What Are the Easiest VA Disability Claims to Win?

Each year, millions of U.S. veterans apply for disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – and approximately one million claims are processed each year. Across the country, more than five million U.S. veterans currently receive VA disability compensation. 

The process for approving VA disability claims is extensive, so it’s difficult to classify any claim as “easy” to win. Instead, it’s important to focus on the authentic and comprehensive medical evidence of a specific health condition. By studying the most common VA disabilities, you can see which medical conditions get processed the most by the VA.

Most Common VA Disability Claims

  1. Tinnitus
  2. Limited knee flexion
  3. Lumbosacral or cervical strain
  4. Second degree scars and burns
  5. Limited range of arm motion
  6. Hearing loss
  7. Limited range of ankle motion
  8. Post traumatic stress disorder
  9. Sciatic nerve paralysis
  10. Migraine headaches

Which VA Claim Is Easiest To Win? 

The medical evidence included with the disability application should lay out a clear, consistent, and compelling case for VA reviewers about how a service-connected health issue affects a veteran’s quality of life. Keep in mind that the philosophical underpinning of the VA disability program is to provide tax-free monthly benefits to veterans to help offset the effects of disabilities caused by diseases, injuries, or other medical conditions either incurred or aggravated during active military service. 

Making a clear and compelling case for benefits, along with supporting and appropriate medical evidence, is always the best way to have a claim approved. Ultimately, the disability claims that are most likely to “win,” or be approved for benefits, are the ones that offer the most sound and comprehensive medical evidence to support the claim.  

Top 10 Most Common VA Disability Claims

Each year, the VA approves claims for several common service-connected medical conditions. As you prepare to file a claim for VA disability benefits, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the most common disability claims that the VA approves each year, which we’ve outlined for you here. 

1. Tinnitus

Each year, nearly 150,000 U.S. veterans are granted VA disability compensation related to service connected tinnitus. Tinnitus is a very common disability that often manifests as a perceived hissing, buzzing, whistling, or ringing sound that can’t be attributed to any external sound – at times, it’s also accompanied by hearing loss. 

Tinnitus can be caused by head trauma, exposure to loud noises, age, pressure changes, or by another illness or condition, of which tinnitus is a secondary symptom. The customary VA disability rating for tinnitus is 10% – this is true for tinnitus that appears in one ear or two. Tinnitus affects approximately 50 million Americans, and it’s highly prevalent among the veteran community.

2. Limited Knee Flexion

Limited knee flexion is the most common knee-related injury that the VA rates. It accounts for close to 99,000 approved VA disability claims each year. Limited knee flexion affects the knee’s range of motion as it’s curled back toward the body. In general, the VA will assign a 10% disability rating to this condition, though in some cases that rating may rise as high as 30%. 

It’s important to note that the VA does not consider the level of pain associated with this injury as part of its rating – instead, it considers only the measurable range of motion.

3. Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain

Lumbosacral or cervical strain represents an injury to the ligaments, tendons, or muscles of the lower back or neck. This type of injury usually happens when muscles are stretched to the point that a small tear develops within the tissues. Lumbosacral and cervical strain are generally the result of overuse and trauma. The strain is usually accompanied by muscle pain, along with difficulty bending and having limited range of motion.

Lumbosacral or cervical strain accounts for roughly 70,000 approved VA disability claims each year. VA disability ratings for this injury range from 0% to 100% – generally, ratings from 10% to 40% are based on forward flexion and range of motion, while ratings from 50% to 100% are based on the amount of unfavorable fused bones, or ankylosis, present.

4. Second Degree Scars and Burns

More than 67,000 VA disability claims for burns and scarring are approved by the VA each year. Military service places veterans in a wide variety of situations that potentially lead to both burns and scarring. In general, to qualify for VA disability compensation, a veteran must have at least one scar that is unstable, painful, or both. In addition to pain and stability, the VA will consider size, shape, affected area of the body, depth, and effect on range of motion when evaluating a burn scar or other type of scar.

