Your Ultimate Guide to 2021 Veterans Benefits in Washington State
In addition to the federal benefits available to all eligible U.S. military veterans no matter where they live, each state offers additional benefits that are unique to that state – and Washington state is no exception!
With all branches of the armed forces well represented, the Evergreen State is home to more than 582,000 veterans. Washington state veterans benefits for you and your family include property tax exemptions, state hiring and employment preferences, education and tuition assistance, home loan assistance, social programs, and vehicle licensing benefits as well as hunting and fishing privileges. Eligibility for some benefits may depend on residency, military component, and veteran disability status.
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) administers most of the programs and benefits available to veterans living in the state. The central office in Olympia includes a veterans service center and provides support for all agency programs. If you’re looking for information on veterans benefits and programs, the WDVA website is an excellent resource.
Below we highlight some of the most valuable Washington state veterans benefits, including where to find more information about each benefit or program.
- Your Ultimate Guide to 2021 Veterans Benefits in Washington State
- Property tax exemptions for Washington state veterans
- What education benefits are available to veterans in Washington state?
- Hiring and employment benefits for Washington state veterans
- Washington State Veterans Hiring Preference
- Washington State Employment Military Service Credit In Retirement System
- Washington State WorkSource Veteran Services
- Washington State Department Of Labor and Industries Apprenticeship Programs
- Washington State Department Of Health Licensure Benefits For Veterans And Spouses
- Home loan program for Washington state disabled veterans
- Housing Benefits And Homeless Veteran Services
- Financial assistance programs
- Washington state medical coverage for National Guard
- Driver’s license and license plate benefits for veterans
- Are there recreational Washington state veterans benefits?
- Miscellaneous benefits for Washington state veterans
- What about income tax benefits for Washington state veterans?
- MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL THE BENEFITS YOU DESERVE
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Property tax exemptions for Washington state veterans
Washington state disabled veteran benefits include a property tax exemption.
A property tax exemption is available to disabled veterans in Washington. The qualifying applicant receives a reduction of property taxes based on the applicant’s income, value of the residence, and local levy rates.
To qualify, you must be a veteran of the armed forces and receiving compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for one of the following:
- Combined service-connected evaluation rating of 80% or higher
- Total disability rating for a service-connected disability without regard to evaluation percent
Eligible veterans must own and occupy a primary residence in the state of Washington and have combined disposable income of “Income Threshold 3” or less.
Washington State Property Tax Assistance Program For Surviving Spouses Of Veterans
Qualifying surviving spouses may receive a grant to assist them with payment of property taxes. The assistance amount is based on the applicant’s income, value of the residence, and local levy rates. The grant does not have to be repaid if the applicant continues to live in the residence until at least December 15 of the year a grant is received.
To be eligible, the applicant must be the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran who:
- Died as a result of a service-connected disability, or
- Was rated 100% disabled by the VA for 10 years prior to death, or
- Was a former POW and rated 100% disabled for one year prior to death, or
- Died on active duty or training status
The surviving spouse must be at least 62 years old by December 31 of the year the taxes are due or be retired by reason of disability.
The surviving spouse must also own and occupy a primary residence in Washington state and have a combined disposable income of $40,000 or less.
What education benefits are available to veterans in Washington state?
There are many tuition and education benefits available to veterans living in Washington state!
Washington State Education Tuition Waiver For Veterans
State community colleges, as well as other colleges and universities, will waive all or a portion of tuition and fees for eligible veterans. The state will also provide a $500 stipend for textbooks and course materials. Every college and university establishes and operates its own veterans’ waiver program; contact the college or university you plan to attend for details on its program.
To be eligible, a veteran must:
- Be a Washington resident who was an active or reserve member of the armed forces, or
- Be a National Guard member called to active duty who served under either Title 10 or Title 32 orders
- Have received an honorable discharge
For more information: Washington state education waiver for veterans
Full Tuition Waiver For Eligible Veterans’ Dependents
State universities, regional universities, the Evergreen State College, and community and technical colleges will waive all tuition and fees for eligible dependents of veterans who are declared prisoners of war, 100% disabled, or who died in active military service. The state will also provide a $500 stipend for textbooks and course materials.
Each college or university establishes and operates its own veterans waiver program; contact the college or university you plan to attend for details on its program.
