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October 21, 2021

Top 9 California Veteran Benefits

Last updated on April 19, 2024

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The Ultimate Guide to California Veteran Benefits

California is ranked #1 in the country for veteran population by state, with over 1.7 million veteran residents! 

With such a large veteran population, it’s no wonder that California Veteran benefits are so plentiful. 

This California Veteran Benefits guide will reveal the top VA benefits—including California Disabled Veteran Benefits, education, healthcare, property tax exemptions, tuition waivers, financial assistance, recreation discounts, and much more. 

Table of Contents
A blue Welcome to California sign.


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Top California Veteran Benefits

There are many California Veteran benefits and exemptions provided by the state to current and former members of the US military.

The best CA state veterans benefits include:

  • Property tax exemptions
  • Tuition waivers, financial assistance
  • Priority state contracts awarded to disabled entrepreneurs, 
  • Discounted home loans
  • Recreation discounts

An excellent resource for veterans is the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), which administers many California veteran benefits. Make sure to compare the different types of exemptions you may qualify for as a veteran, especially regarding property tax exemption and tuition assistance.

We have built this complete guide of California veteran benefits to help California veterans like you find all the benefits you earned!

Property Taxes

California veterans benefits include two different programs for veterans and disabled veterans.

California Veteran Property Tax Exemption

The baseline property tax exemption for veterans in California is $4,000. To qualify, veterans must have assets less than $5,000 or less than $10,000 if married. (Veterans rarely qualify for this exemption as property values are included in calculating a veteran’s total assets.)

100 Percent Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption California

Disabled wartime veterans with a 100 percent disability rating, those who are blind in both eyes or veterans who have lost the use of two or more limbs have two options for their exemption on their primary residence:

  • Basic exemption
  • Low-income exemption

The basic exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans is $100,000, compounded annually by an inflation factor. In 2018, the basic exemption was $134,706. If you are in a low-income household, you may qualify for the low-income exemption. The low-income exception is $150,000, compounded annually by an inflation factor. In 2018, the low-income exception was $202,060. 

Unremarried surviving spouses of disabled veterans are also eligible for this exemption.

You can only claim one property tax exemption in California. If you qualify for the disabled veteran’s exemption, this exemption will save you the most money on your California property taxes. 

To apply for either exemption, apply with Form BOE-261-G by contacting your local County Assessor. You only have to file for this exemption once unless you move to a new residence. 

Income Taxes

California taxes both active-duty pay and military retirement pay. For active-duty service members who are California residents, the state only taxes your active-duty military income if you’re stationed in California at a rate of 1 to 13.3 percent based on your total income.

Service members stationed outside of California should file a California Nonresident Income Tax Return. 

Education Benefits

California’s educational benefits are excellent for veterans and their families.

There are many military-friendly colleges in California. According to the VA, in 2017, 853 California schools received Post 9/11 GI bill funds for over 77,000 students totaling over $491 million. 

Resident College Tuition Rates

Also known as the Non-Resident College Fee Waiver, if you’re a non-resident service member or dependent attending college in California, you’ll receive resident tuition at California state universities and community colleges! 

You must meet one of these requirements:

  • You’re on active duty stationed in California
  • You’re a dependent of an active duty service member stationed in California
  • You’ve been discharged from service, live in California, and your last duty station was in California, but haven’t met the time requirements to be considered a California resident

For those on active duty, there is a time limit to use this fee waiver benefit for a graduate degree. Students on active duty have a two-year limit for graduate studies, while their dependents have a one-year limit. 

To apply, contact your admissions office. 

College Credit for Military Training

All universities and local community colleges in California use the recommendations made by the American Council on Education to award academic credit toward a degree for education and training received in the military. 

To claim college credit for military training or exams, request a transcript from your military service branch. Army, Navy, Marines, Space Force, and Coast Guard members should request a Joint Services Transcript (JST).

Air Force members should request a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript. Both methods let service members order online copies of their transcripts. Each service branch will provide official copies to schools at no charge.

