How To Apply For VA Benefits For Spouses & Dependents

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If you are the spouse or dependent of a veteran, you may be eligible for VA benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA offers a variety of benefits to spouses and dependents, including education and training programs, home loan guarantees, medical care, and survivor’s benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). Over nine million US veterans receive medical care from the Veterans Affair Health Benefits through the VA Health Administration.1,2

Some of the benefits offered include:3

  • Access to education.
  • VA disability benefits
  • The provision of health care within medical facilities such as nursing homes and clinics.
  • Employment services and vocational rehabilitation.
  • Pension plans.
  • Insurance plans.
  • Mortgage loans.
  • Military service-related disability or death compensation.
  • Funeral and memorial benefits.

In order to apply for VA benefits, you will need to provide required information about yourself and your veteran spouse or dependent. This article will guide you through the process of applying for VA benefits as a spouse or dependent.1

What Are VA Benefits?

VA benefits may be available to veterans, or to members of their families, such as spouses, children or parents. A caregiver may also qualify for some support if they are caring for a veteran, both for themselves and to better care for them. These benefits include health care, education assistance, employment programs and survivor benefits.4

VA Health Benefits

VA Health Benefits provide access to medical care for veterans and their dependents at VA facilities or civilian health care providers that have been approved by the VA. These VA benefits include health services such as primary care, inpatient and outpatient care, mental health services, and long-term care.5

Depending on the health condition of each veteran, a specialized medical plan will be provided. Some of these benefits include assistance with:5

  • Quality of life improvements.
  • Various medical conditions.
  • Injuries.
  • Functioning improvements.
  • Diagnosis and prevention.

Preventative care services may be covered by VA benefits as well, including:4

  • Diagnostic screenings aimed at assessing an individual’s overall health condition.
  • Nutrition, healthy living, mental health, and substance abuse education.
  • Coronavirus and seasonal flu vaccinations.
  • Genetic counseling about diseases and predispositions that may be inherited.

As part of VA health benefits, hospital inpatient or residential treatment may also be covered, including:4

  • A surgical procedure considered to be necessary.
  • The provision of medical treatments within a medical facility.
  • Short-term medical care and stabilization after surgery or for conditions that require emergency, critical, or urgent attention.
  • An organ transplant, intensive treatment for severe and traumatic injuries, or intensive care for mental and physical challenges.

Veterans, their families and dependents can access these VA benefits through programs such as TRICARE, CHAMPVA or PCAFC. Tricare is a comprehensive health care program for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, survivors, and certain former spouses offered by the United States Department of Defense. The program also includes options for long-term care, dental care and catastrophic coverage.6

Tricare VA benefits are available to all eligible members no matter where they live in the United States or overseas. Members are able to choose from a variety of plans offered by Tricare, including Standard, Extra and Prime options.6

Each plan offers different levels of coverage and cost, so it is important to compare the plans to find the one that best fits your needs. Additionally, members can decide if they want to use a provider in or out of network and select their own health care provider. Tricare also offers additional resources such as a Health Care Finder tool and a Military Treatment Facility (MTF) locator.6

CHAMPVA, or Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, is a comprehensive health care program in which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries. This program was designed to provide VA health benefits to certain veterans who are not eligible for either Medicare or TRICARE. It also provides health care coverage to spouses and children of some veterans who have been rated permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related disability or who died as the result of a service-related disability.7

CHAMPVA covers most types of medical services including doctor visits, hospital inpatient care, outpatient surgery, durable medical equipment, and mental health care. It does not cover tertiary care such as kidney dialysis or transplantation services.8

It is important to note that CHAMPVA coverage is secondary to other sources of health insurance; This means that any fees incurred from those sources must be paid first before filing a claim with CHAMPVA. Additionally, CHAMPVA does not cover expenses resulting from non-service related medical conditions.7

To be eligible for VA benefits through CHAMPVA, veterans must have been awarded a VA service-connected disability rating of 100% permanent and total; or have been rated as unemployable due to a service-connected disability; or are the spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated as permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related disability or death.8

Finally, The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) is a federal initiative that provides support to family members and other informal caregivers who provide essential care for individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses.9

