Additional Veteran Benefits Resources

Find veterans benefits offered by each state. Did you know that state, city, and community programs also offer a range of veteran benefits and programs for qualifying vets and their families?

City Websites, Chambers of Commerce Sites

Searching for veteran benefits by city can be a bit more challenging than searching for state resources. There are no real standardized templates for city sites, and you may find no help on one type of official site, while finding a large number of resources on a different city-specific resource.

It’s best to begin your search by checking the official page of your city, village, township, etc. If you have no luck there, try searching for veteran benefits on your local Chamber Of Commerce official site. While you’re at it, be sure to have a look at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce site for information on national programs such as Hire Our Heroes.

The U.S. Department Of Labor

This government agency offers a search tool to help veterans find career help in their local area via the DoL’s CareerOneStop program. You can search for local help from your nearest “American Job Center.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA official site has a by-state list of VA regional offices and state VA offices. Some of these site vary in detail from others, but many include lists of state resources for veterans that include both VA and non-VA benefit programs.

Organizations with Veterans Service Officers:

  • Veterans of  Foreign Wars
  • American Legion
  • Amvets
  • Disabled American Veterans
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart

Some benefits are more well-known than others. Many states offer education assistance, housing, and employment programs for veterans. But there may be tax advantages, retirement home options, even business license exemptions available for qualifying veterans, depending on the state.

It’s always good to know as much about your state options as possible-you never know when you might need to apply for these lesser-known programs.

The U.S. Army Official Site offers a very helpful state-by-state clearinghouse of benefits information searchable by clicking on the appropriate state or using a pulldown menu to access information on that state’s education, employment, insurance, and other benefits. You can also find locations to that state’s VA clinics and other VA resources in this one-stop guide.

Examples of Available Veteran Benefits

Housing Benefits

There are the obvious benefits for veterans seeking e.g. VA mortgage home loans from participating lenders all over the United States, but on the state level there are some options that may be of help later in life, such as Arkansas’ state veteran retirement homes.

That benefit is offered to honorably discharged military members with a priority for Arkansas residents. Other programs include Minnesota’s short-term assistance with rent or mortgage payments for qualifying veterans.

These benefits are likely best found via the state’s official site or the state VA regional office official site such as the one for Minnesota.

Finding state-level veterans’ benefits may seem daunting at first. But you’ll discover that getting to know your state’s official site and your state-level Department of Veterans Affairs official site is an excellent way to get caught up on these benefits, future legislation or state planning that might affect them, deadlines for applications, and points of contact in your community for learning more.

Education Benefits

Many states offer some kind of supplemental or replacement education benefit for veterans. In Illinois, a program known as the Illinois Veterans Grant is for qualifying veterans who listed Illinois as their home of record while serving, or who joined the military while living in the state. This program offers full tuition coverage that can be used separately from or in conjunction with the GI Bill.

Other states offer free or reduced tuition for the dependents of military members. California, Alabama, and other states offer such programs, which may be subject to change from year to year due to legislation or budget issues.

One of the best resources you can use to find these education benefits in your state? Your local state college or state university official website. You will find that in most cases, these sites will have specific information on the veteran education assistance programs offered in that state and how to begin.

These are often listed under a heading in the Admissions section. Look for “Paying For College” or “Student Financial Assistance” headings.

Tax Benefits

Some states, including Texas, California, Alabama, and others, offer tax breaks to veterans in the form of exemptions or tax-free income options. Alabama has an exemption on military retirement pay, California offers property tax exemptions to qualifying veterans, etc.

You will find tax exemption information on your state’s official site. It’s not safe to assume that any tax breaks you may be entitled to are automatic. Consider the requirements of the New York State official site which includes the following:

“If you’re an eligible veteran, you must submit the initial exemption application form to your assessor. The deadline in most communities is March 1—please confirm the date with your assessor. Proof of discharge under honorable conditions including times and places served in active duty (usually form DD-214) must be attached to the exemption application”.

VA & Non-VA: Veteran Burial Benefits

There are a variety of veteran burial benefits provided by VA and non-VA sources. Claiming VA death benefits (including burial benefits) is never an easy thing to do, but early planning is the key to making sure a loved one’s final wishes are honored just as much as military service.

