Ultimate Overview of Veterans Benefits
The United States has a long history of assisting its Veterans. What's more, it may be one of the most comprehensive benefits systems to honor its military men and women in the world. When the pilgrims fought in a war the Pequot Indians at Plymouth Colony in 1636, the colony passed a law to support its injured and disabled soldiers.
This law became a pillar of the United States government. The commitment to assist impoverished, injured, ill, or disabled Veterans continued through the Civil War, the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and other wars, military conflicts, or territorial disputes.
To this day, the United States government offers many ways to show their appreciation to Veterans for all the personal risks they took to protect the country from hostile forces.
Although you, as a Veteran, are probably aware that you are entitled to many benefits, you may not be aware of the numerous programs available to help you thrive in civilian life. These benefits cover a comprehensive range and include health care, specialty health programs, compensation and pension, education and training, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and burial and memorial services.
What Are Veterans Benefits?
Veterans can receive a variety of benefits and services provided or arranged by the Veterans Benefits Administration. This organization, once an independent agency, was founded during the Great Depression in 1930. The VA, as it is commonly called, provides benefits, services, and patient care to those who have served in the United States armed forces.
Here are some of the many benefits and services, it provides:
- Compensation for injuries or diseases related to active service
- Medical, surgical, or rehabilitative care
- Education and training to reintegrate into civilian life
- Readjustment counseling, psychological counseling, and bereavement counseling
- Monetary assistance or other benefits to surviving spouses
- Assistance to homeless veterans
- Funding medical research for treating wartime injuries, disabilities, or diseases
- Life insurance for families of a service member who dies during a tour of duty in an active combat zone
- Education and vocational training
- Home loan assistance program
- Headstone markers and assistance with burial or memorial services
Interested in the home loan assistance program for Veterans?
Eligibility for Veterans Benefits
You are eligible for most VA benefits after you have been discharged from any active military service, provided that you were honorably discharged or any other level not considered discharged under dishonorable conditions.
In essence, then, you are eligible for Veterans benefits if you have done active military service for the United States. This means that you were a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. However, active service can also include full-time service as a commissioned officer for an administration service like the Environmental Science Services Administration, the Public Health Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Although it can be rather bewildering understanding the many resources available from the Veteran Administration, government agencies, and other organizations, they can be put into two broad categories: Benefits and Services.
Let us now take a closer look at some of the primary VA Benefits and VA Services that you may be eligible for as a Veteran.
The primary benefits available to Veterans are Compensation, Education and Training, Life Insurance, Pension, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.
What Are Compensation Benefits?
Veterans who have disabilities because of injuries or diseases incurred or exacerbated by their active military service are entitled to receive a tax-free financial benefit called Disability Compensation. Veterans may also be eligible to receive benefits after their active service if their disability can be traced back to the time they were on duty in the armed forces.
In effect, Disability Compensation provides monetary relief for lost working time because of the injury or disease related to their period of active duty.
Veterans or their families are also eligible for two other types of compensation: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), both tax-free monetary benefits.
A parent, surviving spouse, or child of a service member who died on active duty training, on active duty, inactive duty training, or due to a disability that was caused by their active duty are eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
If there are circumstances in which a Veteran requires an attendant because of a special disability, like the loss of a limb, then Special Monthly Compensation provides higher compensation. Besides the Veterans themselves, the money could also be paid to parents, surviving spouses, or children.
What Are VA Education and Training Benefits?
The Veterans Administration and many other government agencies can help a Veteran go back to school under the GI bill. There are numerous resources available to help you decide on a vocational school, college, or foreign school and choose a participating institution.
What Are VA Life Insurance Benefits?
The Veteran Administration offers service members, Veterans, and their families the financial security of life insurance. Service Members' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) offers $400,000 upon enlistment. They also automatically receive traumatic injury protection and coverage for their spouse and dependent children through the Family SGLI program.
What Are Pension Benefits?
Pension benefits can be broken up into two categories: Veteran’s Pension and Survivor’s Pension. Both of these are tax-free monetary benefits.
You are eligible to receive a Veteran's Pension if you need supplemental income, meet the list of specific requirements, have a low-income, and if you are a wartime Veteran.
Meanwhile, a low-income family can receive the Survivor’s Pension of a deceased Veteran who has had wartime service. Again, certain conditions must be met. For instance, the surviving spouse should be un-remarried and children should be unmarried.
