How to Qualify for VA Benefits

by John Kibilko ; Updated July 27, 2017
No matter age or rank, most honorably discharged veterans are eligible for VA benefits.

Military veterans are eligible for a host of benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA). Available benefits vary depending on the nature and length of your service, as well as any injuries or disabilities you may have sustained while on active duty. The VA employs a complicated priority system to determine the type and amount of services for which you’re eligible. The eight-group system gives top priority to veterans with service-connected disabilities of 50 percent or more and to veterans deemed unemployable by the VA due to a military-related condition. You must determine your eligibility and enroll with the VA to receive benefits.

Step 1

Call the VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visit the VA website to complete a medical benefits qualification application. If you actively served in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard and were honorably discharged or otherwise released, or if you are (or were) a reservist or member of the National Guard and were called to active service for duty other than training purposes, then you probably qualify for at least some benefits. You also may be eligible for a variety of nonmedical benefits, such as educational assistance, home loans, life insurance and a pension.

Step 2

Answer “Yes” to any one of several conditions: you were militarily discharged or separated for medical reasons, you received a Purple Heart, you were a prisoner of war (POW) or you served in a combat theater within the past five years, for example — and you’ll be directed to a page to complete the health benefits application form. You also can print the page and complete the form by hand, then mail it to your local VA facility. Call the VA if you need help completing a medical benefits application.

Step 3

Apply for benefits even if you don’t meet traditional VA enrollment requirements or, in some cases, even if you didn’t serve directly in the armed forces. Some groups, such as former civilian OSS (the precursor to the CIA) personnel, merchant seamen, airline employees and many other people now are eligible for VA benefits. Even some foreign veterans, such as Czechoslovakian or Polish military personnel who served in Word War I or World War II may be eligible.

Step 4

Research benefits availability if you are a spouse, dependent or caregiver of a veteran or deceased veteran. There are also veterans benefits available for prosthetic services, specialized care for women veterans, nursing home care and alcohol and drug treatment. The Improved Pension Aid and Assistance program provides services to veterans and surviving spouses who need help with eating, bathing, medications, and dressing and undressing.

Step 5

Apply for nonmedical benefits if you’re an honorably discharged veteran. You can enroll in VA life insurance programs, various GI Bill and other educational assistance services, home loans and burial services.

Tips

  • The VA has established a priority list for veterans applying for medical benefits. You don’t have to have suffered any service-related injuries or disabilities to qualify for certain programs, although income thresholds must be met. Some veterans, such as those who suffered from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and Iraq veterans who served in the Qarmat Ali Medical Surveillance Program, are eligible for special and expedited benefits. While all qualified veterans receive assistance with medical co-pays and prescription drug costs, some service members will qualify for total coverage of these costs depending on the nature of their disabilities and their income levels.

About the Author

John Kibilko has been writing professionally since 1979. He landed his first professional job with "The Dearborn Press" while still in college. He has since worked as a journalist for several Wayne County newspapers and in corporate communications. He has covered politics, health care, automotive news and police and sports beats. Kibilko earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.

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