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NEWS | Feb. 11, 2014

Preparing to separate: VA entitlements for veterans

By Staff Sgt. Wesley Farnsworth 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As Service members separate from the military, they become eligible for many benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA was formed to fill President Abraham Lincoln's promise "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan," by providing a wide variety of services for veterans.

"It's extremely important for separating Service members and veterans to know the benefits they qualify for," according to the VA. "They worked hard to defend their country and earned the benefits to ease them into civilian life."

Some of the benefits available include: disability compensation, health care, education, home loans and life insurance.

Disability Compensation

Veterans separating from the military with at least 10 percent disability due to disease or injury qualify for tax-free monetary benefits.

Compensation may also be paid for post-service inabilities found related or secondary to disabilities occurred in service, and for situations presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service.

Special Monthly Compensation is an additional tax-free benefit paid to veterans, their spouses, or parents of Service members. For veterans, SMC has a higher rate of coverage paid due to special circumstances, such as the need for an aide or a specific disability, such as the loss of use in a hand or leg.

Other special disability programs Service members may be eligible for include individual un-employability, automobile allowance, clothing allowance, pre-stabilization, hospitalization, convalescence, dental and birth defects.

Health Care

The VA has the largest integrated health care system in America with over 1,700 sites that serve 8.76 million veterans each year, according to the VA website.

Qualified veterans are able to receive dental care to maintain, restore, and improve oral health and masticatory function. The length of time dental care is provided depends on dental needs and classification when enrolled in the program.

A VA health care benefit is also offered which may require copays for medical care of non-service connected conditions, while some veterans may be eligible for cost-free health care services. However, VA health care is not considered a health insurance plan, according to the VA website.

Veterans applying for VA medical care are required to provide information on their private health insurance coverage, as well as their spouse's health insurance.


The VA offers several options for veterans to pursue educational advancement outside the Montgomery and Post-9/11 G.I. Bills.

Entrepreneurship training is available for those wanting to start their own businesses, earn a license or be certified for career fields such as mechanics, medical technicians or attorneys. The benefit also includes non-college degree programs such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning repair, truck driving, emergency medical training and barber or beautician schooling.

Additionally, some on-the-job training and apprenticeships allow veterans to enter into a contract with a company to learn a skill while receiving a salary.

Home Loans

The VA helps Service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners by providing a variety of housing-related programs to buy, build or repair a home.

While getting a loan, buyers can get competitive interest rates and are often not required to provide a down-payment or private mortgage insurance.

VA loans are only available for property used for personal occupancy. To be eligible, applicants must have a good credit score, sufficient income, a valid certificate of eligibility and meet certain requirements.

Life Insurance

The VA offers the "Veterans' Group Life Insurance" program, which allows veterans to convert their "Service Members Group Life Insurance" into a civilian program that offers lifetime renewable coverage after separation.

To convert, without meeting the VA's good health requirements, Service members must complete their application within 240 days of separation. If separated within one year and 120 days Service members can convert, but need to meet the VA's health requirements.

In an effort to make information about the variety of benefits available, the VA has created an eBenefits website, which allows Service members and veterans to better utilize programs and benefits.

"We recommend Service members sign in to use their eBenefits account and use the 'Explore VA' function to help them determine exactly what benefits they qualify for," according to the VA.

For a complete list of benefits and their descriptions, visit or call 1-800-827-1000 with questions or concerns. Service members may also contact the VA specialist at the Langley Airman and Family Readiness Center at 764-3990, or Army Career and Alumni Program at 878-7204.