Florida offers benefits for Service members, Veterans, and their families, including homestead tax exemptions, state employment preferences, education, and tuition assistance, vehicle tags, as well as hunting and fishing license privileges. Eligibility for some benefits may depend on residency, military component, and Veteran disability status. The following are benefits for the state of Florida.
Florida Veteran Financial Benefits
- Florida Income Taxes: There are no individual income taxes in Florida. Distributions received from the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) are not taxed.
- Florida Property Tax Exemptions and Discounts for Service Members, Disabled Veterans Spouses, and Surviving Spouses: Florida offers several property tax exemptions or discounts for resident Service members, honorably discharged disabled Veterans, and unremarried Surviving Spouses. All exemptions or discounts are applied for through the applicant’s local Property Appraiser.
- War Time Veteran Disabled 10% or More Property Tax Discount: Veterans with a VA combat-related disability rating of 10% or higher are entitled to a property tax reduction of up to $5,000 on their homestead. The reduction mirrors the Veteran’s disability rating percentage. In cases of Surviving Spouses, they remain eligible for this discount as long as they do not remarry. If a Surviving Spouse chooses to sell the property, they can receive a discount, but it will be limited to the amount they received on their previous property.
- Veterans with Service-Connected, Total and Permanent Disability or Confined to a Wheelchair Property Tax Exemption: Veterans who possess a service-connected, total and permanent disability rating from the VA, or those who are confined to a wheelchair, are entitled to a full property tax exemption for their homesteads. This exemption can be extended to Surviving spouses as long as they do not remarry. In the event that a Surviving spouse chooses to sell the property, the exemption is capped at the amount they received on their previous property.
- Disabled Veteran, age 65 and Older Property Tax Discount: Veterans aged 65 or older with a VA service-connected, permanent, partial disability rating are eligible for a reduction in the assessed value of their homesteads. The reduction corresponds to the percentage of the Veteran’s disability. Surviving spouses may also qualify for this reduction, provided they remain unmarried. In the case of the sale of the property by a Surviving spouse, the discount is limited to the amount they received on their previous property.
- Deployed Military Property Tax Exemption: A Service member currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces can qualify for a property tax exemption if they were deployed in the preceding calendar year. The deployment should have occurred outside the United States and in support of a primary or secondary military operation as designated by the Florida Legislature. The taxable value exemption percentage corresponds to the proportion of time during the prior year that the Service member was deployed.
- Surviving Spouse of Service Members Killed on Active Duty Property Tax Exemption: The Surviving spouse of a resident Service member who died from service-connected causes while serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces is exempt from taxes on their homestead. Individuals eligible for these exemptions have the option to apply prior to receiving the required documentation from the U.S. Government or the VA. Once the property appraiser receives the necessary documentation, the exemption becomes effective as of the date of the initial application. Service members who are eligible for an exemption or discount are also permitted to have their next of kin submit the application on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves due to their military service.
- Florida Local Business Tax Exemption for Veterans, Spouses of Veterans, and Service Members: Florida offers exemption from business tax and any fees imposed under Florida Business Tax Statutes, Chapter 205 for eligible Veterans, their Spouse or Surviving Spouse, and Spouses of Service members stationed in Florida.
- Statewide: 6.0%
- Municipalities: can levy a sales tax of no more than 2.00%
- Current average sales tax (with local taxes included): 7.02%
Florida Disabled Resident Hunting and Fishing License: The Florida Disabled Hunting and Fishing License is a free license offered to eligible resident disabled Veterans that authorizes:
- Saltwater fishing
- Freshwater fishing
- Hunting licenses
- Wildlife Management Area
- Archery season
- Muzzle-loading gun season
- Crossbow season
- Florida waterfowl
- Lobster permits
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Military Gold Sportsman’s License: Florida offers the Florida Military Gold Sportsman’s License to eligible Service members and retired Service members for a reduced price of $20. The license does not include tarpon tags, alligator trapping licenses, limited entry hunt permits, migratory bird permit or the federal duck stamp.
