The Department of Veterans Affairs is known for providing health services to those who have served in the military, but it offers a variety of other benefits that get much less attention and use.
About 23 million people have served in uniform in the United States, but just 9 million are interacting with VA services, so getting information to the larger community was the aim of a website revamp.
"Nine million is a lot of people to be getting health care and education benefits, but it's not the whole addressable market of 23 million people,” says Clare Martorana, chief information officer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, who worked with the department to modernize its website.
The website has been simplified so vets can easily navigate the four areas that account for more than 80 percent of the department's transactions.
Now users can discover what benefits are available, apply for them online, and track progress or manage benefits such as prescriptions, Martorana says. “You can't eliminate or reduce the number of veteran suicides if you're not speaking to all of your customers,” she says.
Among the underutilized benefits available to veterans:
Aid and attendance
Veterans and their survivors can qualify for a monthly pension if they need help with daily activities, are bedridden, live in a nursing home, or even have limited eyesight.
Family caregivers can take advantage of a variety of services, such as a help support line, peer mentoring, online workshops and a comprehensive financial assistance program.
Transfer GI benefits to spouse or children
The GI Bill helps pay for education benefits, and a veteran who doesn't use all of his or her GI allowances can transfer the remaining benefits to a spouse or child.
Many counties have their own veteran service officer who can assist veterans with receiving their pensions, medical care, military records, grave markers and home loans.
Veteran service organizations
Veteran service organizations can also assist with matters such as filing a claim with the VA or financial matters such as tax issues.
Veterans, service members and survivors can receive VA direct and VA-backed home loans to help build, buy, improve or refinance a home. Although there are credit and income requirements, terms may be better than those offered on the open market. Nearly 90 percent of VA-backed loans are made with no down payment.
Even if your home loan is not VA direct or VA-backed, you can also receive counseling if you are having trouble making mortgage payments. But if your loan is through the VA, the agency will provide a counselor to help you work directly with the company that handles billing.
Veterans, service members and their families can enroll in VA-administered life insurance to receive benefits they have earned.