Hi Veterans! Brian Reese here from VA Claims Insider, and today, I’m covering Florida Veterans benefits that veterans and their families can expect to get if they live in the Sunshine State. If you’ve been wondering what benefits veterans and disabled veterans get in Florida, then listen up – this guide is for you!
- Overview of Florida Military Life
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Veterans Benefits Administration
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Home Loans & Property Taxes
- Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Pension & Insurance
- Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Education
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Veterans Homes
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Military License Plates
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Health Care
- Florida Veterans Health Administration Locations
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Health Care Updates & Resources
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Mental Health Care
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Motor Vehicle, Licensing & Fee Exemptions
- Veteran Designation on Driver License
- 100% Disabled Veteran State ID Card
- Driver License & State ID Fee Exemptions
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Recreational Discounts & Fee Waivers
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Employment Services
- Employ Florida Vets
- Troops to Teachers
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Business License Fee Waivers
- Health License Fee Waivers
- Agriculture and Consumer Services Fee Waivers
- Veterans’ Preference in Florida
- Florida Veteran Certified Business Enterprises
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Legal
- Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Other Services
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Burial and Cemeteries
- Florida Veterans Benefits: Conclusion
- About the Author
The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) administers a wide range of disabled veteran benefits programs in Florida, such as free benefits and disability claims counseling, state veteran homes, health care, education, pension, home loans and property taxes, insurance, recreational discounts, employment and legal advice, among others.
You can visit the FDVA website to learn more about the activities, services and Florida veterans benefits they can assist with if you are an in-state Veteran or family member of a Florida disabled veteran. But first, let’s jump into all the Veteran benefits and VA benefits Florida has in store for you!
Overview of Florida Military Life
Florida’s veteran population ranks 3rd according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau (released in July 2019):
- Adult Population: 16.7 million (3rd)
- Veteran Population: 1,438,337 (3rd)
Florida is in the top 10 of highest unemployment for vets, and is in the upper half of states with veterans below poverty level.
- Veteran Unemployment: 5.0% (8th overall)
- Veteran Poverty Rate: 7.2% (21st)
Florida is also in the top half of states with their percentage of disabled veterans.
- Veterans with a Disability: 29.9% (24th)
The state has a moderately high cost of living (ranking 28th) and has the eighth highest cost of housing in the U.S. (housing affordability ranking: 42th). However, veterans in Florida can do fairly well for themselves, as the median income of veterans in Florida is $55,003, one of the highest in the nation.
Along with being high in many economic rankings for veterans, Florida also ranks very high for overall quality of life (2nd overall). One reason for this is the year-round warm weather.
With all that said, let’s take a closer look at the benefits for disabled veterans in Florida.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Veterans Benefits Administration
|Regional Benefit Office|
|St. Petersburg:||St. Petersburg Regional Office|
|Intake Site (Pre-Discharge Claims Assistance)|
|Fort Walton Beach:||Eglin Air Force Base|
|Hurlburt Field:||Hurlburt Field|
|Key West:||Key West Coast Guard|
|Key West:||NAS Key West|
|Mayport:||Mayport Naval Station|
|Milton:||NAS Whiting Field|
|Panama City:||Naval Support Activity-Panama City|
|Pensacola:||Naval Hospital Pensacola|
|Tampa:||MacDill Air Force Base|
|Tyndall AFB:||Tyndall Air Force Base|
|Viera:||Patrick Air Force Base|
|Regional Loan Center|
|St. Petersburg:||St. Petersburg Regional Loan Center|
Florida Veterans Benefits: Home Loans & Property Taxes
Florida G.I. Home Loan Guarantee and Adaptive Housing Grants
The VA may guarantee part of your loan for the purchase of a home, manufactured home, or condominium. In addition, veterans with conventional home loans now have options for refinancing to a VA guaranteed home loan as a result of the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. The VA also provides grants to veterans with certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities to help purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing home to accommodate a disability.
For information, call (877) 827-3702 or visit www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans
Florida Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans
Eligible resident veterans with a VA certified service-connected disability of 10 percent or greater shall be entitled to a $5,000 deduction on the assessment of their home for tax exemption purposes. The veteran must establish this exemption with the county tax official in the county in which he or she resides by providing documentation of this disability.
