When VA benefits are being discussed, we are generally referring to VA disability compensation benefits. However, you may be entitled to some of the other benefits offered through the VA for both yourself and your family members. The most common benefits awarded to family members are dependent benefits. These benefits can be obtained when you submit a VA Form 21-686c.
The qualifying relationships that can receive additional benefits are your spouse, child, and a dependent parent. Dependent children and dependent parents most often have certain stipulations. For instance, a dependent parent must rely financially on the veteran and dependent children must be your biological or adopted child under 18 years of age or between the ages of 18 and 23 while enrolled in education courses. You may also receive dependent benefits for your child if he or she is permanently incapable of providing for and taking care of themselves. In these cases, the child must be physically or mentally disabled prior to 18 years of age.
The second type of commonly awarded benefits is VA pension benefits. Pension benefits are separate from compensation benefits and are considered a need-based program to supplement your income. As with anything VA related, there are certain requirements that must be met. But to receive pension benefits, your disability status does not need to be from a service-connected disability. If you are receiving a pension, you may see that your Rating Sheets, included with decisions, have a separate section documenting your pension rating which is distinguished from your overall service-connected disability rating.
Next, you can also apply for vocational rehabilitation and employment (VR&E), or Chapter 31, benefits. While you can still be active duty to receive Chapter 31 benefits, you do have to have a minimum VA memorandum rating of 20%. If you have already been released from active duty, you will need a 10% service connected disability rating.
If you meet the rating and discharge requirements, an entitlement determination will then be completed to determine if you are in fact eligible based on whether or not an employment handicap exists. You will then work with a vocational rehabilitation counselor to focus on goal development leading to employment or independence in daily living. Relatedly, there is an organization called American Corporate Partners which has been established to connect veterans with companies to enter the workforce after service.
There are also several different types of allowances you may be entitled to such as:
- Clothing allowance – an annual stipend for clothing needs related to your disability or disabilities (i.e., using prosthetic or skin ointment which damages garments).
- Automobile allowance – a one time allowance to offer financial assistance for either purchasing or adapting an automobile. Allowance entitlement is often based on loss of or permanent loss of use of one or both feet/hands.
- Specially adapted housing/special home adaptation grants – awarded to adapt existing housing or to obtain suitable housing based on your disabilities such as installing a wheelchair ramp. Grants can occasionally be awarded to apply towards a relative’s home with whom you are residing to make the necessary adaptations.
Of course, there are many more benefits that are lesser known but still available to you. These benefits include, but are not limited to: long-term care, death benefits for surviving spouses and children, income tax assistance, life insurance, and mortgage help. There are even more benefits if you receive a 100% permanent and total disability rating. Some of the benefits awarded at the 100% level are property tax waiver, additional health care benefits without copayments, income tax credit for paid property taxes and a disabled veteran license plate fee at no charge.
Since some benefits can only be awarded at specific rating levels, you can find a breakdown of each at the Veterans Quality of Life Access Network. Furthermore, because some benefits can be state specific, you can review benefits to see if exactly what you may be entitled to as a Florida resident (or any other state). If you’re unsure whether you qualify, ask! It is important to be educated about what you are entitled to so, while receiving proper service connection and disability rating for compensation is often the large piece of the puzzle, don’t forget to look into all of the benefits offered by the VA.