Other Federal Benefits
VA’s homeless programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country, offering a wide array of services to help veterans recover from homelessness and live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. A complete listing of services and support can be found here.
USDA Provides Loans for Farms and Homes
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides loans and guarantees to buy, improve or operate farms. Loans and guarantees are generally available for housing in towns with a population up to 20,000. Applications from veterans have preference. For further information, contact Farm Service Agency or Rural Development, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250, or apply at local Department of Agriculture offices, usually located in county seats.
Housing and Urban Development (HUDVET)
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors the Veteran Resource Center (HUDVET), which works with national Veterans service organizations to serve as a general information center on all HUD-sponsored housing and community development programs and services. To contact HUDVET, call 1-800-998-9999, TDD 800-483-2209, or visit its Web site at www.hud.gov/hudvet.
Veterans Receive Naturalization Preference
Honorable active-duty service in the U.S. armed forces during a designated period of hostility allows an individual to naturalize without being required to establish any periods of residence or physical presence in the United States. A servicemember who was in the United States, certain territories, or aboard an American public vessel at the time of enlistment, re-enlistment, extension of enlistment or induction, may naturalize even if he or she is not a lawful permanent resident.
On July 3, 2002, the president issued Executive Order 13269 establishing a new period of hostility for naturalization purposes beginning Sept. 11, 2001, and continuing until a date designated by a future Executive Order. Qualifying members of the armed forces who have served at any time during a specified period of hostility may immediately apply for naturalization using the current application – Form N-400 – “Application for Naturalization.” Additional information about filing and requirement fees and designated periods of hostility are available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site at www.uscis.gov.
Individuals who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces, but were no longer serving on active duty status as of Sept. 11, 2001, may still be naturalized without having to comply with the residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization if they filed Form N-400 while still serving in the U.S. armed forces or within six months of termination of their active duty service.
An individual who files the application for naturalization after the six-month period following termination of active-duty service is not exempt from the residence and physical presence requirements, but can count any period of active-duty service towards the residence and physical presence requirements. Individuals seeking naturalization under this provision must establish that they are lawful permanent residents (such status not having been lost, rescinded, or abandoned) and that they served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year.
If a servicemember dies as a result of injury or disease incurred or aggravated by service during a time of combat, the servicemember’s survivor(s) can apply for the deceased servicemember to receive posthumous citizenship at any time within two years of the servicemember’s death. The issuance of a posthumous certificate of citizenship does not confer U.S. citizenship on surviving relatives. However, a non-U.S. citizen spouse or qualifying family member may file for certain immigration benefits and services based upon their relationship to a servicemember who died during hostilities or a non-citizen servicemember who died during hostilities and was later granted posthumous citizenship.
For additional information, USCIS has developed a web page – www.uscis.gov/military – that contains information and links to services specifically for the military and their families. Members of the U.S. military and their families stationed around the world can also call USCIS for help with immigration services and benefits using a dedicated, toll-free Military help line at 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645).
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Historically, veterans do very well as small business entrepreneurs. Veterans interested in entrepreneurship and small business ownership should look to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) at www.sba.gov/vets for assistance. OVBD conducts comprehensive outreach to veterans, service-disabled veterans and Reserve Component members of the U.S. military. OVBD also provides assistance to veteran- and reservist-owned small businesses. SBA is the primary federal agency responsible for assisting veterans who own or are considering starting their own small businesses.
Among the services provided by SBA are business-planning assistance, counseling and training through community based Veterans Business Outreach Centers. For more information, go to www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/ovbd/OVBD_VBOP.html. More than 1,000 university-based Small Business Development Centers; nearly 400 SCORE chapters (www.sba.gov/services/financialassistance/index.html). Veterans also participate in all SBA federal procurement programs, including a special three percent federal procurement goal specifically for service-connected disabled veterans, and SBA supports veterans and others participating in international trade.
A special Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (www.sba.gov/reservists) is available for self-employed Reservists whose small businesses may be damaged through the absence of the owner or an essential employee as a result of Title 10 activation to Active Duty.