Typical ratings for burns and scarring fall between 0% and 80%, though a 100% VA disability rating is not impossible if the severity of the scarring warrants it. If medical documentation shows a functional or motion impairment, the VA may award additional benefits.

5. Limited Range of Arm Motion

Rotator cuffs, dislocations, and poorly healed bones are common sources of arm and shoulder pain and the accompanying limited range of motion in the shoulder or arm. This kind of reduced range of motion can make even simple, everyday tasks difficult, and these injuries account for close to 66,000 approved VA disability claims each year. 

Medical details will vary by claim, but in general, a veteran who can lift an arm to the front or side no more than 25 degrees can expect a VA disability rating of 40% for a dominant arm and 30% for a non-dominant arm. For veterans who can raise the arm to 45 degrees, expected ratings would be 30% for the dominant arm and 20% for the non-dominant arm. And those who can raise an arm to 90 degrees, essentially level with the shoulder, should expect a disability rating of 20% for either the dominant or the non-dominant arm.

6. Hearing Loss

Disabling hearing loss is a common disability among U.S. veterans and represents more than 61,000 approved VA disability claims each year. Between tinnitus and hearing loss, more than three million American veterans currently receive VA disability benefits. 

Hearing loss can be attributed to exposure to loud noise or age – or a combination of the two. And because of the specific and unique conditions under which veterans serve, they are 30% more likely than non-veterans to experience severe hearing impairment. Even with mandatory hearing protection that is standard issue for all active duty military members, hearing loss is still remarkably common.

The VA disability rating for mild to moderate hearing loss typically ranges from 0% to 10%, while severe hearing loss may be assigned a rating of 30% to 50%.

7. Limited Range of Ankle Motion

One study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that active military members experienced ankle sprains at a rate five times greater than those in the civilian population. This may explain why the limited range of ankle motion accounts for roughly 51,000 awarded VA disability claims every year. Ankle injuries can lead to secondary conditions – when the ankle is injured, other pains and medical issues can follow since the ankle is a key weight-bearing joint.

The VA will focus on pain and range of motion to assign a disability rating to ankle injuries. In most cases, limited range of ankle motion is assigned a VA disability rating of between 0% and 20%. If range of motion is severely limited, in some cases a veteran may receive a 20% disability rating, but if the range of motion is only moderately limited, a 10% rating is usually assigned.

8. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

VA disability claims for PTSD are fairly common within the veteran community. PTSD is common after someone experiences a traumatic event such as combat, an assault, or a natural disaster. Most people have some stress reactions following trauma, which is healthy and appropriate. But when the stress reaction persists over time, it may be PTSD. VA disability claims for PTSD account for more than 45,000 approved claims each year.

VA disability ratings for PTSD can be 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%, depending on the severity of symptoms and their effect on the veteran’s quality of life and ability to hold steady employment. On the lower end of this scale, PTSD symptoms are sporadic and transient, while the upper end of the scale represents symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, near-complete memory loss, and even the need to be under constant supervision. The most common PTSD-related VA disability rating is 30%.

9. Sciatic Nerve Paralysis

As the largest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve extends from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. Paralysis of this important nerve can cause all muscles of the leg and below the knee to stop working, causing serious difficulty in bending the knee. Issues with the sciatic nerve also bring with them pain, weakness, tingling, trouble walking, and sometimes numbness. Sciatic nerve paralysis contributes to more than 42,000 approved VA disability claims each year.

Complete sciatic nerve paralysis can receive a VA disability of up to 80%, while partial, yet severe, paralysis may receive a VA disability rating of 60%. Partial paralysis also can be rated as moderately severe, moderate, or mild and can receive a VA disability rating as low as 10%, depending on the medical details.

10. Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are fairly common among the veteran community and many times manifest as a secondary condition to other injuries and illnesses. Symptoms of migraine headaches vary by patient, and some can cause such severe pain that the patient is rendered completely incapacitated. Migraine headaches account for more than 41,000 approved VA disability claims every year. 

