The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is an indispensable resource for all “home-life” military issues. It is most often referred to, in common speak, the VA. But, what does the VA do? Following is some information about your VA benefits as an active duty military member or a dependent (when applicable).
VA Medical Benefits
Perhaps one of the most well-known areas of this organization is VA medical benefits. The idea of long-term medical care is incredibly appealing to the American public and, sometimes, part of the reasoning behind enlistment in the military. VA health care benefits offer free to low-cost insurance plans for the military member, their dependents, and, in some cases, extended family members.
These benefits typically extend to doctor visits, emergency services at hospitals, ambulance rides, and any other necessary medical procedures–within reason. While the department offers medical benefits, there are also VA life insurance policies and VA burial benefits. Though the latter is more often seen in combination with veteran cemetery burials, some veterans may be able to request full services based on how much time they have to plan for the inevitable.
VA disability benefits strongly depend on the circumstances of the disability. If the military member receives the disability due to their military service, most issues are then covered by VA medical benefits. This can be somewhat of a murky area, so we strongly recommend that you speak to an advocate regarding what you are entitled to. There are many ways to do this, and we suggest that you start with your primary care provider.
VA Small Business Benefits
Interested in being your own boss after you depart from military life? Tons of veterans decide to run their own businesses after their ETS, whether they’re career or not.
While there are hundreds of grants that former military members can apply for when starting new businesses, the VA offers a unique loan service. Currently, the interest rates are critically low. They are happy to approve most anyone who has a solid business plan and the financial income to follow through with it.
The one note we must make here is that VA’s small business loans are often taken from the same entitlement as a VA home loans benefits. If you wish to use both, again, speak with an advocate to examine your exact entitlement based on your time in service and your specific retirement.
If running a business isn’t for you, VA employment services will help you keep the paychecks coming in after your separation from the armed forces.
VA Home Loans Benefits
The VA home loan is another classic hallmark entitlement that the military, as a whole, has come to expect. This benefit allows the military member to purchase a home with very little money down, without paying extra “security” interest on top of it. In some markets and during some periods, VA loans may even be completely free to purchase a home.
There are many ways to work with your VA home loans. As stated above, if you already own a home or feel it is unnecessary to use this entitlement for a home, it can be a wonderful way to get a business off the ground. You may also decide to use your VA loan as you travel the world to purchase a home early in your career.
If you fall in love with your first duty station and wish to purchase a home, a 15-year mortgage through the VA will be paid off by the time you retire. You may decide to lease the home to other military members if you PCS from that duty station to another one. This is incredibly common and allows retiring military members to “go home” after a 20-year career. Though becoming a landlord can be a tricky process, it is a path that a great many military members take and one that can be examined thoroughly through JAG, housing, and the VA.
VA Educational Benefits
VA educational benefits vary across several options. Perhaps the most well-known is the GI Bill, which allows for a very large amount of schooling for the military member or the dependent that is co-signed on the bill. This is another heavily noted reason for joining the military for many, many decades of service members. After all, getting a paycheck while going to school for a lucrative career after ETS has allowed a step-up for generations of military members.
Education benefits will depend upon your time in service and how you separated from the military as a whole. This is another area where we strongly suggest the assistance of an advocate to be certain that you receive precisely what you are entitled. This includes those who are currently enlisted in the military–it never hurts to triple-check your paperwork when dealing with entitlements. Remember, any overpayment must always be paid back. And we certainly don’t want you to miss out on a benefit that may have helped you along the way.
VA Benefits For Dependents
VA benefits for dependents tend to fall into three categories: Spouses and Children, Divorced and Not Remarried, and Survivor/Widow benefits. The first and third categories typically have more options open to them than the second. Children will eventually age out of the system, but spouses are covered for the duration of their marriage to the military member or the spouse’s lifetime–whichever ends first.
Dependents may be eligible to use their spouse’s GI Bill, have access to Tricare medical insurance, life insurance, home loans, etc. The one necessity they must have is their spouse’s signature along with their own if they do not fall into the third category. Survivor benefits require only necessary paperwork. We strongly recommend JAG’s assistance if you are in a survivor situation.
Keep in mind, VA benefits do change over time. Please confirm information with your local VA office and seek additional counsel when applicable.