VETERANS BENEFITS AFTER RELEASE

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1 VETERANS BENEFITS AFTER RELEASE Produced by the Justice for Veterans Campaign 1405 Montopolis Dr. Austin, Texas There are many benefits available to veterans following their release from prison. This manual explains how you can gain access to these benefits. The benefits discussed in this manual are: I. VA Home Loan Assistance... 1 II. Veterans Hiring Preference... 4 III. Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans... 7 IV. Health Care V. Vocational Training This manual isonly meant to be used for general information. This manual does not provide legal advice. I. VA Home Loan Assistance A. What home loan benefits are available for veterans? You may be eligible to receive a VA home loan guaranty from the federal government. A guaranty acts as a promise from the government to your lender. This promise means that no matter what, even if for some reason you cannot pay back your loan, your debt will be paid. This guaranty may make it easier for you to obtain a home loan to purchase a home. The federal government does not actually loan you money under this program. Instead, you must make arrangements for a loan yourself. The federal government insures up to 25% of the value of a VA home loan. This guaranty helps protect lenders from loss if you fail to repay the loan. As a result of this guaranty, if you have a good credit rating and sufficient income, you may be able to obtain a home loan with no down payment and no requirement that you pay private mortgage insurance (often referred to as PMI). Lenders may also be more willing to lend to you even if you do not have perfect credit or have a large amount of debt relative to the amount of your income. In order to qualify for this program, you must have satisfied the active duty service requirements described below. If you have satisfied these requirements, you must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The process for obtaining a COE is also described below. B. Which veterans are eligible to receive a VA home loan guaranty? You must have satisfied the active duty service requirement described below in order to obtain a VA home loan guaranty. 1

2 Generally, prior to 1980 service members who served on active duty for 90 days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime satisfied the active duty service requirement. However, for military service after 1980, a minimum of two years of service has been typically required to be eligible. See below for a detailed description of these eligibility requirements. 1. Wartime - Service During: WWII: 9/16/1940 to 7/25/1947 Korea: 6/27/1950 to 1/31/1955 Vietnam: 8/5/1964 to 5/7/1975 You must have served at least 90 days on active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. If you served less than 90 days, you may be eligible if discharged for a service-connected disability. 2. Peacetime - Service during periods: 7/26/1947 to 6/26/1950 2/1/1955 to 8/4/1964 5/8/1975 to 9/7/1980 (Enlisted) 5/8/1975 to 10/16/1981 (Officer) You must have served at least 181 days of continuous active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. If you served less than 181 days, you may be eligible if discharged for a service-connected disability. 3. Service after 9/7/1980 (enlisted) or 10/16/1981 (officer) have: If you were separated from military service that began after these dates, you must Completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 181 days) for which you were ordered or called to active duty and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; Completed at least 181 days of active duty and been discharged for hardship or early out, or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability; or Been discharged with less than 181 days of service for a serviceconnected disability. 2

3 You may also be eligible if you were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances for the convenience of the United States government. 4. Gulf War - Service during period 8/2/1990 to date yet to be determined If you served on active duty during the Gulf War, you must have: Completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty, and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; Completed at least 90 days of active duty and been discharged for hardship or early out, or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability; or Been discharged with less than 90 days of service for a serviceconnected disability. You may also be eligible if you were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances for the convenience of the United States government. C. How do I obtain a certificate of eligibility? You must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) before you can obtain a VA home loan guaranty. In order to obtain a COE, you must submit a copy of your DD Form 214 that shows the character of service (item 24) and the narrative reason for separation (item 28). You can obtain a COE in one of three ways. 1. Apply online. Go to the ebenefits portal ( and click on the My ebenefits tab towards the top, on the left side. A screen will open with several benefit areas. On the bottom right of the screen is the Housing tab. You will need a username and password to request a COE. If you do not already have a username and password, you can request them by clicking on the Request/Activate a DoD Self-Service Logon link which is shown below the area where you logon. 2. Apply through your lender. In many cases, your lender can obtain a COE for you. Check with your lender to see if it offers this service. 3