Florida Hunting and Fishing Licenses at Resident Prices for Nonresident Service Members and their Families: Nonresident active duty U.S. Armed Forces Service members posted in Florida have the privilege to acquire Florida hunting and fishing licenses at resident rates. This benefit extends to the Service member’s spouse and dependent children residing in the same household. To obtain their licenses at resident rates, applicants must present their military orders indicating their assignment to Florida.
Florida License Exemption for Service Members on Leave: Florida resident Service members who are stationed outside of Florida and home on leave for 30 days or less are exempt from general license requirements. Service members must carry their leave papers and military ID when hunting or fishing.
Florida Military and Disabled Veteran Event License Exemption:
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a Military/Disabled Veteran Event License Exemption Permit to organizations conducting recreational hunting or fishing events for Disabled Veterans, Service members, and their immediate family members. Those taking part in these events are exempt from the usual Florida recreational hunting and fishing license or permit requirements.
Discounts on Annual Entrance Passes to Florida State Parks for Service Members, Veterans, Surviving Spouses, and their Families: Florida’s State Parks extend special pricing on Annual Entrance Passes to individuals presently serving or having served in the U.S. Armed Forces, Veterans with service-connected disabilities, and Surviving Spouses of Service members who lost their lives in combat. These Annual Entrance Passes grant unrestricted access to the parks, though additional local fees may still apply. The pass holder must be present and should be ready to present a valid photo ID.
Please note that these entrance passes do not cover other special-use fees associated with specific events, camping, or activities like boat tours, tubing, garden admission, and similar services.
Annual Entrance Pass Discounts:
- 25% discount for honorably discharged Veterans and active and reserve component Service members
- Free Lifetime Military Entrance Passes for honorably discharged Veterans who have service-connected disabilities
- Free Lifetime Military Entrance Passes for Surviving Spouses and the parents of Service members who were killed in combat
Florida Operation Outdoor Freedom: Florida Operation Outdoor Freedom provides recreational and rehabilitative opportunities to eligible Veterans on state forest, agricultural, and private land throughout Florida at no cost.
Florida College System (FCS) Education Benefits for Service Members, Veterans, and Dependents: The FCS (Florida College System) provides educational benefits for Veterans, Service members, and their dependents seeking higher education. Eligible individuals have the option to partake in one military education benefit at a time and can select the benefit that aligns best with their educational requirements. Importantly, there are no enrollment fees associated with participation in any of the Veterans’ education benefits programs.
Florida Congressman C.W. Bill Young, Veteran Tuition Waiver Program: The Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program mandates the FCS to exempt honorably discharged Veterans who have served in an active or reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces from out-of-state fees. This waiver permits Veterans to commence their education without the obligatory one-year waiting period before enrollment.
Priority Course Registration: FCS institutions offer priority course registration to Veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents when they are using VA educational benefits.
Residency for Tuition Purposes for Service Members and Their Dependents: The FCS (Florida College System) extends in-state residency status for tuition purposes to active duty Service members and their dependents living in Florida or attending a public postsecondary institution within 50 miles of a military installation. This benefit also applies to active, drilling Florida National Guard Service members. Additionally, FCS institutions, school district-operated career centers, and charter technical career centers will exempt Service members serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and residing or stationed outside of the state from out-of-state tuition and fees.
Academic Credit for Service Members and Veterans for Military Education and Training: FCS institutions authorize current Service members and honorably discharged Veterans to earn academic college credit for college-level training and education they received while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Florida Educational Dollars for Duty Program (EDD): EDD is a state tuition assistance program for Florida National Guard Service members for postsecondary education. Tuition is paid at 100% of the charged resident rate for Florida colleges and public universities and at the highest current resident rate for accredited private institutions. EDD can be used for:
- Vocational/technical, industry schools
- Certificates and academic degree programs (associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees)
- Professional licenses and industry certification exams
EDD may also reimburse approved book and instructional material costs.
