The federal government isn't the only entity to offer assistance and benefits to military veterans. Most states also offer a parade of their own state-specific perks. But not all veterans know about the things offered in their individual states.
That's where states' veteran affairs offices come in. Staffed by experts in local veteran benefits, these offices typically aim to help veteran residents know about or use all of the benefits afforded by local law.
And yet, local experts from across the U.S. recently told the VA, some veteran benefits remain underutilized. What's the most underused benefit in your state? Here's what officials told the VA for a story published on the VA's blog. Find your state below.
Related: Find Your State’s Veteran Benefits
"Our professional Veteran service officers, with offices in communities throughout Alabama, are our most underutilized Alabama benefit. Despite our best efforts, too many remain unaware that help filing for VA benefits is available at no cost. Their training and expertise really are the best chance a Veteran has to submit a fully developed claim that allows the VA to grant the maximum benefits to which they are entitled the first time." -- Mark Sullivan, manager, Appeals and Review Division.
"Alaska offers a Veteran land discount/purchase preference and it can only be used once, so many Veterans do not pursue this program thinking they will save it for later and then never use this valued benefit. This program provides a 25% discount off the purchase price of state residential/recreational land. The land is offered under a Veteran exclusive opportunity and the sale is at fair appraised market value." -- Verdie Bowen Sr., director, Office of Veterans Affairs
"The Arizona Military Family Relief Fund provides financial assistance to the families of currently deployed service members, plus military and Veteran families for hardships caused by the service member's deployment. The lifetime financial assistance limit for service members, Veterans and their families is $20,000. Applicants can receive emergency assistance of up to $3,000 once in a lifetime." -- Wanda Wright, director
"The state's most underused benefit is Resident Military Retiree Lifetime Combination License." -- Gina Chandler, assistant director, Veterans Services
"California's most underused state benefit would be our hunting and fishing license program. For 2020, reduced-fee licenses are available for any honorably discharged Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces with a service--connected disability rating of 50% or greater at the price of $8.13." -- Roberto Herrera, chief, Veteran and Community Engagement
"Colorado has a free Lifetime Fish & Game small game license for Veterans 60% or more service connected." -- Richard J. Tremaine, director, Division of Veterans Affairs
"Among the most underutilized state benefits is the Connecticut Qualified Veterans' Charitable Organization list maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs. To be included on the list, the Veterans' organization must be one that: (1) Holds itself out to be established for any benevolent, educational, philanthropic, humane, scientific, patriotic, social welfare or advocacy purpose relating to or on behalf of Veterans; and (2) has been (A) a nonstock corporation, organized under chapter 602, or any predecessor thereto, for three or more years, or (B) a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, for three or more consecutive years." -- Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Thomas J. Saadi
"The most underused state benefit is discounted hunting, trapping and fishing licenses." -- Larence Kirby, executive director, Office of Veterans Services
Any member of the Armed Forces while stationed within the state shall be deemed a resident of the state for the purpose of obtaining a license. Veterans with a disability rating of 60 percent or more by VA may obtain a no-fee license.
"Florida waives undergraduate-level tuition at state universities and community colleges for Florida recipients of the Purple Heart and other combat-related decorations superior in precedence to the Purple Heart. The waiver program also includes the state's career and technical training facilities." -- James S. "Hammer" Hartsell, deputy executive director, Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs
"Many of Georgia's Veterans do not take advantage of the discounts available for state park entrance fees or for hunting and fishing licenses. Honorably discharged Veterans with a VA service-connected disability rating are eligible for a 25% reduction of the entrance fee to state parks, historical sites, and recreational areas. Veterans discharged after July 1, 2005 and who served 90 days on active duty are eligible for a free one-year full sportsman license. All honorably discharged Veterans are eligible for a 20% discount on hunting and fishing licenses." -- Mike Roby, Georgia's commissioner of Veterans Service
"Hawaii's Most underused state benefit is the Specialty Veteran's License Plates. For the same cost as a regular license plate, Veterans can choose, if qualified, a Veteran, Combat or Combat Wounded, Pearl Harbor Survivor, Former POW, World War II Veteran, Korea Veteran, Vietnam Veteran, Persian Gulf Veteran, or Gold Star Family license plate." -- Ronald Han, Director State Office of Veterans' Services
Recently, Idaho passed legislation to make it easier for Veterans, military members and their families to get occupational licenses. Under the Occupational Licensing Reform Act Chapter 94, Title 67, Idaho Code, those benefits may include expedited processing of license applications and credit for military training that is relevant to the occupational license/registration being applied for. This is a significant reduction in regulatory hurdles and will meaningfully impact Veterans, military members and their families as more become aware of this benefit." -- Marv Hagedorn, Idaho Division of Veterans Services chief administrator
"Illinois' newest benefit is the Veteran designation for Illinois state driver's licenses. This has quickly become our most popular benefit in terms of the number of Veterans who have obtained it. Our most popular monetary benefit is the Illinois Veterans Grant/Illinois National Guard Grant." -- Linda Chapa LaVia, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs
Indiana has several property tax deductions.
