Disabled Veterans and Online College


Updated March 21, 2024 · 2 Min Read

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For disabled veterans, transitioning to civilian life can be difficult, but the GI Bill® can make achieving a college education easier.

Disabled veterans deserve the same access to education as anyone else. Federal law entitles them to that opportunity, but they also face unique challenges. In particular, physical barriers can make navigating life on campus difficult, even with the required accommodations. Online colleges without residential requirements can offer an alternative, but many disabled veterans still face obstacles when returning to life after combat.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 25% of veterans have a service-connected disability. They also make up 4.5% of the undergraduate student population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Together, this means that some 9,800 disabled veterans in need of supportive resources attend college each year.

This page offers useful resources designed to help disabled veterans achieve their educational goals. It looks at educational benefits, like scholarships and GI Bill® funding, and explores additional resources related to mental health, accessibility, and disability accommodations.

Disability Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal laws require colleges to implement adaptive accommodations for all learners. These measures protect disabled degree-seekers' civil rights and ensure adequate educational access. They cover students with physical disabilities and learning disabilities, including veterans and civilian learners.

Common physical accommodations include ramps, enhanced seating, and auxiliary aids, like sign language interpreters, closed captioning, adaptive equipment, and other technologies that support accessibility. Degree-seekers with learning disabilities often receive support through direct instruction, classroom adjustments, and extended time for in-person assignments and exams.

However, disabled veterans commonly need to advocate for themselves in these contexts. If accommodations do not meet your needs, speak up. Most colleges are more than willing to adapt, which they are legally required to do. If at any time you feel the ADA is being violated, you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Resources for Disabled Veterans

Below, we list some resources available to veterans interested in online college. They include education support, mental health tools, general military assistance, and help for specific groups, like LGBTQ+ veterans or disabled veterans. Each linked item offers its own resources, but learners should always consult their schools for additional assistance.

Education Support

The military expects that many veterans will seek a college or professional education after they are discharged. The GI Bill® is designed to both encourage and assist veterans pursuing this goal. Click here to learn more about the GI Bill® and how it can help you reach your educational and career goals.

Below, you'll find a few groups that aim to support veterans and active service members by connecting them with educational resources:

Education Support Resources

Advanced Civil Schooling
This federal benefit supports professional development among veterans by offering fully funded access to qualified graduate programs. Extended to U.S. Army and National Guard members, ACS helps veterans excel in careers that require specialized training and education.
The American Legion
Founded in 1919, the American Legion advocates for military service members through local and national initiatives. It offers a career and education center that connects employers with qualified veterans. It also helps returning veterans develop transferable skills to expand their job prospects.
Coast Guard Education and Training Quota Management
ETQM offers professional and educational assistance to U.S. Coast Guard members, including standardized test preparation and registrar services, to help prospective students with college enrollment. It also offers tuition assistance and grant opportunities.
College-Level Examination Program
CLEP offers exams that award college credit in core subjects, often for significantly less than the cost of taking college courses. It offers additional benefits for veterans, including waivers and discounts, through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).
Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support offered by the Department of Defense, DANTES provides career-planning services and free education programs for all U.S. military veterans. Veterans can use the resource to find applicable schools and credentialing programs, enroll in CLEP exams, and obtain federal financial aid. GoArmyEd
This site helps veterans manage their college learning experience and access tuition assistance benefits. It offers education counseling services and a gateway for monitoring professional progress. Veterans can schedule testing, evaluate funding resources, and connect with trainers.
National Association of Veterans Upward Bound
Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, this initiative administers scholarships and facilitates advancement projects that help veterans achieve their full potential. These projects involve academic preparation, career planning, tutoring, and social support referrals.
Navy College Program
Naval veterans can use this resource to help jumpstart their college experience and develop professional goals. It offers guidance counseling services, research materials, and tuition assistance resources. It also has a handy college wizard tool that helps identify potential schools or programs.
Naval Education and Training Command
This entity is similar to the Navy College Program, but it focuses its efforts on training and education for students pursuing careers in the navy. Powered by data-driven analytics, it offers officer development courses and leadership development programs for enlistees.
Marine Corps Voluntary Education Program
Designed for both current members and veterans of the Marine Corps, this program offers educational and academic support. It connects qualified veterans with CLEP exams, financial aid, and online credentialing opportunities. It also offers individual and group guidance counseling sessions.
Troops to Teachers
Veterans interested in pursuing careers as educators will find this resource especially useful. It explores how to become a teacher, posts relevant job openings, and offers teacher certification programs. Veterans can also access its directory of state-based programs.

Mental Health Support

Mental health issues are an oft-overlooked and all-too-common reality for many discharged veterans. Fortunately, most schools provide free counseling, therapy services, and other mental health resources for students. Some military-friendly colleges may even have counselors who focus on issues specific to veterans, like coping with combat injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. If you need immediate support, contact your school's counseling office.

