues over the phone.

Health Services for Homeless Veterans

Homeless veterans can access an array of health care services through the VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program. The purpose of this initiative is to reduce homelessness among veterans while expanding outreach efforts to connect homeless veterans with critical health care services. 

The HCHV program provides the following services:

  • Outreach
    • HCHV employees locate and reach out to homeless veterans, identify risk factors and propose treatment solutions that often include both health care and housing. 
  • Case management
    • HCHV employees track veterans who are disconnected from proper health care resources and housing.
  • Housing services
    • Veterans can receive short-term, transitional and permanent housing resources.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Your VA Health Care Coverage

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was created to expand access to quality health care to millions of Americans who might otherwise not receive coverage. The law, which is also known as the Health Care Law, establishes minimum coverage standards to ensure all citizens receive quality care. 

Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care will not see any changes to their coverage, costs or enrollment. VA health care already meets the ACA’s minimum coverage standards, so enrollees do not need to supplement it with any other type of health insurance. 

VA Community Care

There may be times when the VA does not provide a specific service or treatment at a VA facility, even if it is covered through VA health care. In these instances, veterans can still seek the particular treatment or service at a provider within their own community. This partnership is known as community care, which attempts to expand VA health care access to veterans throughout the United States.

There are nine types of community care available to veterans enrolled in VA health care. Learn more about each type of care in the sections below.

General Community Care

general-community-care

General care refers to treatment and services provided by a general practitioner or primary doctor. While most veterans receive general care at their local VA facility, they are eligible to opt for general care at a community provider if they:

  • Receive approval from the VA for community care
  • Are enrolled or eligible for VA health care

Additionally, they must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • The veteran needs a specific service or treatment that is not available at a VA medical facility
  • The veteran lives in a state or U.S. territory that does not have a full-service VA medical facility. This applies to:
    • Alaska
    • Hawaii
    • New Hampshire
    • Guam
    • American Samoa
    • Northern Mariana Islands
    • U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI)
  • It is in the veteran’s best interest, according to both the doctor and the veteran, to receive a certain type of care at a community provider
  • The veteran qualifies under the “Grandfather” provision for the Veterans Choice Program (VCP)
    • To qualify under this provision, both of the following must be true:
      • The veteran was eligible under the 40-mile criterion of the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) on the day before the VA MISSION Act was enacted into law (June 6, 2018)
      • He or she continues to reside in a location that would qualify them under that criterion
    • And, one of the following must be true:
      • Veteran lives in one of the five states with the lowest population density from the 2010 Census (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and Wyoming)
      • The veteran lives in another state, received care between June 6, 2017 and June 6, 2018 and required care before June 6, 2020
  • The VA cannot provide care within designated access standards, which refer to appropriate driving time and appointment wait time for the veteran
    • The standard appointment wait time of 20 days and drive time of 30 minutes applies to the following types of care: 
      • Primary care
      • Mental health care
      • Non-institutional extended care services (including adult day health care)
    • The standard appointment wait time of 28 days and drive time of 60 minutes applies to specialty care
  • A VA service line does not meet quality standards
    • A service line refers to all components of care for a particular type of treatment at a single VA medical facility. For example, a cardiology service line involves all methods of detection, diagnosis and treatment at a particular facility.

Once a veteran is determined to be eligible for community care, he or she must find a community provider and schedule an appointment. Search for community providers on the VA’s website here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “Community Providers.” In the “Service Type” box, type your requested medical service.

If the veteran needs prescription medication, it is typically filled by the nearest VA pharmacy. However, veterans can receive short-term prescriptions (14-day supply or fewer) that can be filled at a non-VA pharmacy.

Veterans may be required to make a copayment for any care given to treat a non-service-connected condition, just as they would if they sought care at a VA medical facility. Any copayments for community care are billed by the VA, not the provider itself.

Urgent Care

Veterans can seek urgent care medical treatment at VA medical facilities or at in-network community clinics. In-network means that the facility is contracted through and accepts payment by the VA. Urgent care is treatment of non life-threatening minor injuries and illnesses.

To be eligible for urgent care treatment at an in-network community provider, veterans must:

  • Be enrolled in VA health care and
  • Have received care at a VA facility or a community provider within the last 24 months

Upon verifying their eligibility, veterans must find an urgent care clinic in their area that is contracted through the VA. There are two types of urgent care facilities that provide treatment through the VA. These are:

  • Retail
    • These facilities include walk-in health clinics (not a doctor’s office), urgent care facilities, pharmacies or independent clinics located within retail stores. 
  • Urgent
    • These facilities include offices or clinics that diagnose or treat injuries and illnesses that demand immediate attention.

You can find an in-network urgent care facility using the VA’s search tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “Urgent Care.” From the “Service Type” drop-down menu, select “Community Urgent Care Providers.”

If the veteran needs prescription medication, the VA will pay for a 14-day supply that can be filled at the following pharmacies:

  • In-network pharmacies
  • VA pharmacies
  • Non-network pharmacies
    • Veterans will be required to pay out-of-pocket for the cost of the medication and file a claim with their local VA medical facility to get reimbursed. 

All prescriptions must be filled in the same state where the veteran received urgent care treatment. No refills are authorized. If the veteran needs a supply that is greater than 14 days, he or she must submit it to the VA to be filled. All covered drugs are listed in the VA National Formulary, which can be downloaded from the VA Pharmacy Benefits Management Services website here: https://www.pbm.va.gov/PBM/NationalFormulary.asp

You can find an in-network pharmacy using the VA’s search tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations.  Enter your city, state or ZIP code in the box. Then, from the “Facility Type” drop-down menu, select “Community Pharmacies.”

Emergency Care

Veterans experiencing a life-threatening injury or illness can seek emergency medical treatment at the nearest facility. They do not need to check with the VA for approval before calling an ambulance or receiving care. 

Within 72 hours (3 days) of receiving emergency medical treatment, veterans should notify the VA. This will ensure that the veteran’s post-emergency care is handled properly and helps the VA arrange transportation to another facility (if necessary). 

The VA will pay for emergency care rendered at community emergency departments that treats the veteran’s service-connected condition. This is a condition that is verified by the VA and has a disability rating attached to it. 

  • The VA will pay for emergency medical care for a service-connected condition or care related to a service-connected condition as long as treatment at a VA facility was not reasonably available. 
  • The VA will pay for emergency medical care for any condition for veterans who are:
    • Permanently and totally disabled
    • Participating in a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program and who require emergency medical care in order to return to the program

In some cases, the VA will also pay for emergency care at community emergency departments that is not related to a service-connected condition. To qualify, all of the below must be true:

  • The veteran received care in a hospital emergency department
  • The emergency medical care was necessary because any delay in treatment would place the veteran’s health or life in jeopardy
  • A VA medical facility or another federal facility was not reasonably available to provide the care
  • The veteran is enrolled in VA health care
  • The veteran received care within 24 months prior to the emergency
  • The veteran is financially liable to the provider of emergency treatment

Foreign Medical Care

The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) allows some veterans living abroad to receive health care coverage to treat service-connected conditions. In order to receive coverage, veterans must enroll in the FMP. Follow the steps outlined below to learn how to enroll. 

  1. Download, print and complete the FMP Registration Form (VA Form 10-7959f-1).
  2. Mail the completed application to the VHA Office of Community Care at:
    VHA Office of Community Care
    Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
    P.O. Box 469061
    Denver, CO 80246-9061

Veterans may only receive coverage through FMP for care that is medically necessary to treat a service-connected disability. Medically necessary means that a doctor or health care professional believes the service is crucial to the treatment or management of a condition. Conditions that are associated with or worsen a service-connected disability may also qualify, as long as the veteran has medical evidence to prove it. 

The following treatments and services are not covered by the FMP:

  • Experimental or investigational drugs, treatments or procedures
  • Adult day care
  • Assisted living
  • Custodial care
  • Companion services
  • Dental care (unless it is service-connected)
  • Durable medical equipment (DME) with deluxe/luxury features
  • Exercise programs and health club memberships
  • Family planning services and sterilization
  • Nursing homes
  • Non-acute institutional care, such as long-term inpatient psychiatric and nursing home care
  • Nonmedical home care (aid and attendance)
  • Physical therapy not under the supervision of a licensed physician
  • Procedures, services or supplies related to gender transformations 

Home Health Services and Hospice Care

hospice-care

Veterans with chronic illnesses and disabilities can utilize community resources to remain in their homes. These resources are grouped under the term “extended care services,” which means they are prescribed by and under the direction of a VA physician. 

Through the VA, veterans can receive the following home health services:

  • Skilled home health care
  • Home health aide services
  • Homemaker services
  • Palliative care
  • Remote monitoring care
  • Respite care
  • Hospice care

To inquire about these services, veterans can contact their local VA medical facility. 

Indian Health Services

American Indian and Alaska Native veterans often face additional difficulty in trying to find quality VA health care in or around federally recognized tribal lands. In response, the VA has partnered with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Tribal Health Programs (THP) to reimburse the cost of treatment rendered at IHS and THP facilities. 

This makes it easier for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans to receive care closer to where they live in a more culturally sensitive environment. Preauthorization for treatment at IHS and THP facilities is not required for any American Indian or Alaska Native veteran. 

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Veterans with specific service-connected conditions that result in infertility may be eligible for in vitro fertilization (IVF) or similar artificial reproductive technology (ART) services. The goal of these processes is to increase the chances of pregnancy. 

To be eligible for ART service, veterans must:

  • Have a service-connected condition that causes infertility
  • Be legally married
  • Have a male spouse that can produce sperm OR a female spouse with an intact uterus and who can produce eggs

Along with IVF and ART services, the VA provides the following fertility-related treatments and care:

  • Infertility counseling
  • Laboratory blood testing
  • Genetic counseling
  • Sperm testing
  • Ultrasounds
  • Surgery
  • Reversal of a vasectomy or tubal ligation
  • Medication

To verify eligibility for IVF or other ART services, veterans must schedule an evaluation with a VA provider by contacting the local VA medical facility. Find a VA medical facility here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

Once veterans are deemed eligible, they will receive a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) specialist in the community. The community provider works with veterans to arrange any necessary evaluations and services.

State Veterans Homes

State veterans homes are facilities that provide veterans with nursing home care, adult day care and domiciliary care. They are owned and operated by local state governments, which are responsible for establishing eligibility criteria. As such, some state veterans homes may have stricter eligibility requirements than others. 

State veterans homes are not managed by the VA, although some do receive payments from the department to offset the costs of care. The cost to stay in a state veterans home depends on the state in which the facility is located. 

To find state veterans homes in your area, browse the Directory of State Homes provided by the National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) here: https://www.nasvh.org/state-homes/statedir.cfm 

Flu Shots

Veterans enrolled in VA health care who received care through VA from either a VA or community provider within the past 24 months can receive free flu shots at several types of healthcare settings. A flu shot helps protect against influenza, a common viral infection. 

Eligibility for free flu shots also depends on the veteran’s enrollment status as well as where he or she chooses to receive the vaccine. Free flu shots for veterans are offered at the following locations:

  • Retail pharmacies
    • To be eligible, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care.
  • Urgent care facilities
    • To be eligible, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care and have received care from the VA or a community provider in the last 24 months.
  • VA medical facilities

Veterans do not need to make an appointment or get a referral from the VA to receive their free flu shot, regardless of where they go to get it. When they go to a retail pharmacy or urgent care facility, they must present a government-issued identification, such as:

  • A veterans health ID card
  • Department of Defense (DoD) ID card
  • State-issued driver’s license

Veterans Health and Wellness Programs

Comprehensive health care goes beyond medical treatments and medication and involves whole-body wellness, education and insight. The VA has several wellness initiatives that aim to promote a sound body and mind. Continue reading the sections below to learn about the different health and wellness programs available from the VA.

Nutrition and Food Services (NFS)

Veterans and their families can learn about the importance of proper nutrition through the Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) initiative. Through this program, veterans will work with a VA-certified dietitian, an expert in nutrition and diet regulation. 

Some VA facilities have Healthy Teaching Kitchens where veterans and their families can participate in healthy cooking demonstrations. During these demonstrations, they will learn how to shop for, prepare and cook nutritionally sound meals. 

The NFS website contains many resources for veterans with specific health conditions or diet restrictions. Veterans can access dietitian-approved nutritional information regarding the following topics:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Fiber
  • Food and drug interactions
  • Healthy aging
  • Heart health
    • This topic teaches veterans how to manage high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Neurological disorders and spinal cord injuries
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Weight management (to gain and to lose weight)
  • Wellness and healthy living
  • Women’s health

Learn more by visiting the NFS website here: https://www.nutrition.va.gov 

Tobacco and Health

The VA offers the following resources to help veterans stop or reduce tobacco dependency:

  • Medication
    • Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care can receive FDA-approved medication to help them stop smoking or using tobacco. Medication helps reduce the urge to use tobacco and manage symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, which can occur when veterans reduce tobacco use.
  • Counseling
    • The VA offers in-person and over-the-phone counseling to help veterans stop using tobacco. Counseling sessions may review topics such as coping mechanisms, lifestyle changes and the importance of stopping tobacco use. Veterans should discuss counseling options with their VA provider.
  • Tobacco Cessation Quitline 
    • The Tobacco Cessation Quitline is a free phone service operated by the VA that helps veterans in any phase of quitting. Counseling is available in English and Spanish. Phone sessions typically last between 15 and 30 minutes with trained counselors. Through the Quitline, veterans will get:
      • Tobacco cessation counseling based on knowledge of the VA health care system and military service.
      • Advice to learn how to stop cravings.
      • At least four follow-up counseling calls.
    • Call 1-855-784-8838 between 9 AM and 9 PM ET, Monday through Friday.
  • SmokefreeVET
    • Veterans can sign up for this free text message service to receive daily support, advice and encouragement as they continue their smoking cessation journey. Veterans who feel an urge to use tobacco or have recently used tobacco can text the words “URGE,” “STRESS,” “SMOKED” or “DIPPED” to get immediate support. To get started, text the word “VET” to 47848.
  • Stay Quit Coach
    • Veterans can use this mobile app to start a smoking cessation plan. The app provides valuable information about the harmful effects of tobacco. Veterans can receive motivational messages, use interactive tools for dealing with tobacco urges and get guidance to help them stay on track to being smoke-free. Download the app here: https://mobile.va.gov/app/stay-quit-coach 

Weight Management

The VA’s MOVE! Weight Management Program provides resources for veterans to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Program participants will work with their MOVE! team to create a customized weight management plan that fits their needs and goals. 

Depending on the VA facility, participants will choose from the following treatment programs:

  • Group sessions
    • Regular meetings with peers and clinicians allow veterans to talk about their weight loss journey in a safe environment.
  • Telephone lifestyle coaching
    • Veterans who prefer one-on-one counseling can speak to a weight management coach over the phone. 
  • TeleMOVE!
    • This messaging service provides reminders and encouragement for veterans who need help staying on track with their weight management. 
  • MOVE! Coach
    • This mobile app is ideal for veterans who prefer to manage their weight on their own. The app allows veterans to track their weight, set goals and learn how to achieve them. Download the app here: https://www.move.va.gov/MOVE/moveCoach.asp 
  • Medications and bariatric surgery
    • These options may be available to veterans who have tried the MOVE! the program, but still struggle with weight management. 

Women’s Health

Women veterans have unique health care needs that can be met through women-specific health services provided through the VA. In addition to comprehensive primary care, women veterans can access women’s health specialty care, which is provided at VA facilities as well as community providers. 

Women’s health care includes the following services:

  • Breast and gynecological care
  • Maternity care
  • Infertility treatment

Programs and Resources for Preventing and Managing Disease and Illness

A large part of the comprehensive VA health care program involves preventing and managing disease and illness. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about prevention and management programs from the VA.

Prevention

prevention

The VA has compiled evidence-based information and resources that veterans can use to learn how to stay healthy. These resources also teach veterans how to manage stress, which can negatively affect health if left unchecked. 

Getting health screenings can prevent the onset and progression of certain diseases. According to the VA, there are three common issues for which veterans should get screened:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm 
    • This is a large bulge that forms in the abdominal aorta, a blood vessel that pumps blood from the heart to the lower body. If left untreated, it could burst and be fatal. Men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked cigarettes should be screened for this condition. 
  • High cholesterol 
    • Cholesterol is a fatty material that helps support cells in the body. It is made in the liver, but also builds up over time from eating certain foods. Too much cholesterol causes a buildup of a sticky substance (called plaque) in the blood vessels. When this happens, the vessels become clogged, leading to higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • High blood pressure
    • Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is dangerous. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney problems and vision problems.

The VA provides links to various disease prevention resources on its website, some of which are provided by non-VA partners. Resources include dietary guidelines, physical fitness guidelines and links to the webpages of government-affiliated health initiatives. You may access the website here: https://www.prevention.va.gov/For_Veterans_and_the_Public.asp 

Public Health

There are some diseases and illnesses common among veterans and unique to military service. Through VA resources, veterans can learn about these conditions along with certain illnesses prevalent in the public sphere.

In collaboration with the Office of Public Health (OPH), the VA has an index of known diseases and conditions related to specific military service and exposure to certain chemicals. The index contains information about the following conditions and exposures:

  • Agent Orange
  • Ebola virus
  • Infectious diseases linked to service in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan
  • Gulf War Syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Rabies
  • Viral hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Seasonal flu
  • Pandemic flu
  • Pneumonia
  • Radiation exposure-linked diseases
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Learn more about each of the above conditions in the index provided by the VA here: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/diseases-conditions.asp 

Veterans unsure of whether they have been exposed to chemical, physical or environmental hazards during their military service can use the VA’s “Military Exposures” webpage to learn more here: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/index.asp. On the webpage, they can browse by the following topics:

  • Related health concerns
    • Veterans can click through a list of known health concerns to determine if they may have been exposed.
  • Wars and operations
    • Veterans can find specific operations they were a part of and learn about possible exposures related to those operations. 
  • Exposure categories
    • In this subcategory, the VA divides hazards into exposure categories. 

Vaccines and Immunizations

The VA provides a list of suggested vaccines that veterans should consider getting in order to prevent certain illnesses and viruses. The VA recommends the following vaccines:

  • Influenza (Flu)
    • The flu vaccine helps protect against influenza, a common viral infection. The VA recommends all veterans get the vaccine each year to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia
    • Pneumonia is a complication of the flu, so a flu shot helps prevent it from developing. There is a designated pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine that is recommended for specific groups of people who are more prone to it, including older people and those with certain medical conditions. 
  • Hepatitis A
    • The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for those who travel to other countries, live in a community with high rates of hepatitis A, those with chronic liver disease, those who engage in male-to-male sex and those who inject drugs.
  • Hepatitis B
    • This type of hepatitis is most often spread through sexual contact, though it can also be passed from a mother to her newborn, between individuals sharing needles or by contact with bodily fluids.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
    • Individuals who were born after 1956 and women of childbearing age who have not had these diseases or been vaccinated against them must get the MMR shot to protect themselves.
  • Chickenpox (varicella)
    • Individuals who were born after 1966 and have not had the chickenpox or have not been vaccinated need it to protect themselves. 
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)
    • The shingles vaccine is recommended for individuals 50 years of age or older.  The Shingrix vaccine provides protection from shingles and long-term nerve pain. Adults need two doses of Shingrix in order for it to be effective; the second dose should come six months after the first.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
    • A tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot is necessary every 10 years to prevent these diseases. In place of Td, individuals between the ages of 19 and 64 as well as those 65 or older who are in contact with infants can receive a one-time tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine to prevent whooping cough, which is extremely dangerous for infants and children.

Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (flu) is one of the most common viral infections. It is a respiratory illness that spreads easily from person to person. The best way to protect and prevent flu is to get a flu shot, which is free to veterans enrolled in VA health care. Learn more about flu vaccines in the “Flu Shots” section.

Aside from getting vaccinated, you can prevent and help stop the spread of influenza by taking the following steps and precautions:

  • Understanding how it spreads
    • Flu spreads in the air via droplets, which are emitted during sneezes, coughs, laughs and other forms of talking. Droplets can spread to other people and surfaces up to six feet away.  
  • Knowing the symptoms
    • Fever of 100 degrees or higher
    • Feeling tired or weak
    • Chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Body aches
    • Headaches 
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
  • Washing your hands and surrounding surfaces
    • Cleaning your hands with warm, soapy water or hand sanitizer kills germs that cause flu. Also, clean commonly touched surfaces such as phones, doorknobs, faucets, light switches, TV remotes and keyboards.
  • Covering sneezes and coughs
    • Rather than coughing or sneezing into your hand, which could spread the virus to surfaces you touch, use a tissue or your sleeve. 
  • Stay home when you are sick
    • When you have flu-like symptoms, you should stay home to prevent coming in contact with others.

If you experience flu symptoms, call your health care provider to seek medical treatment within 48 hours. If you have any of the following severe symptoms, seek medical care right away:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Pain or pressure in the chest while breathing
  • Trouble with balance, standing or walking

How to Get Your VA Medical Records via the VA Blue Button

medical-records

You can access your VA medical records using the VA Blue Button, a feature of the online health management portal known as My Healthevet. The VA Blue Button makes it easy to review, download, print, save and share information from your medical record. Access the website and login page here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/get-medical-records/#va-blue-button 

In order to use all the features of the VA Blue Button, you must meet all of the following eligibility requirements:

Once you are signed in using one of the above accounts, you can access your health records using the steps outlined below:

  1. Navigate to the homepage dashboard.
  2. Click “Health Records.”
  3. Choose one of the following:
    • Blue Button report – This report contains general information from your VA medical records, personal health record and your military service record. 
    • Health summary – This contains specific information about your medical record, such as known allergies, any medications you are taking and recent lab results.
    • Medical images and reports – This page contains any recent imaging test results you may have.

With VA Blue Button, you can build your own personal health record using self-entered information. It also lets you do the following:

  • Provide emergency contacts
  • Track your diet and exercise
  • Enter health goals
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Enter your own medical history
  • Share your entered information with yourself or other health professionals

How to Update Your Health Benefits Information

Whenever your personal, financial or insurance information changes, it is important to update it with the VA right away. You can update the following information:

  • Personal information
    • Full name, marital status or self-identified gender identity
  • Contact information
    • Phone number, email or mailing address
  • Insurance information
    • Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance
  • Dependent information
    • Information regarding a spouse or child
  • Financial information
    • Income and any deductible expenses from the previous year. Updating your financial information may result in added benefits from the VA, such as:
      • Free medical services for conditions unrelated to your service-connected condition
      • Reimbursement for traveling to a VA facility

Follow the steps below to learn how to update your health benefits information.

  1. Download, print and complete the Health Benefits Update Form (Form 10-10EZR).
    1. Access it here: https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/vha-10-10ezrfill.pdf 
  2. Send the completed form to:
    VA Health Eligibility Center
    2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200
    Atlanta, GA 30329

VA Disability Benefits and Compensation

Veterans who get sick or injured while serving in the U.S. military may be eligible to receive disability benefits, including compensation. These tax-free payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are distributed to qualifying veterans on a monthly basis. 

VA disability benefits are contingent upon veterans receiving a disability rating from the VA. This rating, which is a numerical expression of the severity of the individual’s disability, allows veterans to access several other types of VA benefits. To learn more about these benefits, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, continue reading the sections below.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Disability Benefits

To be eligible for disability benefits from the VA, veterans must meet certain criteria and be able to provide medical evidence of their conditions. Both of the following statements must be true:

  • You served on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training
  • You have a disability rating from the VA for your service-connected condition

In addition to meeting the criteria above, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You became sick or injured while serving in the military and you can link this condition to your illness or injury (known as an inservice disability claim)
  • You had an illness or injury before you joined the military, and serving made it worse (known as a preservice disability claim)
  • You have a disability related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended your military service (known as a postservice disability claim)

There are other specific eligibility requirements if you fall into a presumptive disability category. Refer to the section below to learn more about presumed disabilities and corresponding requirements. 

Qualifying Conditions

You can qualify for benefits with a variety of physical and mental conditions. During the application process, you will be required to submit medical evidence of your condition. The VA will analyze the evidence to determine whether it will pay benefits to you based on your condition. The VA lists the following conditions as approved conditions for purposes of VA disability benefits and compensation:

  • Anxiety
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
  • Depression
  • Loss of range of motion (problems moving your body)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe hearing loss
  • Scar tissue
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Ulcers

There are other categories of qualifying conditions that may make you eligible for benefits. These are known as presumed disabilities, which are conditions that are known to have a negative affect. They are:

  • Illnesses caused by time spent as a prisoner of war (POW)
  • Chronic illnesses that appear within a year after discharge
  • Illnesses caused by contact with toxic chemicals or hazardous materials

Former POWs

If you are a former prisoner of war (POW) with a disability, you can qualify for disability compensation if both of the following statements are true:

  • The VA believes your time spent as a POW caused your condition
  • At any time following active-duty service, your condition became at least 10 percent disabling (see “VA Disability Ratings” for more information)

The covered conditions vary depending on the time spent as a POW. The chart below provides information on conditions that qualify you for benefits as a former POW based on the length of time you were held captive.

Time Spent as a POWQualifying Conditions 
Any length of time Osteoporosis (if you filed your disability claim on or after October 10, 2008 and you have a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD)Lasting damage caused by frostbitePosttraumatic osteoarthritis (pain and swelling in your joints that occurs when a past injury causes a joint to wear out)A stroke or problems caused by a stroke (such as memory loss, loss of speech or weakness in an arm or leg)Hypertensive vascular disease, including hypertensive heart disease and related problems (such as a stroke, blood clots or other serious issues)Neuropsychiatric conditionsPsychosisDysthymic disorder (also called “persistent depressive disorder”)Any of the anxiety states (such as PTSD)
30 days or moreOsteoporosis (if you filed your disability claim on or after September 28, 2009; no PTSD diagnosis required)HelminthiasisPeripheral neuropathy, except where directly related to an illness caused by an infectionPeptic ulcer diseaseChronic dysenteryIrritable bowel syndromeCirrhosis of the liverAvitaminosisBeriberi, including beriberi heart diseaseMalnutrition, including optic atrophy connected to malnutritionPellagra 

Disabilities Within a Year of Discharge

If you show signs of a chronic illness within one year after you were discharged from military service, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. Even if the symptoms were not there during your time serving, the VA will conclude they are related to your service. To qualify, the condition must be at least 10 percent disabling. Learn more in the “VA Disability Ratings” section.