There are several common injuries that occur in active duty that might be linked to migraine headaches – such as traumatic brain injury, exposure to explosions and other loud noises, exposure to chemicals, etc. Migraines also can appear as a secondary condition to head and neck injuries, and some early research indicates there may be a link between migraines and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. 

The VA may assign a disability rating for migraine headaches at 0%, 10%, 30%, or 50%, depending on the frequency and severity of the headaches.

Am I Eligible for VA Disability Benefits?

When determining eligibility for VA disability benefits, the most important factor in a successful claim is the ability to prove a service connection. The disability must be tied to active duty service either directly or indirectly. 

The VA rates disabilities in increments of 10% from 0% to 100%. The amount of disability compensation a veteran can receive is directly influenced by this rating, along with the number of dependents within the veteran’s household. 

The VA will pay additional compensation to veterans who: 

  • Have disabilities severe enough to confine them to their immediate premises
  • Require the aid and assistance of others
  • Have suffered a loss or loss of use of extremities

The veteran must be able to show a clear connection between the current medical condition and the veteran’s time of service. The injury or condition must have occurred or developed during the time of service, or existed before service but was exacerbated by conditions of service. A veteran also may be eligible if documentation shows that a post-service medical condition can be connected to conditions of military service.

In addition to proving a service connection, a successful claim must show that the veteran meets additional eligibility criteria as outlined by the VA. For example, the veteran must have separated from military service under conditions other than dishonorable, and the disability or medical condition in question must not be a result of the veteran’s misconduct.

Winning Your VA Disability Claim

VA disability benefits represent an essential financial safety net for U.S. veterans who suffer illness, injuries, or other medical conditions during their time of service. If you think you might be eligible for VA disability benefits, it’s important to get the process started as soon as possible. You can choose to work with a qualified VA disability attorney or a Veterans Service Officer. 

Keep in mind that the easiest VA disability claims to win are those with strong medical evidence that connects an injury, illness, or medical condition to a veteran’s time of service. A medical evidence developer can also be a tremendous resource when it comes to documenting your current health conditions and establishing a service connection. With the right medical documentation, winning a VA disability claim becomes much easier.

VA Education Benefits for Veterans and Family Members

Education benefits are some of the most useful and valuable benefits offered to U.S. veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits make it possible for veterans, service members, and their families to access financial support for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

They can also take advantage of technical or vocational training, various certification and licensing and tests, flight programs, apprenticeships, correspondence courses, on-the-job training, career counseling, and much more. The VA administers several different types of education benefits programs that we’ve highlighted here.

7 Education Benefits for Veterans

  1. Post-9/11 GI Bill
  2. Montgomery GI Bill
  3. Yellow Ribbon Program
  4. Reserve Educational Assistance Program
  5. Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance Program
  6. National Call to Service
  7. Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

The generous VA education benefits offered to U.S. service members and veterans have long been a major attraction for young men and women considering military service.

As options for VA education benefits have expanded over the years, the choices for veterans also have grown more complex. Navigating the VA’s available education benefits for veterans can sometimes be a challenge. But the information presented here should help provide a high level overview of benefit programs the VA makes available so that you can further research those you believe may fit your needs and situation.

It’s important to keep in mind that each program offers different amounts of financial assistance and specifies different eligibility criteria. While a veteran can qualify for more than one education benefit, the VA will allow a veteran to receive payment through only one benefit program at a time. In the case of qualifying for more than one program, the veteran should choose the benefit program that is most beneficial.

How To Qualify for VA Education Benefits

Each VA education benefits program has its own qualification criteria, so make sure to check the details of the specific program you’re interested in.

In most cases, eligibility will depend largely on the length of active duty service, along with what kind of discharge a veteran received when separating from service.

7 Education Benefits for Veterans

Veterans may be eligible for several different specific education-related programs the VA makes available.

1. Post-9/11 GI Bill

Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped eligible veterans and their families access financial assistance for some or all of the costs associated with higher education or other career training. In its current iteration, which represents the most comprehensive and generous package for veterans to date, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of financial support for school tuition and fees, books and supplies – plus housing. With this education benefit, veterans also can pursue licensing or certification tests, national tests like the SAT, GMAT, or LSAT, and support for apprenticeships or on-the-job training. In some cases, a one-time payment to help with relocation from some rural areas to attend school also may be awarded.

