The Purple Heart is awarded to those with qualifying combat injuries, and it’s among the highest military honors available for those who serve in wartime, or while in combat against those hostile to the United States. The honor isn’t just symbolic; receiving a Purple Heart also means access to some important military and civilian benefits. In many cases, supporting documentation will be required including retirement/separation documents, award letters, etc.
Special Military Pay For Qualifying Purple Heart Retirees
Combat Related Special Compensation is a program intended “for disability and non-disability military retirees with combat-related disabilities” according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) official site. This special pay is considered an entitlement (tax-free) paid in addition to “any retired pay” the veteran is already entitled to. In order to qualify as a Purple Heart recipient, veterans must apply via their branch of the military meet the following conditions:
- Be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay.
- Have a minimum 10 percent disability rating issued by the VA.
- Waive your VA disability pay from your retired pay.
Eligibility questions for this program can be answered by calling DFAS at 1-800-321-1080.
VA Medical Care Priority Treatment For Purple Heart Recipients
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a eight-level tier of priority for seeing patients, with #1 at the highest priority, and #8 at the lowest. Purple Heart recipients are automatically placed at priority group #3 unless the veteran is already entitled to a higher priority at VA medical facilities. Effective April 1, 2019 those who hold the Purple Heart will now receive priority #1 consideration when it comes to claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Purple Heart recipients are exempt from co-payments for their medical care.
Starting in 2020 access to MWR retail and lodging facilities will be available.
Forever GI Bill Purple Heart Benefits
Currently serving and honorably discharged veterans who received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible for 36 months of 100%-level GI Bill benefits regardless of other eligibility issues. This Purple Heart benefit was included as part of the Forever GI Bill, and is effective for all eligible service members beginning August 1, 2018.
10-Point Federal Hiring Preference For Purple Heart Recipients
According to the U.S. Department of Labor official site, Purple Heart recipients who have military discharges characterized as Honorable or General (or was upgraded to such by a military discharge review board) are eligible for a permanent 10-point hiring preference for federal jobs. Such preference is not automatic-veterans must submit a form called SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference.
College Tuition Waivers For Purple Heart Recipients
Some states offer tuition waivers at state colleges and universities for qualifying students who were awarded the Purple Heart. Application requirements for this benefit will vary depending on the state and the college. One example, from the Arizona State Department of Veteran Services, lists the following requirements:
- Post 9/11/2001 veteran of the active military who has a VA disability rating of 50% or more, received a Purple Heart medal, and had AZ residency established during military service.
- Dependent spouse and/or children up to age 30 of an AZ soldier who was killed in the line of duty on/after 9/11/2001.
- Post 9/11/2001 AZ National Guard members who were medically discharged or received a Purple Heart medal.
That is only one example, other programs may have different requirements.
Like many other veteran benefits, this Purple Heart education benefit is not automatic and must be applied for with supporting documentation included. You may be required to provide VA award letters, discharge paperwork, and other evidence as required by the individual program. You may also find private college programs which offer similar benefits, depending on the school.
Purple Heart Scholarship Programs
A private organization called the Military Order of the Purple Heart offers scholarships to 80 Purple Heart recipients and family members each year. It is offered to qualifying members of the order, and can be used to pay for expenses directly related to higher education. This is just one example of how private agencies offer benefits to Purple Heart awardees-some are “members-only” while others may offer assistance to all applicants who qualify.
Purple Heart License Plates and ID Cards
Many state Department Of Motor Vehicles programs include special license plates and licenses/ID cards for Purple Heart awardees. Some states require minimal fees, others may waive the usual fees. Supporting documentation is usually required for ID cards and licenses, rules for special license plates will vary depending on the state.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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