7 Common Questions on Veterans Benefits Answered by an Expert
Guest blog submitted by Christine Yaged, a co-founding partner and Chief Product Officer of FinanceBuzz. This information should work as a guide to help navigate what veteran benefits you are eligible for and how to go about receiving it.
January 15, 2019
Serving in the military comes with an array of benefits for you, your spouse, and your family, some of which you may not even be aware. Once you have left military service, the Veterans benefits available are meant to provide financial assistance for a variety of reasons. From affordable home loans and healthcare to disability and pension payments for your lifetime, having an understanding of the benefits you may be entitled to is an important part of your discharge. However, knowing what you may have access to and the process of getting the benefits you deserve can be daunting tasks.
Below are the seven more common questions relating to Veterans benefits and answers compiled by financial and benefits experts. This information should work as a guide to help you navigate what you are eligible for and how to go about receiving it.
What Veteran Benefits are available to me?
The types of Veterans benefits available are widely varied, depending on your unique service and discharge situation as well as your needs. The most common benefits you may be entitled to include the VA home loan program offered to eligible service members and veterans who are looking to consolidate debt with the help of a VA mortgage, purchase a home, or refinance an existing home loan. In addition to the VA home loan, you may also have access to disability benefits that provide a form of financial assistance each month, pension benefits if you served for an extended period, and healthcare benefits for you and your family. Other benefits include life insurance, employment services, and education benefits for certain veterans.
Determining the types of benefits available to you starts with connecting with the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can use this simple tool online through the VA to get started.
Do I need to be Disabled?
While there are specific benefits for prior service members who have a disability or health issue linked to their time in the military, not all benefits offered by the VA are tied directly to being disabled. For instance, receiving a basic pension as a retiree does not require you to be disabled, nor does the VA home loan benefit. Job assistance, some healthcare benefits, and benefits extending to your spouse or children are available even if you do not have a disability rating.
Does my spouse/ex-spouse have access to my Veteran Benefits?
The short answer is, it depends. For a current spouse of a veteran, benefits can range from educational and career counseling to education benefits through the GI bill. Veteran spouses may also be eligible for a VA home loan in certain instances. Ex-spouses have fewer benefits available to them, but depending on the circumstances, pension benefits and healthcare access may be offered.
Veteran spouses and ex-spouses can also get in touch with the VA to determine what services they have access to over time. This is an easier process when spouses and ex-spouses are registered in the military’s personnel system and have a valid military ID card.
How does the VA home loan work?
Access to affordable home loan programs is one of the most well-known but often misunderstood benefit available to veterans. The VA home loan program provides access to mortgage loans through a network of lenders. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not grant these loans itself but instead offers a guaranty on the loan to make qualification for a new mortgage easier for veterans. For those who qualify, a VA home loan does not require a down payment like other conventional mortgage loans. It also does not come with private mortgage insurance (PMI), and these loans have competitive interest rates that make homeownership affordable for many.
The VA home loan program is available to many veterans, but it is important to check your eligibility before pursuing a home purchase. You can do so by receiving your Certificate of Eligibility through the VA.
Can I appeal my Disability Benefits decision?
Veterans may receive disability benefits in the form of monthly income, based on their time in service, injuries or illnesses they incurred during that time, and the severity of their health issues once they are discharged. Disability benefits for veterans are paid on a tax-free basis, and the amount ranges significantly from one veteran to the next. Many veterans apply for disability benefits before they are discharged, but there are some instances where health issues are more severe than one originally thought. In these cases, veterans do have an option to appeal the disability benefits decision made by the VA.
Appealing your veterans disability amount takes place through a formal appeals process or by submitting a new application for disability benefits if your initial request was denied. Both the appeals process and resubmission of an application can be challenging and time-consuming, but I may be worth it in the end. Contact the VA for assistance in getting your disability claim appeals, or work with an attorney or specialist in VA disability claims to determine your best plan of action.
How do I apply for Veteran Benefits?
Understanding the benefits available to you as a veteran is one thing; receiving your benefits is another. The process for applying for benefits is different based on the type of assistance you are seeking. As an example, many benefits including life insurance, vocational rehab, and employment benefits, disability compensation, and VA home loan benefits can be applied for through the online benefits system. Other benefits require specific forms, a visit to a regional VA office, or additional steps above and beyond going online. This guide offers some direction on where to go to apply for specific benefits for you and your family.
What’s the timeframe for receiving Veteran Benefits?
Veterans benefits come in many different forms, and for that reason, the timeframe for receiving those benefits varies significantly. For disability compensation, claims may not be paid for several months after an application is submitted. For a VA home loan, on the other hand, the process for receiving a mortgage may take a week or two when you have all your paperwork in good order. Others claims, such as education and training services, pension payments, and memorial benefits may take a few days up to several months to receive.
This can be a frustrating process, especially when you are facing financial hardship because of the delay. Staying in contact with the VA benefits office to ensure they have all the information they need to process your application in a timely fashion is necessary to avoid these issues. You may also check claim status online after you have applied for benefits.
Christine Yaged is a co-founding partner and Chief Product Officer of FinanceBuzz. Christine launches and scales brands. She is passionate about technology, digital marketing, and people.