4 3. Apply by mail. Complete VA Form and mail it to the address shown on the form. The form is available online at If you are unable to access and/or print the form, call and follow the prompts for Eligibility. A form will then be mailed to you. II. Veterans Hiring Preference A. What hiring preferences are available for veterans? Hiring preference for veterans applies to most permanent and temporary positions in the federal government. Most federal agencies use a point system. Veterans eligible for preference will receive a 5 or 10 point addition to their application score. B. What is the application process for federal jobs? 1. How do I find open federal jobs? Most vacancies for federal positions are placed on the Office of Personnel Management s (OPM) website entitled USAJOBS. The website address is This database provides worldwide job vacancy information, employment information fact sheets, job applications and forms on-line. It has on-line résumé development and electronic transmission capabilities. Electronic transmission capabilities allow you to store key information about yourself for you application on line so that you can retrieve and send it when you need to. You can also apply for most positions through this website by completing the application attached to the vacancy announcement or by creating or uploading a résumé through the announcement s résumé link. OPM has also created a website specifically for the recruitment and employment of veterans. This website provides information about federal vacancies, useful training materials, and other resources to assist veterans in their employment applications. The website address is 2. Are there different types of vacancy announcements? Generally, there are two types of vacancy announcements for federal positions competitive and merit announcements. If you are applying for a position under the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act (VEOA) (discussed below in Part III.B), it is important that you know the difference between a competitive announcement and a merit announcement. 4

5 Competitive announcements are open to all applicants that meet the job requirements and qualifications, regardless of whether or not they currently work for the federal government or the federal agency posting the announcement. With merit announcements, however, the hiring agency generally only seeks qualified internal candidates for the open position. This means the position is only open to people who are already working for the hiring agency in another position. However, in certain situations the hiring agency may decide to reach outside its own workforce for applicants in a merit process. In such a case, the VEOA would apply. 3. What types of federal jobs are available? Federal positions are divided into three categories: (1) competitive service, (2) excepted service, and (3) senior executive service. Most civilian positions in the federal government are part of the competitive service, where applicants compete with other applicants based on their qualifications and merits, just as in any typical hiring process in private industry. The hiring officials have broad authority to review multiple applicants before determining whom to hire. Some positions are excluded from competitive service. These jobs are excepted service positions. Applicants for these positions compete on a merit basis also, but usually the hiring agency has specialized requirements and evaluation criteria. Generally, excepted service positions are federal jobs that have national security and/or intelligence functions, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Secret Service. However, not all excepted service positions serve in sensitive areas for example, patent examiners and teachers and administrators at Department of Defense schools are also excepted service positions. Lastly, the senior executive service positions are mostly top management positions classified above General Schedule (GS)-15 or the equivalent. If interested in one of these positions, it is important to note that veterans do not receive any hiring preference for these positions. C. Who is eligible for veterans preference? Only veterans discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions are eligible for a 5-point or 10-point veterans preference. This means that you must have been discharged under an honorable or general discharge. If you were dishonorably discharged, you cannot get veteran s preference. A retired veteran is not eligible for the veterans preference unless the veteran is disabled or retired below the rank of major or its equivalent. If you are unsure of whether you are eligible for veterans preference, then you should visit the Department of Labor s automated Veterans Preference Advisor at This website can assist you in figuring out your preference eligibility by asking a few questions about your military service and discharge. 5

6 1. Who is eligible for the 5-point preference? You can get 5-point preference if any of the things below are true about your active duty service: 180 or more consecutive days, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001 and ending on a future date established as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom; 180 or more consecutive days, any part of which occurred between August 2, 1990, and January 2, 1992; 180 or more consecutive days, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955 and before October 15, 1976; or served in a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized or between April 28, 1952 and July 1, Who is eligible for the 10-point preference? you: You are 10-point preference eligible if you served in active duty at any time and have a service-connected disability; or received a Purple Heart. 3. What if the federal agency does not use a numerical rating system? When a federal agency does not use a numerical rating system to evaluate applicants, preferences are applied according to the relevant preference group. Veterans that are preference eligible are divided into 4 groups as follows: CPS - Disability rating of 30% or more (10 points) CP - Disability rating of at least 10% but less than 30% (10 points) XP - Disability rating less than 10% (10 points) TP - Preference eligibles with no disability rating (5 points) 6