The following chronic illnesses qualify for this presumptive disability category:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Anemia
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Atrophy
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Brain thrombosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder
  • Cardiovascular-renal disease, including hypertension
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Encephalitis lethargica residuals
  • Endocarditis
  • Endocrinopathies
  • Epilepsies
  • Hansen’s disease
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus erythematosus, systemic
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myelitis
  • Myocarditis
  • Nephritis
  • Other organic diseases of the nervous system
  • Osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease)
  • Osteomalacia
  • Palsy, bulbar
  • Paralysis agitans
  • Psychoses
  • Purpura idiopathic, hemorrhagic
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Syringomyelia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tumors, malignant or of the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerves
  • Ulcers

There are a few illnesses that are exempt from this one-year time limit:

  • Hansen’s disease can appear within three years after discharge.
  • Tuberculosis can appear within three years after discharge.
  • Multiple sclerosis can appear within seven years after discharge.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, can appear any time after discharge.

Exposure to Toxic Chemicals and Hazardous Materials

If you served on a specific mission or in an area known to have harmful chemicals and toxins, you can qualify for compensation for illnesses or conditions caused by your service. The following hazardous materials and chemical agents are known to have harmful effects and therefore qualify you for benefits:

Required Evidence for Claiming Disability

During the VA disability application process, you will need to submit a variety of medical evidence so that the VA can determine if you meet all eligibility criteria. No matter the condition(s) you are claiming, you must submit all of the following documents to the VA:

  • Your DD214 or other military separation documents
  • Service treatment records
  • Any medical evidence related to your illness or injury (doctor’s reports, X-rays and medical test results)

You may need to submit additional evidence depending on the condition you are claiming. The sections below review the specific documents you need to submit if you are claiming certain conditions.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

You must submit one of the following documents:

Individual Unemployability

You must submit all of the following documents:

Temporary 100% Disability

temporal-disability

You must submit medical documentation that shows you experienced one of the following situations in a hospital:

  • Stayed more than 21 days in a VA hospital or other approved hospital for a service-connected disability
  • Were under hospital observation for more than 21 days at the VA’s expense for a service-connected disability

If you had surgery, you must show evidence that the surgery:

  • Required a recovery period of at least one month (or the surgery or treatment was for a service-connected disability); and
  • Resulted in severe complications, like surgical wounds, stumps or recent amputations, being unable to move due to being put in splints or casts, being unable to leave your house or having to use a wheelchair or crutches.

If you did not have surgery, you must provide evidence that at least one major joint was immobilized in a cast.

VA Title 38 U.S.C. 1151 Claim

You must provide evidence that at least one of the following led directly to an added disability or to your injury or disease getting worse:

  • VA carelessness or negligence
  • A VA health exam
  • VA medical or surgical treatment
  • A VA vocational rehabilitation course
  • VA compensated work therapy

Aid and Attendance Benefits or Housebound Allowance

You must provide evidence showing at least one of the following is true:

  • You require the assistance of another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, and dressing
  • You need to stay in bed (or spend a large portion of the day in bed) due to illness
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability
  • You have limited eyesight
    • With glasses or contact lenses, you have only 5/200 vision or less in both eyes
    • You have concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less

For housebound benefits, you must submit one of the following forms:

You must also submit evidence that shows you have one of the following:

  • One service-connected disability rated at 100 percent disabling and another service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or more disabling
  • A permanent disability that requires you to spend your time inside your home

Qualifying for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)

Some veterans may qualify for a higher rate of disability compensation known as Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). These payments are issued to veterans who meet one of the following requirements:

  • Severe disability
  • Loss of limb
  • Have a spouse, child or dependent parent and the combined disability rating is at least 30 percent
  • Have a spouse with a severe disability

Qualifying for Special Claims

The VA provides additional compensation and benefits to veterans in special circumstances, known as Special Claims. If you have a service-connected disability, you may qualify for one or more of the following Special Claims:

Automobile Allowance and Adaptive Equipment

If your disability prevents you from driving, you may qualify for the following benefits:

  • One-time payment of not more than $21,488.29 to purchase a specially-equipped vehicle
  • One or more adaptive-equipment grants to modify your car so it has features to assist you with getting in or out

To qualify, at least one of the following statements must be true:

  • Loss or permanent loss of use of one or both feet
  • Loss or permanent loss of use of one or both hands
  • Permanent decreased vision in both eyes
    • 20/200 vision or less in your better eye with glasses
    • Greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect that has reduced your peripheral vision to 20 degrees or less in your better eye
  • A severe burn injury
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Ankylosis in one or both knees or hips
    • This qualifies you for an adaptive-equipment grant only

Benefits for Birth Defects Caused by Agent Orange

If your child has Spina Bifida, a spinal cord birth defect linked to contact with a chemical known as Agent Orange, he or she may qualify for disability payments from the VA. To qualify, you must have served in one of the following:

  • The Republic of Vietnam or Thailand for any length of time between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
  • In or near the DMZ for any length of time between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971

Learn more about Agent Orange and VA disability payments here: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/birth-defects/ 

Compensation for Damaged Clothing

You may be able to receive replacement clothing if your prosthetic device, orthopedics or skin care medication damages your current clothing. The current annual clothing allowance is $891. Learn more about the clothing allowance here: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/clothing-allowance/ 

Temporary Disability While Recovering From Surgery

If you are recovering from surgery or a disability that is related to your military service and you are immobilized (unable to move), you may be able to receive a temporary VA disability rating of 100 percent. This 100-percent rating qualifies you for increased compensation and health care to help you during your recovery. Learn more about temporary disability here: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/temporary-increase-after-surgery-or-cast 

Dental Care

dental-care

Dental benefits are provided to a small number of VA-eligible veterans. To see if your disability qualifies for VA dental care and the types of services covered, refer to the “Dental Care” section of this guide.

Payments for VA or VA-Approved Hospital Admission 

Veterans who were admitted into a VA or VA-approved hospital may be able to receive payments for the duration of their time spent there. These payments are issued with a temporary 100 percent VA disability rating.

Increased Payments Due to Being Unable to Work 

Veterans who are unable to work due to a service-connected disability (known as Individual Unemployability) may qualify for increased compensation from the VA. Learn more about this benefit in the “Individual Unemployability” section.

Veterans may be able to receive compensation if they suffered an added disability or the disability got worse while receiving VA medical care or participating in a VA program. Learn more about this benefit in the “VA Title 38 U.S.C. 1151 Claim” section of this guide.

Standard Disability Claims and Fully Developed Claims

You have two options for submitting evidence as part of your disability claim: fully developed claims and standard disability claims. These options differ based on whether you would prefer sending in evidence on your own or having the VA gather evidence for you. Read more about each method in the sections below. 

Standard Disability Claims

In these types of claims, the VA gathers most of the necessary evidence for you. With your permission, the VA will gather the following types of evidence to decide your claim:

  • Evidence from any federal agency
  • Evidence from VA medical centers
  • Documents from the Social Security Administration (SSA)

The VA will also request any other relevant records from non-VA doctors or hospitals that may help your claim. You must authorize the VA to do this first. For more information on medical evidence, see the “Required Evidence for Claims” section.

You must notify the VA of the availability of these documents or medical records during the application process. Learn more about applying for disability in the “How to Apply for Disability Benefits” section.

Fully Developed Disability Claims

With a fully developed claim, you are responsible for submitting your own medical evidence and records during the disability application process. Additionally, you must certify that there is no more evidence that the VA might need to determine your eligibility for VA disability benefits. 

You will need to submit the following documents and medical evidence:

  • Private medical records from your doctor or other non-VA treatment center
  • Records of medical treatment you received to treat the claimed condition during your military service
  • Military personnel records relating to the claimed condition
  • Information about health records that may be held at a federal facility, like a VA clinic
    • The VA will request these types of records.

You have a period of one year to complete a fully developed claim once you initiate it. If the VA concludes it needs more information to come to a decision, it will automatically convert your fully developed claim into a standard claim so that you can submit all necessary documents. 

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

disability-benefits

You can apply for disability benefits and compensation from the VA in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • In person

Online

  1. Visit the File for Disability Compensation online portal on the VA’s website here: https://www.va.gov/disability/file-disability-claim-form-21-526ez/introduction 
    • Log into your VA.gov account before starting the application so you can save your progress and complete it at a later time if necessary. 
  2. Gather all required information and documents. 
  3. Complete all steps in the online application form. 
    • Once you submit the application, you will receive a confirmation message on the screen. 
  4. Receive a determination. 
    • The total amount of time it takes to process your claim depends on how many injuries or disabilities you are claiming and how long it takes the VA to gather evidence.

By Mail

  1. Complete the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ).
  2. Mail the completed application to:
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    P.O. Box 4444
    Janesville, WI 53547-4444

In Person

  1. Complete the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ).
  2. Bring the completed application to your local VA office. 

Information and Documents Needed to Apply

To file for disability benefits, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Phone number
  • Current address
  • Service information, including branch of service, dates of active service and dates of separation
  • Information about current condition or disability
    • Include locations and dates for any treatment received.
  • Information about other benefits you may receive
  • Bank information for direct deposit

In addition to the information listed above, you may need to submit a variety of documents that verify your military service and medical condition(s). To verify military service, the VA analyzes your DD-214 or other separation papers.

It is not always necessary to submit medical evidence when filing a claim, but the VA strongly encourages you to do so. If you do not submit medical evidence to support your claim, there is a higher chance of denial. Lack of medical evidence may also cause the VA to order an examination to determine the severity of your condition.

If you do not have any medical evidence in your possession, the VA can help you locate these documents. To do this, you must:

After You Apply for Disability Benefits

After you apply for disability benefits from the VA, you will receive confirmation from the VA that your claim was submitted. How you receive this confirmation depends on how you applied:

  • If you applied online, you will receive a message on your computer screen after submitting the form.
  • If you applied by mail, you will receive a letter from the VA within one week. 

It takes an average of 131 days for the VA to fully review your application for disability benefits. However, the amount of time varies depending on the following factors:

  • Your method of filing (standard or fully developed)
  • The total number of disabilities you are claiming
  • The complexity of your disabilities
  • The amount of time the VA requires to gather all necessary medical evidence

You do not need to do anything else while you wait for the VA to make a decision, unless the department requests more information. If the VA does not have enough evidence or requires more information, you may need to undergo a medical exam. Learn more in the following section of this guide. 

While you wait, you can check the status of your application on the VA’s website. See the “How to Check on Your VA Claim or Appeal Status” section to learn how.

VA Claim Exam

A VA claim exam, also known as a compensation and pension (C&P) exam, may be required in order to calculate your VA disability rating. This exam is a medical evaluation to determine the severity of your condition and whether it qualifies you for a rating.

C&P exams are not always necessary. If you have enough medical evidence in your file (the application you send to the VA) that supports your condition, the VA will not usually require an exam. Learn more about medical evidence in the “Required Evidence for Claiming Disability” section.

If the VA decides you need this exam because it needs more information or medical evidence for your condition, you will receive a call or letter from a local doctor’s office advising you of the need for this exam. You will schedule it directly with the doctor’s office.

Sometimes, the VA partners with a local doctor’s office that schedules the C&P exam without consulting you first. If you cannot make your pre-scheduled appointment, notify the VA right away to see if you can reschedule. To reschedule:

If you have any new non-VA medical documents, you must submit them to the VA before your C&P exam. Non-VA documents include medical records from a general practitioner or other doctor that is not affiliated with the VA. 

The C&P exam is not like a regular doctor’s appointment; you will not be treated for any condition or illness that is unrelated to the service-connected disability that you are claiming. Instead, your doctor will review your claim and ask questions based on the evidence you submitted to the VA. 

Then, the doctor will perform a general physical examination to analyze the severity of your condition. He or she may ask you to schedule further testing, like blood work or X-rays, if necessary.

After the exam, the doctor will complete a medical report and submit it to a VA claims processor to be added to your claim file. You will not receive a decision about your claim from the doctor. When the VA makes a final decision about your disability application, you will receive a decision notice along with your official VA disability rating. 

Denials and Appeals

denials-and-appeals

THE BELOW DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. THIS GUIDE IS NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING PROGRAMS, PLEASE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OR THE VA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE NUMBERS PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE.

If you disagree with any step in your disability benefit claim, or you are denied benefits altogether, you have the right to appeal. The Decision Review Process allows you to submit an appeal if you believe a mistake has been made regarding your claim decision. 

How to Appeal a Disability Claim Denial

The VA appeal process recently changed in 2019 from the Legacy Appeal Process to the Decision Review Process. It is important to use the new Decision Review Process if the VA decision you wish to appeal was made on or after February 19, 2019. However, if you are in the middle of an appeal that was initiated before the system changed, you can continue following the old system. 

Veterans can choose one of the following methods below to get started with an appeal: 

  • A higher-level review – Claims are reviewed by a senior claims adjudicator.
  • A supplemental claim – Applicants can submit or identify new and/or relevant evidence to support and strengthen a claim.
  • An appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals – Applicants can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals with a choice of three options:
    • Direct review, when no evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Evidence submission, when new evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Hearing, when new evidence is available and applicants want to testify before a Veterans Law Judge

The appeal process for VA disability benefits follows the same structure as that of VA Health Care benefits. Learn more about the different appeal options and steps you can take in the section “Health Care Denials and Appeals” of this guide.

How to Check on Your VA Claim or Appeal Status

You can track your disability claim or check the status of your appeal online here: https://www.va.gov/track-claims/your-claims. You will need to sign in using one of the following accounts:

  • DS logon provided by the Department of Defense (DoD)
  • ID.me account
  • MyHealtheVet account

If you do not have any of the accounts listed above, create an ID.me account here: https://api.id.me/en/registration/new 

VA Disability Ratings

The VA assigns you a rating based on the severity of your disability. This rating is used to determine the benefits and compensation you can receive. The rating is expressed as a percentage, which represents the amount by which your condition reduces your overall health and ability to function.

The VA calculates your disability rating using the following factors:

  • Medical evidence you provide  (such as a doctor’s report or medical test results)
  • Results of your VA claim exam (also called a compensation and pension exam) if the VA decides you need this exam
  • Information from other sources (like federal agencies)

It is possible to have more than one disability rating, each rating correlating to a different condition. The VA uses each of your ratings to arrive at a combined disability rating, which is an average percentage of the overall effect of all of your conditions. The combined rating cannot exceed 100 percent. 

The VA has created a table to help veterans understand their combined disability rating: https://www.va.gov/VA-combined-ratings-table-2019.pdf. To use the table, follow the steps below:

  1. Find your highest disability rating along the leftmost column of the table. 
  2. Find your next lowest disability rating along the top row. 
  3. Locate the box where the two numbers intersect. This is your combined rating rounded to the nearest 10 percent. 

What to Expect After Receiving a Disability Rating

Once you receive a notice from the VA verifying your disability with a rating, you can use this rating to see if you qualify for disability benefits. If you disagree with your disability rating, you can file an appeal. All appeals must be filed within one year of receiving the decision notice. Learn more about appeals in the “Denials and Appeals” section of this guide.

If you do not receive a decision notice, you can do one of the following:

If you qualify for VA disability compensation and your decision notice shows a disability rating of at least 10 percent, you should receive your first compensation payment within 15 days. 

VA Disability Compensation Rates

disability-compensation-rates

A disability compensation rate is the total amount of money per month that you are eligible to receive from the VA for your (or your veteran’s) disability. Your rate is calculated based on the following factors:

  • The veteran’s VA disability rating
  • Number and type of dependent family members

Compensation Rates for Veterans With 10% to 20% Disability Rating

Disability RatingMonthly Compensation Rate
10%$152.64
20%$301.74

Compensation Rates for Veterans With 30% to 60% Disability Rating With a Dependent Spouse or Parent (Without Children)

Dependent StatusDisability Rating/Monthly Compensation Ratescolspancolspancolspan
30%40%50%60%
Veteran alone (no dependents) $467.39 $673.28 $958.44 $1,214.03 
With spouse (no parents or children) $522.39 $747.28 $1,050.44 $1,325.03 
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $566.39 $806.28$1,124.44$1,414.03
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $610.39 $865.28 $1,198.44 $1,503.03 
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $511.39$732.28 $1,032.44$1,303.03
With 2 parents(no spouse or children) $555.39$791.28 $1,106.44 $1,392.03 

If a spouse is receiving Aid and Attendance, add the following amounts to the monthly compensation rate:

Disability RatingAdded Amount
30%$51
40%$68
50%$86
60%$102

Compensation Rates for Veterans With 70% to 100% Disability Rating With a Dependent Spouse or Parent (Without Children)

Dependent StatusDisability Rating/Monthly Compensation Ratescolspancolspancolspan
70%80%90%100%
Veteran alone (no dependents) $1,529.95$1,778.43 $1,998.52 $3,332.06
With spouse (no parents or children) $1,659.95 $1,926.43 $2,165.52 $3,517.84
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $1,763.95 $2,045.43$2,299.52 $3,666.94
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $1,867.95 $2,164.43 $2,433.52 $3,816.04
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $1,633.95 $1,897.43 $2,132.52$3,481.16
With 2 parents (no spouse or children) $1,737.95 $2,016.43$2,266.52 $3,630.26

If a spouse is receiving Aid and Attendance, add the following amounts to the monthly compensation rate:

Disability RatingAdded Amount
70%$119
80%$136
90%$153
100%$170.38

Compensation Rates for Veterans With 30% to 60% Disability Rating With Dependents, Including Children

Dependent StatusDisability Rating / Monthly Compensation Ratescolspancolspancolspan
30%40%50%60%
Veteran with 1 child only (no spouse or parents) $504.39 $722.28 $1,020.44 $1,288.03 
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $563.39 $801.28 $1,118.44 $1,407.03 
With 1 child, spouse, and 1 parent$607.39 $860.28$1,192.44 $1,496.03 
With 1 child, spouse, and 2 parents$651.39 $919.28 $1,266.44 $1,585.03 
With 1 child and 1 parent (no spouse) $548.39 $781.28 $1,094.44 $1,377.03
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $592.39 $840.28 $1,168.44 $1,466.03 

Some beneficiaries may qualify for added amounts, depending on the number of children they have or other factors. See the chart below to learn when additional compensation may be added to the monthly rate listed in the table above:

Dependent StatusVA Disability Rating/Added Amountcolspancolspancolspan
30%40%50%60%
Each additional child younger than 18$27$36$46$55
Each additional child older than age 18 in a qualifying school program$89 $119$149$178
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance$51$68$86$102

Compensation Rates for Veterans With 70% to 100% Disability Rating With Dependents, Including Children

Dependent StatusVA Disability Rating / Monthly Compensation Ratescolspancolspancolspan
70%80%90%100%
Veteran with child only (no spouse or parents)$1,615.95$1,877.43$2,109.52$3,456.30
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $1,754.95 $2,035.43 $2,287.52 $3,653.89
With 1 child, spouse and 1 parent$1,858.95$2,154.43 $2,421.52 $3,802.99
With 1 child, spouse and 2 parents$1,962.95$2,274.43 $2,555.52 $3,952.09
With 1 child and 1 parent (no spouse)$1,719.95 $1,996.43 $2,243.52 $3,605.40
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $1,823.95 $2,115.43 $2,377.52 $3,754.50

Some beneficiaries may qualify for added amounts, depending on the number of children they have or other factors. See the chart below to learn when additional compensation may be added to the monthly rate listed in the table above:

Dependent StatusVA Disability Rating / Monthly Compensation Ratescolspancolspancolspan
70%80%90%100%
Each additional child younger than 18$64$73$83$92.31
Each additional child older than age 18 in a qualifying school program$208$238$268$298.18
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance$119$136$153$170.38 

VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC)

The surviving spouse, dependent child or parent of a service member who was killed in the line of duty or died from a service-connected injury or illness may be eligible to receive tax-free payments from the VA known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC). 

Surviving Spouse Eligibility

To be eligible for VA DIC as a surviving spouse, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You got married to the veteran or service member before January 1, 1957
  • You got married to the veteran or service member within 15 years of discharge from military service during the time of illness or injury
  • You were married to the veteran or service member for at least one year
  • You had a child with the veteran or service member, are not currently remarried and either lived with the veteran or service member without a break until their death or, if separated, were not at fault for the separation

You must submit evidence that the veteran or service member met at least one of the following requirements:

  • Died while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive-duty training
  • Died from a service-connected illness or injury
  • Did not die from a service-connected illness or injury, but was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling for a certain period of time
    • If the veteran or service member meets this requirement, he or she must have had the rating of totally disabled:
      • For at least 10 years before their death, or
      • Since the release from active duty and for at least five years before their death, or
      • For at least one year before their death if they were a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

Surviving Child Eligibility

To be eligible for VA DIC as a surviving child, children must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Are not married
  • Are not included on a surviving spouse’s compensation record
  • Are younger than 18 years of age (or younger than 23 if attending school)

They must also submit evidence that the veteran or service member met at least one of the following requirements:

  • Died while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive-duty training
  • Died from a service-connected illness or injury
  • Did not die from a service-connected illness or injury, but was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling for a certain period of time
    • If the veteran or service member meets this requirement, he or she must have had the rating of totally disabled:
      • For at least 10 years before their death, or
      • Since the release from active duty and for at least five years before their death, or
      • For at least one year before their death if they were a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

Surviving Parent Eligibility

To be eligible for VA DIC as a surviving parent, applicants must meet all of the following requirements:

  • They are the biological, adoptive or foster parent of the veteran or service member
  • Their income falls below a certain level

They must also submit evidence that supports one of the following:

  • The service member died from an injury or illness while on active duty or in the line of duty while on active duty for training
  • The service member died from an injury or certain illnesses in the line of duty while on inactive training, or
  • The veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury

DIC Rates for Surviving Spouses and Children

surviving-spouses-and-children

The DIC rates for surviving spouses and children vary based on certain categories, which differ based on when the veteran died. The categories are as follows:

  • Veteran died on or after January 1, 1993
  • Veteran died before January 1, 1993

For children, DIC rates vary based on whether they:

  • Are a surviving dependent child of a veteran with no surviving spouse; or
  • Are a surviving, unmarried adult child of a veteran with a surviving spouse who is also eligible for DIC; or
  • Are a surviving eligible child of a veteran without a surviving spouse eligible for DIC

DIC Rates: Veteran Died on or After January 1, 1993

Type of SurvivorMonthly DIC Ratecolspancolspan
Surviving spouse$1,437.66
Surviving dependent child of a veteran with no surviving spouse$607.02
Surviving, unmarried adult child of a veteran with a surviving spouse who is also eligible for DIC between the ages of 18 and 23 and enrolled in school$301.74
Surviving, unmarried adult child of a veteran with a surviving spouse who is also eligible for DIC older than age 18 who became permanently unable to support themselves before age 18$607.02
Surviving eligible child of a veteran without a surviving spouse eligible for DIC
Rates for this category depend on the veteran’s total number of eligible children.
Number of Veteran’s Eligible ChildrenMonthly DIC Rate Per ChildTotal Monthly DIC Payment
1$607.02$607.02
2$436.62$873.24
3$379.83$1,139.49
4$339.01$1,356.03
5$314.51$1,572.57
6$298.19$1,789.11
7$286.52$2,005.65
8$277.77$2,222.19
9$270.97$2,438.73
10 or more$216.54N/A

Some spouses may qualify for other VA benefits or programs that add a certain amount to their monthly DIC payment rates, known as “Added Amounts.” The table below lists factors that may qualify you along with the corresponding additional amounts. 

If the spouse meets this criteria…They may qualify for this benefit…And add this amount to their monthly DIC rate
The Veteran had a VA disability rating of totally disabling (including for individual unemployability) for at least eight full years leading up to his or her deathAND you were married to the veteran for those same years8-year provision$305.28
Your disability causes you to require assistance with regular daily activitiesAid and Attendance$356.16
Your disability prevents you from leaving the houseHousebound Allowance$166.85
You have one or more children younger than 18Transitional benefit$306 for the first two years after the veteran’s death
DIC apportionment rate$356.16 per child

Some children may also qualify for additional amounts based on certain factors. The table below lists these factors along with the corresponding additional amounts. 

Survivor TypeChild StatusAdded Monthly DIC Payment
Surviving eligible child of a veteran without a surviving spouse eligible for DICHelpless child older than 18 (an adult child who became permanently unable to support themselves before age 18)$356.16 per child

DIC Rates: Veteran Died Before January 1, 1993

Spouses and children of veterans who died before January 1, 1993 must calculate their DIC payments in a different way. The DIC rates for these veterans are based on pay grade and are categorized into the following:

  • Enlisted Veteran Pay Grades E-1 to E-9
  • Warrant Officer Pay Grades W-1 to W-4
  • Officer Pay Grades O-1 to O-10

The VA has provided multiple tables to help you find your DIC rate based on the veteran’s pay grade. Access the charts here: https://www.va.gov/disability/survivor-dic-rates/#dic-rates-if-the-veteran-died-. Scroll down to the section titled “DIC rates if the Veteran died before January 1, 1993.”

Follow the steps below to find the applicable monthly DIC payment.

  1. Click on your veteran’s pay grade category.
  2. In the left column, find their specific pay grade.
  3. In the right column, find the corresponding monthly DIC payment.
  4. Scroll down to the “Added or Increased Amounts” table and add any added or increased amounts that apply to you based on the veteran’s disability rating and whether you have dependent children under age 18.

DIC Rates for Surviving Parents

The DIC rates for surviving parents vary based on certain categories, which differ based on the number of parents who are alive and where the applicant is living. The categories are as follows:

  • Only one parent is alive
  • Both parents are alive
    • Eligible parent is not living with a spouse
    • Eligible parent is living with the veteran’s other parent or a current spouse

Furthermore, DIC rates for surviving parents depend on income. The VA has created several tables that show current DIC rates based on the category that the applicant fits into (listed above) as well as his or her income. 

To view the 2022 DIC rate tables on the VA website, click here: https://www.va.gov/disability/parent-dic-rates/#dic-rates-if-only-1-parent-is-

Follow the steps outlined below to locate the correct rate table and find the applicable monthly DIC payments.

  1. Find your category.
    • If you are the only surviving parent of a service member or veteran, scroll down to the section titled “DIC Rates if Only 1 Parent is Alive.”
    • If you are not the only surviving parent of a service member or veteran, and you do not live with the other parent or a current spouse, scroll down to the section titled “If The Eligible Parent Doesn’t Live With a Spouse.”
    • If you are not the only surviving parent of a service member or veteran, but you do live with the other parent or a current spouse, scroll down to the section titled “If The Eligible Parent Lives With The Veteran’s Other Parent Or a Spouse.”
  2. Find your beginning monthly rate.
    • Once you find your category, view the table listed underneath. In the left column, locate the yearly income amount that is closest to your income when rounded up.
    • Then, view the corresponding beginning monthly DIC rate in the middle column. 
  3. Find the difference between your actual income and the income limit closest to your income when rounded down. 
    • Locate the income limit in the left column that is closest to your income when rounded down
    • Subtract this income limit from your actual income.
  4. Multiple this figure by the rate of decrease.
    • Find the decimal listed in the rightmost column and multiply it by the amount calculated in step 3.
  5. Add $386 for Aid and Attendance.
    • Only complete this step if you are eligible for Aid and Attendance. Learn more in the “Aid and Attendance Benefits or Household Allowance” section on page X at the beginning of the VA Disability section of this guide.
  6. Find your payment schedule.
    • Multiply the amount found in step 4 (or step 5, if you qualify for Aid and Attendance) by 12 months to find your total yearly payments.
      1. If total yearly payments add up to more than $228: you will be paid monthly.
      2. If total yearly payments are between $144 and $228: you will receive one payment every three months.
      3. If total yearly payments are between $72 and $144: you will receive one payment every six months. 
      4. If total yearly payments are less than $72: you will be paid once per year.

