Help for Veterans’ Spouses

Depending on your situation, you might need a little outside help to handle it. And as the spouse of a veteran with PTSD, you deserve help.

There are resources out there. I know. I’ve used some of them.

You may have asked yourself: Are spouses of veterans eligible for VA benefits? As you’ll see, the answer is “yes.” From education and monetary assistance to health insurance and help covering the costs of assisted living, some veterans’ spouses are eligible for assistance through the VA. (To search for VA facilities by location, please visit this link.)

If you’re the spouse of a PTSD sufferer, here are a few programs that may make your life a bit easier and more fulfilling and enable you to find yourself again.

Veteran Spouse Benefits: Assisted Living

Aid and Attendance Benefit

This is a very valuable resource people know little about that can be used for assisted living or home healthcare if you need help with daily tasks. A surviving spouse can get as much as $1,149 a month or $2,120 if you and your partner are eligible.

Community Residential Care (CRC) Program

You may be eligible for assisted-living benefits through the Community Residential Care (CRC) Program if you qualify for VA Health Care, which offers assistance to all veterans who served in active service and wasn’t discharged with a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable status. Qualified vets also did one of the following:

  • served 24 months in a row or
  • served their full term of duty if enlisted after September 7, 1980 or
  • entered active duty after October 16, 1981

Benefits through the CRC cover assisted living, skilled nursing care, adult daycare, and home healthcare. Co-pays range from nothing to $100 a day.

TRICARE for Life

TRICARE for Life covers Medicare deductibles and co-pays for skilled nursing care, home healthcare, and hospice care. Sometimes medical equipment is covered, as well. You’re eligible if:

  • you’re at least 65 or disabled
  • you’re a surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried
  • your veteran wasn’t dishonorably discharged
  • you have Medicare Parts A and B

CHAMPVA for Life

CHAMPVA for Life covers Medicare deductibles and co-pays for some skilled nursing, some home healthcare, some medical equipment, hospice care, and Alzheimer’s care. You qualify if:

  • you’re at least 65 years old
  • your veteran spouse was permanently disabled or killed on duty or has a service-related disability
  • you can’t get TRICARE
  • you aren’t divorced from your veteran
  • you’re a widower who didn’t remarry before you turned 55
  • your vet wasn’t dishonorably discharged
If you’re married to a war veteran, the VA can help make your old age more comfortable, productive, and fulfilling.

Veteran Spouse Benefits: Education

There’s $300 million in aid available to veteran families to help pay for school. However, most people know nothing about these programs.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship)

The Fry Scholarship is for the spouses of soldiers who died on duty after September 10, 2001 and covers all in-state tuition costs for training at a public school and as much as $23, 671.94 a year at foreign or private institutions for as long as 36 months. This scholarship also takes care of:

  • College, vocational, business, and technical programs
  • Work study
  • Certification tests
  • Tutors
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeships
  • Vocational flight training
  • Up to $1,000 a year for supplies and books
  • A monthly housing allowance

You’re eligible for the Fry Scholarship for up to 15 years after your partner dies unless you remarry.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)

This program helps pay for training and education for people married to veterans who were disabled or killed in active duty or because of a related condition. If you qualify, you’ll be awarded $1,224 a month paid directly to you for up to 45 months. Benefits cover:

  • College, vocational, business, or technical schools
  • Work study
  • Certification tests
  • Tutors
  • Apprenticeships and on-site training

State-Sponsored Education Benefits

Education benefits for veterans’ families may be available in your state. Search for education benefits by region here.

General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program

The Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) sponsors this need-based grant that awards at least $2,000 to eligible spouses of active duty, deceased, and retired Air Force service members.

AFAS Merit Scholarship

The AFAS also gives at least $5,000 to 10 incoming Freshmen who have completed an application for the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant. Qualification for the AFAS Merit Scholship also depends on:

  • Your GPA
  • An essay submission
  • Your SAT or ACT scores
  • Your transcripts

Supplemental Education Loan Program

Dependents of active duty and retired Air Force members who applied for the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant may also apply for the Supplemental Education Loan Program, which is worth at most $1,000.