7 D. Based on your group, you will be given preference priority. If you are in group CPS or CP you will be placed at the top of the highest category on the referral list. (The exception is if the position you are applying for is a scientific or professional position labeled GS 9 or higher). If you are in group XP or TP, you ll be placed above veterans who are not preference eligible within your assigned category.- How do I let an employer know that I am preference eligible? When you apply for a job, you need to provide documents to prove your preference eligibility. Eligible veterans should claim preference on their application or résumé. The preferred method of claiming preference is to include the member 4 copy of form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, with your application or résumé. If you do not already possess this form, a copy of it can be requested on-line or by mailing or faxing Standard Form SF-180 to the National Archives National Personnel Record Center (NPRC). Visit for details. If claiming a 10- point preference, the Standard Form SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans Preference, must also be submitted with form DD-214. This form can be found on-line at III. Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans A. What special hiring authorities exist for veterans? In addition to the veterans preference, there are several federal laws and programs (so called special hiring authorities ) that give veterans an advantage when applying for federal positions. Knowing about these special authorities and identifying your eligibility may assist your job search. Read carefully the Who May Apply section of the job posting to determine if any of the following special hiring authorities apply to that position. The most common of these special authorities are: The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) The Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) 30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans Program Schedule A Authority It is important to note that federal agencies can choose whether or not they want to use these authorities. Keep in mind that even if an authority applies to the job you want, it does not mean you automatically get the job. These authorities do not entitle you to federal employment. You must meet all job requirements and qualifications of the position. Each of these authorities is discussed below. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) encourages job-seeking veterans to ask for consideration under as many hiring authorities as they are eligible for, in addition to claiming their veterans preference. It is to your advantage to make the potential employer aware of as much as you can. 7

8 B. What is the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act (VEOA)? The Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998 enables veterans to compete for government positions that previously were only available to existing competitive service employees (so called status candidates or civil service employees ). The VEOA can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. It cannot be used to fill excepted service positions. What this means is that under the VEOA, as veteran you can apply to positions that used to only be available to certain employees within the hiring agencies. 1. Who is eligible for VEOA appointments? To be eligible for a VEOA appointment, there are two things that need to be true about you. First, your discharge must be issued under honorable conditions (an honorable or general discharge). Second, you must be either: preference eligible (see Veterans Preference above); or have completed three or more years of active service. Active service under the VEOA means active duty in a uniformed service and includes full-time training duty, annual training duty, full-time National Guard duty, and attendance (while in active service) at a school designated as a service school by law or by the Secretary of the military department concerned. 2. How do I let an employer know that I am eligible for appointment under the VEOA? As mentioned above, sometimes federal agencies recruit applicants from outside their own work force under merit announcement procedures. When this occurs, the vacancy announcement must state that the VEOA is applicable, and the agency must accept applications from preference eligible veterans. Current or former federal employees meeting the VEOA eligibility requirements can apply for positions where the VEOA is applicable. However, current employees applying under the VEOA are subject to time-in-grade restrictions like any other GS employee. When you apply for a job, you need to provide documents to prove your preference eligibility with your application or résumé. The preferred method of claiming VEOA eligibility, whether eligibility is based on veterans preference or the active service requirement, is to include a copy of form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, with your application or résumé. This form will also prove that you separated from the armed forces by an honorable or general discharge. If you do not already have this form, a copy of it can be requested on-line or by mailing or faxing Standard Form SF-180 to the NPRC. Visit for details. If you are using veterans preference as your basis for VEOA eligibility and you are claiming a 10-point preference, the Standard Form SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans Preference, must also be submitted with form DD-214. This form can be found on-line at 8

9 You can claim both veterans preference and VEOA eligibility in your application or résumé. OPM encourages veterans to ask for consideration under all applicable hiring authorities in addition to claiming veterans preference in order to enhance your job search. C. What is the Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA)? The VRA is an authority that allows federal agencies to appoint eligible veterans without competition, appoint you outright, to positions at any grade level through GS-11 or the equivalent. Competitive service positions are for which you compete openly with others based on a merit system. Excepted positions also have a merit system for competition, but also have their own hiring and evaluation system. VRA appointments are excepted service positions that would otherwise be competitive service positions. There is no limitation to the number of VRA appointments an individual may receive. 1. Who is eligible for VRA appointments? To be eligible for appointment under the VRA, you must meet two criteria. First, you must have separated from the armed forces under honorable conditions (honorable or general discharge). Second, you must meet one of the following conditions: you received a campaign badge for service during a war or in a campaign or expedition; you are a disabled veteran; you received of an Armed Forces Service Medal for participation in a military operation; or you are a recently separated veteran (within the last three years). 2. What jobs are available for VRA appointments? Ordinarily, an agency may simply appoint any VRA eligible who meets the basic qualifications requirements for the position to be filled without having to announce the job or rate and rank applicants. Veterans can be appointed under the VRA at any grade level up to and including GS-11 or the equivalent. Agencies can also use the VRA to fill temporary positions (not exceeding 1 year) and term positions (more than 1 year, but less than 4 years). Veterans employed in temporary or term positions will not be converted to the competitive service after two years. 3. How do I let an employer know that I am eligible for appointment under the VRA? When you apply for a job, you need to provide documents to prove your preference eligibility with your application or résumé. The preferred method to document your honorable or general discharge is to include a copy of form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If you do not already have this form, a copy of it can be requested 9