Most colleges in California also award transfer credit for College-Level Exam Program (CLEP) exams or Dantes Subject Standardized Test (DSST) exams, which service members and veterans have the opportunity to take as an additional benefit. Records of these exams are also found on either your JST or CCAF transcript. 

Tuition Fee Waivers for Veterans’ Dependents

California’s tuition waiver program for dependents of veterans is an excellent benefit for your children’s education. The program waives all tuition and fees at any California State University or community college. 

To qualify, you must be a California resident and fall into one of four plans of eligibility:

  • Plan A
    • Dependents of veterans who received a service-connected permanent disability rating before the child’s 21st birthday (if children are using the benefit) OR
    • Dependents of veterans who passed away as a result of service
    • The veteran must have served during wartime
    • Fees are waived for children under age 27
  • Plan B
    • Children of veterans with a service-connected disability OR
    • Children of veterans who passed away as a result of service
    • There is no age limit
    • The child’s income (including any support from a parent) cannot exceed the national poverty level
  • Plan C
    • Any dependent of a California National Guard veteran who passed away as a result of service or received a service-connected permanent disability
    • The veteran’s death or disability must have occurred as a result of active service (under Section 146 orders)
  • Plan D
    • Medal of Honor recipients or their children under age 27
    • This only applies to undergraduate studies
    • Applicants still qualify for VA Chapter 35 benefits

Using the College Fee Waiver calculator, you can verify eligibility and complete the application with your local County Veterans Service Office. 

Tuition Assistance for California National Guard Members

Under the California Military Department GI Bill Award Program (CMD GI Bill), members of the California National Guard can receive up to a 100 percent tuition and fee grant to pay for college! 

Unlike many other National Guard tuition assistance programs, California’s grant program will pay tuition assistance for one degree (up to a Ph.D.)—at 353 colleges, universities, and technical schools. California National Guard members can even use tuition assistance for approved private institutions in California. 

You can find a list of eligible schools here

To apply for California veteran benefits for education with the National Guard, you must be a resident and active member of the California National Guard, California State Guard, or California Naval Militia. You must also be in good standing and have completed your initial basic training requirements to be eligible for tuition assistance. 

You have ten years to complete your course of study, and you must agree to serve two additional years after your last term ends.

To apply for tuition assistance for the fall semester, submit the online application by April 30th to receive priority. The deadline is June 1st, but state funding may be exhausted, so apply early. Create an online profile with the program to access approved schools

Hiring and Employment

Several California veteran benefits offer support with employment, and many resources are available to help veterans and their families find jobs and advance their careers.

Veterans’ Employment Preference

California recognizes those who have served in our nation’s military by offering veterans and their family members employment preference when applying for federal, state, county, and local government jobs in California.

Veterans with an honorable discharge are ranked in the top rank of the eligibility list after passing their civil service exam. This also applies to surviving spouses of veterans and spouses of 100 percent disabled veterans. 

To apply for veterans’ preference, submit a copy of your DD214 along with an application form to the California Department of Human Resources. 

California Employment Assistance

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) helps veterans and spouses seek employment throughout the state. The EDD provides career counseling, customized job search assistance, job fairs, employer recruitment, and more. 

CalJOBS is an online service that can help veterans translate their military experience into marketable experiences for civilian jobs.

Peddler’s License, Tax, and Fee Exemptions for Veterans

Any honorably discharged veteran is exempt from paying the $50-$100 California business license expenses and fees to sell goods or services without a permanent location. 

Apply for the license with your local licensing authority. 

California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) Program

If you’re a disabled veteran with a VA disability rating of 10 percent or more, you are eligible to compete for state contracts reserved just for disabled veteran business owners.

California is required to award 3% of all state contracts to certified DVBE entrepreneurs.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Own the firm and be a California resident
  • Have an active business before applying
  • One or more disabled veterans must manage daily operations
  • Have a principal office located in the U.S. and not be a subsidiary of a foreign-based business

You can apply for DVBE certification here.