Eligibility Requirements: A veteran must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, either continuous or interrupted, after September 10, 2001.

2. Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill provides veterans with a maximum of 36 months of financial support

for educational activities, which may include college, correspondence courses, vocational or technical training, flight training, high-tech training, apprenticeships or on-the-job training, licensing and certification tests, national examinations, and entrepreneurship training courses.

These benefits generally are paid directly to the veteran each month. Please note that the Montgomery GI Bill requires a $1,200 buy-in, which is deducted from the service member’s military pay. The program also offers a $600 buy-up option. For veterans interested in pursuing training through a non-degree granting institution, this program is an excellent option.

Eligibility Requirements: A veteran must have served at least two years on active duty, been honorably discharged, and hold a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, along with meeting program-specific requirements.

3. Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program is designed to bridge the gap for veterans who attend a school whose tuition and fees exceed the maximum benefit the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides. This may be the case if the veteran chooses to attend a private college or university, a foreign school, or a public university under non-resident status. It’s important to note that the school a veteran wishes to attend must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program – not all colleges and universities choose to participate.

Once a veteran has received a Certificate of Eligibility under the Post-9/11 GI Bill that outlines total benefits, a veteran can present the COE to the school’s certifying official, the financial aid office, or military liaison and ask to be considered for the school’s Yellow Ribbon Program.

At this point, the college or university will first determine whether it already has enrolled the maximum number of students for the Yellow Ribbon program period – it’s important to note that enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis, and each school has an individual agreement with the VA determining how many students to accept each year. If there is room in the program, the school then will determine how much additional funding the veteran will receive.

The school will compile tuition and mandatory fees, subtract any aid from other sources – including scholarships, grants, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill – and then apply the Yellow Ribbon program benefit to the final amount. The school then will issue a notice to the veteran outlining acceptance into the Yellow Ribbon program, plus the total amount expected under the program for tuition and fees.

Eligibility Requirements: Eligibility is dependent on first receiving benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

4. Reserve Educational Assistance Program

Founded in 2005, the REAP program provides up to 36 months of financial assistance to help veterans earn undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational or technical training, flight training, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training or correspondence training. REAP benefits are available for veterans who were members either of a reserve component that was called to active duty or a full-time National Guard unit during a war or other national emergency, as declared by the U.S. president or Congress.

Eligible reserve components include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard

Reserve, the Army National Guard, and Air National Guard, and the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserves. Veterans who are eligible for the REAP program may access benefits up to 10 years after separating from service, as long as they separate from the Selected Reserve. All education benefits provided under the Montgomery GI Bill are available under REAP, except for financial assistance with national exam and testing reimbursements.

Eligibility Requirements: Individual eligibility is determined by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. A veteran’s ultimate benefit amount typically is equal to a percentage of the Montgomery GI Bill benefit for a minimum three-year enlistment. Those who serve 90 days to a year of active duty, for example, can receive 40 percent of the active-duty rate.

5. Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance Program

This program provides educational assistance to veterans who elected to make payroll contributions to the program before April 1, 1987. The U.S. government then matches these contributions with $2 for every $1 the veteran contributes. These benefits may be used to pursue a college degree, a certificate program, correspondence courses, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training and/or flight training programs.

Program benefits extend up to 36 months, depending on the total contributions the veteran made to VEAP. Veterans have 10 years from separation from service to use these benefits. If a veteran has not used the full contribution amount at the 10-year mark, any remaining contributions will be refunded.

Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for this program, a veteran must have begun active duty service between Jan. 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985; opened a contribution account before April 1, 1987; contributed anywhere from $25 to $2,700 to this account; completed a minimum of the first period of service; and received a discharge under any conditions other than dishonorable.

