Marlo Sollitto and John Skelton
What Is the VA?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is an agency that provides benefits for military veterans and their families. The VA is composed of three main divisions that administer different programs and services:
* The Veterans Benefits Administration
* The Veterans Health Administration
* The National Cemetery Administration
Who Is Eligible for Benefits?
Eligibility requirements vary depending on the specific benefit or service. In general, the following groups may receive benefits through the VA:
* Uniformed service members
* Veterans’ dependents
* Surviving spouses, children and parents of deceased veterans
A baseline eligibility requirement for veterans is a discharge other than dishonorable. Additional criteria, such as wartime service, disability status, income and net worth limitations, and minimum duty requirements may also apply. Eligibility for dependents and family members is based on the related veteran’s eligibility, but additional criteria may apply.
VA Monetary Benefits
Basic Veterans Pension
Wartime veterans with limited income and assets can receive a tax-free monthly pension if they are permanently and totally disabled or at least 65 years old.
Improved Veterans Pensions
There are increased pension benefits for seriously disabled and housebound veterans with limited income and assets. The Aid and Attendance (A&A) improved pension is a tax-free monetary benefit for veterans and surviving spouses who need another person to assist them with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, dressing and toileting. The A&A pension is available to eligible vets who are cared for at home, in nursing homes and in assisted living facilities.
Read: VA Aid & Attendance Pension Helps Veterans Cover the Costs of Long-Term Care
The housebound allowance is another increased monthly pension specifically for veterans and surviving spouses who are confined to their own homes due to a permanent disability.
Read: VA Pension Can Help Housebound Veterans Cover Costs of Living and Long-Term Care
Veterans who incurred or exacerbated a disease or disability during their service or have a disability that is presumed to be related to their service may be entitled to a monthly tax-free monetary benefit. Note that a veteran cannot receive both compensation and pension at the same time.
Also known as a death pension, this monetary benefit is payable to some unremarried surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased wartime veterans. The benefit amount is based on a recipient’s financial need.
Home Loan Services
The VA offers a few different housing benefits and grants to veterans, service members, spouses and other beneficiaries.
* VA-Backed Purchase Loans: The VA guarantees a portion of a loan made by a private lender to help eligible individuals purchase homes, condominium units, manufactured homes or plots for manufactured homes. These loans can also be used for building, repairing and improving homes.
* Refinancing Loans: The VA can help veterans refinance VA and non-VA loans at lower interest rates.
* Special Grants: Veterans and military personnel with service-connected disabilities can receive grants to adapt or acquire housing that is suitable for their needs.
For more information on VA benefits programs and eligibility guidelines, visit the Veterans Benefits Administration website.
VA Health Care Services
The Veterans Health Administration provides a wide range of services at more than 1,200 sites of care across the United States and in U.S. territories.
Services provided to veterans include:
* Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
* Geriatric and extended care services like in-home care, adult day care and nursing home care
* Specialized health care for female veterans
* Alcohol abuse and drug dependency treatment
* Homeless veteran programs
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran Affairs (CHAMPVA)
CHAMPVA is a comprehensive health care program that shares the cost of medical services and supplies with eligible dependents and survivors of certain veterans. CHAMPVA is not to be confused with the Department of Defense TRICARE program, which provides health care for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services, their families and their survivors.
VA Benefits for Caregivers
The VA’s Caregiver Support Program is split into two subprograms that offer different levels of support. The Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) includes resources like skills training, caregiver coaching, peer-to-peer mentoring and respite care.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) provides a wide range of services and resources to both a primary family caregiver and up to two secondary caregivers. Eligible primary caregivers are able to receive stipends for their services, access to health care through CHAMPVA, and at least 30 days of respite care per year. And yes, an eligible veteran’s spouse can qualify for these VA caregiver benefits—even monthly payments.
Read: VA Expands Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
For more information on health benefits, VA care facilities and caregiver support, visit the Veterans Health Administration website.
VA Burial Benefits
The VA offers several different benefits and services to honor deceased veterans.
* Veterans may be able to receive a VA-furnished headstone, marker or niche cover at any cemetery, or a VA-furnished medallion for affixing to a privately purchased headstone, marker or niche cover.
* Burial allowances may be available to surviving family members to partially reimburse them for a veteran’s burial and funeral costs.
* An American flag may be supplied upon request to drape a veteran’s casket.
* Surviving family members may request Presidential Memorial Certificates to honor a veteran and their service.
* Eligible veterans and their dependents can be buried in a VA national cemetery.
For more information on burial and memorial benefits, visit the National Cemetery Administration website.
The benefits and programs listed above only offer a glimpse of what the VA has to offer veterans and their dependents. For more detailed information on these and other VA services, contact the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 or visit VA.gov.
Marlo Sollitto and John Skelton