What Are Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Benefits?
Service members and Veterans can receive help when looking for work. Specifically, they can receive the following assistance:
- Help with training for a job
- Employment accommodations
- Developing a resume with a cover letter
- Coaching on job hunting
- Starting a business
- Independent living services for those unable to get regular employment
In essence, service members and Veterans can get counseling, advice, support, and guidance on how to establish a career plan for their livelihoods, or access other VA benefits or resources that they may be eligible to receive.
In addition to the benefits listed above, there are also a number of services for Veterans like Beneficiary Financial Counseling, Careers and Employment, Educational & Vocational Counseling, Fiduciary Program, Independent Living Program, and Mortgage Delinquency Assistance.
What are Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services?
The Veterans Administration offers beneficiaries financial counseling and advice on preparing a will. The Beneficiary Financial Counseling Service is the place to go if you need a better understanding about the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI), Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI), or VGLI Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
For information on how to access these services, go to FinancialPoint Plus. Also available here is an online will preparation service. Contrary to what you might expect, the online will service is both quick and easy and you won't need an attorney. You'll be asked some simple questions then receive a legal will that is ready to print and sign.
Another way to find out more about financial counseling or about the online will preparation services is to speak to a Command Financial Specialist or Financial Readiness Counselor at the VA or visit Military One Source (or call 800-324-9647).
What are Careers and Employment Services?
If you need help with your job search, then you'll find the Careers and Employment Services an invaluable resource.
Here you can get help:
- If you are re-entering the world of work but have a service-related disability
- If you need more job training to access opportunities in the job market
- If you want to start your own business and need some guidance or resources
In addition to helping you directly, this service can help you access the Department of Labor resources to get the following assistance:
- Advice on what career path to choose
- Help with creating a winning resume and cover letter
- Finding employers who hire Veterans
What Are Educational and Career Counseling Services?
Although the Education and Career Counseling Service may sound similar to the Careers and Employment Services, there are some distinct differences. Consequently, you may decide to use one or the other or even both.
Education and Career Counseling Services can help you make a career choice, understand the VA benefits available to increase your education or start a new career. You can also receive any psychological counseling you need to go back to school, adjust back to civilian life, start a new career, or launch a business.
This program was designed for service members who have been discharged from active duty during the past six months or Veterans who have been discharged from during the past year. It is also designed to support the aspirations of those seeking VA education benefits or currently using VA education benefits.
What Are Fiduciary Program Services?
The VA's Fiduciary Program helps Veterans and beneficiaries who cannot manage their own finances because of age, disease, or injury. The VA requires some type of documentation to determine if you are eligible for this program. Often this is a medical document or a determination made by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The VA will appoint a fiduciary chosen by a beneficiary to manage the Veteran's finances. Often this is a family member, but if no-one is qualified after an investigation into their background documentation, then the VA will select an individual or an organization to perform this work. The work of a fiduciary is to oversee the management of the Veteran's benefit payments.
A person chosen to be a fiduciary is investigated for their suitability. The investigation will include the following:
- A criminal background check
- A credit check
- A personal interview
- A review of character references
What Are Independent Living Program Services?
A Veteran with service-related disabilities who is unable to work may be eligible for Independent Living Services. In some cases, it is possible to receive these services as support while pursuing new vocational goals.
These services include counseling, coordination with medical specialists, health care services, and many other types of information, support or assistance.
How to Start Applying for Veterans Disability Benefits
Although we have covered some of the primary types of benefits and services, this is by no means a comprehensive list. For instance, there are many other programs, like assistance if your house might go into foreclosure due to mortgage delinquency or assistance related to burial and memorial services.
Since there are so many programs available, as well as a lot of detailed information to consider for each available benefit or service the US Department of Veteran Affairs has designed an easy-to-navigate website to provide the most up-to-date information. When you visit it, you can find out what programs are available, what you are eligible to receive, and how to apply for benefits or services.
Once you find the information you need from the website, how do you apply for a benefit or service that can help you out? To assist you with where to apply, the VA has set up a table of contact information to apply for the benefits and services that you are most interested in.
In conclusion, understanding Veterans' benefits might appear overwhelming because of the large number of resources available to improve the health, well-being, and financial needs of those who have served our country, but by looking over the primary benefits and services that have been covered here, you will be able to plan ahead and choose the specific help you need.