Consumer Watch: Benefit programs available for veterans

Consumer Watch: Benefit programs available for veterans

November 18th, 2018 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

Last week, we remembered the sacrifices of those veterans who lost their lives in service for you and me, as well as heroes and heroines who have faced unimaginable horrors and lived to (rarely) tell about them. When we hear the statistics about homeless vets or those lost in addictions, PTSD, or other service-related conditions, it becomes imperative we help these folks and all veterans to obtain as many benefits as possible. While many benefits are known, others aren't as widespread:

Ellen Phillips

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

1. Long-term care: Long-term care is expensive, but often necessary to provide care for aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans are 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. (My own mother was a grateful recipient.) A benefit is paid to wartime Veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, under 65 and permanently and totally disabled, or a patient in a nursing home, or receiving Social Security disability payments.

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 does not offer any monetary support to caregivers, they are provided with a free support line and a caregiver support coordinator to help navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving.

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 and families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers, as well as a burial plot in a national cemetery.

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. (www.acp-usa.org) This benefit will work well for veterans who wish to change careers or pursue a career path that does not require a college degree.

5. Free college: VA education programs offer this great benefit that covers tuition and fees for in-state public colleges and up to $23,672 for private ones.

6. Transferring GI Bill credits: Unused credits through the GI Bill may be transferred to spouses and dependents of veterans; however, there are service limits required to transfer the benefits.

7. Free tax preparation: Veterans and their family have access to free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on military bases. The individuals who work in the offices have expertise working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues.

8. 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, vets may receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. This program also offers competitive premium rates.

9. 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.

10. VA foreclosures: The VA maintains a list of homes serviced by VA loans that are in foreclosures. Veterans can search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase homes at a discount by themselves or through a real estate agent. You do not have to be a veteran to search the properties, but all properties qualify for VA financing.

11. 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 are extended the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring and other career development services.

12. New car discounts: Ask a dealership or check online manufacturers' sites; discounts are offered by many.

13. Emergency loans: Along with no interest or fees, these loans are available through a service member's branch of the military's Emergency Relief Fund.

14. Free or discounted theme park tickets: Check Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and Disney parks.

15. Reduced-price movie tickets: Chains such as Regal, AMC, and Bow Tie offer this discount.

Veterans, we salute you!

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.


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