Additional Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans
Any real estate owned and used as a homestead by a veteran, who was honorably discharged and has been certified as having a service connected, permanent and total disability, is exempt from taxation if the veteran is a permanent resident of Florida and has legal title to the property on Jan. 1 of the tax year for which exemption is being claimed.
Any partially disabled veteran who is age 65 or older, any portion of whose disability was combat-related, and who was honorably discharged, may be eligible for a discount from the amount of ad valorem tax on the homestead commensurate with the percentage of the veteran’s permanent service-connected disability. Eligible veterans should apply for this benefit at the county property appraiser’s office.
Any real estate used and owned as a homestead by any quadriplegic is exempt from taxation. Veterans who are paraplegic, hemiplegic, or permanently and totally disabled who must use a wheelchair for mobility, or are legally blind, may be exempt from real estate taxation. Check with your local property appraiser to determine if gross annual household income qualifies. The veteran must be a resident of Florida.
Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Pension & Insurance
Florida Veterans Benefits: Pension, Aid & Attendance
Pension is a needs-based benefit paid to wartime veterans who meet certain age or non-service connected disability requirements. Aid and Attendance is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a veteran. You may be eligible if you require the aid of another person in order to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting or adjusting prosthetic devices.
For eligibility requirements, contact an FDVA Veterans’ Claims Examiner or County Veteran Service Officer. You may also visit benefits.va.gov/ benefits/factsheets.asp or call toll free (800) 827-1000.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Insurance
Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is a program that allows you to continue life insurance coverage after you separate from service. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) may be converted to VGLI within one year and 120 days of discharge. For more information, call toll free (800) 419-1473 or visit www.insurance.va.gov.
Other Insurance for Florida Disabled Veterans
A veteran with a new service-connected disability, but otherwise in good health, may apply to the VA for up to $10,000 in life insurance coverage at standard rates. Veterans who receive a new rating of zero percent or greater are eligible for the coverage. The application must be made within two years from the date of being notified of a new service-connected status. The veteran must have received an other than dishonorable discharge and released from active duty after April 25, 1951. Call toll free (800) 669-8477 or visit www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/s-dvi.asp.
Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Education
Florida waives out-of-state tuition fees for all honorably discharged veterans who reside in the state and who are enrolled in Florida public, post-secondary institutions, through the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program.” The out-of-state tuition and fee waiver are extended to spouses and dependent children who reside in Florida and who are using GI Bill benefits for enrollment in Florida public, postsecondary institutions.
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. Eligibility for this earned benefit has recently expanded. Call (850) 245-0407 for more information.
Each Florida College System institution and state university offering priority course registration for segments of the student population shall provide priority course registration to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are receiving GI Bill educational benefits. The benefit also applies to spouses and dependent children receiving GI Bill benefits. Florida State Colleges and Universities also allow current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and honorably discharged veterans to earn academic college credit for college-level training and education acquired in the military. Consult your local campus for details. Honorably discharged veterans who were inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces prior to completing their high school education can be awarded a State of Florida High School Diploma. Visit fldoe.org/academics/career-adult-edu/veterans-diplomas.stml or call (850) 245-0446 for more information.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Veterans Homes
The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs operates six skilled nursing facilities and one assisted living facility. Two additional skilled nursing facilities are under development. All facilities are licensed by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration and inspected annually by AHCA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The homes are supervised round the clock by registered and licensed nurses. Under the IRS tax code, monetary donations to specific state veterans’ homes are tax deductible. Per Florida Statutes, all such donations are to be used for the benefit of the home and its residents. You may also support the State Homes for Veterans Trust Fund by making a $1 contribution when renewing your Driver License. Let the clerk know you’re a veteran.
Basic admission requirements for all state veterans’ homes include an honorable discharge, Florida residency, and certification of need of assisted living or skilled nursing care as determined by a VA physician. For more information, call (727) 518-3202, Ext. 5562.
Florida Veteran Homes: Employment Opportunities
Our State Veterans’ Homes enjoy Five Star and Gold Seal ratings for the care they provide. You can come to work each day knowing you will be using state-of-the-art technology and equipment to provide your residents with the best care possible. The Homes have a new training and employment opportunity that will allow you to receive your Certified Nursing Assistant certification with continual employment after training is completed. For employment opportunities, call the FDVA Human Resources Office at (727) 518-3202, Ext. 5579 or visit the People First website at jobs.myflorida.com.
