Lately we’ve been getting a lot of questions about Veteran spousal programs. Veterans want to know that their spouse or children will be okay if something happens to them. Spouses or children are also curious whether they are entitled to any benefits if something has happened or could happen to their Veteran loved one. In this blog we’ll list quite a few Veteran spousal programs for spouses and children of Veterans.
When a Veteran passes, the surviving spouse or child is often owed certain benefits through many different Veteran spousal programs. That benefit could be something as simple as life insurance. However, the VA often struggles to identify, locate, and pay these families or beneficiaries in a timely fashion. As of September 2020, the VA states that there are approximately 15,000 people that remain undisbursed with more than $155 million in life insurance that is owed to a Veteran or Veteran’s family. By the VA’s own accounting, that’s about $10,500 per family.
If your Veteran has passed and you haven’t received any kind of benefits, we need to check with the VA to see what’s happening there. If this is your situation, please contact us so we can check your qualification for certain Veteran spousal programs and help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Below is a broad brush perspective on many Federal and State Veteran spousal programs and benefits.
Veteran Spousal Programs: Federal Benefits
VA Education Benefits
Everyone knows about the GI Bill from World War II and of course the Korean War and Vietnam. These education benefits are very similar and the spouse or the child may of the Veteran may qualify.
VA Pension (Aid and Attendance)
VA Pension is also called Aid and Attendance. To qualify, you have to have been honorably discharged, you need assistance with activities of daily living, and you have to pass an asset test.
Educational and Career Counseling
Commissary privileges only apply if your spouse was 100% disabled. Commissaries are things like grocery stores on military bases. They sell food along with basic household and cleaning items. They’re usually open to active duty military members, guard, reservists, and military retirees. They’re also open to 100% service-connected disabled Veterans and their families.
Exchange services operate like department stores, gas stations, military clothing stores, and convenient stores. But unlike a commissary system, goods are not sold at cost. But they are sales tax free. The exchange operates facilities at overseas contingency sites and statewide emergency areas.
Military ID Card
If your spouse was 100% disabled, you qualify for a military ID. You’ll need that military ID to get on the exchange or the commissary.
Dependency and Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is the civilian equivalent of workers compensation where the Veteran had some kind of in-service injury. Maybe the Veteran was wounded in battle, exposed to agent orange, or maybe exposed to burn pits. Maybe the Veteran developed PTSD while serving over in Desert Storm. You have to have a service-connected injury to qualify.
There are different rates if the Veteran died on or after a certain date. DIC for a spouse runs about $1,400 a month — of course every year they get the cost of living raise. There are additional DIC allowances if the Veteran was 100% disabled or unemployable at the time of death. If that’s the case, you would get additional money above that $1,400 per month. Additional money is also added for each dependent child under the age of 18. You are not able to receive VA Pension and DIC simultaneously. You get the larger of the two.
Possible Federal Hiring Preference
If you were wanting to work for the United States Postal Service or another Federal organization, you would get a hiring preference over civilian applicants.
Tricare is the military version of civilian health insurance. Tricare Prime is the lowest tier. It’s civilian health insurance through an HMO. You’re assigned a primary care manager and you get referrals through that HMO.
Next is Tricare Select which is like civilian Preferred Provider Organizations or PPOs. I’m sure you’ve heard about those. Users can select their own primary care manager and also self-refer to specialists.
And then you have Tricare Reserve Select. This is a plan for traditional guard and reservists. It functions exactly like Tricare Select with a significant difference. The users must pay a monthly premium because they are guard or reservists.
Lastly we have Tricare for Life. I’ve had several clients who were excited to have it. Tricare for Life provides supplemental health insurance coverage for retirees and their spouses. You have to be at least 65, you have to be enrolled in Medicare part B, and pay your Medicare part B premiums. Tricare for Life is like a supplemental health insurance that you might get from AARP, Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the other big name insurance companies. It gives you supplement health insurance over and above what Medicare is providing for you.
To be eligible for CHAMPVA, you can’t be eligible for Tricare. You also must be in one of the three following categories: 1) You have to be the spouse or a child of a Veteran who has been rated permanently or totally disabled for an in-service connected disability. 2) You’re the surviving spouse or child of the Veteran who died from a VA rated service-connected disability. 3) At the time of the Veteran’s death, he or she was rated permanently or totally disabled.
Veteran Spousal Programs: State Benefits
State Veterans Homes
In Georgia we have State Veterans Homes. We have one in Milledgeville and another in Augusta. Admission is open to honorably discharged Georgia Veterans with service during a qualifying wartime period. A nominal fee is charged. But if the Veteran is receiving VA Pension, the home will simply take the VA pension in lieu of the fee. Veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 70% or higher don’t have to pay the fee.
Homestead Tax Exemption
If you’re a 100% disabled Veteran, receiving DIC benefits, and your surviving spouse is not remarried, you can be exempt from property taxes on your home. This maximum exemption is for homes valued at less than $85,000. If your home is worth more than $85,000, you’ll only get a partial exemption.
Vehicle Tax Exemption
For Georgia residents, we used to pay an ad valorem tax when you got your new tag each year. But that has changed a bit over the last few years. If you are a totally or permanently disabled Veteran, you don’t have to worry about any vehicle tag taxes.
License Fees and Special Taxes
You don’t have to pay occupational taxes, administrative fees — basically any kind of regulatory fee imposed by a local government.
Free Drivers License
Honorably discharged Veterans in Georgia can get a free drivers license. Former members of the National Guard with 20 or more years of service also qualify for a free drivers license.
State Employment Preference
This works much like the Federal hiring preference program. If you’re apply for a job with a State organization, you’ll receive hiring preference over civilian applicants.
Free Business Licenses
Free Firefighter Qualification School
Free Sportsman Licenses
Reduced Admission to Georgia State Parks
Contact Us So We Can Help!
We hope that this information on Veteran spousal programs has been helpful to Veterans, spouses of Veterans, and children of Veterans. If you have any additional questions regarding Veterans spousal programs, please complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. You can also send us an email to [email protected]. We’re here for our Veterans and looking forward to helping them receive the benefits that they deserve.
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