By: Meghan Stubblebine

Discussion surrounding veterans’ benefits generally focuses on federal benefits available through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Many benefits, however, are available, but underutilized, through states’ veterans services departments. In addition to federal benefits, veterans with honorable discharges generally are eligible for state benefits programs.

Virginia’s Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, for instance, recently began a program that provides telecommunications equipment to military veterans with hearing or speech loss.[1] This new program, administered through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program, has a lower eligibility standard than disability compensation benefits program through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  To be eligible for Virginia’s program, a veteran only has to have hearing or speech loss and proof of an honorable discharge, unlike the Department of Veterans Affairs requirement of a service connected disability. A veteran who does not meet this requirement may still be eligible if he or she suffers from hearing or speech loss and a service-related disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a surviving spouse or child of a veteran killed in duty and has hearing or speech loss, or is an active member of the Virginia National Guard who has completed initial active-duty service. State programs, such as this telecommunications equipment program, can be quite beneficial to veterans who have difficulty establishing a service connected disability through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ benefits system.

This is not Virginia’s only program benefiting veterans, however. Virginia’s Department of Veteran Services hosts many programs aimed at benefiting those who served, such as long term care, employment benefits, and educational benefits.[2] Virginia Veterans Care Center offers affordable nursing and assisted living care to veterans with honorable discharges. The Virginia Veteran Employment Commission offers job placement resources for veterans having difficulty finding jobs. Virginia also offers two educational programs: the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, which waives tuition and fees to state-supported colleges and universities for eligible veterans, and the Honorary Diplomas Program, which grants honorary high school diplomas to veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War.

Although Virginia’s state benefits are most relevant to the work at the Puller Clinic, all states have benefits available to veterans in addition to federal benefits.[3] Another state that the Puller Clinic commonly works with is North Carolina. Similar to Virginia, North Carolina offers affordable nursing homes to veterans with honorable discharges.[4] North Carolina also offers an income tax relief program and a property tax relief program to service-connected disabled veterans.

Enrollment in state benefits programs may help veterans receive federal benefits as well. In California, the Veterans Benefit Enhancement Project helps veterans receiving state benefits to obtain federal benefits.[5] The state assigns a County Veteran Service Officer to assess the veteran’s federal eligibility and assist him or her through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ application process. In Washington, the Veterans Enhancement Project uses a database to find veterans eligible for VA benefits.[6] These state projects probably will spread to other states over the next several years because states benefit from reduced Medicaid payments, and veterans benefit from increased benefits payments.

State programs can be more accessible to veterans and act as a good stepping stone to federal benefits. The new Virginia telecommunications program is a strong example of a program where many veterans will benefit. With upwards of sixty percent of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq having hearing loss from military service,[7] many veterans may be entitled to this benefit.



[1] See Jeff Caldwell, Veterans Now Eligible for Telecommunications Equipment from Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Office of the Governor Robert F. McDonnell, available at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/news/viewRelease.cfm?id=1453.

[2] See Veterans Benefits, Virginia Department of Veterans Services, available at http://www.dvs.virginia.gov/veterans-benefits.shtml.

[3] See State Veteran’s Benefits, Military.com, available at http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/state-veterans-benefits-directory.html; State/Territory Veterans Affairs Offices, Department of Veterans Affairs, available at http://www.va.gov/statedva.htm.

[4] See North Carolina State Veteran’s Benefits, Military.com, available at http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/north-carolina-state-veterans-benefits.html; Veterans Affairs, North Carolina Department of Administration, available at http://www.doa.nc.gov/vets/.

[5] See Veterans Benefit Enhancement Project, California Department of Health Care Services, available at http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/Pages/VBE.aspx.

[6] See Kyung M. Song, Vets get benefits they didn’t know they had, Seattle Times (Sept. 23, 2006), http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003271974_veterans23m.html

[7] See Jeff Caldwell, Veterans Now Eligible for Telecommunications Equipment from Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Office of the Governor Robert F. McDonnell, available at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/news/viewRelease.cfm?id=1453.

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