Eligible dependents must have:
- Been a resident of Washington who was on active federal service
- Died on active service
- Been declared a prisoner of war or missing in action
- Been declared 100% disabled
Eligible dependents must be:
- A Washington resident between the ages of 17-26
- An unremarried surviving spouse and a Washington state resident:
- A surviving spouse has 10 years from the date of the death, total disability, or declaration of prisoner of war or missing in action status
- If a death results from total disability, the surviving spouse has 10 years from the date of death to receive this waiver
High School Diplomas For Wartime Veterans
Washington state Operation Recognition issues high school diplomas to eligible veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Veterans who left high school to join the military during World War II, Korea, or Vietnam are eligible to receive a high school diploma if the veteran:
- Is an honorably discharged member of the armed forces
- Was scheduled to graduate from high school, and
- Left high school before graduation to serve in the war
Veterans who received a GED are still eligible to receive a high school diploma. Diplomas can be awarded posthumously.
Hiring and employment benefits for Washington state veterans
Washington state provides multiple benefits and hiring advantages for veterans and in some cases their family members.
Washington State Veterans Hiring Preference
Public employers must offer hiring preference to honorably discharged veterans, surviving spouses, and spouses of disabled veterans. Applicants must be able to perform the duties required of the position.
If an employer is administering an examination prior to hiring, the employer must add the following percentages to their passing scores:
- 10% to wartime veterans’ scores
- 5% to non-wartime veterans’ scores
- 5% to a promotional exam score of a veteran called to active service while in public employment (only applies until first promotion)
If no examination is administered prior to certification, the employer must refer the eligible individuals to the employing official.
To receive preference, applicants must be an honorably discharged veteran, a surviving spouse, or the spouse of an honorably discharged veteran who has a service-connected permanent and total disability.
Washington State Employment Military Service Credit In Retirement System
If you take a leave of absence from your Washington state Department of Retirement Systems (DRS)-covered position to serve in the United States military, you are interrupting membership in your retirement system. If you return to your DRS-covered position, you may be able to recover service credit for the time you spent in the U.S. Armed Forces. This is called “interruptive military service credit.” Service credit is one of the factors used in computing your retirement benefit, so increasing your service credit would increase your future monthly benefit.
Your military service must have been with the U.S. armed forces, to include reserves and National Guard. You can recover between 5 and 10 years of interruptive military service credit, depending on your circumstance. If a service member dies during active service, the surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or guardian of any minor child(ren) can apply for the interruptive military service credit.
Washington State WorkSource Veteran Services
Washington state WorkSource helps thousands of military veterans, including disabled veterans, find jobs each year. Veterans get priority access to WorkSource services, including priority referrals to jobs listed with WorkSource as well as other employment services.
WorkSource centers offer veterans and their spouses:
- Job listings, job referrals, and hiring events
- Resumé, application, and interviewing assistance
- Use of computers, photocopiers, and phones
- Skill assessments and referrals to training and other resources
Identify yourself as a veteran on the Washington state WorkSource website to make it easier for veteran-friendly employers to find you and to search for job openings where employers are giving veterans priority.
Most WorkSource centers have veteran employment specialists to those with disabilities and other severe employment barriers.
Washington State Department Of Labor and Industries Apprenticeship Programs
An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with related classroom instruction under the supervision of a journey-level professional. Apprentices get paid while they learn and develop knowledge, skills, and abilities in a new career field. Veterans can use their VA education benefits for many of these programs.
After completing a registered apprenticeship program, apprentices receive a professional credential that is recognized nationwide.
Some apprenticeships offer direct entry into the programs for veterans; check the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries search engine to see registered programs.
Washington State Department Of Health Licensure Benefits For Veterans And Spouses
Washington state offers several professional licensure benefits to veterans and their spouses, such as:
• Licensure for spouses and registered domestic partners of military personnel transferring to or stationed in Washington state. Eligible spouses or registered domestic partners may receive health profession credentials more quickly. Include any required supporting documentation with the application for the health professional credential(s) you are seeking.
• Military Education/Training/Experience legislation: Military education, training and/or experience are evaluated toward meeting the credentialing requirements in Washington state for certain entry-level health professions. Review health profession(s) to determine eligibility and required supporting documentation. You may also contact Washington state’s Department of Health customer service for additional assistance.