Florida Veterans Homes
The Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Veterans’ Domiciliary Home in Lake City (Columbia County) opened to residents in 1990. The 150-bed Assisted Living Facility near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 75 provides a special combination of housing, personalized supportive services and incidental medical care to eligible veterans. Veterans must be able to feed and dress themselves and in need of assisted living care. Call (386) 758-0600 for more information. Address: 751 SE Sycamore Terrace, Lake City, FL 32025.
The Emory L. Bennett State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Daytona Beach (Volusia County) opened to residents in 1993. The 120-bed facility provides skilled nursing care to its veteran residents. Call (386) 274-3460 for more information. Address: 1920 Mason Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32117.
The Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes (Pasco County) opened to residents in 1999. The 120-bed facility provides skilled nursing care and can accommodate 60 residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Call (813) 558-5000 for more information. Address: 6919 Parkway Boulevard, Land O’ Lakes, FL 34639.
The Alexander “Sandy” Nininger State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Pembroke Pines (Broward County) opened to residents in 2001. The 120-bed facility offers skilled nursing care and can accommodate 60 residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Call (954) 985-4824 for more information. Address: 8401 West Cypress Drive, Pembroke Pines, FL 33025.
The Clifford C. Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Panama City (Bay County) opened to residents in 2003. The 120-bed facility offers skilled nursing care and can accommodate 60 residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Call (850) 747-5401 for more information. Address: 4419 Tram Road, Panama City, FL 32404.
The Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port Charlotte (Charlotte County) opened to residents in 2004. The 120-bed facility offers skilled nursing care and can accommodate 60 residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Call (941) 613-0919 for more information. Address: 21281 Grayton Terrace, Port Charlotte, FL 33954.
The Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Augustine (St. Johns County) opened to residents in 2010. The 120-bed facility offers skilled nursing care and can accommodate 60 residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Call (904) 940-2193 for more information. Address: 4650 State Road 16, St. Augustine, FL 32092.
The Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie (St. Lucie County) is scheduled to open to residents in early 2020. When completed, the 120-bed facility will offer skilled nursing care and accommodate residents with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, call (727) 518-3202, Ext. 5562.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Military License Plates
License plates honoring the individual Armed Services are available to the general public. Your purchase of the “Florida Salutes Veterans” or one of the state’s U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force or U.S. Coast Guard license plates directly helps veterans. The $15 surcharge goes into a trust fund for the operation and maintenance of Florida’s veterans’ homes. A portion of the surcharge from the U.S. Marine Corps and “Support Our Troops” license plates also supports the State Veterans’ Homes Program.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Health Care
To the extent resources and facilities are available, the VA provides hospital care covering the full range of medical services to veterans. Eligible veterans may receive medical treatment at any VA Medical Center or Clinic in Florida.
Free Healthcare for Recent Combat Vets
Combat veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after Jan. 28, 2003, are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for five years from the date of discharge or release. The enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the service member from active duty service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date. Veterans, including activated Reservists and National Guard members, are eligible if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998, and have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
One-time Dental Treatment
Following separation or retirement from service, veterans have 180 days to receive one-time separation dental care from the VA, if the certificate of discharge does not certify that the veteran was provided a complete dental examination and treatment prior to discharge.
VA Offers Dental Insurance Program
VA partnered with Delta Dental and MetLife to allow eligible veterans, plus family members receiving care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), to purchase affordable dental insurance. There are no eligibility limitations based on a service-connected disability rating or enrollment priority assignment. For more information, visit Delta Dental at www.deltadentalvadip.org or MetLife at www.metlife.com/vadip.
VA Mission Act
The VA Mission Act of 2018 consolidates U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs community care programs, revises other VA health care programs and facilities provisions, and makes appropriations for veterans care. The bill establishes the Veterans Community Care Program to furnish hospital care, medical services and extended care services through certain non-VA providers to veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system or otherwise entitled to VA care. The Mission Act builds off previous law, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability (Choice) Act, which Congress passed in 2014. For more information, visit Congress.gov.
Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including disability compensation for diseases associated with exposure. Your dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits. For more information, call the Agent Orange Help Line at 1-800-749-8387 or send an e-mail to GW/[email protected]
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has established a presumption of service connection for eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, N.C. for a minimum of 30 days (cumulative) from Aug. 1, 1953, through Dec. 31, 1987, may be eligible for disability benefits. For more information, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/index.asp.
