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Maximizing Your Benefits: Guide to Florida Veterans & Disabled Veteran Benefits

florida veterans' benefits

Florida Military Benefits

The following are the Florida military benefits programs for education, housing, healthcare, and employment. You can also learn about veterans’ benefits in other states.

Education Benefits for Veterans in Florida

In addition to federal programs such as the GI Bill, there are veterans’ benefits programs provided by the states.

Florida State Education Benefits For Spouses and Dependents

Florida offers education benefits for qualifying spouses and dependent children of veterans who died from a service connected disability. This option may also be available to those who are spouses or dependents of veterans who are MIA, POWs, or 100% percent service-connected, permanently disabled. Florida residency is also a requirement.

Military spouses and school-age dependent children are also offered priority registration at certain Florida colleges if they attend using GI Bill benefits.

RELATED: Tuition Assistance for Service Members

Florida Purple Heart Waiver

Florida waives undergraduate-level tuition at state universities, community colleges, and career and technical training facilities for Florida recipients of the Purple Heart and other awards. Those who have earned any of the following may qualify:

    • Purple Heart
    • Bronze Star with “V” device
    • Distinguished Flying Cross
    • Legion of Merit with “V” device
    • Silver Star
    • Air Force Cross
    • Navy Cross
    • Distinguished Service Cross
    • Medal of Honor

The Purple Heart Waiver covers tuition and fees required for a degree or certificate program from the Florida College System for up to 110% of the program requirement..

The Purple Heart Waiver doesn’t cover costs like textbooks, housing, and food. Students can study either full-time or part-time. When you apply for this waiver you must furnish both proof of service and proof of the award or decoration.

Find Your Fit with GI Bill-approved Schools in Florida! Get Started

Academic Credit For Military Experience

Florida state-supported colleges and universities may allow currently serving military members and veterans to earn college credit for military training and education, if those programs meet Florida state standards.

Guidelines for acceptability may vary depending on the college and other variables, and each institution of higher learning may have its own standards on what transfers and what does not.

You may be required to furnish military education transcripts, any diplomas earned from entities like the Community College of the Air Force, and any certificates earned from advanced individual training.

Contact the admissions office of the college you wish to attend to learn more about that school’s procedures for reviewing military experience.

The State of Florida Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) Program

Educational Dollars for Duty pays up to 100 percent of public tuition at Florida colleges and may offer to cover private tuition at qualifying Florida colleges (payment is set at the average Florida state school rate).

This Florida military education benefits program is offered to members of the Florida National Guard and can be used for traditional college, vocational school, professional licenses, and examinations required by certain industries. You must register for this program using your DS logon as a member of the National Guard.

Need ways to pay for college?  Search scholarships for military, veterans, spouses and dependents with the CollegeRecon Scholarship Finder.

Tax Exemptions For Florida Veterans

The State of Florida offers a variety of tax breaks for veterans and spouses. Some of these tax breaks are for specific classes of veterans such as those with a VA disability rating. Others may be offered to all Florida veterans who meet program criteria for residency or other factors.

Florida Tax Exemption For Qualifying Disabled Veterans

Florida veterans who are confined to a wheelchair or who are totally disabled may qualify for a 100% exemption from Florida property taxes on a primary residence. This also applies to un-remarried surviving spouses of veterans who qualify.

The Florida Department of Revenue processes the applications for this Florida veteran tax break, you will need to submit applications to that department and NOT the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tax laws are subject to revision from year to year. What is allowed in the current tax year may be modified for next year’s tax season. Always consult a tax professional to learn what your current military-related tax breaks may be.

Another program is the State of Florida tax break for disabled veterans ages 65 and older. This is offered to those who have a permanent VA-rated service connected “partial” disability.

    • Like some other Florida property tax programs, this option does not forgive the full amount of your property taxes for a primary residence.
    • The tax break offered to qualifying applicants is the same percentage as the veteran’s VA disability rating.
    • Surviving Spouses may qualify for the discount if they do not remarry.
    • The Florida Department of Revenue processes the applications for this Florida veteran tax break, you will need to submit applications to that department and NOT the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Florida Property Tax Exemptions For Disabled Wartime Veterans

Similar to the tax break listed above, for this benefit, qualifying veterans with a VA-rated combat disability of 10% or more may qualify for a tax break on property taxes for primary residences.

    • This tax break is a partial exemption only, it does not provide 100% tax relief in typical cases.
    • Veterans and surviving spouses may apply for this tax break, which is “equal to” the veteran’s VA disability rating percentage.
    • The Florida Department of Revenue accepts applications for this tax advantage, not the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

As always, keep in mind that tax laws are subject to frequent change–what applies this year may be modified for next year’s tax season depending on any number of variables.

Florida Property Tax Exemptions for Those Deployed or Who Died On Active Duty

Military members may qualify for a Florida property tax exemption (primary residences only) if they were deployed in the previous calendar year. For the purposes of this tax relief, “deployment” is defined as:

    • Duty occurred outside the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii.
    • Duty was in support of a military operation “designated by the Florida Legislature”.
    • The amount of the tax break is equal to the percentage of time the servicemember spent on deployment.

Surviving spouses of military members who died on active duty may also qualify for a full Florida property tax exemption. This is for primary residences only, and those who qualify for the benefit may be allowed to claim it before official documentation from the U.S. government is available to the applicant. The tax exemption is effective as of the date of the original application paperwork.

