Florida Resources for Military Travelers and Veterans

    By Lauren Tjaden

    In military families, travel is a way of life. Separations are frequent, as are moves.

    And moving? We all know what that’s like. A move means the kids have to go to new schools and make new friends. Everything from the climate to the grocery store is likely to be different. And you leave things behind: your favorite teacher, a beloved neighbor, or your football or tennis teammates. It’s not easy.

    The good news is that Florida offers abundant resources for military families and veterans—including discounted places to stay, recreation opportunities, and even nursing homes. Read on to discover organizations, laws and benefits that honor and serve the military and veterans.
     

    Florida Military-Friendly Guide

    The Florida Defense Support Task Force creates this annual guide, highlighting Florida’s laws, programs and services that benefit the military service and their families. Here’s the full guide: enterpriseflorida.com/wp-content/uploads/Florida-Military-Friendly-Guide.pdf . Here are some of the benefits it covers.

    Protections

    These include protection against unfair trade and insurance practices, cancellation of health or auto insurance, and termination of rental agreements. It also covers terminations of vehicle registration, telecommunications services, late voting registrations and a host of other terminations for deployed service members. Generally, these protect a service member who’s been called to active duty or deployed to a different area from fines or charges for cancelling any of these things earlier than specified in their contracts.

    Licenses, Fees and Registrations

    Benefits include everything from military discounts at Florida State Parks, hunting and fishing license discounts, special license plates, waiving of age requirements for lodging and firearms, and tax exemptions for vehicles imported from a foreign country.

    Professional Licensure Reciprocity

    These Florida laws honor valid, current licenses for practicing law, medicine, business and teaching from other states for military spouses.

    Tax and Financial Benefits

    Homestead exemptions, exemptions from the local business tax, and ad valorem tax exemptions are some of the financial benefits for veterans and service members who are deployed in certain military operations.

    Unemployment Compensation and Employment Protection/Assistance

    These include provisions that ensure that a person who voluntarily leaves employment due to relocation as a result of his or her spouse’s military orders isn’t disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits. Further, CareerSource provides employment assistance to military spouses and dependents.

    Educational Benefits

    Military educational benefits include in-state tuition rates for qualified military and family members at Florida colleges and universities, undergraduate tuition being waived for a recipient of a Purple Heart or other qualified combat decoration, and college credit for military training and education courses. In addition, the Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) Program will pay for courses that aim toward a technical certificate, associates, baccalaureate, or master’s degree. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children aims to remove obstacles to educational success imposed on children of military families because of frequent moves and deployment.

    Family Support

    Military Family support offer includes needs-based financial assistance for dependents of service members on active duty serving in the global war on terrorism, and who are federally deployed or participating in state operations for homeland defense. Another benefit waives the requirement for a Florida driver’s license simply because a service member has enrolled his or her children to be educated in Florida public schools, if he or she has a valid military driving permit or a valid driver’s license issued by another state.

    The Governor’s Initiative on Lawyers Assisting Warriors

    Under the GI LAW, Florida’s leading law firms provide pro bono legal services for military members. Those interested in obtaining pro bono legal services should visit enterpriseflorida.com/floridadefense/lawyers-assisting-warriors/  and fill out a Legal Assistance Request Form and submit it through their appropriate Judge Advocate General or civilian military attorney’s office.

    Veterans Treatment Courts

    The T. Patt Maney Veterans’ Treatment Act authorizes a veterans court that addresses substance abuse and mental health needs of veterans, including active duty service members, within the criminal justice system. Veterans court requires the participant to appear regularly before the court, attend mandatory treatment sessions, and submit to frequent testing for substance use. You can find more information on Veterans courts in the Veterans Resource Guide: flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/266/urlt/VETERANS_RESOURCE_GUIDE.pdf

    For more information on any of the topics covered above here, see the full Florida Military Friendly Guide: enterpriseflorida.com/wp-content/uploads/Florida-Military-Friendly-Guide.pdf
     

    The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs

    This Department serves more than 1.5 million Florida veterans, promising that the Sunshine State is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. Their website is where Florida veterans can access earned services, benefits and support. Here’s where you can learn about military benefits: floridavets.org/benefits-services/

