Benefits of Service

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Living Allowance Pre Service Orientation

The AmeriCorps VISTA program provides a living allowance that enables you to live very frugally, like the community you are serving. The allowance is based on poverty rates for a single individual in your geographic area. The living allowance is paid biweekly and deposited directly into your bank account.

The living allowance covers basic necessities such as housing, food, and utilities. Federal income tax deductions, if applicable, are withheld from the living allowance. No state, county, or city tax deductions are withheld. You are responsible for paying the appropriate taxes.

Your sponsoring organization or your AmeriCorps VISTA State Office can give you the most up-to-date information on the amount that you will be receiving for each pay period.

Prior to starting VISTA service, you must complete the following forms in your MyAmeriCorps account: Direct Deposit, Federal Tax Withholding (W-4 form), and Unpaid Compensation Information (also known as Designation of Beneficiary). Watch this video on how to complete your direct deposit.

While the VISTA program does not encourage you to seek outside employment, and understanding that commitment to your assigned project is your top priority, you are permitted to work part-time with permission from your supervisor. 

View the living allowance rates that VISTA Members and Leaders receive, listed by state and county of service. See the AmeriCorps VISTA Member Handbook and speak to you supervisor for more detail.

Visit our Managing Your Living Allowance site for tips and resources to help you with everyday savings, budgeting, and building your financial literacy skills.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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End-of-Service Award Pre Service Orientation

In successfully completing your year of service, you’re eligible to receive either the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (education award) or the VISTA end-of-service cash stipend. You must make your selection in My AmeriCorps before you are sworn in as a VISTA. Please note that should circumstances change in your life plans, you can switch from the education award to the cash stipend before the end of your 10th month of service; but you cannot switch from the cash stipend to the education award.  Summer Associates do not have the option to change from the ed award to the cash stipend. 

Education Award

Only VISTA members who are either U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or lawful permanent resident aliens are eligible to receive an AmeriCorps Segal Education Award in lieu of an end-of-service cash stipend.  The education award is equal to the maximum Pell Grant of the fiscal year in which you started your service. For members starting service on or after October 1, 2018, the value of the education award is $6,095 for full year members and $1,289.95 for Summer Associates. The award is in the form of a voucher (not cash) and can be used for future educational training and related expenses at Title IV schools, and/or to repay existing eligible federal student loans. Be sure to visit the EdAward site to learn which student loans are qualified and which are not.

You may use the education award for up to seven years after completing service. When you use any portion of the award during a particular year, it is considered taxable income in that year.

You can only receive up to the value of two full-time education awards in your lifetime.

AmeriCorps VISTA members cannot transfer the education award to another individual.

End-of-Service Cash Stipend

The end-of-service cash stipend is paid in your last two living allowance payments, and you can use it however you like. Federal income tax and Social Security (FICA) deductions are are withheld from the stipend at the time of payment. If you select the stipend, you cannot switch to the education award. For members starting service on or after July 9, 2017 the daily accrual rate for members is $4.94 (approximately $1,800 for a full year of service.) For members who started service prior to July 9, 2017, the stipend accrued at a daily rate of $4.11/day through July 8, 2017 and then $4.94 starting July 9, 2017 and after.

VISTA Leaders accrue the end-of-service cash stipend at a daily rate of $8.22/day, approximately $3,000 for a full year of service.

Make a Selection

Consider the following questions before making your decision:

  • Do you plan on going to college, a technical or trade school, or attend any other credit or non-credit training program after finishing service?
    • Remember, you cannot transfer your Ed Award to another individual.  
  • Do you have qualified student loans? you'll need to review the Ed Award tutorial and check with your lender to validate.
  • If you have federal student loans, you may be able to put your loans into forbearance or deferment, depending on which end-of-service option you choose. See the Reduction of Education Costs section for more detail.

Once you have made your decision, log into your My AmeriCorps account and make your selection under My End-of-Service Option.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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For more detailed information on the education award and to get a broader picture of how it works, go to these useful resources:


Healthcare Benefit Pre Service Orientation

Note: After reading this overview, be sure to click the "Resources" tab for additional important information and resources.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) reformed healthcare in the United States to ensure that essential health benefits are available to Americans through state and federal Health Insurance Marketplaces. 

The AmeriCorps VISTA program offers two healthcare benefits options to members, one for VISTA members who already have health insurance coverage and the other for those who do not.

VISTA members who have health insurance or other health coverage during their service term may enroll in the AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Allowance. This allowance is a reimbursement program that covers out-of-pocket costs associated with healthcare. Out-of-pocket expenses may include: your annual deductible, coinsurance, copayments, and other charges for qualified medical expenses and limited dental and vision services. The Healthcare Allowance will help offset these expenses up to $7,900 in 2019. The Healthcare Allowance does not cover costs associated with purchasing insurance, costs for non-essential health expenses, or charges associated with dependents or other individuals covered under your healthcare plan.

