VA Guidance Articles

VA Updates: Keep Your Life Status Current With the VA

VA Updates: Keep Your Life Status Current With the VA

Many monetary benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) depend on your life status. This is defined as the Veteran's marital status and the number of dependents in the family. To ensure you receive the correct payment – no less or no more – it is essential to have this information accurately reported to the VA at all times. Failure to do so can have consequences that can cause financial hardship for the Veteran. An example demonstrates this. Marriage and Its Effect on VA Benefits Let's start with a male Veteran who is 50 percent service-connected. In this example, he is not married, or as the VA describes it, "alone." Based on the payment schedule for 2024 (you can find this schedule), he will receive $1,075.16 each month. The Veteran marries. Now, for VA purposes, he is considered a "Veteran with Spouse," his monthly payment will increase to $1,179.16, provided this information has been reported to the VA.   The first key point to understand is the...

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VA Updates: Veteran Home Ownership

VA Updates: Veteran Home Ownership

Homeownership has many positive features for Veterans and their families. A home provides shelter and safety. With planning, a home is an anchor to a strong community with solid schools for children. Connecting to the community can bring purpose and a sense of belonging to replace those experienced in the military. Empowering Veterans Through Homeownership Another positive feature of homeownership is the increase in net wealth, which can happen when the home appreciates in value over time. For example, if you purchase a $500,000 home and sell it later for $600,000, you keep the $100,000 extra that remains once you pay off the old mortgage. This money can be used for many reasons, including children's college education, starting a business, or retirement. For many, including Veterans, your home may be the largest asset in your portfolio. Most people purchase a home with the assistance of a financial institution and a mortgage – an agreement to pay for the purchase monthly over a...

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VA Updates: What If My Veteran Dies?

VA Updates: What If My Veteran Dies?

End-of-life planning is uncomfortable, which is why so many people avoid it. I know this from personal experience. What Happens When My Veteran Dies My father was a wonderful man – a career Army Officer and patriot, a loving husband, and a strong and tough mentor to four children. He was also a lifelong cigarette smoker. So we were not surprised when they discovered he had lung cancer. During his final two years, he put off all efforts to address issues that required he acknowledged he wouldn't live forever.  After he died, I spent hours helping my mother with paperwork and taxes, tasks that could have been easily handled when he was alive. Even years later, she still receives inquiries related to his affairs. As we worked through these, I often joked that this was his plan, so she would never forget him. With this experience, I always admire Veteran spouses when they ask me, "What happens when my Veteran dies?" There are many aspects to a complete answer, but two points...

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VA Updates: Most Popular Veteran Benefits Don’t Expire

VA Updates: Most Popular Veteran Benefits Don’t Expire

A recent article in a Veteran-focused publication had the headline, "Did you know many of your benefits have an expiration date?" It gave the misleading impression to many that the benefits they have earned from military service could evaporate or disappear. This is inaccurate. The most popular Veteran benefits have no expiration date. As I explain below, you can apply at any point and are not time-bound. Three Most Popular Veteran Benefits For these benefits, there are important dates to remember. However, if you miss those dates, you will be inconvenienced, but these benefits are still available to you, providing you qualify. Let's start with the three most popular benefits:•    Disability Compensation•    Home Loan Guaranty•    Education/GI Bill Disability Compensation Disability compensation is a tax-free monthly payment based on an injury or disability that occurred during service. A Veteran completes an application, referred to as a...

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VA Updates: Benefits Best Practice – Tell Your Family

VA Updates: Benefits Best Practice – Tell Your Family

Six million Veterans receive benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As I described in a previous column, these are earned benefits for military service and not entitlements.  For Veterans, it is essential to explain to your family members what these benefits are, how they are administered, and how they would be affected if you should pass. Based on an all too common real-world situation, this example summarizes why taking the time to speak to your family about your benefits is critical. Scenario One: Veteran Does Not Share Benefit Information with Family Consider a married male Veteran who has not shared his benefit information with his spouse. He qualified for disability compensation for a service-related injury and receives a tax-free payment of $2,500 every month. These funds are incorporated into the family budget, which he and his wife use to pay for living expenses.  The Veteran dies, and his wife begins grieving. During this challenging period,...

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VA Updates: Glad You Asked

VA Updates: Glad You Asked

During Veterans Month, I had the opportunity to brief several companies' Veteran groups about the benefits they earned from their military service. During my presentations, I provided a quick overview of all the benefits and then devoted three-quarters of the hour to answering questions from the attendees. I've found that answering questions enables me to provide more situation specific information and often suggest next steps they can take to receive their benefits. Inevitably, there are more questions than time allows, reinforcing my belief that so much more needs to be done to educate our Veterans on these benefits. Navigating Claims for Increase: Addressing Concerns One question that came up in each session had to do with the possible negative consequences of filing for an increase in benefits. This is often referred to as a "Claim for Increase." This occurs when a Veteran has previously filed for disability compensation and been granted a service connection.  This is...

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VA Updates: Remembering Veterans on Veterans Day

VA Updates: Remembering Veterans on Veterans Day

The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor those who served in the Military. I call or email my Veteran friends, catch up, and thank them for their service. I display the flag and watch any military movie I can find. I also visit the graves of Veteran family or friends at Arlington National Cemetery, even though I know that’s much more the focus of Memorial Day. Veterans Pension Program One group of Veterans I find myself thinking about is elderly Veterans who, because of age or other reasons, aren’t as visible. The reason I bring this up is because an FAQ I often receive is about their possible benefits.   Someone will ask about a distant Uncle who is a Veteran or the Veteran who is a neighbor, less active in the community but still nearby. A common theme is the concern that as the Veteran gets older, he may not have the resources to continue to support himself. The question then becomes – Is there a VA benefit that could help him.  ...

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VA Updates: Veteran Benefits – A Couple of Ways to Help Other Veterans

VA Updates: Veteran Benefits – A Couple of Ways to Help Other Veterans

Since my book about Veterans Benefits – Veterans Benefits for You – came out in July I have been interviewed on radio, television, podcasts, and different forms of social media. I have also discussed benefits with company Veteran affinity groups and answered their questions. In these more than two dozen sessions, one common theme has emerged. Veterans are asking how they can help other Veterans. That is, what benefits or programs are there for a buddy facing difficulties that can help him/her change directions?  Two benefits that I point out address are Financial Wellness and Veteran Homeless.  Let me explain. The First Way to Help Another Veterans: Financial Wellness Because of the monthly fees, many Veterans do not use the banking system. They are referred to as unbanked Veterans.  Instead, these unbanked Veterans use prepaid debit cards. This is risky and expensive. Risky because of identity theft or loss of the card. Expensive...

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VA Updates: Veteran Benefits – Earned By Veterans, Not An Entitlement

VA Updates: Veteran Benefits – Earned By Veterans, Not An Entitlement

Serving in the military has several features. These include solid training, leadership opportunities, and competitive compensation. Generally less recognized are the various monetary veteran benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for those who served honorably. These are earned benefits, not entitlements. Veterans should be aware of these benefits, how they can be accessed, and, most importantly, how they can be used to improve post-service life. The Most Used Veteran Benefits Include: •    Disability compensation – a tax-free monthly payment based on an injury or disability that occurred while in service. This can be used to offset lost income or expenses. •    GI Bill – provides education support. Serve for three years and earn four years of free college. It can also be used for high-tech apprenticeships, advanced Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math training, and credentials and certificates. Time limitations on when this benefit...

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