Florida Veterans Health Administration Locations
Florida Veterans Benefits: Health Care Updates & Resources
VA MISSION ACT
Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water
For information and updates for veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune between 1957 and 1987 and who may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water, click here or read an update on the latest for the Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Centralized Claims Processing.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Mental Health Care
Mental Health Services and Resources
- Suicide Prevention
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Military Sexual Trauma
- Substance Abuse
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program
If you need immediate assistance, contact 911 or 1-800-273-TALK/8255.
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
10000 Bay Pines Blvd. Bay Pines, FL 33744 / Phone: 727-398-6661 Or 727-398-6661
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential), SUD Intensive Outpatient, and SUD Standard Outpatient
Todd Holliday (IOP/SATP/OTP): (727) 398-6661 X 4664
1536 N Jefferson St. Jacksonville, FL 32209 / Phone: 877-870-5048 Or 904-475-5800
SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Marghani Reever (SATT): (904) 470-6900 X 2242
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital
13000 Bruce B. Downs, Tampa, FL 33612 / Phone: 813-972-2000
SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Robert Zentarski (ADATP): (813) 631-7100
Lake Baldwin OPC
5201 Raymond Street, Orlando, FL 32803 / Phone: 407-646-5500
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential)
Gina Mikhail (MHRRTP/Domiciliary): (407) 631-7126
Lake City VAMC, NF/SGVHS
619 S. Marion Avenue, Lake City, FL 32025-5808 / Phone: 386-755-3016 Or 800-308-8387
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential), SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Kelley Moreaux (PRRTP): (386) 755-3016 X 2390
Miami VA Healthcare System
1201 N.W. 16th St., Miami, FL 33125 / Phone: 305-575-7000 Or 305-575-7000
SUD Standard Outpatient
Gregory Haefner (Outpatient SAC): (305) 541-8335
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential)
Iramis Viera (SARRTP): (305) 575-7000 X 6368
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System
1601 S.W. Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608 / Phone: 352-376-1611
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential), SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Tiawanda Garvin (SARRTP): (352) 416-0363
Orlando VA Medical Center
13800 Veterans Way, Orlando, FL 32827 / Phone: 407-631-1000
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential)
Gina Mikhail (MHRRTP/Domiciliary): (407) 631-7126
Sergeant Ernest I. “Boots” Thomas VA Clinic
2181 East Orange Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32311 / Phone: 800-541-8387 Or 850-878-0191
SUD 24-Hour Care (Residential), SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
David Liburd (OPT): (850) 521-5700 X 1218
2900 Veterans Way, Viera, FL 32940 / Phone: 321-637-3788
SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Rob Bedworth (SUD IOP): (321) 637-3788 X 42872
West Palm Beach VAMC
7305 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL 33410-6400 / Phone: 561-422-8262 Or 561-422-8262
SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Nicole Rothman (Substance Abuse Program): (561) 422-6394
William Bill Kling VA Clinic
9800 W. Commercial Blvd., Sunrise, FL 33351 / Phone: 954-475-5500
SUD Standard Outpatient
Rome Cazco (Outpatient SAC): (954) 475-5500 X 5382
William V. Chappell, Jr., VA OPC
551 National Health Care Drive, Daytona Beach, FL 32114/ Phone: 386-323-7500
SUD Intensive & Standard Outpatient
Ashley Jackson, LCSW (SUD IOP): (386) 366-6700 X 36760
Florida Veterans Benefits: Motor Vehicle, Licensing & Fee Exemptions
Veteran Designation on Driver License
Florida veterans can add a veteran designation to their driver license or ID card by visiting any Florida driver license office, to include those operated by county tax collectors. Requirements: 1) present a discharge document which shows an honorable discharge from active duty; 2) visit www.flhsmv.gov/driver-licenses-id-cards/what-to-bring to ensure you have all other documents. Veterans who need to obtain a copy of their DD-214 may request it online at www.archives.gov/veterans. While renewing or replacing a driver license or ID card, veterans may also voluntarily request information on Florida veterans benefits be forwarded to them.
100% Disabled Veteran State ID Card
A disabled veteran ID card may be issued by the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to any veteran who is a permanent resident of the state and is determined by the VA or Department of Defense to have a 100% service-connected, permanent and total disability rating. (FS 295.17) The card may be used as proof of eligibility for any state benefit except exemption of homestead property taxes. For application information, call (727) 319-7440.
