10 VA Benefits You Might Not Know About, but Need to Use
Being a servicemember requires you to put parts of your life on hold and to serve the American people. Often, that means juggling military responsibilities on top of your expenses and home life or struggling to get back into the workforce after service.
From disability compensation to pension to education programs, there are many benefits that are available to veterans to help with struggles that are unique to the military. The list is so long, there's even a "Veterans Benefits for Dummies" book.
Yet, too many veterans are coming home without ever knowing what their options are. And because of this, many don't end up using their benefits.
If you're a millennial, using your veteran benefits can save you a lot of time and money. These benefits are worth knowing about for you as they are for older veterans.
It is our hope that every veteran can be aware of the benefits he or she can receive for serving this country. We've put together a list of some lesser-known benefits you need to use as a veteran that can save you time, money, and stress.
1. Retirement Savings
Though retirement savings used to only apply to veterans who had served for 20 years, as of January 1, 2018, the program for retirement has become much more attractive for those who have served for shorter amounts of time.
Now, veterans can take advantage of the Uniformed Service Blended Retirement System (BRS), which allows for an automatic and matching contribution to your Thrift Savings account—and after two years, you become fully vested. The military says that 85% of future veterans will now get a retirement benefit, as opposed to about 19% under the old system.
Servicemembers who enroll after Jan. 1, 2018 as well as those who have served fewer than 12 years as of Dec. 31, 2017 are eligible. For information on whether you're eligible, visit this site.
2. Resources to Help You Find Employment
If you're one of many veterans who are unsure where to begin to find a good career after your service, there are benefits that can help.
The Veterans Employment Center is a government site that connects veterans to job opportunities and other career resources, like help creating a resume.
GI Jobs is another great resource that helps you with everything from education to starting your own business to apprenticeship to employment.
Another helpful resource available to veterans is LinkedIn for Vets, which allows veterans one year of premium membership, including classes.
3. Veterinary Benefits for Your Service Dog
Dogs are an important part of many veterans' lives. Beyond the companionship provided by a normal pet, service dogs provide physical support and are often used to aid veterans with disabilities.
VA offers medical benefits to support service dogs. Though food and normal living expenses are not paid for, you can get support for veterinary care and equipment.
You can learn more about what kinds of service dogs qualify and how to access these benefits on the VA website.
4. Help with Tax Preparation
Tax returns can be overwhelming, but you and your family may have access to some resources to help you with tax preparation for free. On-base sites called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) are a great resource. They have volunteers trained by the IRS specifically in how to deal with military-related tax details. You can also file electronically for free through VITA.
Free tax preparation software is another benefit available to veterans. If you like to file taxes yourself, this may be the better option for you.
Find out more about what is available to you on the IRS website.
5. Education & Certification Benefits
The GI Bill was introduced after World War II to help veterans have a good education. If your service was after 9/11, you have access to three years of education funded by the government, and can even apply for help with housing and additional fees. You have 15 years after you're discharged to take advantage of this program. If you don't use it, it can even go to your dependents in some cases.
There are also less commonly known Certification Programs, which allow you to access funds for vocational or certification programs. If you have a job in mind that doesn't require a college degree, you can take advantage of this program.
6. Mortgage Benefits & Aid
One of the major benefits available to veterans is the option for VA mortgages, which are special mortgages with better terms and rates than conventional mortgages. No down payment or private mortgage insurance is required and they are easier to qualify for than conventional mortgages. And if you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, the VA can help you.
7. Life Insurance Benefits
You have the option of choosing Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) for up to $400,000 worth of coverage (depending on qualifications) at competitive rates.
To qualify for VGLI, you have to apply within a year and 120 days of discharge. Or, to avoid answering health questions (particularly if you have a condition that may prevent you from being insured), you need to apply within 240 days of separation from service.
8. Long-Term Care Benefits
Receiving care as an injured, disabled, or aging veteran can be expensive. To help soften those expenses, the VA Aid and Attendance Program will pay up to a certain amount of aid (depending on your qualifications) if you are a veteran who needs another person's care.
You may not qualify for the aid if your income is above a certain threshold. Additionally, the application paperwork can be a bit daunting, so you may need help from a good attorney.
9. Medical & Disability Benefits
Programs like Disability Compensation for Military Sexual Trauma (MST) or Automobile Allowance are available and certainly worth exploring.
You can visit the VA's website for more information on benefits offered to you and your dependents.
10. Death Benefits
A veteran's family members can receive benefits when the veteran dies. Some monetary support is available for the burial of a veteran. Additionally, a free grave marker, flag to drape over the casket, and memorial certificate can all be requested from VA.
Bonus: State Benefits
On top of federal benefits that are available to every veteran, there are also state benefits that may be available to you depending on where you live.
You can find your regional VA office's website online. The site for your region will have links to additional websites specific to your state offices, which you can call or visit to ask about benefits for your area.
Is It Worth the Hassle?
Though there may be some extra paperwork involved—this is government work, after all—using your benefits can save you money, ensure that your future is taken care of, and improve the quality of life for you and your dependents. The possible advantages you could gain is worth at least looking into your benefits.
For More Information
Additionally, you can visit or call the VA office in your area to ask if they have a counselor who can help you sift through the benefits available to you.
Who We Are
At Low VA Rates, we believe that every veteran should understand options available to them. Many of our own team are veterans, so we know what it's like to try to balance military and home responsibilities—it's why we went into the business of lending VA mortgages to veterans.
For questions about your VA mortgage benefits, please call us at (866) 569-8272.