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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Friday, September 25, 2020

How Do I Determine What Type of Veterans Benefits I Qualify for?

Serving in the United States military is a selfless act and one that can carry serious risks. For many, their time spent in military service is eased by the knowledge that they and their loved ones will ultimately receive veterans benefits that can make life easier.

Unfortunately, navigating government affairs and veteran benefits can be complicated and confusing. Frequently, California veterans’ benefits attorneys are asked, “How do I determine what type of veterans benefits I qualify for?”

Veterans benefits range from healthcare to burial benefits, and everything in between. Each benefit program has independent qualifiers that veterans must meet for eligibility.

Eligibility Criteria for Veterans Benefits

Congress is responsible for passing veterans benefits into law and determining each benefit’s eligibility criteria. Because veterans’ benefits have been singularly passed into law, and at different periods over time, there is no standardized set of eligibility that serves all benefit programs.

Qualifying for Veterans Benefits

Qualifying for benefits depends on several factors specific to each use. Qualifying factors that generally guide benefit eligibility are:

Veteran Status

According to the Congressional Research Service, a veteran is a person who has served “in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.”

Length of Service

Individual benefits have different lengths of service guidelines. Widespread VA Healthcare benefits are available to military veterans of any minimum service time. While in contrast, Military Health Insurance is available only to veterans with 20+ years of service.

Often, length of service is combined with service location, further affecting benefit eligibility.

Location and Duration of Service

Qualifying for benefits becomes a bit more challenging when considering restrictions of how long a veteran served in conjunction with where a veteran served. To understand how a veteran is impacted by where they served, let’s look at the VA Home Loan program.

Veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, must have at least 24 months of continuous service activity to qualify for a VA loan; whereas, veterans who served from August 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975, must have served only 90 days of active-duty to qualify for the VA loan program.

Discharge Status

Veterans who were generally or honorably discharged should be eligible for most benefits, presuming eligibility based on additional criteria. Even so, some veterans’ benefits, such as some GI Bills, only apply to honorably discharged veterans.

Veterans who received anything other than an honorable or general discharge may not be eligible for VA benefits. However, veterans who received a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge may qualify for benefits after applying for a discharge upgrade or undergoing the VA Character of Discharge review process.

Can a Veterans Benefits Attorney Help Me if I’m Denied VA Benefits?

If you believe you qualify for VA benefits and have been denied, there is recourse. You have the right to appeal a denial or reduction of benefits, and the right to independent counsel during the appeals process.

Veterans benefits attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced in representing veterans’ rights. They will help you manage necessary filings and navigate the appeals process, while ardently working to represent your interests before a Decision Review Officer or the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Veterans benefits are valuable rights, and you should have somebody fighting on your behalf. Contact a qualified California veterans benefits attorney today for an independent review of your case.


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