California State Veterans Benefits

The State of California provides several worthwhile benefits to veterans.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law

The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) offers many state benefits to veterans in addition to the benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Education Benefits for California Veterans

Children and spouses, or registered domestic partners, of disabled or deceased veterans can receive a waiver for tuition and fees at a California state university or community college. Surviving spouses of deceased veterans are also eligible, as long as they don't remarry.

This benefit cannot be used to attend a technical school or a private educational institution. It is only available for California state colleges and universities. Each school has its own residency requirements, and only those students meeting those requirements are eligible for the waiver. Residency decisions are issued by the school.

There are four possible plans a student can qualify for.

Plan A

A spouse, surviving spouse, child or registered domestic partner is eligible if the veteran:

  • is totally disabled due to service-connected disabilities or died of service connected disabilities, or
  • served during a period of war or received an expeditionary medal.

Under Plan A, a child must be under age 27 to be eligible. But if the child is a veteran, then they can be up to age 30. A child receiving GI bill benefits is ineligible for this waiver.

Plan B

A child of any age who meets income restrictions may be eligible if the veteran:

  • has a service-connected disability
  • had a service-connected disability at the time of death, or
  • died of service-connected disabilities.

The child's gross income plus any support provided by a parent must be below the national poverty level to qualify. You can call your County Veterans Service Office for more information about the current income restrictions.

Plan C

A child, registered domestic partner, or unmarried surviving spouse of a member of the California National Guard is eligible if the National Guard member was:

  • called to service by an order of the Governor, and
  • died in service, is permanently disabled, or died of service-connected disability

Plan D

Veterans who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and their children, if ineligible under Plans A, B, or C, will receive additional consideration for educational assistance by the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

How to Apply

To apply for California-based tuition assistance, you must complete the Fee Waiver Application. Submit the application to the college you are applying to. Do your best to apply for benefits before starting school. Benefits are awarded on an annual basis for each academic year, and you must reapply each year.

California Property Tax Exemption

Veterans who are completely disabled are eligible for a property tax exemption based on the value of their home. Surviving spouses who have not remarried are also eligible. To qualify for this exemption, the veteran must have served during wartime and:

  • be deemed totally and permanently disabled by the VA, or
  • be receiving disability compensation due to:

    • being blind
    • being unable to use two or more limbs, or
    • having lost two or more limbs.

Surviving spouses or registered domestic partners qualify if they are receiving death benefits from the VA.

The exemption will apply to up to $122,128 of the value of the home for someone whose household income exceeds $54,842, or up to $183,193 of the value of the home if the total income in the household is below $54, 842. Contact your local county assessor's office for information about how to apply for the property tax exemption.

California Home Loans for Veterans

CalVet offers home loans with little or no down payment and low interest rates. There is no requirement that a veteran have been a resident of California prior to service and these loans are available to guards and reservists who were ordered to active duty. Discharge must have been honorable or under honorable conditions.

To be eligible, a veteran must have been on active duty 90 days in a row unless:

  • the discharge was due to a service-connected disability
  • an expeditionary or campaign medal was awarded
  • the service was ordered by the President
  • the person is still on active status with the Guard or Reserves after serving for at least one year out of a commitment of at least six years.

Surviving spouses who have not remarried are eligible if the veteran did not serve the full 90 days but:

  • died on active duty
  • died of service-connected disabilities, or
  • is a prisoner of war or missing in action.

You can apply for a CalVet home loan online. Visit CalVet's website for information about other housing benefits.

Veterans Preference in California State Hiring

Veterans can receive preference points for open civil service exams for jobs that require two or more years of experience plus a college degree.

Eligibility requires:

  • active duty service for 181 days in a row (after January 31, 1955)
  • active duty service for at least 30 days between September 16, 1940 and January 31, 1955, or
  • receipt of a campaign or expeditionary medal.

Surviving spouses of veterans meeting the above criteria are also eligible for preference points.

Amount of Points

Nondisabled veterans get 10 points. Disabled veterans get a 15 point preference. Surviving spouses get 10 points, as do spouses of veterans who are 100% disabled.

You can apply for the points online. After you have been found eligible, make sure that each time you apply for a job you indicate on the application that you have received these points, so they will get counted.

For information about other employment resources available to veterans, read CalVet's employment services brochure.

Additional Benefits

Disabled veterans with small businesses in California may be able to take advantage of the Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) Program. This program aims to award 3% of California state contracts to small businesses owned by disabled veterans. Read more about the DBVE.

For more information about all of the benefits CalVet offers, visit the CalVet website. Veterans are also eligible for federal educational benefits, unemployment help, VA health care and more.

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