Don’t forget to take advantage of your benefits once you’re finished serving!
Just because you’re done serving your country doesn’t mean that many of your benefits don’t continue. It’s shocking to hear stories of veterans who buy homes but don’t take advantage of special loans available to them, or veterans who decide to go back to school but don’t use their GI Bill benefits.
As a veteran, there are certain financial considerations you can take advantage of throughout your lifetime. Doing so can allow you to save money, avoid issues and build a bright financial future for your family faster and easier than you could if you don’t use these options.
If you have questions or need help addressing financial issues that you’re already having, we can help. Call 1-888-294-3130 to talk confidentially with a certified credit counselor.
Finding your benefits
Go to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for a full list of benefits for veterans and learn how to apply for them. These benefits cover everything from medical to mortgage loans such as a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan or a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. There’s even a section on how to help homeless veterans cope and find a safe place to call home.
However, the alarming truth is many vets don’t understand their benefits. The VA’s 2010 National Survey of Veterans, which includes a variety of questions about coverage as well as understanding of the VA benefits package, found 59 percent of respondents said “their understanding of available benefits was ‘a little’ or ‘not at all.'”
As a veteran, you earned every benefit that’s provided to you. Be sure to visit the Veterans Affairs website and keep up to date with all the changes that may impact your personal situation.
Tax tips for veterans
The following points can help you get ahead with your taxes:
- Injured veteran tax break: Some or all of the compensation awarded to injured veterans could be exempt from both federal and state income tax. Veterans who qualify should contact a professional tax preparer to learn all the details.
- Property tax exemptions: This exemption changes from state to state, especially for disabled vets. But Mike Frueh, National Director of the VA Home Loan program stated, “If you’re a disabled veteran, in almost every single jurisdiction, you can petition your local taxing authority and you can have all of your local real estate taxes waived. Some cases, they require it’s a one-time waiver; some cases, it’s an annual waiver.” For a list, use this resource.
- Taxes on income and retirement: According to Military.com, some states exempt all or a portion of retired pay from income taxation. It depends on which state you live in. Also, some veterans may be eligible to claim a federal tax refund. Check out the IRS website for more valuable information.
- Free tax filing: The IRS and other services offer free help for veterans filing their taxes. Use this site to find the appropriate information required to get your taxes done right for free. These sites are not endorsed by the VA.
College Tips for Veterans
Post 911 GI Bill
The most obvious benefit for veterans heading back to college is the Post 911 GI Bill. Here is an overview of the bill.
- People who have at least 90 days of military service after Sept. 10, 2001 and received an honorable discharge.
- To receive full benefits, veterans need to have served 36 months of active duty service or been discharged for a disability connected to their service after 30 days of service
- If veterans have served less than 36 months, they can receive 40 to 90 percent of benefits under the bill, depending on how long they served.
- Veterans can also transfer their educational benefits to their spouse and children if they meet additional requirements.
- Tuition and fees
- Housing allowance
- Books and supplies (up to $1,000 per year)
- Rural benefit payment
Go to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website for more information. Other college tips include:
Find other vets on campus
Don’t face this new experience alone. Check out if your college of choice offers veteran-specific orientations or advisors to guide you through important academic decisions. It’s nice to have someone you can relate to, especially if you’ve seen action and are having difficulty coping with civilian life.
Hang out with civilians
Don’t ignore the civilian population. They will probably be younger, not as disciplined or inclined to understand what you endured during deployment but they can help you understand the norms of campus life. After all, you are trying to blend back into life before your military career.
Give yourself a chance to succeed
Be patient. It’s going to be strange coming back to a new life. Ron Yasbin, Dean of University of Missouri-St. Louis’ College of Arts and Sciences told Military.com:
“Most of the time we think of veterans as more mature, but they have different needs. They are coming from a regimented environment to a college environment where we might not offer as much direction.”
Don’t get frustrated. If you need help, lean on another veteran, take advantage of veteran programs and keep your goal of graduation alive.
Finding a job
There are many resources geared to help veterans find jobs. Use this as a guide and take advantage of the benefits you earned as a Service Member.
- Real Warriors Campaign: This is an initiative to assist wounded and injured veterans. Check out the variety of programs offered at this site.
- Military.com: This site gives you advice on resume writing, access to the military transition center and an opportunity to search for jobs in multiple fields.
- Careeronestop: They offer networking, job banks, job search tips and training for veterans.
- Hire a Hero: According to their website, this “has been recognized by both Time Magazine, for being the top 21 ways to “Fix America” and Infoworld Magazine as one of the top 100 websites in the world for creative and effective merging of business and technical solutions for veterans.”
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: This site offers career advice and a variety of links that cover everything from internship opportunities to federal jobs to jobs in the private sector.