As I’ve mentioned time and again, living without a phone is an option. And this applies to all U.S. citizens as even the military not only has special discounts on a carrier like AT&T or T Mobile. But they can also qualify for free phones for veterans after leaving the service.
The programs are pretty nice as the phones will come with a free monthly service throughout the year. Then they even cover existing survivors if something happens to the veteran in question.
The Free Phones for Veterans have Their Ups & Downs
Before we proceed on how you can get these free phones for Veterans, I’d like to mention the various negatives of the program.
I’ve seen a lot of people express their regrets after joining these programs. But when you look at the complaints, they are all things they could have avoided or embraced if they knew beforehand.
For instance, you should know:
- The free smartphones provided in most cases are entry-level models. Say a provider like Access Wireless or SafeLink, the best device you can get will have 32/ 2GB memory status. And when you couple such a memory status with a subpar processor, the handset has a high risk of freezing on heavy operations.
- The free cell phone for life unlimited everything no longer has” truly” unlimited data. You get capped high-speed data before the carrier throttles the speed to 2G (about 128kbps).
- The providers of free phones for veterans all resell the network of the Main Carriers. And since their deal includes deprioritized data, you can expect the browsing speeds lower than usual during congestion.
- Most providers with free government phones have limited the browsing speeds to 25Mbps. Hence, the reason during the day (when there’s high network congestion) you may record 5mbps data speeds or less.
- Many providers with Free Phones still offer data with no mobile hotspot/ tethering support. It’s only after you upgrade to the premium plans you can access the feature.
How to Get Free Phones for Veterans
Overall, there are two main ways you can get free phones for veterans: lifeline government programs or non-profit organization collaboration.
Part 1: Get Free Phones for Veterans through Lifeline Programs
The lifeline program is the easiest way to get free cell phone service without paying anything, and not just for veterans. It’s also available to the general public who are struggling to maintain the regular prepaid or postpaid service.
The government funds the lifeline program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But then the Commission administers it through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which in turn deals with the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). So, don’t expect to receive a check and pay for the phone/ service yourself.
Fast forward, you can only get the free phones for veterans with proof of eligibility. The proof can be a letter of participation in disability insurance via the Veterans Administration (VA) or receiving a Veteran’s Pension.
The other day, we saw the Veterans’ pensions as one of the qualifications to free cell phones for seniors on Medicare. And for that, you will also qualify for discounted Veteran phones if participating in federal welfare programs, such as:
- Supplemental security income
- Federal public housing assistance
- A low income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Head Start, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, and other Tribal-administered assistance programs
Bonus Browsing Data & Free Tablet for Veterans
In the last quarter of 2021, Congress passed a $1.2 Trillion for infrastructure expansion. And part of this funding included $14.1 billion to create a long-term broadband benefit to bring affordable connectivity programs to underprivileged households.
If using the free phones for veterans with a lifeline, you automatically qualify for the affordable connectivity program (ACP). A lot of people have opted to redeem their broadband with fixed internet providers as it’s more reliable. The likes of Frontier and Xfinity even bring you a connection FREE of charge.
But if you decide to combine both lifeline and ACP benefits, you usually get more monthly plan allowances. A perfect example is with SafeLink Wireless, where the Lifeline-only plan has as low as 350 talk minutes and 4.5GB of monthly data. But when you combine Lifeline and ACP program, the SafeLink plan now includes unlimited talk and 25GB of high-speed data.
Some carriers may give you more high-speed monthly data- Assurance Wireless has a cap of 35GB. Others may offer you less allowance- like Standup Wireless has 10GB of high-speed data and 2G (128kbps) unlimited.
Also, some companies give a free tablet when you combine lifeline and ACP benefits. But there’s a co-payment of $10.01.
Some veterans ineligible for the free lifeline phones may qualify for the free tablet and ACP broadband benefit. The reason for this is because the requirements for the affordable connectivity program are a little more accommodating.
Such requirements you can qualify for ACP benefits but aren’t eligible for the lifeline program include:
- Student Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- School Lunch or School Breakfast Program (even though the USDA Community Eligibility Provision).
- A low income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (instead of 135% for a lifeline)
- Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Part 2: Get Free Phones for Veterans through a Non-profit Program
Apart from the lifeline program, some non-profits also offer free phones for veterans. Well, technically, it’s only one non-profit group, Cell Phones for Soldiers, I’ve been able to find on this deal for now.