Examples of qualifying healthcare coverage:

  • Family health insurance: If you are 26 or younger and on a parent’s plan, or married and covered by a spouse's plan;
  • Health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace;
  • Medicaid, Medicare, or military healthcare benefits; or
  • Coverage available to individuals in the U.S. territories or who belong to a federally recognized tribe.

VISTA members do not have healthcare coverage during their term of service are eligible to enroll in the AmeriCorps VISTA Health Benefit Plan. The plan is available to eligible members at no cost and covers eligible expenses for medical office visits, most lab and x-ray services, limited preventive care (e.g., an annual ob-gyn visit for women), limited dental and vision, medical emergencies, surgical and hospitalization expenses, and certain prescription drug costs. It does not cover pre-existing conditions or care for dependents, including your spouse.

In addition to enrolling in one of the health benefit options above, many AmeriCorps VISTA members can access telehealth, sometimes referred to as virtual care, at no cost. Telehealth allows members to consult with board certified physicians, psychologists, social workers, and professional counselors via phone or video chat, at no cost to the member. Telehealth coverage and availability may vary by state. For more information and to access this benefit, please visit:

International Medical Group (IMG) is the administrator of the AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Allowance and the AmeriCorps VISTA Health Benefit Plan. For details about either benefit, please visit:

At the start of your VISTA term, you’ll receive an email from IMG inviting you to complete a Member Enrollment Form to indicate which benefit option you would like. The form can be completed online by creating a “My IMGVISTA” account at or by downloading the Member Enrollment Form and sending it to IMG. Submit the form as soon as possible (we recommend within the first 30 days of VISTA service) to ensure that you are enrolled by the deadline of 60 days from the start of your VISTA service.

Special Enrollment Period:

If you’d like to purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can take advantage of the special enrollment period for all AmeriCorps members. This special enrollment period gives you the opportunity to purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace outside of the public open enrollment period. You have 60 days from your service start and end dates to sign-up for healthcare coverage through the marketplace. To apply for coverage under the Special Enrollment Period, contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. Shop for coverage and learn more about enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace at

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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AmeriCorps VISTA provides an optional Healthcare Allowance benefit to members who maintain health insurance coverage, a basic Healthcare Benefits Plan for those who are exempt from the requirement to have insurance, and access to free telehealth, i.e., virtual care. The resources on this page provide information about these benefits and address questions about the Affordable Care Act.

AmeriCorps VISTA Health Benefits Overview
This document summarizes the health benefit options available to VISTA members and answers frequently asked questions.

VISTA Health Benefits Portal
Explore what's covered by each VISTA Health Benefit, view lists of providers and pharmacies, create an account, and determine which option is best for you.

Access to Telehealth
Learn more about the telehealth, i.e., virtual care, program and access a telehealth provider at no cost to you.

Special Enrollment Period for AmeriCorps Members
You have 60 days from your service start and end dates to sign up for healthcare benefits through the marketplace.

Learn the meaning of various terms that are used in discussing health coverage.

If you are not able to find the answer to your questions here, please contact IMG here to speak or communicate with a specialist about the AmeriCorps VISTA Health Benefits Program. Go to for questions about ACA coverage options and assistance.

Child Care

If you have children under the age of 13, you may qualify for the VISTA program’s childcare benefit. Your approved benefit rates will be your child care provider’s rates or the maximum allowable rate in the state in which the child care is being provided (whichever is the lesser of the two). Eligibility is determined by three factors:

  • Age of children: must be under 13 years of age.
  • Total household income: All income of all family members living in the household is counted to determine eligibility. This includes any wages, SSI, TANF, public assistance, unemployment, child support or alimony. Your VISTA living allowance, however, is not counted in determining eligibility.
  • Your state income limit: Each state sets a maximum income limit for eligibility for child care subsidies. If your family income is above this limit, you cannot receive child care benefits. Contact the program provider for more information.

State child care benefits may also be available and you should explore them before making a decision about child care. Compare the state child care benefits to the VISTA child care benefits to determine which program best supports your family.

If you decide to apply for the VISTA child care benefits, plan to spend time gathering documents to show that you meet requirements. Also, work closely with your provider so they submit the required documentation.

Note that you cannot receive child care benefits from any other source if you are receiving VISTA child care subsidies.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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For more information about VISTA’s child care benefits and the application process, explore the following resources:


If you are moving more than 50 miles from your home to a new community to serve, VISTA offers relocation travel assistance and a settling-in allowance.

Relocation Travel Allowance:

Your relocation travel allowance will be based on the direct mileage between the ZIP code of your home of record (defined as the Permanent Address listed in your account) and the ZIP code of your VISTA project site, regardless of the mode of transportation used. Be aware that this allowance may not cover all expenses that you incur. The VISTA Member Support Unit (VMSU) will create your travel request profile and approve your relocation travel allowance. You will receive a relocation travel approval email from the VMSU with the amount of your reimbursement.