Indiana has $14,000 deduction for Veterans that served during peace time or the surviving spouse of a service member that was killed in action or died during active duty. The Veteran must be totally disabled or must be 62 years old with a 10% service-connected disability rating. There is an assessed value limit of $200,000.
There's a $24,960 deduction for wartime Veterans with at least a 10% service-connected disability rating. There is no assessed value limit for this benefit.
A Veteran who served during a period of war and is at least 62 years old with a 10% service-connected disability rating OR has a permanent and total service-connected disability rating at any age AND whose home's assessed value is $200,000 or less, can receive both property tax deductions for a total of $38,960.
"We receive the least applications for the Brandstead-Reynolds Scholarship Program, which provides post-secondary educational scholarships for children of deceased military service members who died on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001; and our War Orphan Tuition Assistance Program." -- Karl J. Lettow, public information
"One of the best kept secrets for Kansas Veterans is internment opportunities at our four beautiful Veterans cemeteries strategically located throughout the state. These facilities provide burial options for the Veteran and their eligible dependents." -- Heidi Goff, state Veteran cemeteries manager
"We are justly proud of our free benefits counseling by our VA-accredited expert benefits representatives stationed throughout the state. But because many Veterans never seek state or federal benefits, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs currently represents only 13% of Kentucky Veterans. We are making sustained outreach efforts through the Call Us First promotion and attending Veteran events and meetings throughout the state." -- Donna Scrivener, Benefits Branch manager.
"Our most underused state benefit is our Military Family Assistance Fund. This benefit can provide financial support to Louisiana Veterans and their families when they experience financial hardships. The MFA can pay up to $10,000 for one claim per active-duty order in a 12-month period. Applicants must submit a completed application to Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and include all required supporting documentation, as certain criteria applies. The MFA is funded 100% by private donations from individuals and corporations." -- Joey Strickland, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs
"The most underused benefit that is offered by the State of Maine is the Veterans Dependent Education Benefit. While this specific benefit is only offered to those Veterans who have received a 100% Permanent and Total Disability rating from the State of Maine, many Veterans who qualify do not utilize the benefit. The dependents and spouses of qualifying Veterans are provided a 100% waiver of tuition and all mandatory fees for spouses and dependents of Veterans at all University of Maine System Schools, Maine Community Colleges, and Maine Maritime Academy." -- David Richmond, director, Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services
"The Hire Our Veterans Act of 2017 created the Hire Our Veterans Tax Credit Program for employers. This underutilized program enables Maryland employers who qualify to receive an income tax credit equal to 30% of up to the first $6,000 of wages paid to a qualified Veteran employee during the first year of employment." -- George Owings, secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs
Massachusetts officials did not submit information.
