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If I asked a group of 100 people the definition of “Veteran’s Benefits,” I would suspect close to 90 of them would get it wrong. It isn’t what the name implies…it is actually a bit misleading.

Most would answer something like, “These are the benefits we give our Veterans for serving in the military.” While this might be partially correct, it doesn’t begin to define who is eligible for these benefits. Only a small percentage of the people covered by VA benefits served in the Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs actually provides vocational rehabilitation, health care, employment services, pensions and more to BOTH active and former service members…as well as to their spouses, widows, parents and children.

When you look at all the people who are connected to active and former members of our armed forces, these “additional” people make up the majority of those covered by these benefits. If you are one of them, we want to help you get the maximum value from these benefits. Prior to applying for these benefits, I recommend these 5 Critical Steps to my clients and their family  members who are eligible.

  1. Gather Your Important Documents: Before you do anything or contact anyone in Veterans Affairs, it is important to have all of your important documents and forms ready.  Relatives of Veterans who wish to apply for benefits should have relevant information such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, and the Veteran’s birth and death certificates if necessary. You will also need the Veteran’s discharge papers. Once you have these in order, you can move to Step 2.
  2. Determine If You Are Eligible For Health Care: It is relatively easy to determine if you are eligible for enrollment to receive health care from the VA. This is done at the VA website, gov, or via telephone 1-877-222-VETS (8387) where you will be asked no more than 15 questions and be told whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits. You may also mail an application to the Health Eligibility Center, or apply in person at a physical Veterans Affairs location. Veterans and their families should be aware that they may be eligible for care at a non-VA health care provider if certain conditions/hardships are met, such as if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility. I encourage everyone to check into the opportunity to expand beyond the VA medical facilities based on these criteria. After you know about your health care coverage, move to Step 3.
  3. Determine What Other Benefits You Can Receive: Although it may seem unlikely, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers services to Veterans and their spouses that go far beyond simple health care. The VA can help you secure a house for your family via specialized home loans or offer help when purchasing a car. Naturally these programs take into account the various levels of physical disabilities with which the recipient may struggle. For example, the VA can help you modify your home to be wheelchair accessible, should this be necessary for you to effectively access your house. Contact the VA to determine other benefits you can receive. Now you can move to Step 4…one that is often misunderstood as well.
  4. Remember to Check Out The GI Bill: The words “GI Bill” probably bring to mind images of baby boomers’ parents and the post-World War II program designed to help returning Veterans receive a college education…but nothing could be further from the truth. Did you even know that the GI Bill still exists? Do you have any idea what it stands for or encompasses? The Forever GI Bill, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, is a comprehensive program that offers post-9/11 Veterans a wide variety of tools to help them get their degree, including a monthly housing allowance and priority enrollment in classes where Veterans are allowed to register before the general public. Now you are ready to complete the fifth and final step.
  5. Become familiar with VA Funeral Services: Although we do not like to think about it, there are thousands of servicemen and women who do not return home from the field of battle. For these heroes, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers funeral services and/or burial in a national military cemetery, whereupon the gravesite will be maintained in perpetuity. In addition, any Veteran who passed away may be eligible for assistance with Funeral Services. There are some restrictions but it is definitely worth checking into…especially before (if possible) the Veteran passes away.

There you have it…5 Steps I recommend to anyone who is connected to the military in any way. Often times we don’t know what we don’t know…this is a big area to gain a deeper understanding that could save you a tremendous amount of time and money. If you every have any questions about these steps, or any other Veteran’s benefits, just give me a call or send me a QUESTION via our website and I’ll be happy to give you some more insights and direction in how to move forward with your own personal situation.

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