6. National Call to Service

The National Call to Service program is actually a U.S. Department of Defense program, though it is administered by the VA. Under this program, education benefits are available to those who serve in a military occupational specialty designated by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The program allows veterans to choose an education benefit as an alternative to the Montgomery GI Bill. Generally, veterans may choose a cash bonus of $5,000, repayment of a student loan of less than $18,000, educational assistance equal to the three-year monthly MGIB rate for 12 months, or educational assistance equal to 50 percent of the less-than-three-year monthly MGIB rate for 36 months.

Eligibility Requirements: Veterans may be eligible for benefits under this program if they completed an initial entry training followed by active duty service of at least 15 months in a military occupational specialty defined by the Secretary of Defense. This time must then be followed by an additional period of active duty as determined by the Secretary of Defense or a period of 24 months in active status in the Selected Reserve.

7. Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program makes available financial assistance for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships or on-the-job training, correspondence courses, and other education-related programs for the surviving spouses and dependents of U.S. veterans.

Through this program, dependents and survivors may access up to 45 months of education-related financial assistance. Surviving children generally must use these education benefits between the ages of 18 and 26. For surviving spouses, benefits are good for 10 years – starting either after the date the VA names the spouse eligible for benefits or starting on the date of the veteran’s death.

Eligibility Requirements: Surviving spouses and children are eligible for this program if any of the following is true:

  • The veteran died in the line of active duty
  • The veteran became totally and permanently disabled due to a service-connected cause
  • The veteran died while designated by the VA as totally and permanently disabled
  • The veteran was missing in action or captured while in conflict with a hostile force
  • The veteran was forcibly detained by a foreign government in the line of duty
  • The veteran is currently receiving ongoing treatment for a permanent and total service-connected disability while still on active duty – plus likely to be discharged due to that disability

In addition, if the VA rated the veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date within three years of separating from service or the veteran died while serving on active duty, a surviving spouse may be able to access education benefits through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program for up to 20 years after the veteran’s death.

8. How To Apply for VA Education Benefits

The VA offers several ways to apply for VA education benefits. To apply by mail, simply call 888-442-4551, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, to request that the VA send an education benefits application directly to you. Once you’ve completed your application, you may mail it to the VA regional claims processing office that corresponds with your chosen school’s location.

You also may apply in person by visiting a VA regional office where a VA employee can assist you. In addition, you can choose to work with your school’s certifying official. This position may be found within the registrar’s office or the financial aid office of your chosen college, university, or other school. And, finally, you may choose to work with an accredited representative to get help applying for education benefits.

It’s important to remember that in addition to the benefits listed here, all of which are administered by the VA, your state may offer other education benefits. You can find out more by contacting your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs and asking about any available state-level education programs.

VA Education Benefits

Once you apply for VA education benefits, you can expect to receive a decision from the VA within 30 days. You should receive in the mail a Certificate of Eligibility once the VA has approved your application. You may then present this COE to the certifying official at your school.

VA education benefits remain one of the most valuable benefits of serving in the U.S military. With all the education options available to veterans, you can find a program of study, apprenticeship, certification, or technical training program that can help you forge a successful career when your military service is complete.

What Benefits Are Available for Veterans?

If you are a veteran or currently in active duty service and planning to transition to civilian life, you are entitled to numerous benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Military service members play a vital role in serving their country, and they are rightly rewarded with benefits like health care, financial aid for education, VA-backed mortgages, pension options, life insurance, and more.

Veterans and their families make sacrifices that benefit all Americans. The federal government, along with state and local agencies, work to offer a range of resources and services that they may access throughout their lifetime as a token of gratitude.

VA Benefits for Military Veterans

  • VA Education Benefits
  • VA Disability Benefits
  • VA Health Benefits
  • VA Benefits for Family Members
  • VA Burial Benefits
  • VA Life Insurance Benefits
  • VA Pension Benefits
  • VA Employment Benefits
  • Entrepreneurial Benefits for Veterans (VA and SBA)

Most of these benefits are only available to those who were discharged from their service for other than dishonorable conditions. This could be an Honorable Discharge, General Discharge under Honorable Conditions, or a Medical Discharge. However, if you did receive an Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge, you may still be able to receive a VA benefit depending on your circumstances.

VA Education Benefits

One major draw of getting into military service is the financial aid available for education after you’ve been discharged. The VA education benefit is commonly referred to as the GI Bill, though this is an umbrella term for any educational benefits offered through the VA. These are available to all active duty service members, veterans of the military, Reserves, or National Guard, and in some cases their family members.

The most widely used education benefit is the Post 9/11 GI Bill, intended to help those who have served 90 or more active duty days since the September 11th attacks. This bill provides varying levels of aid depending on your service record but includes tuition assistance of up to 100% of tuition (if you’ve served at least 36 months), housing allowances, and money for books and supplies.

These funds can only be used for qualifying educational programs that have partnered with the VA, but most people find that their program of interest is covered at an institution in their home state. Program choices include vocational training, traditional college and university degree programs, work-study programs, and apprenticeship programs.  It can also cover costs like relocation if you live in an area without a lot of higher-education options and need to move to a new city or state where your desired program is offered.

Veterans who do not need these funds or only use a portion of them have the option to transfer any remaining funds to their spouses or dependent children, though certain restrictions apply. Usually, the qualifying service member must agree to additional years of service and the new recipient must enroll in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) though many will already be if they receive TRICARE health coverage.

VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC)

Related to the GI Bill and educational funding is the VetSuccess on Campus program (VSOC), associated with the VetSuccess vocational rehabilitation and training program. This program aims to help veterans transition from military to college life through the use of on-campus counselors and disability accommodations for vets with service-related disabilities. They also help transition students once they graduate out of college and transition into the workforce into meaningful careers. The VSOC is available at over 104 colleges and universities across the U.S.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Some veterans may be able to access extra funding for tuition and fees through the Yellow Ribbon Program aimed at covering costs that the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not. Yellow Ribbon focuses on private, foreign, graduate schools, and higher-cost out-of-state schools that normally wouldn’t qualify for financial aid. These benefits are generally reserved for those with longer service records, those who have received the Purple Heart medal, and those who were discharged due to a service-connected disability.

VA Disability Benefits

Unfortunately, many vets leave their term of service with a service-connected disability. This can be a condition that either happened while you served and because of your duties, a condition that you had before you entered service but that worsened or was exacerbated because of your service, or a condition that didn’t appear until after your service ended but is still related to your time of active duty.

Most eligible veterans must have been discharged under anything but dishonorable conditions to get a disability benefit. However, those with a less than honorable discharge may be able to apply for a discharge upgrade or request a VA Character of Discharge review if they feel their dishonorable discharge was unwarranted. Discharge revisions occur for several reasons, such as having a mental health condition or traumatic brain injury at the time your initial status was determined, being the victim of sexual harassment or assault that resulted in a negative status, or if you were discriminated against due to your sexual orientation.

VA disability compensation benefits provide a monthly stipend to qualified veterans and monthly payments will depend on the disability rating and household dependents. All disabled veterans receive a rating from the VA that depends on the severity of their condition and can range from 10% (least severe) to 100% (most severe). The VA then uses this percentage to determine your compensation rate. Once you get your rating, and if it’s at least 10% you should get your first disability payment within 15 days either by direct deposit or check.

Some veterans will be able to qualify for benefits by submitting documentation from their current doctor, but others will have to undergo a VA claim exam (also called a compensation and pension exam, or C&P exam) to accumulate more medical evidence about their condition. Those with more than one disability will use a combined rating system to determine their rate of pay. These benefits are usually available to all vets for as long as they have their disability or until their death.

Payments can range from just a few hundred dollars to a few thousand per month, depending on need. Furthermore, these veterans may also be eligible for federal disability payments like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) that can be used in conjunction with any VA benefit. The SSA provides expedited processing for veterans applying for federal benefits. This service is available to those who have a 100% permanent and total disability rating as well as wounded warriors who have mental or physical injuries and who served after October 1, 2001.

VA Health Benefits

The VA healthcare system serves over nine million veterans across the country and overseas and is the largest health system in the United States. Veterans can access health care from VA Medical Centers, facilities, and partnering outpatient sites. Through the VA, a servicemember has access to standard benefits like primary care providers, specialists, mental health care, and eldercare. Depending on your priority group and medical needs you may also qualify for other health benefits like dental services, veterans home care, or assisted living care.

If you have recently been discharged from active duty service, a representative from Concierge for Care (C4C) will contact you to let you know of your options for enrolling. Alternatively, you can apply online, by phone, or visit your nearest VA health facility to speak with someone in person. To apply you’ll need to provide your discharge papers, income verification, proof of any current insurance you’re under, and Social Security numbers for you and any family member you wish to cover (like a spouse or minor child).

All veterans will be assigned a priority group rating of 1 through 8 when they enroll based on their service history, their disability rating, and their income. The VA will also look at other assistance programs you may be eligible for or already receiving like Medicaid. Your priority group helps the VA allocate resources and services to those who most need it first. Those with severe service-connected disabilities or recipients of the Medal of Honor receive priority group 1, while those with no disabilities and high incomes may fall into priority group 8 since they do not need as much assistance.

Family members and caregivers can also often qualify for health care through the VA, though your care will be provided either through TRICARE, CHAMPVA, or the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

VA Benefits for Family Members

The VA has many ways it looks after the family members of veterans. Health insurance is usually available to spouses and minor children of active-duty service members or veterans, as is health care for qualifying caretakers. The VA also has programs available to surviving spouses and family members of veterans who died during active-service or due to a service-related disability such as:

  • ​​Dependent and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) that provides a monthly benefit to families
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) for help with school or job training
  • Survivors’ Pension which is available to some low-income spouses and dependents
  • VA-backed Home Loans for those with a current Certificate of Eligibility (COE), meaning this benefit has not already been used. Note that you will still have to meet the income and other eligibility requirements set out by your lender.

There are also family benefits for dependents and spouses of living veterans.  Dependents of qualifying veterans may also be able to access educational and career counseling through Personalized Career Planning and Guidance. Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) is available for dependents and spouses of active duty service members who are currently covered through SGLI. This insurance covers spouses up to $100,000 and each dependent up to $10,000.

VA Burial Benefits

Those who served their country honorably can receive military funeral honors and burial services for themselves and their family members. For family members, this benefit is reserved for spouses and dependent children though in some cases the adult children of veterans may qualify for a VA burial. These benefits include an allowance for burial and funeral costs which average $1,500 to $2,000 for service-connected deaths and $1,000 to $1,600 for others. Additionally, you can be provided a VA plot or interment site, and reimbursement for transportation costs. Both veterans and their family members can be buried in a VA national cemetery.

The VA will also supply an inscribed headstone, marker, or medallion for veterans or Reservists and an American flag to be draped over the casket or placed beside an urn. Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMC) may also be provided or requested by the family if the deceased veteran is buried in a national cemetery. This is an engraved paper certificate to honor the veteran’s sacrifice and is signed by the current president. Free bereavement counseling, also referred to as grief counseling, is also available to surviving family members.

All these services are available for pre-planning purposes as well, as this can help alleviate the strain and stress of funeral preparations. To do this you’ll need to obtain a pre-need determination of eligibility. Once this is obtained you’ll be able to choose the VA cemetery you’d like to be buried in, submit all relevant documentation and apply for benefits in anticipation of your passing.

VA Life Insurance Benefits

Service members take on additional risks when they choose to serve their country. To recognize and compensate for this additional burden, the VA provides comprehensive life insurance benefits to veterans and their families. There are a number of programs that veterans may qualify for based on their needs and service records.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) provides maximum coverage of $400,000 and is intended mainly for active duty service members, but is structured to transition the insured to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) after the enlisted beneficiary is discharged. That said, SGLI can be extended if the service member sustained a disability in the line of duty. Once you’ve fully transitioned to VGLI it can be renewed and used for the lifetime of the veteranand typicallybegins 120 days after you leave active service.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) is also available to qualifying family members during the time of service, although you can choose to opt-out of this if you have coverage from another provider. Both these programs provide low-cost group term life insurance and coverage can be extended for up to two years if you meet certain requirements.