10 on-line or by mailing or faxing Standard Form SF-180 to the NPRC. Visit for details. The other documentation you must provide will depend on which condition qualifies you for VRA eligibility. Remember, you can claim both veterans preference and VRA eligibility in your application or résumé. OPM encourages veterans to ask for consideration under all applicable hiring authorities in addition to claiming veterans preference in order to enhance your job search. It is to your advantage to make the potential employer aware of as much as you can. D. What is the 30% or More Disabled Veterans Program? Similar to the VRA, this authority allows a federal agency to give veterans with a 30% or more service-connected disability a non-competitive appointment. 1. Who is eligible for appointments under the 30% or More Disabled Veterans Program? You are eligible for appointment under this authority if you received an honorable or general discharge and: retired from active military service with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or more; or have a rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing a compensable service-connected disability of 30% or more. 2. What jobs are available for appointments under the 30% or More Disabled Veterans Program? This authority can be used to make permanent, temporary (not to exceed 1 year) or term (more than 1 year, but less than 4 years) appointments to competitive service positions. There is no grade level limitation for this authority, but the appointee must meet all job requirements and qualifications, including any written test requirement. 3. How do I let an employer know that I am eligible for appointment under the 30% or More Disabled Veterans Program? When you apply for a job, you need to provide documents to prove your preference eligibility with your application or résumé. The preferred method to document your honorable or general discharge is to include a copy of form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If you do not already have this form, a copy of it can be requested on-line or by mailing or faxing Standard Form SF-180 to the NPRC. Visit for details. You must also provide copies your VA paperwork which state that your disability rating is 30% or more. 10

11 Remember, you can claim both veterans preference and eligibility under this program in your application or résumé. OPM encourages veterans to ask for consideration under all applicable hiring authorities in addition to claiming veterans preference in order to enhance your job search. E. What is the Schedule A Authority? Although not specifically for veterans, Schedule A is an authority that federal agencies can use to appoint eligible persons who have a severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disability. 1. Who is eligible under Schedule A, and how do I document my eligibility? Applicants (veterans or civilians) with a disability that is long-term or permanent in nature are eligible for appointment under Schedule A. You must show proof of your disability. Documentation may come from any licensed medical professional (e.g., a physician or other medical professional certified to practice medicine), a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist, or any federal or state agency that issues or provides disability benefits. The documentation should identify whether your disability is temporary, transient, chronic, permanent, on-going, or unresolved with no end in sight. You also must have a certification of job readiness. A certification of job readiness tell employers that you can do the job you seek, even though you have your disability. The certification may be from any licensed medical professional, a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist, or any federal or state agency that issues or provides disability benefits. The medical documentation of the disability and the certification of job readiness may be combined in one letter or may be provided in separate documents. Remember, you can claim both veterans preference and eligibility under Schedule A in your application or résumé. OPM encourages veterans to ask for consideration under all applicable hiring authorities in addition to claiming veterans preference in order to enhance your job search. 2. What jobs are available for Schedule A appointments? IV. Federal agencies can use this authority, at their discretion, to appoint disabled persons at any grade level and for any position (temporary or permanent) for which the applicant qualifies. Veterans preference applies when agencies hire under this authority. You can apply under Schedule A as many times as you would like.health Care A. What health care benefits are available for veterans? The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates the nation s largest health care system with over 1,400 sites of care, including hospitals, clinics, living centers, readjustment counseling centers and other facilities. VA health care benefits are available for both men and 11

12 women veterans and may be available for your injury or illness, even if they are not related to your military service. These benefits are comprehensive and include outpatient clinic visits, inpatient treatment and emergency services. Your eligibility for VA health care benefits is dependent upon a number of factors. These factors include the nature of your discharge from military service (honorable, other than honorable, dishonorable), length of service, if you have a service-connected disabilities, your income, and available VA resources. B. What are the eligibility requirements for VA health care benefits? You must also satisfy a minimum duty requirement in order to be eligible for VA health care benefits. If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, you must have served 24 continuous months or the full period that you were called to active duty in order to be eligible. However, this minimum duty requirement may be waived if you were discharged for hardship, early out or a disability that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty. As discussed below, you may be eligible for an enhanced priority group if you enroll within five years after discharge. C. How do I apply for VA health care benefits? In general, until you apply for benefits, you cannot receive VA health care. To apply for enrollment, you must complete VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits. This form can be obtained in person from any VA heath care facility or regional benefits office, online at or by calling VETS (8387). Certain veterans are not required to enroll in order to be eligible for VA heath benefits. You are not required to enroll if: You have a service-connected disability of 50% or more; Within 12 months of your discharge, you are seeking care for a disability that the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which the VA has not yet rated; You are seeking care for a service-connected disability only; or You are seeking a registry examination (Ionizing Radiation, Agent Orange, Gulf War/Operational Iraqi Freedom and Depleted Uranium). D. After I apply for VA heath care benefits, am I guaranteed to be permitted to enroll? Not everyone who applies for VA health care will be able to enroll. The number of veterans who can be enrolled in the health care program is determined by the amount of money Congress gives the VA each year. Because of funding limitations, the VA has 12