NMCRS Education Assistance Program

This program awards spouses of retired and active duty Marines and sailors grants and interest-free loans for vocational school and college.

Grants Through the Coast Guard Foundation

If you’re married to an active-duty Coast Guard member, you may be able to get $500 from the Coast Guard Foundation to help pay for school.

Other Grants and Scholarships

Check out these scholarships you may qualify for.

There are many resources–in and outside of the VA–to help you get back to school.

Veteran Spouse Benefits: Medical

TRICARE

If you’re married to an active-duty, retired, or deceased service member, Medal of Honor recipient, or National Guard soldier, TRICARE may be able to provide you with health insurance, dental care, prescriptions, and provisions for special needs.

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)

CHAMPVA may be able to help you with medical costs if your spouse was injured or killed on duty. Usually, you qualify for CHAMPVA or TRICARE but not both.

The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program

If you lived on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in North Carolina from August 1953 to December 1987, you may have drank contaminated water. If you have a condition associated with those contaminants, you might be able to get health insurance through the VA’s Camp Lejeune Family Member Program.

Pharmacy Benefits

If you have CHAMPVA, you might be eligible for prescription benefits through your pharmacy or the VA’s Meds by Mail.

The VA can help you take care of some medical costs.

Monetary Benefits for Veterans’ Spouses

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) can provide you with an extra $1,233 a month if your partner was hurt or killed while on duty. The amount can go up if you have more dependents.

Military Aid Societies

The Air Force Aid Society, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, and Army Emergency Relief provide service members and their families with grants, loans, and financial counseling during times of financial distress.

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers

This program provides financial assistance to spouses caring for a veteran disbled on a tour of duty on or after September 11, 2001.

VA Survivors’ Pension

This program provides monthly payments to survivors if you didn’t remarry, your spouse wasn’t dishonorably discharged, and if your spouse did one of the following:

  • Was an active service member on or prior to September 7, 1980, and served at a minimum 90 days with at least one day during a covered wartime era (refer below) or
  • Was an active service member on or prior to September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full amount of their assignment, with at least one day during a covered wartime era or
  • Was an officer and started active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t actively served for at least 24 months before then

These are the wartime eras covered by the VA Survivors’ Pension:

  • Mexican border period
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • The Korean War
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Gulf War

To qualify, your net worth must also be equal to the value of all your possessions minus any debt you owe.

You and your family deserve the financial support the VA has to offer.

Veteran Spouse Benefits: Home Loans

To get a home loan through the VA, first you must get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). You’re eligible to get a COE if one of the following applies to your spouse:

  • Is missing in action
  • Is a prisoner of war
  • Died while in service or from a related disability and you didn’t remarry
  • Died while in service or from a related disability and you didn’t remarry before the age of 57 or prior to December 16, 2003.
  • Was totally disabled and then died from an unrelated cause (in some scenarios)

If you did remarry before the age of 57 or before December 16, 2003, you must have applied for your COE before December 15, 2004, in order to be eligible.

Further criteria for a VA-backed home loan include a VA appraisal of the house you’re interested in, your credit and income, and the type of loan you want.

Purchase Loans

A purchase loan through the VA enables you to buy, build, or improve your home. You’re eligible if you:

  • Qualify for a COE
  • Meet credit and income standards for the VA and your bank
  • Will live in the house you want to buy

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRLs)

Through an IRRRL, you can reduce your mortgage payments by getting a different loan. This is done through your bank, not the VA. This is available to you if you:

  • Have a VA-backed home loan
  • Want to refinance your loan
  • Can prove you are living and once resided in the home

If you have a second mortgage, the lender must also agree to make the VA-backed loan the first loan.

Cash-Out Refinance Loan

This is a good choice if you want to take cash out on your VA-backed loan or switch a non-VA backed loan to a VA-backed one.

To qualify for a cash-out refinance loan, you must:

  • Be eligible for a COE
  • Meet the VA’s and your lender’s credit and income requirements
  • Live in the home you’re refinancing

Disabled Veteran Spouse Benefits

If your veteran is disabled, he or she is entitled to more veterans disability benefits–$150 more per month.

