Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits to Veterans, and it can often be overwhelming to understand benefits and eligibility.

  • Benefits range from healthcare to home and community-based services, caregiver support, service-connected disability compensation, and grants for home modifications.

  • Find out how you can work with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to submit applications and claims for federal and state VA benefits.

There are many types of benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), so many that it can be overwhelming for Veterans, their caregivers, and people like you trying to understand and work through benefits and eligibility.

Veterans benefits range from healthcare to home and community-based services, caregiver support, service-connected disability compensation, and grants for home modifications, just to name a few. Once a Veteran is enrolled in VA Healthcare there are no insurance premiums and low to no co-pays for visits. 

While it can be difficult to navigate, you don't need to be an expert in VA benefits to help your Veteran loved one or client. There are many resources, and local VA partners, that can help. If you don't want to answer (or call) a 1-800 number or work your way through an online applications, working directly with a VA Healthcare Enrollment and Eligibility Specialist or Veteran Service Officer (VSO) can offer help and guidance.

How do State Veterans Affairs offices help older Veterans?

State Veterans Affairs Offices improve the quality of life for Veterans, military, and their families by increasing awareness about, and access to, appropriate VA benefits from federal, state, and local levels. Although each state is unique, with its own traditions, programs, and resources, all are united by a common goal to make a difference in the lives of our Veterans. The State Veterans Affairs Offices employ Veterans Service Officers (VSO) on the state and/or county level.

What is a Veterans Service Officer (VSO)?
A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and specializes in federal and state VA benefits, submitting applications and claims for Veterans. A VSO works with an understanding of the issues that Veterans, widows, and dependents may face. Find locations of State Veterans Affairs Offices.

Why does a Veteran need a VSO?
VSOs know the extent, the meaning, and the application of laws that have been passed by the U.S. Congress in the interests of Veterans and dependents. They also know the rules and regulations adopted by the Department of Veterans Affairs to clarify and implement those laws. VSOs will apply specialized knowledge to the needs of every individual Veteran or beneficiary who comes to his/her office for assistance. VSOs assist Veterans, their dependents, and their survivors in obtaining state and federal benefits that they qualify for. Find other Veterans Service Organizations.

What is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and how can an older Veteran  get help with Home and Community Based Services?

Healthcare benefits provide basic healthcare including preventive care, inpatient care, ancillary services, specialty care, medical prescriptions, and mental health services. The application is three pages and requires additional documents. Eligibility and Priority Groups are determined by the VA; submit the application with help of a VA Enrollment & Eligibility Specialist.

Becoming enrolled in VA healthcare can open the door for additional services and benefits, such as:

  • The Community Care Program can help Veterans receive healthcare services in their community, as an option to bypass waiting for appointments with the VA or traveling a long distance to get to a VA facility. Pre-approval is required for this program.
  • Telehealth brings routine healthcare services to your home via technology that connects you to your doctor. With impacts from COVID-19, many VA Medical Centers have expanded their telehealth programs and may be available for physician, mental health, and physical therapy visits.
  • Home and Community Based Services include a wide variety of services that VA physicians can refer Veterans to, such as Adult Day Care, Home Based Primary Care, Homemaker & Home Health Aid Care, Hospice, Palliative, Respite, Skilled Home Health Care, Remote Monitoring, and the Veteran Directed Care Program. Veterans must be enrolled in VA Healthcare and discuss their needs with their primary care physician.
  • Nursing Homes (State or Community Living Centers) are facilities that provide services including rehabilitation and skilled nursing, long-term care, residential care, dementia care, and hospice care.

How do you find a VA Healthcare and Enrollment Specialist?

  • Google your city + VA Medical Center (VAMC)
  • Click on Phone Directory
  • Find Enrollment & Eligibility phone number and extension—this can be a great referral resource for you

What does the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) do and how do they help older Veterans?

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for administering and delivering an array of federally authorized services to eligible Veterans, survivors, and dependents. VBA is housed in the Regional Offices, often referred to as the “RO”. 

Applying for these benefits require multiple documents and sometimes medical records. Getting Veterans connected to a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can alleviate frustrations when applying. 

What federally authorized services are available for Veterans, survivors, and dependents?

  • Service Connection Disability Compensation is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. Compensation may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Receiving a service connection disability (0-100%) is also an avenue to get enrolled in VA Healthcare. 
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit generally payable to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of Servicemembers who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training or survivors of Veterans who died from their service-connected illness/disease. An application is required including a death certificate with a cause of death related to the service connection illness/disease.
  • VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) program offers grants to service members and Veterans with certain severe service-connected disabilities. The grants assist with building, remodeling, or purchasing an adapted home.

Veterans may get injured while serving or are exposed to situations that later cause an illness after their military service. A simple example is hearing loss due to loud noise exposure which may present later in a Veteran's life. Many Veterans do not know that hearing loss and tinnitus may be service connected to their military service.

Other VBA benefits include:

  • Pension and Fiduciary: Helps wartime Veterans with supplemental income and protection of benefits for vulnerable beneficiaries
  • Insurance: Maintains life insurance programs for financial security
  • Education: Benefits to eligible Veterans, Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve Service members, and dependents 
  • Other: Benefits assistance service, loan guaranty service, vocational rehabilitation, and employment and more