Serving in the U.S. military can be both exhilarating and terrifying for military families, particularly if their loved one is sent to an area of combat or into other dangerous situations. While these brave people put their lives at risk, their families also bear some of the financial burdens of military life, particularly if a military loved one is injured, disabled or killed while serving.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers numerous benefits to help active service members, veterans and their families defray numerous costs of many important services, ranging from educational costs to healthcare to mortgage payments. Especially in the case where a family member is deceased, family members may not realize they still have access to VA benefits. Here are 10 VA benefits military families should know about.
Family members of an active-duty, retired or deceased service member, National Guard soldier, Reservist or Medal of Honor recipient may be able to qualify for health insurance (including prescriptions, dental and even some programs for people with special needs) under the TRICARE program, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). If you are a surviving spouse or child of a deceased service member, you might also qualify for insurance through The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
The GI Bill helps active-duty service members or veterans, members of the National Guard or Reserves or qualified survivors or dependents pay for college degrees and non-college training programs and certifications. Eligible members receive credits toward a college degree or vocational training programs (such as HVAC repair, truck driving or emergency medical training). This benefit can help veterans and family members make career changes. Additionally, for non-college degree programs, veterans can take advantage of the VET TEC program for computer coding bootcamps and information science programs. There are also free IT certifications available to veterans.
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Transfer of GI Bill Credits
In some cases, family members may be able to transfer a deceased veteran’s GI Bill credits for their use in pursuing college degrees or non-college vocational training. While there used to be a 15-year limit on use, in 2015 the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or the “Forever GI Bill” eliminated that limit so that educational benefits are accessible to service members, veterans and their families with greater ease.
Through the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program, active duty service members can receive life insurance coverage. SGLI is offered in increments of $50,000 up to a maximum of $400,000. There are age restrictions. However, service members deployed into combat automatically have their SGLI increased to the maximum coverage amount of $400,000 without exception. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) will enable a veteran to convert their SGLI to a civilian program (offering lifetime coverage) after separation from service. Additionally, Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) provides life insurance to spouses and children of service members with SGLI coverage.
For veterans and their families that are having trouble paying their mortgage, the Department of Veterans Affairs can offer assistance through special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. There are other benefits available to veterans with VA loans and for homeless veterans.
VA Loans and Access to Foreclosures
Not only do active service members and veterans qualify for VA loans, which often require no money down, but the VA keeps a list of all VA homes that have gone into foreclosure. This allows veterans the chance to search these VA-acquired properties and buy them for a discount.
Career Transition Support
American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a national nonprofit organization that helps returning veterans and active duty spouses with career transitions after the military “through one-on-one mentoring, networking and online career advice.” They connect veterans to job opportunities in the corporate sector and other career development opportunities.
Taking care of a disabled or aging veteran can be an expensive but necessary process for families. Family members may be able to take advantage of the VA’s Aid and Attendance program, which can help with the costs of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. Couples can receive up to $25,020 a year. Surviving spouses of veterans may also be eligible for up to $13,560 a year toward long-term care costs.
Caregiver Support for Disabled Veterans
If a veteran has been wounded in duty to the point of disability, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers help, advice and programs for anyone who serves as the caregivers for the wounded veteran. The benefit may also extend to caregivers of military members who have disabilities unrelated to active duty.
Death and Burial Benefits
The death of a loved one is a tough enough time without having to worry about the costs associated with their death. Veterans or military members killed in the line of duty can be buried at no cost in any national cemetery with available space, and families can receive a free headstone or grave marker from the VA. Families may also be eligible for burial benefits to defray these costs. They may also request a U.S. flag to be draped over the casket and a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor their loved one’s service.