Members of the military put their lives on the line to protect us and our country. The least we can do is provide special benefits for them. The benefits can range from low-cost life insurance to free medical service. But who exactly is eligible for these benefits and when do they start?
Military Benefit Eligibility
You're eligible for special benefits if you currently serve or used to serve in the military. Eligibility is usually divided by military status. Examples of status include:
- Active duty
- National Guard
Some benefits are shared by all status groups, such as the right to buy goods from a base exchange, a general store for service members. Other benefits are only for a select status group, such as bonus pay for active duty members.
There are some benefits that require a minimum length of service. For example, to receive military health insurance, you must have served at least 20 years. Other benefits, such as disability compensation, doesn't have any minimum service requirements.
Start of Military Benefits
The start of benefits will depend on what status group you belong to. For example, if you're going to serve full time in a military capacity, you'll receive active duty benefits the day you start. Veteran benefits will begin after you're discharged from active service, as long as you didn't receive a dishonorable discharge.
Filing a Military Benefit Claim
For many of the benefits, you must file a claim with the local office of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You can claim a variety of benefits, including health care, disability compensation and education. However, the wait time to receive your benefits can get frustrating. You may have to wait over 6 months just to find out if a pension or disability compensation claim will be approved.
Make sure that you send in supporting evidence with your claim forms. Lack of support is the most likely reason your claim would be denied. If you need assistance, you can hire an attorney or visit your local VA office for guidance.
Appealing a Claim Decision
If your local VA office denies your claim, you have the right to appeal the decision. In order to appeal, you must send a notice of disagreement to the local office. You must do this within one year after your claim has been denied.
Your VA office will examine your claim again. If you're lucky, your claim will be approved this time. If not, the VA office will send you a statement of the case that explains its decision. In order to appeal, you'll have to submit a VA Form 9, which is an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). It can take a very long time to receive an appeal decision, maybe 2-5 years.
If you do win on appeal, you'll start to receive your benefits immediately from your local VA office. You'll also be awarded all the benefits you should have received up to that point. However, you probably won't be awarded interest on your claim.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What are the benefits of having an attorney help me through the claim process?
- Will it affect my VA benefits if I am dishonorably discharged?
- What VA benefits am I entitled to if I served on active duty for one year but was injured and unable to continue?