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On this 4th of July, it's important to know what we can do to help our veterans. Many of them know about the basic health care and education benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs: Tricare and the GI Bill. While these benefits alone are substantial, numerous other programs help provide more benefits to veterans and their families. Even within the health care and education programs are little-known benefits to improve the lives of veterans and help ease the financial burden of medical care or other expenses. Here are 10 veteran benefits gleaned from veterans information sites that you may not know about but for which all veterans should investigate to see if they qualify.

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Ellen Phillips

1. Long-term Care. Long-term care is expensive, but often it's necessary to provide care for aging relatives. The Aid and Attendance program enable many veterans to be eligible to receive money to cover the cost of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the Aid & Attendance benefit will help take care of a significant portion of long-term care costs. Surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible to receive up to $13,560 a year to cover their long-term care costs.

2. Caregiver Support. Should you choose to take care of an ailing veteran at home, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a caregiver support program. While this program doesn't offer funds to caregivers, they are provided with a free support line and a caregiver support coordinator to help navigate military benefits and the stress of caregiving.

3. Death Benefits. When a veteran dies, families have a few unique benefits available to them. A U.S. flag may be requested to drape over the casket; moreover, families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved one's service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers.

4. Certification Programs. In addition to receiving credits to use toward a college degree, the GI Bill offers up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of certification courses or other vocational training programs. For vets wishing to change careers or take non-college courses, this benefit works great.

5. Transferring GI Bill Credits. Unused credits through the GI Bill may be transferred to spouses and dependents of veterans. There are service limits required to transfer the benefits.

6. Free Tax Preparation. Veterans and their family have access to free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on military bases. Because of the complicated nature of military-related tax issues, the folks who work in the offices have special expertise.

7. Life Insurance. Many veterans have trouble obtaining traditional life insurance, particularly if they sustained an injury during their time of service. Through the Servicemembers' and Veterans' Group Life Insurance program, veterans may receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. This program also offers competitive premium rates.

8. Mortgage Help. Veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Options for help include special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. Additional benefits are available for veterans with VA loans and for homeless veterans.

9. VA Foreclosures. The VA maintains a list of homes serviced by VA loans that have gone into foreclosures. Veterans have the ability to search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase homes at a discount. While a person doesn't have to be a veteran to search the properties, all properties qualify for VA financing.

10. American Corporate Partners. American Corporate Partners connects veterans with top companies to help them obtain a job after their time of service. Along with being connected to job opportunities, veterans have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring and other career development services.

America and American veterans, we salute you!

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

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