You probably take full advantage of the health services the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides. However, you might be missing out on several other benefits that could make your life better. You served our country, and you should get the most from your veterans benefits. There are more than 23 million U.S. veterans, but only nine million retired service members are currently getting VA services.
Part of the problem is that the VA website was not exactly user-friendly. Trying to get information was an exercise in frustration. You almost had to already know the answer to your question, to be able to find it on the old VA website.
The VA overhauled its website to make it easier for veterans to find and apply for benefits. Most of the website covers these four areas:
- Find VA services
- Apply for services online
- Track the progress of your application
- Manage your benefits, like getting your medications
Underused Veterans Benefits
The VA says these benefits get used by far fewer veterans than are eligible for them:
- Home loans. The VA provides financing you can use to build a house or buy a house. You can also refinance your existing mortgage or get a home improvement loan. The loans are either direct loans from the VA or VA-backed home loans. You will have to meet the eligibility requirements for credit score and income. However, if you qualify, you might get better terms than with a mortgage on the open market. Almost 90 percent of VA-backed loans do not require a down payment.
- Mortgage counseling. Whether you have a VA direct or VA-backed home loan, the VA can provide counseling, if you are struggling to make your payments. The advantage of having a VA loan in this situation, is that the VA will assign someone to help you work with the company which processes your mortgage payments.
- Life insurance. The VA offers life insurance plans for veterans and their families. The VA administers the policies.
- Transferring your GI benefits. Many veterans do not use all of their GI benefits. The GI Bill provides funding to help pay for education, like college. Whatever GI benefits you do not use, can go to your spouse or child, if you transfer these benefits to them.
- Aid and attendance. If you live in a nursing home, are bedridden at home, need daily help with tasks, or have limited eyesight, the VA may send you a monthly check to help defray some of your expenses.
- If a member of your family serves as your caregiver, he or she can get access to several programs to help them take care of you. The VA gives family caregivers online workshops, peer mentoring, financial assistance and a help support line.
- Local benefits for veterans. Your county might have a dedicated veteran service officer who can help you apply for or resolve problems with your pension, home loan or medical care. The officer can also assist you or your loved ones in accessing military records or obtaining grave markers.
These are important benefits you have earned. Take some time to explore them.
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