Driver License & State ID Fee Exemptions
Any honorably discharged veteran who has a valid FDVA 100% disabled veteran ID card or who has been determined to have a 100% total and permanent service-connected disability and is qualified to obtain a driver license is generally exempt from all fees. However, a fee may be applied to drivers seeking to reinstate a license. (FS 322.21(7)) The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or a county tax collector may issue or renew a state ID card to a person who presents evidence that he or she is homeless without payment of fees. A nominal fee may apply in offices operated by county tax collectors. Homeless veterans may prove their status with a letter from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that establishes eligibility in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing Program, known as HUD-VASH.
Military License Plates
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issues special use license plates for eligible military members and veterans. These special use license plates, honoring wartime service, awards and decorations, and status are issued after the applicant provides documents establishing proof of status, such as a DD-214, and upon payment of the license tax imposed by s. 329.08, F.S. License fees and taxes vary. Visit www.flhsmv. gov/specialtytags/miltags.html for more information.
Florida Disabled Veteran License Plate Benefits
An honorably discharged veteran who has been a resident of Florida continuously for the past five years or who has established a domicile in Florida, as provided by FS 222.17, may apply for one free disabled veteran “DV” license plate for an owned or leased vehicle. The veteran must provide proof of a service-connected 100-percent disability rating or that the vehicle was acquired through VA financial assistance. Note: Free license plates with a wheelchair emblem are available for those veterans permanently confined to a wheelchair and who otherwise qualify for a DV plate. Service charges may apply (FS 320.084). For eligibility requirements and more information, call (850) 617-2000 or visit www3.flhsmv.gov/dmv/Proc/rs/RS-17.pdf.
Parking for Disabled Veterans
Parking spaces for persons with disabilities are for the exclusive use of individuals who have permanent or temporary impairments. (F.S. 553.5041(3)). Disabled veterans who have been issued a “DV” plate may only park in designated handicapped parking spaces if they also have a mobility impairment. Disabled veterans with a mobility impairment may apply for the disabled parking plate with the wheelchair emblem to avoid possible fines and penalties. No state agency, county, municipality or agency thereof may charge the driver of a vehicle displaying a “DV” license plate any fee for parking on public streets, highways or in any metered parking space. There are exemptions to this benefit, which may be found in Florida Statute 316.1964. Recently passed legislation also prohibits the governing body of each publicly owned or publicly operated airport from charging parking fees to vehicles displaying certain disabled veteran license plates.
Handicapped Toll Permit
Licensed drivers who operate a vehicle specially equipped for the handicapped, and are certified by a licensed physician or the VA as having permanent upper limb impairments/disabilities substantially affecting their ability to deposit coins in toll baskets, shall pass free through all toll gates. A window sticker from the Florida Department of Transportation must be obtained and displayed.
Commission as a Notary Public
The state’s $10 commission fee shall not be required for a commission as a Notary Public to a veteran with wartime service who has been rated 50 percent or more for a service-connected disability. Other fees will apply.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Recreational Discounts & Fee Waivers
Disabled Veterans’ Exemption from Fees
Total and permanently disabled Florida veterans are exempt from county and municipality building license or permit fees when making certain improvements to their residence in order to make the dwelling habitable or safe. Restrictions apply.
Florida State Park Discount Passes
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provides a 25-percent discount on annual passes to Florida’s State Parks for all active duty and honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserve units of the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard. The pass is available for purchase at any Florida State Park staffed ranger station.
Veterans with service-related disabilities, surviving spouses and parents of members of the U.S. military who have fallen in combat, and law enforcement officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty, will receive a free lifetime family annual entrance pass. The free annual pass can only be obtained at a staffed ranger station. For specific details, call (850) 245-2157 or visit www.FloridaStateParks.org.
County and municipal departments of parks and recreation provide a full or partial discount on park entrance fees to current military service members, honorably discharged veterans, service-connected disabled veterans and the surviving spouse or parents of a military service member who died in combat. Consult your local county or municipal park for details.
Hunting and Fishing
The Military Gold Sportsman’s License is available for a reduced fee of $20 to any resident who is an active or retired member of the U. S. Armed Forces, U. S. Armed Forces Reserve or National Guard upon submission of a current military ID card. For more information, visit myfwc.com/ license/recreational/military-gold. The license is available through an online verification process at www.GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. The license may also be obtained at Florida tax collectors’ offices with proof of residency and a current military identification card.