Cell Phones for Soldiers, formed in 2004, offers active-duty military and veterans affordable communication services through donations and recycling initiatives. The “communication service” to the soldiers is usually in form of free talk time and calling cards. But the charity has recently partnered with Reach Mobile to offer a free cell phone and wireless service to eligible veterans.
The Cell Phones For Soldiers Mobile powered by Reach is more of a short-term pilot program dedicated to Boston veterans for six months. Then after that, they may open doors for the military community from other states.
The wireless phone service on the pilot program includes unlimited calling and texting, plus 1GB of high-speed data. Later when the full-service launches, interested military members and their supporters can get the premium plans with up to 20GB of high-speed data.
The Best Lifeline Providers with Free Phones for Veterans
As of 2023, we have over a dozen lifeline providers with free phones for veterans. Some of the options include:
|Lifeline Phone Provider||Carrier Network||High-Speed Data|
|SafeLink Wireless||T-Mobile/ Verizon/ AT&T||25GB|
|Q Link Wireless||T-Mobile||28GB|
|TAG Mobile||T-Mobile/ Verizon/ AT&T||8GB|
|Feelsafe Wireless||AT&T||22GB (High Speed)|
SafeLink Wireless happens to be one of the most widely used lifeline providers you can consider for free phones for veterans. It offers:
- A free smartphone
- Unlimited talk & text
- Unlimited data (25GB of high speed)
- Up to 5GB of mobile hotspot data
- Free calls/ texts to Canada & Mexico
- Voicemail/Caller ID/3-Way Calling
Cintex Wireless is a great option if looking for a more decent free phone and tablet with your lifeline+ ACP program. It offers::
- Unlimited talk & text
- Unlimited data (15GB of high speed)
- Free Voicemail, Caller ID, & 3-way Calling
- Access to all the three major network towers
Assurance Wireless hasn’t been in the positive limelight of late. But it currently offers the highest amount of high-speed data (up to 35GB). The service also comes with:
- Unlimited talk minutes and texts
- Up to 10GB of mobile hotspot/ tethering
- Occasional offers, including free Amazon gift cards
Access Wireless is also a great provider of free phones for veterans, provided you’re in an area with a strong T-Mobile signal. The lifeline and ACP benefit combo come with:
- Unlimited talk minutes and texts
- Unlimited data (15GB of high speed)
- Mobile hotspot/ tethering for other wireless devices
TruConnect is also a decent provider of free phones for veterans if your area has good T-Mobile coverage. You get a free smartphone, plus a monthly service with:
- Unlimited talk & texting
- Free international calling
- Unlimited data (14GB of high speed)
- Mobile hotspot to tether your devices
Frequently Asked Questions
Can veterans get free phones?
YES, veterans can get free phones and monthly service, with unlimited talking, texting, and data. The providers only require eligibility proof, such as a letter of disability insurance or veterans’ pensions from the VA. It’s also possible to qualify with low income or participation in federal assistance programs like Medicaid.
How do I qualify for a free phone?
You can qualify for a free phone by applying with proof (statement) of low income or a letter of participation in a federal assistance program. Some of the assistance programs eligible for the free phone program, include Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Tribal Head Start.
Can I cancel my service anytime?
Indeed, you can cancel your free phone service anytime if you no longer qualify or wish to do away with it all together. You just need to contact your provider with your details via call or online chat. Then pass the request to the customer rep.
Can I transfer my Lifeline Benefits to a Family Member?
Unfortunately, NO, you cannot transfer lifeline benefits to a family member even if they qualify. If you’re moving out and want to leave them the free phone, you’ll first have to cancel your active account. Then the other family member can apply afresh with his/ her details.
You Must Renew After Every Year
In a nutshell, this is everything relevant you should know about the programs with free phones for veterans in 2023. The lifeline program is the most accessible for most people- the Cell Phones For Soldiers Mobile powered by Reach is still limited to Boston.
Sadly, you can only qualify for the free phones for veterans once in the whole household and from only one provider. If you or someone else from your family tries to apply again, the operator will just turn down your application. You could even risk losing your already active service.
Lastly, remember the USAC (or otherwise FCC) requires you to qualify for the lifeline program annually. And for that, you will have to reapply with your eligibility proof after every twelve months.