How to Add or Remove Dependents

Veterans who are eligible for disability benefits can add or remove dependents, which are family members that may be eligible for compensation. Dependents can be children, spouses and parents. Both of these actions can be done online through the eBenefits portal, with the exception of parents, which must be done by mail.

Adding a dependent means that you already submitted a claim for disability benefits, but did not add that dependent initially. You can add dependents anytime, which is referred to as “filing a claim for additional compensation.” 

In order to add a dependent, you must meet both of the following eligibility criteria:

  • You are eligible for VA disability compensation
  • You have a VA disability rating of at least 30 percent

To add a dependent child or spouse to your disability benefits, follow the steps below.

  1. Sign into your eBenefits online portal here:  https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=dependent-compensation
  2. Click “Add a Dependent.”
  3. Provide any necessary documentation or medical evidence.
    1. If you are adding a child who became permanently disabled before reaching age 18, you must submit private medical records relating to the child’s disabilities with your application.
    2. If you are adding a child who is enrolled in school, submit a Request for Approval of School Attendance (VA Form 21-674). Download it here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-674-ARE.pdf 

If you cannot add a dependent child or spouse using the online eBenefits portal, you may complete the process by mail using the corresponding application documents:

To add a dependent parent to your disability benefits, follow the steps below.

  1. Complete a Statement of Dependency of Parent(s) (VA Form 21P-509).
    Download it here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-509-ARE.pdf 
  2. Mail the completed form to:
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Evidence Intake Center
    P.O. Box 4444
    Janesville, WI 53547-4444

To remove a dependent, submit a request through the online eBenefits portal to stop paying additional disability compensation for a spouse or child. It will take longer for the VA to process a request to remove a dependent child from your benefits than a spouse.

Managing Disability Benefits

Recipients of VA disability benefits can manage their case file using the VA’s website along with the eBenefits portal. Use the following accounts to sign into the VA website:

To use most features on eBenefits, you will need a Premium DS Logon account (a step up from the standard account). Learn how to upgrade to a Premium DS Logon by watching this video from the VA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szbYUKhbB7A 

How to View Your Payment History

You can view a summary of VA payments on the eBenefits portal. You must first sign in using your Premium DS Logon account. If you do not yet have a Premium account, you can sign into eBenefits using your standard login information and upgrade through the website.

Veterans can see the following types of payments:

  • Disability compensation
  • Pension benefits
  • Education benefits

Survivors of veterans or service members can see the following types of payments:

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Survivors pension benefits
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (Chapter 35 benefits)

How to File for a Disability Increase

If you have already filed an initial disability claim with the VA and your disability has gotten worse, you can file for a disability increase to see if you qualify for a higher VA disability rating and more compensation. During this process, you must submit medical evidence that verifies the increased severity of your condition. 

The process of filing for a disability increase follows the same steps as an initial disability claim. See the “How to Apply for Disability Benefits” section of this guide to learn how to apply.

How to Share Your VA Medical Records

Through the Veterans Health Information Exchange (VHIE) program, your VA health care team is able to quickly and securely share your medical information with VA community care providers and the Department of Defense (DoD). By consenting to the program, health care providers can electronically receive important health care information to treat you without the need to wait for faxes.

If you do not wish to participate in the VHIE program, your health records will not be shared except during life-threatening situations. You can opt out at any time by completing VA form 10-10164 (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/10-10164-fill.pdf ) and sending it to your nearest VA facility’s Release of Information Office (ROI).

If you change your mind, and wish to opt back into the VHIE program, you must submit VA form 10-10163 (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/10-10163-fill.pdf) to your nearest VA facility’s Release of Information Office (ROI).

Opting in or out of the VHIE program may also be done online through My HealtheVet. Sign in here: https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/home 

How to File Additional Forms to Your Claim

You may need to submit additional documents to the VA, depending on the condition you are claiming during the application process.

See the “Required Evidence for Claiming Disability” section for a list of additional forms you may need to submit based on the condition you are claiming. 

How to Download Your VA Benefit Letter

If you wish to keep copies of any VA benefits letters or documents, such as your VA Benefit Summary Letter, you may do so online using the VA’s website here: https://www.va.gov/records/download-va-letters/. You can only download the forms you see when you sign into your VA.gov account.  

To download a form, your computer must have Adobe Reader. 

If you want to download a form that you do not see listed on your VA.gov account, contact the MyVA411 main line at t 800-698-2411 (TTY 711).

VA Education and Training Assistance

va-education

Veterans and their families can access several education and training benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The purpose of these benefit programs is to help veterans establish and maintain a career when readjusting to civilian life in the United States. 

The VA offers the following educational assistance programs to qualified veterans and their families:

  • GI Bill Programs
    • Post-9/11 GI Bill
    • Yellow Ribbon Program
    • Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty
    • Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve
  • National Call to Service Program
  • Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

Continue reading the sections below to learn more about each of these education and training programs offered through the VA.

GI Bill Programs

The VA offers many education and training benefits through the GI Bill. These programs provide financial assistance to help veterans pay for college, graduate school or career training. Depending on an applicant’s credentials, the GI Bill may cover all or most of the expenses related to post-military service education. 

There are 3 types of GI Bills:

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty
  • Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to veterans who served on active duty after September 10, 2001. It provides financial assistance up to the full cost of tuition and fees as well as money for books and supplies, housing and relocating to attend school. It also helps veterans pay for non-college degree programs, vocational schools and other industry-specific career training programs.

Eligibility

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, individuals must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Must have served as an Active Duty, Selected Reserve or National Guard member or be a spouse or child of one
  • Must have received one of the following types of discharges from service:
    • Honorable
    • Under honorable conditions
    • General

Additionally, they must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Served at least 90 days on active duty (continuous or otherwise) on or after September 11, 2001
  • Received a Purple Heart* on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged after any amount of service
  • Served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability
  • Are a dependent child using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred by a qualifying veteran or service member

*Service members and veterans who were honorably discharged are eligible for full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits when they receive a Purple Heart, one of the highest merits awarded to members wounded by enemy action. 

The total amount of benefits a service member receives depends on his or her length of duty. The chart below details the percentage of benefits and corresponding lengths of active duty. 

Length of DutyPercentage of Maximum Benefits
At least 36 months or a Purple Heart100%
At least 30 consecutive days of active duty AND be discharged due to service-connected disability100%
At least 30 months, but less than 36 months90%
At least 24 months, but less than 30 months80%
At least 18 months, but less than 24 months70%
At least 6 months, but less than 18 months60%
At least 90 days, but less than 6 months50%

Benefits

Through the Post-9/11 Bill, you can receive the following benefits:

  • Tuition assistance for college and non-college degrees
  • Monthly housing allowance (MHA)
  • Money for books & supplies
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Flight training
  • Licensing and certification
  • Correspondence courses
  • Help paying for national tests
  • Work study
  • Tutorial assistance

Learn how to access each of these benefits in the “How to Use GI Bill Benefits” section. 

Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)

A monthly housing allowance (MHA) is a set amount of money paid directly to you that you can use to offset the cost of living in the area you attend school. Your MHA is calculated by the school, campus or institute where you attend most of your courses or classes and is based on its ZIP code. 

To research your school’s MHA, you can search for it in the VA Bill Comparison Tool here: https://www.va.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool 

Generally, the MHA is the same as the military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. To determine your BAH, you can use the BAH calculator provided by the Defense Travel Management Office here: https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm. You will need to enter your ZIP code and your pay grade (enter E-5). 

If you fall into any of the categories listed below, you are not eligible to receive an MHA:

  • You attend courses at ½ time or less.
  • You are an active duty trainee.
  • You are a spouse who is receiving transferred benefits. 

Transferring Benefits

Post-9/11 Bill benefits can be transferred from an eligible veteran to a qualifying dependent spouse or child. When a transfer happens, the veteran chooses not to use the benefits and instead allows an eligible family member to use them for tuition assistance, housing, books and supplies. 

Veterans are eligible to transfer their unused benefits if they meet all of the following requirements:

  • They have completed at least six years of military service on the date the transfer request is approved
  • They commit to four more years of military service
  • The family member getting benefits is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)

Spouses receiving transferred benefits are eligible to use them as soon as the transfer is approved by the Department of Defense (DoD). They can use them regardless of whether the military member is still on active duty or after they have separated from service. Once members separate from active duty, spouses have 15 years to use transferred benefits before they expire.

Children receiving transferred benefits can only start using them once the military member finishes at least 10 years of service. Before they can use any benefits, they must receive a high school diploma or GED or be at least 18 years of age. Children who qualify are always eligible to receive the monthly housing allowance. They can use transferred benefits until reaching 26 years of age.

Benefit Amounts

The total amount of money you can receive in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program depends on whether you attend a public or private school. The current rates of payment are listed in the table below. All payments shown are applicable to those who are eligible for 100 percent of the maximum benefits. Learn more about eligibility requirements by using the chart listed in the “Eligibility” section.

Payment Rates for Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and Other Schools
Type of School Tuition Rate
Public School100 percent of in-state tuition (for in-state students)
Private or Foreign SchoolUp to $26,381.37 per year
Non-College Degree Granting Institution Up to $26,381.37 per year
Vocational Flight SchoolsUp to $15,075.05 per year
Correspondence SchoolsUp to $12,831.78 per year
2022 Payment Rates for Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training Programs

The rates for these types of training programs are based on your calculated monthly housing allowance (MHA) rather than tuition. The MHA is generally the same as the military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents, with some exceptions. For more information, see the “Monthly Housing Allowance” section

Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
First six months of training100 percent of your MHA
Second six months of training80 percent of your MHA
Third six months of training60 percent of your MHA
Fourth six months of training40 percent of your MHA
Remaining pursuit of training 20 percent of your MHA

Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty

military man with books montgomery gi bill

This GI Bill is available to active duty members of the military and provides monthly payments that can be used to pay for education and training expenses. Unlike the Post-9/11 bill, it does not pay for related expenses like housing, books or relocation. 

Eligibility

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, individuals must have:

  • Served at least two years on active duty; and
  • Received an honorable discharge. 

Additionally, they must meet the eligibility criteria in one of four categories, as outlined below. 

Category I Eligibility Requirements
All of the below must be true:One of the below must be true:
– Have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
– Began active duty military service for the first time after June 30, 1985
– Have had at least $100 docked from military pay for the first 12 months of service 
Served continuously for three years
rowspanServed continuously for two years IF member was in a two-year commitment at the beginning of his or her military service
rowspanServed a total of four years IF member entered the Selected Reserve within one year of leaving active duty
Category II Eligibility Requirements

All of the below must be true:

  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  • Entered active duty before January 1, 1977 (OR before January 2, 1978, under a delayed enlistment program contracted before January 1, 1977)
  • Served at least one day between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987, if the member entered the Selected Reserve within one year of leaving active duty and served 4 years total)
  • Had at least one day of entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (Chapter 34) as of December 31, 1989
Category III Eligibility Requirements
All of the below must be true:One of the below must be true:
Have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college creditDo not qualify under Category I or IIHave had at least $1,200 docked from military pay before separationWere on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated (not by your choice) after February 2, 1991
rowspanInvoluntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993
rowspanVoluntarily separated under the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program OR the Special Separation Benefit (SSB) program
Category IV Eligibility Requirements 
All of the below must be true:All of the below must be true:
Have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college creditHave had at least $100 docked from military pay for 12 months OR made a $1,200 lump sum contributionWere on active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date and chose the Montgomery GI Bill before October 9, 1997
rowspanEntered full-time National Guard duty under title 32 USC between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989 AND chose the Montgomery GI Bill between October 9, 1996 and July 9, 1997

Benefits

Through the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty program, qualified individuals can receive the following benefits:

  • Tuition assistance for college and non-college degrees
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Flight training
  • Licensing and certification
  • Correspondence courses
  • Help paying for national tests
  • Work study
  • Tutorial assistance

Learn how to access each of these benefits in the “How to Use GI Bill Benefits” section of this guide. 

Benefit Amounts

The total amount of money qualified individuals can receive toward your training in the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (AD) program depends on their enlistment commitment, the length of training and, sometimes, the total number of dependents. The current rates of payment are listed in the tables below. 

Payment Rates for Enlistment of Three Years

Institutional Training

Training TimeMonthly Benefit Rate
Full Time$2,150 per month
¾ Time$1,612.50 per month
½ Time$1,075 per month
Less than ½, but more than ¼ time$1,075* per month
¼ Time or Less$537.50* per month

Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
First six months of training$1,612.50 per month
Second six months of training$1,182.50 per month
Remainder of training$745.50 per month

Correspondence, Flight and Cooperative Training

Qualified individuals can get reimbursed for these types of training courses at the rate of one month for each $2,150 paid.

Payment Rates for Enlistment of Less Than Three Years

Institutional Training

Training TimeMonthly Benefit Rate
Full Time$1,744 per month
¾ Time$1,308 per month
½ Time$872 per month
Less than ½, but more than ¼ time$872* per month
¼ Time or Less$436* per month

Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
First six months of training$1,308 per month
Second six months of training$959.20 per month
Remainder of training$610.40 per month

Correspondence, Flight and Cooperative Training

Qualified individuals can get reimbursed for these types of training courses at the rate of one month for each $1,744 paid.

Duration of Benefits and How Payments Are Made

Individuals can receive Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty benefits for a total of 36 months. Benefits last for a period of 10 years from the last day of active duty. Payments are made directly to the individual, not to the school. 

$600 Buy-Up Program

Individuals can choose to make additional contributions from their military pay each month to receive a higher monthly benefit. This program allows them to make additional payments in $20 increments up to $600. Depending on the additional contributions, individuals can increase their benefits as much as $5,400 over the 36-month span. 

The table below outlines the amount by which the monthly payment could increase based on the student’s status and the additional contributions made through the $600 Buy-Up Program. 

Additional Contribution Of:Add this amount to Full Time paymentAdd this amount to ¾ time paymentAdd this amount to ½ time paymentAdd this amount to less than ½ time but more than ¼ time paymentAdd this amount to ¼ time payment
$20$5.00$3.75$2.50$2.50$1.25
$40$10.00$7.50$5.00$5.00$2.50
$60$15.00$11.25$7.50$7.50$3.75
$80$20.00$15.00$10.00$10.00$5.00
$100$25.00$18.75$12.50$12.50$6.25
$120$30.00$22.50$15.00$15.00$7.50
$140$35.00$26.25$17.50$17.50$8.75
$160$40.00$30.00$20.00$20.00$10.00
$180$45.00$33.75$22.50$22.50$11.25
$200$50.00$37.50$25.00$25.00$12.50
$220$55.00$41.25$27.50$27.50$13.75
$240$60.00$45.00$30.00$30.00$15.00
$260$65.00$48.75$32.50$32.50$16.25
$280$70.00$52.50$35.00$35.00$17.50
$300$75.00$56.25$37.50$37.50$18.75
$320$80.00$60.00$40.00$40.00$20.00
$340$85.00$63.75$42.50$42.50$21.25
$360$90.00$67.50$45.00$45.00$22.50
$380$95.00$71.25$47.50$47.50$23.75
$400$100.00$75.00$50.00$50.00$25.00
$420$105.00$78.75$52.50$52.50$26.25
$440$110.00$82.50$55.00$55.00$27.50
$460$115.00$86.25$57.50$57.50$28.75
$480$120.00$90.00$60.00$60.00$30.00
$500$125.00$93.75$62.50$62.50$31.25
$520$130.00$97.50$65.00$65.00$32.50
$540$135.00$101.25$67.50$67.50$33.75
$560$140.00$105.00$70.00$70.00$35.00
$580$145.00$108.75$72.50$72.50$36.25
$600$150.00$112.50$75.00$75.00$37.50

Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve

This GI Bill is available to members of Selected Reserve units. Like the Active Duty Montgomery GI Bill, this program also provides monthly payments toward education and career training expenses.

Eligibility

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, individuals must meet the criteria in the table below.

All of the below must be true:One of the below must be true:
Complete initial active duty for training (IADT)Receive a high school diploma, High School Equivalency Diploma or GED before finishing IADT* Remain in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit**Have a six-year service commitment in the Selected Reserve
Be an officer in the Selected Reserve with an agreement to serve six years in addition to the initial service commitment

*Individuals cannot use 12 hours toward a college degree to meet this requirement.

**Individuals will still qualify if they are discharged from Selected Reserve service due to a disability that was not caused by misconduct.

Benefits

Through the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve program, qualified individuals can receive the following benefits:

  • Tuition assistance for college and non-college degrees
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Flight training
  • Licensing and certification
  • Correspondence courses
  • Help paying for national tests
  • Work study
  • Tutorial assistance

Learn how to access each of these benefits in the “How to Use GI Bill Benefits” section. 

Benefit Amounts

The total amount of money individuals can receive toward training in the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (SR) program depends on the type of education or training. The current rates of payment are listed in the tables below. 

Institutional Training
Training TimeMonthly Benefit Rate
Full Time$407 per month
¾ Time$305 per month
½ Time$203 per month
Less than ½ time$101.75 per month
Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training
Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
First six months of training$305.25 per month
Second six months of training$223.85 per month
Remainder of training$142.45 per month
Cooperative, Correspondence & Flight Training

Qualified individuals are eligible for $407 for cooperative training. They can be covered for 55 percent of the approved charges for correspondence training. For flight training courses, they are covered for 60 percent of the approved charges. 

Duration of Benefits & How Payments Are Made

Individuals can receive Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve benefits for a total of 36 months. Benefits end on the last day of their service commitment. Payments are made directly to the individual, not the school.

How to Apply for All GI Bill Programs

After determining your eligibility for benefits, the first step in the application process is to find an approved school. You will need to provide information about schools you are interested in attending. These schools must be approved by the VA in order to use GI Bill benefits. 

The VA has a search tool you can use to find approved schools across the country, including in U.S. territories. You can use the Web Enabled Approval Management System (WEAMS) to search for approved schools by location, the name of the school or by program type. Access the WEAMS search tool here: https://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/buildSearchInstitutionCriteria.do.

Once you find a GI Bill-approved school you’d like to attend, you must apply for the GI Bill. The application process is the same for all GI Bills. Applications are typically processed within 30 days. You can apply in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • In person 

Apply Online

You can apply for the GI Bill online regardless of whether you are a service member, dependent or applying to use transferred benefits.

  1. Visit the online application portal on the VA website here: https://www.va.gov/education/apply-for-education-benefits/application/1990/introduction 
    • If you have a VA.gov account, you can choose to sign in so you can save your application as you go. You can sign in using your DS logon provided by the Department of Defense (DoD), an ID.me account or a MyHealtheVet account.
  2. Gather all required information and documents.
    1. Refer to the “Documents and Information Needed to Apply” section.
  3. Enter all information as prompted.
  4. Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in the mail. 

Apply by Mail

You can apply for benefits by mail using a paper application. The application form you need depends on who you are. 

Or, call (888) 442-4551 between the hours of 8 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday to request to receive an application form in the mail. Once you have the correct application form, follow the steps outlined below to apply by mail:

  1. Complete the form.
  2. Mail it to the VA regional claims processing office in the same location as your school of interest.
  1. Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in the mail.

Apply in Person

  1. Find a VA Regional Office near you.
    1. Click here to search for an office in your location: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=benefits 
  2. Complete the necessary application with help from an office employee. 
Additional Application Requirements by Bill Program

If you are applying for the GI Bill using the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve benefit and you have already started your training, you will need to have a school/program official or your employer verify your enrollment. 

To do this, they will need to complete the VA Enrollment Certification (VA Form 22-1999 https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-1999c-ARE.pdf). Once this form is complete, you can send it along with your application.

Documents and Information Needed to Apply

You will need to provide the following documents and information during the application process:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Bank account direct deposit information
  • Education and military history
  • The following information about the school or training facility you want to attend (or are currently attending)
    • Full name and address
    • Type of education or training (college, apprenticeship or on-the-job training, vocational flight school, correspondence program, licensing or certification test reimbursement, national test reimbursement or tuition assistance top-up)
    • Degree or career program of interest
  • If you are a veteran or military member applying by mail: 
  • If you are a dependent applying by mail:
  • If you are applying to use transferred benefits by mail:

How to Use GI Bill Benefits

Once you are approved for the GI Bill program, you can start using your benefits toward a variety of degrees or degree training programs. Depending on the particular GI bill for which military members qualify, they are eligible to receive all or some of the following education and career training benefits:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • Non-college degrees
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeships
  • Correspondence training
  • Flight training
  • Work-study programs
  • Books and supplies
  • Testing fees
  • Licensing and certification
  • National testing programs
  • Foreign school tuition assistance

Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs

You can use GI Bill benefits to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree at an approved institute of higher learning (IHL). An undergraduate degree is the first level of post-secondary education that can be earned at a community college or a four-year university. In most cases, you are considered a full-time undergraduate student if you spend at least 12 hours in classes. 

A graduate degree is a level above an undergraduate degree and can be earned at a graduate school. Your graduate school determines full-time status. 

Non-College Degree Programs

two men in vests with papers non-college-programs

When the VA mentions “training,” it is referring to the specific non-college degree programs. If you are interested in a career that does not require a college degree, you can use your GI Bill benefits to help pay for tuition, books and supplies. Programs must be approved by the VA in order for you to use GI Bill benefits. Examples of approved programs include HVAC repair, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and truck driving. 

On-the-Job Training and Apprenticeships

Most industry-specific jobs require you to participate in on-the-job training or an apprenticeship in lieu of getting a college degree. Rather than attending courses at a college or university, you will enter into a contract to work in a VA-approved program directly under a supervisor or industry professional and gain valuable hands-on experience. These programs are offered by unions and employers in your field of interest.

Correspondence Training

Correspondence training is coursework that is completed online, by mail or another method that allows you to learn at home. This type of training is ideal if you live far from your school. The VA will reimburse you in full for correspondence classes taken at an in-state school if you receive benefits from the Post-9/11 Bill. Otherwise, you will be reimbursed for 55 percent of the approved costs. 

Flight Training

If you have a private pilot license and are interested in advancing your qualifications, you can use your benefits to lower the cost of flight school. You can receive qualifications in the following:

  • Rotary wing
  • B747-400
  • Dual engine
  • Flight engineer

If you receive benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, the VA will reimburse you for 60 percent of the approved charges. If you receive benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the total amount of payment you can receive depends on:

  • Your level of eligibility 
  • How much entitlement you have left 
  • The type of school (public, private or Part 141 pilot school) and program (degree or vocational) that you are enrolled in

Work Study

You can earn money from a part-time job while you receive your education or training through a work study program. To qualify, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled at least ¾ time in a VA-approved college degree, vocational, or professional program
  • Apply for an open job at a nearby VA facility or in a VA-related role at your school
  • Complete the work study contract while you remain qualified for GI Bill benefits

You will earn an hourly wage equal to the federal minimum wage or the minimum wage in your state, whichever is greater. You can choose to get paid in advance for 40 percent of the hours in your work study agreement or for 50 hours, whichever is fewer. Once you have accumulated the hours covered by your first payment, you will receive a check each time you complete 50 hours of work (or every other week, whichever comes first).

You are only allowed to work as many hours as 25 times the number of weeks in your enrollment period. For example, if your school or program term is 15 weeks, you can work up to 375 hours. 

To apply for a work study program, complete the Application for Work Study Allowance (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-8691-ARE.pdf) and mail it to the appropriate VA regional office. Find regional office contact information in the “VA Contact Information Directory” section of this guide. 

Books and Supplies

If you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Fry Scholarship and enroll in a college program, you are eligible to receive a stipend to help pay for your books and supplies. The money is sent directly to you at the time of your enrollment certification, generally at the beginning of the term. The amount of the stipend is calculated at $41 per credit hour with a maximum of $1,000 per year. 

If you participate in on-the-job training or an apprenticeship, you are also eligible to receive money toward books and supplies. The VA will pay you a maximum of $83 per month.

Testing Fees

You can use part of your GI Bill benefits to get reimbursed for certain approved testing fees. These tests include licensing and certification exams as well as national tests you need to take to enroll in a college or training course. 

Licensing and Certification Tests

The VA will reimburse you for test fees up to $2,000 for a job that requires a license or certification. You can get reimbursed for tests for as many approved licenses or certifications as you would like, up to the maximum amount. You can even get reimbursed for tests you fail or need to retake. If you need to take a test to get recertified or retain a license you already have, the VA will reimburse you. 

Search for a licensing or certification (L&C) test here to see if it will be covered: https://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/buildSearchCountryLCCriteria.do 

Once you find a test, you must complete the Application for Reimbursement of Licensing or Certification Test Fees form (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-0803-ARE.pdf) and attach proof that you have paid for the test, such as a receipt. Then, submit it in one of the following ways: 

National Tests

sat book and paper tests

The VA will reimburse you for certain tests you need to take to enroll or earn credit in a college or training course. See the list of approved tests below:

College Admissions Tests

  • SAT 
  • ACT (American College Testing)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

College Credit Tests

  • AP (Advanced Placement Examination)
  • CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)
  • DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests)
  • ECE (Excelsior College Examinations)
  • PLA (Prior Learning Assessment)

Graduate School Admissions Tests

  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
  • LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  • MAT (Miller Analogies Test)

Pre-Health Professional Program Admissions Tests 

  • DAT (Dental Admission Test)
  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
  • OAT (Optometry Admission Test)
  • PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)

You will only get reimbursed for registration fees, administrative fees and the cost of specialized tests. You cannot receive payment toward fees for getting your results early.

Once you find a test, you must complete the Application for Reimbursement of National Exam Fee form (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-0810-ARE.pdf) and mail it to your regional office. Find regional office contact information in the “VA Contact Information Directory” section of this guide. You may need to provide proof of payment, such as a receipt. 

Foreign Schools

To use your GI Bill benefits at a foreign school, you must meet all of the following qualifications:

  • You meet the GI Bill eligibility requirements as a veteran, service member, Reservist, or qualified dependent
  • Your foreign program is approved by the VA
  • Your program is held at an institution of higher learning (IHL) where you will receive a standard associate’s degree or higher, or a degree of equal value at that foreign school

Before enrolling at a foreign school, you must verify that it is approved by the VA. To do this, you can contact the school’s admissions department directly or use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to find approved foreign schools here: https://www.va.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool.  