Financial Assistance Programs

California Military Family Relief Fund (CMFRF)

California veteran benefits include short-term financial assistance for California National Guard members in need. The program covers the cost of expenses that are difficult to cover when a California National Guard member is deployed or placed on active duty.

Members must be deployed on Title 10 orders for at least 60 consecutive days to qualify and experience a loss of at least 10 percent of their household income due to the deployment. Service members must be California residents to apply. 

Contact your unit chain of command to apply or call the Family Assistance Helpline at 800-449-9662

California National Guard Surviving Spouses and Children Relief Act

The state of California honors the sacrifice of National Guard members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by offering a $10,000 death benefit to the surviving spouse (or designated beneficiary).

This benefit also applies to members of the State Military Reserve or Naval militia. 

For more information, contact the California Military Department at 916-854-3000.

Housing Benefits

California State Veterans Homes

California veteran benefits include eight veterans’ homes for veterans and their eligible spouses and domestic partners.

Locations vary but offer five levels of care across homes: independent living, residential care, intermediate care, skilled nursing care, and memory care.

The goal of each home is to increase the quality of life while preserving veteran dignity. 

California housing subdivisions with a blue sky above.

To qualify, you must:

  • Have an honorable discharge
  • Be a resident of California when you apply
  • Be aged 55 or above (unless homeless or needing long-term care)

Non-veteran spouses may apply for admission with the eligible veteran. Spouses of Medal of Honor winners or former POWs may apply for admission without a joint application.

Veterans who are Medal of Honor recipients, former POWs, wartime veterans, or homeless, or those with a disability rating of 70 percent or higher receive preference for admission. 

To learn more about each veteran home, visit the respective homes’ website:

You can apply for admission here.

California CalVet Home Loans for Veterans

California’s home loan program for veterans is a great California Veteran benefits option.

If you served on active duty for at least 90 days and received an honorable discharge, you may qualify for a discounted loan with little to no down payment requirements. 

Mortgage rates for eligible veterans are typically lower than market rates, and you can check current interest rates here

You can apply for a CalVet home loan on the online portal. 