In addition, check out these online sources:
Home loan program for Washington state disabled veterans
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission provides the Veterans Down Payment Assistance Loan Program. This is a down payment assistance, second mortgage program with a 3.00% interest rate and payments deferred for up to 30 years for Washington state veterans. The program combines with the Home Advantage first mortgage loan program or or House Key first mortgage loan program.
Eligible households may qualify for a loan amount up to $10,000.
Who is eligible for the Veterans Down Payment Assistance Loan Program?
- Veterans receiving an honorable discharge or who have received a discharge for medical reasons with an honorable record
- Members and honorably discharged former members of the Washington National Guard and Reserve
- Never-remarried spouses and dependent children of deceased veterans
Borrowers must be first-time home buyers or buying in a “targeted area.” Borrowers must also qualify for one of the commission’s first mortgage loan program, and must attend a commission-sponsored home buyer seminar prior to reserving funds. Cash back to borrowers is not allowed.
There are also income maximums.
Maximum income to be eligible for the veterans program as of 5/5/2021:
King/Snohomish Counties $115,700
All Other Counties $ 91,600
Learn more about the Washington state Housing Finance Commission’s Veterans Down Payment Assistance Loan Program: http://www.wshfc.org/buyers/keyveterans.htm
Housing Benefits And Homeless Veteran Services
Washington State Veterans Homes
The WDVA operates four long-term nursing and assisted-living care homes: Washington Soldiers Home Orting, Washington Veterans Home Port Orchard, Spokane Veterans Home, and the Walla Walla Veterans Home. All are Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities.
Supportive programs and services provided include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Recreational activities
- Social services
- Volunteer programs
- Nutritious meals
- Community involvement
- Religious programs
- Beauty and barber shops
- Fishing pond (Orting)
- Patriotic interment services
To be eligible for admission, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Served at any time in any branch of the U.S. armed forces, including the National Guard
- Received an honorable discharge
- Reside in Washington state
- Spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible veteran
- Gold Star parent
Washington State Veterans Transitional Housing Program
The Washington state Veterans Transitional Housing Program assists veterans in need of stable housing, vocational rehabilitation, and increased income potential. Veterans are surrounded by supportive staff and wrap-around services designed to lead to their successful completion of the program and a successful return to the community. The Transitional Housing Program facilities are in Port Orchard and Orting.
Veterans are eligible if they:
- Served in any branch of the U.S. armed forces
- Received an honorable or general under honorable discharge. Other than honorably discharged veterans are eligible on a case-by-case basis.
- Homeless for one or more nights
- Desire to lead a clean and sober lifestyle
- Desire to make meaningful life changes leading to independent living
- Willing to undergo criminal background check
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP)
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs offers HVRP as a proven, successful program that gets homeless veterans off the street and back to being productive members of society. WDVA provides HVRP urban services to veterans in King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Yakima, Spokane, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Grant, Adams, Lincoln, and Whitman counties.
The HVRP offers a structured, individually designed case management plan to assist help veterans in becoming employable and secure.
HVRP services include:
- Immediate needs – food, clothing, transportation, and access to shelter
- Outreach to homeless veterans’ providers
- Employability needs and skills assessment
- Job readiness services, including transitional housing assistance, basic skills training, therapeutic work, resumé development, and employment opportunity referrals, and
- 30-, 60-, 90-, 180-, and 270-day job retention follow-up
To participate in the HVRP, an individual must be a veteran and homeless as defined:
- A veteran discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable
- A homeless individual as defined in 42 U.S. Code 11302(a)
Washington State and County Veterans Assistance Programs
Washington state law allows counties to establish programs to assist indigent resident veterans, their families, and the families of deceased veterans. Each county establishes a veterans assistance program to address the needs of local indigent veterans and their families. Interested applicants should contact their county representative for more information and eligibility requirements.
Financial assistance programs
Veterans Innovations Program
The Veterans Innovations Program was created to provide assistance to veterans and their families facing financial hardships due to deployments in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The program works with veterans and their families to match their individual needs with the appropriate Veterans Innovations Program fund and other veteran or non-veteran programs and services. Their goal is to make sure veterans and their families have access to all veterans benefits and the tools they need to provide for themselves.