State hunting and fishing licenses and permits shall be issued without fees for five years to any veteran who is a Florida resident, certified or determined to be 100% totally and permanently disabled by the VA or the U.S. Armed Forces, or who has been issued a valid disabled veteran ID card by FDVA. For more information, visit myfwc.com.
Operation Outdoor Freedom
Sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Operation Outdoor Freedom provides wounded veterans with the outdoor activities that they enjoy at no cost. Designated state and agricultural lands throughout Florida grant qualified veterans with unique opportunities for recreation and rehabilitation.
The Florida Forest Service, within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, provides hundreds of veterans with the Operation Outdoor Freedom experience. For more information, call (863) 578-1894.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Employment Services
Employment services for veterans, military members and their families are offered through the CareerSource Florida network, which includes the Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida’s 24 local workforce development boards and more than 100 career centers. Available services include interview preparation, resume writing assistance, job and training-related referrals, career planning, vocational guidance, job search and placement assistance, and internet access.
Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives conduct outreach to employers and business associations and engage in advocacy efforts with hiring executives to increase employment opportunities for veterans and encourage the hiring of disabled veterans. The Disabled Veterans Outreach Program provides individualized career services to veterans with significant barriers to employment, with the maximum emphasis directed toward serving veterans who are economically or educationally disadvantaged. For more information, call (866) 352-2345 (option 2).
Employ Florida Vets
The Florida Veterans Program Portal is an online resource from Employ Florida for veterans’ employment and employer recruitment information. The portal provides information and resource links to assist veterans, their families, and employers in accomplishing their employment goals and is available 24/7. For more information, call toll free (800) 438-4128.
Troops to Teachers
Troops to Teachers is a program designed to help transitioning service members and veterans begin new careers as K-12 school teachers. Some program participants are eligible for financial assistance. Tallahassee Community College and the Florida Department of Education have announced a new partnership to bring the Troops to Teachers program back to Florida. For additional information, visit proudtoserveagain.com, or call (833) 358-7667.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects the employment rights and ensures the reemployment of veterans, reservists and National Guard members after a period of active service and prohibits employment discrimination because of past, current, or future military obligations. It covers all employers, regardless of size, in the public and private sectors. Call toll free (866) 487-2365.
Business License Fee Waivers
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation may waive the initial licensing fee, application fee and unlicensed activity fee for military veterans and their spouses at the time of discharge who apply for a state professional license. The application must be submitted within 60 months after the veteran has been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces including the Florida National Guard. The waiver does not include examination or other incidental fees. The law applies to new licenses for more than 20 professions under DBPR’s jurisdiction, including construction, real estate, certified public accountants and cosmetologists. Call (850) 487-1395 for more information.
Health License Fee Waivers
The Florida Department of Health has programs in place to aid veterans in finding employment in health-related fields. The department offers expedited health care practitioner licensure through the Veterans Application for Licensure Online Response (VALOR) system. They also offer expanded licensure fee waivers for military veterans and their spouses applying for health care licensure in Florida. The department continues to assist county health departments in recruiting military veterans and their spouses to work in health-related fields. If you were honorably discharged within the past 60 months, call (850) 488-0595.
Agriculture and Consumer Services Fee Waivers
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services now waives first-time licensing application fees for specific veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, their spouses, or a business entity in which the veteran or spouse has a majority ownership stake. Other fees may apply. The Division of Consumer Services regulates specific business activities, including commercial weight loss practices, telephone solicitations, pawnshops, health studios, sellers of travel and telemarketing. The Division of Licensing is responsible for investigating and issuing licenses to conduct private security, private investigative and recovery services. For more information, call toll free (800) 435-7352 or visit www.freshfromflorida.com.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now expediting all Florida concealed weapon or firearm license applications submitted by active military members and veterans. For more information, call toll free (800) 435-7352 or visit www.freshfromflorida.com.
Veterans’ Preference in Florida
The state, and all political subdivisions of the state, shall give preference in employment, promotions after being deployed and retention. Individuals who qualify for this preference are as follows:
A disabled veteran who has served on active duty in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, has received an honorable discharge, and has established the present existence of a service-connected disability that is compensable under public laws administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; or who is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension by reason of public laws administered by the VA and U.S. Department of Defense.