Health Care

List of VA Healthcare and Vet Center Locations in California

LocationMedical Facilities for California Veteran Benefits
ArcadiaSan Gabriel Valley Community Based Outpatient Clinic
AuburnSierra Foothills Outpatient Clinic
BakersfieldBakersfield Community Based Outpatient Clinic
BakersfieldBakersfield Vet Center
BlytheBlythe Rural Health Clinic
BonitaChula Vista Vet Center
CapitolaCapitola Clinic
CapitolaSanta Cruz County Vet Center
ChatsworthChatsworth Vet Center
ChicoChico Outpatient Clinic
ChicoChico Vet Center
Chula VistaChula Vista Clinic
Citrus HeightsCitrus Heights Vet Center
City of CommerceEast Los Angeles Community Based Outpatient Clinic
ClearlakeClearlake VA Outpatient Clinic
CommerceEast Los Angeles Vet Center
ConcordConcord Vet Center
CoronaCorona Vet Center
Culver CityWest Los Angeles Vet Center
El CentroImperial Valley
EurekaEureka VA Outpatient Clinic
EurekaEureka Vet Center
FairfieldFairfield Outpatient Clinic
FairfieldRCS Pacific District 5 District Office
FremontFremont Clinic
French CampStockton Clinic
FresnoCentral California VA Health Care System
FresnoFresno Vet Center
Garden GroveNorth Orange County Vet Center
GardenaGardena Community Based Outpatient Clinic
GardenaLos Angeles Vet Center
Laguna HillsLaguna Hills
LancasterLancaster Community Based Outpatient Clinic
Loma LindaVA Loma Linda Healthcare System
Long BeachVA Long Beach Healthcare System
Long BeachVillages At Cabrillo
Long BeachVISN 22 Desert Pacific Healthcare Network
Los AngelesVA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA)
Los AngelesLos Angeles Ambulatory Care Center
Los AngelesVA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center
MantecaDelta Vet Center
MarinaMajor General William H. Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic
MartinezMartinez Outpatient Clinic and Community Living Center
MatherVA Northern California Health Care System
MatherSacramento Mental Health Clinic at Mather
McClellanMcClellan Dental Clinic – Sacramento
McClellanMcClellan Outpatient Clinic – Sacramento
Menlo ParkMenlo Park
Menlo ParkPeninsula Vet Center
MercedMerced Community-Based Outpatient Clinic
Mission ViejoSouth Orange County Vet Center
ModestoModesto Clinic
North HillsSepulveda OPC and Nursing Home
OakhurstOakhurst Community-Based Outpatient Clinic
OaklandOakland Behavioral Health Clinic
OaklandOakland Outpatient Clinic
OaklandOakland Vet Center
OceansideOceanside Clinic
OxnardOxnard Community Based Outpatient Clinic
Palm DesertPalm Desert
PalmdaleAntelope Valley Vet Center
Palo AltoVA Palo Alto Health Care System
Pleasant HillVISN 21 Sierra Pacific Network
Rancho CucamongaRancho Cucamonga
ReddingRedding Outpatient Clinic
RedlandsVA Loma Linda Ambulatory Care Center
Rohnert ParkNorth Bay Vet Center
SacramentoSacramento Vet Center
San BernardinoSan Bernardino Vet Center
San BrunoSan Bruno VA Outpatient Clinic
San DiegoVA San Diego Healthcare System
San DiegoASPIRE Center
San DiegoRio Clinic
San DiegoMission Valley Clinic
San DiegoSorrento Valley Clinic
San DiegoSan Diego Vet Center
San FranciscoSan Francisco VA Health Care System
San FranciscoSFVA Downtown Clinic
San FranciscoSan Francisco Vet Center
San JoseSan Jose Clinic
San JoseSan Jose Vet Center
San Luis ObispoSan Luis Obispo Community Based Outpatient Clinic
San Luis ObispoSan Luis Obispo Vet Center
San MarcosSan Marcos Vet Center
Santa AnaSanta Ana
Santa AnaCommunity Resource and Referral Center
Santa BarbaraSanta Barbara Community Based Outpatient Clinic
Santa Fe SpringsWhittier/Santa Fe Springs Clinic
Santa MariaSanta Maria Community Based Outpatient Clinic
Santa RosaSanta Rosa VA Outpatient Clinic
SepulvedaSepulveda Outstation
SonoraSonora Clinic
SusanvilleVA Diamond View Outpatient Clinic
TemeculaTemecula Vet Center
TulareTulare Community-Based Outpatient Clinic
UkiahUkiah VA Outpatient Clinic
VallejoMare Island Outpatient Clinic
VenturaVentura Vet Center
VictorvilleHigh Desert Vet Center
Yuba CityYuba City Outpatient Clinic

Vehicle and Driver’s License Benefits

California Veteran Designation on Driver License or Identification (ID) Cards

For a small fee, any honorably discharged veteran can request a Veteran designation on the front of a California driver’s license or ID card.

The word “Veteran” printed on the bottom of a license allows California veterans to validate their honorable service with a government-issued ID card. Veterans must have either served on active duty or been mobilized by the Guard or Reserve.

To apply for California veteran benefits through the Division of Motor Vehicles, you must complete an online application, visit a CVSO office to get your Veteran Status Verification Form, and apply at a local DMV office.


California Disabled Veteran License Plates and Vehicle Registration Fee Waivers

California disabled veteran benefits include free vehicle registration and license plates for eligible veterans. You must be a 100 percent disabled veteran, a former POW, Medal of Honor recipient, or the surviving spouse of a POW or Medal of Honor recipient. 

The fee waiver applies to one passenger car, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle under 8,001 pounds. 

Apply for this waiver with a Miscellaneous Certification, a letter stating your service-connected disabilities from a VA regional office, and a completed medical certification. Mail your documents to: 

Department of Motor Vehicles
Special Processing Unit, MS D238
P.O. Box 932345
Sacramento, CA 94232-0001

Recreation Benefits

California offers two types of discounted hunting and fishing licenses to honorably discharged veterans:

  • One for California Disabled Veterans
  • One for recovering veterans receiving medical treatment related to military service
Yosemite Falls in California.