PCAFC was established by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2018, and its mission is to ensure that family caregivers have access to the resources and support they need to provide quality care for their loved ones through VA dependent benefits.9

PCAFC’s goal is to provide support, resources, and assistance to family members who are providing care for their loved ones with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Through the program, family caregivers can gain access to a range of services that can help them manage their day-to-day responsibilities and provide the best possible care for their loved ones.9

VA Education Benefits

When service members or veterans of the United States Armed Forces decide to pursue higher education, they may qualify for a variety of educational benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs. VA Education Benefits are provided to those eligible individuals in order to assist them in reaching their academic goals and helping them secure a more successful future.10

VA Education Benefits can be used to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other educational costs associated with attending college. Benefits can also be used for apprenticeships, on-the-job training, distance learning, and more. These benefits may even pay for licensing and certification tests that veterans need to take in order to pursue certain careers.11

Veterans are eligible for different levels of educational benefits depending on their military service and length of time served. These benefits may include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Reserve Educational Assistance Program, Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program, and more.10

In order to apply for VA Education Benefits, veterans and their family members must complete an application form and submit it to the Department of Veteran Affairs. It is important for veterans to make sure that they are eligible for the benefits they are applying for, as not all veterans qualify for every benefit. Additionally, some veterans may need additional forms or documents in order to be approved for their benefits.11

VA Employment Benefits

VA employment benefits offer a variety of options for veterans, dependents, and family members looking to enter or transition into the civilian workforce. The VA is dedicated to helping veterans pursue their employment goals and provides a range of benefits to support them in their job search.12

Through the Veteran Readiness and Employment program (VR&E), veterans can receive help with job placement and training, as well as other VA employment benefits and non-vocational services such as education and career counseling. The program offers 5 tracks aimed at helping veterans with their career post-deployment. These tracks are:13

  • Reemployment: Assisting veterans in returning to their former employment.
  • Rapid Access to Employment: Helps veterans find employment based on their existing skills.
  • Self-Employment: Provides assistance to veterans who wish to start their own businesses.
  • Employment Through Long-Term Services: Provides training and education to veterans so they are able to transition to a new career.
  • Independent Living: Provides services that will enable veterans with disabilities to restore their daily living activities if they are unable to return to work right away.

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is also available to help veterans transitioning from military service to civilian life. This program provides information and assistance with job searching, resume writing, interviewing skills, entrepreneurship resources, and more.14

VA Survivor Benefits

VA Survivor Benefits provide support to the surviving family members of military veterans who have served or died in active duty. The benefits available through VA Survivor Benefits programs can help families with financial assistance, health care services, educational assistance, and burial costs.15 

Financial assistance is available in the form of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to qualified surviving spouses. This benefit is based on the veteran’s rank and length of service, and can provide help with expenses like mortgage payments and day-to-day living costs.15 

VA Death Benefits

VA death benefits are a set of financial assistance programs designed to help surviving family members of those who served in the United States Armed Forces. The Veterans Administration offers both lump-sum payments and monthly stipends in order to provide financial help to surviving spouses, children, and other dependents. These benefits can be used for funeral costs, unpaid medical bills, and other expenses. In addition to these payments, the VA also provides a free burial or an allowance to cover funeral expenses.16

VA death benefits depend on the veteran’s service record and date of death. Generally speaking, if a Veteran dies after serving in active duty for at least 90 days, their surviving family members may be eligible for certain VA benefits. In addition, the death must have been service-related in order to qualify for certain types of assistance.16

For those who are eligible, the VA may offer a one-time lump sum payment to help with funeral expenses or other financial needs.In addition to the lump-sum payment, dependents may also be eligible for monthly payments through programs like Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). These VA benefits are designed to provide ongoing financial support for surviving family members.15

What Are VA Benefits For Spouses?

The Fry Scholarship is also available to spouses in addition to the above listed benefits. This scholarship offers up to 36 months of educational assistance and provides a monthly housing stipend, books and supplies allowance, tutoring assistance, and other benefits.17

You will need to determine which VA education benefits program you prefer if you are eligible to apply for both DEA and Fry Scholarships. However, you cannot reverse your decision once you have made your choice. Individuals whose parents have died on duty prior to August 1, 2011 can apply for both programs. Providing that they only use one program at a time, they are eligible for up to 81 months of training.17

Who Is Eligible for VA Benefits?

