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9 Florida VA Benefits You Might Not Know About

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Florida has many special benefits for veterans that not everyone knows about. These benefits are over and above the usual help with healthcare and schooling.

This article will talk about nine of these extra supports. They are meant to make life better for veterans living in Florida.

Discovering these can help veterans get more out of the support Florida has for them.

Florida Veterans Housing Assistance

The Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program supports veterans and key professionals in buying their first homes, offering up to $35,000 for down payments and closing costs.

Veterans also benefit from property tax exemptions for those with service-connected disabilities and their surviving spouses.

Additionally, the VA home loan guarantee facilitates the purchase of homes, manufactured homes, or condominiums, with options for refinancing available to veterans with conventional home loans.

The Florida Hometown Heroes Program for Veterans

The Florida Hometown Heroes Program is designed to support local workers, including veterans, by providing down payment assistance for home purchases.

In the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the program's down payment assistance cap was increased to $35,000, benefiting from an additional $100 million in funding.

Eligibility criteria include being a first-time homebuyer, having a minimum credit score of 640, earning less than 150% of the area median income, and being employed by a Florida-based employer.

The program supports buying homes in the community where the applicant works, aiming to foster strong local ties.

Various mortgage options are available under the program, such as FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional loans, catering to different financial needs and circumstances.

A military person looking at a large board that outlines various VA benefits

Florida Education Benefits

Florida offers educational benefits for veterans, including out-of-state tuition waivers for honorably discharged veterans and their dependents, using the "Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program."

Active Duty members stationed outside of Florida also receive out-of-state tuition fee waivers.

The state waives undergraduate-level tuition for recipients of the Purple Heart and higher decorations. Scholarships are available for dependents of deceased or disabled veterans.

Veterans benefit from priority course registration and can earn academic credit for military training. The Post-9/11 GI Bill® and Montgomery GI Bill® provide substantial financial assistance for veterans pursuing education.

The five best education resources for veterans in Florida include:

  • Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program - Waives out-of-state tuition fees for veterans and their dependents.

  • Scholarships for Children and Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans - Offers financial support for education to eligible family members.

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill® - Provides financial assistance for educational pursuits post-service.

  • Montgomery GI Bill® - Offers financial aid for veterans who enlisted after June 30, 1985.

  • Troops to Teachers - Assists veterans in transitioning to a career in public school teaching.

Florida Employment Assistance

Florida provides employment support for veterans through various programs, including job listings at the Department of Veterans' Affairs and other state departments, employment and training resources like Employ Florida Vets, health license fee waivers, and Troops to Teachers for veterans seeking careers in education.

CareerSource Florida offers personalized assistance, including resume writing and interview prep.

Additionally, the state facilitates outreach through DVOP and LVER specialists and offers programs like VA for Vets and the Veterans Employment Center to help veterans transition to civilian careers.

Veterans Florida also provides career services, aiming to connect veterans with suitable employment opportunities.

The five best employment resources for veterans in Florida are:

  • Employ Florida Vets - A job portal tailored for veterans.

  • CareerSource Florida - Offers job placement, training, and career services.

  • VA for Vets - Provides tools for translating military skills to civilian jobs.

  • Veterans Employment Center - Connects veterans with employment opportunities.

  • Veterans Florida Career Services - Personalized assistance in resume preparation and job matching.

The Governor’s Initiative on Lawyers Assisting Warriors (GI LAW) provides free legal assistance to Florida's service members in civil cases.

This program, led by Governor DeSantis and in collaboration with the Florida Department of Military Affairs and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, connects service members up to the rank of E-7 with pro bono services from leading law firms across the state.

To apply, service members must go through their Judge Advocate General (JAG) or a civilian military attorney, as direct submissions are not accepted.

GI LAW focuses on civil legal matters and does not cover criminal, family law, or Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) cases.

The initiative acts as a middleman, linking military personnel with legal assistance without directly assigning cases. This program aims to ease the legal challenges faced by service members by providing access to quality legal representation at no cost.