Or, you can request more information by contacting the VA’s Foreign School Approval Group at:
Foreign School Approval Group (22-EDU)
VA Regional Office 
130 S. Elmwood Avenue Suite 601 
Buffalo, NY 14202 

If you decide to mail in your question, include the name of the foreign school, its complete address and the name of the program in which you want to enroll. 

Yellow Ribbon Program

If you qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you may also be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. This benefit program provides tuition assistance to help lower the cost of out-of-state, private or graduate school tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill does not cover. 

Not all schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Likewise, not everyone who qualifies for the Post-9/11 GI Bill will be eligible for this program. Continue reading the section below to learn what is needed to qualify for this benefit program.

Eligibility

To qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must be eligible for full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. This means you must have either:

  • Served at least 36 months of active duty on or after September 10, 2001
  • Received a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge for service of any length on or after September 10, 2001
  • Served at least 30 consecutive days of active duty AND be discharged due to service-connected disability
  • Qualified for the Fry Scholarship

In addition to meeting one of the requirements listed above, your school must meet all of the following requirements

  • Offers the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Be an institution of higher learning
  • Has not met the maximum number of students participating in the program based on their agreement with the VA
  • Has certified your enrollment with the VA and provided Yellow Ribbon Program information

To determine if your chosen school offers the Yellow Ribbon Program, use the “Find a Yellow Ribbon School” search tool provided by the VA. You can search by school, city or state. Access the tool here: https://www.va.gov/education/yellow-ribbon-participating-schools/ 

How to Apply

The first step in the application process is finding a school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program. You can use the Yellow Ribbon School search tool here: https://www.va.gov/education/yellow-ribbon-participating-schools/.

Once you find an approved school, you must apply to the program. You can only apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program after you receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the mail. Once you receive your COE, follow the steps below to learn how to apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  1. Submit your COE to your school.
    • Give the COE to your school’s certifying official or the financial aid, military liaison or other appropriate office. Request to apply for your school’s Yellow Ribbon Program.
  2. Wait for a decision.
    • If your school has already met the maximum number of students for the program period, you will not be approved. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis.
    • If you are approved, your school will determine the total amount of assistance you will receive.

Duration of Benefits and How Payments Are Made

The Yellow Ribbon Program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, which means that benefits will last as long as you remain eligible for Post-9/11 benefits. Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits last for 15 years from the last day of active duty. Benefits are paid directly to the school. 

National Call to Service Program

The National Call to Service program is an alternative to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) programs. Through this program, qualified individuals can receive one of the following types of benefits:

  • A cash bonus of $5,000
  • Repayment of a qualifying student loan that is less than or equal to $18,000
  • Educational assistance equal to the 3-year monthly MGIB rate for 12 months
  • Educational assistance equal to 50 percent of the less-than-3-year monthly MGIB rate for 36 months
    • For more information about the rates of payment for Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty and Selected Reserve, refer to the “Benefit Amounts” sections in the respective programs above.

Eligibility

To qualify for benefits through the National Call to Service Program, you must meet both of the following requirements:

  • Completed initial entry training and continued to serve on active duty for a period of 15 months in a military occupational specialty designated by the Secretary of Defense
  • Without a break in service, you served an additional period of active duty as determined by the Secretary of Defense or a period of 24 months in active status in the Selected Reserve

Also, you must have spent the rest of your service without a break in service in one of the following:

  • Active duty 
  • Selected Reserve
  • Individual Ready Reserve
  • AmeriCorps or another domestic national service program jointly designated by the Secretary of Defense

How to Apply

You can apply for the National Call to Service Program online or by mail. Follow the steps outlined below to learn how.

Apply Online

  1. Visit the Apply for National Call to Service online portal here: https://www.va.gov/education/apply-for-education-benefits/application/1990N/applicant/information
    You can log into your account before starting the application to save your progress. 
  2. Gather all required information and documents.
    See “Information and Documents Needed to Apply” for more information.
  3. Enter all required information as prompted.
  4. Wait for the VA to make a decision.

Apply by Mail

  1. Download and print the Application for VA Education Benefits Under The National Call to Service Program (VA Form 22-1990N) here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-1990n-ARE.pdf 
  2. Mail the completed application to the appropriate GI Regional Processing Center.

If you already selected a school or training facility, mail it to the center for that region.

If you have not selected a school or training facility, mail it to the center for the region of your home address.

Find information about Regional Processing Centers in the “VA Contact Information Directory” section.

Information and Documents Needed to Apply

To apply for benefits through the National Call to Service program, you will need the following documents and information:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Information about the school or training facility you want to attend (or the facility for which you want to be reimbursed)
  • Direct deposit information
  • Education history

Duration of Benefits and How Payments Are Made

If you choose to receive educational assistance that is equal to the 3-year monthly MGIB rate, benefits last 12 months. If you choose to receive educational assistance equal to 50 percent of the less-than-3-year monthly MGIB rate, benefits last for 36 months. Payments are made directly to you through direct deposit.

Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

education form calculator and money Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) is a VA-matching educational payment program that helps veterans pay the cost of their tuition. VEAP participants pay into their VEAP accounts throughout and after their military service. The VA matches the contributions up to 50 percent. 

Eligibility

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), individuals must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Entered service for the first time between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 (for all branches other than Air Force)
  • Opened a VEAP account and made deposits before April 1, 1987
    • Deposits must be between $25 and $2,700
  • Finished their first period of service without a dishonorable discharge

Members of the U.S. Air Force must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Entered service for the first time between December 1, 1980 and September 30, 1981
  • Enlisted in one of the following Air Force specialties
    • 20723
    • 20731
    • 20830
    • 46130
    • 46230A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, or Z
    • 46430
    • 81130
  • Enlisted in one of the following locations:
    • Beckley, WV
    • Buffalo, NY
    • Dallas, TX
    • Fargo, ND
    • Houston, TX
    • Jackson, MS
    • Louisville, KY
    • Memphis, TN
    • Omaha, NE
    • Philadelphia, PA
    • Seattle, WA
    • Sioux Falls, SD
    • Syracuse, NY

Benefits

Through VEAP,  qualified individuals can receive the following benefits:

  • Tuition assistance for college and non-college degrees
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Flight training
  • Licensing and certification
  • Correspondence courses
  • Help paying for national tests
  • Work study
  • Tutorial assistance

Benefit Amounts

VEAP is a $2-for-$1 government matching program, which means the VA will contribute $2 for every $1 you deposit into your VEAP account. As such, the total amount of money you will receive toward tuition assistance depends on the amount of money you choose to contribute. 

The maximum amount you can contribute through this program is $2,700, bringing the total amount of money to $8,100 ($2,700 of your own contributions plus the government-matching contribution of $5,400). 

How to Apply

You can apply in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • In person 

Apply Online

  1. Visit the online application portal on the VA website here: https://www.va.gov/education/apply-for-education-benefits/application/1990/introduction 
    1. If you have a VA.gov account, you can choose to sign in so you can save your application as you go. You can sign in using your DS logon provided by the Department of Defense (DoD), an ID.me account or a MyHealtheVet account.
  1. Enter all information as prompted.
  1. Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in the mail. 

Apply by Mail

You can apply for benefits by mail using a paper application. The application form you need depends on who you are. 

Or, call (888) 442-4551 between the hours of 8 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday to request to receive an application form in the mail. Once you have the correct application form, follow the steps outlined below to apply by mail:

  1. Complete the form.
  1. Mail it to the VA regional claims processing office in the same location as your school of interest.
    1. Find the regional claims processing office locations and each jurisdiction in the “VA Contact Information Directory” section of this guide.
  2. Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in the mail.

Apply in Person

  1. Find a VA Regional Office near you.
    1. Click here to search for an office in your location: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=benefits 
  2. Complete the necessary application with help from an office employee. 

To do this, they will need to complete the VA Enrollment Certification (VA Form 22-1999 https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/vba-22-1999-are.pdf?_ga=2.18213945.1206357025.1555902018-524815269.1555902018). Once this form is complete, you can send it along with your completed application.

Duration of Benefits and How Payments Are Made

VEAP benefits expire 10 years after the last day of your active duty. Benefits are paid directly to you. 

How to Use VEAP Benefits

Once you are approved for VEAP, you can start using your benefits toward a variety of degrees or degree training programs. VEAP offers the following education and career training benefits:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • Non-college degrees
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeships
  • Correspondence training
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Flight training
  • Testing fees and national tests

Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs

You can use VEAP benefits to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree at an approved institute of higher learning (IHL). An undergraduate degree is the first level of post-secondary education that can be earned at a community college or a four-year university. In most cases, you are considered a full-time undergraduate student if you spend at least 12 hours in classes. 

A graduate degree is a level above an undergraduate degree and can be earned at a graduate school. Your graduate school determines full-time status. 

Non-College Degree Programs

When the VA mentions “training,” it is referring to the specific non-college degree programs. If you are interested in a career that does not require a college degree, you can use your VEAP benefits to help pay for tuition, books and supplies. Programs must be approved by the VA in order for you to use VEAP benefits. Examples of approved programs include HVAC repair, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and truck driving. 

On-the-Job Training and Apprenticeships

Most industry-specific jobs require you to participate in on-the-job training or an apprenticeship in lieu of getting a college degree. Rather than attending courses at a college or university, you will enter into a contract to work in a VA-approved program directly under a supervisor or industry professional and gain valuable hands-on experience. These programs are offered by unions and employers in your field of interest.

Correspondence Training

Correspondence training is coursework that is completed online, by mail or another method that allows you to learn at home. This type of training is ideal if you live far from your school. The VA will reimburse you for 55 percent of the approved costs. 

Flight Training

If you have a private pilot license and are interested in advancing your qualifications, you can use your benefits to lower the cost of flight school. You can receive qualifications in the following:

  • Rotary wing
  • B747-400
  • Dual engine
  • Flight engineer

Testing Fees / National Tests

You can use part of your benefits to get reimbursed for certain approved testing fees.

These tests include licensing and certification exams as well as national tests you need to take to enroll in a college or training course. See the list of approved tests below:

College Admissions Tests

  • SAT 
  • ACT (American College Testing)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

College Credit Tests

  • AP (Advanced Placement Examination)
  • CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)
  • DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests)
  • ECE (Excelsior College Examinations)
  • PLA (Prior Learning Assessment)

Graduate School Admissions Tests

  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
  • LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  • MAT (Miller Analogies Test)

Pre-Health Professional Program Admissions Tests 

  • DAT (Dental Admission Test)
  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
  • OAT (Optometry Admission Test)
  • PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)

You will only get reimbursed for registration fees, administrative fees and the cost of specialized tests. You cannot receive payment toward fees for getting your results early.
Once you find a test, you must complete the Application for Reimbursement of National Exam Fee form (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-0810-ARE.pdf) and mail it to your regional office. Find regional office contact information in the “VA Contact Information Directory” section of this guide. You may need to provide proof of payment, such as a receipt.

VA Careers and Employment Assistance

The VA offers a multitude of career and employment resources for veterans interested in returning to work. Veterans often face various roadblocks when transitioning back into civilian life after a period of military service. The purpose of these VA programs is to identify the problems that veterans may face and create a plan to achieve long-term career goals. 

Through the VA, veterans can access the following career and employment services and programs:

  • Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)
  • Transition Assistance Program
  • Education and Career Counseling
  • Veteran-Owned Small Business Program
  • VA for Vets
  • VA Careers
  • Feds Hire Vets
  • VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC)
  • Fry Scholarships
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

Learn more about these in the sections below.

Veteran Readiness and Employment

The Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, formerly known as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, helps veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find and maintain suitable careers. Those with conditions that prevent them from immediately returning to work can receive other supportive services that aim to improve their ability to live independently. The program is operated by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Through the VR&E program, veterans receive one-on-one counseling with a trained Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to determine how to best assist them in the transition to civilian life and a career. Depending on their career and employment goals, the VRC will place program participants into one of five support-and-services “tracks,” which are different options for working, training or living independently.

These tracks are:

  • Reemployment
  • Rapid Access to Employment 
  • Self-Employment
  • Employment Through Long-Term Services
  • Independent Living

To learn more about what each track has to offer, continue reading the sections below. 

Reemployment Track

disabled man working at office Reemployment Track

When a service member retires from military service, he or she may choose to return to work for a former employer. In this case, the VRC will provide accommodations for the veteran to continue along the same career path he or she was on before starting military service. Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRC) will provide: 

  • Job accommodations
  • Job modifications
  • Work adjustment assistance
  • Consultation with employers

Rapid Access to Employment Track

This track is aimed toward veterans seeking employment soon after separation or discharge from the military. These applicants typically already have the necessary skills to be competitive within the job market due to their job in the military. Some of the services that the VA may provide on this track include:

  • Resume writing assistance
  • Career counseling
  • Job search recommendations
  • Training for interviews 

Self-Employment Track

The VR&E program allows veterans with limited access to traditional employment to find fulfilling and flexible self-employment, especially those with service-connected disabilities. Veterans who have the skills and interest to start a business can receive help from their VRC in creating a business proposal and plan. The self-employment services provided by the VR&E are: 

  • Assistance in developing a business plan.
  • Business proposal analysis
  • Training in small business operations, finance and marketing
  • Guidance on obtaining necessary resources

Employment Through Long-Term Services Track

The VR&E program provides additional training and skills to veterans who need them. The goal of the long-term services track is to help veterans whose combat-related disabilities make it difficult to secure competitive and suitable employment. Many of these services are funded by other benefit programs from the VA, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Through this track, veterans can receive: 

  • Comprehensive skills assessments
  • Career guidance
  • Job market evaluation
  • Apprenticeships, on-the-job training (OJT) and internships
  • Higher education and vocational training

Independent Living Track

Veterans with disabilities that impede them from completing basic daily tasks, like dressing, bathing or interacting with their communities, may be unable to return to work immediately after being discharged. They can receive assistance from the VR&E to lead a more independent life. The VA helps these veterans receive:

  • Access to community-based support services, assistive technologies and accommodations and independent living skills training 
  • Evaluation and counseling to hone specific skills
  • Referrals to support services
  • Evaluations to determine their eligibility for the VR&E Home Adaptation Grant
    • This grant improves accessibility features in veterans’ homes.
  • Coordination with the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Program

Eligibility for the Veteran Readiness and Employment Program

In order to be considered eligible for assistance through the VR&E program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a discharge status other than “dishonorable”
  • Receive a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent

You may only use VR&E benefits during your basic period of eligibility, which is the timeframe during which you may apply for and utilize the program. 

The basic period of eligibility ends 12 years after you receive notice of:

  • The date of separation from active military service, or
  • Your first VA service-connected disability rating.

Note: The basic period of eligibility may be extended if a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) determines you to have a serious employment handicap (SEH). This determination indicates that your disability limits your ability to find and maintain employment that does not make your disability worse. 

How to Apply to the Veteran Readiness and Employment Program

The application process for the VR&E program differs depending on whether you currently have a VA disability rating. 

If you have a disability rating from the VA, follow the steps outlined below to apply to the VR&E program:

  1. Sign into your eBenefits account here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=vocational-rehabilitation-and-employment 

Note: You must have an account with premium access to apply online. Upgrade your account from basic to premium here: https://myaccess.dmdc.osd.mil/identitymanagement/authenticate.do?execution=e2s1 

  1. Click “Apply.”
  1. Click “Veteran Readiness and Employment Program.”
  1. Select the VR&E track service you are applying for.
  1. If you are eligible, you will be invited to an orientation session at your nearest VA regional office. 

If you do not have a disability rating from the VA, you can still apply to the VR&E program if one of the following is true:

  • You are currently going through the Physical Evaluation Board process
  • You are expecting to receive an other than dishonorable discharge and have a VA memorandum rating (a pre-discharge rating given to you when you have not received a formal disability rating) of 20 percent or more
  • You are entered in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)

If one of the above statements applies to you, follow the steps outlined below to apply for the VR&E program:

  1. Download, print and complete the VA Vocational Rehabilitation – Getting Ahead After You Get Out (VA Form 28-0588).
    1. Access it here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-28-0588-ARE.pdf 
  2. If you are eligible, you will be invited to a meeting with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC).

After Applying for the Veteran Readiness and Employment Program

Once you apply to the VR&E program, the VA will set up a meeting for you with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to determine if you have an employment handicap and which services you may qualify for. An employment handicap is issued to you if your service-connected disability impedes your ability to prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment.

After the VA makes an entitlement decision, the VRC will work with you to develop a rehabilitation plan. It will include all of the benefits and services provided by the VR&E program and how they will help you achieve your long-term employment goals. 

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides information, training and resources to military members who are within a year of separation from military service or within two years of retirement. It is a collaborative program from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).

The goal of the program is to ease the transition from military to civilian life. Through TAP, veterans participate in various workshops that provide employment exploration and preparation services. Each collaborative department provides a mandatory workshop as well as various optional workshops and courses. 

The table below outlines the TAP process, including  information on each department’s mandatory workshop within the program.

DepartmentMandatory Course/WorkshopWorkshop Information
Collaborative Individualized Initial Counseling (IC)Veterans work with a TAP counselor during the Individualized Initial Counseling (IC) session, a mandatory component during which they complete a self-assessment and initiate an Individual Transition Plan (ITP). This plan identifies their unique needs of the transition process and post-transition goals.
CollaborativePre-Separation CounselingMandatory counseling includes a brief overview of benefits and services available during transition. Families and caregivers are encouraged to attend this session.
Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)VA Benefits and ServicesA  mandatory one-day, in-person course that provides insight into navigating the VA. Veterans learn about the benefits and services they have earned through military service. Workshop includes interactive exercises and examples. Topics covered include family support, disability compensation, education and health care benefits.
Veteran Employment and Training Services (VETS)Department of Labor One-Day Brief (formerly known as DOL Employment Workshop (DOLEW))A mandatory one-day workshop (formerly three-day) that briefs veterans on employment and what to expect in civilian life.
Department of Defense (DoD)Transition DayA mandatory one-day class that includes curriculum modules on building resiliency by managing the transition and understanding how military skills translate to civilian life. Veterans also learn financial literacy during this course.

Eligibility

TAP has mandatory components for all service members who have at least 180 continuous days or more on active duty. It begins when military members are either:

  • Within 24 months of retirement or discharge from the military; or
  • Separated from service but are within 180 days of separation (if space is available)

Transition Assistance Program Tracks

There are four tracks that service members can take in TAP:

  • Education Track
    • Members plan to enroll in a higher education institution, like a community college or university, after separating from the military.
  • Vocational Track
    • Members plan to enroll in a vocational training program after separating from the military.
  • Employment Track
    • Members plan to find employment after separating from the military. 
  • Entrepreneurship Track
    • Members plan to open or start a small business. This track works in conjunction with the Veteran-Owned Small Business Program. Learn more in the “Veteran-Owned Small Business Program” section.

How to Enroll

Service members do not need to apply for the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Instead, they begin the TAP curriculum by initiating the Individualized Initial Counseling (IC) with a TAP counselor specific to their branch of service.

Depending on their branch of service, service members may be contacted by a transition counselor or they may need to register for counseling on their own. The table below provides TAP contact information for each branch of service.

Branch of ServiceTAP Contact Information
MarinesPhone: (703) 784-2511TAP Webpage: https://usmc-mccs.org/cycle/transition/ 
Coast GuardPhone: (202) 475-5158TAP Webpage: https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Human-Resources-CG-1/Health-Safety-and-Work-Life-CG-11/Office-of-Work-Life-CG-111/Transition-Assistance-Program/ 
NavyPhone: (202) 433-4544TAP Webpage: https://www.cnic.navy.mil/ffr/family_readiness/fleet_and_family_support_program/work-and-family-life/transition_assistance.html 
ArmyPhone: (888) 721-2769TAP Webpage: https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Benefit-Library/Federal-Benefits/Transition-Assistance-Program-(TAP) 
Air ForceEmail: AFPC.DPSI1.Workflow@us.af.mil  
TAP Webpage: https://www.myairforcebenefits.us.af.mil/Benefit-Library/Federal-Benefits/Transition-Assistance-Program-(TAP)-x2621?serv=26

After Completing TAP

The final component of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is the TAP Capstone. This culminating event is the final verification that service members have completed all components of the program and meet the criteria of career readiness standards (CRS). These standards are the same throughout all branches of the military. 

All service members must show they have met the following CRS:

  • Complete a personal self-assessment
    • Some branches refer to this as an Individual Transition Plan (ITP).
  •  Register on eBenefits
  •  Complete a Continuum of Military Service Opportunity Counseling
    • This may only be necessary for active-duty military personnel.
  • Prepare a post-separation financial plan
  • For service members taking the Education and Vocational Tracks, complete comparison of higher education or technical training institution options
  • For service members taking the Employment Track, complete a resume or provide verification of employment

Education and Career Counseling (VA Chapter 36)

The VA’s Educational and Career Counseling program provides free counseling to eligible veterans to help them find a job, training program or field of study. To be eligible for these benefits, veterans must meet one of the following requirements:

  • They will be discharged from active duty within six months with a discharge status other than dishonorable 
  • They have separated from active duty not more than one year ago under conditions other than dishonorable
  • They qualify for educational assistance under a VA educational program

Veterans can apply for the Educational and Career Counseling program in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • In person

To apply online, follow the steps below:

  1. Log into the eBenefits portal here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage 
  2. Click “Apply.”
  3. Choose “Veteran Readiness & Employment.”
  4. Click “Apply for Educational and Career Counseling.”

To apply by mail, download, print and complete the Educational/Vocational Counseling Application here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-28-8832-ARE.pdf.  

Then, mail it to the nearest VA office. Search for an office near you using the VA office locator tool here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ 

Otherwise, you can download the application and submit it in person to a VA regional office.

Vets First Verification Program

woman with her own business Vets First Verification Program

Veterans who own small businesses may be eligible to register their business through the Vets First Verification Program, which provides incentives, advantages and benefits for the business. The program is operated by the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). 

The Vets First Verification Program provides the following benefits:

  • The ability to do business with the VA
  • Bidding priority when the business bids on contracts for other federal or state government agencies
  • Tax relief
  • Better access to capital
  • Support in finding VA procurements, contract awards and acquisition resources
  • Resources, education and business training
  • Assistance in building business partnerships
  • Entrepreneur resources

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Vets First Verification Program, individuals must be veterans and they (or another veteran who works at their company) must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Owns 51 percent or more of the company 
  • Works full time
  • Has full control over the day-to-day management, decision-making and policy of the business
  • Has the experience managing the business
  • Holds the highest officer position in the company
  • Is the highest-paid person in the company
    • If not, the applicant must provide a statement that explains how their lower pay helps the business 

How to Apply

To apply for the Vets First Verification Program, you must register your business online. The business must be verified before participation is granted. Follow the steps below to learn how to begin registration.

  1. Visit the Vendor Information Pages on the VA website here: https://vetbiz.va.gov/vip/
  2. Click “Apply for Verification.”
  3. Enter your business’s DUNS number.
    1. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier used by businesses around the world. It identifies and accesses business information. If your business does not have a DUNS number, you must request one through the Dun & Bradstreet website here: https://www.dnb.com/duns-number/get-a-duns.html 
  4. Provide all required information. 

After Applying

Once your business is registered in the Vets First Verification Program, you may begin conducting business with the VA and bidding on projects. Small Business Liaisons (SBLs) are available nationwide to assist you in navigating the program and answering any questions you may have.

To find a SBL near you, or to get answers to questions related to the program, call 1 (866) 584-2344.

Additional Career and Employment Resources

The VA provides other career and employment resources for veterans. Depending on a veteran’s experience and career field of interest, he or she may be eligible for one or more of the following programs:

  • VA for Vets
  • Feds Hire Vets
  • VetSuccess on Campus

VA for Vets

VA for Vets is a veteran-specific career initiative that matches veterans with meaningful careers in the federal government. It is part of the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO), an all-encompassing employment and vocational rehabilitation service. Through the VA for Vets online career portal, veterans can:

  • Browse job openings
  • Post their resume
  • Answer career listings
  • Sign up for job alerts

Eligibility

Seeking a federal career through VA for Vets allows veterans to use their military service to receive hiring preference over non-veterans. This process, known as Veterans’ Preference, is unique to federal careers. To be entitled to Veterans’ Preference, a Veteran must meet the the following eligibility requirements: 

  • Have an honorable or general discharge from military service
  • Did not retire at the rank of major, lieutenant commander or higher (unless they are disabled)
  • Did not survive on active duty for training purposes in the National Guard or in the Reserves 

Point Preference 

All veterans who qualify for Veterans’ Preference are preferred over non-veteran candidates, but only some are preferred over fellow veterans. They are divided into point preference categories, which depend on their type of military service. Benefits for each category also vary based on service.

Many military employment agencies use a numerical rating and ranking system to determine the best qualified applicants for a position. Veterans who have a 5-Point or 10-Point Preference receive an additional 5 or 10 points added to their numerical score, increasing their chances of getting hired over other applicants. 

The table below includes information on point preference and how veterans can use their military service to gain preference in applying for jobs. 

Point PreferenceQualificationsEffect on Job Application Process
0-Point (otherwise known as Sole Survivorship preference)0-Point Preference is assigned to veterans who were released or discharged from active duty after August 29, 2008 by reason of being the only surviving child in a family in which the father, mother or one or more siblings:
– Served in the armed forces, and
– Was killed, died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease, is in a captured or missing in action status or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization) and where
The death, status, or disability did not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence.
Veteran will only be evaluated for positions based on qualifications for the job and will not have additional points given on examinations. Veteran is placed ahead of non-veteran candidates.
5-Point5-Point Preference is assigned to veterans whose active duty service meets any of the following:
– More than 180 consecutive days other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001 and ending on August 31, 2010, the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, OR
– During the Gulf War, between August 2, 1990 and January 2, 1992, OR
– More than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955 and before October 15, 1976, OR
– Between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955 OR
– In a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized
Additional 5 points added to score. 
10-Point10-Point Preference is assigned to veterans who have a service-connected disability or received a Purple HeartAdditional 10 points added to score

Documents and Information Needed to Apply

Veterans do not need to apply to take advantage of the VA for Vets program. However, to claim Veterans’ Preference during the job application process, they will need to provide the following to employment agencies:

How to Apply 

Veterans can use the VA for Vets platform to find federal careers for which they qualify. They can use the following job boards:

  1. USAJobs –  https://www.usajobs.gov/?c=fed-app-process 
    1. USAJobs contains job openings for many branches of the federal government. Veterans can search by location, job type or sector. 
  2. VA Careers – https://www.vacareers.va.gov 
    1. This job board only contains positions within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans can also receive career and employment assistance when applying to work for the VA.
  3. IRS Careers – https://www.jobs.irs.gov/careers 
    1. IRS Careers is a job board specifically designed for individuals interested in working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

Feds Hire Vets

female fbi agent Feds Hire Vets

Feds Hire Vets is another employment assistance service dedicated to helping veterans find careers within the federal government. Like VA for Vets, eligible veterans can use their Veterans’ Preference score to be considered before other non-veteran job candidates. To learn more about Veterans’ Preference, refer to the “Point Preference” section.

