Throughout the state, veterans are offered a wide range of benefits and services for their many years of service in the military. Fourteen VA field offices service the state of Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services (TDVS) is the administrating agency for veterans’ services in the state. This agency is also the primary agency that works directly with veterans and their families to receive benefits. They also assist and monitor state legislation that may impact veterans and their benefits. The TDVS offers many state level programs for veterans, but there are also many federally funded programs. Education, housing and employment are some of the most accessed programs, but there are many more that are available, which often go unused by veterans each year. This is due in large part to the fact that many veterans do not believe themselves to be eligible, or are simply unaware of the programs’ existence. Listed below are some of the most popular programs, as well as some of the lesser known programs for Tennessee veterans and their families.
Housing Benefits for Veterans
One of the most used benefits by veterans is the VA loan. This is a loan that is guaranteed by the Veterans Affairs offices (federal), and is often used by veterans in order to purchase a home, refinance a home or to obtain money to renovate a home. One of the main components of the VA loan is that no down payment is required.
State Veterans’ Homes
The state of Tennessee maintains three veterans’ homes that provide skilled nursing services for those veterans who require long-term care. The facilities are located in Knoxville, Humboldt and Murfreesboro.
Property Tax Benefits
Veterans who are 100 percent disabled are offered property tax relief benefits. Limitations and restrictions do apply. Requirements of the program stipulate that the applicant own the home that is being taxed, have received their injury while in the military, or as a result of being in the military. Spouses can also make the same claim for benefits as long as they have not remarried.
VASH (Veterans Administration Supportive Housing)
Homeless veterans and their family can obtain help to secure safe, clean, adequate housing. The funding is a joint effort between the Veterans Administration and HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). The program issues housing choice vouchers to qualified veterans.
Employment Programs for Veterans
The TDVS realizes that transitioning from the military into civilian life can often be a struggle for servicemembers. A number of programs have been designed to assist with the transition, including credit for military service in regards to state employment opportunities. Tennessee veterans who have just left the military are also given veteran’s preference when applying for a state job. This program is called TEAM Act, and guarantees that the veteran will be granted an interview as long as the employee has completed the required probationary period. This is also extended to the veteran’s spouse, as long as the spouse is also qualified for the job, is registered to vote in the state, or has been a resident in the state for at least a couple of years. Additionally, jobs are made available in advance of the public to veterans via the Jobs4TN site.
Veteran Educational Benefits
Tennessee offers a wide range of educational benefits to veterans. The GI Bill, which has been around for many years, is still one of the most accessed educational benefits. Many of the public four-year colleges in the state accept the GI Bill, which can cover a large portion of a veteran’s tuition. Veterans who saw combat are given preference when it comes to registering early for classes, enabling them to find the instructors, time slots and courses they prefer. TN offers the Helping Heroes Grant which is offered to veterans who have received service medals (Iraq, Afghanistan, Global War on Terrorism). Children of veterans are eligible for educational benefits if the student is under the age of 23, and if his or her parent was killed in the line of duty, has been reported as MIA or was at one time a prisoner of war. In such instances, all tuition to an in-state college is covered. Tennessee offers high school diplomas to veterans who served in the Korean, Vietnam or either of the World Wars, and whose education was interrupted by their military service.
Other Benefits for Veterans
Many Tennessee veterans are unaware of the discounts and benefits that are still available to them, long after their service to the country is over. Hunting and fishing licenses in TN are offered as lifetime licenses. Qualified applicants pay a one-time $10 fee. This is available to veterans who have 30 percent or more disability that is service connected. Veterans can also take advantage of special parking privileges. Similar to a handicapped placard, veterans only need to apply for a parking permit and indicate disability. The Motor Vehicle Privilege Tax is waived for veterans who are considered to be 100 percent disabled. The commissioner offers discounted rates to veterans to state parks who are Tennessee residents. Some restrictions do apply for this benefit, however.