Beyond your college or local community, you can also access support through nationwide organizations and networks, like those listed below.

Mental Health Support Resources

A 2007 outcome of the National Defense Authorization Act, this site offers online behavioral health tools for returning veterans. It focuses on providing resources to those struggling in the months immediately following deployment, promoting self-care and holistic adjustment strategies.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
This organization helps people cope with anxiety and depression. It offers an array of services that cater to veterans and their families, plus links to local resources and an intuitive tool that helps connect patients with service providers across the country.
Give an Hour
A national nonprofit established in 2005, this organization offers free, confidential counseling for veterans, military service members, and their families. It maintains an extensive network of licensed mental health professionals with significant experience treating stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Mental Health America
This community-based initiative strives to address the needs of those living with mental illnesses through advocacy and integrated care. Among its offerings are self-guided mental health resources and tools to help veterans locate mental health professionals who can meet their needs.
Supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this portal offers assistance for veterans and other individuals struggling with mental health. It can also connect people with prominent national hotlines, including a veterans crisis line.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
One of the largest grassroots mental health networks in the country, NAMI has a dedicated page specifically for veterans. It includes vital information on depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. It also houses useful material for veterans new to mental healthcare.
National Center for PTSD
Part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this entity provides specialized services for veterans dealing with PTSD. These services include trauma-focused psychotherapy, consultations, and medication, when appropriate. Additional resources include apps and instructional videos.
Treatment Advocacy Center
This organization works to eliminate long-standing barriers to mental health treatment by engaging in a variety of advocacy efforts, presenting research, and working with national policymakers. Veterans can use its state map tool to find more information about services in their regions.
This site has a menu of mental health resources that cater to veterans. It offers information about prominent mental health issues and maintains an active support hotline. It also has a self-evaluation tool and a searchable directory of services across the country.
VA College Toolkit
Operated by the federal government, this gateway offers higher education resources for veterans and the educators who work with them. Available resources include career planning guides, healthcare provider directories, service organization databases, and local VA office information.
Student Veterans Groups:
Many schools have student veterans groups, where student veterans can meet one another and share experiences, both as veterans and as students. This can be a great way to enrich your experience as an online student, helping you find a sense of community and support beyond the virtual classroom. Contact your school advisor to find out if any such groups are active in your college or university.
Student Veterans Resources Office:
Many schools offer dedicated veterans services or veterans affairs offices. Counselors in your school's veterans affairs office can help you navigate the GI Bill® process, explore the full range of your benefits, apply for scholarships, access disability resources, or face any other service-related challenge.

Veteran Support

As a veteran, your service entitles you to certain post-military benefits. Though individual needs and situations can vary widely, there are numerous groups, agencies, organizations, and initiatives that can help you pursue your professional goals.

Veteran Support Resources

Army Emergency Relief
A nonprofit run by the U.S. military, this organization extends emergency relief and assistance for affected veterans. It has provided a collective $2 billion to more than four million veterans since its inception in 1942. It offers financial assistance, loans, and scholarships.
Helping a Hero
Dedicated to empowering wounded soldiers, this Houston-based organization builds adapted homes suited to burn victims, amputees, and those suffering from traumatic brain injury. Qualified veterans must have sustained injury in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This site is a one-stop resource for military service members and returning veterans. It includes job boards for veterans, benefits directories, and tools for family members. It also aggregates veteran discounts and offers career counseling services.
Military and Family Support Center
MFSC offers community-based support services for veterans and their families. Resources include career services, tools for new parents, and school liaison assistance. It encourages self-sufficiency and independence following deployment and serves veterans from every branch of the military.
Military OneSource
Supported by funding from the Department of Defense, Military OneSource is a 24/7 support network designed to help veterans access the resources they need for success. Its offerings include tax services, webinars, employment resources, and relocation assistance.
National Resource Directory
Disabled veterans can use this searchable site to locate services and programs to help them achieve integrative rehabilitation. The comprehensive directory includes homelessness and housing assistance, transportation help, caregiver support, community education, and adaptive sports programming.
National Veterans Foundation
Founded in 1970 to help returning Vietnam veterans, VNF continues its legacy by providing crisis management and referral services. It also offers job assistance, information on disability compensation, and mental health support, including an active hotline available 24/7.
Student Veterans of America
SVA supports student veterans through a robust network of over 1,500 local chapters. It aims to help students cultivate leadership skills and adapt to life after military service. SVA also hosts local networking events and national conferences and offers professional development resources.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The VA is the federal government's primary veteran resource center. It determines healthcare coverage, provides case management services, and extends other benefits to ensure veteran success. It offers special resources for disabled veterans, including housing assistance and pension information.
This free resource is available to veterans and certain family members, offering need-based benefits. Available benefits include financial assistance, healthcare, housing, and assisted living resources. The site also has an active discussion forum maintained by its users.
The Veterans Consortium
Disabled veterans can use this site to access free legal services based on need and venue. The pro-bono program works closely with the U.S. Court of Appeals to represent qualified veterans in cases related to entitled benefits or compensation.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The VFW supports military members returning from service abroad, including disabled veterans. It sponsors community events, offers local assistance, and engages in advocacy efforts. It also publishes a podcast and a regular magazine.

