The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs was established in 1988 with the aim of representing and advocating for the rights of former service members, and providing services and benefits to improve their quality of life. With the third largest veteran population in the nation, the Florida VA serves over 1.5 million veterans, including nearly 775,000 who are over the age of 65. The many benefits available for these veterans include health care, life insurance, residential facilities, burial support, education benefits, employment and career services, pensions, home loan assistance and tax exemptions and legal assistance. Many of these services are also extended not just to the veteran, but to his or her family members as well. For more guidance regarding these assistance programs, veterans can seek free counseling from their local county and regional VA offices, at VA clinics and medical centers and at outreach programs run throughout the state by the FDVA.
Health Care for Veterans in Florida
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides full medical coverage at all VA medical centers and clinics throughout the state of Florida. Additionally, veterans discharged from recent combat are eligible to enroll in the free VA Heath Care system for up to five years after the date of discharge. Florida vets are also eligible to receive a full dental check up within 180 days of discharge or release, and can enroll themselves and their families in dental insurance, provided at affordable costs in partnership with Delta Dental and MetLife.
Life Insurance for Florida Veterans
Veterans may be enrolled in group life insurance (VGLI), valid for five years and renewable for life. After 240 days from discharge or release from active service, veterans can convert their group insurance into an individual policy through a participating agency. Moreover, veterans with a new service-related disability can apply for standard-rate life insurance with coverage of up to $10,000.
Veterans Homes in Florida
The FDVA operates six nursing homes and one assisted living facility for honorably discharged veterans residing within the state with physician-approved medical needs for residential assistance. These facilities are staffed and supervised by registered and licensed nurses and are located in Columbia, Volusia, Pasco, Broward, Bay, Charlotte, St. John’s and St. Lucie Counties.
Burial Support for Florida Veterans and Families
The VA provides burial for veterans, as well as for spouses and dependents who predecease them, in national cemeteries at no charge. Veterans, spouses and dependents are also provided with a headstone or grave marker for private cemeteries.
Education Benefits for Florida Veterans
For veterans who have resided in Florida for less than 12 months and are attending an in-state post-secondary public university, the out-of-state tuition fees will be waived. This benefit extends to spouses and dependents who are using the GI Bill to support their education. Additionally, the state of Florida waives undergraduate-level tuition fees at state and community colleges for recipients of the Purple Heart award. Spouses and dependents of service members who died while serving, are Missing in Action or a Prisoner of War, or who are permanently disabled due to service-related injury, are also eligible for education scholarships. Some Florida state universities offer enrollment priority for veterans and their dependents. Education credit can also be earned for military training completed during. Moreover, under the GI Bill, veterans who served in active duty for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001, and dependents of service members who died in the line of duty during the same time period, are eligible for education financial assistance for up to 15 years after the date of discharge, release or death. The Montgomery GI Bill, likewise, provides educational assistance for up to 10 years to veterans who enlisted after June 30, 1985 and served within 12 months of enlistment.
Employment Benefits for Veterans in Florida
Job assistance programs are offered to veterans and their dependents through the CareerSource Florida network and the Department of Economic Opportunity. These services include job search and placement assistance, interview preparation, resume guidance, job referrals, vocational assistance, career planning and internet access. The Department of Labor moreover guarantees the right of veterans to be re-employed in the civilian job they held before serving, or a comparable job with similar benefits. Eligible veterans are also given employment preferences during each stage of the hiring process for public job postings. Veteran-owned small businesses are eligible for certification by the Department of Management Services’ Office of Supplier Diversity, which provides various support programs and networking events. Veterans and their spouses are also eligible for fee waivers for business, health and agricultural licenses.
Florida Veterans Pension Benefits
Financial assistance in the form of pensions is available for veterans in need who meet certain age requirements or have a non-service related disability. Benefits and assistance are also granted to surviving dependents and spouses of service members who died in combat or later died due to injuries received during combat.
Home Loans and Property Tax Exemptions for Florida Veterans
The VA may guarantee part of a veteran’s loan to purchase or construct a new home or condominium. Veterans with service-related disabilities and eligible surviving spouses also receive a $5,000 deduction on the property value of their home for determining property tax exemptions.
Florida Veterans Legal Benefits
The FDVA assists veterans in securing legal services and counsel. Veterans are also entitled to assistance from the Veterans Courts, which provide support services for addressing substance abuse and mental health needs. Additionally, the Department of Financial Services operates programs on financial literacy specifically for veterans and active service members.