To be eligible, a veteran must:
- Have received an honorable discharge
- Have been deployed in support of operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, or Noble Eagle receiving the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
- Be experiencing financial hardship where income is not sufficient to meet basic needs
- Present a discernible positive outcome
WDVA Veterans Estate Management Program
The WDVA Veterans Estate Management Program offers protective payee services for veterans and family members who are incapable of managing their own financial affairs. By assuming custody of the individual’s finances, the department covers basic needs—such as housing, food, clothing, and medical care. Veterans and their beneficiaries are eligible.
These services may include:
- Fiduciary appointment by the VA
- Representative payee appointment by the Social Security Administration, or
- Acting as an executor of a veteran’s estate
Washington state medical coverage for National Guard
Washington National Guard service members who are incapacitated, injured, or disabled while in active state service or inactive duty will receive compensation and benefits according to Washington state workers’ compensation laws.
Driver’s license and license plate benefits for veterans
Veteran Designation On Washington State Driver License Or Identification (ID) Card
Washington state veterans can get a “veteran” designation on their driver license or ID card. There is no fee if you’re only adding your veteran status.
To be eligible, you must present a DD214, or equivalent, indicates “honorable” or “general under honorable conditions” discharge or a VA ID card at a driver licensing office when applying.
There is a fee if you are:
- Adding other endorsements at the same time
- Updating information on your card, such as name and address, or
- Renewing your license – you can renew up to a year in advance
Washington State Veterans License Plates
Washington state offers 14 license plate designs to honor the service and sacrifice of eligible service members, veterans, retirees, and family members. In addition, Washington has “Veteran/Military Service Award Emblems” that may be affixed to any license plate type.
Washington State Gold Star License Plate
The Gold Star plate is available for family members of an armed forces service member who died while in service to their country, or as a result of their service.
To be eligible, you must be a Washington state vehicle owner and request a certified letter from the Washington state Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) as proof that you are:
- A surviving spouse
- A biological, adoptive, or step parent
- An adult who fulfilled the parental role, such as foster parent, kinship provider or caretaker relative
- A biological or adopted child, or
- A sibling
Applicants must get a certified DMVA Gold Star license plate request for certification letter verifying eligibility.
Washington State Disabled Veteran License Plate
Veterans eligible for this plate are exempt from license fees for one vehicle per year. These special plates or tabs are good for the life of the vehicle. (They do not grant disabled parking privileges.)
To be eligible, you must be a Washington state vehicle owner who served in any branch of the armed forces, reserves, or National Guard and:
- Had an honorable discharge or a medical honorable discharge
- Have been rated by the VA or military service, and
- Be receiving service-related compensation at 100% for more than 1 year
Applicants must get a letter of eligibility from the Washington state Department of Veterans Affairs verifying a 100% service-connected disability.
Washington State Purple Heart License Plate
Washington state residents who have received the Purple Heart (and their surviving spouses) may receive a license plate representing that award. An unremarried surviving spouse or domestic partner of a deceased Purple Heart recipient may also receive this plate.
Applicants must provide a copy of their DD214 documenting receipt of the Purple Heart; surviving spouses must also provide a copy of the recipient’s death certificate and an affidavit that they have not remarried.
Washington State Medal of Honor License Plate
Washington state vehicle owners who have been awarded the Medal of Honor may receive license plates for up to three vehicles at no charge. They can choose either the Medal of Honor or standard mountain background plates
You must submit a letter of eligibility from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs to verify that you have received the Medal of Honor. There is no special plate fee.
Washington Resident Military Personnel License/ID Card Expiration Extension
For Washington state residents who are on active duty, a driver’s license remains valid after its expiration date. Washington state allows driver licenses and ID cards to remain valid until 90 days after discharge. Service members and dependents must have the following in their possession in order for their license to remain valid:
- Washington state driver license or ID card
- Military active duty or dependent ID card
- Washington state Department of Licensing authorization card
Military personnel must apply for a Washington state Department of Licensing authorization card at a Washington state Department of Licensing office.
All military license plate applications and copies of required documentation should be mailed to:
Special Plate Unit
Department of Licensing
P.O. Box 9909
Olympia, WA 98507-9909
Are there recreational Washington state veterans benefits?
Washington state veterans are granted numerous advantages and privileges while enjoying the great outdoors. And if you’re visiting from out of state to see a buddy, you may qualify, too!
Washington State Reduced Fee Hunting and Fishing Privileges for Disabled Veterans
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife offers licensing fees at half price for disable veterans. If you have been honorably discharged from military service, received a disability percentage rating from the VA, and meet the criteria below, you qualify for a reduced-fee license.