Disabled Veterans and Recovering Service Members Sport Fishing and Hunting Licenses

To be eligible for a California Disabled Veteran Fishing License, you must be a veteran with a VA disability rating of 50 percent or higher. 

Service members undergoing medical treatment, recovery, or therapy in outpatient status (while recovering from a severe service-related injury or illness) are eligible for the recovering service member license. National Guard members and Reservists are also eligible for this license. 

To apply for either license, submit VA documentation of your honorably discharged and service-connected disability or treatment letter from a commanding officer or military doctor via mail. You can also scan everything and request a secure document upload to [email protected]

Once your record is updated, you’ll be able to purchase a discounted license at any licensing location

California State Park Lifetime Pass

If you have a 50 percent VA disability rating (or higher), California wants to help you spend more time enjoying the outdoors!

California disabled veteran benefits include free lifetime state park entrance, camping, and boating shelters with a Distinguished Veteran Pass. This pass is also available to POWs and Medal of Honor Recipients. 

To apply for this lifetime pass, mail your completed application to:

California State Parks
Attn: Distinguished Veteran Pass Program
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, Ca 94296-0001

Frequently Asked Questions graphic with light bulbs on table.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a property tax exemption for veterans in California?

Yes, the 100 percent disabled veteran property tax exemption in California is worth $100,000, compounded annually by an inflation factor. In 2018, the basic exemption was $134,706. If you are in a low-income household, you may qualify for the low-income exemption. The low-income exception is $150,000, compounded annually by an inflation factor. In 2018, the low-income exception was $202,060.

What California VA benefits exist for income tax?

Active service members stationed outside of California do not pay state income tax on their military pay. California taxes all military retirement pay for residents.

Does California award college credit for military training?

Yes! California awards military training and experience into college credit across the state’s public university and college system. 

Does California offer any tuition assistance to veterans?

Yes! California offers several tuition assistance programs to veterans. California offers full tuition and fees under the Veterans’ Dependents College Tuition Waiver program for spouses and children of veterans with a service-connected permanent disability (or those who pass away in the line of duty).

This includes National Guard veterans and recipients of the Medal of Honor. National Guard members may be eligible for tuition assistance in California for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, with a two-year service commitment at the end of the term of study. 

Do California veteran benefits include preferential treatment when seeking employment?

Yes! California veterans with an honorable discharge who pass a civil service exam are ranked in the top eligibility rank. Surviving spouses and spouses of 100 percent disabled veterans also receive this preference. 

Does California offer employment counseling and assistance to veterans seeking employment?

Yes! California operates CalJOBS and America’s Job Centers to help veterans find gainful employment as civilians. Veterans receive priority service for career counseling, customized job search assistance, job fairs, and employer recruitment.

Are there home-buying benefits for California veterans?

Yes! The CalVet Home Loan program offers lower mortgage rates and reduced down payment requirements compared to market rates to eligible veterans. 

Are there California veteran benefits offering reduced recreational fees?

Yes! California offers free discounted hunting and fishing licenses to disabled veterans with a disability rating of 50 percent or higher.

Service members undergoing outpatient medical treatment while recovering from a severe service-related injury or illness are also eligible for a Recovering Service Member Sport Fishing and Hunting License.

Veterans with a 50 percent or higher VA disability rating, former POWs, and Medal of Honor recipients are eligible for a free lifetime California State Park pass for entrance, camping, and boating. 


Regardless of what state you live in, it’s important that you pursue the monthly compensation payments due to you for disabilities connected to your military service.

Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore not getting the compensation they deserve. At VA Claims Insider, we help veterans understand and take control of the claims process so they can get the rating and compensation they’re owed by law.

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating in less time!  

If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating – or you’re not sure how to get started – reach out to us for a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve. We’ve supported more than 25,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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