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 servicemembers
  • Veterans
  • 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.

VA Monetary Benefits

Basic Pension

Wartime vets with limited income can receive a tax-free monthly pension if they are permanently and totally disabled or at least 65 years old.

Improved Pensions

There are increased pension benefits for seriously disabled and housebound veterans with limited income. 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 includes vets who are cared for at home, in nursing homes and in assisted living facilities.

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.

Disability Compensation

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.

Survivors Pension

Also known as a death pension, this monetary benefit is payable to some unremarried surviving spouses and children of deceased wartime veterans. The benefit amount is based on recipients’ financial need.

Home Loans Services

The VA offers a few different housing benefits and grants to veterans, servicemembers, spouses and other beneficiaries.

  • Guaranteed 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 vets refinance VA and non-VA loans at a lower interest rates.
  • Special Grants: Veterans and military personnel with severe disabilities can receive grants to adapt or acquire housing that is suitable for their needs.

VA Health Care Services

The Veterans Health Administration provides a wide range of services at more than 1,700 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
  • Domiciliary, nursing home, and community-based residential 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 Burial Benefits

The VA offers a number of different benefits and services to honor deceased veterans.

  • Veterans may be able to receive an inscribed headstone or marker at any cemetery, or a medallion for affixing to a privately purchased headstone.
  • 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 these and other VA benefits and services, contact the Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 or visit www.va.gov.

To find your VA regional office and its contact information, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp.