Veterans Benefits - Eligibility

Eligibility For Veterans Benefits

If you’ve served active duty in the United States military, including National Guard and Reserve with federal pay, you may be eligible for VA benefits both during and after your service. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assists in healthcare, education, disability, and family benefits.

VA Health Care

The VA uses the 10-10EZ form to determine not only if you qualify, but also what Enrollment Priority Group you fall into. Once enrolled, a veteran is not required to reapply annually. Although, some veterans may need to update their financial information if it affects qualifications for their current priority group.

What Is A Priority Group?

The U.S. government sets a budget for the VA every year. The VA prioritizes those who may need assistance the most. Priority Groups are used to ensure that certain veterans are able to enroll before others. They have a range of 1 - 8, 1 being the highest priority. A veteran's income and eligibility may require a copay in order for them to be placed in a certain priority group. If you are eligible for more than one group, the VA will place you in the highest tiered group possible. 

Your priority group may affect how soon you are signed up by the VA, and begin receiving benefits. It may also affect how much you may or may not have to pay towards the cost of your care.

Qualifying For VA Health Care

VA health care benefits are available to those who’ve served in the active military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge.

Minimum Duty Requirement: 

  • If your enlistment date falls after September 7, 1980, or you entered active duty after October 16, 1981, required service or active duty is 24 continuous months. This is unless any of the following is true.

The minimum duty requirement may not apply if: 

  • You were discharged for a disability that occurred during or was made worse by active duty service.
  • You were discharged for an “early out” or a Hardship.
  • You served before September 7, 1980

Current or former members of the National Guard or military Reserves.

  • You must have been called to active duty by a federal order, and served the full duration of time for which they were called. (You don’t qualify for VA health care if you had or currently have an active-duty status that was for training purposes only.)

What Will Make Me More Likely To Receive VA Health Benefits?

Another way to make you more likely to receive VA benefits is gaining Enhanced Eligibility status, which places you in a higher priority group. Here’s how.

At least one of these requirements must be true in order to qualify for enhanced eligibility.

  • You’re a Purple Heart recipient.
  • You’re a Medal of Honor recipient.
  • You’re a former prisoner of war.
  • You qualify or are currently receiving Medicaid benefits.
  • You have a service related disability, and you received financial compensation from the VA for it.
  • You received a discharge due to a disability resulting from something that occurred while in the line of duty.
  • Your disability got worse in the line of duty, and received a discharge for it.
  • You are a recently discharged combat Veteran.
  • You currently receive a VA pension.
  • You served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
  • You served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998.
  • You served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days which was between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

Note: Your income may also help you qualify if none the points above apply to you. Check out the VA’s current annual income limits to know more.

VA Life Insurance Eligibility

VA life insurance provides financial security for Veteran (VGLI), service, members (SGLI), their spouses and dependent children (FSGLI). Short term financial coverage also available to Veterans who are recovering from a severe traumatic injury (TSGLI). If you're disabled due to an injury or illness that was caused by your active service, or made worse by your active service, you may be able to receive coverage to extend your life insurance beyond 2 years after leaving the military (S-DVI). Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) provides mortgage protection to Veterans with service connected disabilities and their families. Eligibility for these programs are in the tables below.

                                           Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) Eligibility 

At Least One Must Be True:

You were a service member of the National Guard or the Reserves, had part-time Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), and were injured or disabled while on duty (including direct travel to and from duty) that disqualified you for standard premium insurance rates.

You were in the military, had SGLI, and you're within 1 year and 120 days of being released from active duty period (31 or more days.
You're within 1 year and 120 days of retirement from or being released from the National Guard or Ready Reserves.

You're within 1 year and 120 days of an assignment with a branch of service such as the Inactive National Guard, Individual Ready Reserves, or  the Public Health Service Inactive Reserve Corps.

You're within 1 year and 120 days of being put on Temporary Disability Retirement.

                                          Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Eligibility 

At Least One Must Be True:

You're an active-duty member in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or the Coast Guard.

You're a commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the U.S Public Health Service.
You're going to one of the U.S. military academies as a cadet or midshipman.
You're a cadet, midshipman or a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps who is engaged in authorized training/practice cruises.

You're a member of the National Guard or Ready Reserve who is assigned to a unit, and performs at least 12 periods of inactive training per year.

You're a volunteer in an Individual Ready Reserve mobilization category.

                           Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Eligibility - Nonpay Status 

All Must Be True:

You're scheduled for 12 periods of inactive training for the year.

You're drilling for points rather than pay.

                                    Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)? Eligibility

At Least One Must Be True:

You're covered by full-time SGLI and on active duty.

You're covered by full-time SGLI and a member of the National Guard or Ready Reserve.

                                                  Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)? Eligibility

All Must Be True:

Had a traumatic injury that resulted in a scheduled loss.

Before midnight on the day you left the military, you suffered a traumatic injury.
Had a traumatic injury that resulted in a scheduled loss 2 year later.
Survived for no less than 7 full days from the date of a traumatic injury. (This 7 day period begins on the date and time of day you received the injury, and ends 168 full hours later)

You were active duty, Reservist, National Guard member, on funeral honors duty, or on 1 day muster duty.

                                                             Injuries Excluded From TSGLI

None Of These Can Be True:

Self inflicted, or a result from an attempt at self-injury.

An injury that resulted from the use of illegal drugs or a controlled substance that was taken without the advice of a medical doctor.
The result of a surgical or medical treatment of a disease or illness.
The result of a physical or mental illness or disease which doesn't include illness or disease caused by wound infection, chemical, biological or radiological weapn, or accidentally swallowing a contaminated substance. 

Can I Get TSGLI For A Past Injury?

Yes you may be eligible to receive retroactive TSGLI. If you were injured between the dates of October, 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, and you meet all the qualifications above. This benefit applies no matter where the injury took place, or if you were on or off duty. Also, it doesn't matter if you had SGLI coverage when you were injured.

                                        Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI)?? Eligibility

All Must Be True:

You were released from active duty on or after April 25, 1951 without a dishonorable discharge.

You were rated for a service-connected disability.
You are in good health aside from your service-connected condition. 
You applied within 2 years from the date your service-connected disability was granted.

Can I Get More Life Insurance Coverage Through S-DVI?

As long as you have the basic S-DVI coverage, and become totally disabled and unable to work, you can apply for supplemental S-DVI coverage. You may be eligible to recieve up to $30,000 of supplemental coverage as long as you qualify for a premium waiver. 

You Must:

  • Apply for coverage within 1 year from the date you receive your grant notice or grant waiver.
  • You're younger than 65.

VA Disability Eligibility

You may be able to receive financial and healthcare VA disability benefits for an illness or injury that was caused by, or got worse because of your active duty service. Eligibility is shown in the table below.

                                                             VA Disability Benefits Eligibility

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

You were active duty, active duty for training, or on inactive duty training.

You became sick or injured while serving in the military and can link your condition to your illness or injury.
You have a disability rating for your service-connected disability.You had an illness or injury before joining the military, and your service made it worse.
You have a disability related to active duty service that didn't appear until after your service had ended.

Presumed Disabilities:

  • A long lasting illness that appeared within one year after you left the military.
  • An illness caused by contaminants or other hazardous materials.
  • An illness caused by time spent as a prisoner of war.

VA Disability Benefits For Spouses, Dependents And Parents Eligibility

If you're a child, surviving spouse, or a parent of a service member who died in the line of duty, or of a Veteran who died from a service-connected injury or illness, you may be eligible for a benefit called VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC).

                                                     Surviving Or Dependent VA DIC Eligibility

At Least One Must be True:

(ALSO) You Need to Provide Evidence Showing One Of These Is True

Married to the Veteran or service member prior to Jan 1, 1957

The service member died during active duty, active duty training or inactive duty training.
Married tot he Veteran or service member within 15 years of their discharge from the time of service from which they became ill or injured, or got worse.The Veteran died from a service-connected injury or illness.
Married to the Veteran or service member for at least 1 year.The Veteran was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for a certain period of time, but didn't die from a service related injury or illness.
You had a child with the Veteran or service member, aren't currently married, and lived with them until their death without a break. If you were separated, it wasn't your fault.

The Veteran Must have the Following if their eligibility was due to a rating of totally disabling. 

Their Rating Must Have Been:

  • For at least 10 years prior to their death.
  • Since they left active duty, and for at least 5 years immediately prior to their death.
  • For at least 1 year prior to their death if they were a POW who died after September 30, 1999.

VA Education

VA benefits are there to help you pick out a school and pay your tuition. Here you'll find out your eligibility through the GI Bill

VA Educational Benefits Through The Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you served active duty for at least 90 days, all at once, or interrupted after September 10, 2001, you may be able to receive benefits through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. 

Eligibility Requirements:

(You must meet at least one of these requirements.)

  • You served at least 90 days of active duty (completely or for shorter periods over time) on or after 9/11.
  • You were a Purple Heart recipient on or after 9/11, as well as received a honorably discharge after any amount of service.
  • You served for at least 30 days continuously on or after 9/11, and received an honorable discharge with a service-connected disability.
  • You're a dependent child whose using benefits that were transferred by a eligible Veteran or service member. 

For Reserve members who lost their educational benefits due to the Reserve Educational Assistance Program ending in November, 2015, you may still qualify to have your benefits restored under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. 

VA Educational Benefits Through The Montgomery GI Bill.

You may receive educational benefits through either the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD), or the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Service (MGIB -SR) program for up to 36 months. The tables below show how both programs work. (One of these categories must apply to you)

                                   Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)                       

                                                                            Category I

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

Have High School, GED, or 12 hours of college Credit.

Served continuously for 3 years.
Entered 1st time active duty after June 30, 1985.Served continuously for 2 per your enlistment agreement.
Had military pay reduced by $100 a month for the 1st 12 months of service.Served continuously for 4 years if you entered Selected Reserve within 1 year of leaving active duty (2 by 4 Program.

                                                                             Category II

All Must Be True:

Have High School, GED, or 12 hours of college Credit

You entered active duty before January 1,1977 or before January 2, 1978 via a delayed enlistment program that was contracted before January 1,1977
You served at least 1 day of duty between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, staying active duty through January 1, 1988. Or through June 30, 1987 if you entered the Select Reserve within 1 year, prior to active duty that was served for 4 years.
You had at least 1 day of entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill. 

                                                                              Category III

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

Have High School, GED, or 12 hours of college Credit.

Active duty on September 30,1990, and involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991.
You don't qualify for MGIB under category I or II.Your were involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993.
Had your military pay reduced by $1200 prior to separation.You voluntarily separated under the Voluntary Separation Incentive, or the Special Separation Benefit program.

                                                                              Category IV

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

Have High School, GED, or 12 hours of college Credit.

You were active duty on October 9, 1996, still had money left in a VEAP account, and chose MGIB prior to October 9, 1997.
Your military pay was reduced by $100 a month for 12 months, or you paid it all at once with a $1,200 lump-sum payment. You joined the National Guard full time under title 32, USC between July 1, 1985 and November 28,1989, choosing the MGIB between October 9, 1996 and July 9,1997.

You must have at least 2 years of active duty service.

Your eligibility depends on:

  • How long you served.
  • Your category defined above.
  • Whether you qualify for a kicker or a college fund.
  • The type of education you choose.
  • How much you contributed to the $600 By-up program.

                                  Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

Have High School, GED. (12 hours of college Credit does not qualify in this case)

You agreed to serve for 6 years in the Selected Reserve.
You completed your Initial Active Duty Training (IADT)You're an officer in the Selected Reserve and agreed to serving an additional 6 years on top of your initial service obligation.
You stayed in good standing with your active Selected Reserve unit.

To qualify, your service obligation must have started after June 30,1985, or after September 30, 1990 for some types of training. 

VA Benefits Through The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

You can use part of your military pay to help cover the cost of school, and continue your education through VEAP. It is a $2 to $1 government match program for education assistance.

All Must Be True:

  • You began your military service for the first time between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985. (This applies to all branches but the Air Force.)
  • You opened and deposited money into your VEAP account before April 1, 1987.
  • You deposited $25 to $2,700 on your own.
  • You finished your service period without receiving a dishonorable discharge.

For Those Serving or Served in the Air Force:

  • You began your military service for the first time between December 1, 1980 and September 30, 1981.
  • You enlisted in one of the following Air Force specialties: 20723, 20731, 20830, 46130, 46230A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, or Z, 46430, or 81130.
  • You enlisted in one of the following locations: Beckley, WV, Buffalo, NY, Dallas; Fargo, ND, Houston, Jackson, MS, Louisville, KY, Memphis, TN, Omaha, NB, Philadelphia, Seattle, Sioux Falls, SD, or Syracuse, NY. 

For those who are currently active duty, you must have contributed for at least 3 months to use your VEAP benefits.

VA Educational Benefits Through The National Call To Service Program

The National Call to Service program allows those who qualify to choose an educational benefit as an alternative to the Montgomery GI Bill.

All Must Be True:

(AND) At Least One Must be True:

You competed your initial entry training, and then was active duty for 15 months in a military specialty designated by the Secretary of Defense.

You spent the rest of your service on active duty in the Armed Forces.
You either served an additional period of active duty as determined by the Secretary of Defense, or a period of 24 months in the Selected Reserve on active status. (Without a break in service)You spent the rest of your service in the Selected Reserve.
You spent the rest of your service in the Individual Ready Reserve.
You spent the rest of your service in AmeriCorps, or any other domestic national service program that was jointly designated by the Secretary of Defense.

You can qualify for more than one program, but you'll have to decide on one. You can't receive benefits from more than one program at a time. If you're not sure

VA Education Benefits For Survivors And Dependents

You may qualify for chapter 35 benefits if you are a dependent spouse, child, or a surviving spouse or a surviving spouse or child of a Veteran or service member.

                         Education Benefits For Survivors And Dependents Eligibility (Service Member)

At Least One Must be True:

They died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001

They're missing in action or captured in the line of duty.
They were detained by force while in the line of duty by a foreign power or government.
They are in the hospital or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-related that is a total disability and permanent. They are likely to be discharged for their disability. 

                         Education Benefits For Survivors And Dependents Eligibility (Veteran)

At Least One Must be True:

They are totally and permanently disabled due to a service-connected disability.

They died during active duty due to a service-connected disability.

Fry Scholarships

The marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship is for children and dependents of Veterans who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.

Child Of A Service Members Facts:

  • Can be Married or Unmarried 
  • If you turned 18 or graduated from high school before January 1, 2013, you still qualify for a Fry Scholarship until you're 33 years of age.
  • If the Veteran died in the line of duty before August 1, 2011, you might actually qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and the Survivor's and Dependent's Educational assistance (DEA). You can only choose one.

VA Employment Assistance Eligibility

All Veterans are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This means your civilian career cannot be harmed because of your military service. Veterans who are disabled due to a service-connected injury can receive Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) assistance.

Returning to former job through VR&E:

  • You must have a handicap or employment barrier.
  • You must be enrolled in VR&E.
  • You wish to your former job.

VA Housing Assistance Eligibility

Veterans can receive housing aid from the VA in two main forms. You can receive Home Loan Assistance, and Housing Assistance Grants. Here's the eligibility requirements.

VA Home Loan Assistance 

Whether you're applying for a VA direct, or a VA backed loan, your qualification is based off of your service history and duty status. If those standards are met and you didn't receive a dishonorable discharge, you can apply for a Certificate of eligibility (COE) to show to your lender in order to qualify. If you are applying for a VA direct loan, you still need to meet your lender's credit and income requirements. Service requirements for Veterans, active duty, National Guard and Reserve are shown in the tables below.

                                                  Veterans or Active Duty

You served between.

Minimum active-duty service requirement is met if you served this amount of time:

Sept 16,1940 and July 25,1947 - WWII

90 days or less than 90 days if you were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
July 26, 1947 and June 26,1950 181 continuous days or less than 181 days if discharged due to a service-connected disability.
June 27, 1950 and Jan 31,195590 days or less than 90 days if you were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
Feb 1, 1955 and Aug 4, 1964 181 continuous days or less than 181 days if discharged due to a service-connected disability.
Aug 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975 or Feb 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975 (if you served in the Republic of Vietnam)90 days or less than 90 days if you were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
May 8, 1975 and Sept 7, 1980 or May 8, 1975 and Oct 16, 1981, if you were an officer181 continuous days or less than 181 days if discharged due to a service-connected disability.
Sept 8,1980 and Aug 1, 1990 or Oct 17, 1981 and Aug 1, 1990, if you were an officer.24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty which is at least 181 days.
Aug 2, 1990, and the present - Gulf War24 continuous months, OR The full period of at least 90 days where you were called to active duty. OR, At least 90 days if you were discharged due to a hardship, convenience of the government or a reduction in force. OR Less than 90 days if you were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
Separated after Sept 7, 1980 or After Oct 16, 1981 if you were an officer24 continuous months OR the full period for which you were called to active duty which is at least 181 days OR 181 if you were discharged due to a due to a hardship, convenience of the government or a reduction in force.181 days if discharged due to a service-connected disability.
You're Active Duty90 continuous days

                                                 National Guard and Reserve

You served between.

Minimum active-duty service requirement is met if you served this amount of time:

Aug 2, 1990, and the present - Gulf War

90 days of active duty
Any time period

At least 6 creditable years in Selected Reserve or National Guard

One of these must be true:

  • You received an honorable discharge
  • You were placed on the retired list
  • You were transferred to Standby Reserve, Ready Reserve, after service was honorable.
  • You continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

Veterans Housing Assistance Grants

The VA provides Specially Adapted Housing (SAH), Special Housing Adaptation (SHA), and Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants to Veterans and service members with certain service-connected disabilities. This allows them to buy or change a home that suits their needs so they can live more independently. Changing a home may entail the installation of ramps, or widening of doorways. You (or family member, for SHA grant) must currently own or will own the home, and have a qualifying service-connected disability. 

Qualifying Service-Connected Disabilities for SAH Grant:

  • Loss of or the loss of use of more than one limb.
  • Loss of or the loss of use of a lower leg with lasting effects of an organic disease or injury.
  • Blindness in both eyes. Having only the perception of light. As well as the loss or loss of of a leg.
  • You have certain severe burns
  • Loss of or the loss of use of a foot or a leg after Sept 11, 2001. This disability must make it to where you can't balance or walk without the assistance of a cane, wheelchair, crutches, or braces.

NOTE: The government has put a cap on how many disabled veterans and service members receive the SAH grant every year, which is currently 30.

Qualifying Service-Connected Disabilities for SHA Grant:

  • Blindness in both eyes with a 20/200 visual acuity or less.
  • The loss or the loss of use of both hands.
  • You have certain severe burns.
  • You have a certain respiratory/breathing injury.

Both Must be true to be eligible for a TRA Grant:

You must qualify for an SAH or SHA grant.

You are living with a family member temporarily and their home needs changes to meed your needs.

VA Home Lone Assistance For Surviving Spouses

Surviving spouses of Veterans can receive a COE as well. They'll also need to meet their lender's credit and income requirements. Spouses who remarried before Dec 16, 2003 or after turning 57, must have applied no later than Dec 15, 2004 in order to be eligible.

At least one of these must be true:

Missing in action

Prisoner of war

Died while in service or due to a service-connected disability (and you didn't remarry)

Died while in service or due to a service-connected disability. You didn't remarry before the age of 57, or before Dec 16, 2003.

Was totally disabled and then died, but the disability might not have been the cause of death.

What If I Received a dishonorable discharge?

You may not be eligible if you received an other than honorable, dishonorable discharge, or bad conduct discharge. Still, there are two ways you can try and qualify. You can apply for a Discharge Upgrade. If it goes through, you'll be eligible for VA benefits. You be able to qualify for VA benefits through a Character of Discharge review. 

You're considered a strong case for a Discharge Upgrade if you can show that your discharge was connected to:

  • Mental Health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Sexual orientation (this includes incidences under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Military sexual trauma or sexual assault/harassment during your military service

The VA provides quiz that will point you in the right direction pertaining to the uniqueness of your case. Discharge Upgrade Questionnaire 

Character of Discharge Review is when the VA will review your military service and determine if it is considered "honorable for VA purposes." It can take up to a year. You'll need to provide the VA with documents supporting your case, which is similar to what you'd send if you were to do a Discharge Upgrade. You should consider finding someone to advocate for you. Either a lawyer or the Veterans Service Organization collect and send off the supporting documentation for you. You can find a Veterans Service Organization near you by following this link: VSOs at Regional Benefits Offices