The following are eligible for a combination fishing license (fresh water, saltwater, and shellfish) and/or hunting license(s) at the discounted rate:
- Resident qualified disabled veterans rated 30% service-connected or more as verified by VA letter
- Resident veterans 65 years or older with a service-connected disability as verified by VA letter
- Nonresident veterans with at least 30% service-connected disability as verified by VA letter
- Nonresident veterans 65 years or older with a service-connected disability as verified by VA letter
Washington State Parks Disabled Veteran Lifetime Pass
Washington state disabled veterans benefits including use of Washington State parks at no charge. The Washington state Parks and Recreation Commission offers free camping, docking, campsite reservations (through state parks central reservations system), watercraft launching, trailer dump, and day use entry at Washington state parks to Washington state resident veterans with a documented service-connected disability of at least 30%.
Veterans must provide a disability award letter, certification from the VA, or military service; a separation certificate or similar document on official letterhead stationery from the certifying agency; or have the pass application signed by the VA or military service. The document must clearly state the percentage of disability, and that it’s service-connected.
Complete an application here, email [email protected], or mail to:
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Road SW
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650
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Miscellaneous benefits for Washington state veterans
Washington state offers many other benefits, amenities, and privileges to veterans. Here are just a few!
Reduced Public Transportation Fees for Disabled Veterans Around Puget Sound
Local participating transit authorities offer disabled veteran passengers a reduced rate with a Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP). There is no charge for the RRFP. This benefit is for veterans certified by the VA at a 40% or greater disability level.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Program
The WDVA provides an outreach/counseling program to veterans with war-era and PTSD-related mental health challenges. The PTSD program creates community-based avenues to counseling services that are less formal in nature, offering the highest level of confidentiality possible. Services provided throughout the program include individuals, couples, families, and veteran group counseling. Some contractors offer group services to women veterans and spouses of veterans. Veterans may be referred to specialized inpatient or outpatient treatment offered by VA medical centers or vet centers within Washington state.
Who is eligible?
- Honorably discharged war-era (any of the nation’s war or peacekeeping periods) veterans and their family members
- Washington state National Guard or military reserve members deployed in support of the nation’s war and peacekeeping missions (and their family members).
- You do not need to be suffering from or diagnosed with PTSD, but should be able to demonstrate significant postwar adjustment issues to warrant outpatient care.
- No VA service-connected disability for any condition is required for this service within the WDVA PTSD Program.
- Services are free to qualified veterans.
- Priority is given to those most vulnerable or having no other reasonable options for care.
NOTE: King County has slightly different eligibility criteria according to these definitions:
- Veteran: A person who has served in the U.S. armed forces, including the National Guard and reservists
- Veteran family: A veteran’s or military service member’s spouse, domestic partner or child, or the child of the spouse or domestic partner, or other dependent relatives if living in the household of a veteran or military service member
Additional counseling and consulting resources are used to educate teachers and school counselors of the potential needs of school-age children of war-exposed parents.
The PTSD Program also provides in-service training and consultation to college and university counseling and other professional staff or faculty members. This special program is designed to address the needs of war-exposed veterans who have returned to school after discharge from the military and seek assistance at student counseling centers on campus.
Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Women Veterans Advisory Committee
The mission of the WDVA Women Veterans Advisory Committee is to help Washington state’s women veterans of the armed forces and ensure they have equitable access to federal and state veterans services and benefits.
WDVA Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC)
The VCC Program provides meaningful training and volunteer opportunities for veterans through restoration, training, and agriculture to support Washington state veterans in their own connections to healing and purpose.
All veterans are eligible to participate in the VCC. Opportunities include:
- Volunteering in the Veterans Peer Corps: A veteran or a veteran’s dependent receives training and certification and then serves as a peer mentor by facilitating meetings and activities
- VCC internships provide opportunities for veterans while helping restore and protect Washington state’s natural resources
- The Veterans Farm at Orting teaches veterans interested in agricultural industries how to thrive
- The Veteran Training Support Center is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of trauma and related issues specific to veterans.
What about income tax benefits for Washington state veterans?
Many states do not charge income tax on active duty or retired military pay. Others tax only a portion of military pay. Washington state does not have a personal or corporate income tax.
MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL THE BENEFITS YOU DESERVE
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! You served… you deserve.
About the Author
About VA Claims Insider
VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.