The spouse of a person who has a total disability, permanent in nature, resulting from a service-connected disability and who, because of this disability, cannot qualify for employment, and the spouse of a person missing in action, captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
A wartime veteran as defined in s. 1.01(14), who has served at least one day during a wartime period. Active duty for training may not be allowed for eligibility under this paragraph.
The unremarried widow or widower of a veteran who died of a service-connected disability.
The mother, father, legal guardian, or unremarried widow or widower of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in the line of duty under combat-related conditions, as verified by the U.S. Department of Defense.
A veteran as defined in s. 1.01(14), F.S. Active duty for training may not be allowed for eligibility under this paragraph.
A current member of any reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Florida National Guard.
Veterans must have been honorably discharged as indicated on their DD214 to be eligible for preference. Eligible applicants who meet the requirements for the position are guaranteed preference at every step through-out the hiring process.
Public entity employers who advertise for qualifying positions must make the applicant aware that preference is available. The employer must also provide the applicant with information as to what can be done if the veteran believes he/she was denied preference for employment, promotion or retention.
An applicant who believes he or she was not afforded employment, promotion or retention preference may file a complaint with the FDVA. The complaint must be made within 60 days from the date a non-select notice was received. The FDVA can investigate and make a determination as to whether a violation has occurred. For more information, call (727) 518-3202, Ext. 5511, or email veteranspreference@ fdva.state.fl.us. You can also mail a detailed complaint to: 11351 Ulmerton Rd, Suite 311-K, Largo, FL 33778-1630.
Florida Veteran Certified Business Enterprises
The Department of Management Services’ Office of Supplier Diversity certifies eligible Florida-based veteran-, woman- and minority-owned small businesses. The Office of Supplier Diversity also provides technical assistance, certification support and pertinent information about state contract opportunities, special events and networking activities. Learn more by visiting www.dms.myflorida.com/osd or call (850) 487-0915. The U.S. Small Business Administration also offers programs and services for veterans seeking to establish or expand small businesses. For more information, call toll free (800) 827-5722.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
Veterans may receive Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development and job seeking skills coaching. Other services may be provided to assist veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/VOCREHAB/index.asp or call toll free (800) 827-1000.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Legal
Legal Advice & Counsel
As a state agency, FDVA cannot provide legal services to individual veterans. However, our agency searches out legal service resources for Florida veterans and provides contact information and assistance in available counsel. Many legal services for Florida veterans can be found online. Legal Clinics in VA Facilities are listed here.
A list of American Bar Association resources for veterans is located here. The Florida Bar, in conjunction with the American Bar Association, administers a free virtual legal advice clinic for Floridians. Visit: florida.freelegalanswers.org.
Certification of Discharge or Separation
You may request a copy of your military service record by visiting the National Archives online at www.archives.gov/veterans. At a veteran’s request, the Clerk of the Circuit Court shall record, without cost, that portion of certificates indicating character of discharge, separation, or service in accordance with Section 28.222(3) (d), Florida Statutes.
CAUTION: Once on file, documents become official court records and are open to the public. To remove a military discharge record from the official court record, submit your request to the Court Clerk’s office. A veteran may also request an exemption from inspection or copying of identification and location information in public records under Section 119.071(5)(k), Florida Statutes.
Veterans returning from combat may suffer from post-traumatic stress or may have difficulty reintegrating into society. Due to alienation and lack of support, some veterans fall into drug and alcohol abuse or develop mental health issues. Thirty Veterans Courts in Florida have been established as of July 2018 to address these issues.
Section 394.47891, Florida Statutes, established the T. Patt Maney Veterans’ Treatment Act, which authorizes a veterans’ court with the purpose of addressing the substance abuse and mental health needs of veterans within the criminal justice system. Successful completion of Veterans Court has helped decrease the recidivism rates of its participants through the proper diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues and as a result of the supportive roles mentors play in the process.
Recent legislation has expanded the pool of eligible veterans. For more information, visit Florida Courts Resources & Services.
Financial Literacy & Insurance Assistance
The Department of Financial Services offers two financial education programs specifically for veterans: Financial Frontlines is an online initiative that provides information to help families fight against financial frauds and debt with the use of an in-depth Resource Guide, a series of tip sheets and an educational video library. Financial Frontlines covers topics such as identity theft, credit scoring, budgeting, predatory lending and the Service Members Civil Relief Act.
