The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a range of benefits to returning service members and other veterans. The VA website provides detailed information on all of these topics, as well as links to other resources.
In this first part of a two-part series, I will be reminding you of some of the benefits generally available to members of the military. Keep in mind that specific program policies are tied to the length of your military service, the circumstances surrounding that period of service, and whether you are still active, in reserve, or discharged.
The VA offers to help you with employment. Most military personnel will integrate back into the civilian workplace at some point, and so the focus of employment is largely framed in that context. These resources include:
- A database for conducting a job search.
- Resources to guide you through career opportunities
- A career assessment survey
- A military skills translator to improve your civilian resume.
The website also provides employer suggestions on ways to attract and retain veteran applicants.
For those who have at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, the Post 9/11 GI-Bill can help pay for education and housing expenses. This benefit applies to those honorably discharged or discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.
You might be under the impression that the GI Bill is just about going back to college. But it is a lot more than that! The GI Bill includes these new opportunities:
- On-the-job training
- Non college degree programs
- Flight training
- On-line career training programs (for example, photography, locksmith, gunsmith)
It is true that many people use the GI Bill to pay for a college degree or a second degree (provided they have remaining entitlement on their GI Bill). As an example, the GI Bill can pay you for a degree in Business and then for a second degree in Computer Science, or for an AA, BA, MA in the same field.
The GI Bill can be transferred to your dependents and covers these expenses:
- Tuition and fees paid directly to the school is based on the maximum in-state tuition rate at a public institution of higher learning.
- Monthly housing allowance and living expense stipend based on E-5 basic allowance for housing (BAH) with dependents based on the zip code of your school
- Annual books and supplies stipend up to $1,000 paid proportionately based on enrollment.
This table provides the specific amounts available for you to use as you pursue additional education or career enhancement training, based on length of service:
If you have served on or were called to active duty after Sept. 11, 2001
100% benefit if you have at least 36 months of duty
100% benefit with 30 days service and were discharged with a service-connected disability
90% 30 to 36 month of duty
80% 24 to 30 months of duty
70% 18 to 24 months of duty
60% 12 to 18 months of duty
50% 6 to 12 months of duty
40% 90 days to 6 months of duty
GI Bill payments from the VA arrive one month in arrears (you receive the November payment in December.) For the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the tuition and fees are paid directly to the school, the book stipend is paid to you at the beginning of the term, and the housing allowance is paid to you at the end of each month.
You can obtain a VA home loan, provided you meet program requirements. Everything you need to know about securing a veteran home loan is readily available at the click of a button. Here is a summary of the steps you will take to get into a home with a VA mortgage loan:
- Start the process by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). A lender can obtain a COE on your behalf.
- Find property you would like to buy.
- Sign a purchase contract conditioned on approval of your VA home loan.
- Apply to a mortgage lender for a loan
- Obtain a VA appraisal.
- The lender will let you know the decision on the loan. You should be approved if the established value and your credit and income are acceptable.
- Attend the loan closing. The lender or closing attorney will explain the loan terms and requirements as well as where and how to make the monthly payments. Sign the note, mortgage, and other related papers.