A Veterans Business Development Officer is stationed at every SBA District Office to act as a guide to Veterans, and SBA offers a full range of self-paced small business planning assistance at www.sba.gov/content/veterans-business-outreach-centers for Veterans, reservists, discharging service members and their families. Information about the full range of services can be found at www.sba.gov/vets and at www.sba.gov/reservists, or by calling 202-205-6773 or 1-800-U-ASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722).
Social Security Administration
Monthly retirement, disability and survivor benefits under Social Security are payable to Veterans and dependents if the Veteran has earned enough work credits under the program. Upon the Veteran’s death, a one-time payment of $255 also may be made to the Veteran’s spouse or child. In addition, a Veteran may qualify at age 65 for Medicare’s hospital insurance and medical insurance. Medicare protection is available to people who have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, and to insured people and their dependents who need dialysis or kidney transplants, or who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Since 1957, military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training) have counted toward Social Security and those earnings are already on Social Security records. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Reserve Component (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security. Servicemembers and Veterans are credited with $300 credit in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which they received active duty basic pay after 1956 and before 1978.
Veterans who served in the military from 1978 through 2001 are credited with an additional $100 in earnings for each $300 in active duty basic pay, up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. No additional Social Security taxes are withheld from pay for these extra credits. Veterans who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, and did not complete at least 24 months of active duty or their full tour of duty, may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with Social Security for details. Additional earnings will no longer be credited for military service periods after 2001.
Also, non-contributory Social Security earnings of $160 a month may be credited to veterans who served after Sept. 15, 1940, and before 1957, including attendance at service academies. For information, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov. (Note: Social Security cannot add these extra earnings to the record until an application is filed for Social Security benefits).
Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Those 65 or older and those who are blind or otherwise disabled may be eligible for monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments if they have little or no income or resources. States may supplement the federal payments to eligible persons and may disregard additional income.
Although VA compensation and pension benefits are counted in determining income for SSI purposes, some other income is not counted. Also, not all resources count in determining eligibility. For example, a person’s home and the land it is on do not count. Personal effects, household goods, automobiles and life insurance may not count, depending upon their value. Information and help is available at any Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213.
Armed Forces Retirement Homes
Veterans are eligible to live in the Armed Forces Retirement Homes located in Gulfport, Mississippi, or Washington, D.C., if their active duty military service is at least 50 percent enlisted, warrant officer, or limited duty officer if they qualify under one of the following categories:
- Are 60 years of age or older; and were discharged or released under honorable conditions after 20 or more years of active service
- Are determined to be incapable of earning a livelihood because of a service-connected disability incurred in the line of duty.
- Served in a war theater during a time of war declared by Congress or were eligible for hostile-fire special pay and were discharged or released under honorable conditions; and are determined to be incapable of earning a livelihood because of injuries, disease or disability
- Served in a women’s component of the armed forces before June 12, 1948; and are determined to be eligible for admission due to compelling personal circumstances
Eligibility determinations are based on rules prescribed by the Home’s Chief Operating Officer. Veterans are not eligible if they have been convicted of a felony or are not free from alcohol, drug or psychiatric problems. Married couples are welcome, but both must be eligible in their own right. At the time of admission, applicants must be capable of living independently.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home is an independent federal agency. For information, call 1-800-332-3527 or 1-800-422-9988, or visit www.afrh.gov/.
Commissary and Exchange Privileges
Unlimited exchange and commissary store privileges in the United States are available to honorably discharged veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100 percent, un-remarried surviving spouses of Veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100 percent at the time of death, un-remarried surviving spouses of members or retired members of the armed forces, recipients of the Medal of Honor, and their dependents and orphans. Certification of total disability is done by VA. Reservists and their dependents also may be eligible. Privileges overseas are governed by international law and are available only if agreed upon by the foreign government concerned.
Though these benefits are provided by DOD, VA does provide assistance in completing DD Form 1172, “Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card.” For detailed information, contact the nearest military installation.