Many veterans want to be buried with honors in state or national veterans cemeteries; planning ahead helps make sure those honors are available when the time comes. Remember, loved ones have VA and non-VA options for veteran burial benefits so it’s important to know all the available options before deciding.

There are state burial benefits for veterans offered from most state governments, and state-run veterans cemeteries are an option to consider if a VA national cemetery is too far away. While you cannot draw VA benefits AND state benefits for burial at the same time, knowing your options is important when it comes time to make an informed choice.

VA Burial Benefits

In 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs streamlined its burial benefits program to speed payments and help to families in need.

Those VA changes allow payment of burial benefits without requiring a written application. According to the VA official site, the “most eligible surviving spouses” will get “basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law” thanks to automated processing.

The VA pays a flat rate for burial and plot or interment that includes a payment for non-service-connected death ($300 at the time of this writing and subject to change). A service-connected death qualifies for a burial benefit of $2,000 (at the time of this writing and subject to change).

Other VA Payment Considerations

The VA official site has several additional considerations depending on circumstances:

  • For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 (but before October 1, 2011) VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for Veterans hospitalized by VA at the time of death).
  • For non-service-related deaths on or after December 1, 2001 (but prior to October 1, 2011) $300 is offered toward burial and funeral expenses in addition to a $300 plot allowance or interment allowance.
  • For deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011, VA offers up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot allowance or interment allowance.
  • The VA provides a yearly revision for burial / plot allowances for deaths occurring after October 1, 2011 which began in fiscal year 2013 based on the Consumer Price Index for the preceding 12-month period.
  • For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 (but before October 1, 2011) $300 is offered toward burial and funeral expenses for Veterans hospitalized by the Department of Veterans Affairs at the time of death.

Who Is Eligible To Receive the VA Veteran Burial Benefit

VA benefit guidelines require the recipient of VA burial benefits to meet a specific set of criteria including but not limited to the following:

    • The Veteran has any discharge other than Dishonorable.
    • The applicant was financially responsible for the veteran’s funeral, and have not been reimbursed by another source.
    • The Veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
    • The Veteran was receiving, or entitled to receive, VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
    • The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
    • The Veteran died while traveling to or from care at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
    • The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and was entitled to compensation or pension prior to the date or death, OR
    • The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

Other VA Burial Benefits

VA-provided burial benefits may also include headstones or markers, military funeral honors, and burial in a VA National Cemetery.

The VA advises there are situations which may require you to contact the VA national cemetery for assistance including scheduling burial honors for those who were on active duty at the time of death, and the following:

  • Information pertaining to hours, services, and benefits unique to a particular cemetery
  • Request for disinterment
  • Interment cancellation
  • Interment rescheduling
  • Updates in information initially sent to the Scheduling Office
  • Request for a relocation to another national cemetery

VA burial benefits do not include managing burial services at non-VA facilities including state cemeteries.

How To Apply For The VA Burial Benefit

There are several ways to apply for the VA burial benefit. You can apply online at, you can fill out and mail in a paper application which must consist of VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Allowance which must be sent by U.S. postal mail to the VA Pension Management Center in your state.

You can also visit a regional VA benefit office, or get the help of an accredited Veterans Service Officer at an agency such as the DAV, VFW, state veterans’ affairs offices, etc.

In most cases, starting your planning early is the best approach, but know that you may not be able to reserve an actual plot or similar physical space until the time of need; most pre-need planning has to do with making the right preparations rather than reserving the physical internment space itself.

VA Documentation Requirements For The VA Burial Benefit

VA benefit rules state that proof of death is required to claim the VA burial benefit, and all applicants for this benefit will need to submit bills and receipts showing that the applicant was financially responsible for burial.

This will include the need for a statement from the funeral home or other service provider that shows the following information:

  • The name of the deceased Veteran
  • The nature and cost of the funeral or memorial services
  • Nature and cost of any merchandise purchased
  • The amount of any credits offered to the payer
  • The amount of any remaining unpaid balance for services, merchandise, etc

Time Limits For Applying For VA Burial Benefits

Time restrictions depend on whether the veteran had a death identified by the VA as service-connected or not. For non-service connected VA burial benefits, there is a two year time limit to apply following the veteran’s burial or cremation.

