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VA Benefits Overview

Benefiting From Benefits

Many veterans have served their country with courage and integrity and wholeheartedly identify with the title “veteran”. But what some veterans may not know is that with this title they might be eligible for countless benefits. Being aware of what you’re entitled to and how to receive these benefits as a retired military person is imperative.

The definition of benefit is simply something that is advantageous or good. This is true for those interested in their benefits as a veteran (and sometimes even their spouses and dependents, too). Though sometimes an arduous procedure, this discussion will help smooth the process and provide step-by-step advice on how you can start benefiting.

Getting Familiar with the Benefits You Deserve

A surprising amount of veterans are unaware of what benefits they’re eligible for. A major reason for this is because after completion of their time in the military, they’re not sent home with guidelines on what they’re authorized to receive and how to get it. Instead, it is up to each veteran to understand the different benefits and eligibility criteria, what materials they need to collect in order to apply for the benefits, and finally what government agency to contact regarding the benefits.

Know the Benefits You’re Entitled To

When talking about veterans and their benefits, there’s no uniform definition for what constitutes a veteran. In fact, due to changes in Congress over time, certain benefits can require changing criteria in order to qualify. Therefore knowing what benefits exist, if you’re eligible, and how to receive them, are tremendously important. Once you’ve discovered the benefits you’re capable of receiving, knowing which government agency distributes the benefits and how to go about getting them is just as important.

Some benefits require a minimum length of service time as a requirement, while other benefits are accessible after just one day of service. Some benefits entail particular conditions be met, such as a disability as a result of active-duty.

Obtaining benefits from time spent in military service requires work from you to provide the necessary, pertinent information in order to be considered for eligibility. Providing the proper government agencies with details like when, where, and the length of your time in the service are mandatory.  There are benefits you can get through an honorable discharge, but many benefits are still available with a general discharge, as well as other types of discharge.

Breaking Down Benefits

Some benefits are well-known, like medical care and disability compensation, but learning about all of the benefits available can be exciting for you and your family members.

Other benefits you may not be familiar with include:

  • Particular loans accessible to open small businesses
  • Free or low-priced medical care
  • Programs enabling veterans in getting a university degree or vocational training
  • Job placement programs
  • Programs that can help during retirement in finding a place to live
  • Shopping and travel advantages
  • Free headstones as well as memorial and burial benefits
  • Services pertinent to surviving family members

Understanding Eligibility

A veteran may ask for a particular benefit and be denied because of lack of eligibility — even if they meticulously follow these instructions and fit the criteria. Still worse, a veteran might ask for a benefit before reading this information and be denied, resulting in them giving up.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) uses a specialized terminology and response in their rejection letters that can sometimes be misleading. This has changed since September 2008, when Congress passed a law requiring the VA to employ simple, standard language when rejecting a benefit claim.

The bigger issue, however, is that when the VA rejects a claim it might not mean that the veteran is ineligible, but simply that the correct paperwork was not provided.  One option can be to appeal and, conveniently, there’s a federal court set up just to hear appeals for veterans benefit claims.

Meeting Health Care Needs

Most veterans are eligible for health care through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) or the Department of Defense (DOD). With respect to status and annual income, health care isn’t always free of charge for veterans, but nonetheless are of high importance in determining health care costs.

Fortunately, the VA’s health care program is aimed at meeting and exceeding basic medical needs for veterans, regardless of whether or not they have sustained injury during service.

With the health care program provided by the VA, veterans are entitled to preventative care such as:

  • Examinations
  • Vaccinations
  • Primary care
  • Emergency care
  • Hospitalizations
  • Surgeries
  • Mental health care
  • Counseling services

Additionally, some veterans could be eligible for free eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental services. With the VA health care program, the government is obligated to pay travel expenses to receive medical care in some situations.

The DOD offers a separate health care program called Tricare for a certain kind of veteran known as a military retiree. Military retirees are able to receive the VA’s health care services as well, but with Tricare, they have a few more options unavailable through the VA. One great bonus of Tricare is that it is available to immediate family members as well.

Tricare is not accessible for all veterans mainly because a service of 20-plus years is required.

Monthly Payments

Millions of veterans qualify for a direct deposit payment each month, while those who have a disability or medical condition caused or exacerbated by their military service may qualify for a special payment. Which is called disability compensation.

The VA judges the seriousness of the disability by rating them on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent. Other influences, such as the veteran’s number of dependents, are also considered.

Currently the minimum monthly payout for disability compensation is $117 while others — depending on the severity of their condition and dependents — can receive more than $7000.  Veterans with only one day of service who are conclusively disabled, or veterans with no service-related disabilities may still qualify for compensation. In fact, one day of service for a veteran who is disabled or over the age of 65 with a low income can result in a VA pension.

By fulfilling a 20-plus year career in the military, veterans can receive monthly retirement payments for the rest of their lives. In some cases, it’s possible to retire before 20 years of service and ex-spouses may be entitled to a portion of military retirement pay.

Memorial Benefits and Care for Surviving Loved Ones

Numerous life insurance programs are available to surviving family members of military personnel who supported their loved ones’ duties during service. These life insurance programs are available only to veterans and as part of the criteria. Their family members may be eligible for medical care, pensions, and education benefits as well.

Memorial and burial benefits consist of:

  • Free burial series
  • Free markers and headstones
  • Reimbursement for funeral/burial expenses
  • Free national and state veterans cemeteries
  • Military funeral honor carried out by a military honor guard

Education Benefits

In 2008, a new GI Bill was created called the GI Bill of the 21st Century, eligible to many veterans who have served active-duty service after September 11, 2001. The GI Bill has gone through many variations since World War II, but the GI Bill of the 21st Century is vastly changed.

If a veteran exited the military before September 2001, a GI Bill program, in one form or another, may still be applicable. However, expediency is best when researching this GI Bill, as there is a time limit on how long you have to use it.

Alternatively, if a veteran is not eligible for education benefits under the GI Bill, they could still be able to attend university or acquire vocational training. The courses are paid for by the government, provided they have a disability sustained during their service that hinders them from obtaining employment.

Employment Through Benefits Programs

Some veterans are eligible for special hiring preference if working for federal government positions and most veterans are eligible for additional credibility when contending for federal positions. Actually, the federal government is the single largest employer in the country, employing over 1.8 million people.

Other assistance through this program is also available. For example, veterans hoping to own their own business are aided by the Small Business Administration, helping them receive preferential treatment and reduced interest rates for small business loans guaranteed by the federal government.

Benefits for Potential Homeowners

If a veteran is eligible for the VA Home Loan Program, the government doesn’t lend any money, it guarantees the loan, which makes it far easier to obtain a loan and purchase a home. That is, if a veteran takes a loan through the VA Home Loan Program and defaults, the government pays off the loan to a certain amount. Veterans are actually advantageous for particular mortgage lenders since the loan — one way or another — is paid back.

The federal government is also in charge of two retirement homes for veteran enlisted members.

Travel and Shopping Advantages

Loads of shopping and discount opportunities are available to military retirees, as well as other types of veterans. Savings of up to 30 or 40 percent are available while shopping on military bases or through the military exchange system’s internet sites.  Many veterans are eligible for military travel benefits like free flights, discount luxury condominium rentals, Armed Forces Recreation Centers, and overnight stays in military hotels.

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