Veterans can use the Feds Hire Vets website to:

  • Browse federal job listings
  • Search for featured jobs based on industry or occupation
  • Find job training and educational resources
  • Determine if they have Veterans’ Preference

Eligibility 

Feds Hire Vets utilizes the federal job process, which means that veterans can use their military service to receive hiring preference over non-veterans. This process, known as Veterans’ Preference, is unique to federal careers. To be entitled to Veterans’ Preference, a Veteran must meet the the following eligibility requirements: 

  • Have an honorable or general discharge from military service
  • Did not retire at the rank of major, lieutenant commander or higher (unless they are disabled)
  • Did not survive on active duty for training purposes in the National Guard or in the Reserves 

If a veteran meets the eligibility requirements above, he or she is assigned a Point Preference. This rating determines whether the veteran will also be placed ahead of other veterans for the same job. Learn more about Point Preference scores in the “Point Preference” section. 

Documents and Information Needed to Apply 

Veterans do not need to apply to take advantage of the Feds Hire Vets program. However, to claim Veterans’ Preference while applying to a job, they will need to provide the following to employment agencies:

How to Apply

Veterans can use the Feds Hire Vets platform to find federal careers for which they qualify. The Feds Hire Vets website links to the USAJobs online job board, which has job openings in many branches of the federal government. Veterans can search by location, job type or sector. Access the USAJobs board here: https://www.usajobs.gov 

VetSuccess on Campus

The VetSuccess on Campus initiative aims to help veterans who are transitioning out of military service into a college setting. It provides on-campus resources, assistance and counseling services to veterans and their family members. 

Schools that participate in the VSOC program have designated Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRCs) on site, which provide one-on-one and peer counseling alongside referral services. 

Find a list of schools that offer VSOC programs here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/vsoc.asp 

Fry Scholarships

This program is available to children and surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after 2001. It distributes Post-9/11 GI benefits to qualified participants, covering the cost of tuition up to 100 percent as well as providing financial assistance for housing, books and supplies.

The table below indicates the total amount of money individuals may receive through the Fry Scholarship program based on type of learning facility.

Public School100 percent of in-state tuition (for in-state students)
Private or Out-of-State SchoolUp to $22,805.34 per year

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, individuals must be children or spouses of active duty service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. Spouses are only eligible for benefits if they remain unmarried, but children are eligible regardless of their marriage status. 

Children who turned 18 years of age or graduated from high school before January 1, 2013 are eligible to receive benefits until they reach 33 years of age. Children who turned 18 years of age or graduated from high school after January 1, 2013 are eligible to receive benefits at any age over 18 or after they graduate (whichever comes first).

Children whose parents died in the line of duty before August 1, 2011 may qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program. However, they can only receive benefits from one program at a time. Learn more about the DEA program in the following section. 

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

This program is available to children and spouses of veterans and service members who have died, were captured or missing or have service-connected disabilities. DEA participants receive monthly payments that can go toward college tuition, educational or career counseling, apprenticeships, on-the-job training or certificate courses.

To qualify for educational and training benefits provided through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA), applicants as well as the veteran or military member must meet certain criteria. 

To qualify, one of the following statements regarding the veteran or service member must be true:

  • The veteran or service member is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability
  • The veteran or service member died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability
  • The veteran or service member is missing in action (MIA) or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force
  • The veteran or service member was forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by a foreign entity
  • The veteran or service member is in the hospital or getting outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability 

Children of veterans or service members are eligible to receive DEA benefits between the ages of 18 and 26 regardless of whether they are married. If they decide to join the military, they cannot use DEA benefits while serving on active duty. If they plan to use benefits after leaving service, they must not have a dishonorable discharge. Children who serve on active duty in the military can receive an extension of DEA benefits up to their 31st birthday.

Spouses of veterans or service members are eligible to receive DEA benefits beginning on the day that the VA determines they qualify OR on the date of the veteran’s death. Benefits last for a period of 10 years unless the VA rates the veteran as permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of three years after the veteran is discharged. In this case, benefits do not expire for 20 years. If the service member died on active duty, benefits do not expire until 20 years from the date of death.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program Bill Rates

The total amount of money you can receive toward education and training in the DEA program depends on the type of training. The current rates of payment are listed in the tables below. 

Note: The monthly benefit rates listed in the tables include the total cost of the education or training, not just the cost of tuition and fees. However, rates marked with an asterisk (*) only apply to the program’s tuition and fees.

Institutional Training

Training TimeMonthly Benefit Rate
Full Time$1,298 per month
¾ Time$1,026 per month
½ Time$753 per month
Less than ½ time but more than ¼ time$753* per month
¼ Time or Less$324.50* per month

Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
First six months of training$825* per month
Second six months of training$620* per month
Third six months of trainings$407* per month
Remainder of training$207* per month

Farm Cooperative Training

Training TimeTraining Time
Full Time$908 per month
¾ Time$683 per month
½ Time$453 per month

Special Restorative Training

This benefit is only available to individuals with a physical or mental disability. Training in this category includes speech correction, language retraining, lip reading, auditory training and Braille instruction.

Training PeriodMonthly Benefit Rate
Full Time$1,298 per month

VA Pensions

department of veteran affairs va pensions

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pension benefits are need-based monthly payments, paid to eligible wartime veterans who meet certain age or disability criteria and requirements.

VA Pension Management Centers

There are three main regional VA pension management centers that serve every U.S. state or territory or foreign country you may reside in. Find the center that serves your area below. 

VA Pension Management Center Areas Served
Philadelphia VA Pension Management CenterConnecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryl, and Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia.
All other foreign countries not included in the St. Paul VA Pension Management Center below
Milwaukee VA Pension Management CenterAlabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin.
St. Paul VA Pension Management CenterAlaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Central America, Mexico, South America, The Caribbean.

VA Pension Benefits

Before applying for VA pension benefits, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces must meet certain eligibility requirements. Read below for a detailed list.

Eligibility

To qualify for the VA pension benefits program, veterans who have served in any branch of the U.S. military must meet certain age or disability requirements. They must also have an income and net worth that fall within specific limits.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, eligibility for pension benefits depends on meeting the following requirements:

Both of these factors must be met:

  1. Applicants did not receive a dishonorable discharge
  2. Annual family income and net worth meet specific limits established by Congress. One’s net worth comprises all personal property you own (minus one’s house, car, and most home furnishings), and minus any debt owed. Net worth also includes the net worth of one’s spouse.

In addition, one of the following must be true:

  • Applicants must have started their active duty before September 8, 1980 and served at least 90 days on active duty, with at least one day served during a period of wartime
  • Applicants must have started active duty with enlisted status after September 7, 1980, serving a minimum of 24 months, or the complete period called or ordered to serve on active duty, with at least one day served during a period of wartime
  • Applicants must have served as an officer and began active duty after October 16, 1981, not having previously served on active duty for at least two years

Further, at least one of these must be true to be eligible for VA pension benefits:

  • The applicant is at least 65 years old
  • The applicant has a diagnosed permanent and total disability
  • The applicant is an in-patient at a nursing home or long-term care facility due to a disability
  • The applicant is receiving either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

VA pension benefit applicants may want to confirm and verify if they served during an eligible wartime period. Current laws recognize the duration of these conflicts to determine benefits eligibility:

  • The Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916 to April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era
    • February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period
    • August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975, for veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

Dishonorable discharge from the Armed Forces can affect eligibility for VA pension benefits. But veterans have two options they can pursue to attempt qualifying if they were discharged dishonorably. Refer to the section “How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade” for more information.

Documents Needed to Apply for VA Pension Benefits

Gather up the necessary information and documentation needed to apply for pension benefits. Some information is mandatory, while some is optional.

Required information includes:

  • Social Security Number or VA file number
  • Record of military history
  • Personal and dependents’ financial information

Optional information includes:

  • Work history (for applicants under 65 years old)
  • Bank account/direct deposit information
  • Medical information (for applicants under 65 years old)

How to Apply

man filling out va benefits application form

Applying for VA pension benefits takes just a few steps with some necessary, standard pieces of information needed.

But before filling out and submitting an application for benefits, applicants must first complete an “intent to file” form indicating, as its name suggests, one’s intention to file for benefits. Submitting an intent to file can be done in one of two ways:

  • By phone
  • In writing 

To complete the step by phone, call (800) 827-1000, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8AM and 9PM ET.

To complete the step in writing, download, print and fill out the Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC (VA Form 21-0966) here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0966-ARE.pdf.

Once filled out completely, submit the Intent to File form in one of two ways:

  1. Mail it to the appropriate local VA pension management center.
  2. Submit the form in person to a regional VA office.

Remember that starting a pension benefits application does not indicate intent to file, so it is advisable to complete an intent to file form first before proceeding with the formal application process. 

After intent to file has been submitted and the necessary documents have been gathered, you can begin applying for benefits. There are four ways to apply for benefits:

Online

Visit https://www.va.gov/pension/application/527EZ/introduction to begin the application process online. Applicants can apply with or without signing into the site. However, creating a va.gov account and signing in can quickly expedite the application process:

  • The site can prefill fields in the pension benefits application depending on information applicants have filled out in their online profile.
  • Applications can be saved and returned to later, with up to 60 days to complete and submit them.

By Mail

  1. Download and fill out the VA application for pension from https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-527EZ-ARE.pdf
  2. Mail the completed form to the VA pension management center at:
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Pension Intake Center
    P.O. Box 5365
    Janesville, WI 53547-5365

In Person

  1. Download and fill out the VA application for pension from https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-527EZ-ARE.pdf.
  2. Visit a local or regional VA office to submit the form.
    1. Find a location here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.

Applying With Assistance From the VA

Prospective pension benefit applicants can receive help filling out their applications from a trained professional, including:

  • An accredited attorney
  • A claims agent
  • A Veterans Service Officer (VSO)

For more information on getting help filing a claim, visit https://www.va.gov/disability/get-help-filing-claim/.

Rates

Certain types of VA pension benefit rates are calculated depending on two factors: one’s countable income and their Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR.

  • Countable income is the amount of money one earns, such as salary, investment and retirement payments, and any other income you may have from dependents.
  • MAPR is the maximum allowable amount of pension benefits payable to a veteran, their surviving spouse or a child. MAPR is calculated based on the amount of dependents you have, and also depends on eligibility for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. MAPRs are adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases. 

From December 1, 2021 until November 30, 2022, the net worth limit to qualify for a Veterans Pension is $138,489.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) Amounts

For veterans without dependents:

If you have no dependents and:MAPR amount
You do not qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits$14,753
You qualify for Housebound benefits$18,029
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits$24,610

For veterans with at least one dependent family member, like a spouse or child:

If you have one dependent and:MAPR amount
You do not qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits$19,320
You qualify for Housebound benefits$22,596
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits$29,175

For spouse veterans (two veterans married to each other):

If you are two veterans married to each other and:MAPR amount
Neither of you qualifies for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits$19,320
One of you qualifies for Housebound benefits$22,596
Both of you qualify for Housebound benefits$25,870
One of you qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits$29,175
One of you qualifies for Housebound benefits and one of you qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits$32,443
Both of you qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits$39,036

Aid and Attendance Benefits and Housebound Allowance

us department of va website aid attendance benefits

VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits are monthly payments in addition to an existing monthly VA pension for veterans and their survivors who qualify.

Eligibility

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, to be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits, one of the following statements must be true:

  • You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, and dressing, or
  • You have to stay in bed — or spend a large portion of the day in bed — because of illness or disability, or
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability, or
  • Your eyesight is limited (you have only 5/200 or worse vision in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to five degrees or less, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses).

To be eligible for housebound benefits, you must:

  • Currently receive a VA pension, and
  • Spend most of your time at home due to permanent disability.

How to Apply   

Veterans can apply for VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits in two ways:

  • By mail
  • In person 

By Mail to a Local Pension Management Center (PMC)

  1. Fill out and complete Form 21-2680, Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance. Download the form here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-2680-ARE.pdf.
    1. Optional: Your doctor is permitted to fill out the examination information section on the form.
  2. Mail it to the local PMC in your state. 
    1. Refer to section “VA Pension Management Centers.” 

When mailing in the form, you can also include additional information to go with the application, such as: 

  • Supporting evidence, like a doctor’s report, indicating that you need Aid and Attendance or Housebound care
  • Extra information or details explaining your normal day-to-day routine, such as what you do during the day, how you get to places, and the difficulty you may experience in doing those tasks
  • Other details to support the claim that disability (mental or physical), or other illness or injury negatively impacts and affects your ability to perform normal tasks, like bathing on one’s own

In Person

  1. Visit a regional VA office. 
  2. Submit the necessary application forms and documents mentioned directly above in person. 

VA Survivor Pension

This type of pension benefit offers a monthly payment to surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children of deceased wartime veterans who qualify and meet certain income and net worth requirements and limits that are established by federal lawmakers.

Eligibility

To be eligible for survivors benefits, one of these statements must be true about the veteran:

  • They entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days of active military service, serving at least one day during a covered wartime period, or
  • They entered active duty after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months, or the full period they were summoned or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), serving at least one day during a covered wartime period, or
  • They were an officer and began their active duty after October 16, 1981, and had not previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.

Additionally, prospective recipients must meet annual family income and net worth requirements established by the U.S. Congress. Net worth is the cumulative value of everything one owns (except for one’s house, car and most home furnishings) minus any outstanding debt.

Children of deceased wartime veterans may also be eligible for survivors pension payments, if one of these is true:

  • They are under age 18, or
  • They are under age 23 and currently attending a VA-approved school, or
  • They have a disability that occurred before age 18 that prevents them from caring for themselves.

How to Apply   

Applicants can choose between two ways to apply for survivors pension benefits:

  • By mail
  • In person

By Mail

  1. Download and complete the Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21-534EZ) from https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-534EZ-ARE.pdf.
  2. Mail it to your local pension management center.
    1. Refer to page X, “VA Pension Management Centers.” 

In Person

  1. Download and complete the Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21-534EZ) from https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-534EZ-ARE.pdf.
  2. Drop off the application at a local regional VA office.
    1. Find a local office here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/

Rates

How much recipients can obtain in VA survivor benefits depends on numerous factors and considerations, including one’s countable income and MAPR amount.

For eligible surviving spouses with at least one dependent:

If you have one dependent child and:MAPR amount
You do not qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits$12,951
You qualify for Housebound benefits$15,144
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits$18,867
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you are the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW)$19,438

For eligible surviving spouses with zero dependents:

If you have no dependents and:MAPR amount
You do not qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits$9,896
You qualify for Housebound benefits$12,094
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits$15,816
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you are the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW)$16,456

For eligible surviving children:

If you are:MAPR amount
A qualified surviving child$2,523

Protected Pension Rates

Veterans who began receiving VA disability or death pension payments before December 31, 1978, but who have not elected any changes to the current pension program may be eligible for “protected pension rates.” This means they can continue to receive payments at the rates from the previous pension program, in addition to a cost-of-living increase.

VA Pension Claims, Denials and Appeals

senior couple thinking about documents VA Pension Claims, Denials and Appeals

THE BELOW DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. THIS GUIDE IS NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING PROGRAMS, PLEASE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OR THE VA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE NUMBERS PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE.

Once the VA pension benefits application process is complete, the application goes on to VA review, and then a final decision is made regarding whether the applicant is approved for or denied benefits.

If at any time you are not satisfied with a final decision or your application has been declined, there is an appeals process you can pursue. You can choose one of the following methods below to get started: 

  • A higher-level review – Claims are reviewed by a senior claims adjudicator.
  • A supplemental claim – Applicants can submit or identify new and/or relevant evidence to support and strengthen a claim.
  • An appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals – Applicants can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals with a choice of three options:
    • Direct review, when no evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Evidence submission, when new evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Hearing, when new evidence is available and applicants want to testify before a Veterans Law Judge

The appeal process for pension benefits follows the same structure as that of VA Health Care benefits. Learn more about the different appeal options and steps you can take in the section “Health Care Denials and Appeals”.

VA Housing Assistance

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) oversees various housing assistance programs and benefits for veterans and their families. The purpose of these housing assistance programs is to allow veterans to achieve homeownership.

The VA provides the following housing assistance benefits and incentives: 

  • Home loans
  • Financial counseling
  • Disability housing grants
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development’s VA-Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
  • Housing counseling 

Continue reading to learn more about VA housing assistance programs available for veterans, their families and surviving spouses. 

VA Regional Loan Centers

Regional Loan CenterPoints of Contact
Atlanta Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: Georgia- North Carolina- South Carolina- Tennessee 
Physical Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
1700 Clairmont Rd.
Decatur, GA 30033-4032 
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 100023
Decatur, GA 30031-7023 
Construction & Valuation
Email: 316LGYCNV@va.gov 
Fax: 215-842-4505 
Loan Production:
Email: ATLLOANPROD@va.gov 
Fax: 215-842-4651
Cleveland Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: Connecticut- Delaware- Indiana- Maine- Massachusetts- Michigan- New Hampshire- New Jersey- New York- Ohio- Pennsylvania- Rhode Island- Vermont
Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
1240 East Ninth Street
Cleveland, OH 44199 
Construction & Valuation
Email: 325CNV@va.gov 
Fax: 216-522-3108 
Loan Production
Email: VAHOMESITE@va.gov 
Fax: 215-991-1402
Denver Regional Loan CenterJurisdiction- Alaska- Colorado- Idaho- Montana- Oregon- Utah- Washington- Wyoming  Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
155 Van Gordon Street
Lakewood, CO 80228 
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 25126
Denver, CO 80225 
Construction & Valuation
Email: 39VA262.VBADEN@va.gov 
Fax: 303-914-5618 
Loan Production
Email: LGYEMAIL@va.gov 
Fax: 303-914-5666
Houston Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: Arkansas- Louisiana- Oklahoma- Texas  
Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
6900 Almeda Road
Houston, TX 77030-4200 
Construction & Valuation
Email: CV62.VBAHOU@va.gov 
Fax: 713-383-1774 
Loan Production
Email: HOUSTONLGY@va.gov 
Fax: 713-383-1772
Phoenix Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: American Samoa- Arizona- California- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands- Guam- Hawaii- New Mexico- Nevada  
Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
3333 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402 
Construction & Valuation
Email: CVGC.VBAPHO@va.gov Fax: 602-627-3222 Loan ProductionEmail: LPGC.VBAPHO@va.gov Fax: 602-627-3221
Roanoke Regional Loan CenterJurisdiction- District of Columbia- Kentucky- Maryland- Virginia- West Virginia  Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
210 Franklin Road, S.W.
Roanoke, VA 24011 
Construction & Valuation
Email: CV.VBAROA@va.gov 
Fax: 540-597-1797 
Loan Production
Email: ROANOKE.LP@va.gov 
Fax: 540-597-1797
St. Paul Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: Illinois- Iowa- Kansas- Minnesota- Missouri- Nebraska- North Dakota- South Dakota- Wisconsin  
Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
1 Federal Drive, Ft. Snelling
St. Paul, MN 55111-4050 
Email: rlc.vbaspl@va.gov  
Construction & Valuation
Email: CV335@va.gov 
Fax: 215-991-5004 
Loan Production
Email: RLC335@va.gov 
Fax: 215-991-5043
St. Petersburg Regional Loan Center
Jurisdiction: Alabama- Florida- Mississippi- Puerto Rico- U.S. Virgin Islands  
Address
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
9500 Bay Pines Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33744 
Construction & Valuation
Email: VASTAFFAPPRAISERS@va.gov 
Fax: 215-842-4377 
Loan Production
Email: HOMELOAN.VBASPT@va.gov 
Fax: 215-713-1297

What is a VA home loan?

A home loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, is a fixed amount of money provided by a bank or other financial institution (known as lenders) provided to a buyer in order to purchase a home. VA home loans are available to veterans and their families and can be used to buy, build or improve a home or refinance an existing home loan.

VA home loans are either given by or guaranteed by the federal government, reducing lender risk and making them easier for eligible borrowers to get approved. When a VA home loan is given by the federal government, it is known as a direct loan. 

When a VA home loan is guaranteed by the federal government, it is known as a VA-backed loan. These types of loans are provided through VA-approved lenders such as banks and credit unions. Mortgage lenders must adhere to VA rules when processing and evaluating the borrower’s application as well as after the loan has been approved. If, once the loan has been approved, the borrower stops making monthly mortgage payments, the VA pays the lender to compensate it for all or part of its losses.

Types of Loans

The VA offers several types of home loans to meet veterans’ needs. The VA loan benefit can be used for first-time homebuyers, for subsequent homes and for assuming, or taking over, the debt and making payments on the seller’s existing VA loan.

This section will explore the following VA home loan options: 

  • VA direct loans
    • Native American direct loans
  • VA-backed loans
    • Purchase loans
    • Cash-out refinance loans
    • Interest rate reduction refinance loans (IRRRLs)

VA Direct Home Loans

office computer va home loan

With VA direct home loans, the VA is the loan servicer. This means that program participants pay their mortgage directly to the VA.

The only VA direct home loan available is the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program, which is offered to veterans and their spouses who are Native American. To learn about the NADL program, continue reading the section below.  

Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program

The Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program provides home loans to eligible Native American veterans. These loans allow veterans to buy, build or improve a home located on federal trust land. NADLs can also be used to refinance an existing NADL and reduce the interest rate. 

 NADLs are available to those who meet all of the following eligibility requirements: 

  • Have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) 
  • Are Native American or are married to a Native American
  • Are members of a tribe that has an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the VA detailing how the program will work on its trust lands
  • Meet credit, income and other financial requirements
  • Plan to live on the property financed with the NADL

Not all states are home to tribes with MOUs, and not all tribes have MOUs. The following states have at least one tribe with an MOU: 

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

If a veteran does not live on federal trust land, the NADL cannot be used to finance the purchase of the home. NADLs are only available in 30-year fixed rate mortgages, which means the interest rate stays the same for the entire term of the loan (30 years). An interest rate is the percent of the loan amount that the lender charges a borrower for using its money. The higher the interest rate, the higher the monthly mortgage payment and the more the borrower has to pay over the life of the loan. 

VA-Backed Home Loans 

A VA-backed home loan is one that is provided through a bank or credit union and guaranteed by the federal government. This guarantee means that if the borrower stops making mortgage payments, the lender will be repaid by the government. There are three types of home loans backed by the VA. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about each one.

Purchase Loans

The VA purchase loan is used to purchase a home that will serve as the veteran’s primary residence. A qualified veteran can get VA loans to buy homes throughout his or her lifetime as long as each home is the veteran’s primary residence at that time. 

The VA purchase loan can be used to: 

  • Buy a single-family home, up to 4 units
  • Buy a condo in a VA-approved project
  • Buy a home and improve it
  • Buy a manufactured home or lot
  • Build a new home
  • Make changes or add new features (like solar power) to make a home more energy efficient

Cash-Out Refinance Loan

Refinancing is a process that a homeowner can pursue after a mortgage is already in place. During refinancing, the owner gets a new mortgage with new loan terms to replace the existing mortgage. The new mortgage will pay off the original mortgage in full and start from the beginning. Homeowners can refinance with the same lender they used for their original mortgage or a different lender that may offer them a lower rate. 

A cash-out refinance loan can be used to do the following:

  • Take cash out of the home’s equity to pay off debt, pay for school, make home improvements or take care of other needs
    • Equity is the difference between the home’s current fair market value and the remaining balance of the loan.
  • Refinance a non-VA loan and turn it into a VA-backed loan, which will allow the borrower to stop paying mortgage insurance

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)

An interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL) is for veterans who want to:

  • Reduce their mortgage payments by lowering their interest rate,
  • Reduce the term of the loan from 30 to 15 years, or 
  • Make mortgage payments more stable by switching from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed rate mortgage.
    • An ARM is one that has an initial interest rate for an agreed-upon time period (one, five, seven or ten years). Then, after the initial period ends, the interest rate changes up to once per year.

Veterans must meet all of these requirements to qualify: 

  • Already have a VA-backed home loan 
  • Use the IRRRL to refinance that existing VA-backed home loan
  • Certify that they currently live in or used to live in the home financed with the VA-backed loan

The IRRRL is also called a streamline refinance because the VA requires less paperwork, which makes the process quicker. With an IRRRL, the VA does not require:

  • A COE
  • An appraisal
  • A credit underwriting package

Although the VA does not require this paperwork, the lender may still require it. Any lender can do an IRRRL, and interest rates may vary from lender to lender.

Eligibility for VA Home Loans

house key us flag eligibility va home loans

Veterans interested in applying for a VA home loan must verify their eligibility by acquiring a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The certificate contains information related to the veteran’s military service, which is the largest qualifying factor for the VA home loan program. 

Veterans who wish to finance their home using a VA-backed loan must also meet the eligibility criteria set by the mortgage lender. Lenders are responsible for setting their own criteria, including credit, income and other financial requirements.

How to Get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

A certificate of eligibility (COE) shows lenders that the borrower meets the VA’s qualifications as a service member, veteran or military family member. Below are the criteria for veterans to get a COE.

Eligibility Requirements for Veterans and Service Members on Active Duty

Depending on when the military service occurred, veterans must have served for a certain amount of time to qualify for a COE. See the table below for more information.  

Service Time PeriodMinimum Active Duty Service Requirement 
Between September 16, 1940, and July 25, 1947 (WWII)90 total days, or
Less than 90 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between July 26, 1947, and June 26, 1950 (post-WWII period)181 continuous days, or
Less than 181 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between June 27, 1950, and January 31, 1955 (Korean War)90 total days, or
Less than 90 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between February 1, 1955, and August 4, 1964 (post-Korean War period)181 continuous days, or
Less than 181 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between August 5, 1964, and May 7, 1975 (Vietnam War), or
Between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975, if you served in the Republic of Vietnam
90 total days, or
Less than 90 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between May 8, 1975, and September 7, 1980 (post-Vietnam War period), or
Between May 8, 1975, and October 16, 1981, if you served as an officer
181 continuous days, or
Less than 181 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Between September 8, 1980, and August 1, 1990, or
Between October 17, 1981, and August 1, 1990, if you served as an officer
24 continuous months, or
The full period (at least 181 days) of being called to active duty
Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War)24 continuous months, or
The full period (at least 90 days) of being called or ordered to active duty, or
At least 90 days if discharged for hardship, a reduction in force, or for convenience of the government, or
Less than 90 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
You separated from service after September 7, 1980, or after October 16, 1981, if you served as an officer24 continuous months, or
The full period (at least 181 days) of being called or ordered to active duty, or
At least 181 days if discharged for a hardship, a reduction in force, or for convenience of the government, or
Less than 181 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
Currently on active duty 90 continuous days

Eligibility Requirements for National Guard or Reserve Members

Service Time PeriodMinimum Active Duty Service Requirement 
Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War)90 days of active-duty service
Any time period6 creditable years in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, and one of the descriptions below must be true: Discharged honorably, or
Placed on the retired list, or
Transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, or
Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

Individuals who have served in the following capacities may also be eligible for a VA loan:

  • U.S. citizens who served in the Armed Forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II
  • Members of certain organizations, including:
    • Public Health Service officers
    • Cadets at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy
    • Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy
    • Officers of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
    • Merchant seamen during World War II

Eligibility Requirements for Surviving Spouses

VA benefits, including VA loans, are available to surviving spouses of veterans if at least one of the following descriptions is true for the veteran: 

  • Is missing in action (MIA)
  • Is a prisoner of war (POW)
  • Died while in service or from a service-connected disability and the spouse did not remarry
  • Died while in service or from a service-connected disability and the spouse did not remarry before he or she was 57 years old or before December 16, 2003
  • Was totally disabled and then died, but the disability may not have been the cause of death (in certain situations)

Surviving spouses who are unsure if they can get a COE should contact a VA Regional Loan Center with questions. See section “VA Regional Loan Centers” for more information.