13 established priority groups that allows certain veterans to enroll before other veterans. This priority system is designed to ensure that veterans with service-connected disabilities and those below the low-income threshold are able to enroll in the VA s health benefits system. After you enroll for benefits by completing and submitting VA Form 10-10EZ, your eligibility will be verified. You might qualify for cost-free health care services based on a service-connected disability or other qualifying factor. However, many veterans are required to submit information about their financial situation each year to determine if they qualify for costfree services. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to pay for a portion of the care you receive from the VA. Based on your specific eligibility status, you will be assigned a priority group. The priority groups range from 1-8 with 1 being the highest priority for enrollment. Generally, veterans with service-connected disabilities are placed in higher priority groups. Depending on the priority group that you are assigned to, you might not be able to receive care for medical conditions that are service-connected. If you served and were discharged from active duty other than under dishonorable conditions on or after January 28, 2003, you are eligible for enhanced enrollment placement into Priority Group 6 (unless otherwise eligible for higher enrollment priority group placement) for five-years post discharge. E. Will I be reimbursed for money I spend travelling to receive VA heath care benefits? If you meet one of the conditions listed below, you may be eligible to be provided with special mode travel (for example, wheelchair van or ambulance) or to be reimbursed for travel expenses when travelling to a VA facility for approved VA care. You are eligible for this benefit if: You have a service-connected disability rating of 30% or more; You are traveling for treatment of service-connected condition; You receive a VA pension; You are travelling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations; Your gross household income does not exceed the maximum annual VA pension rate; You are in certain emergency situations; or Your medical condition requires a special mode of transportation. Certain non-veterans whose travel relates to care of a veteran (for example, attendants or donors) may also be eligible for travel reimbursement. 13

14 Reimbursement is currently paid at 41.5 cents per mile. This reimbursement is subject to a deductible of $3 for each one-way trip and $6 for a round trip. The deductible is the amount that you are required to pay.the maximum deductible is generally $18 per calendar month. However, no deductible applies for travel related to a VA compensation or pension examination or travel requiring a special mode of transportation. You may be able to get your deductible waved if paying the deductible would cause you severe financial hardships. V. Vocational Training A. What vocational training opportunities are available for veterans? The Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess program offers disabled veterans counseling, training, education and other services needed to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. This program is sometimes referred to as the Chapter 31 program. In order to qualify for benefits under the VR&E program, you must first satisfy certain eligibility criteria. If you meet the eligibility criteria, the VR&E program will then determine if you are entitled to services. Even if you are eligible for benefits, you still may not be entitled to benefits under this program. The requirements for eligibility and entitlement are each discussed below. B. Who is eligible for these vocational training benefits? You are eligible for services under the VR&E program if: you have received a discharge that is other than dishonorable; you have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% or a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the Department of Veteran Affairs; and you apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment VetSuccess Services at Your period of eligibility for the VR&E program generally ends 12 years after the later of either your separation from active military service or the date you were first notified by the VA of a service-connected disability rating. C. If I meet the eligibility requirements, how do I become entitled to receive vocational training benefits? If you meet the eligibility requirements described above, you will then be scheduled to meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to determine if you are entitled to services. You are entitled to services if you have an employment handicap. You have an employment handicap if your service-connected disability affects your ability to obtain and maintain a job. 14

15 You will generally be entitled to services if you are found to have an employment handicap, are within your 12-year period of eligibility and you have a 20% or greater serviceconnected disability rating. However, if your service-connected disability rating is less than 20%, or if you are beyond your 12-year period of eligibility, then you must have a serious employment handicap to establish your entitlement to services. D. How do these vocational training benefits help me? If you are entitled to services, you and a VRC will work together to identify your skills, viable employment options, job characteristics that may be appropriate for you and resources needed to achieve rehabilitation. The VRC will develop a rehabilitation plan customized for your situation. The rehabilitation plan will specify an employment or independent living goal, identify intermediate goals, outline services and resources needed to achieve these goals. You and the VRC will work together to implement the plan and achieve successful rehabilitation. 15

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