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Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Overview


Image of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) seal.Many federal benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are available to veterans and their dependents. The benefits of greatest interest to people with disabilities and their families are discussed in the topics here.

In many cases, benefits offered through VA are similar to civilian benefits, but eligibility may be easier to obtain through VA. In some cases, Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits may supplement other benefits you are eligible for, or may be available when you are no longer eligible for them.

A list of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit topics included in the Help system is at the end of this topic. There are many additional benefits not discussed here, such as burial and cemetery benefits.

More Information from VA

Comprehensive information on all Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, and benefits available to veterans and their families from other agencies, may be found on the internet at the Department of Veterans Affairs web site Eligibility depends upon individual circumstances. Contact the nearest Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits office at 1-800-827-1000 from any location in the United States to apply. Counselors can answer questions about benefits eligibility and application procedures. They also make referrals to other VA facilities, such as medical centers and national cemeteries. VA facilities are listed in the federal government section of telephone directories under Department of Veterans Affairs.


Certain terms are used when determining eligibility for various benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The topic "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Terminology" contains definitions of some of these terms.

Health-care Enrollment

For most veterans, entry into the VA health-care system starts with applying for enrollment at a VA health-care facility. However, veterans with Internet access may apply for enrollment online by completing VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits. You may view, print, or complete this form online at this web address: Once enrolled, a veteran is eligible to receive services without further processing. Details of the enrollment program are discussed in the "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Health Care" topic. VA health-care facilities also provide information on medical care, including readjustment counseling, and examinations for Agent Orange, radiation exposure and ailments incurred from service in the Gulf War. Additional information on enrollment, including enrollment forms and online applications, can be found on the Internet at

Who's Eligible

Eligibility for most Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Current and former members of the Selected Reserve may be eligible for certain benefits, such as home loan guarantees and education, if they meet time-in-service and other criteria. Persons serving in the reserves also can receive education benefits.

Men and women veterans with similar service are entitled to the same Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

Service in 30 organizations during special periods that include World Wars I and II has been certified as active military service by the Defense Department. Members of these groups, listed in the topic "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Special Groups", may be eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits if the Department of Defense certifies their service and issues a discharge under other than dishonorable conditions.

Members of a National Guard or reserve component ordered to active duty by order of the President may also be eligible to receive benefits.

Honorable and general discharges qualify a veteran for most Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Dishonorable and bad-conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial may bar Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Veterans in prison and parolees may be eligible for certain Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. VA regional offices can clarify eligibility of prisoners, parolees and individuals with multiple discharges issued under differing conditions.

Discharges awarded as a result of a continuous period of unauthorized absence in excess of 180 days make persons ineligible for VA benefits regardless of action taken by discharge review boards, unless VA determines there were compelling circumstances for the absence. Boards for the correction of military records also may consider such cases.

Wartime Service

Certain Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and medical care require wartime service. See the topic "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Wartime Service Periods" for a complete list of these periods.

Filing Claims

Those seeking a Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit for the first time must submit a copy of their service discharge form (DD 214, DD 215, or for WW II veterans, a WD form), which documents service dates and type of discharge, or give their full name, military service number, branch of service and dates of service. The claim number assigned by VA to the initial claim should be referred to in subsequent correspondence.

Important Documents

The veteran's discharge form should be kept in a safe location accessible to the veteran and next of kin or designated representative. The veteran's preference regarding burial in a national cemetery and use of a headstone provided by VA should be documented and kept with this information. The following documents will be needed for claims processing related to a veteran's death: (1) veteran's marriage certificate for claims of a surviving spouse or children; (2) veteran's death certificate if the veteran did not die in a VA health-care facility; (3) children's birth certificates or adoption papers to determine children's benefits; (4) veteran's birth certificate to determine parents' benefits.

Veterans Service Organizations

There are many Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) at the National, State, and local levels. Many offer assistance to veterans with disabilities and their families who are attempting to receive benefits or become employed. For comprehensive information with links to separate VSO topics, see the Veterans Service Organizations - Overview topic.

Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit topics included in the Help system

     Health Care

o    Health Care Enrollment

o    Nursing Home Care

o    Domiciliary Care

o    Outpatient Pharmacy Services

o    Outpatient Dental Treatment

o    Gulf War, Agent Orange and Ionizing Radiation

o    Beneficiary Travel

o    Alcohol and Drug Dependence Treatment

o    Home Improvements and Structural Alterations

o    Prosthetic Services

o    Services and Aids for Blind Veterans

o    Readjustment Counseling

o    Medical Care for Dependents and Survivors

     Disability Compensation

o    Compensation Amount

o    Prisoners of War

o    Agent Orange and Other Herbicides

o    Veterans Exposed to Radiation

o    Gulf War Veterans

o    Allowances for Dependents

     Other Disability Benefits

o    Specially Adapted Homes

o    Automobile Assistance

o    Clothing Allowance


o    Improved Pension

o    Improved Pension Amount

o    Protected Pension Programs

o    Aid and Attendance or House-bound

o    Medal of Honor Pension

     Education and Training

o    Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Post 9-11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008

o    Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty)

o    Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserves)

o    Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)

o    Veterans' Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

o    Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

     Vocational Rehabilitation

o    Vocational Rehabilitation Rates

     Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

o    DIC Amount

     Death Pension

o    Death Pension Amount

     Spina Bifida Allowance

     Women Veterans

     Homeless Veterans

     Home Loan Guaranties

o    Home Loan Guaranties Rates

     Entrepreneurship/Small and Disadvantaged Businesses


Additional Information

A concise outline of VA benefits in pamphlet format is available in a VA publication, A Summary of VA Benefits. This version of WorkWORLD contains an internal copy of the July 2009 edition of that pamphlet which you may view and/or print. Note that the pamphlet is in PDF format and requires your computer to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.

NOTE: Click here to view the Summary of VA Benefits pamphlet.
Use the Help window's Back button to return here when finished.

The most recent edition of the pamphlet is available online at:

See also:

Veterans Service Organizations - Overview


Much of the information contained in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits topics was drawn from Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents & Survivors, Department of Veterans Affairs. Available in PDF format (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) and other formats online at:

Additional information has been drawn from the extensive network of VA websites available at:

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