How to Apply for a COE as a Veteran

You can apply for a COE in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • With a lender

To apply online through the eBenefits portal, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the eBenefits portal here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=cert-of-eligibility-home-loan 
  2. Gather all necessary documents.
    1. For more information, see the “Documents Needed to Apply for a COE” section of this guide.
  3. Enter all required information.

To apply by mail, follow the steps below:

  1. Download, print and complete a Request for Certificate of Eligibility (VA Form 26-1880).
  2. Mail the completed form to the regional loan center serving your area.

You may be able to get a COE through your mortgage lender. Some lenders participate in a web-based COE application process with the VA. Ask your lender about using the Web LGY system.

Documents Needed to Apply for a COE

In order to apply for a COE, you must provide certain documents, which vary based on your military classification. The table below details the specific documents you need to submit based on your military service and current status. 

ClassificationDocuments Required
VeteranCopy of discharge or separation papers (DD-214)
Service memberStatement of service signed by your commander, adjutant, or personnel officer with this information:Your full nameYour Social Security NumberYour date of birthThe date you entered dutyThe duration of any lost timeThe name of the command providing the information
Current or former activated National Guard or Reserve memberCopy of discharge or separation papers (DD-214)
Current member of National Guard or Reserves who has never been activatedStatement of service signed by your commander, adjutant, or personnel officer showing this information:Your full nameYour Social Security NumberYour date of birthThe date you entered dutyYour total number of creditable years of serviceThe duration of any lost timeThe name of the command providing the information
Discharged member of National Guard who has never been activatedYour Report of Separation and Record of Service (NGB Form 22) for each period of National Guard service, andYour Retirement Points Statement (NGB Form 23) and proof of the character of service
Discharged member of Reserves who has never been activatedA copy of your latest annual retirement points, andProof of your honorable service

How to Apply for a COE as a Surviving Spouse

To get a COE as a surviving spouse, you must receive VA Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC). DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit that is paid to eligible surviving spouses, children or parents of a service member who died in the line of duty, or survivors of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness.

If you are a surviving spouse who is already receiving Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC), follow the steps below to learn how to apply for a COE.

  1. Fill out a Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility—Unmarried Surviving Spouses (VA Form 26-1817). 
  2. Obtain the veteran’s DD-214 (or other separation papers)
    • Learn how to obtain military records and papers in the “Records” section of this guide.
  3. Submit the form and discharge or separation papers to the home loan lender for processing online. Or, send the documentation to the VA regional loan center that serves your state.

If you are a surviving spouse who is not receiving DIC, you must first apply for compensation. Follow the steps below to learn how to apply for DIC. Once you apply for DIC, follow the steps listed above to apply for a COE.

  1. Fill out the Application for DIC, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits form (VA Form 21P-534EZ).
  2. Obtain the veteran’s DD-214 (or other separation papers)
    • Learn how to obtain military records and papers in the “Records” section of this guide.
  3. Submit the military service records, a copy of your marriage certificate and the veteran’s death certificate to the VA pension management center that serves your state. 

Loan Limits

man form money va loan limits

Most VA home loan applicants are free from loan limits for home loans over $144,000, thanks to a new 2020 policy change. A loan limit is the maximum amount of money that an individual may borrow while using a VA loan. In the past, all veterans and service members were held to specific limits, which are imposed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and change each year.

This new policy change means that veterans and service members do not need to make a down payment on loans over $144,000. It also means that the VA will guarantee to pay a mortgage lender up to 25 percent of the home loan amount if the borrower stops making payments. 

Veterans are exempt from these loan limits when they have full entitlement, which means they qualify for the full VA home loan benefits. To have full entitlement, they must meet the following requirements:

  • Do not have a current VA loan, or
  • Have never used their VA home loan benefit, or
  • Paid a previous VA loan in full and sold the property, or
  • Had a VA loan foreclosure or short sale and paid the VA back in full

Veterans who do not meet these requirements have remaining entitlement, which means they must adhere to federal loan limits. Loan limits vary depending on where you live. You can find a list of current Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits categorized by county and state in this PDF available from the Federal Housing Finance Agency: https://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Downloads/Documents/Conforming-Loan-Limit/FullCountyLoanLimitList2022_HERA-BASED_FINAL_FLAT.pdf  To learn more, see the “Home Costs in Different Areas” section.

These applicants may still choose to borrow more than the limit allows. However, lenders will enforce down payments as extra security when the borrowing amount exceeds the home loan limit. Additionally, lenders may limit the total amount of the loan based on personal and financial factors.

Home Costs in Different Areas

Home prices vary across the country. Veterans who already have an active VA loan or have defaulted on a previous VA loan are required to adhere to loan limits. Depending on where they live (or plan to live), they will have different limits.

Expensive counties can have drastically higher home prices. A county with higher average home prices will have a higher loan limit to help veterans and service members find a suitable home. 

Home limits are determined on a county-by-county basis. To find the current limit in your county, use the FHFA county map to find your state, locate your county and determine your loan limit. This map can be found on the FHFA’s website here: https://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Downloads/Documents/Conforming-Loan-Limits/FullCountyLoanLimitList2021_HERA-BASED_FINAL_FLAT.pdf

VA Funding Fees

The VA charges a funding fee for all types of home loans. This fee is a one-time charge that the borrower pays in exchange for not paying mortgage insurance. Borrowers may pay this fee in full upfront, or choose to roll it in with their home loan.

The total amount of the funding fee varies depending on a few factors, such as:

  • Whether the borrower is making a down payment, and 
  • The total down payment percentage, and
  • Whether the borrower has ever had a VA loan in the past.

The current funding fees for VA purchase loans are listed in the chart below:

Down PaymentFunding Fee
First UseLess than 5%2.3%
5% or more1.65%
10% or more1.4%
After First UseLess than 5%3.6%
5% or more1.65%
10%1.4%

The current funding fees for VA cash-out refinance loans are listed in the chart below:

First UseAfter First Use
2.3%3.6%

The current funding fees for Native American Direct Loans (NADL) are listed in the chart below:

Type of UseVA Funding Fee
Purchase1.25%
Refinance0.5%

The current funding fees for other types of loans are listed in the chart below:

Type of LoanVA Funding Fee
Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)0.5%
Manufactured home loans1%
Loan assumptions0.5%
Vendee loan, for purchasing VA-acquired property2.25%

These funding fees apply to all veterans and service members regardless of type of service, though there are some exceptions. These include:

  • Active-duty Purple Heart recipients
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities who are receiving VA compensation or are eligible for such compensation but are accepting retirement or active-duty pay instead
  • Spouses of veterans who have passed away in service or due to a service-related disability and are receiving dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC)

Some veterans may be eligible for a refund of the VA funding fee if they begin receiving disability compensation for a service-connected disability. The date of the compensation must be retroactive before the date of the loan closing. Veterans can request a refund by calling the VA regional loan center main line at  877-827-3702 Monday through Friday, from 8 AM until 6 PM.

Closing Costs

men shaking hands closing costs

Closing costs are fees that are paid at the end (or close) of the home sale. These costs are either paid by the seller or the buyer. With a VA home loan, the seller is responsible for paying the following closing costs:

  • Commission for real estate professionals
  • Brokerage fee
  • Buyer broker fee
  • Termite report (unless the buyer is using a refinancing loan)

These costs are sometimes referred to as “seller’s concessions.” The VA limits the total amount of seller’s concessions to 4 percent of the total home loan. 

Buyers can negotiate with the seller to determine who will pay the following closing costs:

  • VA funding fee
  • Appraisal cost
  • Credit report fee
  • Title insurance premiums
  • Origination fee
  • Recording fee
  • Survey fee
  • VA funding fee
  • Prepaid items 
    • Property tax
    • Hazard insurance
    • Flood insurance
    • Homeowners association assessments

Applying for a VA Home Loan

Obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility is only part of the overall application process for VA home loans. There are a few other steps you must take in order to secure a VA home loan. The steps below outline the entire application process for each type of VA home loan. 

  1. Choose a VA Home Loan
    The VA offers several loan options from which you may choose. The first step in applying is deciding which loan is right for you. Your choice depends on several factors, including whether you prefer:
    • Purchasing a new home
    • Refinancing your current home
    • Modifying or making improvements to your current home
    • Applying as a Native American veteran or eligible spouse
      Learn more about each type of VA home loan in the “Types of Loans” section.
  2. Get a COE
    After choosing your preferred type of VA home loan, you must verify your eligibility by getting a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). You will need to present this to a mortgage lender to prove that you meet all military service requirements. To learn how to get a COE, see the “How to Get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)” section of this guide. 
  3. Find a VA-Approved Lender
    For all VA-backed home loans, your loan is serviced through a mortgage lender rather than the VA itself. Lenders must be approved by the VA in order to issue VA home loans. You can choose the lender you wish to finance through. Some nationwide lenders that offer VA home loans include: 
    • Veterans United
    • Quicken Loans 
    • Navy Federal
    • Veterans First
    • New American Funding
    • Bank of America

      To find a VA-approved lender, you may need to conduct research and compare specifics. Obtaining quotes from several lenders may help you predict what your mortgage will look like and compare factors such as: 
    • Credit score limits – This relates to the credit score or range you can earn and still qualify with. 
    • Income requirements – This is the amount of money you can earn and still qualify with. 
    • Interest rate – This is the basic percentage the lender plans to charge you each month for your loan. It does not include any other fees or closing costs. Note that the APR is your interest rate after all of your fees and closing costs are considered.
    • Origination fees – These are additional fees charged by the lender to cover loan processing and can amount to up to 1 percent of your loan amount. Each lender determines this fee for itself.
  4. Get Pre-Approved Most VA-approved lenders required pre-approval.
    This process includes a complete analysis of your financial situation to determine if you qualify for a large purchase. During pre-approval, you must submit:
    • A comprehensive credit report
    • W-2s
    • Proof of employment
    • A list of debts and assets

After reviewing your financial situation, the lender will provide you with a pre-approval decision. This contains a statement of how much money you may borrow from the lender. This process is completed by each lender that you are considering, so you will likely receive varying pre-approval amounts.

After Applying for a VA Home Loan

Once you apply for a VA home loan, the mortgage lender will notify you of your eligibility. The remaining steps in the VA home loan process are handled by the lender, not the VA. However, if you apply for a Native American Direct Loan (NADL), the VA is your mortgage lender. This eliminates the need to find a VA-approved lender and allows you to seek assistance directly from the VA.

If you are using a VA loan to purchase a home, the next steps are as follows.

  1. Finding a real estate agent (optional).
    • Real estate agents help navigate the homebuying process. These are individuals with training and education in the home buying process. Some agents may even specialize in VA home loans.  
  2. Shopping for homes.
    • Begin comparing homes that are in your price range. You can search for homes online with various real estate websites or check with your real estate agent. 
  3. Schedule an inspection/appraisal.
    • When you find a home that you would like to buy, you can choose to have it inspected to ensure it meets your standards. An inspection is different from an appraisal. Nevertheless, because you are using a VA home loan, the home must undergo an appraisal by a VA-approved appraiser to ensure it meets the VA’s requirements. Learn more in the following section.

VA Appraisal Requirements

man inspecting house form VA Appraisal Requirements

When you find a house you want to purchase with a VA home loan, it must undergo an appraisal. An appraisal is a complete inspection of the home by a professional that checks to ensure it meets specific standards. 

The VA has Minimum Property Requirements (MPR) that all homes must meet to ensure they meet basic conditions. These guidelines establish whether the home or property has the essentials for you to live safely and comfortably. 

To determine if a home meets MPR guidelines, an appraiser will inspect the property and run a variety of tests to ensure that it is clean, safe and in good condition. These tests include checking for:

  • Adequate space for sleeping, cooking and living
  • Adequate water sanitation and working sewage
  • Accessibility from the street via a driveway or easement
  • Adequate drainage away from the walls
  • Compliance with local zoning laws
  • Electricity and power
  • Any hazards that could affect the health of the homeowner or occupants

At the end of the appraisal, the VA appraiser will provide a professional opinion of value. This is the total amount of money that the home and property is worth. If the home’s sale price is higher than the appraised price, you can do one of the following:

  • Requesting a Reconsideration of Value (ROV)
    • An ROV involves asking the real estate agent to give the mortgage lender data that shows the home is worth more than the appraised price. Then, the mortgage lender will ask the VA appraiser to reconsider the opinion of value based on this information.
  • Renegotiating the sales price. 
    • You can ask the seller to lower the price to match the appraised value. The seller may choose not to lower the asking price, though it would be considerably more difficult to sell the home without doing so.
  • Paying the difference between the appraised price and the sales price
    • If you choose to pay the difference, you will do so during closing.

Denials and Appeals

THE BELOW DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. THIS GUIDE IS NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING PROGRAMS, PLEASE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OR THE VA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE NUMBERS PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE.

If your VA home loan application is denied, it can be caused by several factors, like application errors or failing to meet all the eligibility requirements. A denial is not always a final decision; you may be eligible to appeal the denial if you believe there was a mistake. 

Before appealing a denial, you must understand where in the process your application was denied. Your application can be denied by:

  • The VA
  • The mortgage lender
  • Both parties

It is important to determine the specific reasons for your application denial to understand how to initiate the appeal process.

Reasons for a VA Denial 

There are several criteria that you must meet to qualify for a VA loan. If you do not meet all eligibility requirements, you will be denied a VA home loan. When there is an eligibility discrepancy, you should double check that your COE contains the correct dates of service. If there are mistakes on your COE, contact your commanding officer to fix them.

Other reasons for VA denial have to do with separation. The VA does not provide home loans to anyone who was dishonorably discharged. If your separation status is unknown or dishonorable, you will be denied a VA loan.

Reasons for a Lender Denial

There are many more reasons for a mortgage lender to issue a denial. The VA does not originate mortgages, so most denials stem from problems meeting the mortgage lender’s criteria. The following sections include the most common reasons for denials by private lenders.

Credit Score 

A credit score is a numerical representation of a borrower’s ability to repay a loan. There are many factors that go into a credit score, including:

  • Total amount of debt
  • Total lines of credit
  • Length of credit history
  • On-time payments

The VA will not deny your application based on poor credit, but a mortgage lender might. Typically, the lowest credit score that a lender will accept is 580. Even with a higher score, other factors on a credit report can affect an applicant’s chances of being approved.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Lenders examine a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio, which is a comparison of how much debt you have versus your income. If you have high debt and low income, your lender may deny your application.

Employment and Income 

Being employed and having steady income shows lenders that you are regularly able to make mortgage payments. If you are unemployed or do not make enough to cover the cost of a mortgage, your application may be denied.

If you lose your job during the homebuying process, the lender may be willing to work with you. However, if you quit or resign, your application may be denied. 

Home Appraisal 

Private mortgage lenders often require home appraisals separate from the VA appraisal. The home you plan to purchase may be listed at a certain price, but an appraiser determines if that value is truly accurate in the current market. Lenders typically do not extend mortgage offers for any amount that is more than 80 percent of a home’s value. If the appraiser values the home for less than the loan amount, your loan request will most likely get rejected. 

Application Errors 

If your application contains mistakes or errors, the lender may issue a denial. An error can include misspellings, inaccurate dates or missing information and signatures.

Appeal Process 

If you disagree with your loan denial, you may begin an appeal process. The appeal process must be initiated either with the VA or with the lender. The only time you can appeal to the VA is when your COE is denied. In all other cases, the private mortgage lender is the one to oversee the appeal process.

The VA appeal process recently changed in 2019 from the Legacy Appeal Process to the Decision Review Process. It is important to use the new Decision Review Process if the VA decision you wish to appeal was made on or after February 19, 2019. However, if you are in the middle of an appeal that was initiated before the system changed, you can continue following the old system. 

You can choose one of the following methods below to get started: 

  • A higher-level review – Claims are reviewed by a senior claims adjudicator.
  • A supplemental claim – Applicants can submit or identify new and/or relevant evidence to support and strengthen a claim.
  • An appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals – Applicants can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals with a choice of three options:
    • Direct review, when no evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Evidence submission, when new evidence is presented and a hearing is unnecessary
    • Hearing, when new evidence is available and applicants want to testify before a Veterans Law Judge

The appeal process for VA home loans follows the same structure as that of VA Health Care benefits. Learn more about the different appeal options and steps you can take in the section “Health Care Denials and Appeals”.

How to Find VA-Acquired Properties

couple looking at house How to Find VA-Acquired Properties

When a borrower stops making mortgage payments on a VA direct or VA-backed loan, the VA acquires the home and puts it up for sale. You can purchase VA-acquired properties through Vendor Resource Management (VRM), a third-party property management contractor.

VRM allows local agents to list these properties. You can browse VA-acquired properties online here: https://www.vrmproperties.com/. If you see a VA-acquired property that you wish to purchase, contact a local real estate broker or agent to schedule a viewing. 

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage?

If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, contact your loan servicer to discuss your options. It is best to contact them as soon as you recognize an inability to pay. Many loan servicers have step-by-step plans you can follow to stay on top of your payments. 

If you do not want to talk directly with your loan servicer, contact the VA. A VA loan technician will contact your servicer on your behalf. The loan technician can also provide you with advice and insight before you reach out to your servicer yourself. 

To reach a VA loan technician, call 877-827-3702.

Warning About Financing Offers

If you are contacted by a third-party offering you financing options to help you make your mortgage payments, do not accept right away. It is important to be wary of scams that offer this type of service, which place your financial and personal information at risk.

Some common characteristics of these false financing offers are:

  • Interest rates that are extremely lower than the national average
  • The ability to skip mortgage payments
  • Cashback offers that span thousands of dollars
  • No out-of-pocket costs
  • No waiting period

If you are confronted with a financing offer that features one of these characteristics or sounds too good to be true, you can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 

Before accepting any financing offers, contact your loan servicer or a VA regional loan center. They will be able to tell you if these offers are legitimate. For a list of contact information for VA regional loan centers, see the “VA Regional Loan Centers” section of this guide. 

How to Avoid Foreclosure

If you miss several mortgage payments, you can be at risk of foreclosure. This process occurs when you fall behind on your payments, and your mortgage servicer takes your home to cover the money that you owe. A mortgage servicer is a company that handles the finances for your mortgage lender. 

If you are at risk of foreclosure, VA loan technicians can help you learn what you can do to avoid it.  Even if you do not have a VA direct or VA-backed loan, you can receive counseling to learn how to avoid foreclosure. 

If you have a VA direct or VA-backed loan, you can contact the VA anytime to request a loan technician. When your loan becomes 61 days past due, the VA will automatically assign a loan technician to your loan to help you. 

There are six options you can take to attempt to avoid foreclosure:

  1. Following a loan repayment plan.
    Repayment plans allow you to resume making your monthly payments at a slightly higher rate each month to cover any missed payments. This option is best if you have only missed a handful of payments. 
  2. Receiving a special forbearance.
    A forbearance is a period of time during which you do not have to pay. This allows you extra time to repay your missed payments without the need to continue your current ones. 
  3. Receiving a loan modification.
    This option allows you to modify your home loan and wrap all your missed payments and any corresponding legal fees into your total loan balance. Then, your loan servicer will work with you to create a new payment schedule. 
  4. Selling your home privately. 
    You may need to sell your home to avoid foreclosure. This option delays foreclosure by allowing you time to put your home on the market.
  5. Conducting a short sale.
    If you owe more money than your house is worth, you can request a short sale with your loan servicer. In this case, the servicer accepts the proceeds from the sale (even if it is less than the amount you owe) as full payment.
  6. Signing over the deed.
    This option allows you to avoid foreclosure by signing over the deed to your home to the loan servicer. After this happens, the servicer will own your home. 

What to Do If Foreclosure Is Unavoidable

Sometimes, foreclosure is unavoidable. Once you go through the foreclosure process, you may need to pay back the money that you owe. 

  • If your home loan closed before January 1, 1990, you will need to pay back the amount you owe.
  • If your home loan closed on or after January 1, 1990, you will not need to pay back the amount you owe, unless the VA finds evidence of fraud, misrepresentation or bad faith. 

Guidance on Natural Disasters

If your home is affected by a natural disaster and you have a VA loan, follow the steps outlined below to learn how to quickly receive assistance from federal authorities. 

  1. Contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
    FEMA is the department responsible for providing emergency assistance when natural disasters occur. Complete the online FEMA disaster application as soon as your home is affected by calling 800‐621‐3362 or visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
    You must register with FEMA before the deadline for that specific natural disaster expires. You may also qualify for additional emergency assistance, such as cash grants, low interest loans and housing assistance.
  2. Contacting your mortgage lender.
    Even if a natural disaster causes your home to be uninhabitable, you are still required to make your monthly mortgage payments. Contact your lender to discuss your payment options. Lenders may offer special forbearance so that you can pause your payments for a short time. 
  3. Contacting your insurance company.
    As soon as you realize your home has been damaged, contact your insurance company to file an insurance claim. If the damage is repairable, contact an engineer to check for structural damages.
    It may be beneficial to get quotes from at least two contractors or companies to make necessary repairs. Insurance checks for personal property and living expenses should be payable to you only. Any checks for damages to your home should be payable to both you and your mortgage lender.
  4. Updating your address.
    If you are not receiving mail at your home address due to a natural disaster, be sure to update your address with the VA and other sources that provide you with monthly benefit checks. Notify your local post office and the VA regional loan center of your new address. Find a list of contact information in the “VA Regional Loan Centers” section.
  5. Reaching out to other sources for assistance. 
    Many other organizations offer natural disaster assistance. Reach out to the following sources to inquire about assistance:

Environmental Impact Statement Process

If you have a VA home loan, you can participate in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to help the VA understand how the home loan process may impact the environment. The VA is preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) which will identify positive and negative impacts on the environment and identify ways to limit harmful environmental effects. 

As a VA home loan recipient or other VA beneficiary, you can make public comments during open-comment periods. Your comments may reflect on your opinion of the VA’s environmental impact or suggest alternatives so that the VA can reduce its impact. 

  • To see if there are any open-comment periods or to learn of the next, visit https://www.regulations.gov
  • You can submit a comment in the following ways:
    • Enter your comment online at https://www.regulations.gov
    • Fax your comment to (202) 273-9026
    • Mail your comment to:
      Office of Regulation Policy and Management (00REG)
      Department of Veterans Affairs
      810 Vermont Avenue NW, Room 1063B
      Washington, DC 20420

Disability Housing Grants

disabled woman at home Disability Housing Grants

Veterans with service-connected disabilities can qualify for adapted housing grants from the VA. These grants are designed to improve the home lives of disabled veterans through modifications and updates. 

The VA has three different adapted grant programs:

  • Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant
  • Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant
  • Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grant 

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant

The Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant provides financial resources to veterans in order for them to live comfortably. SAH grant money can be used to buy, build or change your permanent home (a home you plan to live in for a long time).

To get a SAH grant, you must:

  • Own (or plan to own) the home, and
  • Have a qualifying service-connected disability

To have a qualifying service-connected disability, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Loss or loss of use of more than one limb
  • Loss or loss of use of a lower leg with lasting effects of an organic (natural) disease or injury
  • Blindness in both eyes (with 20/200 visual acuity or less)
  • Certain severe burns
  • Loss of use or loss of one lower extremity (foot or leg) that occurred after September 11, 2001, which makes it so you cannot balance or walk without the help of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair

The SAH grant provides veterans a maximum of $101,754 for the 2022 fiscal year. The maximum allowed amount changes yearly on October 1. You are not required to use the entire sum of money at once. You may use it up to six times throughout your lifetime. 

Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant

The SHA grant provides funding to adapt your home to fit your special needs. To qualify for an SHA grant, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You (or a family member) own or will own the home
  • You have a qualifying service-connected disability 

To have a qualifying service-connected disability, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Loss or loss of use of both hands
  • Certain severe burns
  • Certain respiratory or breathing injuries

The SHA grant provides veterans a maximum of $20,387 for the fiscal year 2022. The maximum allowed amount changes yearly on October 1. You are not required to use the entire sum of money at once. You may use it up to six times throughout your lifetime. 

Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) Grant

If you are temporarily living in a family member’s home and qualify for SAH or SHA grants, you may be eligible to receive a Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grant. This grant provides you with a one-time grant you can use to adapt a family member’s home to fit your needs. 

The total amount of TRA grant money you can get depends on whether you qualify for an SAH or SHA grant. The list below shows TRA maximum amounts for the fiscal year 2022:

  • If you qualify for an SAH grant, you can get up to $40,983 
  • If you qualify for an SHA grant, you can get up to $7,318

HUD-VASH

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program helps senior veterans find and maintain permanent housing. It is a collaborative program that combines HUD housing vouchers (also known as Section 8) with VA supportive services to help homeless veterans find and sustain suitable housing. 

Eligible veterans can receive rental assistance housing vouchers to find affordable housing. At the same time, these veterans can be connected to a variety of support services, including:

  • Health care
  • Mental health treatment services
  • Substance abuse counseling 

Eligibility

To participate in HUD-VASH, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Be eligible for VA health care
    • Learn more about who qualifies for VA health care in the “VA Health Care” section on page X.
  • Meet the definition of homeless as defined in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which is:
    • An individual or family lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence;
    • An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or campground;
    • An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
    • An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided; or
    • An individual or family who is about to lose their housing, including housing they own, rent or live in without paying rent, are sharing with others and rooms in hotels or motels not paid for by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations.

How to Apply

To apply for HUD-VASH, visit your local VA Medical Center. Use the search tool here to find one in your area: https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1.

Additional Resources

The VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide several other assistance programs and services designed to help veterans across the country. Continue reading the sections below for more information about additional HUD assistance. 