Florida Scholarships for Children and Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans and Service Members (CSDDV): CSDDV provides scholarships for Children and Spouses of Florida Veterans or Service members who died from service-connected causes, are 100% permanent and totally disabled or declared a prisoner of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).
CSDDV will pay tuition and registration fees at a Florida Department of Education-eligible participating institution. The scholarship may be used for up to 110% of the number of the required credit hours for an initial bachelor’s degree or certificate program.
Florida Tuition Waiver for Recipients of the Purple Heart or Superior Combat Decoration: The Purple Heart Waiver offers tuition waivers for Service members and Veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart or a combat decoration of higher precedence at Florida College System (FCS) institutions. This waiver specifically includes tuition coverage for degree or certificate programs, up to 110% of the required study hours. It’s important to note that this waiver does not extend to additional expenses such as textbooks, housing, or meals.
Florida High School Diplomas for Wartime Veterans: The Florida Department of Education will award a standard high school diploma to honorably discharged Veterans who did not complete high school graduation requirements due to entering the U.S. Armed Forces.
Who is eligible for Florida High School Diplomas for Wartime Veterans? The Veteran must meet the following criteria:
- Left a public or non-public school prior to graduation to enter the U.S. Armed Forces
- Current resident of Florida, or was previously enrolled in a high school in Florida, or was a resident of Florida at the time of their death
- Received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces
Family members may apply posthumously for the Veteran’s diploma. Applicants must provide a completed application and the Veteran’s DD214 or other honorable discharge documentation.
Florida Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children: The purpose of this compact is to remove barriers to educational success imposed on Children of military Families because of frequent moves and deployment of their parents by:
- Facilitating the prompt enrollment of Children of military Families and ensuring that they are not placed at a disadvantage due to difficulty in the transfer of educational records from the previous school district or variations in entrance or age requirements
- Facilitating student placement process through which Children of military Families are not disadvantaged by variations in attendance requirements, scheduling, sequencing, grading, course content, or assessment
- Facilitating the qualification and eligibility for enrollment, educational programs, and participation in extracurricular academic, athletic, and social activities
- Facilitating the on-time graduation of Children of military Families
- Providing for the enforcement of administrative rules implementing the provisions of this compact
- Providing for the uniform collection and sharing of information between and among member states, schools, and military Families under this compact
- Promoting coordination between this compact and other compacts affecting military Children
- Promoting flexibility and cooperation between the educational system, parents, and the student to achieve educational success for the student
Florida Purple Star Schools of Distinction Program for Military-Friendly Schools: Recent legislation authorized the Florida Purple Star Schools of Distinction Program for military-friendly schools. This program recognizes schools that show a major commitment to students and Families connected to the U.S. Armed Forces.
- For a school to qualify for the Purple Star Award, they must appoint a school liaison who is trained to handle the unique challenges experienced by military Families. This liaison will ensure that other teachers at their school are aware of special considerations that students from military Families can benefit from. Each school will also have a dedicated page on their school website featuring resources for military Families.
Housing: The following are the sites for Veterans Homes
Eligibility for admission:
- To be eligible for admission at a Florida Veterans’ home, Veterans must have received an honorable discharge, be a legal Florida resident prior to admission, and be certified by a VA physician that they require assisted living or skilled nursing care.
Employment and Job Training: Veterans’ Preference
Florida State Employee Leave for Military Service: Florida’s public service employees who are also Service members in the National Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves are entitled to take a leave of absence for mandatory training and active military duty. During the first 30 days of this leave, they continue to receive their full pay. Importantly, Service members retain all their seniority rights, efficiency ratings, promotional status, and retirement benefits during their absence.
Florida Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity Act: Florida state agencies, when considering two or more equal bids for proposals and replies for the procurement of commodities or contractual services, will give preference to Certified Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business over a non-Veteran owned business.
Florida State Employment Veterans’ Preference (VP): Florida offers VP when hiring, promotions after deployment and reemployment for state employment to Service members, Veterans, Spouses and Gold Star Parents.
