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VA Caregiver Benefit Moving to Direct Deposit Only

Deadline for caregivers to enroll is Oct. 1

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Caregivers who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) must enroll in direct deposit by Oct. 1 to continue receiving stipends.

Before the agency stops sending paper checks, caregivers should sign up to receive direct deposits as a vendor through the VA’s Customer Engagement Portal. You must provide your Social Security number, address, bank routing and account numbers. Follow this guide for step-by-step instructions.

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Any veteran or caregiver who does not have a bank account may open one through the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP).

Not only does direct deposit lessen the likelihood of fraud but it guarantees timely receipt of benefits.

To get a better understanding of how the banking program works, AARP spoke with Charles Tapp II, chief financial officer of the Veterans Benefits Administration. His responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

What makes direct deposit a safer payment option?

Direct deposit or electronic funds transfer (EFT) is a safer option because it allows payments to come through routinely without disruption, even if there’s a natural disaster. It also prevents checks from being delayed in the mail or stolen before being cashed. We see the program as a safety mechanism to make sure that our beneficiaries receive their full benefits as they use a traditional bank account or credit union, instead of relying on check-cashing services, which charge exorbitant fees.

Who is eligible to participate in the VBBP?

Any veteran with a DD-214 (report of separation) or any beneficiary who receives cash benefits from the VA

How can you sign up for the program?

On the VBBP website you will find a list of over 43 banks and credit unions to choose from. After making your selection, you will be directed to its individual web page. Each financial institution has its own criteria for signing up. Veterans or beneficiaries who have additional questions may call VA at 800-827-1000.

Service members may also visit a participating bank in person and mention the VBBP to enroll.

Should veterans be worried about being denied a bank account?

The institutions that participate in the program have agreed to work with veterans with low credit scores or legal issues or who are unhoused. However, each bank or credit union has its own unique and specific criteria.

Why is it important to have a bank account?

We believe it’s safer from the perspective of getting your payments on time, every time. We believe it is safer because if there’s any instances of fraud, the banks are federally insured to protect the consumer.

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Other than receiving benefits via direct deposit, what benefits does the program offer?

The participating banks and credit unions have committed to working with veterans and beneficiaries to provide financial literacy, insights and information. In addition to helping you get set up with your bank account, they are also there to help with other financial tools and resources available, such as savings accounts, certificates of deposits (CDs) or instruction on how to use your bank card safely.

Veterans may also take advantage of a free session with either an accredited financial counselor through the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education or a credit counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Additional financial resources include VetCents, a financial education program for veterans and their families that covers topics like budgeting, and Veteran Saves, a program that helps build financial resilience.

What does this mean for older veterans?

We are very conscious that older populations or those who have historically received checks long-term may have forgotten to include their electronic funds transfer when they first signed up for their benefit. By and large we’re starting to get the older population who are receiving traditional checks or Direct Express Cards to start receiving electronic payments.

Why should a veteran open an account through VBBP instead of going directly to a bank?

Actually, we encourage you to do both. We’re not trying to supersede veterans’ options to go to a traditional bank on their own. We’re doing it to make sure that veterans have options. If a veteran has a bank of their choice we highly encourage them to go to that bank and get signed up for direct deposit.

Are there concerns about fraudsters posing as VBBP?

We are directing people to the website. We’re not asking them to take a blind advertisement saying “VBBP.” Our website will take them to the list of financial institutions that are safe and are properly insured at the federal level.

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