Accessing and Managing Your Veteran Benefits
There are a number of compensation benefits available to American Veterans. Managing and accessing the benefits you’re eligible for can be a little bit of an intimidating task for most of us. With that in mind, we’ve broken down some of the benefits available to Veterans and how to apply for each.
There are a number of compensation benefits available to American Veterans. Managing and accessing the benefits you’re eligible for can be a little bit of an intimidating task for most of us.
With that in mind, we’ve broken down some of the benefits available to Veterans and how to apply for each.
VA Disability Compensation
Veterans with a service-connected disability or illness can qualify for monthly tax-free compensation from the VA. To qualify you must have been sick or injured while on active-duty or had a pre-existing illness that worsened during service.
Veterans must have received an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge to qualify. Veterans who received any other type of discharge may not qualify, but can apply for a discharge upgrade through the VA. Anyone applying for an upgrade must answer a set of questions relevant to the circumstances at the time of discharge that will determine if you are able to upgrade and then qualify for compensation.
Compensation rates for 2023 currently range from $165 to $3,900 per month.
If you’ve recently applied, you can check the status of your claim here.
You can learn more about disability compensation on the VA’s YouTube channel.
There are several pension plans available for veterans and their dependents through the VA -
Veterans Pension, Survivor’s Pension, Special Monthly Compensation, and Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits.
Veterans Pension is available to qualifying Veterans with limited income and net worth. You can find out if you are eligible on the VA’s website. Be prepared to provide your social security number, military history, and financial information.
VA Survivors Pension is paid to qualifying spouses and dependent children of veterans who meet certain income requirements. You can apply online or by mail. The VA offers assistance with your claim online from trained representatives who will walk you through the process.
Special Monthly Compensation is a tax-free monthly payment paid in addition to regular VA disability compensation for veterans who have suffered a loss of or loss of use of a specific limb or organ, deafness, or the ability to communicate. You will need to speak to a representative at your regional office to see if you qualify.
Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits are also tax-free and paid in addition to monthly VA disability. This compensation is meant to cover the cost of in-home, nursing home or assisted living care. You can apply by completing a VA Form 21-2680.
Receiving Your Benefits
Benefits can be received via a mailed paper check, loaded on a pre-paid debit card, or electronically into a checking or savings account.
Paper checks require an approved waiver from the Treasury, which can be somewhat of a difficult process. There is also the possibility of the check being lost in the mail or stolen. The process to replace a lost or stolen check is timely and can leave a Veteran without their needed income. Veterans may also incur fees when cashing their benefit check if they do not have a relationship with a financial institution.
Pre-paid debit cards, also known as Direct Express cards, are a better option than a paper check but only allow one free withdrawal per month. Additional withdrawals and balance inquiries may result in a fee. Further, these cards only allow government benefits to be deposited and do not offer check writing or bill pay options.
The VA reports that approximately 160,000 veterans and beneficiaries receive their benefits through a Direct Express pre-paid card or paper check. Unfortunately, both paper checks and pre-paid cards are more likely to be lost, stolen, or compromised.
Direct deposit into a traditional checking or savings account is the safest and quickest way to receive your compensation benefits. Most accounts are free or can be free when certain criteria are met. These accounts also offer online banking services for paying bills, checking balances, and making transfers. Many banks also offer free withdrawals when using the institution's ATMs.
To address the need to ensure veterans are able to receive their benefits safely and securely, the VA has partnered with the Association of Military Banks of America to create the Veteran’s Benefits Banking Program, also known as the VBBP. Through this partnership, a group of banks and credit unions was created that have agreed to provide veterans options for receiving benefits via direct deposit.
You can find a list of banks and credit unions participating by visiting the VBBP’s webpage. If you already have an account, you can set up direct deposit online or by calling the Veteran Helpline at 800-827-1000.
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