Florida Health Care Benefits

In Florida, combat veterans discharged or released from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, have eligibility for VA health care enrollment for five years following their discharge date.

This eligibility extends to veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

The VA's health care services, which include a comprehensive range of medical treatments, are available at VA Medical Centers and Outpatient/Community Based Clinics across Florida.

The VA's health care delivery is organized under 21 regional Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN), with two serving Florida.

VISN 8 covers 60 counties in North, Central, and South Florida, along with regions in South Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing access to various publications and health matters. VISN 16 caters to the remaining seven counties in Northwest Florida.

Florida is home to seven VA medical centers located in Bay Pines, Gainesville, Lake City, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach, alongside about 50 Outpatient Clinics and over two dozen Vet Centers offering counseling.

Florida Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

Florida, with its significant veteran population, offers a comprehensive suite of mental health and substance abuse services tailored to veterans, addressing issues like PTSD, depression, and substance abuse.

Services include crisis intervention, treatment programs, and support networks, focusing on overcoming the stigma associated with seeking help.

Key resources include the Veterans Crisis Line, substance abuse programs by the Department of Children and Families, and specialized support from organizations like The Fire Watch, NAMI, and the Hope for Healing campaign, alongside VA-specific services.

Florida Claims Assistance

Veterans seeking assistance with state and federal claims can utilize free services offered by State Veterans’ Service Officers located at the VA Regional Office in Bay Pine, VA Medical Centers, and many VA Outpatient Clinics.

This support encompasses all aspects of veterans' claims, including entitlements and referrals. Additionally, information and aid are accessible through County Veteran Service Offices across Florida.

For combat-related special compensation and legal representation for appeals, resources include the Department of Defense and The Veterans Consortium.

Florida Veterans' Preference Benefit

The Florida Veterans' Preference gives employment, promotion, and retention preference within state employment to qualified veterans, including disabled veterans, certain spouses, wartime veterans, unremarried widows or widowers of veterans who died from service-connected disabilities, and parents or guardians of U.S. Armed Forces members who died in combat.

Effective from July 1, 2021, new legislation also allows for waiving educational requirements for certain positions for veterans and mandates the development of veterans' recruitment plans by political subdivisions.

Florida Burial Benefits

Florida offers a comprehensive range of burial benefits for veterans, reflecting the nation’s respect and gratitude towards those who have served in the military.

Veterans in Florida have the honor of being memorialized in one of the nine National Cemeteries located throughout the state.

These include Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Bay Pines in St. Petersburg, Cape Canaveral in Mims, Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, along with cemeteries in Jacksonville, Sarasota, South Florida in Lake Worth, St. Augustine, and Tallahassee. Each location provides a serene and respectful resting place.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ensures that honorably discharged veterans, along with their spouses and dependents, are eligible for burial in a National Cemetery at no cost. This includes the interment of cremated remains.

The VA handles the provision of a gravesite in any of these cemeteries without expense to the family but does not manage funeral arrangements. Immediate arrangements can be made by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office.

To further assist families and veterans, the VA offers a Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility Program. This program allows individuals to confirm their eligibility for burial or memorialization in a VA national cemetery ahead of time, easing the burden on families during a period of loss.

Veterans opting for burial in a private cemetery may receive a government headstone, marker, or medallion, along with a burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, all provided at no cost to the family.

Certain veterans may also qualify for burial allowances. However, it's important to note that VA benefits do not extend to spouses and dependents buried in private cemeteries.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, Florida veterans have access to a broad spectrum of benefits designed to acknowledge their service and support their transition to civilian life.

From housing assistance and educational opportunities to employment support, legal assistance, and healthcare services, these benefits aim to provide comprehensive support.

Mental health resources, claims assistance, employment preferences, and burial benefits further demonstrate Florida's commitment to its veteran population.

Whether it's purchasing a home, advancing education, finding employment, or receiving quality healthcare, Florida's veterans have numerous resources at their disposal.

For those looking to maximize these benefits and explore the full range of opportunities available, MakeFloridaYourHome offers a wealth of information and support to help veterans make Florida their home.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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