Those who were not eligible for VA burial benefits due to a veteran’s dishonorable discharge but later had the discharge upgraded by a military discharge review board have two years from the updated discharge to apply.

For service-connected deaths, there is no time restriction or deadline to apply for a burial plot, interment allowance, or other VA burial benefits.

When VA Will Not Pay Burial Benefits

No VA burial benefit is available in cases where the service member died on active duty, was serving in Congress at the time of death, or was a federal prisoner at the time of death.

Non-VA Burial Benefits

Burial benefits are not exclusive to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most states have a state veterans cemetery that may provide similar benefits to qualifying families.

Each state has different requirements for interment; some may require state residency for a minimum number of years, there may be varying discharge requirements, and spouses may or may not be able to get burial benefits in addition to the service member depending on circumstances.

State veteran burial benefits often include military honors, a burial flag, and a memorial certificate depending on the state.

Veterans Burial Benefits at a Private Cemetery

Burial benefits when a veteran’s family chooses the loved one to be buried in a private cemetery may include a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and other assistance. VA benefits are not available for spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.

The scale and scope of state veteran burial benefits will vary depending on the state, the facility, and other variables.

When you are engaged in pre-need planning with a state-run veteran cemetery or a private cemetery, be sure to ask 12 important questions about veteran burial benefits including free gravesites for veterans and related issues:

  1. Does the facility or the state require a vault or grave liner? Who pays for the liner?
  2. For private cemeteries, does a “free gravesite for veterans” require any additional purchase requirements of any kind including the purchase of a second gravesite for another loved one?
  3. For state cemeteries, will veterans with any discharge (other than dishonorable) get burial benefits or is the cemetery restricted to those with Honorable discharges only?
  4. How far in advance should pre-need appointments be made?
  5. How soon can arrangements be made once the veteran has passed away?
  6. For private cemeteries, what is the cost of having a spouse interred next to the veteran?
  7. If an additional gravesite is required, where is the site and how much is the fee?
  8. Check on any local restrictions on the headstone or marker on the grave?
  9. Is there an additional cost for the placement and maintenance of a free government headstone/grave marker?
  10. It is best to make pre-need arrangements in advance, but pre-need discussions usually do not include the physical reservation of a plot or place of interment. Is this true of the cemetery you’ve selected?
  11. Is there a comparison available between state veteran burial benefits offered in your state and the VA equivalent?
  12. Are there any residency requirements for veteran burial benefits at a private cemetery?

Information For Those Who Wish To Be Buried Overseas

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) is a U.S. government agency responsible for 24 overseas military cemeteries. However, most of these honor servicemembers serving in World War One and World War Two.

You can search the ABMC database for those honored in these cemeteries, but the ABMC official site does not list ongoing programs or services for those who wish to be buried overseas in such facilities.

Military Retirement: What Benefits Are There?

Military retirement marks a point in transitioning that requires a bit more planning and preparation than other milestones. Luckily, the military is on your side and does its best to prepare military and families for that ultimate transition to civilian life: military retirement. After all, it has likely been at least 20 years since families of a career-driven service member lived in one location for more than three years.

While a few VA retirement benefits will overlap with common veteran’s benefits, retirees receive a few extra benefits that only 20 years time in service can grant.

First things first: don’t forget to apply for a veterans retirement ID card. Unlike veterans serving less than 20 years, who have limited options in obtaining a veterans ID card, retired military veterans can be eligible to receive a DD Form 2 ID card, which is blue in color. See the Military and Veteran ID cards page for more information.

Next are military retirement benefits. Detailed information about these VA benefits can be found at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Anything that requires a form for enrollment, such as VA Health Care and the GI Bill, can be found at eBenefits.

Veterans Discounts – Many businesses offer discounts that favor retirees. We’ve compiled lists of the most popular military and veterans discounts, which vary based on the business and the location.

GI Bill – Education benefits are available for eligible veterans, or for their family members should they choose to transfer benefits. More information on the GI Bill can be found on our Veterans Education Page. Most likely, if you are a retired military veteran, you will receive 100% of your GI Bill benefits. This can be an opening step to your civilian career post military.

Retirement Pay – Military retirement pay is dependent on the number of years served and when the service member enlisted. A breakdown of how military retirement pay is calculated can be found at “Understanding Military Retirement Pay.” This also includes a breakdown of retirement COLA and CBS/Redux. Military retirement pay can be managed on the DFAS website.