Disabled Veteran Support

Whether you plan to take online classes or attend a traditional college, physical disabilities and chronic conditions can create barriers to your education. Below are a few groups and resources designed to help you overcome these barriers as you pursue your degree or certification.

Disabled Veteran Support Resources

American Association on Health and Disability
Headquartered in Maryland, this association promotes the health and wellness of individuals with disabilities, including veterans. It advocates for more comprehensive public policy and administers a wide variety of public health programs. It also aggregates new research on health and disability.
Blinded Veterans Association
This nonprofit has helped blind veterans and those with vision impairment for over 75 years. It extends benefits assistance and acts as a liaison between affected veterans and government agencies, like the VA. It also offers a scholarship program.
Disabled American Veterans
Founded in 1920, this charity works to empower disabled veterans and their families. It boasts over 1 million members across nearly 1,300 local chapters. It hosts regular events, gathers and distributes relevant research, and offers interactive media resources, like podcasts and videos.
Mobility International USA
MIUSA advances the rights and visibility of people with disabilities, striving to improve quality of life through innovative programs and grassroots advocacy. It is home to an extensive research library and offers a job board to active members.
New Mobility
This lifestyle magazine focuses on active wheelchair users and the challenges they face. It publishes new issues regularly, exploring how individuals and veterans with disabilities can maintain a mobile lifestyle with the help of innovative technologies.
Paralyzed Veterans of America
A nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., this organization supports civil rights for disabled veterans, like ensuring access to quality healthcare. It focuses its efforts on spinal-cord-related disabilities, adaptive sports, and current scientific research.
Semper Fi Fund
This charity provides financial assistance for disabled veterans, above and beyond federal government resources. It also offers strategies for integrative wellness, organizes nationwide fundraising efforts, and gathers veteran stories and testimonies for public consumption.
Operated by Enable America, a nonprofit for people living with disabilities, this initiative helps affected veterans return to civilian life. It supplements existing rehabilitation programs offered by the government and works with local communities to improve recovery and integration efforts.
Wounded Warrior Project
This nonprofit organization offers assistance to veterans who sustained disabling injuries following 9/11. It partners with local communities to increase access to health benefits, independence programs, and peer support. It also maintains a vast alumni network and resource center.

LGBTQ+ Veteran Support

Though the controversial Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was repealed in 2011, homophobia and prejudice still persist in the military. Active duty service members and veterans who are part of the LGBTQ+ community may experience unique anxieties and traumas related to both their service and their experiences with discrimination.

Post-military life offers opportunities to access a more supportive and open community. If you are an LGBTQ+ veteran, consider reaching out to your school's LGBTQ+ student groups, which can provide community, support, resources, and advocacy. Below are a few nationwide communities and networks that support LGBTQ+ veterans and service members.

LGBTQ+ Veteran Support Resources

American Veterans for Equal Rights
An advocacy initiative established in 1990, this organization promotes the full and equal treatment of all veterans and military service members. With regional chapters located across the country, it offers support for LGBTQ+ veterans through community-based projects and strategic partnerships.
American Military Partner Association
This association supports the partners, allies, and family members of LGBTQ+ veterans. It hosts regular events and aggregates resources pertaining to employment, career coaching, and mental health counseling. It also offers legal resources and publishes a periodical.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Department of Veterans Affairs Offer Scholarships?

The VA does not award scholarships per se, but it does offer its own financial aid opportunities and additional education benefits.

Does the GI Bill� Cover Four Years of College?

The GI Bill� currently covers up to 36 months of benefits for eligible veterans. Those benefits include full tuition and fees at public in-state schools, housing costs, and additional funds for books and supplies. In some cases, it may also cover moving costs for veterans in rural areas.

Can Disabled Veterans Go to College for Free?

In addition to GI Bill� benefits, disabled veterans and their dependents are eligible for VA-funded educational assistance. Disabled veterans are also eligible for loan forgiveness programs, like Total and Permanent Disability Discharge. Some colleges also offer scholarships or tuition discounts for veterans or service members; check with your school for details.

Is College Free for the Military?

All current and former military service members are eligible for tuition assistance along with the benefits enumerated under the current post-9/11 GI Bill�. These benefits include 100% of all tuition-related expenses and are available to disabled veterans, active duty military, and reserve members.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the VA. More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/.

Image Credit: SDI Productions | Getty Images

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