Reemployment Preference: When a state employee is required to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, they are entitled to reemployment to the same or an equal position. The Veteran must return to their state job within one year of discharge.
Promotion Preference: To qualify for VP for promotion, a Service member must have a break in state employment and be deployed under Title 10. After discharge, the applicant must return to the same state employer. Service members have authorized one promotion opportunity for every deployment. Active duty for training does not qualify for this preference.
Education Waiver for Service Members and Veterans: Recent legislation has authorized state employers to waive postsecondary education requirements for a position of employment if the applicant is otherwise qualified. This education waiver is offered to Service members serving in the Florida National Guard and the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves and honorable discharged Veterans.
Federal Employment Veteran’s Hiring Preferences: By Federal law, Veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over non-veterans in hiring into the Federal civil service and in retention during reduction in force. Veterans may be entitled to 5 or 10 points included in any scoring process for examination or interviews.
5-point Hiring Preference: Five points are added to the examination score or rating of a Veteran who served:
- During a war, or
- During the period April 28, 1952, through July 1, 1955, or
- For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976, or
- During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992, or
- For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001, and ending on August 31, 2010, the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, or
- In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, and Haiti, qualifies for preference
10-point Compensable Disability (CP) Preference: Ten points are added to the examination score or rating of a Veteran who served at any time and who has a compensable service-connected disability rating of at least 10% but less than 30%.
10-Point 30% Compensable Disability Preference (CPS): Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a Veteran who served at any time and who has a compensable service-connected disability rating of 30% or more.
10-Point Disability Preference (XP): Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of:
- A Veteran who served at any time and has a present service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the VA but does not qualify as a CP or CPS, or
- A Veteran who received a Purple Heart
10-Point Derived Preference (XP): Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of Spouses, Surviving Spouses, or mothers of Veterans. Both a mother and a Spouse (including a Surviving Spouse) may be entitled to preference based on the same Veteran’s service if they both meet the requirements. However, neither may receive preference if the Veteran is living and is qualified for Federal employment.
Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of the Spouse of a disabled Veteran who is disqualified for a federal position along the general lines of their usual occupation because of a service-connected disability. Such a disqualification may be presumed when the Veteran is unemployed and:
- Is rated by appropriate military or VA authorities to be 100% disabled and/or unemployable, or
- Has retired, been separated, or resigned from a civil service position because of a disability that is service-connected in origin, or
- Has attempted to obtain a civil service position or other position along the lines of their usual occupation and has failed to qualify because of a service-connected disability
Preference may be allowed in other circumstances but anything less than the above warrants a more careful analysis.
A campaign medal holder or Gulf War Veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980, (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982, and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty) must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The 24-month service requirement does not apply to 10-point preference eligible Veterans separated for disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or to Veterans separated for hardship or other reasons under Title 10 U.S.C. 1171 or 1173.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): USERRA protects civilian job rights and benefits for Veterans and members of reserve components. USERRA also protects Service member rights and benefits by clarifying the law, improving enforcement mechanisms, and adding Federal Government employees to those employees already eligible to receive Department of Labor assistance in processing claims.
Absence from Work for Military Duty: USERRA establishes the cumulative length of time that an individual may be absent from work for military duty and retain reemployment rights for five years. Exceptions to the five-year limit, include initial enlistments lasting more than five years, periodic National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces Reserve training duty, and involuntary active duty extensions and recalls, especially during a time of national emergency. USERRA establishes that reemployment protection does not depend on the timing, frequency, duration, or nature of an individual’s service if the basic eligibility criteria are met.
Disability Accommodation: USERRA provides protection for disabled Veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability. Service members recovering from injuries received during service or training may have up to two years from the date of completion of service to return to their jobs or apply for reemployment.
Return to Work without Loss of Seniority: USERRA provides that returning Service members are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status, and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning Service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment. USERRA also provides that while an individual is performing military service, they are deemed to be on a furlough or leave of absence and are entitled to the non-seniority rights accorded to other individuals on non-military leaves of absence.