Disability – All disability is calculated on a per case basis. Disability claims must be submitted to the VA and processed; one claim per separate injury.

VA Health Care – Enrollment can be done online or in person at a local VA Medical Center, at which time eligibility is determined. This health care is only coverage for the veteran. Additional health insurance would be necessary for dependents.

VA Dental Care – Although dental care through the VA is limited, it is available to veterans with a service-connected dental disability. A single visit is also available through for veterans within 180 days of discharge if a full dental examination was not conducted prior to discharge.

VA Home Loan – The VA Home Loan is not only available to veterans, but to their surviving spouses as well. Active duty service members may also be eligible for this loan, which may be something to consider when approaching retirement.

Veterans Group Life Insurance – The VGLI is just one type of life insurance available to retired veterans. The VA also offers Service-Disabled Veteran Insurance, or S-DVI, as well as Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance, which aids in the settling of a mortgage in the event of death. There is also Financial Aid Counseling for beneficiaries as well as assistance in online will preparation.

For more information on veterans benefits available to you, visit the websites of the city, county, and state you reside in. These should have information on state and local benefits offered to veterans and retirees who live in those areas.

Some Civilians Who Served in Vietnam Are Getting Veteran Status

A recent ruling by the Defense Department has granted veteran status to a group of civilians who served in Vietnam.

Specifically, the group consists of “Department of the Navy civilian special agents who served in direct support and under control of the Department of the Navy within the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.”

The ruling determines that this group will be “considered as having served on active duty for the purposes of all laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

That means that they and their family members may be eligible for health, disability and burial benefits, just like military members who served during that time period. They won’t, however, be eligible for any retroactive benefits. They may also be eligible for state veteran benefits.

If the veteran is deceased, a surviving family member may still file the application for veteran status.

To receive benefits, these veterans must first get a DD-214 to use when applying to state or federal agencies. To get a DD-214, an affected person must submit a DD-2168, Application for Discharge of Member or Survivor of Member of Group Certified to Have Performed Active Duty with the Armed Forces of the United States.

The form must be submitted to the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee, with all supporting documentation.

The burden of proof is on the individual. However, suggested supporting documentation includes:

  • Military passes/chits/liberty cards.
  • Employment records from the Navy Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) or Naval Investigative Service (NIS).
  • Medical paperwork.
  • Copies of passports with appropriate entries.
  • Military or civilian orders posting the applicant to an assignment in the Republic of Vietnam.
  • Reports signed by or mentioning the applicant’s work as part of ONI/NIS in the Republic of Vietnam.
  • Letters of award or commendation.
  • Expense reports.
  • Military identification forms.
  • Anything else, including postmarked envelopes, etc.

Remember, never submit the original documentation; always send copies and keep the originals for your own files.

If the Navy determines that a DD-214 should be issued, it will also forward the information to the awards and decorations office to determine whether any ribbons should be awarded, so include as much documentation as possible.

Check out the Federal Register notification for more details.

Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC) and How to Get It

What do you need to know about the Veteran Health ID Card? The Department of Veterans Affairs notes that veterans have several ID cards offered to them.

For example, military retirees get a DoD ID indicating they have access to base privileges (BX, commissary, health clinics, etc.), those who choose to get Veteran indicators on their state-issued ID, even Common Access Cards or similar access control badges for those who need them for employment once they have retired or separated but still remain in federal service.

And then there is the Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC), which is just as important in its own way. The Department of Veterans Affairs advises that those enrolled in VA health care will be issued to you to use during check-ins when receiving care at a VA medical facility.

This card may also double as a form of veteran ID when claiming veteran-specific benefits at local businesses, big-box retail chains such as Target or WalMart, etc.

How To Get A Veteran Health ID Card

Veterans cannot be issued a VHIC without first enrolling in the VA health care system. You can sign up online at the VA official site. Only those enrolled in the VA health care system are eligible for the VHIC.

Electronic applications for VA health care benefits are available online, and you may also sign up for VA health care at the nearest VA medical facility.  Once your photo is taken, your health ID card will be processed and sent to you via U.S. Mail.

