A broad variety of services are offered to help veterans and service members deal with financial issues. The Veterans Administration strives to be a comprehensive resource for veterans, linking former service members with health benefits, college programs, career assistance and more. The VA also guarantees home loans, so vets can buy a home with no money down and save on mortgage insurance premiums. It can be challenging to navigate all these services, so here's a rundown on what's offered and where to find the services you are looking for.
Where To Begin
The Veterans Administration's comprehensive ebenefits website is a well-organized portal that can guide you to a whole host of resources. The site has entry points for veterans, active service members, and families. You'll be guided through the VA's complex net of resources for financial, medical, home buying, and career help.
The Veteran's Health Administration is the place to bring your healthcare questions. This is the nation's largest healthcare system, with over 1700 facilities (use this handy online tool to find the location nearest you, at home or while traveling). Veterans who choose not to enroll in VA healthcare can find coverage in the new Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Many private insurers offer special policies and discounts for veterans as well, with Humana being among the best-known.
The VA also offers home loans and home buying assistance to help veterans get settled in civilian life. Veterans, active-duty personnel, reservists, and some surviving spouses qualify for VA loans, which allow you to buy a home with no down payment and no monthly mortgage insurance premiums to pay. Look for a lender who participates in the program, as you'll get the load directly from your bank. The VA backs the loan, but does not actually lend the money. Your bank can also help you get the certificate of eligibility you'll need from the VA. VA loans have no maximum, although there are usually county limits to the VA guaranty.
The G.I. Bill has been around since WWII, helping returning veterans adjust to civilian life after service. The Bill covers up to 100% of tuition, housing, books, and supplies. It even covers one-time relocation costs to attend a distant school. In some cases, it is possible to transfer the benefits to a spouse. The Bill underwent some changes in 2008, and the "Post 9/11 G.I. Bill' includes coverage for online study, new vocational education benefits, and other changes. Determining your benefit can be complicated, as it is based on your length of service, your eligibility for other education assistance programs, and other factors. You can apply for benefits online.
The Veteran's Crisis Line is a website that can quickly put you in touch with local resources in a crisis. The Crisis Line includes suicide prevention services and locally based crisis centers and vet centers for counseling. The site can put you in touch with VA medical centers and outpatient clinics for fast help in a medical situation. You'll also find quick access to your local Veterans Benefits Administration Office, that can put you in touch with financial resources.
The unique mix of circumstances that leaves veterans homeless has no simple solution. The VA has created Project CHALENG to bring together a network of resources to support homeless veterans, including VA resources and other community organizations that support the homeless. The VA offers a homelessness resource web page that is a portal to a dizzying array of private and government services.
Whether you're a veteran yourself, or researching programs for a friend or family member, these websites should help you get started. The internet is a great tool for getting an overview of programs. In most cases, the best way to get assistance is to find your local VA benefits office, where you can sit down with a real person and get some direct answers and assistance.
Lauren Haas was the founder and publisher of The St. Louis Area Family Gazette magazine, and editor-in-chief of Marketplace Magazine. Now, Lauren is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world, using St. Louis as her base. Contact her at Lauren@LaurenHaas.com
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