Settling In Allowance:

The settling-in allowance is intended to help you with initial settling in expenses—deposits and utilities. Requests for the settling-in allowance should be directed to the Corporation State Office. The allowance is $750, and will be included automatically with your first living allowance payment; no voucher is needed for the Settling In Allowance. Federal taxes will be withheld at the time of payment.

Service-Related Transportation and Reimbursement:

Transportation expenses that you incur while performing your VISTA service activities can be reimbursed. Ask your sponsor if you will need to use your personal vehicle for service-related activities, other than your daily commute. Your sponsoring organization will reimburse you for approved service-related transportation expenses at the organization’s standard rate. Speak with your sponsoring organization to learn what their standard rate is and the process for requesting reimbursement. If the organization has no standard rate, then the federal mileage rate may be utilized.

Close-of Service Travel:

VISTA also provides a travel allowance for travel from your project site back to your home of record when you complete service.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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Reduction of Education Costs

VISTA provides several benefits that can help you manage, or even reduce, your federal student loans, and offers others that can lower your overall student debt.

Loan Forbearance and Deferment:

If you have federal student loans (also called “qualified’ student loans), you may be able to put your loans into forbearance or deferment; the specific program will depend upon the end-of-service option you choose.

  • Federal student loans + education award = forbearance
    Forbearance is a temporary postponement of principal loan payments. The reason for this forbearance is “national service.” The Corporation’s Trust pays interest during service. Since these payments are considered income, however, you will have to pay taxes on the amount of interest paid by the Trust. This is the program available if you select the education award as your end-of-service benefit.
  • Federal student loans + stipend = deferment
    Deferment is a postponement of monthly loan payment(s). For subsidized loans, accrued interest will automatically be paid by the Department of Education if the loan is deferred. Your lender decides if you can defer your student loans during your year of service. The reason for this deferment is “economic hardship.” You will need to obtain forms from your lender. You may also be eligible for cancellation of part of your Perkins Loan. Deferment is appropriate route to go if you choose the stipend as your end-of-service benefit.

GRE Fee Reduction:

The Educational Testing service, which administers the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), makes available to colleges and universities a limited supply of GRE Fee Reduction Certificates. To apply for a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate, contact the financial aid office of the educational institution that interests you to see if you qualify. Make sure to tell them about your experience serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. The decision is up to the college or university to which you apply.

College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA):

This federal regulation includes two programs that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate your student debt.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
    Under PSLF, the Department of Education forgives any outstanding balance and accrued interest on a borrower’s Direct Loan or Direct Consolidation Loan if you work for 10 years full-time at a nonprofit or government agency. You must also make 120 qualifying payments on the loan. Your AmeriCorps VISTA service year counts towards those 10 years, if you make payments towards your loan during service. Submit your PSLF Form to for completion. For security reasons, please do not include your Social Security Number on the form. Continue reading to learn how you can reduce your loan payments through the Income-Based Loan Repayment Plan.
  • Income-Based Loan Repayment Plan (IBR)
    Under IBR, your payments will be limited to no more than 15% of your adjusted gross income that exceeds 150% of the poverty guidelines. If you are single and make $11,000 each year in AmeriCorps, your monthly payment could be as low as $0 each month, which still counts towards the required 120 payments for PSLF.

Ed Award Match:

Many colleges and universities across the country actively recruit talented AmeriCorps VISTA alumni for their reputation of perseverance, drive, and proven active citizenship. Many also offer incentives such as service scholarships or matching tuition funding to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

You can view a list of educational institutions that offer these incentives here. Be sure to contact the institutions or institutions you’re interested in for up-to-date information.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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As a VISTA member, you are entitled to personal leave, medical leave, and leave for certain holidays (those recognized by your sponsor.) Family leave and emergency leave are also available in certain situations. Military service and jury duty can also necessitate a leave of absence, both of which are covered. Here’s an overview

  • Personal: 10 personal days for vacation, personal days off, or religious observances
  • Medical: 10 days of medical leave for illness, injury, or medical appointments
  • Parental: For birth or adoption, use personal and medical leave first. The state office director in your state may approve an additional 10 days, for a total of 30 days, if required by your medical professional.
  • Emergency: Up to 5 additional leave days may be granted if natural disaster requires leaving the site or an immediate family member becomes critically ill or dies. Sponsor must approve and notify the state office.
  • Extended Medical Leave: Up to 5 additional medical leave days (for up to a total of 15 medical workdays in a full year of service) may be granted by the state office for situations that require extended recuperation. The CNCS state program director must approve.
  • Military: As required by Military
  • Jury Duty: As necessary

You must request and receive approval in advance from your sponsoring organization/supervisor for personal leave and provide notice, when possible, of medical and emergency leave requests.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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Learn about the requirements for each and the process for using them.