"The most underused state benefit in Michigan is the Children of Veterans Tuition Grant. This grant provides undergraduate tuition assistance to students ages 17-25 who are the natural or adopted child of a Michigan Veteran. The Veteran must have died or have become totally and permanently disabled as a result of military service. The families of our Veterans are just as important to us as our Veterans, which is why we want to ensure that they take advantage of all of their benefits." -- Zaneta Adams, Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency director
"Our most underused benefits are the three State Veterans Cemeteries and the Minnesota GI Bill, especially for licensing and certifications." -- Larry Herke, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
"When it comes to the most underused state benefit, look no further than the Mississippi Veterans Home Purchase Board. They provide low-interest mortgage loans in amounts up to $250,000 for eligible Veterans and unmarried surviving spouses to purchase an existing home or to construct a new one." -- Stacey Pickering, executive director of Mississippi Veterans Affairs
"With a philosophy of honoring our Veterans for their service and sacrifice, the Missouri Veterans Commission has created a network of Veterans cemeteries so that every Missouri Veteran will have reasonable access to a Veterans cemetery. There are five cemeteries in operation at this time; Springfield, Higginsville, Jacksonville, Bloomfield and Fort Leonard Wood." -- Ryon Richmond, acting executive director, Missouri Veterans Commission
"One of Montana's most underused state benefits is the free pass to access State Parks along with a free hunting and fishing license for disabled Veterans." -- Kelly Ackerman, administrator, Montana Veterans Affairs Division
"The most underused state benefit is the Reservist Tuition Credit. Nebraska residents who are enlisted members of the Nebraska--based unit of the Active Selected Reserve may be eligible for a 50% tuition credit to the University of Nebraska campuses, state colleges and community colleges." -- John Hilgert, Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs director
"Nevada provides Veterans preference for those who identify as a Veteran owned business. When completing the form from the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), simply indicate Veteran-Owned Small Business (SB) (VOSB), Service-Disabled VOSB (SDVOSB), Veteran-Owned (VO), or Service-Disabled VO." -- Julie Dudley, communications director
"New Hampshire's most underused benefit is the New Division of Veteran Services. Far too often the Veterans in New Hampshire do not know that the office exists and that it exists to assist them with their claims with the VA." -- William Gaudreau, director, New Hampshire Division of Veteran Services
"The most underused state benefit is the New Jersey Catastrophic Entitlement. Eligible Veterans/surviving spouses receive a monthly entitlement of $62.50. A Veteran must be a New Jersey resident in receipt of a permanent service-connected disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that resulted from wartime service resulting in one of the following catastrophic disabilities: loss of sight; amputation of both hands, both feet or one hand and one foot; hemiplegia and permanent paralysis of one leg and one arm on either side of the body; paraplegia and permanent paralysis of both legs and lower parts of the body; osteochondritis and permanent loss of use of both legs; multiple sclerosis and the loss of use of both feet or both legs; quadriplegia." -- Patricia A. Richter, acting director, Division of Veterans Services
Learn more about New Jersey's surviving spouses stipend program online or call (888) 8NJ-VETS (865-8387). .
The most underused state benefit by Veterans in New Mexico is the Free State Parks, Monuments, and Museums Pass for Disabled Veterans.
This benefit provides any Veteran rated 50% or higher service-connected disabled with free admission to any state monument or museum.
Last year, the agency processed 1,080 applications for this benefit.
"New York's most underused state benefit is the Access to Home for Heroes run by Homes and Community Renewal. This program provides financial assistance to make dwelling units accessible for low- and moderate-income Veterans living with a disability." -- Joel Evans, executive deputy director, New York State Division of Veterans' Services
"The most underused North Carolina state benefit is property tax relief for adaptative automobiles." -- Martin Falls, chief deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
"The most underused state benefit is the loan program [of the] North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs." -- Lonnie Wangen, commissioner
The Veterans Aid Fund is a permanent fund to be used solely for the purpose of making loans to Veterans or their widow/widowers. Learn more on the North Dakota veteran website.
"The Ohio National Guard offers tuition assistance at over 150 Ohio colleges and universities for Veterans who serve in an enlisted drilling status with the Guard -- up to four semesters of full time tuition for a three-year commitment, and up to eight semesters for a six-year commitment." -- Sean McCarthy, assistant director, Department of Veterans Services
Oklahoma veteran officials did not submit information.
"Oregon has been offering a state home loan to Veterans since 1945. Not only are Veterans eligible for considerably lower than market interest rates, borrowers can use their home loan benefit up to four times over their lifetime. ODVA services all Veteran home loans, so loans closed under this program will never be transferred. Oregon is one of only five states that offers a Veteran home loan benefit that is separate and distinct from the federal VA Home Loan Guaranty." -- Cody Cox, Oregon Veteran Home Loan manager
"A lesser-known but very valuable benefit offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is the Blind Veterans Pension. This program, which only has about 100 enrolled Veterans, provides eligible blind Veterans a pension of $150 per month. Our goal is to continue to identify and enroll every eligible Veteran who deserves this benefit because of their service and sacrifice." -- Joel H. Mutschler, director of the Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach
"The most underused state benefit is eligible active duty military and Veterans receive in-state tuition rates at University of Rhode Island, Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College immediately upon establishing residence in Rhode Island." -- Kasim Yarn, director, Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services
South Carolina provides a tuition waiver for qualified children of certain military Veterans applying to or enrolled in a South Carolina state supported college, university or post high school technical education school; or acceptance into a dual enrollment/early college credit program prior to graduating high school. Qualifying Veterans and students must meet certain residency requirements.