You will need to provide certain documentation when signing up for the VA health care system that includes but may not be limited to your most recent tax returns, Social Security Cards and/or numbers, and account numbers for any existing health insurance whether from your employer, from Medicare, or private insurance plans.

Valid ID Required

When signing up for the VHIC, veterans are required to provide one form of approved, current ID that may be one of the following:

  • Primary Identification (Unexpired)
  • State-Issued driver’s license
  • United States passport or passport card
  • Other unexpired government ID

Identification cards issued by federal, state or local government agencies are also permitted as long as the ID contains a photograph, full name, date of birth, and address. You may be required to provide further documentation of your current address depending on circumstances including an ID card with an outdated address, an ID card that has no address listed, etc.

The VA has a list of “acceptable address documents” that can include but may not be limited to:

  • Electric bill
  • Cable bill
  • “Other mailing document”
  • Voter registration card

Who is Eligible for VA Health Care and the VHIC?

Those who serve as active duty military members who retire or separate and do not have a discharge characterized as Dishonorable. You may also qualify as a current or former National Guard or Reserve member called to active duty by a federal order.

The requirements in this area include having served the full period ordered to active duty. Those activated only for training purposes do not qualify.

Other Rules for Qualifying for VA Health Care and A Veteran Health ID Card

Those who enlisted after September 7, 1980 or entered active duty after October 16, 1981 are required to have served “24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty,” unless any of the following apply:

  • The service member was discharged for a disability caused or aggravated by active-duty service.
  • The service member was given an early out or hardship discharge.
  • The service member was on duty before September 7, 1980.

Military members with punitive discharges such as Bad Conduct, Other Than Honorable, or Dishonorable discharges may be eligible for VA health care and the Veteran Health ID Card if they successfully navigate the discharge review process and have a Discharge Review Board upgrade the nature of the discharge to a non-punitive one.

If you must sign up for VA health care using a power of attorney, (POA) the VA advises for best results, include a copy of that POA along with your application documents.

How The Veteran Health ID Card Works

The first thing to consider is what the VHIC is NOT; it is not an insurance card; it cannot be used to pay for health care services and does not function as an insurance ID card. It also does NOT authorize care at non-VA or out-of-network facilities.

These are very important distinctions to make, especially when time is of the essence and the right ID is needed to obtain medical services and determine who pays for them.

The Veteran Health ID Card includes the following features as listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs official site. These features may be subject to change depending on mission needs, federal legislation, changes in VA policy, etc.

At the time of this writing, only those enrolled in VA health care will receive these cards, which include:

  • Privacy protection. “No personally identifiable information is contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode” of your VHIC according to the VA.
  • A DoD-created “personal identifier” code that helps the VA access your health records at the VA facility you where you are being treated.
  • Accessibility for the visually impaired; the card features Braille that can help users quickly locate and use the VHIC.
  • Anti-counterfeiting measures built-in to further secure your card.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Veteran Health ID Card

I Am Still Serving The U.S. Military. Can I Get A VHIC?

Those who have not retired or separated from military service should expect to apply for a VHIC once they are eligible to apply for VA health care services. The VA official site reminds, “The VHIC is issued only to Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system.”

How Long Does It Take To Get My Card?

According to the VA, once the photo is taken for your card, you should get it in the U.S. Mail in approximately ten working days.

Who Do I Contact To Check The Status Of My VHIC?

If you are concerned about delays or need to check the status of your card, call the local VA medical facility where you got your ID card photo taken, or contact the VA directly at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

I Have An Old VHIC That Is Being Replaced. What Do I Do With The Old VHIC?

The Department of Veterans Affairs recommends destroying the card by cutting or shredding. The entire card should be destroyed as soon as possible once you get the replacement VHIC.

My VHIC Was Lost or Stolen. What Should I Do?

Call the local VA facility where you had your VHIC picture taken and request a new card. You can also contact the VA directly at 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Be prepared to identify yourself and furnish new ID information when reporting your lost or stolen card; have this information handy when you call.

Do I Need To Keep My TRICARE Cards or Other Healthcare ID?

Do not get rid of any other ID card for health care such as an insurance card, TRICARE where applicable, your DoD-issued ID, etc. The VHIC is only used to check in for care, not to pay or arrange payment, etc. It does NOT function as insurance or proof of insurance.