Professional Development

VISTA Training

AmeriCorps VISTA provides a wide variety of training and development opportunities before, during, and after service. Take advantage of the many opportunities for gaining knowledge and skills that will support your service year — and the years beyond.

  • VISTA Member Orientation is a virtual onboarding training provided by AmeriCorps VISTA that introduces you to VISTA—its mission, history, and policies—as well as your roles and responsibilities as a member.
  • OSOT: On-Site Orientation and Training is provided by your sponsoring organization once you arrive at the project site and introduces you to the organization, your new community, and the goals of the project.
  • Online Courses: This is a series of online courses designed specifically for VISTAs in service. College credit is available for these courses, which are offered several times during the year. Offerings include:
    • Volunteer Mobilization
    • Resource Development: Fundraising & Grant Writing
  • Webinar Series: Webinars developed specifically for VISTAs are presented every month and provide a way to enhance your professional development right from your desk. They fall into two general areas: Life as a VISTA and The Work cover a broad range of topics. All sessions are recorded and are available for later viewing on the VISTA Campus.
  • Self-paced Courses and Tutorials: There are many self-paced tutorial and courses on the VISTA Campus to build and enhance the skills and talents you need for service. Topics include, fundraising, volunteer management, and community development.

Click the Resources tab at the top of this section for links to additional related resources

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For more detailed information on each of these VISTA Training opportunities, explore the following resources:

Leaders Program

The VISTA Leaders program is open to members who have served at least one year as a VISTA. Leaders work to expand and build capacity of individual VISTA members, guiding at least six VISTAs through their year of service.

Leaders have demonstrated leadership qualities and skills during their service and are prepared to accept a new level of responsibility.

To become a VISTA Leader on your current project, talk to your supervisor to see if it’s an option once you complete your first year of service. To find a new project, apply through My AmeriCorps.

As a VISTA Leader, you gain experience as a facilitator and educator, recruiter, resource generator, mentor, liaison, and ambassador, and you are offered additional training and development opportunities.

VISTA Leader Orientation:

This self-directed virtual orientation explores the VISTA leader role and offers recommendations on effective communication with your VISTA team.

VISTA Leader Webinar Series:

Monthly webinars provide practical information and relevant insights intended to enhance your personal and professional development as a VISTA Leader. The 90-minute sessions cover a wide range of topics, provide you with information you can immediately apply, and serve as an opportunity to network with other Leaders.

Action Learning Challenge:

The Action Learning Challenge is an opportunity to practice leadership skills in a real-world project, while enhancing your experience and leaving a legacy for future VISTAs and Leaders.

You are required to make a four to six month commitment in order to participate in the project from start to finish. If you are interested in participating, you must have attended Leader Orientation. Each Action Learning Challenge team is supported by a professional Action Learning coach who provides ongoing support and guidance.

Virtual Professional Development Coaching

VISTA Leader coaching is specifically focused on supporting you in transferring, applying, and implementing the knowledge and skills you learn in Leader Orientation, webinars, and the Action Learning Challenge.

Coaching is available on a short-term, limited basis to meet your specific need. This one-on-one coaching is conducted by phone, email, and webinar. If you are interested in receiving coaching services, you may contact any of the Leader facilitators.

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Career Opportunities

Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) Status

Once you’ve successfully completed service, you will receive one year of non-competitive eligibility for employment in the federal government.

This special hiring status enables you to apply for federal jobs with the advantage of not having to go through the standard public competitive selection process. That means that you can be appointed to federal positions that may or may not be available to the general public. In addition, your application could be processed faster than others.

NCE does not guarantee you a federal job, but it does provide a valuable opportunity!

To explore NCE further, understand how others have utilized NCE to advance their careers, and learn about applying for federal jobs, please visit these resources:

Alumni Network

Being a part of the AmeriCorps VISTA network offers other post-service opportunities that can open up career doors for you. There are several different avenues for getting involved in the VISTA Alumni Network. Explore the following:

Counting Service toward Federal Leave and Retirement

If you are hired into the federal civil service, your time as an AmeriCorps VISTA member will be credited toward a pension in the Federal Employees Retirement System as long as you pay a portion of your retirement contribution.

An AmeriCorps VISTA service year is credited in the same manner as a year of traditional federal government employment. AmeriCorps VISTA service will apply toward purposes of determining seniority, reduction in force and layoff rights, leave entitlement, and other rights and privileges based on length of service under laws establishing terms and conditions of service of federal civilian employees.

For more information, refer to:

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Other Career Planning Resources

Additional tags: VISTA Benefits, Intermediary Supervisor, Sub-site Supervisor, Single-site Supervisor, Healthcare Benefits, Health Insurance, Health Coverage