The VA also offers support services to spouses caring for disabled veterans. You’re eligible for services if you help your disabled veteran spouse to:

  • Pick up medications
  • Groom themselves
  • Complete physical therapy
  • Administer injections
  • Get in and out of bed
  • Feed themselves
  • Talk to professionals about prescriptions and benefits

These benefits are grouped into two programs: the Program of General Caregiver Support Services for veterans who served all eras, and the Program of Comphrensive Assistance for Family Caregivers for veterans who served after 9/11.

Program of General Caregiver Support Services

The Program of General Caregiver Support Services provides support, resources, and education to people caring for a veteran. The veteran doesn’t have to have a service-related disability and could’ve served in any era.

This program offers four different services: Building Better Caregivers (BBC), the VA Caregiver Support Line (CSL), the Peer Support Mentoring Program, and Resources for Enhancing All Caregivers’ Health (REACH).

Building Better Caregivers (BBC)

Building Better Caregivers is a six-week, online course that teaches caregivers how to better care for their partners and themselves.

VA Caregiver Support Line (CSL)

Through the Caregiver Support Line you can get help from a licensed professional by dialing 855-260-3274, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. You can get more information about community and VA support, talk to your Caregiver Support Coordinator, or sign up for monthly group sessions via phone.

Peer Support Mentoring Program

The Peer Support Mentoring Program matches caregivers together to talk and give each other support through letters, emails, phone conversations, and in-person meetings.

Resources for Enhancing All Caregivers’ Health (REACH)

This program connects you with a coach who will give you a workbook and teach you about stress management, self-care, and problem-solving, as well as veteran behaviors, safety, and problems with an associated diagnosis. Your coach will call you four times over a two- or three-month span.

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers

This program offers a range of benefits, including:

  • Caregiver training
  • A stipend every month
  • Assistance with expenses taking your veteran to and from care
  • Access to CHAMPVA if you don’t already have insurance
  • Counseling
  • Respite care for 30 days per year

You may be eligible if your veteran sustained a serious injury serving on or after 9/11 and needs help with at least one daily task and/or supervision because of a brain injury.

Veteran Spouse Burial Benefits

Spouses can get burial benefits in VA cemetaries if their veteran served for two years or their full period of active duty for a specific assignment.

You can be buried with your partner in a VA cemetary.

State-Sponsored Benefits for Veteran Spouses

You may be able to get benefits through your state, such as:

  • Employment assistance
  • Property tax exemptions
  • Free counseling

Get ahold of your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.

Veteran Spouse Benefits After Divorce

Whether spouse benefits continue after divorce depends on the type of benefit and the nature of the marriage. For example, ex-spouses are not awarded any disability payments but may be able to keep some other benefits.

Ex-spouses can continue to get TRICARE if:

  • The veteran served at least 20 years that applied to the benefits
  • The couple was married for at least 20 years
  • The 20 years of service that applied to the benefits was served during the marriage

If only 15 years of service were served during the marriage, but the vet served 20 and was married for 20, then the ex-spouse is entitled to one year of transitional TRICARE.

Ex-spouses can also get retirement benefits if the couple was married for at least 10 years, and the vet’s service lasted for 10 years of the marriage.

Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline may be able to help you. You can call them at (800) 787-3224 or chat with them online.

If you want to leave your relationship but don’t know where to go, you may want to look at this directory for domestic violence shelters.

Mental Health Services

To search for mental health centers in your area, check out the 2019 National Directory of Mental Health Facilities.

Help for Substance Abuse

If you or someone in your family is struggling with a substance abuse problem and would like to get help, an AA meetings directory or NA meetings directory might be a good place to start. You can also search for rehabilitation programs by state.

If you need help dealing with someone else’s substance abuse, please refer to the Al-Anon meetings directory or Nar-Anon meetings directory.

Do Your Own Research

It will probably pay to do some research of your own. Some organizations may offer veterans’ partners different kinds of assistance. You just have to look for it.

If you find a resource that I didn’t include in this post, please mention it in the comments below. You might be able to help someone else.

Remember, your wife or husband has sacrificed a lot, and so have you. Don’t be afraid to accept a little help. You deserve it.

Resources

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