    Here’s where you can get free benefits and disability claims counseling: mydigitalpublication.com/publication/

    Veterans benefits include:

    VA Health Care

    The VA offers six medical centers in Florida, situated in Bay Pines, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Gainesville and Lake City. A new center being constructed in Orlando will be open soon as well.  The VA also operates Outpatient Clinics for veterans health care and Vet Centers for counseling throughout the Florida. Here’s where you can find a VA health care, including medical centers, clinics, and other programs: va.gov/directory/guide/stateFL

    Mental Health Services and Resources

    For 24-hour counsel, call the National Veteran Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone! Veterans in Florida, call the Florida Veterans Support Line at 1-844-MyFLVet (693-5838) or 2-1-1.. The VA offers support for Suicide Prevention, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, Military Sexual Trauma and Substance Abuse.

    Florida Veteran Nursing Homes

    Florida boasts six Veterans' nursing homes and one assisted living facility. Admission requirements include an honorable discharge, Florida residency for one year prior to admission, and certification of need of nursing home care by a VA physician. Here’s where you can find their locations and contact information: mydigitalpublication.com/publication

    Florida Veteran Financial Benefits

    Veteran financial benefits may include a Property Tax Exemption or Homestead Exemption as well as help with your home loan. Here are details: mydigitalpublication.com/publication

    Florida Veteran Jobs

    Florida state, county, and municipal governments promise to give disabled veterans with honorable discharges, as well as wartime veterans, spouses and surviving spouses of totally disabled veterans preference in hiring. Other employment programs for military member and veterans are available as well; learn about them here: mydigitalpublication.com/publication

    Florida Veteran Education Benefits

    Undergraduate-level tuition waivers as well as education for children of deceased or disabled Florida veterans and scholarships are available. Learn more here: www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication

    Other Florida Veteran Benefits

    Other veteran benefits include recreational discounts and freebies, toll road exemptions, dental care programs, insurance, legal advice, consumer services fee waivers and more. Visit the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on any of these programs. Here’s the benefits guide detailing the programs: mydigitalpublication.com/publication/

    Shades of Green Resort lake view

    Shades of Green Resort is an affordable, full-service resort hotel that’s available to service members and their families, located on Walt Disney World property and only minutes away from Disney World Theme parks.

    - Shades of Green Resort

    military memorial wall at Florida National Cemetery

    Established on June 1, 1988, this silent place is the second-most active cemetery in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration. ‘Active’ in the sense that 131,000 veterans and their dependents now at rest here are joined by as many as two dozen more every single day. With more than 7,000 burials each year, the best calculations anticipate the Florida National Cemetery will reach capacity by 2030.

    - Gary McKechnie for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    National Cemeteries in Florida

    Here’s an article that details National Cemeteries in Florida, including locations and requirements to be interred in one. Here’s more information about National Cemeteries from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Association. This site also includes information about burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery.

    Veteran and Military Useful Links

    Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides information for the military and veterans. https://www.flhsmv.gov/military/

    Military OneSource, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, vows to connect you to your best MilLife. www.militaryonesource.mil/

    Military.com is filled with news as well as information about benefits for military families and veterans. https://www.military.com/

    Operation Homefront has fulfilled over 41,000 requests from military families across the U.S., providing more than $25 million in relief through their Critical Financial Assistance program. www.operationhomefront.org/

    The Department of Defense has links to every imaginable military site as well as social media sites. www.defense.gov/Resources/Military-Departments/DOD-Websites/ and www.defense.gov/Resources/Military-Departments/DOD-Websites/?tab=Social%20Media

    The Florida Defense Alliance was created to increase military value, enhance base capabilities and promote multi-service synergies for Florida’s military bases, while supporting and enhancing the quality of life of Florida military families: www.enterpriseflorida.com/floridadefense/

    The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs is where Florida veterans can access earned services, benefits and support. floridavets.org/benefits-services/

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helps veterans access and manage their health care and benefits, including health care, education, records and much more. www.va.gov/  

    Veterans Florida is a non-profit created by the State of Florida to help military veterans transition to civilian life and to promote Florida’s status as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state, providing formidable tools for veterans to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the Sunshine State. www.veteransflorida.org/

    Places to Remember

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