Housing Counseling

couple discussing paperwork with man housing counseling

HUD sponsors Housing Counseling Agencies throughout the U.S. These agencies provide the following housing-related services:

  • Foreclosure prevention counseling
  • Homeless counseling services
  • Advice on renting or buying a home
  • Pre-purchase education and advice
  • Reverse mortgage advice 
Who can get housing counseling services? 

Anyone interested in receiving the services listed above can speak to a housing counselor. There are no eligibility requirements. However, it is important to be aware that some Housing Counseling Agencies may not provide all the services listed, and some may charge fees for certain types of assistance. Continue reading the section below to learn about housing counseling fees. 

Are there fees for housing counseling services?

HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agencies cannot charge fees for the following services:

  • Foreclosure prevention counseling 
  • Homeless counseling services 

However, agencies can charge reasonable fees for all other types of housing counseling services as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Agencies must inform clients of the fee structure before providing any services
  • Agencies cannot charge recipients who demonstrate they cannot afford the fees
  • Fees must be appropriate for services provided
How to Find a Housing Counselor 

If you are on the brink of foreclosure and need advice, you may speak to a foreclosure avoidance counselor. The counselor can help you understand your options, such as whether you qualify for loan modification or refinance. To find a foreclosure avoidance counselor, use the search tool provided by HUD to locate one in your area: https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/

For any other housing counseling services, find a Housing Counseling Agency near you. Use the search tool provided by HUD to search for agencies in your state: https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm

Or, call HUD’s interactive voice system at (800) 569-4287.  

HUD’s Homeowner’s Guide to Success

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Homeowner’s Guide to Success is a resource for anyone financing a home through the VA or another federal agency. 

The guide provides borrowers with insight on how to stay in good standing with their mortgage servicer along with advice for avoiding foreclosure. It also includes a list of common terms you might hear from your mortgage servicer.

Access the Homeowner’s Guide to Success here: https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/Homeowners-Guide-to-Success.pdf

VA Burials and Memorials

VA burial benefits are a type of financial assistance to help active service members and veterans of all branches of the U.S. military, as well as their family members, to shoulder the burden of planning and paying for funerals, memorials services and burials in a VA national cemetery or resting place.

Loved ones and family members of deceased service members can also continue using burial benefits to order or purchase memorial items to honor the service and memory of a veteran.

Eligibility for Burial Benefits

Veterans, active service members, and their spouses, children and other dependents may qualify for burial in a VA national cemetery, as well as being eligible for other benefits, as long as one of the below statements about the qualifying person is true:

  • They are a veteran who did not receive a dishonorable discharge
  • They are a service member who died during active duty, or during active or inactive duty for training
  • They are the spouse or a minor-aged child of a veteran, even if the veteran predeceases them
  • They are the unmarried, adult-aged dependent child of a veteran

Note that certain groups of individuals are ineligible for VA burial services, including:

  • Select family members of veterans:
    • Non-veteran former spouses whose marriage to a veteran ended in annulment or divorce 
    • Family members of a veteran convicted of any activities that are considered subversive, unless they have received a presidential pardon
    • Family members who otherwise do not meet the requirements
  • Individuals who were drafted but were discharged before serving
  • Veterans with a negative type of discharge, including:
    • Dishonorable discharge
    • Character of service that may disqualify them
    • Discharge stemming from bad or undesirable conduct
  • Veterans charged and found guilty of a capital crime

Burial in a VA National Cemetery

Veterans, service members and their family members may be eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery reserved only for those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Should they qualify, they can receive numerous VA burial benefits at no charge, including:

  • Receiving a dedicated gravesite in one of nearly 140 national VA cemeteries
  • Customary opening and closing of the grave
  • A government-provided burial liner
  • A government-provided headstone or marker
  • Gravesite care and upkeep, in perpetuity

Burial in a Private Cemetery

The VA does not offer as many benefits to veterans who wish to be buried in a private cemetery, but they may be eligible for certain memorial items, such as:

  • A headstone, medallion or other grave marker
  • A burial flag
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate 

Burial at Sea

The U.S. Navy Burial at Sea program also offers families a burial and memorial alternative for Naval veterans who want to plan their burial at sea. 

According to the U.S. Navy, a formal burial at sea is the final disposition of a veteran’s remains. The ceremony is performed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel while the ship is deployed on active duty. 

The Navy Personnel Command maintains that Navy veterans must meet one of these requirements to be eligible for a burial at sea:

  • Be active duty members of the uniformed services
  • Be retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged
  • Be part of U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command
  • Be a dependent family member of active duty personnel, retirees or veterans of the uniformed services

Family members should bear in mind that they are not allowed to be present during burial at sea proceedings. Protocol dictates that the ship’s commanding officer assigned to perform the ceremony will notify the family when the service has been completed — with details including the date, time, longitude and latitude in which the burial took place. Once remains or cremated remains are received at the port of embarkation, the average amount of time before the burial at sea is completed can range between 12 to 18 months.

There are five burial at sea points of embarkation:

Norfolk, VA

Commander, Naval Medical Center
ATTN: Code 0210C
620 John Paul Jones Cir.
Portsmouth, VA 23708-5100
Phone: (757) 953-2617 or 2618

Jacksonville, FL    

Officer in Charge
Naval Hospital Branch Clinic
P. O. Box 280148
Naval Station
Mayport, FL 32228-0148
Phone: (904) 270-4285

San Diego, CA

Commanding Officer
Naval Medical Center
Decedent Affairs Code: 09OA
San Diego, CA 92134-5000
Phone: (800) 290-7410

Bremerton, WA

Commanding Officer
Naval Hospital
Bremerton Code 015-BAS/HPO1 Boone Road
Bremerton, WA 98312-1898
Phone: (360) 475-4313

Honolulu, HI

Navy Liaison Unit
Tripler Army Medical Center
Tripler AMC, HI 96859-5000
Phone: (808) 433-4709/(808) 577-7590

To make arrangements at one of the sea points of embarkation, contact the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office at (866) 787-0081 to request a packet and for additional information.

How to Apply for Burial Benefits

It is recommended to begin the preparatory process in advance for veterans and families who would like a VA-subsidized burial in a national cemetery or at sea.

Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination

To plan for one’s own burial years ahead, and to make the financial burden simpler for loved ones in a time of financial need, veterans can learn in advance if they are eligible to be buried in a VA national cemetery.

The application is called the pre-need determination of eligibility form, and it can be found here: https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-10007.pdf. Pre-need denotes before time of need.

Information Needed to Apply

Veterans and active duty service members need to gather certain pieces of documentation and information before applying:

  • Social Security Number
  • Date and location of birth
  • Other information related to service, like one’s military status and their service history (such as dates of service, discharge character and current rank)
  • Discharge papers (found on DD-214 or within other separation documents)

Family members (such as spouses or unmarried adult children) will also need to provide personal information such as their Social Security Numbers. 

For non-relatives who are applying on behalf of someone else, supporting documentation is required to prove that they have the authority to apply for eligibility determination for the veteran in question. In this case, one of two forms will need to be filled out and completed:

Applying unmarried adult children of a veteran or service member will also need to provide additional information about their disability (one of the factors that needs to be verified in order to qualify for benefits), which can be verified by their current doctor:

  • Date when their disability began
  • Detailed description of their disability 
  • Detailed description of their level of dependency on the veteran
  • Child’s marital status

Application Methods

There are three options to apply: online, by mail and by fax.

Online

Applicants can complete the pre-need eligibility determination form online by signing into their account at https://www.va.gov/burials-and-memorials/pre-need/form-10007-apply-for-eligibility/introduction and following the steps to submit their documentation.

By Mail

  1. Download VA Form 40-10007 — the Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery — at https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-10007.pdf
  2. Complete and sign the form
  3. Mail the completed application, along with supporting documentation, to: 
    National Cemetery
    Scheduling Office
    P.O. Box 510543
    St. Louis, MO 63151

By Fax

Fax the completed application form above to (855) 840-8299.

After Applying

After submitting the application, the VA will decide if you qualify or not.

If you qualify…

If the VA decides an applicant meets the standards for pre-need determination eligibility, the applicant will receive a burial and memorial benefits folder in the mail. It will include:

  • A pre-need decision letter signifying the applicant can be buried in a VA national cemetery
  • A brochure with more information on burial benefits
  • A copy of supporting documentation that accompanied the original application

Note that veterans and families who qualify receive burial benefits free, at no cost, from the VA.

If you do not qualify…

The VA will send a letter explaining its decision behind denying the pre-need determination eligibility application, along with a form called Your Rights to Seek Further Review of Our Decision, downloadable at https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-20-0998-ARE.pdf. The form explains how to start the appeal process and submit documentation to support a claim.

Appeals

THE BELOW DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. THIS GUIDE IS NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING PROGRAMS, PLEASE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OR THE VA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE NUMBERS PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE.

Applicants have three general options when pursuing an appeal:

  • Filing a supplemental claim with new evidence
  • Requesting a higher-level review from a senior reviewer
  • Requesting a board appeal from a veterans law judge

Refer to the section “Health Care Denials and Appeals” for information on how to navigate the process. 

Burial Allowance

Veterans burial allowances are also called death benefits. Offered to family members and relatives of veterans, allowances can help cover various expenses, including:

  • Associated burial and funeral costs
  • Interment and gravesite/plot
  • Transportation of remains for burial

Eligibility

To qualify for burial allowances, one of the following personal or professional relationships with the veteran must be true. Applicants must be:

  • A veteran’s surviving spouse (the VA recognizes same-sex marriages)
  • A surviving partner from a legal union (made formally in the eyes of the state)
  • A surviving child of the veteran 
  • A parent of the veteran
  • A legal executor, power of attorney or administrator of the veteran’s estate

To qualify for benefits, the deceased veteran must have died in one of the following ways:

  • From a service-related disability
  • While receiving VA care at a VA-operated or -contracted facility
  • While in transit to or from a VA facility, at the VA’s authorization and expense, to receive treatment, care or an examination
  • While having a VA compensation or pension claim, either original or reopened, at the time of their death, if they were eligible for benefits before their death
  • While they were currently receiving a VA pension or compensation
  • While receiving full military retirement or disability pay, while qualifying for a VA pension or compensation at the time of their death

How to Apply

To apply for a burial allowance, applicants can sign into their VA.gov account to get started, or visit https://www.va.gov/burials-and-memorials/application/530/claimant-information without signing in.

Alternatively, download and complete the Application for Burial Benefits (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-530EZ-ARE.pdf). Then mail it and supporting documentation to the nearest VA regional office.

After Applying

Note that following an application, if approved for burial allowances, families will need to pay for the cost of funeral director services, like cremation. Additionally, if a veteran’s discharge was dishonorable, but was changed after their death to another status, claims must be filed within two years after that update.

Memorial Items

grave american flag cemetery memorial items

Veterans or Reservists can be honored with various memorial items for their burial or funeral service, such as burial flags or presidential memorial certificates. Eligible spouses or family members buried in a national cemetery may also qualify for an identifying headstone or marker.

Headstones, Grave Markers and Niche Markers

There are three primary groups eligible to be honored with a headstone or marker:

  • Veterans and active-duty service members
  • National Guard members and Reservists
  • Spouses and other family members

Likewise, the same groups of eligible honorees, plus commissioned officers, can also receive a medallion.

For eligibility, one’s relationship to a deceased veteran must be that of:

  • A family member
  • A personal representative who officially represents the deceased
  • An accredited Veterans Service Organization representative
  • A state or local government employee whose official responsibilities include serving veterans
  • Anyone legally responsible for making arrangements for unclaimed remains or for details regarding the deceased’s interment or memorialization
  • Any person representing the deceased, if the veteran’s service ended before April 6, 1917

Family members can apply for any one of the above memorials if a deceased veteran’s remains meet one of these requirements:

  • Have not been recovered or identified
  • Were buried at sea
  • Were donated to science
  • Were cremated and scattered

To apply for a headstone or grave or niche marker, download the Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker form at https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330.pdf

To apply for a medallion to be placed on a privately purchased headstone or marker, fill out the Claim for Government Medallion for Placement in a Private Cemetery, https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/va40-1330m.pdf. Choose between three sizes of medallions.

Each claim must be accompanied by a copy (not original) of the veteran’s discharge documents, https://www.cem.va.gov/CEM/hmm/discharge_documents.asp. Fax all documentation to (800) 455-7143 or mail it to:
Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veteran Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

Burial Flags

The VA can provide a United States flag to drape over a casket or coffin, or to accompany an urn during funeral services for a Veteran or Reservist.

To be eligible for a burial flag, one of these statements must be true about the veteran:

  • They served in wartime
  • They died during active duty after May 27, 1941
  • They served after January 31, 1955
  • They served during peacetime and left military service before June 27, 1950 after serving at least one enlistment, or because of a disability that was caused or exacerbated by their active military service
  • They served, in select instances, in the Selected Reserves or served in the military forces of the Philippines while in service of the United States, and died on or after April 25, 1951

To obtain a burial flag, families need to fill out and complete the Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes, downloadable at https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-27-2008-ARE.pdf. The application must be brought in person to either:

  • A funeral director
  • A VA regional office
  • A U.S. post office (the VA strongly recommends calling a post office ahead of time to ensure it has burial flags in stock)

Presidential Memorial Certificates

An engraved paper certificate signed by the current president, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, or PMC, is another option to honor the memory and military service of a Veteran or Reservist.

To be eligible for a PMC, both of these must be true:

  • The Veteran or Reservist is eligible to be buried in a national cemetery, and
  • The applicant is the next of kin, a family member or a close friend of the Veteran or Reservist — or, optionally, an authorized service representative for a family member or friend of the Veteran or Reservist

Apply for a PMC in person at any VA regional office, or by mailing a Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form, https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-0247.pdf, along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers, to:
Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

How to Plan a Burial

Planning for a burial for a veteran, their spouse or dependent family member in a VA memorial cemetery requires just a few steps.

If you have a pre-need determination letter, covered on page X of this guide in the section “Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination”, all that is needed is to begin working with a funeral director to make funeral arrangements and select a cemetery, gravesite or final resting place. The funeral director should contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 to request a burial.

In absence of a pre-need letter, follow these steps:

  1. To officially identify the deceased, compile documentation and information needed before calling the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. These documents may include:
  1. The DD-214 or other discharge documents
  2. Death certificate
  3. Letters from a doctor
  4. Divorce decree
  5. Social Security Administration statement
  6. Other supporting documentation
  7. Documents verifying the relationship between a veteran and dependent
    1. Other information needed about the deceased includes their name; gender; Social Security or military service number; date of birth; relationship to the service member or veteran whose military tenure will be used to determine eligibility; their marital status; and date of death, including the ZIP code and county in which they died.

2. Confirm all burial details — location, type of burial and memorial details. The VA will need to know:

  1. The cemetery or final resting place where the family would like the veteran, spouse or dependent family member to be laid to rest
  2. The manner of burial (either in a coffin or by cremation) and the size of the casket or urn
  3. The variety or type of preferred gravesite memorial: headstone, grave marker, niche cover, medallion, etc.
  4. Indication of any original inscriptions or religious emblems or symbols you would like to put on the headstone or grave marker

Additionally, notify the VA that if the deceased is a Veteran or Reservist, if you would like other burial honors or memorial items as part of the service, such as a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, or other ceremonial military honors, such as playing Taps, and flag folding and presentation.

3. Lastly, contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office to make final burial confirmation. (A funeral director can manage these arrangements.) 

  1. If handling arrangements oneself, begin by faxing discharge papers to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (866) 900-6417, or scan and email documentation to NCA.Scheduling@va.gov with the name of the person in the subject line that burial benefits are being scheduled for.
  2. Next, confirm the burial application by calling (800) 535-1117. The National Cemetery Scheduling Office should also be able to confirm available burial times for the cemetery of one’s choice.

Bereavement and Grief Counseling

group consoling man bereavement and grief counseling

In addition to burial and funeral services, surviving spouses, children or parents of veterans or service members may qualify through the Department of Veteran Affairs for bereavement, grief or readjustment counseling at no cost. A means of assistance and support, counseling can help with the emotional and psychological stress of losing a loved one who died while serving their country.

Types of Bereavement Counseling

A number of transition services are offered by the VA to family members, either in community centers, in homes, or other locations where they may feel most comfortable pursuing therapy, such as:

  • Outreach
  • Counseling
  • Referral services

Eligibility

To qualify for bereavement counseling, you must be a surviving spouse, child or parent of:

  • An Armed Forces service member who died on active duty while serving their country
  • A Reservist who died on active duty
  • A National Guard member or soldier who died on active duty

Access to Bereavement Counseling Services

Bereavement counseling services are free of charge to eligible families. The VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service staff will help families contact their nearest VA centers for counseling in the location of their choice. Contact staff by:

VA Life Insurance

woman signing life insurance policy va life insurance

Veterans, service members and family members can all purchase life insurance policies from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Life insurance is a policy between an insurance company and an individual that provides a sum of money when the policyholder dies. These policies require premiums, which are payments made by the policyholder to the insurance company in exchange for coverage.

The VA offers different life insurance policies based on military service history and status. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about life insurance options for veterans, service members and their families. 

VA Life Insurance Options 

You may be eligible for one or more types of VA life insurance policies depending on who you are and your military service history. The VA offers the following types of life insurance:

  • Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
    • Traumatic Injury Protection Coverage (TSGLI)
  • Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
  • Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI)
  • Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

Military service members can receive life insurance coverage through SGLI while completing their service contracts. This policy offers the following benefits to eligible service members:

  • Coverage up to the maximum of $400,000
    • Coverage options come in $50,000 increments, so you can choose the total amount of coverage you would like to purchase.
  • 120 days of free coverage from the date you leave military service
  • Extension of free coverage for up to two years (if you are totally disabled) when you leave the military
    • See the “SGLI Disability Extension” on page X to learn more.
  • Part-time coverage
    • This only applies if you are a Reserve member who does not qualify for full-time coverage. 

Eligibility

To be eligible for full-time Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), you must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Be an active duty member of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard
  • Be a commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)
  • Be a cadet or midshipman of one of the U.S. military academies
  • Be a member, cadet or midshipman of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) engaged in authorized training and practice cruises
  • Be a member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard, assigned to a unit and scheduled for at least 12 periods of inactive training each year
  • Be a volunteer in an Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) mobilization category 

If you are in nonpay status with the Ready Reserve or National Guard, you may be eligible for full-time SGLI coverage if you meet both of the following requirements:

  • You are scheduled for 12 periods of inactive training for the year
  • You are participating in drills/training for points rather than pay 

How to Apply

If you qualify for SGLI, you will be automatically enrolled through your service branch. However, you are not required to enroll in SGLI; you have the right to refuse coverage if you do not want it. You also have the right to choose your specific coverage amount and your beneficiaries (the people who will receive your life insurance money if you die). 

Cost of SGLI

If you are eligible for SGLI, you will pay a monthly premium that is automatically deducted from your base pay. The current basic SGLI premium rate is 6 cents per $1,000 of insurance coverage. The table below shows the premium amounts based on the coverage amount you wish to have.

SGLI Coverage Amount Monthly Premium Amount
$400,000 $25
$350,000 $22
$300,000 $19
$250,000 $16
$200,000 $13 
$150,000 $10
$100,000 $7
$50,000 $4 

SGLI Disability Extension

woman in a wheelchair disability extension

You may be eligible for an extension of SGLI coverage for up to two years after leaving the military if you are totally disabled. To qualify for the SGLI Disability Extension, you must be within two years of your date of separation and meet one of the requirements below:

  • You are totally disabled at the time of your discharge and are unable to work, or
  • You have experienced one of the following (regardless of work status):
    • Total loss of hearing in both ears
    • Loss of speech that leaves you unable to talk without the help of an artificial device
    • Permanent loss of use of:
      • Both of your hands, feet or eyes
      • One hand and one foot
      • One hand or foot and one eye

Unlike regular SGLI coverage, you will not be automatically enrolled; you must apply for the Disability Extension. Follow the steps below to learn how to apply.

  1. Complete the SGLI Disability Extension Application (SGLV 8715).
    1. Download it here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/SGLV_8715_ed2017-09.pdf 
  2. Mail the completed application to:
    Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance
    P.O. Box 41618
    Philadelphia, PA 19176

Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)

If you are enrolled in the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and experience a severe injury while serving in the military, you are eligible to receive short-term financial aid to help you recover. Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) provides between $25,000 and $100,000 in financial support to help you during recovery.

To be eligible for TSGLI, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You have a scheduled loss that is a direct result of your injury
  • You suffered the traumatic injury before midnight on the day you left military service
  • You suffered a scheduled loss within two years of your injury
  • You survived for a period of at least seven full days from the date of your injury (this period begins on the date and time of the injury and ends 168 full hours later)
  • You were an active-duty military member, a Reservist, a National Guard member, on funeral-honors duty or on one-day muster duty

The TSGLI program does have some exclusions regarding traumatic injuries. In order to be eligible for these payments, your injury cannot:

  • Be self-inflicted on purpose
  • Be the result of a self-injury
  • Involve illegal drugs or controlled substances without the consent of a doctor
  • Be the result of a medical or surgical treatment of an illness or disease
  • Occur while you are committing a felony
  • Be the result of a physical or mental illness or disease, except an illness or disease caused by:
    • A wound infection
    • A chemical, biological or radiological weapon
    • Accidentally swallowing a contaminated substance

You may be eligible for retroactive TSGLI payments, which are payments for traumatic injuries you received between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005. You must meet all of the TSGLI requirements listed above. 

You can receive TSGLI payments no matter where you were when your injury happened, even if you were off duty at the time. You also qualify even if your SGLI coverage was not in effect when your injury happened.

You are automatically covered by TSGLI if you are signed up for SGLI. However, to receive these payments, you will need to file a claim. 

To file a claim, download and complete the Application for TSGLI Benefits (SGLV 8600) here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/SGLV_8600_ed2020-09.pdf. When the form is complete, submit it to your branch of service. The front page of the application contains contact information for each branch of service. 

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)

If you are covered full-time through the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), your spouse and dependent child(ren) can receive life insurance coverage through the Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). This plan provides:

  • $100,000 of coverage to spouses (not to exceed your own SGLI coverage); and
  • $10,000 for each dependent child.

Eligibility

In order for your family members to qualify for FSGLI, you must:

  • Be on active duty; or
  • Be a member of the Reserves; or
  • Be a member of the National Guard.  

How to Apply

If you are enrolled in full time Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and you have a spouse who is a civilian (not a military member), he or she will be automatically enrolled in FSGLI. 

If your spouse is also a member of the military and you were married on or after January 2, 2013, your spouse will not be automatically enrolled. He or she must sign up for coverage through you, as a service member. If you are a member of one of the following branches, you can sign up your spouse through the SGLI Online Enrollment System (SOES):

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marines
  • Coast Guard
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

To access SOES, follow the steps below:

  1. Sign into your milConnect account here: https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/ 
  2. Select “Benefits.”
  3. Select “Life Insurance SOES – SGLI Online Enrollment System.”

Cost of FSGLI

Your dependent child(ren) will receive free coverage through FSGLI until they reach 18 years of age, unless one of the following statements is true, in which case they can continue receiving free coverage through FSGLI:

  • Your child is a full-time student and is between the ages of 18 and 22
  • Your child is permanently and totally disabled (which must have occurred before reaching 18 years of age) and cannot support themselves

However, you must pay a premium in order for your spouse to receive coverage. These premiums increase based on your spouse’s age and the amount of coverage he or she wants.  The table below provides information about average monthly premiums for spouses through FSGLI.

Coverage AmountAgecolspcolspancolspancolspancolspancolspan
Under 2930-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960 & Older
$100,000$4.50$5.30$7$10$17$29.50$45
$90,000$4.05$4.77$6.30$9$15.30$26.55$40.50
$80,000$3.60$4.24$5.60$8$13.60$23.60$36
$70,000$3.15$3.71$4.90$7$11.90$20.65$31.50
$60,000$2.70$3.18$4.20$6$10.20$17.70$27
$50,000$2.25$2.65$3.50$5$8.50$14.75$22.50
$40,000$1.80$2.12$2.80$4$6.80$11.80$18
$30,000$1.35$1.59$2.10$3$5.10$8.85$13.50
$20,000$.90$1.06$1.40$2$3.40$5.90$9
$10,000$.45$.53$.70$1$1.70$2.95$4.50

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) allows you to keep your life insurance coverage after separating from military service as long as you continue to pay premiums for coverage. You are eligible for coverage amounts between $10,000 and $400,000, based on the amount of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage you had when you left the military.

When you leave military service, you can get VGLI for coverage up to the total amount you had through SGLI. You may increase your coverage by $25,000 every five years up to a maximum of $400,000 until you reach 60 years of age.

Eligibility

To be eligible for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You had part-time Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) as a member of the National Guard or Reserves and you suffered an injury or disability while on duty (including direct traveling to and from duty) which disqualified you from standard premium insurance rates
  • You had SGLI while serving in the military and you are within one year and 120 days of being released from an active-duty service period that lasts at least 31 days
  • You are within one year and 120 days of retiring or being released from the Ready Reserves or National Guard
  • You are within one year and 120 days of assignment to the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) or the Inactive National Guard (ING). 
    • This includes members of the United States Public Health Service Inactive Reserve Corps (IRC).
  • You are within one year and 120 days of getting placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL)

How to Apply

You must apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) when you are at least within one year and 120 days of leaving the military. Part of the application process requires you to submit medical evidence proving you are in good health.

You can sign up for coverage as early as 240 days before leaving military service if you so choose. When you sign up this early, you do not need to prove that you are in good health. 

You can apply for VGLI coverage in the following ways:

  • Online through the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI)
  • Online through the eBenefits Portal
  • By mail
  • By fax

Apply online through the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) on the website here: https://giosgli.prudential.com/osgli/OnlineFillableAppController/NBEnrollment.

Apply online through the eBenefits Portal here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=vgli-policy-management 

Apply by mail or fax using the Application for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (SGLV 8714).

Cost of VGLI

You must pay a premium in exchange for coverage through Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI). These premiums increase based on your age and the amount of coverage you want.  

The table below provides information about average monthly premiums for VGLI coverage based on your age and the total amount of coverage.