>> Interested in housing in or near Florida? For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

Housing Benefits for Florida Veterans

Salute Our Soldiers Program

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation offers a program called Salute our Soldiers. Aimed at currently serving military members and veterans alike, this is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage program featuring down payment assistance for primary residences only. This program is administered through a network of participating lenders and you are required to attend a first-time homebuyer’s course.

Hometown Heroes Home Loan Program

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation also offers the Hometown Heroes Housing Program offers affordable home loans with down payment assistance and closing cost assistance for first-time home buyers in qualifying occupations including military service. Those eligible to apply are those considered to be frontline workers including police, fire, hospital, and military responders.

This program offers “lower-than-market rates” options for government-backed mortgages including the VA, FHA, USDA, and conventional mortgages. There are reduced out-of-pocket costs, no origination points, and the following features:

    • Qualifying applicants may be offered up to 5% of the first mortgage loan amount (maximum of $25,000) in down payment assistance and closing cost help.
    • Down payment and closing cost assistance is offered as a zero-interest, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage.
    • The second mortgage becomes due when the property is sold or transferred.
    • The second loan is also payable if the borrower stops using the home as a primary residence.
    • The Florida Hometown Heroes loan is not a forgivable loan.

>> Interested in housing in or near Florida? For a no-obligation, free consultation regarding your VA Loan eligibility, please go here.

Healthcare Benefits for Florida Veterans

The following are healthcare benefits for veterans and active duty service members in Florida.

Florida State Veterans’ Homes

The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs official site notes that the agency (at press time) operates eight skilled nursing facilities and one assisted living facility, all licensed and inspected annually. An Honorable discharge is required for admission, and you must be a Florida resident and have a medical need for assisted or skilled care.

These facilities are located throughout the state:

    • Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Veterans’ Domiciliary Home in Lake City
    • Emory L. Bennett State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Daytona Beach
    • Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes
    • Alexander “Sandy” Nininger State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Pembroke Pines
    • Clifford C. Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Panama City
    • Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port Charlotte
    • Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Augustine
    • Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie

Employment Benefits for Florida Veterans

The following are employment benefits for veterans who live in Florida.

Florida Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity

The State of Florida offers bidding and proposal preference when “at least one of the bids is from a certified service-disabled Veteran business enterprise”. In cases where a bid or proposal is offered by a service-disabled veteran that is equal to another submitted by a non-service-disabled vet, the government “shall award such procurement or contract to the certified service-disabled veteran business enterprise” according to the State of Florida.

Employment Preference

Florida offers hiring preference to qualifying veterans and spouses for state jobs and “all political subdivisions of the state”. The state adds that certain higher education requirements for certain positions may be waived for “certain ‎service members and veterans”. Qualifying criteria includes, but may not be limited to the following:

    1. Wartime veterans who served at least one day during a wartime period.
    2. A VA-rated disabled veteran with an Honorable discharge, “who is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension” from the VA and DoD.
    3. The spouse of a veteran who has a total, permanent service-connected disability who “cannot qualify for employment”, as well as spouses of those listed as missing in action, captured in line of duty, or forcibly detained in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
    4. The un-remarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died of a service-connected disability.
    5. The mother, father, legal guardian, or un-remarried surviving spouse of someone who died in the line of duty “under combat-related conditions”.
    6. A current member of the Guard or Reserve in Florida.

Other requirements may apply. State hiring preference is not necessarily done on a points system, but accommodations are made for hiring programs that are based on such a system.

Business License Fee Waivers for Veterans and Their Spouses

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation allows qualifying military members and spouses to apply for business licenses without an initial licensing fee, application fee, and unlicensed activity fee. This waiver may not apply for subsequent applications, and the number of licenses available under this program may be limited. There is also a time limit to apply–you must submit your application no later than 60 months after discharge.

Health License Fee Waivers for Veterans and Their Spouses

The Florida Department of Health provides expedited healthcare licensure for qualifying veterans and spouses via the Veterans Application for Licensure Online Response System. There are also options for “expanded licensure fee waivers” for those seeking healthcare licenses in the state. According to a press release about the program issued by the state, “Veterans and spouses who apply through the VALOR process receive a waiver of most licensing fees”.

Agriculture and Consumer Services Fee Waivers

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services allows veterans and spouses to apply for waivers on first-time licensing application fees for ag-based businesses “where the veteran or spouse has a majority ownership stake.”

Florida State Military Death Benefits

The State of Florida will pay qualifying surviving family members a death benefit in certain cases. For all such benefits, the veteran must have been a Florida resident, or military duty must have required the veteran to serve in the State of Florida.

  • $75,000 paid by the state “if a member of the United States Armed Forces, while on active duty and engaged in the performance of his or her official duties, is killed or receives a bodily injury that results in the loss of the member’s life” that is not self-inflicted.
  • $25,000 paid when the servicemember, while on active duty, “is killed other than as specified” above but not as a result of self-inflicted injury.
  • Payment of these benefits is given to a beneficiary the service member identifies ahead of time.
  • The State of Florida advises that in cases where “no such designation is made”, payments must be paid to the member’s surviving child or children and/or to his or her surviving spouse “in equal portions”, or to the veteran’s parents, or to the servicemember’s estate.

For more information regarding Florida veterans benefits, see the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.




About the author

Lori Waddell serves as Co-director of an emergency response COAD in Montana, a freelance writer, and an Air Force Key Spouse. She is passionate about empowering communities and individuals through knowledge and resources. She currently lives in Montana with her husband and two children.