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, even nursing homes. Here's where 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/Florida-Military-Friendly-Guide.pdf . Here are some of the benefits the guide covers:
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 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.
Military educational benefits include in-state tuition rates for qualified military and family members at Florida colleges and universities, waivers of undergraduate tuition 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 or an 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.
Military family support 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 if a service member has enrolled children in Florida public schools, if the service member has 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 can visit enterpriseflorida.com/lawyers-assisting-warriors, 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/VETERANS_RESOURCE_GUIDE.pdf
For more information on any of the topics covered above, see the full Florida Military Friendly Guide: enterpriseflorida.com/Florida-Military-Friendly-Guide.pdf
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
Here’s where you can get free benefits and disability claims counseling: floridavets.org/benefits-services/claims
Veterans benefits include:
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
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.
Recovery First Treatment Center in Hollywood, Fla., offers free resources for veterans who cannot afford treatment and need support: Their Free Virtual Support Meetings allow veterans to join 12-step AA/NA meetings hosted weekly by a person in recovery. If you’re looking for a rehab center in Florida, you can take a look at the treatment options that are near to you.
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: floridavets.org/nursing-homes
Florida Veteran Housing
Veteran housing benefits may include a Property Tax Exemption or Homestead Exemption as well as help with your home loan. Here are details: floridavets.org/housing
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: floridavets.org/employment
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: floridavets.org/education
The Office of the Attorney General of Florida has several resources available for military members and veterans to help them avoid being taken advantage of by bad actors. One such resource is the Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide, which contains invaluable information on predatory lending practices, identity theft, debt collection, foreclosure fraud, and other schemes used to target members of the military and veterans.
Here’s where you can learn about the Military Consumer Protection Resource Guide: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/MilCPGuide
Additionally, the Attorney General’s Military and Veterans Assistance Program (MVAP) utilizes a multi-agency approach to enforce state and federal laws that are in place to protect those who have served or continue to serve our county. The Attorney General has a designated team on standby to review complaints submitted by service members and veterans, and will continue working to ensure that all military members and veterans are protected from deceitful businesses and individuals.
Here’s where you can learn more about the Attorney General’s Military and Veterans Assistance Program and also file a complaint: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/mvap
OTHER FLORIDA VETERANS 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: floridavets.org/benefits-services
Recovery First Treatment Center in Hollywood, Fla., offers free resources for veterans who cannot afford treatment and need support: Their Free Virtual Support Meetings allow veterans to join 12-step AA/NA meetings hosted weekly by a person in recovery. Their guide on Veterans and Substance Abuse provides information on commonly abused substances, co-occurring disorders, homelessness and treatment approaches.
Veterans and Military Discounts
These perks can make your travel more affordable, or simply make your life more fun.
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.
More Useful Links for Veterans and Military Personnel
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides information for the military and veterans. flhsmv.gov/military
Military OneSource, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, vows to connect you to your best MilLife. militaryonesource.mil
Military.com is filled with news as well as information about benefits for military families and veterans. 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. operationhomefront.org
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: enterpriseflorida.com/floridadefense
1-800-PACK-RAT can assist members of the military and their families with local moving, long-distance moving, and temporary or long-term storage. It promises all active and retired military a 10% discount with code MILITARY10. They can also help walk military members through a “do it yourself (DITY)” move, where you get to keep the difference of what the government would have paid to hire professional movers and what you pay out of pocket. Here’s where you can check out their discounts and get more information.
For information on other moving companies that offer military discounts, check out MovingFeedback.
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. veteransflorida.org
Traveling or moving with Fido? Check out Resources for Military Members with Pets.