Serve Save Succeed is a financial literacy resource and online forum for current and former military service members and their families on finance related topics. The site covers saving, budgeting, frauds, scams, identity theft and scholarships. Visit Serve Save Succeed at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/ServeSaveSucceed.
The Department will assist you with your insurance questions and concerns or open a formal complaint. Their experienced Helpline Specialists are trained and informed about changes that occur to categories of insurance such as health, life, auto, bonds, warranties, annuities and more. They are ready to contact the insurance company on your behalf to assist you with your insurance complaint. For more information, call toll free 1-877-693-5236 or send an email to Consumer. [email protected].
Florida Disabled Veteran Benefits: Other Services
Free Benefits & Disability Claims Counseling
The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs has Claims Examiners co-located with the VA Regional Office in Bay Pines, each VA Medical Center and many VA Outpatient Clinics. Assistance with claims is free and covers all state and federal veterans’ programs. FDVA, through its Bureau of State Approving Agency, also evaluates and approves secondary and post-secondary education programs so Floridians can take advantage of federal veterans’ educational programs such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
For more information or for assistance, call (727) 319-7440 or visit FloridaVets.org. Most federal, state and local veterans’ benefits require proof of military service through an official discharge document, often called a DD-214 or one of its predecessors. You may request a free copy of your military service record through the National Archives at www.archives.gov/veterans.
County Veteran Service Offices
Information on current federal, state and local veterans’ programs, entitlements and referral services is also available in Florida through a network of County Veteran Service Offices. Counselors are trained and accredited annually by the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. All services are provided free of charge. A list of offices can be found online at FloridaVets.org/benefits-services.
State Women Veterans’ Coordinator
The Sunshine State is home to approximately 155,000 women veterans. Many women veterans don’t know they are eligible for the full range of federal and state benefits. To help connect women veterans with earned benefits and services, FDVA hosts an annual state women veterans’ conference. A Woman Veteran license plate is also available for purchase. For more information on women veterans’ issues, call (727) 319-7440 or visit FloridaVets.org/our-veterans/women-veterans.
Veterans Florida is a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida to help veterans find a new career, start a business, or connect to other helpful resources in the Sunshine State. Visit www.veteransflorida.org to learn more.
Veteran-friendly businesses in high-growth fields such as aerospace, manufacturing, logistics, research and development, and technology seek to hire veterans and provide them with the training they need to build a long and fruitful career. Veterans Florida has Career Specialists to help veterans, transitioning service members, and members of the National Guard and Reserves translate their military skills for employers, assist with resume and interview preparation, and get placed into skills-based jobs. Visit www.veteransflorida.org/careers to submit your resume.
The skills you learned in the military like discipline, attention to detail and leadership directly correlate to being a successful entrepreneur. Veterans Florida offers a world-class and proven entrepreneurship program just for veterans. They’ve joined forces with top Florida universities, colleges and startup incubators to deliver the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, a training initiative for veterans seeking to start their own business. As part of the program, veterans will gain access to small business development resources. Visit www.veteransflorida.org to sign up.
Florida Veterans Benefits: Burial and Cemeteries
|Bushnell:||Florida National Cemetery|
|Jacksonville:||Jacksonville National Cemetery|
|Lake Worth:||South Florida National Cemetery|
|Mims:||Cape Canaveral National Cemetery|
|Pensacola:||Barrancas National Cemetery|
|Sarasota:||Sarasota National Cemetery|
|St. Augustine:||St. Augustine National Cemetery|
|St. Petersburg:||Bay Pines National Cemetery|
|Tallahassee:||Tallahassee National Cemetery|
Florida Veterans Benefits: Conclusion
Florida has been a top destination for veterans for a long time, especially retired ones. Because it has so many older and disabled veterans, Florida has a long tradition of taking veterans health seriously.
The ability to earn good income and quality of life is hard to beat. And even though it’s a moderately expensive state to live in, veterans tend to make good lives there.
Florida also provides a large amount of benefits for veterans compared to other states. Because it has such a large population it does have slightly less easy access to healthcare than some other states, but it still does a good job taking care of them overall.
If you are already in Florida and are looking to make the most of your Florida veteran benefits, you will want to visit the state portal for veterans at https://www.floridavets.org.
There you will find access to many of Florida’s benefit programs, as well as more information regarding each benefit available.
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About the Author
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).