Coverage AmountAgecolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspan
Under 2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-6465-6970-7475 – 7980 & Older
Monthly Premium Amountcolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspancolspan
$400,000$28$36$48$64$84$132$240$396$588$904$1,712$1,800
$390,000 $27.30$35.10$46.80$62.40$81.90$128.70$234$386.10$573.30$881.40$1,669.20$1,755
$380,000 $26.60$34.20$45.60$60.80$79.80$125.40$228$376.20$558.60$858.80$1,626.40$1,710
$370,000 $25.90$33.30$44.40$59.20$77.70$122.20$222$366.30$543.90$836.20$1,583.60$1,665
$360,000 $25.20$32.40$43.20$57.60$75.60$118.80$216$356.40$529.20$813.60$1,540.80$1,620
$350,000 $24.50 $31.50$42$56$73.50$115.50$210$346.50$514.50$790$1,498$1,575
$340,000 $23.80$30.60$40.80$54.40$71.40$112.20$204$336.60$499.80$768.40$1,455.20$1,530
$330,000 $23.10$29.70$39.60$52.80$69.30$108.90$198$326.70$485.10$745.80$1,412.40$1,485
$320,000 $22.40$28.80$38.40$51.20$67.20$105.60$192$316.80$470.40$723.20$1,369.60$1,440
$310,000 $21.70$27.90$37.20$49.60$65.10$102.30$186$306.90$455.70$700.60$1,326.80$1,395
$300,000 $21$27$36$48$63$99$180$297$441$678$1,284$1,350
$290,000 $20.30$26.10$34.80$46.40$60.90$95.70$174$287.10$426.30$655.40$1,241.20$1,305
$280,000 $19.60$25.20$33.60$44.80$58.80$92.40$168$277.20$411.60$632.80$1,198.40$1,260
$270,000 $18.90$24.30$32.40$43.20$56.70$89.10$162$267.30$396.90$610.20$1,155.60$1,215
$260,000 $18.20$23.40$31.20$41.60$54.60$85.80$156$257.40$382.80$587.60$1,112.80$1,170
$250,000 $17.50 $22.50$30$40$52.50$82.50$150$247.50$367.50$565$1,070$1,125
$240,000 $16.80$21.60$28.80$38.40$50.40$79.20$144$237.60$352.80$542.40$1,027.20$1,080
$230,000 $16.10$20.70$27.60$36.80$48.30$75.90$138$227.70$338.10$519.80$984.40$1,035
$220,000 $15.40 $19.80$26.40$35.20$46.20$72.60$132$217.80$323.40$497.20$941.60$990
$210,000 $14.70$18.90$25.20$33.60$44.10$69.30$126$207.90$308.70$474.60$898.80$945
$200,000 $14 $18$24$32$42$66$120$198$294$452$856$900
$190,000 $13.30$17.10$22.80$30.40$39.90$62.70$114$188.10$279.3$429.40$813.20$855
$180,000 $12.60$16.20$21.60$28.80$37.80$59.40$108$178.20$264.60$406.80$770.40$810
$170,000 $11.90$15.30$20.40$27.20$35.70$56.10$102$168.30$249.90$384.20$727.60$765
$160,000 $11.20$14.40$19.20$25.60$33.60$52.80$96$158.40$235.20$361.60$684.80$720
$150,000 $10.50$13.50$18$24$31.50$49.50$90$148.50$220.50$339$642$675
$140,000 $9.80 $12.60$16.8$22.40$29.40$46.20$84$138.60$205.80$316.40$599.20$630
$130,000 $9.10$11.70$15.60$20.80$27.30$42.90$78$128.70$191.10$293.80$556.40$585
$120,000 $8.40$10.80$14.40$19.20$22.50$39.60$72$118.80$176.40$271.20$513.60$540
$110,000 $7.70 $9.90$13.20$17.60$23.10$36.30$66$108.90$161.70$248.60$470.80$495
$100,000 $7$9$12$16$21$33$60$99$147$226$428$450
$90,000 $6.30$8.10$10.80$14.40$18.90$29.70$54$89.10$132.30$203.40$385.20$405
$80,000 $5.60 $7.20$9.60$12.80$16.80$26.40$48$79.20$117.60$180.80$342.40$360
$70,000 $4.90$6.30$8.40$11.20$14.70$23.10$42$69.30$102.90$158.20$299.60$315
$60,000 $4.20 $5.40$7.20$9.60$12.60$19.80$36$59.40$88.20$135.60$256.80$270
$50,000 $3.50 $4.50$6$8$10.50$16.50$30$49.50$73.50$113$214$225
$40,000 $2.80 $3.60$4.80$6.40$8.40$13.20$24$39.60$58.80$90.40$171.20$180
$30,000 $2.10$2.70$3.60$4.80$6.30$9.90$18$29.70$44.10$67.80$128.40$135
$20,000 $1.40$1.80$2.40$3.20$4.20$6.60$12$19.80$29.40$45.20$85.60$90
$10,000 $0.70$.90$1.20$1.60$2.10$3.30$6$9.90$14.70$22.60$42.80$45

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI)

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance

If you have a service-connected disability, you may be able to enroll in low-cost life insurance coverage through Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI). You may receive the following life insurance benefits through this plan:

  • Up to $10,000 of coverage
  • Up to $30,000 of supplemental coverage
    • This is extra coverage you can use to help pay for expenses when your disability causes you to be unable to work. To see if you qualify, refer to the “Eligibility” section below.

Eligibility

To receive Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI), you must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • You are a veteran
  • You were released from active duty military service on or after April 25, 1951
  • You did not receive a dishonorable discharge
  • You have a service-connected disability with a VA disability rating
  • You are in good health except for any service-connected conditions
  • You apply for S-DVI by December 31, 2022 OR within two years from the date you receive a rating from the VA regarding your new service-connected disability, whichever comes first.

To be eligible for supplemental S-DVI coverage, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be younger than 65 years of age
  • Carry standard S-DVI coverage
  • Be totally disabled and unable to work
  • Qualify for a premiums waiver
    • If you have a premiums waiver, you are exempt from making monthly payments for coverage. To see if you qualify, refer to the “Premiums Waiver” section.
  • Apply for supplemental S-DVI coverage within one year of being granted a premiums waiver

How to Apply

To receive life insurance benefits through the Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI), you must apply in one of the following ways:

  • Online
  • By mail or document upload

To apply online, visit the VA’s Life Insurance website here: https://www.insurance.va.gov/Sdvi/AreYouEligible/c33c597a-4d8e-4729-85ab-910078237c25.

To apply by mail or document upload, complete the Application for Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI). Download the form here: https://benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/29-4364.pdf.  When the form is complete, mail it to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office and Insurance Center (RH)
P.O. Box 7208
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Or, scan and upload the completed application on the VA’s Life Insurance Document Upload here: https://insurance.va.gov/Home/IDU 

To apply for supplemental coverage through S-DVI, you must have already applied for and been granted a premiums waiver. Refer to the “Premiums Waiver” section for more information. Once you are granted a premiums waiver, you need to apply for supplemental S-DVI coverage within one year. To apply, complete an Application for Supplemental Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (VA Form 29-0188). Download it here: https://benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/29-0188.pdf
When the form is complete, mail it to:
Department of Veterans Affairs 
Regional Office and Insurance Center (RH)
P.O. Box 7208
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Or, send a letter containing your signature to the same address requesting supplemental S-DVI coverage.

Cost of S-DVI

You must pay monthly premiums in exchange for S-DVI coverage. Your premium rate depends on the following factors:

  • Your age
  • The total amount of coverage you want
  • The type of coverage plan you want

To view a list of all options and corresponding premiums based on your age, download the Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance RH Information and Premiums Rates booklet here: https://benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/VAP29-9.pdf 

Premiums Waiver

You may qualify for a premiums waiver, which means you are not required to make monthly payments in exchange for life insurance coverage. To qualify for this waiver, you must meet all of the following eligibility criteria: 

  • You have a mental or physical disability that prevents you from being able to maintain employment
  • You have Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI)
  • You became disabled before reaching 65 years of age, but after the effective date of your life insurance policy
  • Your disability continues for at least six months in a row

You must apply for a waiver of premiums with the VA as soon as you become totally disabled. To apply, complete the Claim for Disability Insurance (VA Form 29-357), which you can download here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-29-357-ARE.pdf

When the form is complete, sign it and mail it to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office and Insurance Center (WP)
P.O. Box 7208
Philadelphia, PA 19101

What if I need help with my claim?

If you need assistance with your claim or have questions about any aspect of Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI), call the VA Life Insurance Center at 800-669-8477 Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 6 PM. 

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)

If your service-connected disability was caused or made worse by your military service, you may qualify for Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI). In the event of your death, this mortgage insurance protection option will pay off the mortgage on a home that was adapted to meet your needs. You can get up to $200,000 in mortgage life insurance, which will  be paid directly to the lender that holds your mortgage.

The amount of coverage you have through VMLI decreases as your mortgage balance decreases. This is known as a decreasing-term insurance. If you finish paying your mortgage, your VMLI coverage will end.

Eligibility

To qualify for VMLI, you must apply for and receive a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, which is money you can use to buy, build or renovate a home to fit your needs. Learn more about the SAH grant in the “Disability Housing Grants” section of this guide. 

You must also meet all of the following eligibility requirements:

  • You are younger than 70 years of age
  • Your disability was caused or made worse by your military service
  • You have the title of your home
  • You have a mortgage on your home 

How to Apply

To apply for Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI), you must first apply for and receive a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant. Learn more about the SAH grant in the “Disability Housing Grants” section of this guide. 

Then, your loan agent will help you complete a Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance Statement (VA Form 29-8636). Download the form here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/29-8636_08-2011.pdf.  When the form is complete, mail it to:
Department of Veterans Affairs 
Regional Office and Insurance Center 
P.O. Box 7208 (VMLI) 
Philadelphia, PA 19101

Cost of VMLI

You are required to pay monthly premiums in exchange for VMLI coverage. The amount you pay is based on the following factors:

  • Your age
  • The amount you currently owe on your mortgage 
  • The number of mortgage payments you need to make to pay off your mortgage
  • The amount of VMLI coverage you need

To determine your monthly premium amount for VMLI coverage, you can use the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance Premium Calculator from the VA. This tool uses the information listed above to provide you with an estimate of your monthly VMLI premium. It will not provide an exact amount. You will receive an exact premium rate once you apply for coverage. 

Access the Premium Calculator here: https://insurance.va.gov/Vmli/Calculator 

What if I make changes to my mortgage?

If any details of your mortgage change, you must report these changes as soon as possible to avoid losing VMLI coverage. You must report the following changes:

  • Moving to another home
  • Transferring your mortgage to another lender
  • Refinancing your home
  • Selling property
  • Undergo foreclosure or a bankruptcy liquidation because you cannot afford to pay your mortgage

You must send notice of any changes to the VA at the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office and Insurance Center
P.O. Box 7208 (VMLI) Philadelphia, PA 19101

Accelerated Benefits for Totally Disabled or Terminally Ill Policyholders

Some veterans, service members and military spouses may be eligible for accelerated benefits, which are payments made before a death occurs. If you qualify, you can receive up to 50 percent of the face value of your coverage (in $5,000 increments) before your death.

Eligibility

To be eligible for accelerated benefits, you must meet both of the following requirements:

  • You have SGLI, FSGLI or VGLI life insurance
  • You (or your covered spouse) have a written statement from a doctor saying you have (or your spouse has) nine months or less to live
    • This is also known as “terminally ill”

How to Apply

Only you (as the “insured veteran”) can apply for accelerated benefits. No one may apply on your behalf. If your spouse is terminally ill, you must apply for accelerated benefits on his or her behalf.

To apply, you must complete an application form that correlates with the type of life insurance coverage you have. 

  • If you have SGLI or VGLI:
    • Complete the Claim for Accelerated Benefits (SGLV 8284), which you can download here: https://benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/SGLV_8284_ed04-2019.pdf 
    • Your doctor must complete a designated section on the application form.
    • When the form is complete, mail or fax it to:
      The Prudential Insurance Company of America
      P.O. Box 70173
      Philadelphia, PA 19176-0173

Fax: (877) 832-4943

  • If you have FSGLI:
    • Complete the Claim for Accelerated Benefits (SGLV 8284A), which you can download here: https://benefits.va.gov/INSURANCE/forms/SGLV_8284A.pdf 
    • Your doctor must complete a designated section on the application form.
    • For active duty members and Reservists: 
      • Submit the completed form to your branch of service personnel office. 
    • For Army National Guard members:
      • Contact your state headquarters for submission instructions.

VA Beneficiary Financial Counseling and Online Will Preparation

woman signing last will an testament will preparation

Veterans may be eligible for free, professional financial counseling from FinancialPoint, a third-party insurance company partnered with the VA. Through the Beneficiary Financial Counseling Service (BFCS) veterans can receive a complete financial plan from a FinancialPoint counselor. To qualify for this free service, beneficiaries must be enrolled in one of the following VA life insurance programs:

  • SGLI (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance)
  • TSGLI (Traumatic Injury Protection)
  • FSGLI (Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance)
  • VGLI (Veterans’ Group Life Insurance)

FinancialPoint offers the following services through BFCS:

  • Budgeting assistance
  • Debt reduction
  • Assistance developing a savings plan
  • Investment strategies
  • Planning for college
  • Pre- and post-retirement planning
  • Planning for long-term care 
  • Estate planning

Anyone interested in these services can access them online through the FinancialPoint website here https://www.financialpointplus.com/groWeb/fpp/login/login.xhtml and follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Register as a first-time user
    • Enter “BFCSVA” In the box that asks for an Organization Web ID
  2. Enter the eight-digit SGLI, TSGLI, FSGLI or VGLI claim number when prompted.
  3. Select “FinancialPoint” to create a personalized financial plan

For answers to financial questions, veterans can call (888) 243-7351 or email fcs@financialpoint.com to speak to a FinancialPoint Counselor. 

Veterans can also request a detailed financial plan by contacting FinancialPoint and requesting a Financial Readiness Questionnaire. Then, they can submit the Questionnaire via email to the address above or give it to a counselor during a face-to-face meeting.

Veterans may also be eligible to receive free online will planning services through FinancialPoint. They can receive assistance preparing a will without the need to hire an attorney. After answering a series of questions, veterans will receive a legal will which is valid in all 50 states. All they need to do is print and sign it for it to be valid.

To access the online will planning service, veterans should follow the steps outlined above. In step three, they should select “Estate Guidance” instead of “FinancialPoint.

VA Life Insurance Contact Information

  • If you have Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI), contact the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) at 800-419-1473.
  • If you have Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI), contact the VA Life Insurance Center at 800-669-8477.

Managing Your Life Insurance Policy and Benefits

Review the sections below for information on managing your policy and more, including how to make changes online.

How to Access Your Policy Online

If you already have a life insurance policy from the VA, you can access it online. The website at which you can access your policy depends on the type of policy you have.

You can use these online portals to:

  • Manage your life insurance policy
  • Check your policy’s status
  • Pay your life insurance premium
  • Determine your plan’s renewal options
  • Update your beneficiary

How to Update Your Beneficiaries

A beneficiary is an individual of your choosing who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. If you would like to change your beneficiary or update that individual’s information, you must follow the steps outlined below depending on the type of life insurance coverage you have.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

If you have full-time coverage under SGLI, you can update your beneficiary online using the SGLI Online Enrollment System (SOES). Follow the steps below to learn how to update your beneficiary:

  1. Log into milConnect here: https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/ 
  2. Click “Benefits.”
  3. Click “Life Insurance SOES-SGLI Online Enrollment System.” 

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)

 If you have Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), you can update your beneficiary quickly and easily by accessing your policy online. Learn more in the “How to Access Your Policy Online” section. 

You can also update your beneficiary using the VGLI Beneficiary Designation/Change (Form SGLV 8721), which you can download here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/forms/SGLV_8721_ed2014-06.pdf. When complete, mail or fax it to:
OSGLI
P.O. BOX 41618
Philadelphia, PA 19176-9913 
Fax: 800-236-6142

Other Types of VA Life Insurance

If you have other VA life insurance, you can update your beneficiary online using the Online Policy Access portal from the VA here: https://insurance.va.gov/home/ 

You may also update your beneficiary by mail using the Designation of Beneficiary and Optional Settlement (Form 29-336). Download the form here: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-29-336-ARE.pdf. When complete, mail it to:
VARO&IC (B&O)
P.O. Box 8638
Philadelphia, PA 19101 

How to Convert to a Commercial Policy

You may be able to convert your Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) or Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) policy to a commercial insurance policy.  If you wish to convert your coverage, you must choose a participating company. 

Children’s coverage provided through FSGLI cannot be converted to a commercial policy; only spouses are eligible to convert their coverage to a commercial policy.

You can convert a VA life insurance policy to a commercial policy with any of the following companies:

  • American Fidelity Life Insurance Company
  • Bankers Life and Casualty Company
  • EMC National Life Company
  • Life Insurance Company of Alabama
  • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • Prudential Insurance Company of America
  • SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company, Inc.
  • Trans World Assurance Company
  • Guardian Life Insurance Company

Once you choose an insurance company, contact them to begin the conversion process. An insurance representative will notify you if coverage is available in your home area. 

You will need to provide certain documents to convert your policy, which vary depending on the type of coverage you currently have. In the table below, find your current life insurance policy and the corresponding documents you will need to submit in order to convert to a commercial policy.

Current CoverageDocuments Needed
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) – Active Duty MembersSGLI Conversion Notice* DD-214
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) – Members of the National Guard and ReservesSGLI Conversion Notice*
NGB-22 or written orders as proof of separationFinal Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)FSGLI Conversion Notice*
Final Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
One of the following: DD-214, NGB-22 or written orders as a proof of separation
Service member’s proof of death
Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce Decree)
Proof of service member’s termination of SGLI coverage
Proof of service member’s termination of FSGLI coverage
Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)VGLI Conversion Notice*

*A conversion notice outlines your intention of converting your coverage to a commercial policy. You must call the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) to request a Conversion Notice. You can reach the OSGLI at 1-800-419-1473 Monday through Friday, from 8 AM until 5 PM.

You may need to convert your policy within a certain period of time, which varies depending on your current coverage. See the chart below to determine when you need to convert your policy.

Type of VA Life Insurance CoverageTimeline to Convert
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)120 days from date of separation from the military
Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)120 days from one of the following events:Date of separation from the militaryDate of divorce from the service memberDate of the service member’s deathDate the service member terminates his or her SGLI coverage or FSGLI coverage (for his or her spouse)
Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)Beneficiaries can convert any time

How to Search for Unclaimed Insurance Funds

Unclaimed insurance funds refer to money that is owed to current or former life insurance policyholders. If the VA is unable to locate the beneficiary, the department holds the funds until the beneficiary is located.

If you believe you are owed payments, you can search for unclaimed insurance funds on the VA’s website here: https://www.insurance.va.gov/UnclaimedFunds/. You will need the veteran policyholder’s last name and can enter the first name if it is available.

Filing Life Insurance Claims

insurance claim forms

In order to receive any life insurance payments, you must file a claim. The process of filing life insurance claims is standard, but the forms and documents you need vary slightly depending on the type of coverage you have. Follow the steps below to learn how to file a life insurance claim.

  1. Complete a Claim for Death Benefits.
  2. Submit the claim.
    • For SGLI, FSGLI or VGLI, mail the claim to:
      The Prudential Insurance Company of America 
      Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance 
      P.O. Box 70173
      Philadelphia, PA 19176-0173
  3. For other VA life insurance, upload the form to the online portal here: https://insurance.va.gov/Home/IDU or mail the claim to:
    VA Insurance Center 
    P.O. Box 7208 
    Philadelphia, PA 19101

If the policy holder was not on active duty at the time of death, or was a member of the National Guard or Reserves, you must submit the following documents along with the Claim for Death Benefits:

  • Copy of the death certificate (or a photocopy)
  • DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, NGB-22, Report of Separation and Military Service or other separation documents

Medical Conditions That May Make You Uninsurable and How to Ensure Coverage

If you have one or more of the following medical conditions or health problems, you may find it difficult to get private life insurance:

  • Autoimmune conditions (including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis and chronic fatigue syndrome)
  • Blood disorders (including aplastic and sickle cell anemia)
  • Cancers (active or in remission)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart conditions (including uncontrolled sleep apnea, transplants, hypertension, bypass surgery and heart failure)
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Liver and kidney diseases
  • Mental health conditions (including PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression)
  • Neurological conditions (including multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and TBI)
  • Respiratory conditions (including severe asthma/bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema)

If you have any of the conditions listed above, you may be eligible for life insurance through the VA. The VA offers a 240-day “No Health” review period, during which you can apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) without any review of your health conditions. This period falls within 240 days of leaving military service. Learn more about VGLI in the “Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)” section.

You may also be eligible to apply for a free extension of your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage. This could prevent you from losing coverage. To see if you qualify, refer to the “SGLI Disability Extension” section.

If you currently have SGLI coverage, you can choose to convert it to a commercial policy through a participating insurance company. If you convert within the 120-day period before separating from the military, you will not need to undergo a health review. Learn more in the “How to Convert to a Commercial Policy” section of this guide.

VA Records

man putting file away va records

Whether it is for receiving benefits in the present, or just for reference in the future going forward, veterans and active service members can gain easy, seamless access to their VA records.

How to Get Your Records and Documents

A number of records and documents are available free of charge, including military and VA medical records, benefit letters, historical records, ID cards and more. Learn more about how to access each of these in the sections below. 

Military Records 

Veterans and service members who have left active duty may want to obtain an official copy of various reports related to their time in the Armed Forces. 

One of the most commonly requested military records is the DD-214, or the DD Form 214. It is a certification of a veteran’s release or discharge, and it contains the following information:

  • Reserve/active duty tenure
  • Record of military employment
  • Record of military awards
  • Record of education
  • Timeline and places where veteran entered and exited the military
  • Record of military assignments
  • Reason(s) for leaving the military
  • Discharge characterization

Another form, the DD-215, which corrects or updates any errors or information on the DD214, can be requested in two versions:

  • Deleted, which omits discharge characterization in the event a veteran does not want to disclose the information to a future employer, for example
  • Undeleted, which contains all relevant information for applying for VA benefits

Other military records, according to the VA, include:

  • Associated release papers
  • Orders and endorsements
  • Performance reports 
  • Commendatory items, such as awards and decorations
  • Qualifications, licenses, and certificates
  • Security clearances

To obtain military records online, follow these steps to get started:

  1. Create an account and sign in to https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/.
  2. Click on the “Personnel File” tab.
  3. Click “Request My Personnel File.”
  4. Complete the required form.
  5. Navigate to the “Document Index” section and check all boxes next to the desired documents.
  6. Select “Create and Send Request.”

To obtain military records by mail: 

  1. Download the Request Pertaining to Military Records form here, https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/documents/docs/standard_form_180.pdf, or write a letter of request and send it to:
    National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
    1 Archives Drive
    St. Louis, Missouri 63138

You may also visit the NPRC in person to obtain your records, or you can contact a state or county Veterans agency or hire an independent researcher to request records.

VA Medical Records (Blue Buttons)

The VA offers an online tool called Blue Button, part of the My HealtheVet health management portal, to review, organize, print, save, download and share one’s VA medical records and personal health information. This is to better manage the veteran’s health needs and communicate with healthcare teams.

Users can access all Blue Button features when both of the following statements are true:

  • Must be enrolled in VA Health Care
  • Must be registered as a VA health facility patient

Additionally, users must have one of the following accounts:

Once signed in, you can access your medical records by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to the main dashboard.
  2. Click on “Health Records.”
  3. On the new page, access:
    • Blue Button report
    • Health summaries
    • Medical images, reports and more

Benefit Letters

Veterans and Armed Forces service members may be required to furnish a letter officially proving their status in order to receive certain VA benefits. They can do so by downloading a VA Benefit Summary Letter, which is also known as a VA award letter.

To get benefit letters, sign in to one of these three accounts:

To download a letter, users will need the latest version of Adobe Reader. Before downloading benefit letters, the site will prompt users to confirm the address it has on file for them. 

To address technical difficulties downloading a benefits letter, call the MyVA411 main information line at (800) 698-2411.

Payment History

A comprehensive VA benefits payment history can be accessed online. When signing in, veterans can view a history of their past VA payments, such as:

  • Disability compensation
  • Pension benefits
  • Education benefits

Likewise, survivors of veterans or service members can access their payment histories for:

  • Survivors’ pension benefits
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (Chapter 35 benefits)
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Users can register for an account, or sign into their existing account, to view payment history at eBenefits.va.gov: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=payment-history

Historical Military Records 

Eligible parties, such as veterans and next of kin, can access federal military records, from present day going back generations. The National Archives compiles these records in two locations.

Records from the Revolutionary War up until 1912 are held in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Those dating from World War I to present day can be found at the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis, Missouri.

Though these in-person locations are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, military service records can still be requested online, by mail or by fax.

The following types of military records can be requested through the NPRC:

  • DD Form 214 and 215
  • Separation documents
  • Service personnel records
  • Medical records

The VA notes that military personnel records can be utilized when proving military service, or as a valuable tool in genealogical research.

To submit a records request, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the eVetRecs page at https://vetrecs.archives.gov/VeteranRequest/home.html to launch the program.
  2. Follow the prompts to fill out the form. 
  3. Print, sign and date the form.
  4. Next of kin must provide proof of death of the veteran they are related to, such as a copy of a death certificate, an official letter from a funeral home or a published obituary.
  5. Within 20 days, fax the signature verification form to (314) 801-9049, or mail it to:
    NPRC WEB
    1 Archives Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63138

How to Get a Veteran ID Card

To be eligible for an ID card, both of these must be true:

  • You served on active duty, in the Reserves or in the National Guard
  • You received an honorable or general discharge (dishonorable discharges will disqualify anyone from getting an ID card)

To apply, create an account and log in to any one of these three VA sites:

ID card applicants will also need these documents and information:

  • Social Security Number
  • Digital copy of DD-214, DD-256, DD-257 or NGB22, uploaded in .pdf, .jpeg or .png file format
  • Copy of a current and valid government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, or state-issued identification card

Applicants will also need to provide a color photo of themselves for their ID that meets the following standards:

  • Shows a full front view of your face and neck (with no hat, head covering, or headphones covering or casting shadows on your hairline or face)
  • Is cropped from your shoulders up (much like a passport photo)
  • Shows you with your eyes open and a neutral expression
  • Is taken in clothing you would wear for a driver’s license photo
  • Is a square size and has a white or plain-color background (with no scenery or other people in the photo)
  • Shows what you look like now (a photo taken sometime in the last 10 years)
  • Is uploaded as a .jpeg, .png, .bmp or .tiff file

Card applicants can check on the status of their application by signing in to their AccessVA account here, https://eauth.va.gov/accessva/?cspSelectFor=vic

To request a duplicate card, or for questions, email vetidcard@va.gov.

How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade

While some discharges from the Armed Forces are less than honorable or occur under negative circumstances, veterans have the opportunity to apply for an upgrade or correction to their discharge status. If the application is approved, and a veteran’s discharge is upgraded, they will then be eligible for the full range of VA benefits earned during their period of military service.

The VA notes that veterans most eligible for a discharge upgrade — those who are likely to display the strongest case in their favor — are those who can prove their discharge was related to one of the following:

  • Mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Sexual assault or harassment during military service (military sexual trauma or MST)
  • Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

To begin the questionnaire to see about discharge upgrades, visit https://www.va.gov/discharge-upgrade-instructions/questions. All answers remain completely confidential.

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