Dear Mr. Dad: Now that our troops are coming home from Iraq, my husband is thinking about getting out of the Air Force. We’ve heard a lot about all the benefits that are supposedly available to veterans and their families, but how do we find out about them?
A: I recently interviewed representatives from a number of agencies within the Veterans Administration, which should be your first stop – specifically their eBenefits program (ebenefits.va.gov). This is where vets (and soon-to-be vets) can register for health benefits and investigate many others. Here are just a few examples:
• Your husband may receive hiring preferences for certain government and civil service jobs. He may also have an advantage when bidding on government contracts. If he has a service-connected disability, check out vetsuccess.gov, which provides counseling, education, vocational training, and a number of other services. “Disability’ now includes Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
• Today’s GI Bill (gibill.va.gov) is fantastic, paying full tuition for in-state schools and up to $17,500/year for private. If the vet can’t or doesn’t want to use them, these benefits can be transferred to another family member.
• If you’re looking to buy a house or refinance your current loan, the VA guarantee allows for higher LTV (loan-to-value) ratios, meaning you may be able to get qualified with a smaller down payment. • National Cemetery Administration. As uncomfortable as it might make you, visit cem.va.gov, read up on the benefits and eligibility, and then store the information away in the back of your mind. • Check into nongovernment organizations such as the VFW and American Legion. They can help vets negotiate the VA system and provide support in a variety of other ways. In addition, most states provide some kind of benefits for veterans. Check to see whether yours has a Department of Veterans Affairs or something similar.
• The Military Family Network (emilitary.org) has a ton of resources and a comprehensive directory of providers that’s well worth exploring.
• Your husband currently has life insurance through the military (Servicemembers Group Life Insurance – SGLI), which he can convert to a veteran’s policy (VGLI) but it has to be done soon after discharge.
• One more idea: Look into the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. This wonderful program lets veterans tell their stories (orally, in writing, or in pictures), which then become a permanent part of the library’s collection. If your husband has stories, have him visit loc.gov/vets.
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