An additional program that active duty service members may qualify for is Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) for those who have sustained a traumatic injury that resulted in an amputation, blindness, or paraplegia.

Disabled veterans also have many options for coverage based on their specific circumstances. The Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance (S-DVI) is for those with a service-connected disability and your amount of coverage depends on the severity of your disability with those who are totally disabled receiving free coverage. The Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) is for disabled veterans who’ve received the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, and Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALI) is a new program (starting January 1, 2023) for veterans with service-connected disabilities to gain whole life coverage.

VA Pension Benefits

The VA runs two main pension programs, the Veterans Pension and the Survivors Pension. These programs are not intended for every service member, rather those war veterans with a qualifying financial need. A wartime veteran is eligible for this program if they have received an honorable discharge and have met certain income requirements set by Congress that help determine their maximum annual pension rate (MAPR).

Income requirements are based on your net worth, and as of 2021, it’s set at a maximum of $130,773. This includes both you and your spouse’s income and assets, though certain assets such as your primary residence, car, or household items don’t count toward the total.

You must also have served during a wartime period and either be over the age of 65, have a permanent disability, be residing in a nursing facility due to your disability, or be receiving other federal benefits like SSDI or SSI. A veteran’s annual payment varies depending on your needs, your marital status, and whether you also qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance (benefits added on to some pensioners who need additional financial assistance).

Annual compensation ranges from as low as $13,931 a year for a veteran with no spouse or dependents, to $27,549 for those with at least one dependent. Veterans who are married to another disabled vet can qualify for double coverage and may receive up to $36,861 a year combined.

A survivor’s pension is available to spouses of qualifying deceased veterans. To be eligible you must meet low-income guidelines and the spouse must not have remarried or and dependents must also be unmarried. Qualifying spouses with dependents can expect to receive anywhere from $12,229 to $18,355 annually, with each additional dependent adding roughly $2,382 a year in compensation.

VA Employment Benefits

The VA helps veterans with employment assistance as they transfer to civilian life. A major employment benefit is the VR&E program, which helps disabled veterans receive training and find employment.

The Veteran Readiness and Employment program (VR&E) consists of five track options:

  1. Reemployment Track that aims to get veterans back into their pre-service job,
  2. Rapid Access to Employment Track for those who need employment immediately and don’t require additional training,
  3. Self-Employment Track for veterans with a service-connected disability who want to open their own business,
  4. Employment Through Long-Term Services for Professional and Vocational Training that retrains veterans who may not be able to go into the same line of work because of a service-connected disability, and
  5. Independent Living for those who are not yet ready for employment but need assistance to find and secure housing.

The VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides counseling and resources for over 200,000 transitioning service members each year. These services begin while you are still on active duty (one year before separation or two years before retirement) and continue into your post-service life.

Entrepreneurial Benefits for Veterans (VA and SBA)

The Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) has partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to support and assist entrepreneurial veterans. These services can provide funding for veteran-owned small businesses through existing tools like Lender Match, training programs like Boots to Business, Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP), the Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP), or the Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program (VFPETP).

This partnership also works to connect veterans to government funding for projects, and many of these same programs are also available to military spouses.

Benefits for Veterans

Current and past service members should be aware of the wealth of benefits available to them through the VA and partnering organizations. The mission of the VA has always been to care for veterans, their caretakers, and military families both during their time of service and afterward. These benefits serve individuals, but they also help to connect fellow veterans to various support groups. Many veterans remain unaware of all that’s offered to them in the way of financial assistance, health benefits, insurance, employment resources, and beyond.

The easiest way to explore your options as a veteran, family member, or surviving spouse of a fallen veteran is to reach out to your local VA facility or veterans service center either in person or by phone. You can also find information online through Military OneSource, a program funded by the Department of Defense to connect past and current service members to one another for information, counseling, and advice. If you have a record of honorable service, there are a variety of benefits you and your family deserve to claim.