In the post-9/11 era, a “sea of goodwill” made up of organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors has formed to support veterans, service members, their families, and survivors. While services from nonprofit organizations and federal agencies are widely known, benefits offered by states to veterans are less so. State-level benefits, though extensive, vary widely and are often difficult to identify. To fill that gap, CNAS developed a State Veteran Benefit Finder with easily searchable information about 1,814 identified benefits. This tool allows users to filter state-level veteran benefits by type of benefit, beneficiary, and state to identify benefits for which they may be eligible, providing a unique and invaluable reference. The accompanying report, “From Sea to Shining Sea: State-Level Benefits for Veterans,” offers analysis of trends in state-level benefits and includes recommendations for an array of key stakeholders, from veterans to those who serve them, across domains.
Veteran Benefits in the District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia Metro Area
State-specific benefits that recognize the service of veterans and their families run the gamut of category, scope, and availability. The DMV metro region encompasses the District of Columbia, 19 counties in northern Virginia, and five counties in south-central Maryland; it is home to nearly 400,000 veterans. While most of West Virginia is outside of the DMV metro region, the easternmost county of the state, Jefferson County, is considered part of the broader metropolitan area and therefore West Virginia is included in this brief to more comprehensively compare the available benefits. Veterans in the DMV area are entitled to varying types and levels of benefits depending on in which state they live and work.
There are 111 discrete benefits available to the military community in the DMV region, with a large variety among the areas. Virginia offers the most benefits for veterans (43), followed by Maryland (36), West Virginia (24), and the District of Columbia (8). Understandably, as a city the District of Columbia offers the fewest benefits across the fewest number of categories: the District of Columbia has a population of just 700,000 compared to the populations of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia which are 6 million, 8.5 million, and 1.8 million, respectively. Virginia offered the most benefits in the employment category (14). Comparatively, West Virginia and Maryland offered more education benefits than others (7 and 6, respectively), while the District of Columbia provided three district government services benefits, more than other categories. For veterans leaving service and establishing themselves and their families in the DMV metro area, knowing the employment opportunities, property and income tax, and education support offered by each state or district could be important factors in where to reside.
Virginia boasts the highest number of employment benefits, at fourteen, while Maryland offers five, West Virginia four, and the District of Columbia two. Employment benefits in Virginia include six hiring facilitation benefits, three networking benefits, and two training/apprenticeship benefits, among others. Half of these benefits are related to hiring facilitation that support veterans with job referrals, assessments, and career counseling. The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), which connects veterans to personal case managers, is a unique service not offered elsewhere in the DMV metro area. Virginia also hosts the Virginia Transition Assistance Program (VTAP), which offers referrals and networking opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship. Virginia is home to a number of entrepreneurship hubs and incubators for veterans, in addition to other state programs that support entrepreneurship. Comparatively, across the Potomac, employment benefits available in the District of Columbia include preferred status and vocational rehabilitation, while Maryland offers no-interest loans for veteran-owned small businesses up to $50,000 and workforce development programs for veterans and families. West Virginia’s employment benefits include a $2,000 tax incentive for employers to hire veterans.
Generosity of tax benefits varies between Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Property tax is waived for 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. While Maryland and West Virginia both offer income tax benefits on military retirements, Maryland’s is capped at $15,000 while the West Virginia has no cap. Virginia offers a deduction of up to $15,000 on income tax for veterans. The District of Columbia does not offer any tax-related benefits to veterans.
The differences between Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia continue into education benefits. Maryland and Virginia both offer six education benefits. The sole education-related benefit in the District of Columbia is the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children that was adopted in all 50 states and the district. There is considerable variation in terms of scholarship opportunities and tuition assistance. Virginia and Maryland offer 100 percent scholarships for State National Guard and Reserve members. Tuition is covered for Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients at public institutions in West Virginia; Maryland and Virginia offer full tuition scholarships to dependents of those killed in action/POW/MIA or 100 percent disabled veterans. Additionally, Maryland offers 50 percent tuition scholarships to combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and their dependents.
Maryland and West Virginia both provide forms of compensation for veterans. West Virginia’s Department of Veterans Assistance offers a one-time cash bonus of up to $600 for veterans of Afghanistan honorably discharged, and the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund offers temporary financial assistance to low-income veterans. Survivors of those who died on active-duty service in Afghanistan or Iraq can be eligible for a one-time payment of $125,000 in Maryland through the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Each state and district offers unique benefits to resident veterans. District of Columbia veterans are eligible for a free Capital Bikeshare annual membership. Maryland veterans can apply their military service toward state employment retirement. Virginia is the only state in the DMV area that offers Veterans Treatment Dockets to support veterans through the criminal justice system. West Virginia offers discounted lodging in West Virginia State Parks for active-duty members and veterans.
While the DMV metro area is densely populated and state lines can be crossed during daily commutes, there are significant differences between the available state-level veteran benefits in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Veterans should consider property taxes, income taxes, tuition rates, and employment assistance offered by each state or district government when considering where in the region to live; each is an important factor for financial and personal wellbeing. When deciding where in the metropolitan area to reside, veterans are encouraged to consult the State-Level Veteran Benefit Finder to determine whether available benefits should play a large role in their decision, confirming individual eligibility in advance. It is important to carefully research state-level benefits and confirm eligibility with the relevant state government agencies and departments, as availability and requirements can change.
Read more in the CNAS Military, Veterans and Society Program's "Supporting the Veteran Community" commentary series.
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