You must have "veteran status" to be eligible for VA benefits. You earn status by serving in the military and receiving a discharge or release that is not dishonorable. Reservists may qualify for VA benefits depending on service length and active duty service. Limited benefits are given if a reservist is never called to active duty. National Guard members can qualify if the President activated them for federal duty.
Reservists and National Guard members activated for federal duty can qualify for various VA health care services, including:
- Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
- Residential facility-based care
- Sexual trauma counseling
- Female veterans' health care
- Services for homeless veterans
- Readjustment counseling
- Alcohol and drug dependency counseling
- Medical evaluation for military services exposure such as Agent Orange
Service members with combat service may be eligible for VA health care for two years after leaving the military. Eligibility may depend on whether you have a service-related disability.
In 2008, a new law was passed extending health care eligibility for combat veterans to five years. Currently enrolled veterans and new enrollees who were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003 can qualify. Veterans discharged before that date, who apply for enrollment on or after January 28, 2008, are eligible for the enhanced benefit until January 27, 2011.
Compensation and Pension Benefits
The VA pays monthly benefits to eligible members for disabilities arising from active duty and training. Benefits are also paid for members who have a heart attack or stroke during inactive duty or training. These disabilities are treated as "service-connected."
There are pension benefits for veterans who are disabled (or 65 years old or older) and who have served during a war-time. These benefits are need-based.
The Montgomery GI Bill provides education benefits. To qualify, one must:
- Have a six-year service obligation
- Complete initial active duty for training
- Qualify to receive a high school diploma (or equivalent) before applying for benefits
- Remain in good standing while serving
There's a 10-year eligibility period to use this benefit. It's 14 years if you were eligible on or after October 1, 1992.
VA Life Insurance
Life insurance is another important VA benefit. Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance is for those called to active duty, are injured and have a service-connected disability.
Home Loan Guaranty
The VA guarantees loans to purchase, build or repair a home. It applies to refinancings, too. Disabled veterans may receive grants to modify their homes. To qualify, you need six years of honorable service. The service period is shorter if you have a service-related disability. You can also qualify if activated after August 1, 1990 with at least 90 days' service. An honorable discharged is still needed.
Burial benefits are provided for veterans. There's no cost to the family. Benefits may include:
- A gravesite in a national cemetery
- Grave preparation and maintenance
- A government headstone or marker and a grave liner
- A burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate
The VA burial allowance is $2,000 for veterans who died of service-related causes. Otherwise, the VA pays $300 for burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot allowance.
A U.S. flag for burial purposes is issued for Reserve and National Guard members who complete at least one enlistment. A flag can also be issued for those who, at the time of death, qualified for retirement pay, or would have been had they reached age 60.
Questions for Your Attorney
- My application for VA benefits was denied. Can you help me appeal the decision?
- Am I entitled to any benefits as a survivor of a Selected Reserve or National Guard member?
- How can I appeal my disability rating?