VA benefits eligibility depends on several factors, including the type of service in which a veteran has served, their length of service, and whether they have any disabilities related to their service. In addition, certain family members may be eligible for benefits as well.18 

In order to receive VA benefits, veterans must provide proof that they meet the standard eligibility requirements. This can include submitting official military records showing dates of service and the type of service in which they were involved. If a veteran has suffered any disabilities related to their military service, they must also provide documentation confirming the extent of their disability.18

In order to qualify, you must meet the minimum VA benefits eligibility requirements:18

  • Your active-duty service caused or aggravated a disability for which you were discharged.
  • Discharged because of hardship.
  • Served before September 7, 1980.
  • Served as an active duty soldier for the full period of your call to active duty after September 7, 1980, or enlisted after October 16, 1981.

Do VA Spouse Benefits Cover Drug And Alcohol Rehab?

It is well known that substance abuse is a prevalent problem in the U.S. and veterans are particularly vulnerable members of society in terms of prevalence of substance abuse disorder because of their stressful and life-threatening experiences. There is evidence that one in 10 veterans misuses alcohol, with alcohol being the most commonly misused substance.19

Therefore, spouse VA benefits may offer some financial assistance for drug and alcohol rehab. Depending on the particular veteran’s situation, their family may be eligible for a variety of different VA programs and benefits that cover addiction treatment. Depending on their specific needs, the VA spouse benefits may be able to provide a combination of three different treatments through CHAMPVA in a Medicaid or Tricare-certified AAC treatment center.20

In line with their medical needs, spouses can choose one of these treatment options:20

  • Outpatient treatment, including individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.
  • Inpatient detoxification with medical supervision, with a maximum stay of seven days.
  • Inpatient or PHP (Partial Hospitalization Programs), with a 21-day benefit period for only one inpatient stay.

Do VA Health Benefits Cover Mental Health Treatment?

Yes, VA health benefits cover mental health treatment. The Veterans Health Administration offers a wide range of mental health services and support for various mental health issues veterans face, such as  post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. VA mental health benefits include various evidence-based treatments, such as individual and group therapy, medication management, family counseling services, suicide prevention programs, and a range of other treatments tailored to the specific needs of each veteran.21

Can I Lose VA Benefits For Drug Use?

As a mental health issue associated with PTSD and depression, substance abuse is not uncommon among veterans. If you suffer from substance abuse, the VA will not take away your benefits and will provide several effective addiction treatment options.22

The VA offers a variety of programs designed to help Veterans overcome drug and alcohol addictions. These programs include:22

  • Outpatient Substance Abuse Counseling Program: This program provides counseling and support services to Veterans who have been diagnosed with substance use disorders. It may be available through the VA health benefits
  • Residential Treatment Programs: Residential treatment programs are offered by VA medical centers and provide inpatient treatment for Veterans struggling with addiction. The program focuses on helping Veterans overcome their addictions and develop healthier strategies for managing their substance use disorders. 
  • Substance Abuse Education Programs: VA medical centers also offer a variety of educational programs designed to help Veterans understand the risks associated with substance abuse, identify signs of addiction in themselves and others, and learn how to access help if they need it. 

In addition to these programs, the VA also provides financial assistance for those who qualify. This includes grants to help pay for treatment and housing costs, as well as VA disability benefits to assist Veterans in living with the physical and psychological effects of their addictions.22

How To Apply for VA Benefits?

For your application to be approved for VA benefits, you need the following documents:23

  • Your spouse’s and your other dependents’ Social Security numbers.
  • Military Discharge Papers (Such as DD214).
  • Information about your and your spouse’s insurance cards, including Medicare, private insurance, and employer-sponsored insurance.
  • The total household income for you and your dependents during the previous calendar year.
  • Health care and education costs you incurred during the past year that are subject to your deductible.

Veterans seeking VA benefits are able to apply in a variety of ways, such as by calling a toll-free number, mailing in an application, visiting a local VA office in person, or working with a trained admissions navigator. The VA provides free admission navigation services for veterans to help them understand and make the most of their VA benefits.24

Frequently Asked Questions