What kind of federal assistance is available for veterans?
There are many different government assistance programs available to veterans through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA is responsible for a number of programs covering the following main areas:
- Veteran health care. This includes basic insurance plans, medical consultation and community support. Veterans with disabilities have access to specialized health care as well as disability compensation.
- Veteran employment and rehabilitation programs. These programs help veterans who have just retired and need help finding a civilian job. Some programs help veterans by directly providing work and job search assistance. Other programs assist with training or help veterans start their own businesses.
- Veteran housing programs assist both veterans who are trying to find a place to live, as well as veterans who are in danger of losing their homes.
Eligibility for veteran programs are very straightforward. As long as you served in the military and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, you should be eligible for some form of VA assistance. Some programs are designed for all veterans, while other programs have a specific focus. For example, some health programs are provided with the help of Women Veterans Program Managers, who specifically address the health care needs of female veterans. Other programs assist only veterans who have qualifying service-related disabilities.
VA Health Care
As of writing, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest health care system in the United States, with over 1,200 health care sites available throughout the United States. VA medical benefits package focuses on several different areas. Both physical and mental health are covered through VA medical benefits, as well as home health care, the costs of medical equipment and the costs of prescription medication. Many of the VA benefits are available free of charge or with extremely minor copays. Veterans who are returning from combat-zones can visit community-based Vet centers for counseling and referral services. These programs are available for free and are open to both veterans as well as family members. There are specific programs that help veterans reintegrate into civilian life alongside their families.
In addition to general health care, there are more specific assistance programs available to veterans. Some of the programs include the following:
- Blind rehabilitation
- Caregivers and caregiving programs
- Chaplain services
- Community living centers
- Dental care benefits
- Disease prevention
- Health services for geriatric veterans
- Substance abuse programs
Veteran Housing Programs
There are several housing programs available to veterans. One of the largest and most popular programs is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. HUD-VASH is a program that combines general VA support with HUD housing vouchers. The purpose of the program is to help homeless veterans find sustainable, permanent housing. HUD-VASH works with public housing authorities to find eligible rental or privately-owned property specifically for veterans. As of writing, HUD-VASH is the largest housing program available to veterans, with over 78,000 housing vouchers in use by veterans across the United States.
- The Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem(GPD) Program also assists veterans who are homeless. The program largely focuses on providing funding to local government and nonprofit groups to manage transitional housing and service centers for homeless veterans. Unlike HUD-VASH, these homes are meant to be temporary shelter while the veteran works directly with the VA to find a permanent housing solution. As of writing, the maximum amount of time a veteran can stay in the GPD program is 24 months. Veterans in the program will also have access to additional community outreach, including employment groups and social services to promote a stable home.
- The Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) program allows private entities to lease both land and building to veterans at much lower costs. While the EUL program is considered a housing program, EUL funds can be used for general support programs. For example, many veteran job training programs and health care facilities are housed in locations paid for by EUL funds.
- Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) specifically provides case management and general supportive services to veteranâ€™s family members who have lost their home or are in danger of losing their homes. The program focuses on referrals and direct outreach to nonprofit agencies and community housing programs to provide funding for veterans and their families.
Veteran Employment Programs
For many veterans, it is very difficult to find work after retiring from the military. To help veterans in this situation, there are a few government programs available that help veterans find work. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is available to veterans who are having trouble finding work because of a service-related disability. The program provides job training for veterans who are starting a new career due to a disability. There are also resources for veterans who want to return to their previous career choice while living with a disability or injury. There are also options for disabled veterans who want to begin their own business.
Veterans also have access to free educational and career counseling, formally referred to as Chapter 36. Chapter 36 covers several programs and scholarships, including the GI Bill, Fry Scholarship and the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program. These services focus on providing funds for veterans and qualified family members to pursue job training for their desired career. Educational and career counseling services are also provided for veterans who are unsure about what career path they want to take in their civilian lives. There are also academic and adjustment counseling services for veterans who are having a difficult time transitioning back to civilian employment.
The Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services (HVCES) is a specific program available for veterans who are homeless and struggling to find work. Some of the services provided through HVCES include the following:
- Pre-screening veterans to identify their existing work skills and educational levels
- Providing references for veteran job candidates who are actively ready to work.
- Assisting veterans with creating resumes and applying their military experience to a civilian job.
- Working alongside community workforce agencies to find jobs specifically suited for veterans.