Extension of Health and Pension Plans: Health and pension plan coverage for Service members is provided for by USERRA. Individuals performing military duty of more than 30 days may elect to continue employer-sponsored health care for up to 24 months; however, they may be required to pay up to 102% of the full premium. For military service of less than 31 days, health care coverage is provided as if the Service member had remained employed. USERRA clarifies pension plan coverage by making explicit that all pension plans are protected.
Who is eligible for USERRA Benefits? Veterans, Reservists, or National Guard Service members who leave a position for training or active military service are eligible. The Department of Labor, through the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), helps all who have claims under USERRA, including Federal and Postal Service employees. Florida Veterans’ Employment Program: The Florida Veterans; Employment Program promotes the employment of Florida’s Veterans, especially Veterans with barriers to employment.
Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialists and Local Veterans Employment Representatives at CareerSource Florida Centers provide priority workforce services to Veterans and their Spouse. Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialists focus on intensive case management services for Veterans with barriers to employment, particularly disabled Veterans.
Local Veterans Employment Representatives build relationships with employers and engage in advocacy efforts with hiring executives and managers to increase employment opportunities for Veterans. They are also responsible for ensuring that Veterans receive the full range of priority workforce services in the CareerSource Florida centers.
Burials and Memorials
The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) pays tribute to eligible Veterans and their family members by providing a final resting place and a lasting memorial to commemorate the Veteran’s dedicated service to the nation.
The burial benefits encompass a gravesite in any of our open cemeteries with available space, the opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government-furnished headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, all at no cost to the family. Some Veterans may also meet the criteria for a burial allowance. Cremated remains are interred or inurned in national cemeteries with the same honors and respect as casketed remains.
Burial benefits extend to eligible spouses and dependents, including burial alongside the Veteran and perpetual care of the interment site. The name and relevant dates of birth and death of the spouse or dependent are inscribed on the Veteran’s headstone at no expense to the family. Importantly, spouses and qualified dependents are eligible for burial even if they pass away before the Veteran and are not required to be interred in the same national cemetery as the Veteran.
National Cemeteries include:
Pensacola: Barrancas National Cemetery
St. Petersburg: Bay Pines National Cemetery
Bushnell: Florida National Cemetery
Jacksonville: Florida National Cemetery
Sarasota: Florida National Cemetery
Lake Worth: South Florida National Cemetery
St. Augustine: South Florida National Cemetery
Tallahassee: South Florida National Cemetery
Florida VA Benefit Resources
Florida provides Veterans with a Regional Benefits Office and VA Medical Centers.
Florida VA Regional Benefits Office
- St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Regional Office
Florida VA Medical Centers
- Gainesville: Malcolm Randall VAMC, NF/SGVHS
- Lake City: Lake City VAMC, NF/SGVHS
- Miami: Miami VA Healthcare System
- Orlando: Orlando VA Medical Center
- Tampa: James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital
- Tampa: James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Primary Care Annex
- West Palm Beach: West Palm Beach VAMC
Important information for Florida Veteran Benefits:
For Veterans applying for VA benefits for the first time, you must submit a copy of your DD 214 (discharge paperwork). This will provide your discharge status, along with your full name, social security number, branch of service, and dates for which you served. Honorable and general discharges qualify a Veteran for most VA benefits.
You should always keep your paperwork, along with your medical records, in a safe place where you and your family can have access to them. It is imperative to have it in a location where it cannot be destroyed or tampered with, which includes a safe.
Your eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions.
Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Any Veteran discharged from the military under the conditions of “Dishonorable” due to bad conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial may bar VA benefits. Veterans in prison and parolees may be eligible for certain VA benefits. VA regional offices can clarify the eligibility of prisoners, parolees, and individuals with multiple discharges issued under differing conditions.
*This information is accurate as of October 2023
Florida Veteran Benefits
If you are a disabled Veteran in Florida and are VA-rated 90% or less, you may be eligible for additional benefits. Contact Veterans Guardian for a free consultation with no obligation. Let us review your claim to determine whether you qualify for additional benefits.