"There is a lot of confusion surrounding this particular benefit on the Federal and State level. We aim to provide education and support for our Veterans and tuition assistance for their children, to help families understand what is offered to them, specifically here in South Carolina." -- Stanley Foreman, director of Administration for the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs.
The most underused state benefit in South Dakota is education benefits. South Dakota support the success of Veterans, current military members and their families. They work to secure both state and federal educational benefits.
"Now, more than ever, we need to keep our sleeves rolled up and work collectively to ensure our Veterans have a successful journey as they transition into civilian life." -- Greg Whitlock, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.
Whitlock encourages Veterans to contact their local county or tribal Veterans service officers or the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs office (605-773-3269) to learn more about their benefits.
"United States military training is rigorous and provides world class instruction, and it is only appropriate that our colleges recognize this training and provide a head start on attaining a college credential. The TN-SOP tool will provide transparent information to service members and Veterans, continuing our efforts to be the most Veteran friendly higher education system in the nation." -- Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause
"More and more of those transitioning out of the military are seeking careers in established companies. For those who don't, those wanting to start their own business, we'd like them to know about our entrepreneur program. We can help develop business plan, organize financing and more." -- Kevin Barber, commissioner of the Texas Veterans Commission.
"The ACE Program is designed to assist Utah Veterans, actively drilling members of the Guard and Reserve and their respective spouses, overcome barriers to employment or better employment by assisting them in attaining certificates and licenses using their military training and experience or by assisting with short-term training. The ACE Program is intended to provide an avenue for eligible participants to gain employment in the civilian job market by capitalizing on their past experience, training and knowledge or by assisting them with short-term training that leads to a certificate or license." -- Gary Harter, executive director of Utah's Department of Veterans and Military Affairs
"The most underused state benefit is free daily passes to Vermont State Parks. Apply through your local town clerk." -- Robert E. Burke, director, Office of Veterans Affairs
"The Virginia Transition Assistance Program (VTAP) is the most underused state benefit. VTAP offers transitioning service members and their spouses the best Virginia has to offer. By providing peer-to-peer support through the transition process, VTAP works alongside the transitioning service member or spouse to make referrals that address their specific needs. The referral services could include, but are not limited to resume review, introduction to the Virginia Labor Market, connection with Virginia Values Veterans (V3) certified companies for employment, and other VDVS programs. VTAP serves those seeking employment and/or entrepreneurship opportunities in Virginia or enrollment in one of Virginia's GI Bill approved institutions." -- Annie Walker, deputy commissioner for Virginia Department of Veterans Services
"Washington Department of Veterans Affairs Olympia Call Center, which helps the user understand the state and federal benefits, connects Veterans to their earned disability compensation/pension and health care, and makes referrals to other local services." -- Liza Narciso, assistant to the director, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs
"The Jack Bennett Fund will pay up to $380 to cover the cost of installing grave markers for Veteran families unable to have the marker installed." -- Cabinet Secretary Dennis Davis
"The WDVA recently increased access for Veterans to our Assistance to Needy Veterans Grant program, which provides subsistence payments and other health grants to low income Veterans in need of emergency financial aid. Recently Wisconsin suspended several provisions of the program that would prevent or delay payments to Veterans who have experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving us the flexibility to help as many Veterans as possible during this challenging time." -- Donald Placidi Jr., Division of Veterans Benefits administrator, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs
"The most underused state benefit is the honorary high school diploma. We haven't had a request in over three years." -- Tim Sheppard, executive director, Wyoming Veterans Commission
The following individuals who have attended a Wyoming high school, entered military service on the dates specified below prior to completing necessary high school graduation requirements and who did not receive a high school diploma, may apply to the state superintendent of public instruction for an honorary high school diploma:
An honorably discharged Veteran of World War II who served in the U.S. military between Dec. 8, 1941, and Aug. 14, 1945;
An honorably discharged Veteran of the Korean War, who served in the U.S. military between June 27, 1950, and July 28, 1953;
An honorably discharged veteran of the Vietnam War, who served in the U.S. military between Feb. 28, 1961, and Aug. 15, 1973.
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